Friday, March 14, 2008

Deaf Culture dying?

I am home sick. Thinking and more thinking. My brain likes to stay busy. I read news media almost everyday. I like to stay informed. Today, I have been thinking of one word: "CULTURE".

Biblically, the word "nation" comes from the greek word "Ethnos". Strongs defines Ethnos as a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together as a company, troop, swarm. A multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus the human family a tribe, nation, people group (Culture). In the Old Testament, Tower of Babel that scattered everyone who were speaking different languages have created many new cultures. In the New Testament, there were many verses that talked about Christians being scattered all over the world. Why? Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations."

I like this quote from Philip Yancey :
In the history of humanity there are no civilizations or cultures which fail to manifest, in one or a thousand ways, this need for an absolute that is called heaven, freedom, a miracle, a lost paradise to be regained, peace, the going beyond History....There is no religion in which everyday life is not considered a prison; there is no philosophy or idealogy that does not think that we live in alienation....Humanity has always had a nostalgia for the freedom that is only beauty, that is only real life, plenitude and light.
Anyway, with medical technologies including cochlear implants are currently available today. Even the hearing-aids have became more powerful and useful. The amount of infant births born deaf have decreased while amount of people losing hearing over the years will be considered deaf at some point.

The true definition of Deaf culture may be dying simply because the Deaf culture do not automatically include all those who are clinically or legally deaf (like me). A person who is Deaf if he or she "identifies" him/herself as a member of the Deaf community, and other members accept that person as a part of the community. The way the Deaf culture is doing today may be hurting the culture altogether. We are much more comfortable with our own familiar, logic shaped by our own culture rather than dealing with other cultures. Just any other "cultures" we deal with, there will always be controversies. Latest controversies are creating more divisions among deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

Why can't the Deaf culture be more diversed? The United States was founded on freedom from persecution and on tolerance of differences in beliefs and cultural heritage. The differences (or diversity) that come from people from all cultures. Accepting someone's culture is important as I have posted this quote in one of my earlier posts in this blog:
I am not totally deaf therefore, I am not really part of the "Deaf" culture even though I want to be. But, I can't force myself to be part of the Deaf culture. I accepted the Deaf culture. The key issues is this: I want the Deaf culture to accept me as I am. Just as a person who has disabilities who wanted to be accepted as part of the society.
On this earth, regardless what culture you are from, we are to live in harmony with each other that we don't try to act more important based on culture, but enjoy the company of each other as ordinary people from diversed cultures. Superiorism towards culture are those who have no compassion for other cultures.

The old days of "you are not one of us" quote is long gone. We are living in more diversed society and I believe it is time for the Deaf culture to accept this in order to keep their culture alive. I am 99% Scottish by blood and my family is from the Scotland culture however, I am an American citizen who lives in a very, very diversed society of all cultures.

We may have our differences and still be united in common with one thing: Hearing loss.

I am aware that there are those who are more on the extreme side that regarding Deaf issues whether by culture, diversity or educational or any other issues.


Karen Mayes said...

Beautifully written.

Joseph Pietro Riolo said...

Whether the Deaf culture is dying or not is very difficult to determine. One reason is the lack of the standard definition of Deaf culture. If you ask 10 experts, you may get 100 different definitions. (I am exaggerating a lot here.) You may want to inform us the readers what you meant by the true definition of Deaf culture. Other reason is the lack of accurate counting of the members of Deaf culture. Third reason is that the definition of Deaf culture seems to be changing.

By definition, culture also is exclusive, meaning to exclude the people who do not belong to the culture. For example, a non-American person can't be part of an American culture. The exclusionary means by themselves are not necessarily bad. Without the exclusionary means, it becomes meaningless to identify a group.

One way the Deaf culture to exclude other people is the use of proper language. The members of the Deaf culture use ASL. Those who do not use ASL can't be properly called members of the Deaf culture. This exclusionary means is not necessarily bad.

But, what makes this exclusionary means bad is the snobbism (or superiority that you mentioned). We have seen countless instances where ASL is being glorified over other visual communication systems such as PSE, SEE, Cued Speech and SimCom and where the latter are constantly degraded. This kind of attitude is bad and should be discouraged.

Don't feel that you are left out because you are not a member of the Deaf culture. The deaf and hard-of-hearing communities (not cultures) have many more groups that you can be part of. It is possible that few of these groups will become cultures over the very long period of time.

On a different topic: The number of babies who are born deaf seems to be constant at 1 to 2 per 1,000 births barring any epidemic. This seems to be the nature's constant mutation rate. However, the rate can be reduced through human interventions such as selective abortion, selection of hearing embryos over deaf embryos, genetic engineering and other technologies.

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

Deaf Ulsterman said...

I have come across this time and time again - the concept "deaf culture" is interpreted as being a culture that is based on the physical (and medical) sense of hearing loss (deafness). It is a misnomer in my opinion - Deaf people who use, value and treasure, ASL coined this when they actually meant "ASL Culture" as the culture they are embracing is rooted within the language itself - you get Deaf plays (ASL), Deaf poems (ASL poems), and so on.
Life would be easier if we all drop Deaf and use ASL instead.