Blueberry Pie for Dinner!?!? — Yet Another Metaphor for Autism

beef_goulash_331x210You’re sitting in a restaurant with a friend trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. You decide on a savoury beef goulash, and your friend orders a banana split sundae.

“Whoa, what about dinner?” you say. “I thought we came for dinner, no?”

“Oh, right,” your friend says. “OK, I guess I’ll start with the blueberry pie. That looks yummy.”

“Uh…no, that’s not dinner either. Pick dinner food.

“Dinner food, right, yes. Um…well, the carrot cake looks –”

“Nope! Try again.”

“Creme brulee?”

“HOLY COW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? PICK A STEAK OR SOMETHING!”

Now, unbeknownst to you, the waiter had accidentally given your friend a dessert menu instead of the entree menu, so that’s why your friend keeps making all of these weird choices.

Without pretending to speak for all autistic people, I can tell you that for me the situation with autism is a lot like that. From a perceptual and conceptual standpoint, I live in a world that is quite different from that of so-called “normal” people. But for me at least, and unlike with the restaurant scenario, this perceptual and conceptual “menu” of mine actually overlaps sufficiently with that of everyone else’s so that I’m able to communicate and function under many conditions well-enough. For example, I’m definitely not actually delusional or hallucinating, but under various circumstances my behavior can strike many as bizarre or crazy, as if I were delusional or hallucinating.

So if you ever witness me making choices that strike you as, well, bizarre, it’s just because I’m not choosing from the same menu as you. You’re making your choices off of your Normal Person’s Menu and I’m making my choices off of my Autistic Person’s Menu.

Two different people, two different menus.

I hope that’s helpful!

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Mmmmm, dinner anyone? Image Credit: Pixabay

Towards a Manifesto for a Minimally Intolerant Civilization: Part 2

For context, please see Towards a Manifesto for a Minimally Intolerant Civilization: Part 1.

Note: the notion of diversity (i.e. weirdness in layperson language) is fundamentally subjective. One person’s weirdness is just what another person considers normal. Because of this, one must be careful with phrases like “my diversity” or “your diversity”. When I say “my diversity”, I could be referring either to what I judge to be weird about myself, but I might also be referring to what you judge to be weird about me. Similar remarks apply to phrases like “your diversity” or “her diversity”, etc. Because both interpretations are valid, I will take care in what follows to qualify which interpretation I’m using, unless either it doesn’t matter or is perhaps clear from the context.

Some Basic Principles Of Diversity Acceptance

For now at least, and until I encounter the sort of evidence that might change my mind, I hold at least these principles to be reasonable:

  1. Genuine diversity acceptance can only begin with genuine self acceptance of one’s own diversity. The better I can genuinely accept what I judge to be weird about myself, the better I can genuinely accept what I judge to be weird about you. I assume that you could affirm likewise, but please let me know if you think I’m wrong to assume that.
  2. Therefore, if I would like you to accept my diversity (what you judge to be weird about me), I should encourage you to accept your own (what you judge to be weird about yourself).
  3. Some forms of intolerance are necessary and good (e.g. intolerance of murder, rape, theft, pedophilia, etc.)
  4. The very best form of intolerance would be that which minimizes the need for any sort of intolerance overall.
  5. Intolerance is always on trial, and should never be given the benefit of the doubt. Intolerance is always presumed wrong unless proven right.
  6. One should always remain vigilant to the possibility that what was once a good form of intolerance has somehow turned bad.

I would love to know what you think about the above, especially if any of it rings false to you in some way.

Note: I’m not sure yet if there will be a part 3, but in the event I will post a link to it here.


Image Credit: Pixabay

Towards a Manifesto for a Minimally Intolerant Civilization: Part 1

I Hereby Protest!

What do I protest? Well, most things I think.

Do I really need to clarify that I’m not protesting the alleged “oppression” of White Men?If I do, then I protest the fact that I actually need to clarify that. Of course I’m not protesting that!!! And if there is anything else that you’re seriously worried that I might actually be protesting even though no sane person would protest it (e.g. the alleged oppression of pedophiles? Cannibals?), then let’s just assume that I’m not protesting that either, but that I am protesting the fact that I might actually have to clarify that.

