An Easy Case Illustrative of the Harder Ones -- Part of a Series: Some Aspects of the Successor Ideology
Yep. One of the interesting phenomena here is the porous border between "cynically benefiting from a system by pretending to be X" and "believing you are X, which coincidentally brings you a benefit".
I remember a conversation my wife and I had with friends of ours who bullshitted a free ticket for their big-ass dog on a commercial flight by claiming they needed in for emotional support. They thought it was clever and funny at first; by the end of the conversation (which included no pushback from us at all) they were earnestly explaining to us that they really NEEDED the emotional support of their dumb dog.
They're two extremely confident, independent people (she's a surgeon, he's a something-that-would-identify-him-if-he-read-this). They don't have emotional issues that require support, except to the extent that we all have emotional issues that require support, which is also coterminous with the extent to which emotional support animals are permitted on planes, which makes it OK to bring their dog on the plane.
The circular logic and tautology of a lot of the expansion of the definitions of disability and victimization going on now is pretty obvious, right? How many people can you find who believe in the necessity and logic of emotional support peacocks? But it doesn't matter. When it comes down to it, many people are going to tick "multiracial" on that job application. After all, I AM both Irish AND Italian.
there is an underlying problem to the situation, that is, most meritocratic systems (of whatever sort) at this point have been gamed for personal profit, prestige, or power. Research journals are being gamed, scientific research is being gamed, the medical system is being gamed, education is being gamed, and civil rights are being gamed. It is no longer sensible to think that a certified person knows what they are talking about, nor a licensed professional, nor any particular system that has become an arbiter of what is true, or even factual. The system is overdue for correction and has been for some time. I have thousands of examples, here is one minor one: interferon gamma, which is extremely good for stopping the progression of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, in essence curing it, is not legal for that use in the US; even it if were it would cost a person one million dollars per year. It is legal for that off label use in the EU/UK/Australia; the very same drug, under a different name costs 24k-30k per year there. In Russia it costs 12k per year. The drug company that holds the monopoly on it in the US says, and the FDA agrees, that OUR drugs are safer than their drugs (really? than the Germans' merely different brand name of the same chemical?) and that is why we can only use our overly expensive drug in the US. It is a lie, the system has been gamed, so that it is not possible to trust the meritocratic pronouncements being made. The rot has gone system wide, as it inevitably had to do, given the nature of people and their desires for control, money, fame, power, and prestige. The conflict is not so simple as mission creep of support animals. The entire meritocratic system is crumpling, as it needs to do so that something more robust and uncorrupt can take its place. It is not going to be an easy transition but a very messy one.
I'm a psychiatrist. I've had patients who needed emotional support animals because they were extremely fragile. These are few and far between. Many who think they need such things are not nearly this fragile and I would not support the request.
One of the bigger issues, however, is who becomes the gatekeeper for such privileges. As a doctor, I'd rather just diagnose and recommend treatments for people. I don't like being the gatekeeper for disability, emotional support animals, time off from work, or even access to most medications. I find that role very conflicted and contaminating of my work more generally, introducing all manner of manipulations, coercions, and helplessness.
In general, the rewards for being a firm gatekeeper are fewer than the rewards for being a loose one... and, as the essay indicates, the slope becomes slipperier.
When I was in law school 10 years ago there was one girl in my class that claimed a disability (something to do with needing frequent bathroom breaks) that got her extra time on exams that were very much time-crunch driven. Back then we all complained for her obviously taking advantage, I'd imagine today there's a much higher percentage of people doing it and very few who will say anything.
I had a student who was breaking down crying every day. Teenager. We were told that she would be bringing her two very large lizards to school and wearing them (they clung to her) as ESA's. This really did help. She stopped crying constantly and seemed okay.
I grew fond of the lizards.
I employ several thousand people in the security guard industry in Toronto. About 20% of those people make $50,000 per year or more, with about 60 people making over $100k. This is to say 80% of the jobs suck. It’s a hell of a competition to get in the good 20%.
Anyone who practises victimhood will never succeed, they may slip through, but when they trot out their special needs they will be doomed to fail. Their colleagues will eat them alive. People are fighting, fighting hard and everything is on the line, it’s a knock’em down drag’em out competition for the good jobs and the good life money affords.
New Canadians born and educated overseas are doing so much better than the Canadian born. The Canadian born people are so entitled, their work ethic is very weak and they are constantly needy and lacking in resilience. We brought up a generation of losers. Intersectionality is synonymous with losing.
