Only superficially a reaction to a book, Camouflage, I here talk about being autistic (and having ADHD), and how I have dealt with it over the years. This is in the context of a conversation I had recently had with a friend relating to my current predicament ie. as somebody who is not only underemployed (as I have always been) but who is superficially, and officially, unemployed while working all hours I can on this project; this and, somebody who has recently struggled to find a balance in his relationship.
I recorded this shortly after I had recorded one or two other pieces I have yet to upload. One relates to failure. Another is the second half of a what turned out to be an epic GTD-style quarterly review. These provide the context, but, though that was significant at the time there is nothing here that is so hard to parse. Over this time I had come to doubt myself again, and also came to confront my temperament and the defaults of the world I live in.
Implicit in this piece, as in the other which will here be linked to as soon as I have worked through the tasks in the org-mode system I keep on banging on about and which may in future be incorporated into Automat Svět is a discussion of the categories of people (a subset of autism falls four square within this) who fall into the marginal domains our society creates. Late capitalism / neoliberalism, liquid modernity, or however you wish to conceptualise the post-1989 consensus we are living in, involves a rigid and unquestioned set of definitions of people who are insufficiently "productive". The categoories of low and high functioning autism are bureaucracy-ready criteria for one of the demographics which are confected from the cradle to the grave and help to construct a moral mandate for the limited modes of empathy we apply to others when deciding who is, and who is not, a loser, who is, and who is not, trying hard enough. One of the reasons people regularly react with suspicion to people finding out more about how their minds work differently to others, is that, if this concept of neurodiversity were to be incorporated into their default models, the whole absurd structure of their mental maps which are built around ideological notions of a meritocracy, would fall apart. This is not easy for them. I discuss this elsewhere and, as it gets to the roots of the neurosis infecting the collective consciousness, it bears repeating and will provoke A lot of pushback. This is especially the case given that one element of my analysis is that, though it is said that autistic people lack empathy, neurotypical people prove every day, in every era, to be vulnerable to a number of exploits whereby they are fed confected narratives which encourage them to absent certain categories of people from their supposedly highly developed capacity for empathy. I do not get on to this here, but it is [adjacent to] one of the conclusions of Adam Curtis' The Century of the Self which I will be reflecting on these days; it will likely come up.
It should be emphasized that some of the discussions I make in the notes here - and which overlap with but are not identical with those I talk about in the recording - are extensions of those reflections I made about my life and experience in reaction to the discussions I had at the beginning of February. They are not a commentary on my friend and her own personal reaction to me and my experience of autism.
The end of the piece brings me back into a confrontation with the motherlode of my own consciousness: the internalised notion of my own inadequacy and the consequent difficulty of even my own belief that I am doing something worthwhile and that I am, not only by extension, myself worthwhile. I am, and, though I struggle with this, it is neither arrogant nor self-indulgent to stress that the work I am doing not only because of my temperament and mental architecture, ought sooner or later to be acknowledged.
External links and further reading
- Camouflage includes a recording of Angelina as performed by Ivan Houston and Bélè group. I came to this through the Open Culture website. It is part of the recordings of Alan Lomax
- Autism and Food and Chemical Sensitivities
- One has to be careful in this area as there is a lot of misinformation, but then, wherever is that not the case! Psychology Today provides a relatively neutral overview. This fact sheet to my mind overstates the role of IgE mediated allergy, but sketches out the bulk of the problem nonetheless. Nutritional therapy and metabolic and immune differences in neurodevelopmental conditions is a huge area which I will attempt to tackle elsewhere on the website. Writing these notes I notice the degree to which I am irritated by the habitual thinking in this area (a typically "autistic" reaction in one sense but the "doesn't suffer fools gladly" note of all this here must be placed in the context of the fact that such imbecilic thinking - if it can be thought of as thinking any more than drunkenly tapping out chopsticks can be thought of as playing the piano - determines the parametres of my life and days). With that in mind, it may be reasonable to state that nothing infuriates me more than the way people inflict their typically not even wrong opinions about food and nutrition on me whenever I diverge in any mannner from the default.
