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DISABILITY-RESEARCH  June 1999

DISABILITY-RESEARCH June 1999

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Subject:

Re: prevention vs. inclusion? (fwd)

From:

Alexa Tatyana Schriempf <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Alexa Tatyana Schriempf <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 13 Jun 1999 00:58:06 -0700 (PDT)

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (205 lines)

And below is my lengthy reply. Apologies for not condensing it.


lex
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 15:34:52 PDT
From: Alexa Tatyana Schriempf <[log in to unmask]>
To: erik leipoldt <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: prevention vs. inclusion?

Erik -- 
 I was afraid that you might have been taking this perspective on
maximizing potential and refiguring society to help maximze each person's
potential, in a sort of Bakunin line of thinking: from each and to each
according to his ability and need.  I apologize for not presenting this
charitable line of thinking in my public response to your thoughts -- 

Below is a very lengthy attack against the phraseology of "maximzing human
potential," but not against you.  I'd be interested and happy if you
agreed to broadcast your comments and my reply to the list?


What I meant by the possibiltiy of "exploitation" is that there is a
danger of sorts in thinking in terms of the phrase "mazimze human
potential".  If we are always astute about remembering WHOSE potential
(i.e., the individual's), then there really is no danger at all in this
kind
of thinking, and i totalyy agree with your assesment of what and how
potential should be understood. However, this is not the paradigm thinking
of our world today, nor does it even approximate the thinking of the best
and kindly intentioned people in power.  We are all subject to a large
complex set of forces- social and economic and well as political and
educational -- my concern is that if we as a disabiltiy community promote
the idea that we are all individuals  with different kinds of potentiails
to be maximinzed through and with the assistance of the state and society,
then we run a very serious risk of losing control of the individuals'
life- ability to define his or her own potential, ablity to choose for
themselves, and so on.  The danger lies in the reality that we are not a
powerful or dominant community.  Nor is this kind of indivualized
potential business a dominant framework of the way the Western world
operates.  

I once believed that the American way of life (I'm a native
Washingtonian -DC) was about individuality, about the freedom to be who
you are -- when in fact, this is the truth for only those who conform to
the status quo--basic requirements are that you earn a certain income,
that you have material possessions, that you have a circle of friends,
that you don't have too many kids, that you have a college degree, that
you have the right number of body parts, and if you have any problems, the
world doesn't know about it nor do you trouble others, in other words that
you be utterly independent.  This is the American freedom -- as set up by
Emerson and Thoreau.  Yet, as the Frankfurt School(germans who set up the
New School in New York) is fond of reiterating
-- where is the freedom in a society that is nothing more than a culture
industry where society is set up so that we consume things that only
enable us to get up in the morning the next day to go to work?  for
example -- all movies are planned in the same way - -to titillate and to
renew us with a sense of purpose, a sense of hope -- all for what purpose
- to contiue our lives as workers. Now while i hesitate to share this
cynicism with the frankfurt school, there is a certain truth about the way
they describe (American) society - as a system designed to elicit the
greatest amount of work/contribution/energy from all individuals.

The danger in thinking about maximizing human potential, no matter how
individualized and diverse, thus is that we are agreeing with the
description of society as consumers/workers.  Maybe we are doomed to
alwyas live in a society where developement, contribution and growth are
what keep civilization alive and not stagnant.  I won't go into an
arguement against those who believe that decay of civliztion is due to
stagnantisation -- but I believe that to use the phrase "maximize human
potential" is to buy into this understanding and support of society as
nothing more than an overgrown system of workers and production, where
every individual is treated perhaps uniquely (if we are so lucky) but with
the belief that every last drop of usefullness is to be squeezed out of
them, and then rewarded with benefits such as retirment plans and health
care.

I admire your faith in the differences in human potential. The problem is
that those in power, those who rose to the top of theses systems, they
already know this. they have maximized this ideology for thier benefit.
They do not demand of everyone to be geniuses or laborers. They (or we or
it) demand the most the each person can offer.To do so would be unwise --
how can they exert such direct pressure are non-geniuses to be geniuses -
those who could not would quickly fall by the waysside, and  make no
contribution. Or worse yet, they would take a free ride.  Think of how the
military is structured. In truth, maximzing potential is to preseerve
hierarchy and status quo. (Now not all hierarchy is bad, but this one
is!).

