Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Scorpion or did I blow it?

Aesop has this fable and never mind what my star sign is, it goes thus:

A scorpion wanted to cross the river so he asked the frog to carry him across on his back.

The scorpion protested “Oh no I cannot do that because you will sting me and I will die”

“You will not die” answered the scorpion because if I sting you and you die then I will drown.

Convinced by the scorpions logic, the frog relented and agreed to carry the scorpion across the river on his back, but as the frog swam to midstream the scorpion stung him.

“Why did you do that?” said the frog “Now we will both die”

“Because I am a scorpion” answered the Larry.

Well perhaps I scored an own goal today at the NAS AGM. Well I wear the smart clothes that betoken me as a respectable bourgeois and I try to keep within the rules putting my hand up to ask questions but come the second half then I am as unable to control my own ineffable Larryness as the scorpion was to avoid his own doom, for one of the speakers was an Aspie no less, who appeared to me, to be singing the gospel of Lianne Holliday Willey, that it was wise to pretend to be normal if you wanted to get on in life. Now forgive me if I am misrepresenting the actual message of the speaker I am merely talking of my reaction which was to ignore all protocol and treat the meeting as if I were a placard waving demonstrator intent upon making a point.

“That is everything I stand against” I loudly protested several times before resorting to a self imposed temporary exile from the meeting.

Now the point is, it was perceivably rude of me to shout down a fellow Aspie when that behaviour of mine is surely normally reserved for curebies like David Amaral. Indeed after the meeting there proceeded a discussion where I was challenged by my erstwhile antagonist as to what I had achieved, and indeed maybe I had misunderstood some possible ironic content and subtlety in all of my “righteous zeal” and "red mist"

However that seems forever what I am fated to do. I don’t know in retrospect whether it was wise for a member of the board never mind a member of the audience to remonstrate with a speaker thus and what message this might have sent to first time attendees at the meeting who have yet to encounter my somewhat “unusual” style.

Old timers familiar with me would not have taken that amiss because in a sense not to have behaved as I did would be to be someone other than I am. However the challenge was whether by appearing to be someone other than I am, I might have been able to make a better impression on those I wish to convince of my point of view and not to turn them off.

It is in a way a subtext of this whole “neurodiversity” vs the curebies argument as to whether both sides are being so “unreasonable” that dialogue is impossible.

Well dialogue was not impossible between me and my antagonist even though he had originally got me well riled and right narked.

Well whether it was wise or not, I did what I did, and I don’t suppose this will be the last occasion no matter how hard I try to dress up the external me. My point really was that although I have some degree of choice how I behave (not going into deep fatalistic philosophy here, lets keep it simple for now) and the guy who annoyed me had even more control, I was trying to hold it together for those who will react in unpleasant ways that do not seem in their best interest in the uncomprehending world of NT’s.

Point is though when I say that I actually realise that although I can see the criticisms, see possibly that I did over react and was over literal and somewhat polarised in my thinking perhaps I really did have no choice but to do as I did and cannot try and explain it away neatly. Whatever? I can at least appreciate the consequences and just as last year, when my overriding of the chief exec when I did not like his answer ended up in the official record, I did what I did and just have to hope that my message was still heard in spite of whatever repulsion some folks might have to the way I put it.


notmercury said...

Better to be put off by who you are than be impressed by who you are not, in my opinion.

It's a waste of energy & venom to sting at random but necessary for survival when circumstances require.

Camille said...

Hey Larry,

I wasn't there, obviously, but it's a case of "live and learn." Isn't it? You learned something the audience learned something, it doesn't seem like it was all that awful.

The NIMH doctor who is going to do this horrible chelation study on autistic kids soon or is doing it now... has promoted something called PANDAS which is strep infection caused tics and OCD basically...
She was presenting her case for the existence of this disorder at a Tourette's conference and one of the attendees kept yelling out, "You're a liar!"

It was a tic. Pretty ironic, though. Everyone seemed to be able to accomondate the guy with the rudely stated assessment of the speaker's hypothesis.

laurentius rex said...

Well lets put it another way, It was someone who has as much claim to the spectrum as I who I was disputing with (yeah I know I disagree with Michelle Dawson all the time but this was a different arena)

I think Mike has said it elsewhere that is not altogether seemly to be seen to publicly dispute with ones "peers" given what we are up against out there.

Anyway I have however injudiciously or not offered an invite to whatever other witnesses there were to this on the NAS to come posting here with the caveat to warn them of what they are exposing themselves to on the hub. I hope some of them make it here because I think it will be an education, not that I think that you (Camille) or many other hub members have it all right either.

Well I am really feeling disputatious tonight because I am somewhat feeling that not everything is an Aspie vs NT issue and that with me, never mind the pretending to be normal issue, sometimes there is another over riding cultural divide with me that is I may not be happy living here on this estate amongst the "chavs" but at least I do speak the same language as they do and when I go abroad amongst the middle classes in my fine and fancy clothes I am as much pretending to be something I am not as if I were pretending to be NT.

And I tell you now, it really does irk me too that there is a class divide in the autistic world as much as any other kind of divide, be that race divide or gender divide. We cannot ignore the wider sociology of our situation nor the relative advantage of those who sociologically and financially have better access to education and intervention for themselves or there families.

I am an anomaly. I just do not easily fit in any stereotypes.

Sometimes that is an advantage because you can move between the natural borders, but at other times it means you don't have a certain and sure identity.

