writing about my life

Mental Illness is Socially Constructed

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Social constructionism, or the social construction of reality, is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world. It assumes that understanding, significance, and meaning are developed not separately within the individual, but in coordination with other human beings. The elements most important to the theory are (a) the assumption that human beings rationalize their experience by creating a model of the social world and how it functions and, (b) that language is the most essential system through which humans construct reality.[1]

The Story of the Battylonians

The kingdom of Normia is a large island to the West of the Weazelly sea.

Off the coast of Normia lies a little island called Battylonia. The Battylonians are often found travelling and wandering about in Normia.

The Normians hold a set of beliefs about Battylonians.

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Battylonians are universally believed to be stupid, strange and unclean. In the old days this was merely folklore, but in modern Normia the phenomenon has gone further and wider. If a Battylonian is ever mentioned in a newspaper then the mention will no doubt include a brief paragraph elaborating upon the Battylonian’s negative characteristics, why they communicate so strangely, why they smell etc. The article will often detail the problems and disruption that arose from the presence of the Battylonian, and maybe even the bravery and heroism of the Normian who was unlucky enough to suffer the encounter. If Normian TV covers anything to with Battylonia then it will set the scene by providing details about the unworthy features of the island’s inhabitants, and how every aspect of their misbegotten lives is connected with those features. It will berate the misfortune that good Normians have Battylonians amidst them like unwanted strangers… It will sympathise with the plight of Normians whose lives have been damaged by the presence of Battylonians nearby.

This would be enough already to condition nearly all Normians in their belief about Battylonians from the start, but there’s more. The Normian ministry of truth repeatedly publishes pamphlets detailing useful tips such as “how to deal with Battylonians” or “what to do if you meet a Battylonian” etc. These publications are full of material that reinforces the obvious truth of what Battylonians are like. They are horrid!

But there’s even more. Academics at Normian universities hold entire degrees in the study of Battys and their misbegotten ways. Papers are written on the nature and mechanisms of Battylonian stupidity, how it relates to brain function. Dissertations on what consitutes Batty strangeness are presented and hailed for their objectivity. Bookshops contain learned books explaining why Battlyonians are known to smell, exactly what unclean-ness is and the history of all aspects of Battylonian life. Their tone is usually patronising though more mature authors may even affect a degree of cultivated compassion towards Battylonians although they will still strongly state that the “Battylonian problem is an important social issue that must be managed by well-designed governmental policy.”

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Down the aisle in the horror section are books with gory covers about Normian females being caught and tormented by Battylonians. They sit on the shelf next door to another with further pulp paperbacks about disaster scenarios where Battylonians invade and take over Normia. That one was a bestseller with film rights to follow! Near the door of the bookshop is a display with the latest joke books, rich with anti-Batty jokes. “You Batty!” is a Normian insult severe enough to be likely to start a pub brawl !

The net result of this is that it is not merely a popular “belief” that Battys are all these awful things, it is an absolute constitutional TRUTH in Normia. The “truth” is reinforced by every aspect of Normian culture. It is laid down as foundational and built upon daily. It is thus simply unthinkable to question this truth and why one earth would anyone want to. It would be as absurd as claiming the sky wasn’t blue. Moreover if anyone did try and say something like “Battylonians are nice people” the only possible conclusion must be that they are really a Battylonian themselves, and that explanation would put everyone’s mind at rest. The ony remnaining requirement would be that the individual should be moved on (as Battylonians must always be) in order to avoid a public hazard or disturbance.

No-one ever really asked what it was like to be a Batty, and what they themselves thought about all this stuff. Have you ever been to Battylonia? What was it like ? Was it a sad place?


Written by Luke Dunn

August 20, 2014 at 8:13 am

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