I have been mentally kicking this one around for awhile now and I think that I finally have my thoughts in order to sit and type it out.
I was thinking the other day about how people get all shocked and offended about things that really aren’t that important (Example: What if I was to make a joke about Jesus’ asshole, which is where this all started) like some topics, traditions or some form of beliefs that are (mistakenly IMO) held sacred and untouchable and cannot be joked about or discussed. It just baffles me that people have these things in their head that are so off limits that they will (sometimes violently) defend them or shun you for talking about them or (gasp!) joke about them. Even when I did my time in the church, I enjoyed a good fucked up Jesus joke. So, while I was contemplating this, the word Taboo came to mind.
Taboo (noun): a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.
So the greater society, or a religion, decided to take a noun and make it off limits. Why? Because it encourages free thinking? Because it encourages another view point? Because it challenges the powers that be? Is this why we have these “taboos”? Why the fuck do they exist?
To the Google!
“Sigmund Freud posited that incest and patricide were the only two universal taboos and formed the basis of civilization. However, although cannibalism, in-group murder, and incest are taboo in the majority of societies, modern research has found exceptions for each and no taboo is known to be universal. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo)”
Now, I am not suggesting that we all go fuck our siblings, kill out father, eat our neighbors and make “The Purge” legal, but can we not talk about these things? Can we not make off-color jokes about incestual cannibalism? Can we not jokingly talk about what we would do “if” The Purge were legal? Can we not talk about religion, sex and politics in public? And what happens if we do these things despite people considering them “taboo”?
“deviance (noun): the fact or state of departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behavior.”
Yep, that’s right we get labeled. You’re a deviant; however I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. Sometimes you have to shake up the norm, you have to go against the grain and you have to just raise some hell. This inspires thought and inspiration! I honestly think that it’s not the “deviant” that’s the bad person, but the society or religion that is doing the labeling. Let’s talk about labeling for a second.
Labelling or labeling is describing someone or something in a word or short phrase. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labelling)
Labeling theory is the theory of how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them…Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labeling_theory)
Now here’s where my racing rambling thought took me. Is it really the person that commits the taboo that is the bad guy, or is it society for labeling that person for their action? Now, I get some labels are true. A guy kills 36 people, he’s labeled as a serial killer. A lady burns down 41 buildings, she’s an arsonist. Some labels are earned; however if a kid steals a box of pop-tarts, is he a thief? Sure, he stole something, but what if you find that the kid was homeless and hadn’t eaten for 3 days. Was he a thief, or was he hungry? It’s labels that give things power and definition; however if you look at things in shades of grey, rather than black & white, then you tend to look for more details before you define them.
Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society. Stigma may then be affixed to such a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms.
Then I started thinking about the stigma that I ( and every other person that has a mental illness) faces and the power of that label. How we have to avoid it, we have to hide in the shadows, lie about episodes, and do this social parkour to avoid being outed and labeled, because it’s like being mentally ill is a taboo in itself. The media paints us as a group of mass murders, the church preaches that g-d doesn’t create things without a sound mind and any mental illness is a sin or a demonic oppression and that we should just pray the crazy away and overall society is scared shitless of us because we are going to snap at any moment.
…Unlike physical disabilities, there is a negative social stigma surrounding mental illness, with those suffering being perceived to have control of their disabilities and being responsible for causing them. “Furthermore, research respondents are less likely to pity persons with mental illness, instead reacting to psychiatric disability with anger and believing that help is not deserved.”… (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stigma)
When I was first diagnosed as bipolar, i didn’t hide it. At the time, I didn’t understand there was a stigma about the mentally ill. Plus, at the job I had at the time, my team was tight. We were like family. When I told them that I was diagnosed as bipolar, that fucking ended for me. Hell, some people even moved desks. I got side-ways looks and some people just treated me differently, as in avoided me. A good few still stood by me, but the majority had now labeled me as “crazy”. After that, it wasn’t unless I was in crisis and needed my job to know that I told only my direct supervisor about my mental health issues. I had learned my lesson and I hid in the shadows like a good little deviant.
However, now I want to share this with anyone that reads this. Don’t let taboos direct you, think freely. Don’t label people, unless they have earned it, and even then keep your definition of that person open. Try to see in shades of grey vs. black & white, and look for the details in people and their actions. You may learn that people that you have labeled heroes are really assholes and the people that you have written off as worthless are really made of gold.
Thanks for reading.