The most important thing I've learned from newspapers, television, and the Internet is that only a few people are being discussed. Most are thereby defined by this discussion as insignificant. Of course, the standard for a persons significance is constantly changing because the people which have the distinction of being important need to maintain the illusion by exclusive means.
In the discussion regarding diagnosis such as autism, I believe that nothing is more important than finding more ways to include the voices of people who have been disenfranchised. As I see the leadership in the United States has recently voted to launch more powerful weapons in the war against the poor, I'm reminded that nothing defines the economic poverty more than disenfranchisement, and a behavioral diagnosis is similar to a box that allows others to place you on a shelf where you can be more easily criticized and ignored.
The most critical problem I see with this exclusion is that when people begin to advocate against it, they tend to set up a similar standard. This becomes even worse when the methods of exclusion are copied from those who are described as opponents of their goal. Political agendas often become more important than the people the agenda's leaders claim they are aiming to help.
So much of our culture influences the belief that success is always earned.The way this is taught tends not to include the details of how our standards of success are based on commercial branding.Too often the belief leads to the humiliation and distrust of people who fall below the standard. Most are even ignored altogether as a result. Unfortunately, the standard is rarely explored and criticized, and therefore, many myths are maintained and used as weapons.
This makes learning how to encourage each other very difficult. We tend to imagine a commercial price tag on every human attribute and expression and rank each other accordingly. Many expressions which could be accepted and even celebrated as eccentricities are instead judged as substandard. This encourages recovery and overcoming of too many aspects of the human experience. It even happens to such a degree that it can lead to us forgetting how to enjoy life and appreciate each other.
Our guidebook of standards is like a product catalog that ranks our worth similarly to the way price tags are used. We then can't appreciate each other appropriately and because the value is seen in such a narrow context, our communication is very limited. Therefore, since we tend not to trust what we don't understand, we become unnecessarily defensive rather than empathetic and compassionate.
The cultural divide many of us experience is very real. It's important to recognize how these divisions occur so that realistic solutions can be found. To avoid acknowledging this often encourages simply another political agenda that widens the gap even further and excludes those who are in the biggest need of inclusion. The problem with identity politics isn't identity, it's the politics.
Human communication always includes labeling and ranking. Although the writers of the DSM and the industry that supports them cannot be trusted to do what is in the best interest of the people who are diagnosed based on their suggestion, I can't think of any system of labeling and ranking, which deserves unreserved and unregulated loyalty and trust. We can, however, use any label far beyond the intentions of those who have formed standards, which create harm.
Too often, people who are caught by the predominant labeling and ranking systems get ranked as insignificant and are therefore ignored by people with an anti-labeling political agenda. This is very unfortunate as well as unnecessary. Advocates can instead use what others meant for harm (or what became harm due to negligence) to empower an otherwise disenfranchised (and unrepresented) group.
Being involved in a society that is so driven by consumerism and bombarded with commercial images has a way of teaching us as individuals that we are also products. What is implied indirectly is that our cultural standard for significance defines most people as less valuable than the food and water we consume. If we as a culture don't begin to recognize the standard and the subtle ways it's taught, we can't begin to combat it.
Viewing things in a different way shouldn't lead to being excluded from discussions. In order to have a more inclusive society, we need to encourage more people to express themselves in diverse ways and thoughtfully consider a broader set of options. In this way, we can begin to introduce new ideas and show less interest in standards, which are designed to empower only an elite few. What these few would like to hide about the rest of us is important to understand, and we are important to everyone's future.
Every time activists in the U.S. have sought to reform the mental health/developmental disabilities/ mental retardation/etc. system, their efforts (which always became compromises) ultimately strengthened the system and made it more difficult to stop.
Dorothea Dix came along when a change was obviously needed and set a president for how reform was to take place. Mainly, this reformation put the determination of rights for those mainly affected by the system in the hands of political opportunists.
The response to the public recognition of the abuses in places like Willowbrook included the creation the Protection and Advocacy agency which protected the system from being independently investigated.
In the same way, that sterilization was originally sold as a right, forceable institutionalization law are sold as the way to ensure that those who were in the most need of care could be assured adequate support.
Today it's obvious to those who are treated the worst by this system that it was never designed for their benefit but is instead an unfair weapon in the class war for allowing the judicial system to incarcerate misfits and promote the careers of politicians.
There is no mystery in why such low standards are used to evaluate science regarding autism or why the pharmaceutical companies have started a new propaganda campaign to promote their new products due to the ritalin campaign getting old.
