Adam Lanza Was Autistic…
…but other than that I actually know quite little about the guy. In my mind he’s more of a frightening myth than anything — an infamous mass murderer, or maybe a bogeyman, or even a comic book super villain. Of course, I know that he was anything but a myth for the families of the 26 people shot to death by Lanza in 2012 — most of whom were young school children. I know that for his victims and their families, Lanza was a very real and monstrous madman. And I also know that that once it became known that Lanza was autistic, the first thing many tried to do was make it clear that his atrocity had nothing to do with autism. I think they were understandably worried that the vast majority of utterly harmless autistic people would be stigmatized by Lanza’s actions, and so these well-meaning people tried to shift the topic of conversation to that of Gun Control and Lanza’s personal armory, as if Lanza’s obsession with guns was not a true example of the sort of “restricted interests” that are an autism stereotype; as if his school house massacre was not obviously a rare but virulent form of “autistic meltdown” and in no small measure a disastrous consequence of a lifetime of having been marginalized, ostracized, and rejected.
What am I missing here? In what sense did Lanza’s own idiosyncratic version of autism have absolutely nothing to do with his monstrous deed? It looks to me like it had a great deal to do with it.
Frustration Art: A Kinder, Gentler, and Occasionally Hilarious Form of Lone-Wolf Terrorism
If my autistic neurology grants me anything like a superpower, surely it’s my freakish ability to frustrate the shit out of at least some human beings. (Many others seem more or less immune to my gifts, and of course most people have simply never met me).
Although quite mystifying (especially for me), of course there’s really nothing magical about this ability. It doesn’t make me bullet proof, nor allow me to fly, nor see through walls. And I didn’t acquire it after being bitten by a radioactive bug. It is simply a natural consequence of the fact that I live in a very different world than do most, both conceptually and perceptually.
Technically or psychiatrically speaking I am not considered delusional nor am I hallucinating, but it’s almost as if my whole brain has an unusual astigmatism that makes some things seem much larger and more important, figuratively speaking, and other things seem smaller and more trivial than they might seem to a so-called “normal” person (whatever that is). You might say I suffer from various kinds of value delusions — by which I mean that my values (what I consider more or less important or trivial) are so very out of sync with the values of most other people in my life, that the disconnect often interferes with my ability to function in society: to maintain healthy collaborative relationships, hold down a full time job, etc. Of course, everybody suffers from this more or less to some extent, but with autism the differences are often more striking and consequential. It’s one thing to argue with people, but quite another to argue so much and so often and about stuff that seems so utterly ridiculous to them that few can stand to have anything to do with you.
For example, back in March (2018) I turned down an opportunity to sell my signature for $37,000.00. All I had to do was sign my name on a standard settlement agreement, and MetLife would have given me $37,000.00! But I couldn’t do it. I tried to do it. I almost did it. In fact, I shudder now when I think about how close I came to signing that damn thing. But in the end I just couldn’t do it. I had to really think it through — bake it thoroughly in my thought furnace — and I did, but I realize now that it would be easier for me to chew out my own tongue than to sign that settlement agreement.
And why? Well, subjectively speaking it’s just this feeling I get. It just feels wrong — really wrong, like I’m making a deal with the Devil or something, an unholy alliance.
That’s the subjective and executive summary, but I can at least try to articulate my reasons. This isn’t the place to go into all of them, but I will tell you that one of them begins with the fact that I once spent a good two years of my life obsessing about Actuarial Mathematics and still know how to calculate an Actuarial Present Value (APV) — essentially a rational estimate in today-dollars of some future payment (e.g. salary), accounting for interest and random events that might impact the final amount paid out — and when I did that for the MetLife career opportunity that was essentially stolen out from under me last year by roughly a dozen autism-ignorant individuals working for the company, I came up with an estimate of $1.7 million, which is a hell of a lot more than $37,000.00. So, one really important reason I couldn’t sign is that I knew these 12 or so individuals were trying to rip me off to the tune of $1.7 million dollars, give or take.
Now, if this is the first time you’ve ever encountered the concept of an APV, you’re not alone. Most folks have not, and unfortunately, if you have not and you’re response to all of this is anything like “WHAT ARE YOU NUTS!?!?” then I’m sorry to say that you’re simply wasting your time. For me, “what are you nuts”, with or without the caps and punctuation is simply not an argument against a given APV estimate. In order to challenge such an estimate, you have to challenge the assumptions that undergird it, which you cannot do with the “what are you nuts” tactic. If the best you can do is “what are you nuts”, then you might as well be trying to convince me that Santa and the Easter Bunny are both real and are in fact the true authors of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette. However crazy I might seem to you because I turned down an opportunity to make $37 thousand in exchange for a signature, you seem to me something like 46 times more crazy than that for suggesting that I might sell off an opportunity to earn $1.7 million for just $37,000.
Like I said, because I am autistic, I live in a very different world than most, both perceptually and conceptually, and sometimes these differences can frustrate the shit out of people. This sort of thing happens a lot with me, and it’s all due to my autistic neurology.
To be continued…
For an overview of my MetLife fiasco, try An Open Letter to A Certain EEOC Deputy District Director, although when I wrote that I hadn’t yet begun referring to the events in question as a form of gang rape, and I was still protecting the identities of MetLife and the company’s Seyfarth Shaw attorney Frederick “Fritz” T. Smith. In that document, the “gang rape” was described more literally as a Civil Rights violation, MetLife is called the “XYZ Insurance Company”, and Mr. Smith is referred to as “Batman”.
The number 46 is just the ratio of my APV estimate of $1.7 million to the $37 thousand offered by MetLife to replace it. That is $1.7 million/$37 thousand ≅ 46.
Image Credit: Pixabay, unless otherwise specified.