Snow Leopard asks over at the Transracial Eyes blog –
I simply wish to pose the question: what links of solidarity do you discern regarding prejudice against the adopted and the incarcerated?
By this, I do not intend to imply that a most adequate way to understand adoption occurs if we think about it in a metaphorical or literal way as a prison, though such a linkage may precisely disclose useful insights, &c. In the case of both adoption and prison, certain cultural interests desire to name and delimit the adoptee and the inmate in a particular way for their particular ends, &c; other links to other such “classified” individuals would illuminate this all the more. &c.
At the same time I welcome all such thoughts on this, I remain especially keen to hear specifically about the prejudice–the gut-level, garden-variety, everyday, in-the-grocery-checkout-lane visceral negative reaction–not simply experienced separately by the inmate and the adoptee but as shared in common between them.
In attempting to place ourselves in the world, to find a niche for ourselves as adopted people, we have compared the similarities between adoption and slavery, we’ve checked ourselves against the list of symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and others personal to ourselves as individuals. Snow Leopard is inviting us to look at incarceration and adoption and in particular to the stigma of both and how they express themselves in the ‘ordinary’ business of life.
Adoptees are represented in the prison population to a higher degree than non-adoptees and those people would be well qualified to comment as they have had the experience, lived it and suffered the consequences of both adoption and incarceration. For the rest of us it is in part theoretical, we can only imagine, research or listen to those who know better than we do. I hope Snow Leopard hears from those adoptees and that it is a useful comparison for them to make.
I have been in prisons a few times, thankfully only as a visitor. I remember well the greyness of the surroundings, the oppressive buildings and atmosphere, the almost palpable sense of threat, imminent violence and the drabness from the lack of colour, decoration or the things the rest of us take for granted as part of a ‘normal’ life. I have and have had friends who have been incarcerated in both prison and adoption. I don’t have their permission to tell what is theirs to tell, but I do know that their experiences have similarities, conjunctions and possibilities for further exploration.
For myself, I can safely say I see clearly the similarities between incarceration and adoption and I know that my fellow adoptees who have suffered brutal abuse of the physical, emotional and sexual varieties, would have no problem listing the ways in which the two are linked. Their adoptions probably could be likened to the Abu Ghraib experience (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse), whereas mine was more like an open prison, although not an open adoption. Many of us would be familiar with ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ which are often carried out on innocent prisoners, just as in adoption the victims are innocent children subjected to interrogation carried out by insecure adults. We see it, for example, in the supposedly innocuous questionnaire which is supposed to indicate to an adopter how they are doing as an adopter, when it is completed by a child adoptee. That may be an extreme form for some adoptees, because of the damage it can cause. Other forms may appear more extreme, but no abuse can be properly assessed except by the victim. It is not for anyone to say that A’s abuse was more or less severe than B’s. The same or similar actions are received very differently by different victims. The rule of thumb has always been that if a victim perceives it as abuse, it is abuse. So before you defenders of the questionnaire defend it because you like it, please remember that you are not in a position to judge. Just as all those defenders of adoption who are not adoptees and have not lived the adopted life are not in a position to judge. It is time to stop believing that you know all about adoption because you have been involved in an adoption or two for a few years, read a few books and been on a few courses. Talk to us, ask us, listen and take on board what we say. No-one has ever been in a better position to help you see they truth of it than adult adoptees!
Prisons and adoption are both institutions.An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community — may it be human or a specific animal one. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern cooperative living behavior
Institutions may be political, as prisons are or societal as adoption is. They have at the top of their hierarchy Governments, officials who make the laws, the rules and who are in control of the finances. Under them are the administrators who carry out the administrative running, maintain the rules and ensure that the institution continues. At the coal face are those who do the day-to-day work of upholding the rules, maintaining order to prevent outbreaks of deviation from the institutional expectations. The subjects are prisoners/adoptees i.e those subjected to institutionalisation, in the case of adoptees without choice and in the case of prisoners it could be argued with choice as they chose to offend and break the law, unless there has been a miscarriage of justice. Adoptees are ‘lifers’, there is no escape, no remission and adoption is a life sentence. Prisoners at least have the opportunity for rehabilitation, remorse and a sense of having served their time on release. For adoptees there is no release. While we may serve our time as children and young adults, living out the story set for us by our adopters as their children, we begin to have more choice as adults, although can never escape our adoptee label, the stigma and the losses and never become non-adoptees or not adopted. Even those adopted back cannot escape the labelling, the legal processes and the trauma. Those who least wish to escape are the most institutionalised, those who uphold the rules the most adamantly and stick to the script with the most devotion. For some adoptees that institutionalisation lasts for life or for many decades, provides security, does not rock the boat, makes them acceptable to others who uphold the institution and allows them to promote the institution, defend it and work for its continuance.
“institutionalization” is widely used in social theory to refer to the process of embedding something (for example a concept, a social role, a particular value or mode of behavior) within an organization, social system, or society as a whole. The term may also be used to refer to committing a particular individual to an institution, such as a mental institution. To this extent, “institutionalization” may carry negative connotations regarding the treatment of, and damage caused to, vulnerable human beings by the oppressive or corrupt application of inflexible systems of social, medical, or legal controls by publicly owned, private or not-for-profit organizations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institution
We can clearly see the damage caused to individuals by the institution of adoption, vulnerable human beings, in this case babies and children subject to profit making systems.
In political science, the effect of institutions on behavior has also been considered from a meme perspective, like game theory borrowed from biology. A “memetic institutionalism” has been proposed, suggesting that institutions provide selection environments for political action, whereby differentiated retention arises and thereby a Darwinian evolution of institutions over time. Public choice theory, another branch of economics with a close relationship to political science, considers how government policy choices are made, and seeks to determine what the policy outcomes are likely to be, given a particular political decision-making process and context.
It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to work out the policy outcomes of adoption as it is carried out in various countries and what the ‘selection environments for political action’ are and might be. In fact it would be a very interesting exercise for someone with the time and interest! On a more individual level, the ‘effect of institutions’ in regard to adoption is very clearly known, although sadly not yet widely understood or accepted, by most non-adoptees particularly and by some adoptees.
To finish, an excellent article by Phil with no or little connection to the above –
Estrangement from nature is estrangement from the landscape of the soul. The cosmos and the soul carry the same blueprint; the forces were forged in the same fires of infinity. In matters, galactic and quotidian, there is not a form that rises, waxes and wanes in nature that does not have an analog in our human physicality, faculties, and endeavors.