Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Bends

I was dreaming when I wrote this,
Forgive me if it goes astray.
But when I woke up this morning,
Could have sworn it was Judgment Day.

Prince, 1999

I was having a rather jumbled dream, right before I woke up this morning, about divers getting the bends and people finding it difficult to change prejudiced attitudes. The two situations seemed to be logically connected, and while the similarity between them may not be easy to put into words, I'll give it a try.

Decompression sickness or "the bends" is a painful and occasionally fatal condition that affects divers who return to the surface too rapidly after a deep dive. Because water exerts more pressure on the body than air, nitrogen dissolves into a diver's blood in larger amounts than would ordinarily be found in the human body. The additional nitrogen causes no problems while the diver remains in a high-pressure environment. As the diver returns to the surface, however, the gas comes out of solution and forms bubbles. During a slow ascent, the bubbles leave the body through the lungs without causing any harm, but a quick return to the surface will leave the unfortunate diver with a large amount of potentially deadly nitrogen bubbles in the body.

For the most part, prejudiced attitudes are also the result of external pressure. We all absorb some amount of bigotry from the society around us, no matter how open-minded we try to be; and it's always circulating through our minds, just as we always have some amount of dissolved nitrogen in our blood. Under particularly oppressive social conditions, when stereotypes and hate speech become commonplace (as we have seen regarding autism in recent years), the pressure to think and act in prejudiced ways increases significantly. When this happens, if we are fortunate enough to be in the majority group, we may not even notice that anything has changed. Because we see these attitudes all around us, in ordinary situations, everything seems normal.

We begin to notice our prejudices only when the social pressures lessen—that is, when there are voices speaking up for respect and acceptance, challenging the forces of intolerance. If this process happens gradually, it seems like a natural evolution in our thinking. But when it comes about very suddenly, the abrupt change in social pressure makes many people uncomfortable, and they react accordingly.

Most of them are not inherently evil, small-minded, or incapable of appreciating human diversity. They just have the bends.



  • I like that analogy. Makes sense.
    Do you happen to be a SCUBA-Diver?

    By Anonymous TheUnreal, at 12:44 PM  

  • TheUnreal: No, although I know some people who enjoy diving, I've never been adventurous enough to try it myself.

    By Blogger abfh, at 3:09 PM  

  • *sad*

    And there's me thinking I was in for a nice Radiohead lyric quote :(


    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 2:49 AM  

  • That's a good way to descibe it ABFH.

    I hope the change in people's thinking doesnt have to be too gradual for everyone. The way that people act on thier toxic views can be pretty damaging to others. A lot of trouble can be caused while some people are taking the time to figure things out and become more accepting.

    By Blogger Ed, at 5:37 AM  

  • I love Prince. I'm pretty sure he's probably on the spectrum. His writing is distinctive. When I heard the following lyrics, I knew right away he wrote them, (interestingly, it's about dreaming also).

    Six o'clock already I was just in the middle of a dream...
    I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream.

    Can anyone name the song and the artist who recorded it?

    By Blogger Chasmatazz, at 8:58 PM  

  • The Bangles, "Manic Monday." One of my favorite '80s pop songs.

    As for Prince being on the spectrum, I'd say that's a pretty good bet, considering that he is totally obsessed with the color purple and had his name officially changed to a symbol that he made up.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:44 PM  

  • Thanks, ABFH. I was worried about possibly hijacking your blog into a discussion about Prince, but I see you're a fan as well :-)

    More than anything, it's the way he's characterized as extremely "shy" and quiet, while being just the opposite on stage, (I'm trying to think of a word other than "extremely." If he weren't a celebrity, his "shyness" would probably be framed in pathological terms), his reluctance to give interviews, his sexually charged stage persona contrasted with a private sexual style which past lovers have described as nothing special, (apparent peaks and valleys of ability), that makes me think he's autistic.

    Regarding his obsession with the color purple, I think rather, that he's more obsessed with color in general, and makes it central to his song writing in ways that not many other writers do:

    Raspberry Beret
    Little Red Corvette
    Purple Rain

    Colors seem to become entities in and of themselves. Another autistic trait.

    Speaking of The Bangles, don't you love "Eternal Flame?"

    And speaking of '80's pop icons, there's another artist who was infamous for wearing underwear as outerwear. Someone else doing the same thing would probably be considered crazy or even locked up, but she got away with it. She's often characterized as being calculating, when I think she just does what comes naturally. I really think she falls on the spectrum as well.

    By Blogger Chasmatazz, at 11:21 PM  

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