I was wandering back from the shops earlier today, and stopped to admire a newly flowering shrub in a neighbour’s front garden. Inevitably, being a typical smartphone-addicted twenty-first century girl et cetera et cetera, I found myself wishing there were an app that would identify what kind of plant it was. A little while later I remembered that there are such things as BOOKS that contain things like WORDS and PICTURES, and certain kinds of these books can help you find out what things are, similar to how an app works (if a little slower and heavier). Besides, I could have googled a description of the shrub and found out that way. The point is, I wanted to know its name. Why? So that I could remember it, and maybe have one in my front garden when I have a house of my own (sometime in the indeterminable future). Naming things is useful like that.
What happens, though, if the name of something becomes more important than the thing it represents? Earlier this year, I read Jon Ronson‘s excellent book The Psychopath Test, in which the investigative journalist looks into a variety of psychiatric conditions, and into psychiatry itself, and how people view psychiatrists … it’s very interesting, and I thoroughly recommend it. One part of the book that interested me in particular was the description of how new mental disorders are ‘discovered’, and entered into a textbook on psychiatric conditions called DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), published by the American Psychiatric Association. It seems the disorders are constantly reviewed, revised, renamed, conglomerated, divided, deleted … Some things that were previously considered disorders are now considered to be normal, and vice-versa. I suppose it’s probably the same with all fields of medicine, but it did strike me. Ronson also mentions that a disorder called ‘Internet Addiction’ was rejected by the DSM board for inclusion in the latest edition … Apparently they felt that spending too long on the internet could be a symptom of depression, but it wasn’t an isolated mental condition in itself.
Anyway, this all got me thinking (hardly a ground-breaking thought but here it is…), isn’t it funny how we so often want to label and pigeon-hole things? I feel that sometimes, giving a name to something can be as restrictive as it can be helpful. I’m no expert, but I have had experience working with a fair few autistic children. Now, in the UK, a diagnosis of autism entitles a child to an education action plan, and schools receive extra funding to help autistic children remain in mainstream schools for the same education as children without autistic spectrum disorders. Fair enough – there are evidently pros and cons to this, generally speaking I’m in favour, but like I say, I’m not an expert. But I have heard anecdotal evidence of children being rushed through a diagnosis so that they can get these benefits, and then turning out not to have an ASD after all. More and more children are being diagnosed with ASDs – something else that Jon Ronson talks about in his book – but how much are they really benefitting from the diagnosis?
I’ve gone off on a massive tangent, really, and I’m out of my depth now. I suppose I should really delete all of that and start again (I’m not going to … not that I really need to tell you I’m not going to as you’ve already read all that and seen that I didn’t delete it). At least it’s relevant to the general themes of this blog … I had intended to write about knitting along to post-rock records, because that’s what I’ve been doing all day. But then I started musing on how much I dislike the names of genres. I mean, if you haven’t heard of post-rock before, then you aren’t going to learn anything from the name, are you? Then again, I suppose it’s better than a lot of genre names. Chillwave and slowcore and all that nonsense. Who cares of something is described as punk when technically it’s new-wave? Does it make it sound any better or worse?
(Insert obligatory Shakespeare quote here)
Let’s end on another vaguely relevant song. Might blog about the actual knitting and that tomorrow.