Social Cataracts

Lingering Blurred Images

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2019

Three years ago, an Optometrist and Ophthalmologist warned me that eventually I would need to consider cataract surgery. Ongoing empirical evidence was provided by way of visual acuity tests, dilated eyes exams and Tonometry. The consistent diagnoses was that cataracts, regardless of new prescriptions and fancy designer frames, were the reasons why I was seeing the world through compromised and clouded lenses. Cataracts were impairing my vision and becoming increasingly annoying.

Headlights, lamps, and sunlight appeared with starry halos. Driving at night became a tedious chore. The cable HD signal, movies at theaters and attending concerts were all optically altered.

But like many fellow cataract sufferers, I delayed the procedure thinking that one more new prescription would fix the condition. While I fought the reality, my eyes told me that cataract surgery needed to be faced in realistic terms.

I was grateful for many of the peripheries that were part of this story. The modern scientific advancements, enhanced procedures, the professionalism demonstrated by doctor, staff and of course the medical insurance. I had been made to feel safe, fully cared for with a new visual lease on life.

As a critical writer and interpreter of human stories, I could not help thinking about the amount of time that I looked at the world through clouded lenses. The acuity of every image altered. It made me question: To what degree do our social lenses become clouded over time creating altered images? What causes the blurring?

Any discourse and dialogue about Diversity eventually deals with the forces that define the core elements of Diversity and its Threads. Over time, the lenses that we use to view society and its people can become cloudy, blurred and distorted. But unlike being diagnosed by an Optometrist, our social lenses are left to be diagnosed by other means.

Social acuity begins to be influenced at birth via a multifaceted daily socio-cultural curricula that is ever present. We learn to see the world and its inhabitants through social lenses. Like bread, these agencies knead us – form our thinking, opinions, overarching beliefs and perspectives, ultimately shaping judgement and behavior.

We know these agencies as collective nouns: Athletics, Culture, Education/Schooling (Public, Private, Home, Experiential), Family, Language, Media (electronic, print, social), Peer Groups, Political Affiliations, Profession, Region (local, state, national), Relationships, Religion, Technology, Workplace.

Each of us can point to specific agencies that impacted our lives creating absolute predispositions about how the world and its inhabitants should be viewed. If we are honest to the core, we can point to the agencies that created clouded and blurred biases, prejudices, -isms and phobias leading to blurred images of intolerance and exclusivity.

As I walked out of the hospital after the second eye surgery I could now see the world in HD through both eyes. I was grateful for the new 20/15 vision and yet pondered how life is lived with social cataracts – with accepted distortions as to what is real.

Perhaps the acuity is left up to us – as in The Velveteen Rabbit, longing to be real.

‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.
‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse.
‘You become. It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.

But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.’

The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is a British children’s book written by Margery Williams (also known as Margery Williams Bianco) and illustrated by William Nicholson. It chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of his owner. The book was first published in 1922 and has been republished many times since.