Why Iconoclast? Why Antireifier? And Adults in the Room!

This blog is my place to express myself and attempt to show how I look at things in the world. Two themes will likely be evident and are captured by two concepts that are part of who I think that I am. One word is Iconoclast and the other is Reify or Reification. Because I am opposed to reifying theories, after all I am an iconoclast, I use a word that I coined called antireifier. I have since discovered that somebody else also coined it in relation to constitutional law. How I got to those places in my head are described below.

Several years ago, during the late 70s and early 80s, I was on the board of directors of L.A.M.P. — Lakeshore Area Multi-service Project — and a proposal had been made by the Government of Ontario to allow apartment buildings to be designated as “Adults Only.”

LAMP is a community agency with many services under one roof and the board included local politicians, business persons and representatives from some service sectors. I worked at a nearby pre-school treatment centre called Stothers as a Social Worker which was the reason for including me on the board.

The CEO, Joe Leonard, brought the “adults only” building proposal to the board for discussion and to take a public stand on the issue.

A straw vote was taken to start the conversation.

Then each person who wanted to speak on the matter was invited to do so. I spoke in opposition to it. As did Ruth Grier who at the time was a municipal councilor and later was elected as the NDP MPP for the Lakeshore riding.

As I recall almost everybody else was in favour of apartment buildings being designated under the law as “adults-only” should owners wish that except for Ruth and myself.

After discussion a vote was taken and, much to my surprise, it was resolved to oppose the legislation for adult-only buildings and to take a public stance against it.

As we were leaving the meeting, I was walking with Joe and commented to him that I liked being a part of the board because it seemed that people were willing to listen to each other and to hear their points of view. Joe then said, “I like you being on the board because you are such an iconoclast.”

I went home and looked up the word and discovered it literally meant “smasher of icons” or “destroyer of sacred cows.” That seemed a much better term than the one with which I had been designated in other places — namely — s**t-disturber!

But seriously, many years later it came back to me when I read an article by Yanis Varoufakis about the Adults in the Room in the discussions between Greece with the EU. Future articles may often be about political economics. But I digress.

Another lesson that I learned in the last part of the last class, Abnormal Psychology that I took to complete my undergrad degree. Don Morgenson, the late Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University and frequent winner of best professor awards advised us to be careful NOT to reify theories as we went out into the working world.

I put up my hand and asked for an explanation. He went to the blackboard — dating myself here — and he wrote the word Deify on one panel and Reify on the other. He explained in detail that Deify meant to make an object into a god and Reify meant to make something real that was just theory.

I was working for the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto at the time, 1969, and encountered doctors who had bought into the theory that autistic children were caused by “Refrigerator Mothers” and wanted children removed from the foster homes where they were growing up. I argued against this theory and that action. In the ensuing years the science showed it was a developmental disorder.

In 1978, I changed jobs and began to work at Stothers. Staff there working with the children described the mother of an autistic-like child as “mechanical” and “cold” in her interactions with her son. At the time I also obtained a book called Two Hugs For Survival by the late York University professor, Dr. Harold Minden who said similar things about the mothers of autistic children.

Fortunately, our consulting psychiatrist, Dr. Harvey Alderton, was able to point out to the staff that the child likely had “organized the mother to treat him that way” because of his discomfort with closeness. I also called Dr. Minden whose book is quite good in other respects and pointed out to him the problem with what he had described. To his credit he agreed with me and promised to alter the book if there was ever another edition. It looks like that ship has sailed.

In more recent times, a medical researcher linked autism to vaccines which has since been debunked and he has been discredited but now there are many examples of the harm that has been done to children who were not vaccinated and subsequently contracted a preventable childhood illness some of whom died as a result.

Today, of course, there will be people who will oppose the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available and I am already seeing articles and videos warning about it.

Vaccines are NOT sacred cows — especially the COVID vaccines — or icons that I wish to smash and my instincts about opposing the reification of theories has come into play so I will get the vaccine when it becomes available. Just as I have had other vaccines in recent times to protect my late elderly mother from my possibly infecting her with influenza when she was alive as well as protecting other vulnerable people such as my late former partner and my youngest son.

Future articles that I write here will likely be of a similar flavour where I will likely often take the path not well traveled and will present alternative takes on what may be called “conventional wisdom.”