Consider, here, a troubled teen.
This particular teen took it upon himself to fly a stolen single-engine Cesna into the Bank of America building last Saturday. He was killed, and expected to be killed. No one else was injured.
Almost immediately, following the statement of the local police chief:
Quote:the press seized upon the adjective troubled to explain his actions:
"Bishop can best be described as a young man who had very few friends and was very much a loner From his actions we can assume he was a very troubled young man."
Bishop was a "troubled" boy and a loner with few friends, Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder said Sunday.
- Associated Press
(I should mention here briefly that on the American continents, suicide is considered an act of the individual, most often as a cry for help, never an act of social protest or of political rebellion.) The words isolated and loner have since been frequently added, and finally the note found in his pocket in support of bin Laden condemned the teen and his action to the radicalness of extreme depression.
What is already being glossed over is that the teen in question was considered by his teachers to be highly disciplined, held a straight A school record, and had never been in trouble with the law. One co-student describes him as a teachers pet. Many neighbours describe him as quiet. The police statement and the later media rewordings shift what could equally well have been stated as a few (close?) friends to very few friends: a value hierarchy assessment of language. The statement linked above considers a slightly kinder interpretation: the picked upon -- but neglects to consider its further implications.
Every school, every grade, tends to have one particular student: the one outside, the one on whom everyone picks, the one it is acceptable for everyone to pick on. Sometimes it is that the child is not naturally sociable, sometimes the child is seen to be more sensitive (a better victim?), sometimes the childs family is distinctly richer or poorer or holds an unpopular job, sometimes the child is unacceptably intelligent, sometimes the child is new to the neighbourhood, sometimes, even, it is that the child is sent to school in clean clothing. Especially, this role seems to be acquired when the child has a different way of seeing things from the accepted norm, perhaps something that, in a different context, might even be considered gifted. Too often it is that very ability to see things differently that causes the child not to fit in -- and, not fitting in originally, it becomes that much less likely that he will fit in in future.
Curiously enough, a much higher percentage of those frequenting these forums than might have been expected by chance have at some early point in their lives counted themselves among the odd ones out. Some still do.
As a society, we desperately need these different perspectives, to evolve, to balance, to suggest alternatives to what everyone knows: but as a society, equally, too often we reject what is different -- but not, usually, fully separate, knowing its place, not seeking to blend into or shape the mainstream -- and so the illusion is created that we accept difference genially. However, on so many different levels, we like to pick and choose the differences we are willing to try, which in turn creates a bias in what types of differences actually have a real potential to become part of the mainstream. Differences demanding a significant change in us, in our own perspectives, are most often rejected out of hand. Like any group, we tend to select in our own image. To a considerable extent, we expect those who wish to belong to the group to conform to the groups expectations and definitions. We hold out the illusion of change from inside -- but social and psychological structures work rather to conform the would-be insider to the group norm. The ideal of change within the system is only another way of maintaining the existing system. One needs only to look back at old tapes from Woodstock to see it in action: to see the protestors, originally peacefully rejecting the inherited values they felt had sold out the individual, gradually convinced they could only achieve true change from the inside -- and then, in the bloated 80s, having become very nearly a caricature of precisely that which they had condemned.
In becoming part of an inside group, one gradually changes to adopt the values of that group as ones own. In using the methods which one condemns, one becomes oneself that which one had condemned.
What avenues, then, remain?
What might become when one perhaps sees outside an extremely pervasive common image? One, perhaps, who at a difficult age still feels himself to some extent dependent upon a group acceptance -- but in this one difference, perhaps, finds none?