Of course the behaviorists are getting away with more abuse than ever (including murder) and the solution is described as impossible due to the severity of the behavior problems. The abuse is being exposed mainly by those who are advocating more formal integration of standard behaviorism in schools by using laws that claim that children will be safer.
A class war is determined by hierarchy. The people at the bottom of the ladder know very well how the system works and are listened to the least. If you don't yet see that compromise is not an option it's mainly because you aren't at the bottom yet. However, if you review the history of the system and analyze how quickly the system is expanding to include you, you'll understand that either you or someone very close to you soon will be.
Posted at 10:39 PM in ABA, attitudes, autism, autistic advocates, big pharma, commercialism , disability, empowerment, eugenics, human warehouses, learning disabilities, medical model, mentally ill, neurodiversity, PBS, politics, psychiatry, public programs, Science, social Darwinism | Permalink | Comments (0)
Though the ideas from early American Putirtan culture are hundreds of years old, some of that type of thinking can be found in today's culture as well with regard to how disability is viewed and more specifically how autistics are treated.
The authority during the Salem witch trials was practically in a state of paranoid frenzy due to the fear of having their authority challenged. They were not only concerned with punishing the accused but wanted no trace of them if the accusation proved false. This would prevent the potential for them being charged with falsely arresting people or with abusing their authority.
It says here:
"Dunking is a form of torture and punishment that was applied to scolds and supposed witches.
In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway."
After the notorious Salem witch trials:
"Reversals of attainder and compensation to the survivors and their families
Title page of A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale (Boston, 1702)The first hint that public call for justice was not over happened in 1695, when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the handling of the trials by the Puritan leaders in Chapter 29 of his book Truth Held Forth and Maintained, expanding on Increase Mather by stating, "it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a witch, which is not a Witch". For publishing this book, Maule was imprisoned twelve months before he was tried and found not guilty."
Although, today's courts are often described as favoring the presumption of innocence, factors such as economic status, race, and the presumption of ability and competency heavily influence the outcome of a court trial (being viewed as less competent encourages a guilty verdict). Even social skills and how likeable someone is cannot be ruled out as being influential.
With the overwhelming influence of modern technology and the opportunities that present for networking, communication on the Internet largely impacts cultural views as well as how people vote on public policy. Furthermore, the fear encouraged by eugenist in the past century has greatly influenced our cultural bias against disability. This bias is even more pronounced with a disability relating to competency and mental stability. All this combined with the fear-mongering recently from autism advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks, causes autistics to receive a lot of negative attention.
Similar to the ways supposed witches were presumed guilty of crimes and sentenced without an opportunity to defend themselves, autistics who assert themselves on the internet regarding public policy which affects them are often treated with no respect and little if any opportunity to express themselves.
With that in mind I've written some ideas/questions regarding cultural views about disability and more specifically how this influences the experience of autistics that advocate their rights on the Internet. Here are the questions:
How often has the person living with someone who has a disability ( a parent, caretaker, etc.) had more opportunities to voice their view about the disability than the person most directly affected?
How often have non-disabled people been justified in harming a disabled person due to the public's empathy of what is seen as the able person's burden? How often is this done in relation to the frequency of the disabled person having the way they were being abused, understood and validated?
How often are the expressions of frustration from the abused disabled person accepted in a public discussion? How often is it ignored? In contrast how often does the person living with someone with a disability (parent, caretaker, etc.) express frustration for their perceived burden and have that be accepted and validated? What crimes against the disabled has this acceptance led to?
Based on what is known about something, in particular, that can be called autism (that which can be cured/removed/fixed), how often are people with conditions with a similar amount of information known about that solution (or the lack thereof) asked if they want that condition cured?
How often does a discussion that involves issues that are most relevant to a particular group of people include having them provided the least opportunity to express their views and have that view be respected? How much more often does that happen when this is related to a disability? What about with a developmental disability? How about in relation to autism?
How much is understood about the lives of adult autistics when they were children? How much effort goes into learning about that and how much is simply presumed? How do convenient presumptions affect communication? What does making convenient presumptions reflect about the person making them when someone they live with has a communication disorder? How much better could they (the person with the disorder) communicate with the people in their lives if those people weren't making convenient presumptions?
