Part of a series, Autonomy, Diversity, Society. Posts about our roles, relationships and governance. No article in this section is meant to stand alone, there will be a lot more coming soon that will clarify the current posts.
For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself… as to the faculties of the mind, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. – Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal – United States Declaration of Independence
The obviously false statements above have been used to design a social structure that does not and will never meet the needs of a real society. The average is held up as not only an attainable goal but also an ideal and the very existence of anything above or below average is frequently denied, especially in the design of social structures. Anything more than two standard deviations from the mean is considered either substandard or elite and great societal energy is expended in trying to merge both of these back into the centre of the bell curve. Those that cannot be merged are ostracized or treated as parasites.
The majority of society has seen nothing amiss with tying success and happiness to academic excellence, in complete knowledge that this will ensure a life of misery and failure for those unable to attain a neurotypical standard. It has been a comedy to see the same middle class who complacently watched the subjection of generations of the bottom 1% roar with indignation when they find themselves slipping to that level. We are the 99%! is the neatest summation of the tyranny of the bell curve imaginable. Mass protests occurred in 2011 not because economic disparity affecting basic human rights is occurring but because it is now happening to average people, the chosen ones. The instant cry for direct democracy was meant not to ensure human rights for all but to ensure the majority will once again dominate.
The continuing mistreatment of the less able is today’s version of eugenics. Every politician appeals to the middle class. If they intend to favour the economic top 1% they must convince the middle class it will eventually benefit them. No politician campaigns on promises to the bottom 1% where human rights disappear first. The 99% are finally suffering some of what they allowed to happen to the bottom 1% all these years. The bottom 1% has always filled jails and been denied basic essentials and the opportunity to achieve their potential and pursue happiness. The majority are only horrified when they start going as well.
All people are equivalent. All people are not equal. This is our strength not a weakness. The lie that all people are equal has been used to deny people the right to be equivalent.
There is nothing in one level of ability that makes it inherently better than another. It is the artificial valuation of jobs and the pressure for all to match the peak of the bell curve and attain the same goals that makes average competence seem an unquestionable virtue. The myth of a straight line of competence is also false. A person lower in a general cognition spectrum can still be higher in one system than a specialist from another system. Interest can drive a person to a level of higher expertise than someone with greater ability. Success in many areas requires no extraordinary ability. Many abilities such as perceptiveness, ability to communicate and obsessive attention to detail can provide great value to projects as can insight from diverse backgrounds.
If society refuses to acknowledge that some people are more capable in some areas than average, children are raised with no alternative than to perceive others as either willfully ignorant or frauds. If everyone thinks there is a level playing field, they play flat out and some get hurt and angry. If they think everyone is equal, those who achieve more must have cheated in some way or are lying and those who achieve less must not be trying hard enough. Anger, frustration and division must result from forced equality and holding that which is natural for one to be the ultimate standard of achievement for all.
Bullying by the average is easy as communication and empathy beyond two standard deviations of cognitive ability is difficult, exhausting and slow. Those outside the majority cannot discuss the communication difficulties. Anyone below average is given advice on how to become average, anyone openly above is hated and shunned. Knowledge bridges are needed for communication in both cases and in both cases those bridging will be loved and celebrated while those trying to communicate will still be despised. Their voices will be controlled by others and their links to broader society will be at the whim of those providing communication bridges.
Being outside the normative range of physical ability or beauty will bring hostility but not to nearly the same degree as being outside the normative range of cognitive ability. This may be because even though all can be tied to economic success, the range in cognitive ability is far greater and more diverse. While a top athlete’s achievements may be unattainable by the majority of the population they are at least able to comprehend them.
Normal is equated with ideal, abnormal is in some way defective or in need of a cure. It was not until recently that those who deviated from the neurotypical by any great degree in either direction were even considered the same species as neurotypical humans. This attitude can still be seen today as failure is said to make a person more human and more deserving of human respect and empathy.
