Saturday, January 11, 2014

Egalitarian Equality vs. Social Inequality - The Pyramid

In the day to day experience of an Asperger child, moments of peace are rare. Whatever you are thinking or doing, someone, either a parent or teacher or maybe another child, will interrupt you to ask that you participate in some activity, such as playing a game with a group of children. If you don’t respond, or you resist their prodding, or you state clear and repeated rejections of the idea, initial friendly overtures will turn into harsh words and disapproval. The adult will express personal disappointment in your reluctance and increase the pressure.

The simple enjoyable act of reading or thinking has now become a problem. The adult considers that whatever you are doing is not only unimportant, but it makes them unhappy and you are responsible for their unhappiness. You are told that choosing to be alone means that you are depressed or unhappy and that joining the group will cheer you up, which isn’t true. If you protest that what you are reading, or drawing or building is more interesting than what the other children are doing, you are apt to be yelled at and physically relocated like a disobedient dog. Waves of anger that were hidden beneath the adult’s formerly soft persuasive words hit like a shock wave. The other children see all this and learn one of life’s big lessons. Obey and conform. The effect of being used to demonstrate this social principal is visceral and devastating.
It is said that Aspergers people can’t infer what is going on in another person’s mind, but the big messages are clear to us. People will only like you if you obey their instructions, tell them what they want to hear, and not when you get around to it, but right now! Obedience demonstrates that a person will subordinate his or her happiness and well-being to the group. Rules are often designed to insult and confuse people, to challenge their morality or sense of fair play, for the purpose of testing their willingness to shed their individual identity and follow the herd. The Aspergers brain simply doesn’t understand this social compulsion, not because we are dumb, defective, dangerous or disabled, but because inequality of status is alien to our egalitarian need for fair play, justice and reason.
Modern society is ruthlessly hierarchical and undemocratic. People are sorted by class and caste and culture, by wealth, by age, by gender, by the illegitimate concept of race. This state of human affairs is archaic and destructive of human potential when compared to the “flat earth” picture of reality in the Asperger mind.
This structure is alien to the Asperger perception of 'how it ought to be.'

The building of massive pyramids was the dominant activity of ancient agrarian cultures because the pyramid was a physical model of the social hierarchy by which those on top controlled the status of the population. The same archaic social pyramid is strictly enforced today; only the titles have changed. Most astonishing is the belief on the part of the social majority that this manmade pyramid of social inequality, and the suffering it causes to millions of human beings, is as valid as the Laws of Physics, and essential to the structure of the universe.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Asperger Parent

Although undiagnosed, my father was a classic Asperger male who had a terrible time invoking his social rank as The Father. He made attempts to use his status to make me “do what I was told,” but this effort usually fell apart, because deep down he didn’t believe that this was a valid reason for a child to comply with a parent’s wishes. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but it was thoroughly Asperger.
We developed a deep friendship precisely because he felt it necessary to explain that his requests and concerns had a rational basis such as safety or efficiency, or to quell worry on his part that I would make a mistake or a poor choice. His appeals to my practical good sense usually worked, but I never felt that I had to obey him just because he was my father. This encouraged me to make my own choices, good and bad, and to recover from my mistakes, a task that is infinitely difficult for a perfection-loving Asperger child. Honest exchange sometimes drove us apart, but I never doubted his affection or that he would be there when I needed help. He could and would set personal judgment aside. He wasn’t warm, emotional or full of praise. At times, overcome by frustration and anger at a social world he didn’t understand, he would vanish into the comforting order of nature and science. His knowledge base was phenomenal and he was never too busy to answer my limitless questions, sometimes imparting far more detail than I could possibly absorb. Best of all, he was like me and I was like him, but not exactly.
Each Aspergerger individual has his or her own personality and is affected differently by social constraints. Girls and women have traditionally been excluded from diagnosis and instead have been diagnosed with one or more mental illnesses, a situation that is improving. Females being overlooked as Aspergers can be partly explained by the traditional view that being female is in itself a disorder or defect in many religions and cultures, a social barrier that has been imposed as part of The Pyramid. Women are on the bottom by virtue of their 'crazy' gender.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It Was as if I Didn't Exist

Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, behaviorists, and other helper individuals see the problem of Asperger's children backwards to how the child experiences life. To the child, his or her differences, some of which are praised, such as intelligence, success in school, the ability to focus on a task, persistence of attention and novel manipulation of ideas, are then used to isolate or even exile him or her from society. How does one explain this ‘intelligence is good, but you are bad’ contradiction to a smart child?