What role does shame play in someone's emotional development? What about academic development? How much is being done to ensure that autistics will not need to be ashamed in the future no matter how competent they are perceived? What are children learning about the importance of competency and will they feel proud when they arrive at the standard cultural expectations (or the ones of their family) or will they always be ashamed of what they haven't achieved and try to degrade others in order to achieve that sense of pride? Who is ultimately served by this striving to achieve?
What do the money and time spent on the gambling everything on the fix or cure in relation to what is spent on encouraging self-esteem and empowerment reflect about the value others place on these people? What does the money and time spent on the gamble to fix them in relation to what's spent on education and vocational training reflect? What about nationally? globally? community efforts? individual households?
Note: Nothing encourages injustice more than the false claim that justice is being served.
People receiving accommodation and accessibility pursuant to policy changes regarding disability does not negate that the intention of the original policy design was meant to provide a convenience for what gets described as the "general public" more so than for aid to those who receive the label. This is especially true for disabilities that refer to intellect and behavior.
The increase in the number of people labeled is in direct proportion to an increasingly exclusive and bigoted society as well as an increase in population. It doesn't seem productive to me to protest the labeling except for the purpose of opposing the harmful treatment. Usually though, such objections are more geared toward the ideal of encouraging people to overcome weakness. Unfortunately, the language associated with overcoming is often used more to promote the derogatory stereotypes than it is anyone's empowerment.
There is not much of a dividing line in regard to cultural understanding between intellectual deficit and mental instability. The judicial system has greatly influenced these beliefs. The majority of people are hurt by these assertions and are either institutionalized or completely ignored and denied any type of aid as a result.
Since the broader awareness and understanding of deficits are not creating better accommodation and accessibility for the majority of people(and often the bigotry encouraged from broader awareness causes the opposite response) the goal of promoting the more positive cultural perspectives is essential to inclusion and acceptance. It's irresponsible to attempt policy changes without the preservation of dignity for the person labeled with the deficit being the top priority.
The current cultural understanding of behavior in the U.S. as it relates to intellect, mental stability, and character was greatly influenced by the Eugenics movement and more specifically by the efforts of the American psychologist Henry H. Goddard.
"Henry Herbert Goddard (August 14, 1866 – June 18, 1957) was a prominent American psychologist and eugenicist in the early 20th century. He is known especially for his 1912 work The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, which he himself came to regard as deeply flawed, and for being the first to translate the Binet intelligence test into English in 1908 and distributing an estimated 22,000 copies of the translated test across the United States; he also introduced the term "moron" into the field.
He was the leading advocate for the use of intelligence testing in societal institutions including hospitals, schools, the legal system and the military. He played a major role in the emerging field of clinical psychology, in 1911 helped to write the first U.S. law requiring that blind, deaf and mentally retarded children be provided special education within public school systems, and in 1914 became the first American psychologist to testify in court that subnormal intelligence should limit the criminal responsibility of defendants."
"By the late 1920s, Goddard had reversed many of his early opinions, declaring in multiple public forums that he had been gravely mistaken in many of his most famous conclusions (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 324-326). He had begun to question the validity of the tests that were used to detect morons, and he stated emphatically that his former belief that morons could not be educated satisfactorily was wrong. In addition, he frequently voiced his new opinion that feeble-minded people should be allowed to have children, if they choose to do so. He asserted in a 1927 article for Scientific Monthly that the concept of segregation colonies had been a bad idea (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 324-326).
However, Die Familie Kallikak was printed in Germany in 1914 and reprinted in 1933 shortly after the Nazis came to power. Goddard never intended for his book to be connected with Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust. In 1938 and 1939, he tried unsuccessfully to use his influence to help the daughter of a Jewish colleague escape from Austria (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 333-335). Subsequently, a psychology text by Columbia University psychologist Henry Garrett (1961) provided a brief, and rather embellished, overview of the Kallikak study to bolster his eugenicist arguments. Although these interpretations stood at odds with Goddard's opinions later in his life, these and related events have helped to paint the rather negative picture many people still hold of Goddard and his work."
I think it's very important to understand that the most prevalent views regarding these issues are anything but liberating.
Bigoted views result from people's dependence on convenience, their unwillingness to explore the history of language, and the constant submission to shame-based behavior, which encourages us to seek ways of belittling rather than empowering each and rather than staying focused on doing our individual best.
There are people who are so removed from the majority of people and have therefore become completely indifferent to common struggle that they intend to relieve hardship (their own hardship, but it's conveniently described as ours) by eliminating part of the population. Too often people continue to echo the language which was designed by them as well as encourage their agenda without paying much attention to how the attitude continues with a snow-ball effect.
