Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Potato/Potato Tomato/Tomato

You say potato and I say pot(o)to

You like tomato and I like tom(o)to,   Astaire, Fred,  “You Say Potato”


No, you left out the “e’ at the end of potato,   Quayle, Dan in correcting a fifth grader’s error in a spelling bee.



I noticed that I mentioned attention deficit syndrome the other day. What I meant was attention deficit disorder. I am sorry if this caused in confusion to anyone. Psychological terms are confusing. A “disorder” in psychological terms is what we lay persons often call a mental illness, as a short hand rendition. We use other terms too, loony , batty, nuts, crazy, the list is endless. But when we use those words they are nonspecific in what they describe. A disorder is one of the many subdivisions of mental “illness” (a word which is often frowned upon). In other words, a shrink will not say, “he is bat shit crazy” and often will avoid “mentally ill”, she will say that the patient suffers from a specific disorder, such as “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” which is determined by looking at a book called the DSM and deciding if the patient has the requisite  number of symptoms under a specific heading to qualify for the label. I don’t know what you have to do to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit disorder (ADD) but I do know one thing, ADD is a syndrome, so I correctly labeled the disorder yesterday, I just did not call it by the name by which  it is commonly known .Potato/Potato as Astaire used to sing.


So what’s a syndrome ? You hear about syndromes all the time and the word is thrown around like it means something, “We are concerned about Stockholm syndrome” says the CIA agent ,if he is concerned that a long kidnapped person is becoming sympathetic with his kidnappers. Why the Swedes are particularly susceptible to this syndrome is unknown to me, but I assume that it has something to do Ingmar Bergman or perhaps massage where less pressure is applied than a deep tissue massage. Of course, it could relate to meatballs.


What a syndrome really is is several symptoms or signs that occur together , one often alerting  the therapist to the others and ,when placed in combination by someone allowed to diagnose such things,  are known as a syndromes (from the Greek for “running together”). Interestingly, there is such a thing as a “culturally bound syndrome” which means that what you and I think of as a disease, is considered perfectly normal elsewhere. Ironically, the first cultural bound syndrome (which involved sheep initially and then other animals) involves behavior considered perfectly normal behavior in Greece (and at Texas A & M ) and nowhere else. Another example, Wendigo psychosis, is a culturally bound syndrome once confined almost solely to the Algonquin Indian tribe. It  is the fear of becoming attracted to eating flesh and because of this fear of  becoming a cannibal. Not so many diagnosis of this are made any more as there are fewer and fewer Algonquians and no one else ever worried about it, either because it would never cross their minds or they saw nothing to particularly fear about becoming a cannibal.


The most common place to find culturally bound syndromes is in the Old Testament ( or , more politically correct, the Tanakh). Virtually all of the prophets and holy men in ancient Israel would be locked up today. In Ancient Israel, it was not only acceptable to know and speak to God on a first name basis, it was considered the prime road to social advancement. The guy preaching  on Sixth and Congress whom  many of us see every day is not so lucky.


I make these points only to indicate to you how time bound and culturally bound syndromes are. There are probably a good number of times  places where ADD would be considered helpful and not a syndrome. We just happen to have a society which puts a premium on a certain type of education and study. If syndromes and disorders are as  flimsy as I believe them to be, why do we worry about them at all ? The main reason is to preserve order in society. You just can’t have half of the population living in fear of becoming a cannibal. No one would ever get anything done. So we have to label it (really criminalize it) so that we can root it out and continue to advance as a species. Therefore we spend much time and treasure in not only convincing people to be “normal” but stuffing pharmaceuticals down their throats to get them to act “normal”. Mostly, because the non-normal guys make us feel uncomfortable. We would not feel uncomfortable around the non- normal if we had not bothered to decide, on a more or less political basis, what would pass as normal in our society. But we did. To be human is to label. To label is to exclude. To exclude confers a feeling of power or superiority on those who exclude That in itself is a disorder, but it is socially accepted and even demanded (as you may recall from Junior High School).


The basic issue we deal with in all of this is that there is no reason to believe that those doing the labeling are correct about the label or even about  what should be labeled. Dan Quayle was Vice President of the United States when he decided that potato had an “e” at the end and disqualified a young man from a fifth grade spelling bee because of it. Potatoe/Potato, Quayle/Quail , these are trivialities that do not matter at all, except insofar as society demands that they matter. The fifth grader was lucky, all he got was disqualified from a contest.  There are an awful lot of people in the world who look at things just a little bit differently than you and I and they suffer a lot worse.


Blogger Jannie Funster said...

I still have trouble spelling "definiteley" See? have had a mental block against it forever.

I think my "bloging manigir" bunny might be bat-shit crazy. Or maybe it's me, I forget who is who sometimes.


8:21 PM  

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