People with Asperger’s have enough of a job just coping with their own world. Asking them to care deeply about the rest of the world is an imposition, right? When I say care deeply, I’m not talking about the cheap and easy emotions of love and empathy. Neither one is intrinsically cheap or easy, but they’re tossed around as sufficient solutions to big problems, or used as props for egos, or reduced to greeting card platitudes that are available for a couple of dollars.
Being the information packrat that I am, I have dozens of articles on my computer, from back when I was learning about autism. Skimming around in them can bring up some pretty interesting stuff. Brain food. Matches to spark ideas. What was it about Profile of a Post Modern Outsider that prompted me to keep it? I’m not particularly interested in post modernity as a philosophy or a movement, if that’s an appropriate word, but this essay runs in parallel with my own approach to reality. What is post modernity? Because you do need to know that for this post to make any sense. Author Christopher Nagle offers a brief explanation.
“Post Modernity is not just an aesthetic of fragmentation or intellectual deconstruction. It is an emerging transitional period in which modern institutions and ways of life become damaged, dysfunctional, defensive and eventually defeated. (my italics) In such a time, as it becomes more turbulent and insecure, individuals and eventually entire populations must move on into uncertain and probably hazardous journeys into the future.”
Here is where Asperger’s comes in.
“It really helps to have a lifetime of outsidership under your belt. The earlier the start, the better the chances of escaping the immense gravitational pull of the dominant consciousness.”
Nagle says that his career as an outsider started very early, by age five, at least. He eventually discovered himself to be an aspie, which explained his outsiderliness. Unfortunately, he uses sufferers and disease, but this was in the less enlightened days of 2006. Everyone knows better now. Right?
He goes on to discuss a bit of history, including his own, which reached the point where, “It was as if I lived in a world that kept itself frenetically busy by overproducing and consuming mainly junk, so that it would never have to look into itself.”
Over time, “I never completely embraced the world I found myself in, partly because I couldn’t and partly because I didn’t want to. However, what I continued to do was meditate on that world to create an overview of what I was going through and how it and I had got there. I assembled both a personal and potentially collective ‘ride out’ strategy for what I felt that overview was pointing to.”
Coming back to the purpose of this post, I’ll quote Nagle one last time.
“The world is already very amply supplied by insiders whose reasonable, balanced and orthodox judgments re-enforce the overwhelming status quo. Negativity is not necessarily a vice just because the dominant culture repels it in favour of institutionalised megalomania and hubris.”
What I’m doing here is setting in motion an attack on the narrow self-involvement of so many aspies who are obviously intelligent and capable of deep levels of analysis, but never raise their heads to see beyond the autism “community.” For people who despise the idea that aspies are sufferers from a disease, they manage to collectively convey exactly that image. But that’s a topic for the future.
Personal blogs are personal, but they are also public. Collectively, aspie blogs resemble all those confessional books about abuse, drug addiction, whatever. There’s a huge difference between mea culpa or poor me, and material that can inform and show others the way to overcome. The difference between such books, and blogs is that once the book is written, it’s done. It either has a beneficial effect on others or it’s forgotten. Blogs can go on and on, with the potential for endlessly ripping off scabs and collecting sympathetic followers.
Autism will always be misunderstood, reviled, ignored, a subject of controversy. It will always require explanation by people who live with it, understand it, and have a talent for clarifying the complex issues that are central to it. And it is a valid personal choice to remain within that framework and be an explainer. Such people are needed because the bulk of autistic writing makes the same logical and intellectual errors that we find in any general selection of writing by NTs. In many instances, people on the spectrum know too little and assume too much, and add to the confusion.
So there are two issues here. 1. Understanding and explaining autism from the facts rather than one’s personal experience. 2. Moving beyond autism to the larger world and making a contribution that benefits everyone.
High IQ is no guarantor of creativity, of the ability to think through and analyze important issues, of original thinking. It isn’t a mark of superiority. That’s just as true for anyone on the spectrum as it is for the rest of the human population. The possession of those qualities should be a challenge to think large, rather than shut yourself in a narrowly defined, self-involved community. There aren’t many of you out there, just as there aren’t many truly creative artists or poets, or composers. High IQ makes you an outsider. Being on the spectrum makes you an outsider. Together, they give you a choice that most humans don’t have. To take the challenge or not.
Nagle’s article is a worthwhile read.