CHOICES II-6 - Impediments to Acceptance 1E

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    In my last two blogs we've talked about passive and active ignorance.  In this blog we'll discuss Deliberate Ignorance.


    But before we launch into a discussion of deliberate ignorance, let's take a look at the responses to last week's challenge.  In my last blog I cited an encounter with a gentleman who asked "if I thought individuals with mental illness should be required to register and their presence reported to the community in which they live" [as is required of sex offenders in some states]?  I asked anyone who was so inclined to submit a reply to the gentleman's question.


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    I'm pleased to say that Carolyn [DCROY9633] submitted a reply with considerable insight:


    I would have said that pedophilia is a crime, while mental illness is just that -- an illness.  If you put mental illness in with the "crimes" that require registration and informing your neighbors, you would have to include diabetes, cancer, an inflamed prostate, etc.  There would be no end to the number of people included.  We must protect our children and neighborhoods against convicted pedophiles.  You don't have to protect anyone against me -- I am not going to harm you.  Mental illness is not contagious.  It is not a crime.  It is not shameful such that I would want to hide my real identity from you.


    When you lump MI in with criminals you take away the humanity and hope and all the good things that mentally ill persons have to give to the community.  I believe I have many qualities to be emulated, such as courage, doing volunteer work, taking care of my ailing mother, etc.  I should be a valued member of the community, not someone to be pointed at and shunned.


    Bravo, Carolyn!


    My response to the gentleman in question ran something like this:


    "I believe, sir, that you may have been misinformed about the nature of those of us with a mental illness.  We are more often the victims of crimes than the perpetrators.  I've lived and worked in San Francisco, Chicago and New York for many years.  Murders are so numerous in these cities that they are no longer reported on the local news.  However, if a person from anywhere in the country that has a mental illness commits a murder, it is reported nationwide.  This sensationalistic reporting clearly perpetuates misconceptions concerning mental illness and those that struggle with it day by day."


    "Statistics clearly show that you are more likely to be murdered by your wife or children than by a person with a mental illness.  And they, in turn, are more likely to be murdered by you than by me.  So, when you, your wife and your children are willing register and have your presence in the community reported, then I will do the same."


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    Let's get back to Deliberate Ignorance.


    Individuals that are "deliberately ignorant" may, or may not, be well informed about the true nature of mental illness.  But they are quick to exploit the ignorance of others to their own advantage.


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    In the USA, our economic system and, therefore, our social conventions, are centered on competition.  The importance of besting others in school and on the sports field is drilled into our children from at a very young age.  Later in life the same pressures and expectations are present in the workplace and in matters of the heart.


    In our society, anything that can be used effectively to eliminate competitors and/or to turn the competition in one's favor is often used regardless of whether or not it is ethical or even legal.  Just witness our recent presidential election campaign, as well as our present economic crisis.  The robber barons of the industrial age have diversified into our financial markets.


    Mental illness can be an easily identifiable characteristic that can be used to reduce competition.  It is much easier to eliminate competitors on this basis if the perpetrator can claim that they were unaware that consumers can be valued and productive members of our society.  And workers can undermine a fellow worker's credibility more easily if they can claim to be ignorant of these facts.  Their "ignorance" is a convenient way of denying responsibility for unscrupulous acts.  Such ignorance is behind the conundrum that consumers face when deciding whether or not they should disclose on job applications or on the job.

    But this is only half of the story.  Next week we'll take a look at these issues from the employer's point of view.

    Like Carolyn, anyone who wants to join in this discussion is encouraged to do so.  If you have an example of discrimination in the workplace, please share this with us by posting a reply to this blog.


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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.

Published On: November 09, 2008