The Mask of Benevolence

6 June 2017

The Mask of Benevolence BY sarniJ010 The Mask of Benevolence was honestly shocking to me and made me rethink a lot. I thought it was interesting and intriguing that it discussed the views of most hearing people and talked about why they aren’t necessarily right. Many of the facts, opinions, and details of how things had been dealt with in the past completely surprised me. One of the most surprising things for me was how each culture viewed one another; which was almost all negative. Of course, not all people in each category have those thoughts.

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The book was an amazing read for me because I was able to see nd understand some things as the deaf culture does because the author, Harlan Lane, was so specific and explained things through the thoughts she heard from people within the deaf community. In the beginning of the book, Lane discusses how the deaf culture views cochlear implants and the oral communication of deaf people. And though I was unsure why there was there was such a strong dislike of these things, it soon made sense to me. Deaf children that are forced to get an implant or to rely on oral communication get lost in an in between world of deaf and hearing.

Lane stated, “the implanted child will not move easily in the hearing world, it is unlikely that he will learn American Sign Language (ASL) fluently and make his own fundamental values of that community. So there is a real danger that he will grow up without any substantive communication, spoken or signed. ” (p4). This was extremely eye opening because although I had never thought negatively in any way about the deaf community I did have the impression that medical advancements and such implants would be viewed incredibly highly to the deaf.

As most hearing people are, I uppose I was simply uneducated on the facts of cochlear implants. Lane claims that “the result of the discrepancies between the implant and the natural mechanism of hearing is a sound that many formerly hearing adults have trouble interpreting and sometimes even localizing. ” (p219). On page 20, Lane tells a story about a woman from a large deaf family and hoped dearly that her daughter, too, would be deaf. Deaf people do not wish to hear, they simply wish for people to be more aware of their culture.

They are not impaired, they were simply born into a small culture; like eing Hispanic or Jewish, why would you wish to wake up and be white one day? That is not who you are. Lane discusses so many negative things of how the hearing think of the deaf that not only completely blew me away but also made me feel disgusted toward the majority of hearing people that do look down on the deaf community. I was astonished. I honestly never knew there were that many naive people out there that saw hearing people as that much better and higher than the deaf; simply because I have never known anyone who thought that way and I never even considered that!

I was in shock when I saw Lane quoting an American psychiatric publication from 1985 that stated, “Profound deafness that occurs prior to the acquisition of verbal language is socially and psychiatrically devastating. ” (p35). Devastating?! The view of the deaf from so many hearing is outrageous! After quoting the publication, Lane went on the list several characteristics that the hearing culture has labeled to all deaf people. These characteristics included aggressive, irritable, egocentric, and even shy. How would a nearing person know it a deat person is sny or isolated?

Hearing people see that the deaf person is not communicating with them and automatically assumed these things. However, how do you expect someone who does not share the same language as you chat and visit with you? That is extremely egotistically of all hearing people that think that way. And that Just goes back to hearing people expecting the deaf to learn our language. How unbelievably naive! It’s not like the Hispanic culture moving here that have the ability and resources to learn English yet refuse to.

The deaf have the most unique language in the world and are imply unable to learn any other language fluently. How can you learn to speak a language fluently when you are unable to hear it? As I Just stated, sign language, which I will refer to as ASL from now on even though sign is not exclusive to America, is simply the most unique language in the world. And those that deny it as a language are simply Just incredibly uneducated. Something I found interesting was when Lane discussed storytelling in the deaf community on page 16.

She explained how deaf children learn the importance of storytelling and they practice at a very young age. Lane states that “clear communication is highly valued; stories should be rich in detail, start at the beginning and end at the end, and contain plain talk; hinting and vague talk in an effort to be polite are inappropriate and even often offensive” (p16). How is that not talking about a culture with a rich language? In fact, I feel as though the deaf can actually communicate more than the hearing.

Because not only do they have the language like we do, their facial expressions and attention to detail are way beyond the average hearing person. Another point from early on in he book that I wanted to discuss was a something that I could relate to. The ‘chapter’ entitled “The Paternalism Indictment” discusses the flaw with the teachings for deaf children. That market is completely controlled by hearing people who hardly understand the deaf and their culture and so it is all basically based of stereotypes.

On page 49 Lane states, “It is said to be conducted in the interest of deaf people, but the profits go almost exclusively to hearing people”. And I got to see this first hand when I was a sophomore in high school. My long time best friend, Rachel, was born rofoundly deaf in one ear. She can hear fine and is in no way “deaf” or a part of that culture. She never once required any special treatment in school. However she did use a hearing aid or speaker box in elementary from time to time. All throughout middle school and our first year of high school she maintained a pretty high GPA.

One day while we were sophomores, she randomly received a new schedule from the office. Following the new schedule, she went to her first class and discovered that they had put her in all special education classes. Obviously she was confused and pset, so she called her mother and they went to the office to sort out what was clearly a mistake. The office stated that it was not a mistake. Apparently, the school had been claiming Rachel as profoundly deaf, which she was in one ear, and requiring the special attention of any other child with a severe impairment.

And of course, the school was getting large additional funds because of Rachel’s “impairment”; Shame on the school for knowing that they would receive additional benefits for claiming Rachel. And shame on the state for that matter for giving the chool extra funds because the “poor school” was Just so “kind” as to “deal” with all of Rachel’s “special needs” due to hearing “impairment”. Lane stated “there are paternalistic universals and parallax in the attributions, and a claim to a civilizing burden that fails to mask the benefactor’s economic interest” (p49).

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