It has occurred to me that I do not write nearly enough (in my view at least) about autism, what place there is in this world for me as an autistic adult, or the way forward for the autistic. I will try to correct this as best I can, but as anyone with a WordPress account knows, one can also look at their own statistics and see for themselves which tags and categories on their site are getting the most reads. Presently, the Media category gets nearly twice as many reads as does Autistic Identity, and a hundred more than its nearest competitor, Social Studies.
But I digress. I should not be caring so much which category gets the most reads, as long as I am getting read somewhat. And whilst I would like to be able to boast about how I am getting read by a thousand people an hour, the truth is that the actual number of reads is less important to me than what is done with the information imparted. If someone out there goes and checks the things I have talked about, and learns something that in turn makes them and others around them better people, then I am content with that. Sure, being able to say I get a thousand or even ten thousand reads every day would be nice, but considering how things were before I started the journal, I am at least semi-content right now.
And one of the reasons I feel content with what is on my site or how it is received is because before I began writing it, I was in a bit of a mess. I still am, but when one writes about their situation, what they believe about why it has come about, and what they believe about what must be done, it has an effect upon that person. This effect, of course, relates to the subject of identity. Specifically, how we define ourselves to ourselves and how we define ourselves to others. Not to mention how others try to make us define ourselves in their way.
This, incidentally, is why curebies would like you to believe that there is no such thing as an autistic adult. You see, although it is a bit of a struggle, adults are inherently capable of changing the way that they define themselves. But as Bob Hoskins‘ character in Unleashed, or Danny The Dog, put it so well, if you get them young enough, the possibilities are endless.
No matter how hard the adult struggles, there will always be a residue of the child in them. Many performers, especially the ones who make a career out of exploring disturbing subject matter, make it at least a hobby to explore this relationship. The whole theme of Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Cooper‘s best album by some margin, is this relationship. Which brings me to another point. The identity that a person internalises when they are a child, although generally completely involuntary, plays an enormous role in the identity that the adult internalises further down the road. If you slap a child around for reasons they do not understand, and make no attempt to make them understand, all the while telling them they are bad, bad, baaad, they will act as bad people when they are all grown up. I cannot believe that people can grow to adulthood without learning this simple fact.
This is one reason why there are so many self-help publications, support groups, and the like for all manner of ills and problems. And it is a reason why those groups focus so much on telling individuals within that group what they are. Fight Club‘s support group in the first act called Remaining Men Together is an extreme example, but you can believe that the whole repeated line about how the members are still men in spite of having had to lose one or both testicles due to cancer is, after variation, a common theme in such groups. Because how you define yourself in the midst of adverse circumstances imposed by reality is a big factor in how those adverse circumstances affect you.
Whenever you bring Adolf Hitler into a discussion, people groan and roll their eyes and so forth. It is an understandable reaction. Comparing any political or social figure to him is a difficult task, and making the comparison stick, even as well and easily as it does to people like Suzanne Wright, requires a lot of work. But because I get sick of people trying to talk about the man as if he were an alien overlord as opposed to a simple man who used complex and unusual circumstances to flip the world on its head, it is worth talking about him as an example of how defining yourself changes how circumstances imposed by fate or nature affect you. The History Place has a very extensive and detailed biography of Adolf that no person who wants to understand how to fight in the political arena should leave unread.
The point here is that even from an early age, Adolf defined himself in a way that others might see as arrogant, vain, egotistical, or all of the above. But it served him well both during his years of poverty and when he was the most powerful man in Germany. You see, no matter what position a man has in life, he will behave according to what he expects of others. The fatal miscalculation that the German parliament he was appointed Chancellor of made was believing that within months, they would push him so far into a corner that it would make him squeak. Nuh-uh. After the death of his father, the only person that could make him squeak was him, and years of fighting, living in poverty, and nursing some pretty far-fetched ideas about the world around him, made him into a man that expected what he wanted as if he could simply take it from people. And it was not just people he saw in this manner, either. Whole nations became the target of his “what is wanted is mine and anyone who disputes it can die” philosophy. If only we could have had some form of probe in his mind to study the chemical reactions that took place when England, America, and Russia told him plainly that they were not on board with his philosophy in that respect.
Although there is a big difference in the amount of wealth and privilege they command during their upbringing, many politicians in many countries have views of the world that are similar in important respects. Presidents of the United States, Congressmen, and the recipients of palm greasing, reach that position because they are taught to think of themselves as Kings in waiting, and that anyone who refuses to move out of the way of their ascent to recognised Kingship of some form can just be trod on. The idea that the taxes that are disproportionately coming out of the pockets of the lower eighty percent of earners should be spent on anything other than increasing their level of comfort or extravaganze is as alien to them as the idea that anyone who does not have enough money to successfully sue them for anything is an actual person (that whole Monkeysphere thing again).