- Sleep is a problem in autism and ADHD. As a child, I was convinced I did not sleep. Well into my twenties I slept poorly almost every night. From my mid-thirties I have slept well as a rule with the exception of a number of high-stress periods and the occasional night where I do not get more or less everything right ie. follow a multiplicity of strategies, eat (and buy and cook) the right things, do the right kind of work, constantly, on the sails, the sheets, and the tiller of my mind, curate my inputs, and manage my environment.
- Nature vs Nurture
- I am not going to get into this one so much, but it runs through the recording, largely implicitly. My suspicion is that some gender differences are, for the bulk of the people in the middling lump of the normal distribution curve, down to "nature". On top of this, then, is a superstructure of expectations, cultural tropes, societal roles, arbitrary incentives, mores, and conventions. Even for those who are neurotypical, autism (which has a 'real' and a socially-constructed component) is a fascinating subject and perspective to take in order to interrogate the assumptions people may hold about gender.
- "Extreme male brain"
- Much of this thinking is down to Simon Baron-Cohen and an Independent article on what the "extreme male brain" theory is said to mean.
- Autism in technical subjects
- One of my personal bugbears relating to autism research is the habit of selectively quoting that formerly-avuncular Nazi collaborator, Hans Asperger, to suggest that he believed that "a dash of autism" was "essential" for success in science. In fact, he wrote, very clearly, "for success in science or art". Simon Baron-Cohen does precisely this (exacerbated to the point of mendacity in my view by the lack of ellipsis in his first slide) in a video where he talks about his research into the incidence of autism in tech communities. Temple Grandin, who is similarly loved and loathed by sections of the autism community, covers some of the same ground differently in this video of a TED talk. In my view, autism and the arts is a greater taboo than autism in the sciences (which does not seem like a taboo at all until you read biographies of scientists and listen to discussions of their lives which go to great lengths to find different explanations for autistic behaviours and thinking patterns). To me there is an overlap between this illogically distorted notion of autism ie. its association with an axiomatically masculine logocentric style of thinking such as is familiar to psychological researchers, and the near-invisibility of women to their models.
- Women and Autism
- Spectrum News has a short article discussing some of the themes of the book (it also references a paper by the book's author, Dr Bargiela). The Conversation, meanwhile, has a useful, informative, Creative Commons piece about autism in women. Tony Attwood has contributed to books on Autism in Women and Girls, and interviews can be found with him speaking on the subject. In one video entitled Good Mental Health for Autistic Girls and Women, he discusses emotional overstimulation in a way that powerfully resonates with me and expresses my own experience in a way I perhaps failed to get across in the recording. Once again, the cisgender-male-skewed behaviourist orthodoxy on autism which has it that empathy is impaired, is a schematic tangle of syllogisticc triangulation built on sketchy foundations.
- Hip Hop Evolution
- Someone ought to look into their website, but the show is almost good enough to give a good name to Netflix, which is otherwise doing to the cultural environment what crack cocaine did to inner city America when hip hop was first beginning to break into the mainstream.
- Islam in hip hop
- I mention Spike Lee; I was talking here, of course, about his Malcolm X which was a huge hit when I was in my teens. Though I have not yet seen all of the film, I watched a number of documentaries which rode the wave at the time it came out in the early nineties, and must have revisited some of the history of the Nation of Islam when they played a prominant role in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry... Vocativ has a short breakdown of the trend of Islam in hip hop. Temple University goes a little deeper. Hot New Hip Hop, meanwhile, picks apart the history of the specific phenomenon of the Five Per Cent Nation, something I remember reading about in Source magazine in the late nineties when I was living a Generation X existence working in a petrol station and reading all the newspapers and magazines I would come across. I ought not to be interested in this as it is not scientific, but I find it all fascinating, not least from the perspective of gender studies while we're on the subject.