The address for my blog The Standard Review has changed. The new address is:
Using a puzzle piece as a symbol for autism awareness encourages the idea that our society is interested in support for autistics. Not only is this not helpful but the way the campaigners are falling short of the supposed goal is only the beginning how this causes problems.
Disability rights activists have done much to encourage a better view of disability but bigoted traditions are deeply rooted in our culture. The ways that pity is not only hurtful but dangerous is not something society's leaders have been willing to accept. If you describe a problem in order to provide a solution but then don’t provide one, you have instead defined the people with the problem as needing to be eliminated. This is what promotes autism awareness, and the abuse and neglect of autistics has been encouraged as a result of the campaign.
The puzzle piece symbol encourages people to believe that autistics are mysterious, and that we have some strange disorder. It's believed that there is an epidemic of autism similar to an alien invasion. The way our society deal with an alien invasion is similar to what is taught in science fiction movies. We attack with the goal of eliminating the aliens. Some would claim the goal is to eliminate the source, but this is not the way our culture deals with these issues.
Empowerment is such an obvious concept to people who need it most. It's similar to how someone who is dehydrated in the desert can envision water when there is none. In order to encourage inclusion, we must first accept that our society is not geared to include more people at all. The dominate goal is exclusion and disenfranchisement. When we are willing to accept that we are exclusive and that our traditions encourage presumption and bigotry; we will be in a position to work on changing it.
Similar to the way activists within the disability community have attempted to alter the ablism our society encourages, some autistics have attempted to use the Internet to alter the view of autism. The message has been ignored, politicized, and otherwise exploited in all the traditional ways. This is not only harmful to autistics but it's a sign our society is more willing to choose the convenience of hatred for any uncomfortable differences than to support people who exhibit the difference.
The more fashion conscious politicians would like to change our name, eliminate all labels, or only look at autism in a medical/professional way or for how policies are created. Unfortunately, all these ways of dealing with the how people are being exploited due to something that is disguised as support are following the same tradition of exclusion. Mainly, the people who are leading the way in what is described as a revolution are the professional politicians, educators, and mental health workers.
In this way, every attempt at supporting people’s rights have failed and there is no movement or attempt at revolution that we can follow. It’s wonderful that there are a few people now working to support inclusion for autistics but there are many traps. We don’t need better advocates, and we don’t only need more. We certainly don’t need to show how some can pass the exclusion test or how autism is just a bad part of an otherwise acceptable exclusionary system. What we need is for more people who are advocating to embrace a type of advocacy that is truly revolutionary and one that unlike any other such attempt begins to create real inclusion. Otherwise, we will continue to be objectified as puzzle pieces and attacked as aliens. Any attempt at inclusion that gets co-opted by any group with a more important agenda will instead promote exclusion.
The Autism Awareness Campaign continues to mislead the public about the supposed beneficiaries in a way that is very harmful. There isn't much good that can come from making people aware that a specific group is in need of particular support or accommodation, unless there is also an attempt to provide it. Aspiring to make people aware of a vague goal (which is how I see these campaigns) without also providing the needed support will teach why the acceptance is instead harmful to the supposed important segment of the population.
I often hear people describe a better life which includes some types of people being seen as inferior and the wishes of these types are shown to be insignificant in many different ways. This is indirectly a way to define those who are the most vulnerable as having little or no value. Of course, these standards are always originally set by the least vulnerable people, and their justification is based on the claim that they earned the right to set them.
Overt exclusion is based on the view of limited resources but vague pity, and the subtle way that people are deprived of determining how they are treated also results from that type of view. The people encouraging the myth of limited resources aren’t doing so in order for them to have enough. They can’t comprehend the meaning of enough. They just want more. However, they can’t acquire more unless the rest of us adopts their values. We must engage in the same ranking system in order for their agenda to be realized. We are too many to conquer externally. This must be accomplished by each of us adopting an exclusionary attitude which ultimately serves our oppressor.
Too often the best effort is made only trying to show why yet another group should be accepted. This doesn’t address the more subtle ways that exclusion is accomplished and blatant exclusion is easier to challenge. Understanding and mutual respect are the resources we have plenty of and is the easiest to renew. This is unfortunately the type of resource that our culture sees as the most limited. Once something is seen to be occupying the supposed limit to the amount of time and energy for our limited supply of compassion; people won't seek to do more.
We can't simply support the existing campaigns or hope that the acceptable people getting involved can alter the agenda. The approach that will make things different doesn't fit with the present one. The people who need to be getting involved continue to be seen as insignificant objects, which provide society with the sense their charity obligations are being fulfilled. Once people who need support are also seen as worthy of dignity and respect, we will begin striving for an inclusive society based on equality and respect. Until then, what gets labeled charity is serving the agenda of a few whose ultimate goal isn't charitable at all.
