Tag Archives: autism

Strangers amongst us

We struggle with strangeness. Whether we fear who’s different or merely fear those who fear the different differently from us, home’s where our differences largely go unnoticed. It struck me how self-evident it has become to see public announcements, on a hurricane for instance, accompanied by somebody translating them into sign language. It’s difficult not to see this as progress; therefore difficult to see it as anything but self-evident. But it’s not self-evident. It’s the outcome of a struggle by strangers incapable of hearing and once discarded by society and probably labeled “deaf and dumb”. Well, it is their struggle and that of caring people who provided an understanding home to them in which they could be understood and, hence, come to their own understanding. How did they realize such a remarkable feat making acceptance of deaf people into something “so general as to make it unthinkable to see it as someone’s original idea”? The latter is Kafka’s description of that immediate insight which, once made, seems to become so entrenched in custom it is like it could not have been otherwise. Wittgenstein would probably say it becomes part of the grammar of deafness that it is a difference that ought to be accommodated. Still, however self-evident it may seem now it was anything but self-evident not so very long ago.

How can that be? What can we learn from it?

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Autism: beyond the Catch-22

My research starts from a tension between a disorder view of autism, as codified in DSM-5 , and a positive identity view of it, as advocated by the neurodiversity movement . In the DSM-5, autism is defined behaviorally and at the same time coupled to an innate developmental disorder. For a diagnosis additionally the criterion of dysfunctioning has to be met. From the autistic point of view (specifically in cases, like mine, of being diagnosed with autism as an adult) this means getting entangled in a moral dilemma, in the Catch-22 mentioned above: “If I accept to be autistic I am considered crazy, but if I do not accept to be autistic I go crazy.” I argued that going beyond this Catch-22 requires taking into account the ethical dimension when trying to answer theoretical questions as to ‘what autism is’.

Below is a short (well, 1000 words) English summary of my Master’s thesis in Philosophy, the full summary can be found here and a summary in Dutch is published here.

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Can you love a loser?

This is a train crash. I am the train. Born awkward, sickly, with a curved spine I wanted it all. And I got it. Unfortunately I am insatiable. So I kept on going. And going. And going. I kept on going despite pain in my back. I kept on smoking despite being short of breath. It was my body that failed first but I kept on going until my spirit broke. And then I kept on going because I did not want to admit I could not get it all. Could not get it all my way. It’s a matter of keeping afloat since then. Slowly deflating and realizing I am going under. In no way is this a train crash and in no way am I a train. It’s a sizzle not a boom.

What I got is people I love and what is happening is that I alienate them by what they are perceiving as me acting increasingly like an alien. Neither the one confident to get things done even it it took applying force, nor a one that can just be tranquil facing his bad luck and coast along accepting the force others apply to him. I am a loser. I act as a loser. I feel like a loser and the question is: can they love a loser? Can they love that man in the same body that once ruled supreme and that now hosts the man that just wants to give up? It’s a genuine question to which I have no answer. I say to myself this will be a last blurb of a darkness I need to exit. It will not be. Maybe it’s therapeutic. Then again maybe not.

Here are some facts:

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Pride and Resentment

“A race of such men of ressentiment is bound to become eventually cleverer than any noble race (..)” F. Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals.

It went well for a while until – after some sleepless nights and doubts that weren’t picked up by others – it went steeply downhill. Deeply downhill. It was 5 AM and, as self-defense, my self was attacking me, I started writing to create the illusion I was talking to someone else. I always try to stay connected to the external world because if that connection fails I fall back on an internal world that is just noise; a ringing inside my ears, a brain buzzing with the effort of making sense where sense cannot be found. I get my rhythm from that external world and that keeps up the inspiration from my inner world. Without rhythm I fall back on a grimness that only wants its own end. I try – here comes the resentment – to convince others to respect my need for rhythm. They want to even if they find it a rather obsessive/oppressive streak in me. They’d call it pride, an internal conviction that things would be better of they were simply my way. And they kind of would be because when I am in flow I am a brute force of nature, a noble and commanding spirit sensitive to even the slightest disturbance of my rhythm. There is then no internal and external anymore – every dissonance is a scream directly picked up by my brain; something I lie awake of. It is beyond me how people have the nerve to disturb the rhythm I invent. They destroy my world and, failing the energy to destroy them, the only thing left is to destroy myself.

This is a piece about the connection between pride and resentment and where Nietzsche got it wrong when separating them and got it right when not separating them. It’s a piece on the pride I take in trying to deal with the power of my resentment.

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Homeros was autistic (well, I say Derrida would say so)

“In the chain of supplements, it was difficult to separate writing from masturbation.” De la grammatologie, Derrida, p. 235.

Some people say it is ludicrous to diagnose historic figures with autism. They, consciously or not, rely on deconstruction to make their point. The word autism only exists from the 20th century and imputing it to historic figures is trying to accord a reality to it which it cannot have. This is bollocks. Instead of deconstructing (i.e. unmasking) a naïve view of things, it reconstructs some kind of innocent naïveté in which nothing goes wrong except by oppression. As if everything we supplement in this society is foreign to the true nature of it. As if words like autism are intrinsically violent and we need to put on our “original” masks of aboriginal innocence. Bollocks – nothing is further removed from the actual text Derrida has written. It is back to the ideas of Rousseau – as if Derrida had not written his supplement on that supplement. It is a reactionary idea common in progressive thought that got scared from its own conclusions and hides in a window-dressed conservatism.

Let me take one of those wild associations of Derrida – masturbation and writing – and do the right thing to show via hyperbole how autism can be literally traced to Homeros – the first (blind!) writer and how the idea of supplement is unavoidably also that of autism as a kind of mental masturbation.

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I’m autistic and I(t) don’t feel great

Diagnosed at 48 I am one of those whom people find it hard to accept as autistic. I find it hard to accept the pressure to feel somehow happy about it. That pressure comes under the form of “now you know, you can better learn to live with it”. At the end of The Bridge season 4, the therapist tells Saga Norèn to finally do “what she wants” now she’s liberated from the doubt and guilt that marked her struggle in life. This is disastrous advise in my opinion, and more disastrous still in the case of autism, and this post tries to say why. It’s a post that runs counter to a certain feeling in autistic circles that you can embrace it and find success in life. It’s not a happy post as I refuse to be recovered by a modern fashion to see everything in the light of success. I believe that is autistic as well and maybe I’ll be able to start to explain why.

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Is death worth dying?

“With many the question of life’s worth is answered by a temperamental optimism that makes them incapable of believing that anything seriously evil can exist.”

So says William James in his essay “Is life worth living?”. He identifies a deafness for the craving for death by those who self-evidently want to live. Those those have the floor and I do not know how to express my wish of death without being met by distress or comfort. And I do not know which of these two is worst. Both are just shields against what reasons I would like to express for being this way, a way I have always been.

The discussion, then, never starts and therefore never ends. That in itself is unbearable – not having an ear means not being able to develop the language in which to speak about it. So, with James: “Let us search the lonely depths (..) together and see what answers in the last folds and recesses of things our question may find.”

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