This is the story of Joe Odd, written by a ‘mentally ill’ patient in a secure mental asylum. It is possible to pick out several psychological ‘themes’, these of which I intend to assess.
The story of Joe Odd is clearly a case of social ‘In and Out’ groups, where in society groups emerge where people have more influence than others. Clear evidence from the text proves my statement:
“People who lived in the boxes thought Joe was very strange because they all watched television. At first they said, “…why don’t you live in a house like us?” but Joe didn’t want to. So they broke his windows and made up bad stories about him”
We can learn from this extract above that there is an element of ‘labeling’, and the fact that poor Joe Odd once labeled, is prone to increased labeling. Labeling is a very powerful which tends to stick to that person it has been attached (unless he/she adapts to the social norms which society labeled that person with.)
“Then another social worker wrote a report about how Joe had lived in a hut with the door and windows barred up. So the doctor hung another label round his neck saying ‘Persecution Complex’…and gave him some pills because they made him feel better, Joe didn’t like the pills because they made him feel strange, and he wouldn’t take them, so the doctor hunt an ‘Unco-operative’ label round his neck.”
From this extract we can assume that Joe Odd thought negative of himself due to the excess labeling, and ended up believe himself as a stereotypical being.
“One night he thought he heard a voice in his head saying, “…come with me. I know a beautiful place, come with me…”
“I can’t. I’m very ill; can’t you see all these labels round my neck? (Joe Odd)”
Joe Odd believed himself to be out of the social norm, and ‘mentally ill’ because of his labels, which tell him it is not right to live on a hill and be himself. The labels tell him to watch television in a box house.
Psychological evidence can be given for all of the above extracts and evaluations to back up my points. The experiment which was conducted by H.Tajfel was based around the ‘In and Out’ groups. He proved that “easy to trigger off””outgroup discrimination” could be. The experiment showed how a group of boys would rather end up with less money, rather than allowing another group to have more money than them.
We can relate this to the text, as shown that people in a town, would rather have Joe Odd locking and barring himself up at home, rather than let him voice his opinion about how beautiful the sunset was and how it was different from their monotonous TV.
The idea of ‘stereotyped expectations’ (Banuazizi and Mohavedi, 1975), the idea of which people are given a situation, and because of conditioning that they have had with that particular experience, which could have been influenced by many different means (media or learnt through people) the person will act and take on the deemed suitable role according to the situation.
This shows in the text with evidence that Joe Odd, finally believing himself to being ill after having too many attached labels by the society for him to handle. He later threw away these labels and returned to a land where he became his old ‘normal’ self again.
Szasz (1972) claimed the medical model was wrong and made criticisms, and said people cannot be mentality ill at all. He suggested that the human brain had more of a decease than disease of the mind. When related back to Joe Odd, we see might assume that the ‘normal’ people misdiagnosed Joe Odd, penalty of which lead to him being wrongly labeled. The ‘normal’ people however could not acknowledge their mistake, instead increasing the number of labels on Joe Odd to try and equate for his character.
Assessing the idea of ‘in and out groups’, my evaluation is that Joe Odd fell victim to real life prejudice. Joe Odd lived a ‘normal’ life in his eyes, doing ‘normal’ activities, just living out his life in a peaceful manner. Only when he met people, and more importantly, a society where the majority ran a different view on life, with different activities, Joe Odd was not allowed to corrupt the society with his ‘strange’ disposition, therefore swift action was taken to remove him. I firmly believe people should be able to voice their opinions and feelings and also live in a way, which they feel fit, as long as that person abides by the law of his/her country (There is always a line to be drawn). People should not have to cower in fear at the thought of being different (and prosecuted), keeping themselves locked up. This is brought on by an ignorant society.
The society itself, is made up of people, and in the story of Joe Odd, these people all had the same views and did the same activities. If the society was going to improve, those monotonous people in the society would have to understand why Joe Odd is the way he is. Media and education have a great say in the way humans think towards each other now, and are the key elements to erase prejudice and make those people who don’t understand, understand. People should be shown new doors, and new paths to take, to discover new places and new ideas. Not just sitting in a box watching TV all day.
To finish, the idea of ‘labeling’ can be a very cruel method of power. As stated above, people must be educated and shown new doors to understand the ‘odd’ person. An ignorant person would only know what was good for themselves, therefore have several labels to stick on people who might be different to them, the more understanding and education that society (and person) gets, the less labels they will use to attach onto ‘different’ people, because they can understand why the ‘odd’ person might be like that.