Blind or Deaf?
by B.J. Delas Armas
on 5/14/2008 11:51:00 PM
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Blind or Deaf?
When I say I'm thankful and gracious for all that I have, having all 5 senses working is usually what comes to mind first.
A former co-worker of mine once posed the question if I would rather be blind or deaf.
Another co-worker and I "chose" to be deaf. The question-poser chose to be blind.
Our reasons for being deaf rather than losing our vision --- "we want to be able to see things." On a quality of life level, I would want to see if my wife is hot. I wouldn't need to hear other people's crap. But the dealbreaker for me is, on a survival level, if someone/something were to attack me, (because everyone knows of those vicious gangs of people who like to attack the deaf) well, I'd like to know where I'm going to strike or maim the punk-ass. It seems like you're less likely to be ripped off because you can be more independent.
The question-poser chose to save her hearing over her vision because she wanted to hear music. It occurred to me that even though we are a visually-inclined society, the primary way we make and establish meanings is through sound and spoken language. Me, I haven't listen to a lot of what people say, and I haven't had many systems of meaning to follow. When you hear something, you feel intensity, tone, and rhythm more intensely, and you can establish meaning from that. They say that music is the universal language...that is unless you're deaf.
When I watched a documentary about the deaf community, I saw how tightly knit a community they were. The discourse surrounding them sounded like the same discourse you'd hear/read about a minority community. They have their own language, they communicate to each other in a unique way that is not understood by the larger society. They feel disrespected, misunderstood, and most of all they hate it when someone tries to label or leave their community.
The one thing they especially hated was when parents of a deaf child would consult a doctor for cochlear implants. Parents, usually with hearing, reasoned that they wanted their children to have a "fuller experience." Deaf folks on the counterattack said that they already had a "full" experience. One of them talked about how he was the editor of the NY Times as a deaf person, managing hearing people. It appears that the parents with hearing thought that the deaf world was just lacking in meaning. And they were dead wrong.
The deaf do have their own systems of meaning, but it remained and probably still remains unacknowledged by those who have the hearing, the arbitors of meaning and communication.
Labels: Keying in on Language, Psychological Anthropology