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Intan Mohd

Expository Writing 101 (Section 05)

Paper 3(Revised edition)
John Warren
People are born into a society, which has preset laws and norms. Violation of these laws
and norms tends to result in condemnation and punishment by society. For example, in Son by
Andrew Solomon, the author narrates about his life experience of being a gay where he identifies
it as a horizontal identity. He then explains his endeavor in his whole life in order to be accepted
by society where later he found his true self through that journey. On the other hand, in The
Minds Eye, Oliver Sacks describes the blindness and how blind people can act in their own
way far from what society expects them to be. They even can use their imagination to see
something which is not a typical thing that common blind people can do or at least what people
think blind people can do. In addition, the essay The Mega Marketing of Depression in Japan
by Ethan Watters relates to this by telling us about the cultural shifting of Japanese which causes
by the marketing of the depression. Japanese start to accept the depression as one of the illnesses
which is against their culture narratives. Therefore, violating the cultural norm is not necessarily
bad since it can create a new experience to us; not only that, this violation can shape our identity
and allow us to live the world on our owns term.
Horizontal identity is the identity that violate cultural norms. Cultural norm is defined as
acceptable attitudes and behaviors within a cultural group. While, horizontal identity is the term
coined by Solomon which mean identity that is acquired trait that is foreign to his or her

parents and must therefore acquire from a peer group, attributes that his or her learn by
observing and participating in a subculture outside the family or physical disability (370.
What Solomon is trying to say here is that the horizontal identity either by nature (autism) or
nurture (gayness) is not acceptable and against society. As a matter of fact, cultural norms are
not an absolute rules since it has tendency to change due to external influence. Watters says in
his essay, Cultural beliefs about depression and the self are malleable and responsive to
message that can be exported from one culture to another (Watters 519). What Watters is
saying here is cultural beliefs about depression is subject to shift and can be influenced by other
cultures. For example, depression is taboo in Japanese society, and accepting this mental illness
cause their culture to be shifted. This acceptance has cause the conflict among the Japanese;
thats why people who suffered depression is considered having a horizontal identity. In a
nutshell, horizontal identity is confronting cultural norms nevertheless it can create new
experience, shape our identity and let us live on our owns terms.
By defying our cultural narratives, we can create a new experience that is not influenced
by the culture. The cultural expectations usually limit people from doing what is achievable by
them. For example, in one culture, blind people are considered disabled, someone that cannot do
anything by their own. However, Sackss essay shows a lot of proof that blind people can do any
kinds of things that normal people can do, and sometimes they can do it better. Sacks mentioned
in his essay, He [Torey] soon gained enough confidence in the reliability of his visual images to
stake his life upon it, as when he undertook the roof repairs by himself(Sacks 333). What Sacks
is saying here is that even they have a horizontal identity, it cannot abstain them from doing
whatever they want. Yet, they can use their minds eye to create their own experience and not
letting the world to control what they are supposed to experience. Well, it might be uncommon

for blind people to repair their own roof but it is possible, and the cultural narratives make us feel
like it is impossible and this norm limits them from doing it. Luckily, Torey believes in himself
and decide to go against the norms which later be a proof that norms are not necessarily truth for
all the time and it is not wrong to violate them. Additionally, while unable to make any profits
from selling the antidepressant in Japan, the pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
realized that Japanese have a different view regarding depression. They realized that mental
illness is taboo in Japan and depression is part of it, therefore, they need to change this
mentality in order to gain the profit. Watters says in his essay, Depression, they repeated in
advertising and promotional material, was kokoro no kaze, like a cold for a soul (Watters
524). As we all know, cold is a common illness for everyone and it can be treated simply by
taking a medicine. By denoting depression is similar to cold, Watters wants to show that
depression is not a severe condition and should carry no social stigma. Accepting the depression
as the illness for the Japanese even though it is not in line with their vertical identity give them a
new experience of treating the illness that they might not be able to do it if they conform the
Not fitting in the cultural narratives enables us to create a new identity that free from
cultural expectations. The vertical identity is formed since we were in the womb and when we
were born, we were introduces to the norms that later on, with or without our consciousness,
mold us into a certain identity. This identity sometimes against our own persona which results in
burden that need to be carried throughout our whole life. In contrast, people can create their own
identity without being influenced by culture. This is why Solomon says, while I might have had
an easier life if I had being straight, I am now wedded to the idea that without my struggles, I
would not be myself, and that I like being myself better than I like the idea of being someone

else-someone I have neither the ability to imagine nor the option of being (Solomon 383). This
quote shows how struggling against norms can give a satisfaction of being on our own identity,
on our own self, be someone that can define their own self. In other word, we are responsible for
our own identity, if we did not create it, the culture will take over and we will become the robot
of the society, the robot that is similar to each other with the only difference lies in the
identification card. It is possible to create our own identity as Sacks mentions in his essay, But
although he was advised to switch from visual to an auditory mode of adjustment, he had
moved in the opposite direction, resolving to develop instead his inner eye, his powers of visual
imagery, to their greatest possible extent (Sacks 332). Here, Sacks is telling us that the option
of creating our identity is up to us, we are the one who is in charge of making a choice whether
to follow the norms or to resist it by following our own desired. We would never know our ability
until we pursue it
Embracing horizontalities allow people to recast their own narratives and live the world
on their own term. Solomon says, The best way to get through this these horizontalities is to
find coherence, and in the wake of these stories, I recast my own narratives (Solomon 386). The
phrases finding the coherence shows that he believe that one day the society would be able to
find the meeting point where everyone can be their own selves and we can live in a harmony
without the feeling of being discriminate. He also wants us to know that by embracing our own
selves even it is against the narratives can help us to construct our own narratives. The
narratives that allow us to decorate our own lives without the influence of the society and
surrounding. This is important because it can help us live life to the fullest without being burden
by the social expectations. This is exactly what Arlene Gordon in The Minds Eye has
experience, She[Arlene Gordon] explained how her traveling companions would describe

places, and she would then construct a visual image from these details, her reading and her own
visual memories(Sacks 345). She is embracing her blindness and live with it like a normal
people do but by her own way. From the quote, Sacks is trying to say that communication plays a
role in helping people to get the understanding towards something and Arlene use that to get a
new experience by combining the information that she get from her travelling companions, her
reading and her own memories. This is a very brilliant idea because our brain is so powerful
that we can create something out of it. If you cannot see, so what? This is not the end of our life,
we still have a lot of ways to become our real selves without following the norms, the norms that
limit you from having what you supposed to have. For our own happiness, just live our life like
Crown Princess Masako, she chose to have a better life when she agree to get the treatment for
her depression despite of what her people might think of her. It was rumored for years (and
finally confirmed by the Imperial Household Agency) that Crown Princess Masako suffered from
depression. Soon it was revealed what she was taking antidepressants as part of her
treatment(Watters 526). Since depression is taboo in Japan, the news regarding Crown
Princess Masako suffered from depression, will be like an eye-opener for the Japanese to accept
that situation. The phrases taking the antidepressants is very significant because it shows that
she just free herself from the social stigma and make the best choice for her health. Not only
that, her action can encourage her people to do the same thing like she did, to embrace her
depression and get a better life. All in all, not matter what norm throws at you, you just need to
keep on believe in yourselves, have a grip on your own narratives and dont let your life to slip
into the misery of norms.
Violating the cultural norm is not necessarily bad since it can create a new experience to
us; not only that, this violation can shape our identity and allow us to live the world on our owns

term. No matter what we chose to be, it is purely depends of us and does not let our culture
define our identity because we know ourselves better.