My question is whether the guys who stormed the beaches at Normandy, brought their Emotional Support Animals with them. If they didn't, how did they possibly win?
This is right.
The problem of course isn't that people don't understand emotional support animals are BS. They do.
The problem is that it's not really that important to the the diffuse bureaucratic, legal, and educational apparatuses that adjudicate these issues whether or not they are BS. Even worse, many institutions are not capable of basic sense making.
What is important to elite institutions is preservation of their authority. They must adjudicate - otherwise they have no reason for existing. And challenging their authority is an existential threat. Very often there is no locus of intelligence or critical thinking guiding administrative processes - very often what we get is just bureaucratic reflex and muscle memory.
I always hoped that one candidate during the presidential debates would dodge a difficult question by saying "Let's talk about an issue that is important to working class Americans ...Widespread Service Animal Fraud."
Egoic identification with the story of me, the poor victim. I constantly remind my children that we are not our thoughts or stories that our minds tells us.
I disagree, Conlon's logic is not impeccable, it is flawed. "Textbook discrimination" would be denying someone service or some other right where there is no adverse effect on anyone else or potential adverse effect on a "reasonable" person, and therefore no rational basis for the denial. Denying some one service in a place of public accomodation, for no reason other than skin color, is such a case.
The first example in your article involves someone with a significant allergic reaction to the animal and is therefore NOT "textbook discrimination," it requires a weighing of two rights that are in conflict. If the one person has a right to a support animal, the other person has a right to not be exposed to things he is strongly allergic to, that are reasonably avoidable. Two ADA "reasonable accommodations," if you want to look at it that way.
Then there are a whole range of cases in between "textbook discrimination" and an obvious case of harm. A snake? On its face a small, non-venomous snake is harmless (and non-allergenic), but a great many people have a morbid fear of snakes, something that may even be hard-wired in some primate brains, and would spend the whole flight in terror, knowing the person next to them or even a couple of rows away, has a live snake. That fear might be illogical, but it is so widespread that a court or rulemaking might find it very hard to say it is legally "unreasonable."
These things are never as simple as advocates would have you think. When ADA was passed in 1990 or 1991 it was clearly aimed at people in wheelchairs or other significant mobility limitations, and marketed as such. But the mental health and other factions got broader language included, which did not get much public attention because nobody wanted to be seen as against people (esp. military veterans) in wheelchairs. But it has been an expensive mess ever since. Not saying it shouldn't have passed, but ADA raises all sorts of very complicated issues of conflicting rights and benefit-cost of how and when to accommodate those rights. I used to run the capital program for a large urban rail/bus transit system, and I can assure you the ADA (and other laws and rules affecting disabilities) compliance raised countless issues, some very expensive and disruptive.
It is that way with almost everything the government touches--things are never simple to begin with, and by the time the statutory sausage is made there are issues for regulations and lawyers and judges to fight over for decades.
And that is even setting aside the problem of dishonest actors gaming the system, which will always occur whenever there is opportunity, and there is always opportunity.
It perhaps bears noting that some of this also stems from America's callous individualism and puritan-rooted ethical outlook. Which is to say: struggling and suffering are broadly judged to be moral failings, or a form of agnostically divine punishment for one's own poor individual decisions.
In Norway, for example, there's a general service where people can offer their time, and be paid, to spend a few hours a week with people who need company and support - whether that be someone to talk to because they're lonely, or someone to go shopping with them because they have anxiety. Legitimate "Emotional Support People". It's a lovely system, and without much of the cynical gaming of the support animal system in the States.
There is an easy solution to this. Anyone who claims that they 'need' an emotional support animal should also provide proof that they live in a state hospital. That will solve the 'problem' in an instant.
"...but it likely also indicates a changing perception of the self, a higher threshold of sensitivity to the vicissitudes of everyday life, and an overall normalization and valorization of the condition of disability. The children of Lake Woebegon were once all above average; they now all require their own IEP."
I realize I'm late to this party, having just read this post for the first time, but I need to memorialize that passage. For reasons I'm not psyched about, I think I'll be coming back to it. That, and "credentialed charlatans." This is a great piece.
You have to be a rich indolent society to be this stupid.
I think the successor ideology plays out like a parity of liberalism, the absurdity of a lesson too well learned.
There seems to be a similarity between the expansion of the concept of disability and what's happened with the concept of victimhood, as explored in Campbell and Manning's The Rise of Victimhood Culture.