But aside from the stuff that no sane person would protest anyway, I am definitely protesting everything that all sane people do or should protest. A few examples to make the general point:

I protest the persistent, cross-cultural delusion that women and children are somehow not quite real human beings; I protest the stark, raving folly that skin color or texture has moral significance; I protest the criminal notion that in many parts of the world homosexuality is still criminalized, and the shameful fact that most everywhere else it is still viewed as somehow shameful; I protest the embarrassing belief that ignorance is embarrassing; that a lack of education is something to feel embarrassed about; that a score on an IQ test can be viewed as embarrassingly low; and I protest the profoundly stupid belief that some questions actually are stupid, despite all of the fragile but otherwise true and admirable claims to the contrary.

I could go on, but I hope that gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of my protest. In short, I protest the generally dehumanizing stance taken toward pretty much every human being who is considered somehow “not normal” in some way that always works out to be irrational and arbitrary — ranging from the color of one’s teeth to the decision to wear a condom. I protest all of that nonsense — we might call it the sanctification of the norm,  or the demonization of the weird, or simply the excessive rejection of human diversity.

Whatever you want to call it, I hereby protest it.

To summarize:

I hereby protest the excessive rejection of human diversity.

[When part 2 is published, I’ll post a link to it here.]


Image Credit: Pixabay

Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 3

For part 2, see Towards A Survivor-Centric View of Rape: Part 2

“I don’t know. Rape is complicated. There’s a lot of grey area. Maybe the woman was too provocative. Maybe the guy didn’t realize she didn’t want to have sex with him. Are we sure it wasn’t just bad sex? Bad sex isn’t rape.”

Those are all valid points, provided you’ve never actually been raped. Once you’ve been raped, all of that looks like some sort of trick or smoke screen designed by rapists and exploited to keep themselves from getting caught. It’s as if the rapists of the world all got together and said,

Hey, we got a great thing going on here, but our victims are starting to accumulate, and if they start becoming aware of each other and talking to each other, they might organize and prevent us from raping them. We need a way to keep them under control and contain them — to keep them from talking to each other and to isolate them from everybody who cares about them and who might help them. We need a good “divide and conquer” strategy.

Ok, how about this: We’ll float a rumor that rape is “complicated”, that there’s a lot of “grey area”, etc. We’ll point out that women can be provocative — no wait! — make that too provocative, yeah, that’s good. They’re so provocative those women. And we can also exploit the fact that women are afraid of us, and especially afraid of getting beat up for refusing sex, and therefore often exploit the tactic of pretending to enjoy it so that they don’t get beat up or worse. Oh, and we should play up the bad sex angle. Everybody knows most dudes are just terrible in the sack….

One tragic and widely underappreciated consequence of rape is that (remember we’re focusing on the survivor here) getting raped instantly splits the entire world — which is to say every man, woman, and child — into two camps: friends and enemies. And the test to distinguish between members of these two camps is simple: for the survivor, a friend is anybody who gives her or him the benefit of the doubt — who simply assumes the victim is being honest, or perhaps “takes it on faith”, about the fact of the rape as well as its traumatic nature.

And everybody who doesn’t do that is either a rapist, or an accomplice (unwitting or otherwise), and therefore an enemy.

“Oh, now that’s just ridiculous. Now you’re saying that I become an accomplice to rape whenever I show a little healthy skepticism?

When your skepticism can be exploited by a rapist to hide and remain free to rape again then it’s not “healthy” skepticism.

Listen, I realize that you don’t actually want to be such an accomplice. In fact, it’s precisely because I’m pretty sure that  you don’t want to be some rapist’s accomplice that I’m trying to explain all of this to you. But if you really, really don’t want to help rapists get away with their crimes, then you must be sure to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone claiming to have been raped.

Unless you’ve been raped yourself, and unfortunately even if you have been raped, you may believe quite strongly and yet erroneously in what we might call the Myth of the Middle Ground. The idea here is that somewhere between a rapist and his or her victim is assumed to exist a kind of “No Man’s Land” where everybody else can stand while they ponder the evidence and try to figure out what really happened.

But from the perspective of the one who got raped, this is pure bullshit. From her point of view, there is simply no way to deprive her of the benefit of the doubt without simultaneously handing it over to her rapist. As the rape survivor sees it, there is no middle ground. It’s as if by raping her, the rapist captured the whole middle ground for himself. He captured its downtown, it’s uptown, its parks, its museums, and its shopping malls. By default, this renders virtually indistinguishable from an actual accomplice anyone who seriously tries to hold some position on that non-existent “middle ground”.