Attitude, or Latitude?
...That is the Question!
When it comes to the need to deal with others on a social, economic, political, or philosophic scale, is one's attitude towards others the basic factor for peace? Or, is one's latitude in accepting the differences in human capacity and capability the leading factor?
Are my emotional feelings, even if basic on rational backgrounds, about the other person or persons what should determine the outcome of the exchange between myself and others? Or, are the emotional feelings of others entering the social interchange to be a guiding principle in my dealings with them during this intercourse?
Many times, in dealing with others who did not like my own personal feelings, I was told, bluntly, that my “attitude” would get me nowhere in life. However, it was the complete lack of latitude, on the part of the other person that was the trump card that made me withdraw from ever dealing with that person again.
It was as if this other person was telling me that his or her attitude was far, far superior to mine–as though that person was much closer to “heaven” or the “perfect life” than I could ever hope to get close to. Is superiority a virtue, when it comes to dealing with others in life?
One such means of verifying, albeit culturally, that one is “superior” is by adhering to a given (written or verbal) list of “rules” that the culture follows, regardless of whether those “rules” might be in the social, economic, political, or philosophical interest of the person or persons involved in that culture.
If, for example, a tribe requires an adolescent to climb a peak to get his “rite of passage” into adulthood, those who do not follow this rule (or are not able to complete the task) are deemed to be children, and are not treated as adults in that tribe until, no matter how many times they are permitted to try this rite, they do complete the task. Until then, they are inferior to others who have entered adulthood by this rite.
Similarly, those who are able to complete a certificate or degree in business or administration are able to show that they are, indeed, superior, albeit by qualification, in obtaining a position or career in business or related occupation.
However, that method of determining “passage” through to a field reveals, however underhanded, of discrimination against those who are not able to complete the requirements of the rite. Those without the ability or capacity for such a rite are left to “fend for themselves”, as others just cannot view them as being, in any way, “equal” to those who were able to complete the rite.
In many ways, that might mean, to the person who has failed this “rite”, that he or she can either 1) try again, or 2)pick another goal, one that is compatible with the person's own interests and skills.
The first choice is often the only choice, as one cannot set up a new set of rules for oneself in the face of the cultural norms that are in place. For example, in the tribe referred to above, the person could not pick another “rite” for that person to enter adulthood; the climb, itself, is the only means available for that purpose, and without “trying again” until the rite is completed, the person is kept outside of adulthood in that tribe.
However, the second rule is far more applicable in western society, but with a catch. If a person, for example, is good at art work, but has no skills at all in language or mathematics, there is little chance that the person will achieve any success in life, even in art, without the “rites” of literacy and numeracy embedded in that person, even at an elementary level. Even with such training, however, the person can still be restrained by the “rite” of contact, in knowing those involved in the venture, career goal, or other aim, and no matter how hard one tries to get that art work to the public for showing, restrains are still in place, as the “rite” of dealing with those in control of the artistic establishment is just not there for such a person, mostly due to social, developmental, environmental, or accidental disability.
The term disability is often misleading, as a person could have a physical disability in the use of one arm, for example, but lack any social, mental, emotional, neurological or other physical disability.
Likewise, a person might be disabled emotionally from a previous trauma, but there is no sign of any social, mental, neurological, or physical disability on that person. If a person has a severe neurological disability, but lacks any emotional, physical, or mental disability, is there any way to isolate such a disability so that all the other abilities that the person does, indeed, have, can be brought to the forefront in that person's life? Or does that disability, however minor, dictate what happens to that person from that moment forward? In that capacity, the person is deemed to be incapable of completing many “rites” that others take for granted as part of “growing up” in western society (including socializing with peers, despite the peer pressures, especially in adolescent years).
Take another example: if a person has a great talent for knowing trains and train schedules, but cannot stand the noise of children at play in a school yard, especially in sporting events, how can that person move forward while his peers jeer him for not showing pride when the school team wins a local sporting event? His inability to withstand the sounds of the coaches, cheerleaders, and fans, might not be a choice (any more than a person with a broken arm can throw a baseball like a major league pitcher). It might be due to a condition among many in the autistic spectrum that puts one aspect of his life–his social skills, at bay, when the rest of his life (including his mental, emotional, and physical conditions) are beyond any disability. However, due to this one disability, however minor, he cannot be seen as being capable of completing the social rite of passage that puts him into adulthood, and with this, in the eyes of his peers and often the staff at his school, if not his parents, he is deemed to be a “child”, given the constant question: “When will you ever grow up?”
This emphasis on the disability in any person, and hiding oneself from the abilities (and there are many) in that same person is like seeing the tree but ignoring the forest. The other trees, or abilities, are there, to be tapped into, but the “missing tree” is zeroed in, like a photographer zooming in on one gap in a forest. The rest of the forest is ignored. Why a person's disability, however small, is so over-emphasized beside that person's abilities is the question. Is it like a person seeing a scar while ignoring the rest of the skin around the scar? Is it like seeing the one piece of litter on the golf course while ignoring all the clean areas of the same golf course? Is it like blasting the railway for one minor derailment in an area when thousands of trains have passed through the same area without any derailment? What is this focus on the negative?
Perhaps it is rooted in the survival of the species, as anything, however minor, that might prevent one from surviving among predators in our ancestral background is genetically brought forward to the present age as a form of intimidation by those bent on politicizing everything in life, and making it show that, being without this vulnerability makes their chances for survival greater.
This, however, can backfire, as many of these same people who constantly point to the disabilities of others are often blind to their own disabilities, such as those who go into daredevil acts (which have a far greater chance of lowering one's survival rate).
Therefore, it is not the disability, itself, that is in question, but the basis of those who judge others by their emotional stereotyping of persons with any disability, however minor. With such attitudes, these “judges” are blind to the fact that everyone has some form of disability, and no one is completely able to function in any setting, to the preconceived level of perfection of those who judge others.
The term “standards” comes to mind, at this point, but standards, as history has shown, are purely subjective, based on one's background, genetic system, and culture. There never will be any universal “standards” for humans, as diversity, itself, is the door to humanity. With such diversity, only respect for differences and disabilities will strengthen human rights over time.
This is an example of how latitude towards others can overcome that restrictive focus of attitude towards others, especially towards those with any overt or hidden disability.
-Brian Henson, 2006