Law of Averages
By Tony Candela
Today I read that Beyoncé will change the lyrics in one of her new songs to eliminate the words “spazz” and “spazzing”. Lizzo volunteered to do the very same thing a few months ago. These words, used more in the U.K. than America, denigrate people with neurological conditions leading to uncontrolled muscle movements. In the songs, the words were meant to describe dance movements.
The disability rights movement complained that hurtful words in the mass media perpetuate and often escalate their use against unintended victims. Look at what happened to people of Asian origin when Donald Trump intentionally connected them to the origins of SARS-COVID19. Come to think of it, remember when Mr. Trump demonstrably mocked a reporter with a neuro-muscular disorder during a press conference? In any case, it is a good sign that some powerful people, when made aware, have been willing to change.
Speaking of powerful people, Jeff Bezos is building a mega-yacht in Rotterdam. The ship is designed with masts so tall it would not be able to sail under the Hef Bridge unless the elevated middle section of the bridge was temporarily dismantled. The Hef is no longer a working bridge, but its importance to the history of Rotterdam has garnered it national monument status. Jeff Bezos was willing to pay all costs and the bridge would have been quickly restored, but the citizenry went up in arms and the plan was scuttled. Why such a fuss? The answer lies in the deep cultural ethos of the Dutch which does not feel comfortable around richness. Being average is good enough”, say the Dutch. This may sound strange and even alarming to us Americans who fervently believe that competition and rising to the top are all-important. This, we believe, is how America became and will remain great. The Dutch ethos was born out of environmental necessity. Living as they do on land that lies below sea level, rich and poor have had to come together and cooperate in order to stay alive. Americans demonstrate this behavior only when pressed against the wall, something that seems lately to be happening more and more as our environment is becoming similarly hostile to our survival. The story of the yacht remains unresolved as the request to dismantle a section of the Hef was rejected after the protest began, but it is safe to say the average citizen of Rotterdam will be happy when the boat finally leaves Dutch waters.
In my memoir “Stand Up Or Sit Out” (see below), I discuss the issue of “averageness”. For me it began when I was admonished by a fellow wrestler to never show off. This came by way of a hard punch to the chest. Later as a college wrestler, I was offered publicity via an article in the New York Times. I refused the interview, believing that such publicity would make me stand out as either a person with a disability who transcended his disability to the point of becoming a “super-crip” or the opposite, a person receiving unwarranted attention because of his disability when in reality, he was an average athlete, which is exactly what I was in all my athletic endeavors. In the memoir, I espouse the worthiness of “average”. It is a suitable foil between the American ethos of super-achievement which leaves so many of us feeling left out for not being super-achievers and the put-downs people get when they are regarded as being under-achievers. The Dutch have a point when they say average is good enough. However, the Americans also have a point when they strive for high-achievement. I wish only for a rapprochement between the forces that in the end leave so many of us out of the inner circle of worthiness. By knowing more about each other, we will understand each other better.
By the way, the so-called “law of averages” is more of a myth than a statistical reality. It states that in the long run and with a very large number of cases, the phenomenon being studied will reach its numerical destiny. Many a gambler believing the desired card will surely come up now or the slot machine is destined soon to hit the jackpot have lost big time. “Average” is something hard to define and like other things, one tends to know it when he or she sees it. That is why the Dutch don’t like things like mega-yachts that make so many people feel unworthy.
Anthony R. Candela, Author
Saying aloud what should not remain silent.
Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy
A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports
Vision Dreams: A Parable
A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.
Christian Faith Publishing, 2019
Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar. Read more at: https://www.facebook.com/anthonyrcandelaauthor