March 26, 2014
Are you maladjusted?
Human beings can adjust to many things—some of them good, some not so good. We have to adjust to new circumstances like living in a new city, starting a new job, or the birth of a baby. Adjusting is sometimes a good thing, often a necessary thing, but occasionally it is harmful. When is adjusting harmful?
When it causes to to accept the unacceptable!
The world is changing. Society is always changing. Our beliefs are changing. What was once acceptable is not necessarily so today. Not to governments, societies, families, or individuals.
What am I talking about?
- There was a time, in America, when slavery was acceptable.
- There was a time, in America, when segregation was acceptable.
- There was a time, in America, when racial, ethnic, gender, and age discrimination were acceptable.
Many people had been born into these conditions and had adjusted to them as a way of living, simply a fact of life. They were considered to be “just way things are.”
(I remember in the movie, The Butler, when Cecil’s father was working as a sharecropper, he explained to his son that, “This is a white man’s world; we’re just living in it.”)
These “acceptable” situations are no longer acceptable to us today. We will not adjust to that way of living or thinking. Hopefully.
But we do learn to adjust to other “unacceptable” situations.
- We adjust to the unconstitutional actions and human rights violations of governments for “our protection.”
- We adjust to violence against African American youths who don’t “fit into” or accept the strict and narrow paradigm of American society.
- We adjust to discrimination against immigrants who are seeking a better life and circumstances for their families.
- We adjust to the exclusion of children in the educational system by labeling them as learning disabled simply because they learn differently.
- We adjust to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” for persons of color and impoverished people, thereby limiting their opportunities for growth and upward-mobility.
- We adjust to excessively harsh criminal penalties for non-violent offenders, particularly for African Americans.
- We adjust to buying products made by forced child labor.
- We adjust to invasions of our privacy by governments and multinational corporations for “our benefit.”
- We adjust to the use of “drone” missiles, torture, and assassinations.
- We adjust to the pollution of our environment, oceans, and food supply.
- We adjust to criminalising whistle-blowers and others who make our governments into more transparent and accountable institutions.
Should we adjust to these things? Never.
Is it okay to refuse to adjust to those things? Absolutely.
Let’s be maladjusted!
In a prophetic speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, he stated,
There are some things within our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon you to be maladjusted. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to mob rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic effects of physical violence and to tragic militarism. I call upon you to be maladjusted to such things.
We can—and should–be maladjusted to such changes that encourage us to accept the unacceptable.
It has been the “maladjusted” people who have made changes—great and small—for the world. These famously maladjusted people changed the world:
- Martin Luther King (maladjusted to injustice and segregation)
- Frederick Douglass (maladjusted to slavery)
- Carter G. Woodson (maladjusted to disregarding the contributions of African Americans)
- Nelson Mandela (maladjusted to apartheid and inequality)
- Maya Angelou (maladjusted to self-limiting beliefs)
- Susan B. Anthony (maladjusted to inequality for women)
- Mahatma Gandhi (maladjusted to violence and colonialism)
- Albert Einstein (maladjusted to antiquated scientific thinking)
- Ida B. Wells (maladjusted to lynching)
- Edward Snowden (maladjusted to improper and secretive government actions)
And others, like outspoken artists, daring musicians, brave activists, dedicated teachers, insightful writers, and devoted parents are the quietly maladjusted who have also improved the lives of many.
Adjusting may feel easy, normal, and even safe. Yet it neither serves nor benefits the individual, society, or the world to adjust to intolerable circumstances like injustice, starvation, discrimination, ignorance or terror.