There is a saying, or rather there are a variety of sayings, that revolve around the idea that ignorance is bliss. What you do not know will not hurt you. And on and on it goes.
First, let us look at the second example I just placed up there for the sake of a point. What you do not know can and often will hurt you. Just ask any woman who has died of ovarian cancer. Or indeed, anyone who has had to have major chunks cut out of their skin because nobody told them (or anyone around them) how to recognise a skin cancer.
At the end of October 2013, I was homeless. Or rather, I was without an actual address, but living in what jokers refer to as “temporary” accommodation. This is basically accommodation that the state agency for subsidised housing arranges so that people who have found themselves unable to find a private-market rental for whatever reason can have a roof over their head whilst they look for more permanent housing. Fair enough, you might think. Except there are often serious problems with this type of accommodation. These can include, but are not limited to:
- These units are often poorly maintained
Ever put your foot on the floor, and found the tactile sensation of that floor makes you feel uncomfortable from the sole of your foot to the top of your head? Then you know what it is like to live in so-called temporary accommodation. This is basically why, by the time a month had passed and the housing service referred me to a “specialist” (more on this anon), I was constantly scratching myself. So much so that I had superficial lacerations all over my body.
- As an adjunct to the above, these units are often infested
Crawling insects are no fun to look at when you have a highly developed sense of personal space, a powerful imagination that can make you see what you think of as if it were really there, and a propensity to feel as if worms of filth crawl in your skin when you experience unpleasant sensory information. During each and every day in this so-called temporary accommodation, I saw at least one crawling insect a day. This is another reason why I had superficial lacerations all over my body during this period.
Add these two points to the fact that every week, I was applying for as many as five to seven private rentals, and not even getting the courtesy of a rejection notification, and you can imagine that I was feeling extremely sick towards the end of November. Housing NSW even had the audacity to tell me to stop looking (the narrator in my brain replied to this with “fukk you” every time), because they would house me “soon”. Yeah, I believe you.
However, the “soon” came with conditions, amongst which was that I went to see a “specialist doctor” (their words) who they told me handles cases like mine and would better inform them as to how to proceed.
When I went to see this individual, it did not go well, to put it very mildly.
Now, you will notice I refer to him as an individual, a person (and I use this word loosely) or the like, but never a doctor unless it is in quotes. If you notice that, good, because after my conversation with this terminal dickhead, I am unconvinced that he even really is a doctor. When told “hey, doctor, we want you to speak to this really atypical person who says he is autistic”, a real doctor will at least do some minimal research into the subject. Oh wait, excuse me, as Vincent Bugliosi points out so well, we live in a world where mediocrity is praised as a masterpiece.
After the conversation ended and I walked away feeling like I had been raped, and had that stewing in my feelings for the weekend, I made a post to my Fudgebook page. The actual content, I cannot locate, but it ended with a statement to the effect that I felt I had only two options. Either move back to Queensland, which would entail extreme expense and pain on my part, or kill this so-called doctor.
Housing NSW saw fit to call the police, have me sent to the local mental hospital (which is a shithole I will write about in good time), and suspend my application. Their claim was that I had threatened their staff. Quite aside that I did not know this moron qualified as their staff and I had not said a word to anyone actually identifying themselves as a Housing NSW staff that was not borderline-obsequious, Housing NSW has it backwards for a number of reasons.
First of all, when a person says that a thing’s verbiage made them feel so uncomfortable throughout the conversation that they left the office feeling violated, and yet a person with the keys to the kingdom says “no, you have to see this doctor or else you will never get housed”, that is a threat. Housing NSW, you threatened me first. And I will be taking that up with the relevant authorities unless you acknowledge and atone for such.
Secondly, when a person states that a thing’s behaviour has made them feel so dirty inside that their only options consist of moving back to a state that they have learned to hate or kill the thing, that is not a threat. That is a statement of fact. A real expert would probably label it as an unofficial statement of facts in preparation for making an official complaint.
Now, exactly what would I be putting into this complaint? Well, for starters, the interview got off to a very bad start. It seems that Housing NSW furnished their trained monkey with no information about me whatsoever, leaving me to explain that I was autistic and had suffered a long history of being abused as a result of late diagnosis. But more important is the question this trained monkey asked me after that explanation, about two to four minutes into the interview:
“So what makes you think you have autism?”
Seriously. Are you going to fling your poo at me and screech next, you ignorant little monkey? (Note that when asked why he would want to drink tea, the ghost of one character’s grandfather tells the shipboard computer that Arthur Dent is, quote, an ignorant little monkey who does not know any better. Listen to the real Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy sometime. It is in the secondary phase.)
Now, my journal is laden with words to the effect that separationist language is offensive. I do not “have autism”, I am autistic. Let me clear on this point. When you say “have autism” or similar in front of me, it causes reactions. My skin literally crawls and pulses. My brain surges with adrenal-like reaction. My overwhelming thought is a desire to punch the person who said it. Does this make it sound like I am okay with the most defining characteristic of my person being separated from me in verbiage?
And it is not like I have ever known a life without being autistic. I think that, in essence, is what pisses me off the most about separationist language. It takes what has guided my perception of the world for as long as I could conceive of a world outside of myself (basically, since I was developed enough to walk), and treats it as something undesirable that you acquire by some means.
Black Americans in particular will get this question, but I will direct it to any racial minority in any place. How do you respond when someone talks about the characteristics that define you and your entire experience of life as if they are basically a head cold? Does it make you angry? Worried about the future? Worried for your children? Well, that is how “you have autism” makes me feel. It is a horrible feeling that I would not wish on anyone who is not a curebie.
So we have not even gotten into five minutes of conversation with this idiot, and he is already offending me so badly that you could ram a cricket stump into my anus and make me feel less hurt.
I also queried this with other patients in the hospital whilst I was there. Whilst autism and mental health diagnostic labels are very different things, one thing we were in agreement about was that there is a right way to change someone’s diagnostic label, and a wrong way. Making sense and having explanations, in my view, features prominently in the right way.
Yet Housing NSW in Parramatta were not only adamant that I have to keep seeing this guy, they were telling me that I would continue to be homeless until he approved of me not being homeless. This has a number of problems with it, in no particular order:
One, as already indicated, I felt violated and what I will call shit-skinned here. Shit-skinned is a variant on the power that my proxy character Kronisk has. Kronisk has the power to induce an artificial state of mind in which the subject feels as if large worms of faecal matter are borrowing through their skin. He has this power because I know what it is like on a psychological level to feel this way. The “person” I spoke to made me feel it.
Two, whilst being homeless is never pleasant, with all of the difficulties and problems I experience, it is a particularly gruelling experience for me. Imagine every tap you try to bathe yourself under during a three-week period pouring out liquid faeces, and you have a good idea of how it feels for me. (Again, “see this doctor who makes you feel violated or this state of affairs will continue indefinitely”, Housing NSW of Parramatta, is a threat.)
Three, this transparently makes the level of service or courtesy one receives when engaging Housing NSW a matter of location. Housing NSW in Parramatta, the central Western hub of Sydney, is so discourteous even to people who speak with them politely and gently, as I do, that it beggars belief. In Dee Why (a Northern beaches suburb), with one exception that is more hilarious than distressing, the staffers at Housing NSW acted as if they wanted me to be on their books. They were respectful and courteous at all times, and even helped me with information after I had changed location to Parramatta.
Add all of these three things up, and you have a very clear picture. Housing NSW in Parramatta apparently think that ignorance is bliss where autism and the reality of being a thirty-something autistic adult are concerned.
And they apparently have a very big problem with people who know better protesting otherwise.