When I'm around people a lot that perceive the world in a particular way, and when I take that same perspective, I see myself as worthless; it's important for me to remember that is only their perspective, and that I'm better than that. The particular perspective I'm referring to here is that of a politician. I don't believe that it honors anyone else either, but it certainly attempts to at the expense of myself and many others.
I was recently reminded just how narrow the vision of politicians really is. It’s easy to forget sometimes when the volume of their voice drowns out reason and compassion. It reminds me, of how I can look at the sky when I’m in the city and forget that the reason it’s blue is because most of the earth is covered by ocean. While we as humans may depend on the ocean to survive, it doesn’t require our involvement. Most of what people do in relation to the ocean does more to hurt than help it and most of the ways that people get involved in policy making hurt rather than help those who are claimed to be the beneficiaries.
Autism is something that affects people’s lives but once people begin discussing policies regarding those with the diagnosis; their minds travel into a strange and brutal realm where people, and their needs must be ignored so that politicians can participate in their sport.
People cease being people when what policy which will serve some group of people is decided in something resembling an athletic event. Money and rank are what makes someone less vulnerable, and these are the tools which are used to decide what policies are best for those who are most vulnerable due to their not having money and rank. Therefore, the best anyone can do in a political arena without the proper equipment (the money and the rank) is to find a way to side with the least exploitive team or accept the type of exploitation that is the least objectionable.
A politician will define themselves as pragmatic and describe anyone who challenges the traditions of politics as overly idealist and naïve. This protects their position at your expense. Unfortunately, it also protects the traditions which are harming the majority of people and instead of encouraging dialogue, which could lead to a better understanding of needs, the politicians become more aggressive toward anyone with a unique perspective when their own mistakes become more apparent.
Unique perspectives will also be defined by politicians as selfish. Solidarity is all that preserves their position so anything that is different must be defined in terms of the way it ranks accordingly. The only thing anyone can be seen as is someone competing with leadership in order to lead people in a different direction. By default, this direction represents to them a threat so it must be described as dangerous and the person, of course, must be defined as a villain.
Sometimes politics is nothing more than a fashion show. No one can survive the whims of political fashion without either becoming a bully or a victim of bullies. It's usually a combination of the two.
In this arena, the needs of the autistic person are decided by people who will assume a political position whatever that position may be. They will claim that nothing important occurs from outside the political arena. This ultimately defines those who are outside as also being outside the group that is important. If you are not important, you will not be seen as worthy of having your needs met. Politicians who claim otherwise are often trapped in a maze. Their own exploitation is foreign to them so the way they exploit others escapes their vision as well.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house " ~ Audre Lorde
We can either try to understand and accommodate people and find more ways to include them, or we can find ways that we can out rank them and show that they are insignificant. The ranking will always exclude those who are fashionably less popular, but fashions change. The more practical alternative choice is also the most compassionate.
People are more important than their tools. That includes the tools used to liberate them. If the realm where people are supposedly being liberated isn’t involved in listening to them, learning what they think and what they need because they are seen as worthy of thinking and deciding for themselves, the perspective this realm promotes will most likely cause them to be ranked as also not being worthy of having their needs met.
Recently, the mainstream media has once again depicted murders of disabled people in a completely irresponsible way. Both George Hodgins, an autistic man, and Daniel Corby an autistic boy, were killed within the past month. Rather than only suggest how unfair the decision of those who ended their lives was similarly to the way other murders are reported; the focus was instead on how these people’s burdensome disability must have contributed to their killer's choice.
It is wrongly assumed too often that our culture is sophisticated enough to demonize the disability without doing the same to the person with the disability similar to the way some describe hating the sin but loving the sinner. Despite each individual’s spirit, we as a culture cannot safely assume that the way we depict particular disabilities will not encourage abuse and even murder. For we who are targeted in this way, the correlation between the two is obvious.
Despite the popular impression of how our justice system operates, people with disability and inconvenient cultural diversity aren't treated very differently than criminals. In fact, there continues to be many opportunities to the people with the power and inclination to do so, to criminalize the ways the people of these categories are different.
Convenience is the most valued commodity for many people, and therefore, it is often also the most exploited. Unless the category of people you are defined as fitting is seen to help create more power (or at least the illusion of more power) for the most powerful people; those people are probably working to create laws that will encourage the belief that you are a burden on society.
The categories encourage a place, and a duty for every individual based mainly on how they are seen to add value or the lack of it to the collective. The leaders of industry have the power and opportunity to set these laws which determine your place and therefore, your supposed value. Having a disability means that your ability is completely inconvenient for them. It means that you are seen as needing care and therefore, the care giver (and similarly, the rest of society) will be seen as deserving sympathy for having to tolerate you.
