On Black And White Thinking and Other Annoyances

When I state my opinions about some things if the audience knows I am autistic I sometimes am rebutted not by their own opinion but that my thoughts are the product of black and white thinking.

This baffles me on a few levels really. While I understand someone out there (well numerous someones) has characterized autistic thinking that way do they think we are incapable of seeing the views in between? Or for the sorts of things people go around having opinions about that some waving around between positions is even a good thing?

Here are some things I am black and white about –

You can’t kill people because they have a “horrific” label like autism

The group I call Voldemort Speaks needs to disband.

The world needs more acts of love and less talking about love

Honesty is the only policy.

Every human not only deserves dignity and respect but society needs to make sure they get it.

Most people are smarter than the experts think.

Speech is not the sum total of all communication.

Being able to speak does not say anything about other competencies.

Well that’s the short list. I could go on of course but I would enter the realm of my own life to a degree that would leave people a bit too baffled.

My main problem when I get dismissed by this method because labeling it black and white is a fast way to end the conversation is that just because someone thinks it is so, and even if it looks that way on any issue I care a lot about it is apparently so hard to make another case that we need to queue the oh poor her she can’t see other opinions.

I wish that were the case. I have had other opinions acted out on me. I have seen them acted out on others. Since they did harm I would think people need to be a little more shades of grey overall. Perhaps it is some terrible neurological affliction that the unlabeled masses have that they sway all over the place over fairly short spans of time. I don’t really know but I do know that being dismissed on things I think a lot about with any reference to my autism is frustrating beyond words.

Just like if there is a communication problem that involves me I am not always the problem. This one comes up a lot. Granted sometimes I cannot communicate by the usual methods. Sometimes I need break from those ways but when I do communicate very clearly about some issues I doubt it is my problem if someone spends 8 days trying to change my mind. Good luck with that would seem a bit flip I guess. But is it so radical a notion that having lived as me for 45 long years now I might just have a better sense of what is possible for me any given day than someone who has the joys of managing me as a case? I think yes but majority opinion says no. That I will never sway any of them to my position does make me wonder who exactly is more firmly entrenched in if not black and white thinking at least normative institutional thinking. I am the one with more labels than seems reasonable so of course I have no clue about what is good for me or what is possible. All health care and service provision seems to operate from this stance even though when I was a service provider I am pretty sure respecting the client took up a good chunk of the handbook and the attitudes questionnaire and screening essay questions.

There really is a right and a wrong for more things than humans tell themselves. Sometimes it can be fun to be a little bit “bad” of course and those sort of behavioural deviations from the straight and narrow as they call it are not a big concern. What concerns me are bigger moral issues.

I have written about lying before. People I think refuse to give me credit for being honest as in theory I would be a terrible liar. Yet I could have learned to tell the kind of social lies people tell if I believed that was a good route to go. I spent years actively resisting social scripts deemed useful and even enlisting converts to the whole living honestly.

At this stage in my life the only way it has backfired if you can call it that is people often seek my opinion who otherwise may not have. Rather tangentially related to my life people suddenly want to know things out of their confidence that I will tell the truth and other people will be nice when being nice won’t be helpful.

I do not consider it a bad thing that my integrity is not eroded by the accumulation of social lies and the slide into more ambitious ones. I don’t think it is a product of my autism as I have been lied to be autistic.

When forming opinions past the information gathering stage, which too many people seem to skip, I do consider the extremes of the issue and work out my stance sometimes over years. If someone then sums up my opinion as not worth entertaining because it is black and white then yes I will question this whole how useful is to socially engage thing.

I belong to a group that has been catastrophized to a degree I didn’t even think possible. People’s notions of autism when I was young were not that accurate but the kind of hate that is directed at the label now should really be considered criminally unacceptable. Many countries have laws against hate speech and yet it continues to go on. It inspires violence against autistics and when the worst case scenarios happen, that is when autistic people are killed society tends to champion the killer.

We could use a lot less grey here I think. Sometimes my autistic peers have a laugh at the whole society seems to have forgotten we are actually human but there is an underlying sadness in our games. Games that the experts also say we are incapable of but hey my opinion on anyone thinking they are an expert on matters pertaining to people other than themselves is not exactly high.

I try to live in a way that does good. Sometimes people are offended by it but I take the long view to that as occasionally in being offended it sparks off a thought process. I know I am not right about everything as that would be very obnoxious and like a good debate but on matters that boil down to the application of ethical values it is hard to see how firmness is a bad thing.

In matters less vital of course I slip and slide. If I applied my mind to making a position on everything I would run out of time for pretty well everything. The dog in my life knows my positions with regard to him that are thought out are I do not own him and he is not by being a dog entitled to less thought about his needs than I am by being human. He does milk these positions a bit much as he seems to think that means he can get away with just about anything but ours is a close relationship so of course there is give and take. I have told him that he should try and support himself but he plays the dog card there. It’s a work in progress.

Opinions on autism change and will always change. What cannot happen is for the masses to forget yes we are still people. We are still entitled to any right or protection normally given to people in our areas and so on. If someone wants to call those opinions black and white go for it. I will still hold them. Even when actions by the society around me make me pretty sure they forgot some of this I will keep underlining those positions.

