Consider the Able Bodied

Here comes a man who’s unaware he’s a hominid. We may forgive him as he’s wearing a New York Yankees tee shirt. The shirt says he likes the bodies of others, envies them, and accordingly he scarcely thinks of his own corporeality–why bother, there’s nothing special about him, as he would surely tell you if you asked the right question. Right now we’re not asking. Consider the pure play of his “nothing-special-going-nowhere-unconscious” shuffle. He’s able bodied, vaguely determined, unathletic, inchoate in his thinking, and largely without ambulatory suspicions. You might say he’s a dufus. I think I like him. He’s just another of God’s creatures.

Back in the 19th century, when “normal” bodies became a commodity, when Britain and America were first industrialized and needed lots of indistinguishable dufus men to run the spindles, the great scientists decided to manufacture dufus men. You can look it up–check out the Disability Studies Reader–but the point is that unassuming, dull, standardized, “mean” bodies were suddenly absolutely necessary for the factories. There must be no one too tall or too short; no one too bright or too dull. “How do we get lots of dufus men?” asked the great ones, the Charles Babbages and Jeremy Benthams and Alexander Graham Bells.

Eugenics of course. Selective breeding. Improvement of the working stock. Forget Hitler, all the nationalistic jingo about good worker bees and bad bees started with the Anglo-American push for factory fodder. This is pretty well known stuff but consider the normative, able bodied dufus more than a century later. Look at him with his “one size fits all” portable lifestyle, the yurt of his standardized imagination. Poor dufus! He’s a turtle with a Madison Avenue shell. And because he’s a cog he’s certainly going to want to invest in his own cogness. “Cogness, ergo sum”, “in cog we trust”.

When I see a dufus wearing his dufus duds I feel rather inspired. Look at him! He’s really doing the very best he can.

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