One example of how cultural exclusion was made legal in early America is the way that physician Samuel A. Cartwright defined the desire of a slave to be free as the psychiatric disorder called drapetomania. Black slaves were defined by law as only partially human, and it was claimed that their skin color indicated less sensitivity to pain. This, of course, made their physical punishment appear less cruel so it could then be applied more severely.
The harmful ways the reputation of the medical establishment lent credibility to the descriptions of slaves in order to protect the financial interest of plantation owners is similar to how people with disabilities are cruelly defined by the main-stream media in order to only promote the value of care givers rather than those described as their burdens.
Today slavery in America is mainly only described in terms of our history. However, although the ways that utilitarian attitudes are encouraged may appear more subtle now to most, we still have some extreme ways of discriminating and punishing inconvenient people that our mainstream media refuses to accept responsibility for. Our industry leaders demand that the media continue spreading propaganda, which shows people whom the leaders find inconvenient to have no value at all.
Despite the promises of finding causes and cures for autism, there is little proof. The fear of having to deal with the burden of the autistic person encourages people to treat autistics in the worst possible ways. The spread of lies about our lack of empathy, contributing to financial burdens, and divorce of our parents is what has truly reached epidemic proportion.
The people who can’t understand and appreciate people’s value beyond the strict utilitarian view that industrialists encourage through the mainstream media shouldn’t be involved in promoting societal values. I hope that everyone who does appreciate people's value and can avoid these unfair judgements will work to end the harmful lies being told.
Ability isn't more important than happiness. Besides, emotional stability is an essential foundation to learning. Therefore, nothing is more important than how disability is viewed. If someone's value isn't understood; it's the result of an oversight. To view it otherwise ensures that we as a culture soon won't have enough compassion (which is our greatest resource) for our species to continue.
Disclaimer :I give my permission for this post to be reprinted in order to raise awareness of this issue.
My goal as a disability advocate is to challenge the current standards which are unfair. The need for this is shown in how both the words ableism and disabilism are used interchangeably. Both are sides of the same coin (so to speak). It is because we live in an ablest society with unfair standards that we have people who are limited due to their inability to meet those standards.
Within what is referred to as the online autism community, the response of some advocates to unfair standards is not helpful. It can discriminate against autistics for no other reason than attempting to validate a few.
When people use the term autistic, it can refer to a diagnosis given by a professional. That can be extended to include more people and can be used constructively when it refers to a social rather than the medical model. However, once autism becomes Autism, a new set of standards are set in place so that once again some will be excluded and discriminated against.
Politics (the environment public policy is decided) is an extension of the law which demands more attention be paid to subtlety and nuance. There must be a method of differentiating between what roles, we who are in need of support need to assume, and ones we need to either delegate or make exchanges in order to obtain. Without recognizing this, autism politicians (both the autistic variety and the guardian) have built a wall (metaphorically speaking) around the arena where policy is decided, which excludes mainly those who are claimed as being the benefactors.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." ~Audre Lorde
I wish that the guardian portion of the online autistic community (the parent, professionals, presumed supporters, etc.) would realize that by following the medical model tradition of separating autistics into categories of levels of functioning and adhering to age appropriate standards, they create more unnecessary pressure on everyone. These standards were never meant to help the majority of people succeed, and they do more to demand unreasonable level of performance by a particular age and have people ignored or accused of abhorrence or laziness if they don't meet the standard. It also supports needless labels of high or low functioning in order to dismiss people so that they are conveniently considered unable or too disobedient to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, in the same way as a church will dismiss and/or exclude those whom they find inconvenient as being in possession of bad spirits, medical professionals and therefore, other supports available to the general public will demonize a person who is considered to have behaviors that result from exposure to environmental toxins. Because people with a diagnosis that includes inconvenient behaviors are devalued in society, claims of disorders being caused by environmental toxins are publicized though they have little or no scientific support. Again, this also leads to more people being labeled as either high or low functioning and either will be used interchangeably in different circumstances to justify ways your rights are denied.
All this indicates to me that autistics need (based in part to the label and in part the behavioral differences that our culture will recognize as inappropriate) to have exclusive standards challenged. This does not mean that we need to make a place for ourselves (metaphorically speaking) at an already established exclusionary table. As long as we are working toward equality, there is a morality involved in our efforts, which will provide us with rights. However, if instead we create exclusive clubs and follow similar exclusionary practices at the expense of others in similar ways as what was done to us; I see little value in our efforts.
“"First they came…" is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.”
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Many during this were too willing to allow neighbors and even family to be persecuted because they were among those who initially passed the acceptance test. Unfortunately, when a category that defined them was also included as one which was seen as unacceptable, all those who would have been there to protect them had already gone. I hope this can serve as a reminder of how fragile our privileges are and how important it is not take them for granted. It’s important not to do things, which provide for what are considered our own rights, which ultimately come at the expense of someone else’s.