As recently as 1920 Leta Hollingworth had to ask Are the defective a separate species? … It Was Formerly Assumed as a Matter of Course that the Feeble-Minded Belonged to a Distinct Mental Species. Herbart’s theory advanced so long ago, that the feeble-minded form simply the opposite extreme from genius, and differ from the normal only in degree, made relatively little impression upon current thought. It was supposed generally that the feebleminded were divided from the normal by a sharp line of demarcation, on the one side of which stood all who were not feeble-minded, while on the other side stood all who were so afflicted, — the so-called idiots. According to this view, there was also another line of demarcation, separating the normal people from the geniuses, who like the feeble-minded formed a separate species.
It is obvious that those considered not even human were also left out of the Lockean notion of equality along with women, children, slaves, etc. The importance that we see attached to iq today, in particular in the endless debate over whether it can be tied to ethnicity, sex or gender, lies in the societal acceptance which inclusion in the normative range still brings. Inclusion programs focus on kindly teaching those at the ends of the bell curve how to be average. Utopias and futuristic societies nearly always show everyone equal as an ideal we have somehow attained, something only possible by eugenics.
The smug arrogance and condescending simper of most neurotypicals explaining something to a person with relative cognitive difficulties would be deemed a socialization problem if it were directed at a neurotypical. Usually neurotypicals don’t even attempt to communicate outside their comfort zone and it is left to those at the ends to have their attempts at communication judged and found wanting. The ease of communication awarded as a birthright to neurotypicals is promoted as a virtue, as being a good team player, communicator, socially adept or simply popular.
It is completely unacceptable to call a person relative terms such as ugly, fat or stupid. It is acceptable to point out that they are, relatively speaking, disfigured, obese or learning disabled. It is only within the average ranges that relative insults are verboten. The handicapped are called handicapped despite the obvious relative meaning to the term. Neurotypicals are also handicapped compared to some but they would not tolerate the term directed at them. Even calling them average or common is deemed insulting. Average must be presented as the ideal, a normal way of being.
The self-appointed normal in society once debated eugenics to dispose of those they labeled gradations of idiots, imbeciles and morons and condemned them to childhoods facing a corner with a dunce cap on. These days are not in the past as debates over whether those at one end should be allowed to vote or reproduce continue and people are classified as having a mental age of a number correlating to neurotypical development. Neurotypicals are comparatively mentally incompetent too but they are still allowed to vote on subjects far outside their comprehension. A society concerned about equal rights for all would consider that for everyone neurotypicals consider a relative imbecile there are equivalent numbers of people who feel the same about them.
Diversity and collaboration
Neurotypicals are raised with a deep belief in their right to participate in all aspects of society at every level. It is a very common neurotypical reaction when they feel excluded from a group or activity by lack of knowledge to assume there was some sort of invitation, initiation or training which they did not receive. They then demand to be appraised of all work and discussion, through meetings, minutes, memos etc. and to have everything explained to them. Their work methods are presented as superior as there is always plenty of evidence to show that the majority of workers prefer them. They are permitted to derail working environments on the basis of inclusiveness even while they are excluding those who work better at a faster or slower level. They are convinced they have an inherent right to be included as an equal in every working or decision making forum through the democratic principle of equal votes. The sneer that a person is always right implies some quota on the number of times it is socially acceptable to be right. Know-it-all is used as an insult, implying that knowing too much is an antisocial act.
If people wish to truly promote a fully egalitarian society then everyone must be made to converse at a level easily understood by the lowest level of cognitive ability. When parents are willing to allow their neurotypical children to be educated at a level two or four standard deviations below their own, the quest for equality will have some moral ground to stand on. Until then, collaborative environments must allow discussion at all levels to provide equivalent fulfillment. Not doing so simply drives epistemic communities into back rooms and secret groups where they are not obliged to communicate with the public and their work is not transparent for everyone’s benefit.
