Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Individual Is NOT The Enemy

Over the last few months, I’ve become aware of a great deal of dissension, quarrelling, and general lack of harmony in the autistic community, most especially online. It seems to lead to a lot of quarrelling between individuals, which often turns quite nasty. I wrote my recent blog post on bullying, in part because I felt that at least some of this discord resulted from misunderstanding of other people’s words, and the consequent loss of temper.

However I see now there is a bigger problem, and that is that we autistics often can’t SEE the bigger problem. So I want to put an idea forward, and I’m going to capitalise it, so it sears into people’s minds.

The Individual Is Not The Enemy. I’ll say that again, because it’s very important – The Individual Is NOT The Enemy. 

What do I mean by this? It’s simple. We’re a very mixed bunch, often with little in common but our autism, and there are always going to be other autistics we can’t get along with. People whose beliefs we think are stupid or illogical or sexist or racist or whatever. People who make us shudder, who we wouldn’t want to even be in the same room with, let alone the same community. People who we think are nasty, egotistical, manipulative, bullies, trolls, or any number of other insults or labels, take your pick.

But they are NOT the Real Enemy. They are a nuisance, and often painful to interact with, but they’re not the real foe.

So who, or rather, WHAT is? The Enemy, as I see it, is twofold.
1)     The systematic oppression and repression of autistics everywhere.
2)     The disharmony amongst ourselves that stops us effectively getting together and fighting the Number 1 Enemy.

While we squabble amongst ourselves online, horrible things are happening to us in the real world. Autistic kids are getting dosed with bleach or turps (yes, turps!), or unsafe and bizarre blood products or overdoses of supplements, or shoved into hyperbaric chambers, or being drilled in the ‘compliance training’ that is ABA at its worst. Autistics of all ages are being discriminated against, sacked, excluded, rejected, locked up, harassed, raged at, bullied, assaulted and even killed. And our murderers are excused (as are the murderers of almost anyone with a disability), because our lives are deemed less valuable, and killing us a ‘mercy’.

And if we do dare to speak up, we’re told that we’re ‘too high-functioning’, that we can’t speak for the ‘real’ autistics. But we know that no matter our supposed functioning, none of us deserve to be treated like this. And that the line between functioning levels is both imaginary and arbitrary anyway, and that at any time, we might step across it, and hence become a target for that kind of treatment – and indeed many of us have.

Meanwhile, misunderstandings about just what autism really is are everywhere, in the media, the education systems, amongst professionals, and the public at large. We are repeatedly told that we are an epidemic, a disease, a burden, a disorder, broken, brain-damaged, thieves of the ‘real’ person supposedly hidden beneath our autism, or all hackers and criminals, emotionless zombies, ‘like psychopaths’, mass murderers, etc, etc.

And all this will continue as long as we allow it to. It’s not going to be easy to stop it, but we have to do it, because no-one else is going to do it for us. We are the ones being dumped on, and we are the ones who must stop it. But we can’t do it if we’re divided and fighting amongst ourselves.

So I believe it’s time to take a good look at how we interact with each other. To resist the temptation to throw insults if we disagree with someone. To control our tempers, and if we can’t, to take time out until we can. To keep our dialogues and disagreements respectful. To argue the issue, not the person.

I know remembering all this in the heat of the moment is hard, and that it seems to be harder for us to forgive and let go of our anger and hurt, especially when we can’t see any reason why we should. I’ve been there, done that too, alas, all too often.

But it truly is a waste of our energy. Because – and remember the point I made above – The Individual Is Not The Enemy. They really aren’t. They may seem like it at the time, but the actual enemy is out there, and crapping from a great height on each and everyone of us. All. The. Time.

So I believe it’s time for each of us to step up and become ‘the bigger person’. To let old hurts go, and old sins. We don’t all have to be best buddies, but we can keep it civil, and work together when necessary (or apart, if necessary), to change the world.

I’m not saying it’s easy. But I am saying it can be done.

Let’s do it.