Saturday, July 19, 2008

Honorable Mention

The methods that are used to categorize people can sometimes be very useful. It can give people a sense of belonging and provide the comfort of knowing that they're not alone. What isn't necessary and what creates problems is when a population of people has their category devalued in ways that can often just as easily be described as different. If different people make typical people uncomfortable, change is less likely.

Valuing difference threatens some people because what they themselves do and who they are that is more typical would also then have to be seen by them and others to be less valuable. This difference that threatens them is often really their own and they are caught up in a value system that is (at least for the moment) providing them with confidence and reassurance (however false it may be).

This unnecessary method of exclusion and oppression is very much a method that affects autistics. We are not uniquely excluded from a system that judges others fairly. In fact quite the contrary is true. I don't think any human who is in some way different than what is considered typical is not marginalized in some ways by our differences.

When the aspects of our difference gets targeted as what can and must be eliminated these unrealistic value judgments serve as justification for punishment. All human traits are present in every person, or they are potentially present. Therefore, trying to eliminate or fix what you can't completely define puts everyone at risk of being unfairly judged.

Sometimes I hear people who are advocating for autistic people describing our place in society as what I would call that of being worthy of honorable mention. I hear this being said in ways that to me sound like saying something that gives the impression that low functioning autistics can be pitied and made to be tolerable and high functioning people need to be responsible for how they act in ways that society sees as inappropriate (no matter how inappropriate this judgment is).

This is not reserved for autistics at all but this screwed up value system often gets amplified when it comes to how autistics get treated.

I have worked at jobs that paid one dollar a day or even worse. I have been shown a statement of my earnings that said my wages went entirely for my "care" while I was at work. That is not at all like going for on-the-job training. Working at such jobs is what they are training people to remain doing.

I've also been taken out of such programs when it was seen that my appearance and social skills didn't accurately describe my competency level (for people who view things in this way) and placed in another program that I couldn't even be trained for because of abilities I don't have. This amplifies their objective to me. Training and accommodations for certain types of people is often rejected because of "the gate" that it is said to open for others with similar difficulties being seen as expensive.

Of course the problem is that these people who make such exclusionary judgments waste their resources. The biggest resource they waste is the people they exclude.

Another example of wasteful exclusions based on societies wrongful methods of determining value are how the owners of companies collect cooperate welfare (often with very little of their profits that filtering down to their employees) without being shamed by the public while those who often work harder against greater difficulties are provided handouts and shamed by the public by being defined as lazy beggars.

Value judgments that determine status can also determine a lot of inappropriate punishments that are considered lawful but are quite unjust. Once a person establishes themselves in society their behavior is often seen quite differently.

A cashier at Exxon that skims money from their bank roll may be doing this to feed their family and been convicted without an opportunity to acquire the adequate counsel so that they even have a chance at defending themselves based on their financial means. On the other hand a banker who does something similar for much less honorable reasons may be excused based on their ability to acquire a defense and even if convicted only get sent to a white collar prison/resort.

I can't imagine anyone believing that there are many real "entry level jobs" or shoe string business's that provide a real hand-up as I've heard it referred to by many people. Believing in such things is silly. If more such things were available more people would eventually be employed at better jobs after using such jobs as stepping stones. These "opportunities" are designed with an entirely different purpose in mind.

If reading this seems depressing, it's not intended that way. My point is that our class system is made up of ridiculous and often harmful judgments that create the marginalization of many minorities and persons with disabilities. This is what I see as the basis for the marginalization of autistics. This can be more easily turned around than many other obstacles.

I don't think that it's helpful or wise to tell an autistic person that they can be protected by the law only if they are also seen as deserving pity. It doesn't make much sense either to provide them with a goal of attaining the opposite status of a "normal" acting person that is capable of being taught to behave in socially acceptable and clearly understandable ways either. That doesn't inspire me. Who are we really being asked to protect and who gets hurt as a result of our efforts? What types of values are we being asked to justify and who's benefiting?

All such thinking protects is a protection system that is too wrapped up in a warped set of values to see real justice as it ought to be and too irresponsible to change.

Teaching people inappropriate values does not prepare them for the "real" world. Too often those who teach such values are simply preparing autistic people to live in a world that "they" have decided is real in order to protect their own (the teacher's) image and status. You can't expect people to accept the "real" image that you define for them if your number one priority isn't building their confidence and self respect. I also believe your respect for them is shown by the respect you show for other autistics.

Autistics just like everyone else can and do abuse the privilege of being treated respectfully but also like everyone else we deserve to have the right to ruin our lives without the aid of others.

Mentioning people as valid vs. invalid based on how they are configured honors no one.

I also don't think that anyone benefits from dividing people of any configuration by seeing part of that population as being in need of pity and reform. Most people who receive more essential things like respect and encouragement never need these things. What support we do need is a natural extension of the respect and encouragement we are shown.

