Globalization under the radar
Ursula LeGuincomplained about the recently aired miniseries version of her Earthsea novels: the transformation of her futuristically multi-colored characters into white folks was quite shocking to her. (Then she had to respond again) The care she puts into the creation of characters and worlds is immense and integral to the stories: she writes whole worlds in short stories that are the equal of other writers novels, and her best novels are mindbending experiences.
Contrast that with Alex Pang's daughter's difficulty explaining exactly what she"is" or where she's"from."
We are shortchanging ourselves if we don't realize two things: first, the individual is becoming increasingly globalized and mixed, and interesting as a result. And second, it has always been this way, and only our atavistic nineteenth century concepts of race and nation keep us from seeing the constant and ongoing blending of peoples and cultures as a normal (not unproblematic, but unexceptional) thing in world historical terms.
(Yeah, I'm still grading world history finals, why?)
almost related: A discussion of autism activism in the NYTimes included this passage:
The effort to cure autism, they say, is not like curing cancer, but like the efforts of a previous age to cure left-handedness. Some worry that in addition to troublesome interventions, the ultimate cure will be a genetic test to prevent autistic children from being born.I'm quite sure that there's a false dilemma here. At least one. More later.
(Yes, I know grades are due in ten hours, why?)
update: Arthur Silber, at Liberty & Power has an excellent extended discussion of the article with particular reference to Thomas Szasz' work on demedicalization of behavior disorders and Alice Miller's work on abuse-perpetuating childrearing practices.
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Jonathan Dresner - 12/22/2004
I'm pure Ashkenazi Jew... in other words, I'm part German, Austrian, Russian/Polish (depends on where the borders were that year)....
The question of regional v. local specialization is an interesting one. As a Japan scholar, I am the resident East Asianist, and people still ask me if I'm ever going to teach an India course.
But there isn't room, at some levels of abstraction, for differentiating between German and French and Polish in Europe, any more than there is room to differentiate between Chinese and Korean and Japanese. The trick is to remember (i.e., to remind them) that that is only one level of abstraction, not a firm grasp on reality.
Julie A Hofmann - 12/20/2004
This kind of mirrors something I pondered recently on a listserv. That is, again I feel like Europe somehow doesn't count in a global world. Part of this is certainly because of my own field of study; for us Europeanists (and perhaps more so for pre-modernists), it's almost impossible to relate to "Europe" in the way that modernists, Americanists, and World-ies (-ists?) do. Why? because we KNOW that, although we study European History, we have never (and my apologies to any of my colleagues who think I'm either overgeneralizing or full of it) taught an overall Europe. We go from place to place, general themes and how those themes play out differently over space, time, and culture. Yet to others, we're just Europeanists. Worse -- to some, we're just the people who study dead white imperialists -- as if Europe always existed in some monolithic, hegemonic, colonialist way.
I also wonder if that's one reason that the pre-modern Europe always seems to be given short shrift in World History texts -- and if it's part of a political agenda in part. To discuss the incredibly rich and diverse cultures of different Germanic peoples and their interaction with Rome, or how European monarchies and then nation-states developed so very differently would dramatically change the impression of Europe as this all-dominating monolith. Or maybe there's just not room. Maybe.
I admit, my own views may be a bit different because my own family has always been very aware of its heritage as a "mixed" family. As Alex Pang's daughter would say, I'm about half from Germany (although one grandfather would correct that to 'an eighth from Bayern'), a third from Scotland, and the rest from Holland and France and maybe England. When we did the kind of 'world potluck' at school that young Ms. Pang talks about, it never occured to me to bring "European food" -- there is no such thing. What always did confuse me was that I tended to think of all the foods we ate regularly as being normal for all Americans to eat, where others might not. Because, I suppose, I'm of the "melting pot into salad bowl" generation. We were all supposed to become American, and realize that everybody brought something new and diffent to the table that made it better and cooler. What really surprizes me is that there are LOTS of other people in my generation, so why does this whole thinking global thing always surprise people?
Jonathan Dresner - 12/20/2004
They make an interesting case that some of the "socialization" retraining which autistics undergo is more harmful than helpful. Their argument resonates with the "reasonable accomodation" standard of the ADA, but that leaves a gray area between mild and severe behavior effects that is still going to be hard to deal with.
I think there is a case to be made (not always a convincing one, but a case nonetheless) against requiring individuals to undergo therapies or procedures to normalize them when other adaptations can be successful.
The genetics/abortion argument is a very difficult one, and I'm not prepared to comment on it at this time. I just finished grade entry....
mark safranski - 12/20/2004
" Troublesome interventions" ? Good Lord, the ominous moral implications behind that phrasing !
I've had a few autistic students over the years and one with Asperger's Syndrome - these activists are a menace to children on par with deaf community radicals who want to prevent hard of hearing children from access to cochlear implant devices. It's not their choice to make in either case, legally or ethically.
I'm also pretty dubious that a single gene " causes " Autism. More likely it is a complex genetic-environmental interaction with a number of critical factors being present. It's possible but I'd wager against it.
Jonathan Dresner - 12/20/2004
I miscoded the link. The link in the article now takes you to the post in question. Though, if you're interested, you can also see the child in question here
Oscar Chamberlain - 12/20/2004
It looks like you have to go in the frontdoor, http://askpang.typepad.com/, at this site, then scroll down a ways.
Do so. It's worth it.
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