The social person’s view is that this child does not conform to the scheduled physical, emotional, and mental behaviors that experts have decided are normal and necessary to being human, and therefore this child is abnormal - an unhappy and unnacceptable situation for the socially- obsessed majority. Variation from expectations (very narrow expectations at that) becomes the problem, and the child’s intelligence is judged to be strange, aberrant and a big part of the problem. The child’s intelligence, not as a thing-in-itself, but as a minority condition in society, is not seen as distinct from the emotional difficulties that an Asperger’s child does experience.   
In my case, teachers, the school principal, and our pediatrician briefly discussed what to do with me. Should I be bumped up a grade, be sent to a special school, or remain where I was? Their conclusion? Because I was socially backward I ought to stay with my age group in public school. Confinement among normal children would advance my behavior to some acceptable level and this would make me capable of functioning as a wife and mother. As for my intellectual abilities, these might be useful if I needed a job someday, that is, if my husband were to die.
This astonishing train of thought confirmed my observation that adults can be extraordinarily stupid and that their thinking cannot be trusted solely on their status as The Adult. The idea that contact with normal children would by some property of contagious magic make me normal, was ludicrous. The assumption that a female was fit only for marriage and motherhood, with a teaching job as a fall back to misfortune, sent a shockwave through my mind. The expectation of parents and teachers that I ought to be content, or even thrilled with such a future, demonstrated that none of these people knew anything about me. I was nothing but a source of irritation. Once a decision was made about ‘my problem’ I could be ignored.  
My internal experience of myself and my particular connection to the world around me were nonexistent for them, and I was ‘dealt with’ as if these personal experiences didn’t exist – as if I didn’t exist. This is profound isolation, and in my view, is more devastating than the Asperger preference for spending time alone.
Too often the story is presented as one-sided, with the ‘problem’ located within the Asperger child or adult, who must be trained to perform social skills that satisfy society, with little recognition that the unhappy situation is the result of a failed dialog between the individual and society. This dialog, which is social, seems an odd concept for the social majority to fail to recognize and understand.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Asperger's Love Physical Reality

Asperger types are described as incapable of being social or emotional, but this is a misunderstanding on the part of the social majority. Unlike standard social interaction, which is pro forma and fleeting, successful Asperger relationships are founded on intellectual give-and-take and may take long periods of time to develop. The focus is on shared interests rather than shared emotions. Honesty and trustworthiness are prime requirements and these personal characteristics are non negotiable, hence Aspersers people may have few friends. Being social for the sake of being social holds little to no appeal; an Asperger individual may put in an appearance at a gathering if necessary, but then vanish as quickly as possible. Constructing and maintaining a socially acceptable charade, especially in which one has no interest, is exhausting. Many of us don’t bother – which earns us the wrath of the socially addicted.

The Asperger ability to experience deep emotional attachments to animals, objects, equations, theories, and classes of things like transportation, machines, space exploration or numbers may seem improbable or impossible to neurotypicals, but it’s true. Some, like myself, feel that a specific landscape, or rock formation, or river, or mountain range – indeed the whole of nature’s manifestations, ‘speak to us’ emotionally or spiritually. This intense feeling of being embedded in the environment is possibly what animism was originally, before this intense identification became blurred with the magical fear that active spirits, which are capable of conscious acts of good and evil, interfere with human lives. The Asperger’s prime attachment is to physical reality and not to a manmade ‘supernatural’ dimension. 
It takes time for the Asperger ‘get to know you’ process to work and most social people just don’t have the time or interest to wait, or to participate in growing a relationship. Asperger individuals often don’t ‘get’ that the neurotypical person isn’t interested in getting to know them or anyone else for that matter. We do see that the social person wants immediate superficial attention. Status seeking neurotypicals are out to ‘score a hit’ and the less invested in time and sincerity the better. We instinctively don’t like this shallow treatment of human beings.
Surprisingly, what neurotypicals fail to understand is that permission to lie is apportioned according to one’s location on the pyramid, with those in power having almost unlimited sanction to lie without consequence. No one should be surprised therefore by rampant social and economic inequality, but amazingly, supposedly socially savvy neurotypicals don’t have a clue. It is a given that politicians lie to get elected and then promptly do whatever their funders have paid them to do. This has been happening election after election since politics (a social endeavor) appeared, and yet neurotypicals never catch on.
One way for an Asperger to cope with the social charade is to imagine that each and every neurotypical is running for an office – even if it’s a tiny niche somewhere in the vast social hierarchy, and that each exchange with another person is only a campaign stop. Unless you have (relative) wealth or power, you aren’t worth a second handshake.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Every Person Counts

An example of the fundamental mismatch between social expectations and Asperger behavior comes from my own childhood. My mother was socially conscious; my father was Asperger. My mother was upset whenever my father did something that did not further her social goals, such as his habit of talking to the ‘wrong people.’ Wherever we went, my father would disappear for a few minutes because he was bored or tired of waiting. I was usually sent to find him, and invariably he would be chatting with a stranger as if he had come upon a long lost friend. This infuriated my mother. Why would my father waste his time with nobodies like mechanics or janitors or poor people? She never understood that my father saw human beings as existing on an equal plane and that interest in another person can have no more motive than the pleasure of chewing the fat. It didn’t matter that my father had no prior relationship to the person; it didn’t matter that he would not see him or her again. Amazingly, my father would often find out within a few minutes more in-depth information about a person’s life than my supposedly empathetic ’people person’ mother could be bothered with. 
I often went missing too, becoming wrapped up in the impromptu conversation between my father and the stranger. I learned a great deal from these encounters, not only about wrong judgments about how people look, but that every person counts, regardless of their social status.