7 Comments:

At 4:59 PM , Blogger lichen said...

I liked this post until you said:

"Autistics just like everyone else can and do abuse the privilege of being treated respectfully but also like everyone else we deserve to have the right to ruin our lives without the aid of others."

What exactly do you mean? Everyone deserves respect, regardless of age, race, class, disability, neurological state, etc. And, I don't think that many people are concerned about the 'right to ruin our life.'

Rather, what I thought you were hinting at here, and what I really believe, is that we should have a system of full employment, with everyone receiving accommodations for their individual needs at jobs with benefits, living wages, good working conditions (democratic workplaces, cooperatives) with time off, etc. I don't think there is really anything we can do just as autistics; it is much better to join and extend, so that everyone will be seen as a valuable member of society, no one will be homeless, starving to death, or on their own and so ruined that they can't live anymore.

 
At 5:26 PM , Blogger Ed said...

Lichen,
We may be disagreeing but I don't see it. How does what you said differ from that statement or any part of the post?

I'm open to discussion but I meant that statement in the same way as what you describe as the respect for all people.

 
At 8:31 AM , Blogger Ed said...

There may be points that I can better clarify. Maybe this is clearer.

I said: "Autistics just like everyone else can and do abuse the privilege of being treated respectfully....

To that your response was: What exactly do you mean? Everyone deserves respect, regardless of age, race, class, disability, neurological state, etc.

I absolutely agree. No matter what a person's situation, if they abuse the rights of someone more vulnerable in order to better their situation, what they had becomes a privilege and by abusing it their "right" to be treated respectfully has become a privilege that they no longer deserve.

The second part of my sentence was:
but also like everyone else we deserve to have the right to ruin our lives without the aid of others."

To that you responded:And, I don't think that many people are concerned about the 'right to ruin our life.'

People don't have to be concerned about it or want that right. I think that falls into the category of they just "get" to have it. If we couldn't ruin our life, we would have no reason to try to better it. Most autistic people are rarely completely exempt from doing either to varying degrees.

My point was that we deserve (like everyone) to succeed or fail on our own without the aid of the discrimination and oppression that many are faced with.

Here's where we may disagree at least to which is the most effective path.

You said: I don't think there is really anything we can do just as autistics; it is much better to join and extend, so that everyone will be seen as a valuable member of society, no one will be homeless, starving to death, or on their own and so ruined that they can't live anymore.

I agree that every minority that is minimalized and marginalized has similar struggles and division in order to win at the expense someone else's loss furthers the agenda of all of our oppressors collectively.

I also think that a lot of amiable compromise is not likely to be very effective for anyone who faces these challenges.

At this point and time I think everyone with similar struggles needs to call for a revolution that creates more equal opportunities. The means for that needs to be equated more with what is really necessary.

 
At 8:55 PM , Blogger lichen said...

Ed, thank you for clarifying; I now see what you meant by privilege and the artificial, discriminatory policies of who is considered deserving of respect, and who is given choice and control over their life, or who has that taken away from them.

Now I remember, actually, that a friend of mine was forcefully medicated and institutionalized against her will by her mother for conditions she didn't really have (her mother had m√ľnchhausen by proxy,) and when she turned 18 and was taken again, she demanded to be released, as was her right, which led to a prolonged period of homelessness, which she did prefer to the alternative available. Though this wasn't a desire for ruination, it was indeed a struggle against a particular form of oppression that may mask itself as 'protection' or 'assistance' but really isn't at all.

So, you are correct, there isn't really any significant disagreement between us. I really appreciate your blog.

 
At 8:59 AM , Blogger Ed said...

Thank you Lichen,

That's a good example. Protection and assistance are terms that often mask something that isn't that at all.

I appreciate you commenting.

 
At 8:26 AM , Blogger Sharon said...

I wonder how many people who work in the "caring" professions, really consider what they do and how the "protection and assistance" they offer is sometimes not wanted, or wanted in a way that isn't offered.

The other thing I thought while reading this, is the idea of the "deserving poor" which is still a prevailing notion. It even affects things like cancer charities; my husband works on lung cancer which kills more people than any other cancer but gets less charity donations as many think people "bring it on themselves."

Also, I gave you an award!

 
At 1:41 PM , Blogger Ed said...

Hi Sharon,

It's always good to hear from you.

I often find people people trying to mold the people into what role would best suit they call protection and assistance instead of altering what they have to offer to actually meet the need of those whom they claim to be assisting. Like you,I wonder how much thought they give to that.

That's interesting about lung cancer donations. I didn't know that but it sounds all to familiar. They bring it on themselves is the most convenient method of avoiding compassion that I know of.

Thanks for the award. You have been a source of support and encouragement for along time and I appreciate it. :)

 

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