Yes, it is me again. Yes, so soon. (As a rough guide, I consider posting things more than once a month a lot. Up to a point, the longer one takes to compile and sift through material, refining the results to the point of readiness, the better the result. I will have something to say about this in time, too.) Because we are still in what we can call the negotiation or interview stage of the fight, I thought it might be worth the effort to post a few things about the things that make me unhappy, and the things that help to counter that.
I will get the unpleasantness out of the way first. One of the reasons that I recommend Lydia Brown‘s work to all and sundry is because the first thing I read on her journal is this article. Whether you like it or not, what you say or how you say it can and does have an impact upon the observer. Sometimes that impact can be a case of the observer being too stupid or ignorant to interpret it properly. But sometimes, the intent behind the words is so reprehensible that one deserves to be slapped for using them, or using them in that manner.
Person-first language pisses me off. Apart from its poor economy of words (something that I can talk your ears off about), an essential problem is that it has the opposite effect of what its creators intend when applied to the autistic. If you are one such person, and you are out there reading this, then hear this well: my autism is not, never has been, and never will be, separate to me. If you think this does not matter, go to a place like Harlem or South Central Los Angeles (forgive me if this analogy rubs people up the wrong way, I am using examples I am familiar with from media) sometime and start calling the largest male residents “people with blackness”. They might actually hurt you less than I would if you called me a person with autism to my face.
Another problem with person-first language is that it forms part of what the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was really about. In Orwell‘s text, much is made of the fact that the education system and official communication are being reorganised with the deliberate goal of making abstract thought difficult and sustained thoughts not in keeping with the Party’s agenda more or less impossible. And if you think this is only fiction and therefore does not matter, think again. Consider, if you will, that the only word in the English language that refers to the character of a woman who is not huddled in the dark in fear about her sexuality is “slut”, which roughly translates as something like “a woman who is dirty, terrible, and evil because she has sex and likes having sex”. There is no short-form word in English that means the exact opposite, that is, a woman who is alluring, admirable, and powerful because she embraces her sexuality and is unafraid to engage in the free exercise thereof.
“Person with autism” is a horrible phrase, one that provokes the urge to commit violence in me, because it implies that autism is somehow a separate entity to the person that must be excised and cut out. Hence, you will hear me refer to myself as a person with cancer (a basal cell carcinoma has begun popping up near the site where the last one was taken out) or a person with diabetes (this should require no explanation at all). But call me a “person with autism” to my face, and nobody else will act surprised if I tear your balls off with a fork and make you ingest them.
Now that I have expended a lot of words on just one thing that makes my work a nastier place than it really should be, allow me to talk about something that actually makes me want to stay in the game, in spite of how excluded I presently feel.
Around the middle of this year, the film RoboCop will be twenty-five years old. As directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner, RoboCop is a masterpiece without equal. Either one of the writers, or perhaps producer Jon Davison, described the film as being like a series of elaborate Chinese puzzle boxes. Open one, and you find an exact replicate, only just that little bit smaller enough to fit, within. But for me, the most powerful reasons to watch it are two-fold.
One, the story was clearly written with adults in mind. Paul Verhoeven lived out much of his childhood in The Netherlands during World War II, which has had noted results on the manner in which violence is depicted in his films. You will never see an “ugh! ye got me!” shot in a Verhoeven film. It is like seeing a competently-staged action sequence in 99.99 percent of Hollywood productions nowadays. It just does not happen. Violence has consequences, which can sometimes stay with all those involved for the rest of their lives. When you string up the corpses of his countrymen out in the street for all to see in the view of a school-age boy, it marks them for life. Ditto if you take a school-age boy and start hitting him for the slightest perceived infraction, leaving him with no understanding of why, to use an example from my life.
Two, and this is totally by accident on the part of the storytellers, RoboCop portrays an actual autistic adult far better than any deliberate attempts to do so have done so far. The titular cyborg is marginalised, persecuted for the way he has been programmed by his maker, and follows a profoundly narrow procedure by instinct, even though he can reasonably foresee it resulting in his death, in the pursuit of his goals. Better examples of a fictional character behaving as an autistic adult would in similar circumstances, but not many.
And with this study in contrasts, I have to declare my typing hands closed for the night. This writing was a bit shorter than I was planning, but I am starting to fall asleep.
In case you wondered what the post title was about, it’s a line from an Adam Ant song. Adam Ant brought much joy to my life when I was a child. But that is a story for another time.
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