The way we use language regarding intelligence and mental stability is very important and oppression would never survive if the people behind oppressive agendas were unable to depend on the ways we encourage language subtly that support their efforts. If we were more careful to watch the way we contribute to our own demise, their efforts would not be nearly so successful.
During Autism Awareness month of April 2011, Robert MacNeil promoted his perspective of autism on television. I'm sure Mr. MacNeil's views on autism will be popular and well received but unfortunately there will be little if any nuance added to this mainstream view that traditionally prevents the educational and vocational opportunities for autistics and promotes the fear campaigns that encourage the worst stereotypes.
In the same way that the views of groups like Autism Speaks and the funding campaign efforts of the Jerry Lewis marathon are exploitive and disabling, the oppressive nature of the psychiatric industry and other medical abuses will go practically unchallenged due to the influence of commercial advertising. Anyone presenting rational alternatives and attempting to discuss practical ideas in a non-threatening environment will be either attacked or co-opted so that the issues which are important remain polarized.
Politics, political agendas, and bullies (and the politics and political agendas of bullies) consistently discourage rational views from being expressed on the internet whenever issues that concern disability are discussed.
This is a tradition that has always provided an ample opportunity for greedy politicians and corporate executives with an insatiable apatite for power to determine the policy that affects people with disabilities and encourages exclusion and negative stereo types.
My impression of online discussions is that we as a society are losing our ability to trust our neighbor, and we often tend to objectify and stereotype each person we meet. This begins by polarizing every discussion and seeing alternative viewpoints (however slight) as a threat to our self-esteem. It's difficult to know what we really believe because our thinking is so attached to the image we display and who we are that an objective view of our expressions is impossible.
Of course there will always be a mainstream view of what autism is ( MacNeil is just one celebrity who will present this narrow view) and due to unregulated commercial advertising and the impact it has on the views of people who want to "make a difference", nuances that are more accepting of diversity will be practically absent from the discussions where that view is presented. However, commercialism and mainstream politics is not what determines the truth. If we truly are interested in becoming a more accepting culture that is promoting diversity, we will find more ways to encourage the voices of individuals without regarding their category or status to determine the value of their expressions, and we will find value in what we hear them say.
In order to create and/or maintain a closed society the people in command must control the information AND the entertainment. The messages that get regularly reinforced will teach people to believe that there are limited resources which more important than many of the people who use them. In other words, that some people are worth more dead than alive.
One group need to believe that they are entitled and therefore become active in their community and in politics so that what they see as their rights will be preserved. The other group needs to be shamed into believing they are unworthy and taught shame-based behavior. This confirms the beliefs of the first group and keeps the second fighting among each other rather than uniting and working for change.
If exclusion was just the result of flaws in the system, the plans for change would be practical and possible and more of them would be implemented. Until more people who aren't being favored are allowed to make unique contributions to society so that they believe they are worthy of inclusion and the rewards that follow, they won't honor and respect any of their so-called provisions. Even worse, they won't feel that way about themselves or anyone else.
The folks at Pennsylvania Ave. don't need to hear more from U.S. citizens or from more of U.S. citizens in order for needed change to happen. We can't make them care. Our society is trapped by some kind of pathological belief that we can and should change politicians, and that is accompanied by a co-dependent slave mentality that makes us fear challenging the status quo.
This combination glorifies bullies and gang wars, which are politely described in terms of identity politics. It encourages everyone to micro manage each other based on standards dictated to us by corporations (mainly the psychiatric industry which coordinates efforts with our judicial system) and be disgusted by the diversity we're taught is a weakness while apathetically awaiting a miraculous savior to grace the oval office.
The method of operation in our current government is such that the corporations in command of our political system have a responsibility to their stock holders to oppose caring when it interferes with profits.
The people who care are the people who can change things, and they don't have those financial and political limitations. They are the ones that need to hear our voice and the disenfranchised need to be empowered with something as old-fashioned and trite as kindness at every opportunity. That kind of change doesn't come from Washington.
If you don't see how you've been held hostage, pimped out, or otherwise exploited by the Democratic party based on Republicans being worse then you are either part of the problem, or you aren't paying close attention.
Change happens in the minds and hearts of people. When people are empowered to think they change what they believe, how they feel, and ultimately how they act. When enough of that happens the government will have no choice but listen but until then they have nothing to listen to.