If you want grey here’s grey. Currently most aspects of my life are pretty catastrophic. There is o denying that. That does not mean that I am though. There is a distinction. It is a source of hurt that some aspects of my life are artificially difficult. That is the means exist to ease some major stressors almost instantly but the powers that be or society at large doesn’t do it.

For 23 months and 1 day my life seems to have plotted how to break down in as many areas as possible. My body is it’s main co-conspirator but it was ever thus. Most people who know even half of how bad or plain weird or almost absurd it gets can’t quite wrap their minds about it but in all of this there are times of joy. Less than I might like but they exist.

I laughed doing my work in the wee hours of the morning. I laughed at a few other things. I also cried because life is not easy but it is a life. A human life. While a colleague did say I could be an AI the other day that wasn’t dehumanizing so much as a product of my distance from my place of work so while a few people have spoken to me no one has met me. We shared a good run of AI related jokes and I went to sleep.

Whatever happens one stress I do not need is the steady clamour of propaganda telling me how awful autism is. Telling me all sorts of lies. I will give them my life is hard but as they are about 18 percent of my current stress if they would just shut-up it would get slightly less so. As they feed too many opinions who knows how much of the rest might go away?

I have seen my blog mentioned in a few random places to support ideas I do not support. That is by granting yes I have a disability and yes my life is hard at times, even very hard somehow everything else I have said about my life doesn’t matter.

I studied psychology. I had to study the DSM for longer than anyone should have to I suspect so my notions of what can be said about any person’s autism and still have them fit diagnostic standards may be a bit rigid but it is a rigid format. I will never be someone who says my autism is only a good thing because if that were the case technically I would not have it. Currently since the issue that started my 23 month cruise with instability is most certainly a byproduct of autism, and some of my more major bodily malfunctions are not aided by it I can’t swing to that extreme.

I guess the only good function of Voldemort Speaks may be that it makes me a moderate. By saying I am autistic but I am human. My life matters to me. I should not have been prevented. I struggle but show me a person who doesn’t. I struggle harder than I need to so please society try harder to remove barriers and problems that don’t need to exist I am moderate in comparison. I know they view all those statements as radical but that is their problem.

It gets gritty in the trenches of being me. They are most certainly trenches right now but it is fun as well. Chanukah just brought me more days in a row of being dragged from my home than seemed fair but also laughter and latkes.

I suspect any day now that an accident I had and didn’t know about for too long and then couldn’t cope with what it takes to get it seen to will require surgery. So will several other things simmering away as I said earlier by body is my life’s main co-conspirator but while definitely lacking the capacity to deal with it today I either will or dealing with it will be thrust upon me.

In the meantime there is my dog, the internet, my work and tomorrow. I suspect all four of them will serve up a spectrum of delight and agony and everything in between collectively. I enjoy the dog, the internet and perversely my work so I guess tomorrow is the main suspect in the lineup for the gritty bits but not a lot of point of subtracting any happiness from today just because eventually a lot of unpleasant things will need to be dealt with.

Since I am being radical what with the liking my work and insisting that my life has value despite the indisputably hard parts would it be too radical to suggest that for the issues that matter most everyone try to be a bit more binary? There is a place at the table for dialogue but not propaganda I think. Attitudes are a potential thief of joy and the world needs more joy.

People often think my own attitude needs adjusting for some reason but it’s about right for the life I currently have. For some reason many people also regard me as a pessimist but on the things that need to change front I think I am pretty optimistic. While there has been no sign that society as a whole will suddenly see me as just part of society as a whole say the bits could improve for that to be normative behaviour.

In my city locals do this thing that people often ask about. When it started I was perplexed too. I had to defend it to several people when I was still thinking okay it is illogical but it seems to increase happiness phase with it. People on exiting the bus say thank you. Everyone does it unless they are distracted. It’s not rational behaviour in a way as of course the bus driver is paid for this exact thing but it makes the bus a better place. Which in a weird circular logic makes the bus driver (or the population at large) worth thanking.

So what if people could change normative behaviours about autism? Stop reflexively supporting Voldemort Speaks because of all that good they supposedly do. Stop believing my life is not valuable. Start doing something as radical as treating all people in ways that recognize their humanity?

I don’t really see how any other position makes sense of course but then again I have a “problem” with black and white thinking,

Well he's black and white some days.

Well he’s black and white some days.

2 thoughts on “On Black And White Thinking and Other Annoyances

  1. “When I state my opinions about some things if the audience knows I am autistic I sometimes am rebutted not by their own opinion but that my thoughts are the product of black and white thinking.”

    Gareeth, I look at this outcome for autistically situated persons, in terms of autistic-serving views of things being radical when compared to the views serving those who are more socially situated.
    You step through illustrating just how your views of things come from arduous reflection on your own life circumstance. Fairly hearing and considering these views then proves too much for many socially situated persons (and you speak well to how that one plays out); so they chop them off the spectrum of what has to be considered, and bin them as too black or white.

    If and as institutionally empowered others try to do this to me, I start thinking and talking about an “empirical” approach to things. I argue that my view (that to them seems off the radar of normative consideration) is well grounded in data, and well produced across coherent reasoning. I don’t then enjoy what follows, but it stops me being rubbed out of life’s register.
    I judge that you, in your writing, are a good servant of just such an autistically-orientated empirical approach. You make me think.

  2. Thanks Colin. Making people think is about the best one can hope for when you blog. I do value logic and so I have to like that you think me a good servant of an autistically-orientated empirical approach.

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