The conceit of individual genius is condemned by proponents of the far more unlikely conceit of originality from the hive mind. It is a physical impossibility for a group to have an original idea as it has no mind. The hive does have a shared memory bank and simultaneous thought can occur if an environmental stimulus triggers a shared memory but simultaneous thought is, by definition, not original. If an idea is new, not only must it come from one mind, it must be patiently taught and debated by the originator. If it is to be generally accepted it must also be presented as coming from the hive mind, the voice of the people or whatever the euphemism of the day is. If an idea must be explained to a broad section of the public it must come from a knowledge bridge in the form of a not too intelligent western man.
The economic elite, those holding the power in the world, play to this conceit by propping up folksy politicians such as the “little guy from Shawnigan” Jean Chretien or the definitely-not-smarter-than-you Sarah Palin, while the majority of the Davos Group have no public profiles. The economic elite are those who by luck and privilege find themselves in positions of power and influence. Elite intelligence and ability did not bring us the problems in the world today, it was greed and sociopathy across all levels of society. Neurotypical intolerance of others has prevented any transparency between epistemic communities and the general public and allowed sociopaths to stand between the two and control society.
The path from elite, specialized knowledge to broad acceptance is extremely difficult to traverse. Some people enjoy being knowledge bridges and appreciate the challenge, others find it frustrating and a waste of time. Right now everyone who is not at the top of the bell curve is expected to spend huge amounts of unacknowledged time and energy communicating with the neurotypical elite and their effort is never appreciated. It is usually punished. Ideas that are important for the public to understand and accept but are undesirable to those in power are easily intercepted and replaced with more convenient truths. The majority of ideas that could benefit the public simply never arrive as the source cannot find the way to communicate their idea or a way to receive the support needed to develop it.
All humans have the equal right to attain their full potential
We do not have human dignity when we are kept in a state below what we are capable of achieving or in a system which fails to recognize where we naturally excel. We do not have the right to associate or to refuse to associate when we are made to converse always at a level far below or above where we are comfortable. We do not have societal acceptance when we are given an impossible ideal to attain to be part of society. We do not have our basic rights when they are contingent on our meeting an ideal which is impossible for us. We are not accepted as part of society if our needs must be met by charity.
Anyone within two standard deviations of the mean cognitive ability is able to travel through life in full expectation of being able to have a conversation at precisely their level with everyone. Most people are capable of connecting with others on a topic such as the weather but societal acceptance implies occasionally being able to have connections on deeper topics. Feeling always guarded against ridicule and misunderstanding and never having a real conversation contributes to a life of extreme loneliness and frustration. This is true not just for extreme ends of cognitive ability but for atypical thinkers of all kinds, even extreme introverts.
“Hollingworth also noted the acute social problems of children with IQs over 160. Moderately gifted children, those whose IQs measure between 125 and 155, were ones she found to be emotionally well balanced. These children had what she called a ‘socially optimal’ IQ level and had no problem making friends. But those with IQs over 160 typically suffered from social isolation.” (Winner 226).
Terman studied a population of lower iq than Hollingworth (average 150) and also selected people whose ability was recognized by their family and school and who were already in a track to achieve their potential. This population cannot be compared with those who have no hope of ever achieving their potential and are surrounded by a social group hostile to what they see as an enemy elite.
And yet Even Terman admitted that children with very high IQs faced acute social problems. Terman’s subjects who scored 170 or higher on IQ tests were said to have “one of the most difficult problems of social adjustment that any human being is ever called upon to meet.”At age fourteen, 60 percent of the boys with such high IQs and 73 percent of the girls were described by their teachers as solitary and as poor mixers. (Winner 225)
Note that these talented children and adolescents seem to have problems not because of any inherent social and emotional difficulties but rather because they are so different from others. They are ‘out of synch.’ If they could find others like themselves, their social problems might well disappear.”… Academically gifted children often underperform, not only because they are underchallenged but also because they work below their level to win social acceptance. (Winner 230)
Without the ability to communicate directly with society it is impossible to achieve the recognition or approval needed to survive.
The Psychology of Subnormal Children. Contributors: Leta S. Hollingworth – Author. Publisher: Macmillan. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1920.
Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. Contributors: Ellen Winner
Publisher: BasicBooks Place of publication: New York Publication year: 1996