Determining if someone is/isn’t a “productive member of society” is one way decisions are made: to be born or aborted, to be free to roam the streets or locked in a loony bin, to be rehabilitated or incarcerated, to be an actor or just someone on a reality TV show.
How is “Productive Member of Society” determined and who decides?
The psychiatric community declares success if they can put a person back in their own home without having that person hurt themselves or others. It doesn’t matter if they can hold a job, ever actually leave their home, or have to take so many meds that there’s a permanent puddle of drool at their feet.
The legal system considers a person “productive” if a person doesn’t engage in criminal activity, or if a person who has committed a crime is punished and then never commits another crime (or at least, doesn’t get caught). If the person is jobless, homeless, friendless after any probation period, that’s okay.
Society, though, has an attitude based more on “what can you do for me?”
Am I a “productive member of society?”
- I don’t save lives.
- I’m not saving the Earth from global warming or aliens.
- I do not inspire change or create jobs.
- I can’t negotiate peace among the voices in my head, let alone nations.
- I do not feed people.
- I can’t even make you look pretty.
I’m a clerical employee who could be replaced by almost anybody in an instant. I am often sad, sometimes angry and generally dislike the human beings I share the planet with. Heck, the most amazing thing that I did this week was remember to take off my white shirt before I dribbled chocolate ice cream down my newly-naked chest.
So exactly how am I a productive member of society?
Then There’s Marcus
Marcus was born with Down syndrome, a condition that many people and nations think disqualify him from the “productive” part of society.
He does a job that somebody else could do, but no one could do it like him. While he doesn’t crack open chests to save lives, his love has saved a life or two. He doesn’t grow food to feed the masses, but he’s fed me when I’ve been sick. He doesn’t own a business that creates jobs, but he has plans of creating a mega-Broadway play that will not only create a few jobs, but will revolutionize the theatre.
He inspires many of the people he meets and can affect peace.
He may not be able to make you look pretty, but you’ll feel it every time he says, “You’re the best!” He makes people laugh and generally forget whatever was making them grumpy.
In both the psychiatric community and the legal system, professionals make decisions, as they are trained to do so and are backed up by an entire network of research, past practice, experience, and laws. When it comes to bringing a life into this world, though, that decision is usually on an individual who has limited experience, no training, no network, little information, and even less time. Where’s her support system?
Marcus is one of the most productive and wonderful members of society I know. Still, every day a doctor somewhere is giving an expectant mother the news that the child she is carrying, the one she’s excited to welcome into this world, has Down syndrome. Chances are very great that the doctor gave her this news in a very grave manner followed by a list of difficulties her child may encounter and maybe even a list of things the child probably won’t be able to do. In many societies, that doctor will strongly encourage she have an abortion because this child will “never be a productive member of society.” This formerly-excited, now-frightened expectant mother then has only a few days to make a huge decision.
What is a “productive member of society” and is that more important than “loving and loved member of my family?”