One of the many reasons and justifications are given for why social control via weapons such as the “norm” is needed is to control individual behaviour, as every person in families and society possess different types of attitude, thinking, ideologies and behaviour patterns. Therefore, the chances of clashing with others are greater. Weapons of social control such as established norms which become incorporated into the individual and collective psyche allow for greater harmony among family and society members.
I can see why blind conformism via such norms may appeal to the ruling classes but what of the unique individuals? Is it possible to operate outside of those norms? I will look at a situation close to my heart.
The reason for my thought on this matter is again my grandson Zack. Zack has been showing signs of the behaviour labelled as autism, however, as yet he has not had that label attached. Or could I be wrong? Since his examination, he has been watched like a hawk and is being treated differently, treated as if he is not normal. His sister Ashleigh is even attending an after-school club for kids with “not the norm” siblings. He is being taught autism via his significant other’s behaviour. This is quite normal as they are being guided by norms for just such a situation.
Experts must be involved somewhere along the way. Otherwise, the club would not exist. People take norms as gospel and right and try their hardest to provide a normal life for their children. Even natural developmental behaviour, like playing with his pooh, is seen as abnormal. According to Freud we probably all did that. Can’t remember? No, not a memory I have saved either. It is a shame Dani (mum) isn’t as aware of normal developmental behaviour as she seems to be making herself with autism. Why has this label put her on red alert and turned her into super mum? She was already a super mum. To my way of thinking Zack is different, a big deal, lots of kids considered normal are different but as they fall within the official measurements of normal they are safe from the interventions of the ruling classes.
Make no mistake this is not the parent’s behaviour, this is the incorporation of norms by the ruling classes into the parental psyche that conditions them to behave in a certain way, in this case, to overreact. Always believing that it is the right way and they would not be good mothers if they behaved otherwise. That is so misguided. I have seen Dani’s mothering instincts and they are excellent as with most mothers. I firmly believe if Dani trusts her instincts to be able to handle any little situation that comes along, those instincts will see her through and Zack will develop naturally and not learn from those around him that he is expected to behave in such a way because of a label attached to him and the behaviours attached to that label need not be learned by him.
As for Ashleigh she just needs to understand that we are all different and that society, at times likes to label and stigmatise those differences. Ashleigh can learn that being different is a fantastic way to be, either different and quirky within the norms, walking the norm tightrope or outside of those norms entirely. And finally, she should learn that people should never be compared by any pre-conceived notion of sameness, difference or established norms and that being unique and different can be tough but it is never wrong if kept within the laws of the land. Other people’s opinions just shouldn’t matter.
I said something to Julie the other day and she insisted I use it here. Do not allow abstract labels and stereotypes to be your guide. In closing this thought, if that were possible – Michel Foucault thought that adopting a critical attitude was essential to freedom and for our purposes his first critical value is refusal. Specifically, by this, he meant refusing to accept as self-evident the things that are proposed to us. I hope you can see where this might fit the Zack situation. Zack and all of his significant others should just develop together, maybe the “grownups” have as much to learn from him as he has from them. Nobody ever said the good life lived would ever be easy.
Thanks – Gary