That is why much of the miseducation the bottom eighty percent have had over the past four decades has been concerned with the idea that organised labour, fighting for workers’ rights, and collective bargaining are baaad. The belief that unions are fundamentally corrupt, are all under the purview of the mafia, and all suck at employers like parasites, is an extremist strawman, and one rarely supported in reality. Even truckers’ unions, or other transportation unions, were for the most part simply committed to the fact that workers work better when they do not feel constant dread that they are going to be unable to eat at the end of the fortnight.
You see, when you stop thinking about being able to pay for your expenses by working as a fundamental right, your bosses basically have you by the balls. Yes, I am speaking metaphorically. And the truth is, when workers and middle-class whatevers are having trouble staying above water, so too does everybody else. I do not know what schools the treasurers of the Western world went to during their schooling years, but the fact that a consumption-based economy cannot work if there is a substantial portion of the population who cannot afford to consume seems pretty straightforward to me.
So the point, as I come to it in a roundabout way, is that if we think of ourselves as unworthy of respect, of not being strapped down whilst some asshole pours bleach into our asshole, or of being paid enough to not be in hock up to our eyeballs to our landlord, we will act in accordance with that. And group persausion is a pretty powerful thing. Within a social group, it irks the everything out of members who have a set, defined reality to encounter a member who does not have that reality.
Thus, no matter how hard you tell some people that most of the population is working harder at this point than their parents or grandparents, and yet having to accept a lower standard of living, they will not accept it. No matter how many different ways you show them statistical economic data, or simply take them to look at a twenty-something of today and how those twenty-somethings live, it just never sinks in. Their cry that everything is peachy and statements otherwise are just a big liberal conspiracy just go on and on.
Curebies, creationists, conservaties, you name the group, they all have one thing in common. They have an artificial construction of reality. The curebies have to believe that their children, and all people on the autistic spectrum, are with them. This means that they have to construct the extra artificial reality that anyone who criticises or denounces them in public is not autistic and just conspiring against them. This, in turn, necessitates constructing another layer of artificial reality in which every qualified individual, irrespective of how many degrees and how much field work they have done, that contradicts them is automatically wrong or conspiring against them.
As you can imagine, this multiple layer of artificial reality is quite fragile, and simply meeting a person who does not share it presents a threat to that reality. How curebies deal with that reality is going to be shaped by how they are allowed to deal with that reality. So far, curebies have only been allowed to deal with threats to that reality by cleaning up after the fact. When confronted with threats like the high functioning first proclaiming that their approach to autism is generally wrong then that being high functioning is not the free pass that they think it is, deny. When those that are currently classified as low functioning try to tell the world that Autism Speaks et al are speaking only for themselves and out of their arsehole, pretend that those people do not even exist. And on and on it goes. But if the autism civil rights movement succeeds in what should be its ultimate goal of securing equal communicative ability to deploy its message, and legal recognition that the autistic have rights, then the curebie movement’s reality will have precious little space in which to hide. And that means that they will be reduced to the same level that past radical movements based on an alternate construct of reality, such as the Ku Klux Klan. That is, they will have to slink into a little hole where nobody can directly threaten their reality, at least not to their faces.
The problem that we currently face is that an alternate reality is somewhat like a virus. In order to thrive, it has to spread. Even groups based on alternate realities that are as underground and scattered as the aforementioned Klan actively seek to recruit and indoctrinate new members. Because otherwise, the group would end with the death of its last current member. When an idea is unpopular, even a correct one such as the theory of evolution, or that mistreating people based on a characteristic they cannot help having is wrong, recruitment is basically a fight for survival.
This is why we need to get the ear of a President and tell them, plainly, that the Fairness Doctrine was not only a good idea, but a vital one for protecting the rights of marginalised groups. Imagine how much harder it would make life for Suzanne Wright if every time she went to open her yap on American television, it had to be accompanied by an equal amount of airtime in which multiple people ranging from me to Anthony Attwood to Lydia Brown patiently explained to everyone who believes a word out of her mouth what a fukking idiot they are (imagine me saying that like I am drunk and really stoned, and you get the idea).
But the criteria for a person amongst the autistic who can get on television and speak for us as a group has to be pretty clear. They must have learned how to define their identity to themselves by themselves, and the identity they have used that to define must be a respectful one. Otherwise, we are just wasting our time letting them on the air.