~Rumi

All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there...Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison...I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

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10 March 2009

Militant Blogging


If you don't ask, you don't get. -Gandhi

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

I found myself stopping in for a quick look at Donna Williams' blog this morning. I am in complete admiration of her blog design layout. Where was something like that when I was creating Aspitude?

Then I happened upon Political Correctness In 3 Different Autism Worlds, which heavily enticed me.

Basically, Donna writes that there are three distinct political roads one can travel in the world--or worlds--of autism:

  1. Militant Curists
  2. Militant Culturalists
  3. Moderates

Donna goes on to explain that Militant Curists use sympathy, pity, and tragedy while employing words such as: handicap, disorder, disability, abnormal, and pathology. She touches upon Curists' (also known as Curebies) collaboration with eugenicists, as well as states that Curebies often confuse pity with love. Donna explains that Curists view autism as a pitiable, embarrassing, broken obstacle to selfhood, in addition to being a burden to society and families.

Okay, there is truth in the above picture. But not all Curebies are that extreme. Then again, some may well argue that a Curebie is a Curebie and that would leave me with little else to say. That noted, I was a bit nervous to read about Militant Culturists! The very thought of the dark bold term had me conjuring images of rogues crusading about in armor riding in big tanks and holding Neurotypicals hostage (Eeeek!). Knowing that I would most likely fall into the Militant Culturalist group, I was more than curious--though doused with a bit of apprehension and trepidation--to see my description:

‘Militant Culturalists‘.

This group sees autism as a shared culture. It includes those who do reverse prejudice (ie ‘Autistics’ are all linked to Einstein - they think he’s on the autism spectrum along with most of the highest achievers in history) and most in this group refer to ‘non-autistics’ as NT (’neurotypical’ and they use this to mean ‘mundanes’ and call non-spectrum people ‘muppets’ and ‘breeders’). The militant culturalists staunchly drive the Autistic Pride movement and link it to Gay Pride and Deaf Pride. Most militant culturalists are anti treatment. Some are even against adaptations. For them ‘Autistics’ are ‘perfect’ just as we are. These guys don’t use the word ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’. They use ‘neuro-diverse’, ‘differently abled’. They see ‘normality’ not only as ‘relative’ but some see non-spectrum people as having become so superficial and false they are not ‘normal’ nor do they see it as desirable or moral to be ‘like them’. Militant culturalists claim to be diversity-friendly but among them are also supremacists who see themselves as morally superior to non-spectrum people. Many militant culturalists are ’self diagnosed’, sometimes once their child has a diagnosis. Militant culturalists often refer to themselves as ‘Autistics’ and see this as integral to their selfhood. Some go so far as to say that if any aspect of their autism were reduced it would be the same as eradicating their selfhood."

-Donna Williams

After reading the above paragraph, I felt it made me, along with other Autistic Community members, seem like a hardcore group of people on the prowl for a good fight. Seriously, I'm still imagining neo-Cossacks and gangs of autistic militants dressed in black studded leather, riding really loud motorcycles, spitting tobacco on the ground, and slaying Neurotypicals.

I do, however, see the Autistic Community as a shared culture. But I do not participate in reverse prejudice and though there is an honest hard-won place for Gay, Deaf, and Autistic Pride, I do not take it above and beyond the original intent and meaning. I do not think Neurotypicals are mundane. I think mundane people are mundane. Okay, I am anti-cure and eugenics, but I am certainly not against meaningful assistive devices and adaptations. Last, but not least, I am neither a supremacist nor am I self-diagnosed. I suppose I could go on and on, but I am a voice more loud than shrill.

Donna went on to describe herself as a Moderate who is anti-cure, yet supportive of treatment and management for severely disabling health and sensory perceptual disorders. Donna also wrote that "Militant Culturalists often see Moderates as undecided, weak or selling out in the battle to advocate and educate about autism."

All in all, Moderates were presented as being fairly liberal and down-to-earth.

I don't like making unnecessary waves--never have. But I will splash some serious water when it comes to injustice, prejudice, and acts of dehumanization. Does this make me Militant?

Let us turn to Gandhi for a moment. After all, he was an amazing man who employed non-violent civil disobedience (or militant non-violence) to stand up for his community's rights. He even led a violence-free Non-cooperation Movement. Then he swore to speak only the truth and advocated for others to do the same. Gandhi seems nothing like one of Donna Williams' Militant Culturalist, only with the insertion of Indian rather than autistic people. Matter of fact, Gandhi has been coined the Great Soul.

While I agree with Donna that there are divides within the world of autism, I do not think it is quite so easy to define without conjuring a nasty precipice riddled with disservice. Viewpoints are individual, and both viewpoints and individuality carry the power to rigidly define and divide. The voice of truth, however, will never be ignored for long.

If there is a country where cows are sacred, then why can't the disabled, along with the strikingly different, also be respected and revered? As Melissa Barton, mother of Alex Barton, wrote: What a war. Please send reinforcements.


3 comments:

  1. Nice post, Elesia.

    I was also a little confused by her schema. I had thought I'd be in the "Militant Culturalist" bin, too, but apparently I am also a Moderate because I do think some aspects of autism (say, sensory overload or anxiety problems) can cause people a lot of grief and prevent them from living the kind of lives they'd want to live. So I have no problem with treating those symptoms, or with developing more effective treatments (maybe specifically targeted to autistic brains and bodies), or with teaching autistic children the skills they need to handle school better (like, say, speech therapy, help with organizational skills, planning, switching tasks, time management, etc.).

    I also do not think autistic people are superior to nonautistic people, or indeed that we're at all different from them in overall intelligence or reasoning ability. Our minds work differently, and that comes with advantages and disadvantages.

    But at the same time, I am militantly opposed to a cure, or to "treatments" that are just supposed to make us look normal. And I do use the word "neurotypical," as I find it a useful word for a person whose brain wiring is more or less standard-issue. (To my ears, "normal" comes with a value judgment, while "neurotypical" doesn't so much. That might just be me, though). Furthermore, I am proud of being autistic, and I do think we have our own culture and identity. I do think we form a discrete minority group.

    So what does that make me, in her classification scheme? Moderately militant?

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  2. Hey there Lindsay,

    I appreciate your commentary on my post. Yeah, maybe Moderately Militant should have been a classification. Honestly though, I think it's quite an individual potion regarding where we all "choose to drink" in regards to our views on autism. Some things may sting me a bit more than others and vice versa. Constructing rigid categories is a subjective business.

    You raise a lot of nice points and I thank you for your support.

    Best wishes!

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