Lucky 7

Luck*y sev*en (luk’ sev’ n) n. The renegade bunch of self-proclaimed party animals of south California; group of rapscallions that gained notoriety through reckless mischief and endless hype during the late 90’s.

Wizard, Stinky, and Drizzit

Founded by Drizzit, Ez, Noid, Doughboy, Stinky, and the Wizard, the Lucky 7 was a counterculture phenomenon. Countless recruits dogged the L7 to be included, to get a piece of the glory or at least share the peripheral benefits. Their code is to raise hell and increase mayhem by getting as messed up as possible, which was in demand for deaf social functions for the 20 something year olds … Continue reading Lucky 7

The Opium of the deaf community?

The other day I came across a clever title of a book by Raymond Aron: The Opium of the Intellectuals. It was a polemic directed at Marxism, and argued that it was the opiate of intellectuals. The reason it’s clever is because Karl Marx originally claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses.

I began to think in contemporary terms: what would pass as the opium of our times, as much religion did in mid-19th century, and Marxism for intellectuals in the 1930s & 40s? Ten years ago, my cousin Igor credited television as the ultimate drug of our consumer society. No doubt the Internet may have replaced it today.

Now, considering the subculture the deaf community, what would be our opiate – a drug that fails to fix our ailments but allows us to forget our sufferings? Continue reading The Opium of the deaf community?

Dr. Bauman on Deaf Gain

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Dr. Dirksen Bauman in San Diego on Deaf Gain. My sister Rez and Bob Arnold, two heavyweights in their own rights, interjected our thoughts from time to time throughout the powerpoint presentation. In a well-constructed, seamless series of historical, analytic and evidential arguments, Dr. Bauman demonstrated how deafness as hearing loss is actually a remnant of normalcy, and is nearing its end as a valid notion. I made similar exhortations in the past, and was pleased to see such a powerful curb-stomp of a relic of modernism from an accomplished giant of academia. Continue reading Dr. Bauman on Deaf Gain

Deafness & writing

Every community has its myths, but one in particular struck me. In the deaf community, your writing competence is supposedly related to how English you sign or mouth your signs. If you sign in pure ASL, then your writing competence in English or any other textual language may not be up to snuff. Now, if you mouth your signs, enunciate your words a little too clearly, you seem to be introducing an unnecessary element to your signing, as if you’re embarrassed of signing without appealing to another language. Continue reading Deafness & writing

Deafness & authentic writing

Last week I was reading an article on theNation.com about a new generation of writers from Mexico (Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla & Eloy Urroz) in the mid nineties, and it hit very close to home. They called themselves the “crackeros” but what interested me the most was their resistance to writing “Mexican literature.”  Literary critics from America and Western Europe insisted that Mexicans writers must write about Mexican themes in order to be authentic. In other words, the crakeros‘ novels weren’t about Mexico, and therefore, the writers weren’t authentic. That implies that the “universal” is restricted to the Americans and Europeans. Commence severe eye-rolling. Continue reading Deafness & authentic writing

Disability redefined

The very basic function of the concept called “disability” has perplexed me for decades. Why is it automatically given a negative connotation when thought or spoken out loud? Why do we teach our children that it’s inappropriate to look at a disabled person rather than encouraging them to inquire freely? It seems to further ingrain the lesson that disability is something to be avoided rather than approached as an opportunity for learning.

For the sake of brevity, I will focus solely on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of disability which states:
“Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” 1

I propose a different definition for “disability”: “opportunities unrealized”. Continue reading Disability redefined

Juxtaposing deafness in society

Is the word ‘deaf’ a label? How does it denote a person? Today, in this post-structural age, labels are everything. We use labels everyday, speak in labels, and we encounter labels everywhere. Sometimes we use labels for convenience, as shorthand for complicated concepts. Other times labels are used in technical vocabulary, to marginalize error. So, we identify ourselves with labels. Hence, the word “deaf” is a label that connotes a particular characteristic of a person. The dictionary explicitly signifies a person who is not physically able to hear, and that definition is derived from the norm of a society of peers who can. The identification of a person as deaf is a discursive product, because it is relevant only within a set of classification that is established by a particular discourse of deafness.

In the Norma Groce’s book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, a description of an independent community isolated on the small island Martha’s Vineyard, which was rife with a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, serves as an example where “deafness” was not a label of disability. Disability in this sense doesn’t necessarily result from a handicap, but rather is manifested through a society that devalues and segregates people who deviate from the physical norms. Consequently, any label that connotes disability is a socioeconomic passport for institutionalization.

However, this marginalization as a disability is a negative concept and does not satisfactorily answer the question – what is ‘deafness?’ Is there an alternative, more positive, definition?

One possible candidate is a social explanation, which is a departure from biological or existential explanations. As a label, deafness functions as a discursive formation that is socially constructed by discourse. The phrase ‘social construct’ is a celebrated description those radical freethinkers use to question the ideological beliefs of a modernist (that reality is a homogeneous entity, that knowledge is the sole result of a pure, sincere will to truth, and the meaning of anything is disinterestedly given).

Discursive formations are derivatives of discourse, which is the semiotic structuring of all social phenomena as codes and rules. This is practiced by a unity of discourse, by consensual agreement. Discourse defines identity and describes what characteristics are possible for a person. A discursive formation constitutes its object and generates knowledge about these objects. That means our knowledge is discursively determined, and the world is constituted in this way by discourse. However, nobody writes a discursive formation. There are no authors of discursive formations because they are constituted by archives, or anonymous collections of text.

These archives is the sustained recording of the history of the individual, and in doing so, the person has a place, a name, a number, a task, a credit history, etc., and never stray from the steady observation of authorities. This constant observation of behavior leads to a certain discipline: the person behaves as if they were under sustained surveillance. In the deaf person’s situation, especially in the USA, his life is observed, recorded, and probed under a microscope by a collaborative and cooperative effort of specialists (deaf teachers, guidance officers, speech language pathologists, interpreters or notetakers, and audiologists): a continuum of psychological profiles, aptitude test placements, audiograms, educational performance, objectives and other documented efforts.

The increasingly complex and technical serialization of the disabled person is an ongoing process of a biographical production. The biographical sketch of the individual, chronicled to a greater detail than ever, results in the ‘real,’ tangible and physical snapshot of the self! Panopticism is a disciplined, rational, detailed and bureaucratic surveillance, which signifies how behavior is directed by the machinery of society- an ‘automatization’ and ‘disindividualization’ of power.

The individual actively construct their social world, as opposed to having it imposed upon them. Therefore, it seems that the concept of deafness does not necessarily signify a disability, but is contingent upon what context the individual chooses to define himself. If labels are constructs, and language is the limit of thought, then I am nothing more than a social construct, that ‘deaf guy.’ However, I do not identify myself as a deaf person because of my existential nature as a free human being. To act otherwise would be bad faith.

(Originally published by the 49er, the CSULB newspaper, February 6, 2003)