Perhaps an example would be
useful -- I am thinking of a series of science fiction novels - i can't
remember the author's name at the moment -but the book is called The Ship
Who Sang, and there are others following this thread.  In it, society is
so far technologically advanced that they've eliminated the question of
and made illegal the abortion of disabled fetuses becuase even the most
disabled fetuses can contribute to society (or be made useful, depending
on your persepctive) -- the way this happens is that the fetuses are
incubated, and kept in some sort of techno crib that sustains them
entirely with the nutrients and other fluids they need to live.  As they
grow and develop, thep pass (or not) a series of tests that dtermine
whether or not they can go to school (via computer hookup) and qualify for
the brain-brawn program wherby they eventually become the brains of ships
that are accompanied/piloted by an able-bodied person (the brawn). The one
who don't qualify for this program but have lived and developed other
areas -- they are shunted off to ground positions in computer/ship control
or other parts of soceity that need human brains to run technology.  We
never, ever see their bodies.  One reward in this society is for a brawn
to develop a relationship with his "brain" and make enough money that he
can afford to have an artist develope a holo-sculpture of the brain's
body, based on genetic and phenotypic projections -- mind you, an
abled-bodied porjection. While the story once seemed remarkable,
revolutionary and liberating at one time to me, I now view it as
reinforcing of the ideology that we make use of everything available to us
no matter what the means, or the ends, for that matter, that we maximize
human potential. I certainly will embrace cyborg technology as it comes,
but I'll be damned if I do it on anybody's terms but my own.


This argument may seem to be overly BS or mkaing too much of a
small phrase. However, I'm being trained as a philosopher, and i recently
figured out that what philosophers do is debate terms. So you have my
debate. Many apologies for the length. Today is my day off, and it's
raining.

Best, 
 

lex schriempf
University of Oregon


On Sat, 12 Jun 1999, erik leipoldt wrote:

> At 12:37 10/06/99 -0700, you wrote:
> 
> Alexa,
> 
>  I think that concepts like 'inclusion' and 'prevention', like many others
> are shaped according to the underlying beliefs and assumptions of  the
> conceptualisers and practitioners, whether they are aware of them or not.
> I happen to believe that life has purpose and meaning and people have an
> intrinsic, basic need to maximise their individual  potential. That  means
> different potentials and goals for different people with their unique
> talents, limitations  and abilities .  There is a lot of diversity in that.
> I cannot really visualise what a "common apex of human potential" would
> look like.  Noone can or should be  forced in any way to strive towards
> their maximum potential; that has  to be an individual resolve or
> encouragement.  However, most people would agree that the world would  be a
> better place where there are many and better opportunities, to all, to
> develop their maximum potential through decent education,  material
> supports, involvement in freely given relationships, freedom from poverty,
> war etc. Whatever aspects of a person's potential would be developed when
> they use opportunities open  to them is different for individuals but could
> include any or all of emotional, physical, spiritual, material,
> intellectual and  whatever other  potential.   The individual would rise to
> their own best potential and it does perhaps not need to be defined. I
> don't see how the development of human potential in this  sense  is
> "similarly subject to power plays and status quo -and- is to chase one's
> tail" or that this might be "humans - being - a resource to be fattened for
> exploitation". Whose exploitation?  I would  think it is usually the
> undereducated, the poor, the marginalised that are exploited  not those who
> have had the opportunities to develop their own potential.
> 
> I should add that advocacy is  only one response to inclusion and
> prevention within a range of practices and advocacy.
> 
> Erik
> 
> 
> >Why do we have to maximize human potential? - Erik makes it sound like
> >humans are a resource to be fattened for exploitation.  I think that the
> >belief that an "inclusion paradigm which holds to notions of diversity"
> >would be contradictory if it also held that human potential be maximized.
> >If all or most human beings are maximized for their potentials, then how
> >are we different and diverse? Are we then not "maximizing" all humans
> >towards a common apex of human development? Where is the diversity in
> >that?? 
> >
> >Perhaps I am inaccurately juxtaposing paragraphs here. In that case,
> >here's another point to consider: who gets define when and how human
> >potential is being defined or not? To suggest that prevention and
> >inclusion, two of the most controlling concepts for any liberatory theory,
> >might be reconciled along lines of yet another concept that is similarly
> >subject to power plays and status quo is to chase one's tail.
> >
> >I agree with Erik in so many other ways, especially with respect to the
> >attitude of reconciling somehow these notions of prevention and inclusion,
> >since both offer good things.  Doing so seems to require some kind of
> >understanding and advocacy of people as integrated and connected with one
> >other.  But I think that Paul's use of "pain" as tool for achieving this
> >end is a far more safe method, though not unproblematic, as it turns on
> >something that we all we experience in our lives, one way or another.
> >
> >
> >Best, 
> >Alexa Schriempf
> >
> 
> 




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