The Guinea Pig Club

spitfires flown by the Guinea Pig Club“The normal and the stigmatized are not persons, but rather perspectives.” – Erving Goffman, 1963

One of the things I was most looking forward to upon my first landing at Heathrow Airport was the long ride into London in one of England’s famous black taxis.  It all started innocently enough when once I was settled in the incredibly spacious vehicle I  asked the driver a simple question, and to my amazement didn’t understand one word of his reply – experiencing first-hand the old saying “divided by a common language”.  The situation became even more embarrassing and went downhill quickly when he realized from my lame replies what was happening – after all, these guys are smart, they have “the knowledge” (a term applied to the in depth knowledge of 320 main routes through central London that taxi drivers must know without the help of consulting a map in order to obtain a license). Then the true awkwardness set in as he tried to apologize for his poor Cockney English – speaking very slowly I might add.  When I remarked that however difficult their accents are it was the Brits who took to the air and sea in anything that would fly or float, thus saving us both from truly being able to communicate in a common language – German!

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Who Is Going to Do It?

lit candlesOver a lifetime we all construct a belief system, a compilation of our life’s past experiences, education (or lack thereof), parental attitudes, religious upbringing, who we choose for a life partner, and the quality of our friendships, to name just a few influences.  Our individual belief systems are as unique as each of us.  Each day’s new experiences are filtered through these beliefs.  Individual belief systems lead some to accept strange objects in the night sky as an indication of visitors from across galaxies; others to attribute happenings in their lives as coincidence while many may see these “coincidences” as guidance coming from a source beyond their human ability to see or hear.  Our belief systems also influence how we deal with stigma, for instance will we stigmatize others; or how much we might internalize stigma if it is directed at us personally.

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