Anonymous said...

"I am an anomaly. I just do not easily fit in any stereotypes."

You are not an "anomaly". You're an individual, and a pretty special 'individual'.
Some people can't "pretend to be 'normal'", no matter how hard they try, and the NAS will understand this.
It doesn't matter if you don't "fit in any stereotypes".
You are not alone.

Kristina Chew said...

Why ought there not be diversity within (neuro)diversity?

Camille said...

But, Larry, I always have it right, all right. :-) You must have taken what I writ wrong.

abfh said...

I think we all spend our lives pretending in many ways. I sometimes wonder just what message I'm sending out by coloring my hair; I like the way it looks, but how much am I contributing to a culture that places too much value on youth and beauty? We also make social statements with the clothes we wear, and with our cars if we drive, and with the places where we choose to live. It's unavoidable.

I just try not to take all these social messages too seriously and not to let other people pressure me into conforming to their expectations.

Anonymous said...

Autism is a disability and with that it should be recognized in the workplace and society. Whatever 'normal' is for an autistic that's what it is. NTs change behaviour to fit in (not that they should, nor are they hiding a disability in the process).

I suppose it is one's right to 'fit in' whether NT or ND. The ability to do that for NDs will depend on the severity of the condition.

I think you shouldn't have said what you said, but at the same time can see the frustration that comment would cause for other autistics, who can't 'fit in'. The comment could have been taken as a generalisation and in that respect is wrong.

No big deal, really.

Anonymous said...

Larry,your reaction tells you some thing about you. Are you not the person who is pretending to be normal to get on? Maybe the NAS is the little prince and you are their tamed fox who is stuck in the garden of eden with just a few snakes.

Anonymous said...

Larry as the fox your secret is
"it is only with the heart that one can see righty;What is essential is is invisible to the eye"

all my love

"the rose"

Joseph said...

I think Mike has said it elsewhere that is not altogether seemly to be seen to publicly dispute with ones "peers" given what we are up against out there.

If Mike said that, he's apparently trying to herd cats. Good luck with that. I for one think it would be positive for disagreements and debate to be more obvious among Hub members.

mike stanton said...

1. You broke the social rules. There was a speaker and there was an audience. He was there at our invitation. We owed him a fair hearing. Afterwards there should have been an opportunity to challenge him. There was not. But we did not know that at the time.
2. It was probably counter productive in as much as the audience resented the style of your intervention instead of attending to its substance.
3. It does not matter that much. On the one hand we had an NT audience listening respectfully to an aspie talking mostly in platitudes. On the other hand we had an aspie making erudite interruptions.
4. I think the tension between your two positions was more instructive than what either of you actually said.

I think I might blog this. I agree with Joseph. Hub members should discuss our differences and seek clarity. Taking on the curebies is necessary. But working out the alternative is equally important.

Anonymous said...

There goes Mike with his predictable Gabriel Oak impression.

Scruffythecat said...

Something that stuck me at the last aspie conference I went to was the panel of aspies behaving mostly proper,,, except later when I heard the comments of someone saying when one person spoke another aspie was rolling his eyes as if to say the other one had no crediblity... but that was only part of it,,,
To me sitting in the audience with other autistics stimming and walking around it occurred to me that it would have been a better representative panel if they would have had the more blantantly autistics up in front of the room on the panel.... Hmm,,, I am not sure about prejudice per se but there seems to be a mindset that we only present the ones who seem more socially acceptable when dealing with the public.... it flys in the face of reason to ask most autistics to not act autistic when it is what we are in nature,,, to hid the facts only serves to mislead the public to what autism actually involves and serves not one of us in the greater scheme of things.... We have social difficulties that is part of who we are,, to not recognise this important fact is painting a picture of lies...

And so the lie will continue or we can dispell the myths..

Camille said...

Oh, yeah. Telling autistics that they can't judge another's speechifying and roll their eyes in response is much like telling a Touretter not to tic.

Being an "expert" is core to autism. We become experts, it's what we do. In my opinion anyway, which is always right, because I'm an expert. :-)

I have a little eye rolling, tiara wearing icon on my blog!

I can be in the same room with and listen to people like a certain rhinocerus-like mercury dad while he pontificates on the "epidemic" and I can roll my eyes or hold my breath, clench my teeth and glare at him... or I could pick up something and throw it...or stomp out of the room, but it seems like the huffy stance and eye rolling is more polite.

The NT audience really ought to be prepared for a few sudden outbursts from an audience containing autistics. Somehow the Tourette folks seem to have learned how to deal with similar stuff... even yelling obscenities is OK at a Tourette conference, not that they encourage it...

laurentius rex said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
laurentius rex said...

Whoops slight semantic error in my last comment here goes again ..

Well Camille perhaps I need a dx of Tourettes to justify myself, but hang it all I am fed up with other peoples names in my dx, so I don't really want another one.

Now for "Gabriel Oak"'s platitudes which is an altogether more serious issue and raises unpalatable questions about vetting speakers.

Did whoever invited the speaker have any idea what he was going to say?

This is not the first time I have had concerns over speakers.

I questioned the NAS choice of Temple Grandin as a keynote speaker at the international conference since I felt there were better choices who could give a more objective account than she does. The only thing that shut me up there is that they gave a sideshow to me and a couple of more ordinary aspies. Mind you I do not recall Temple Grandin (who was in the audience for that) waiting for the chairmans leave to interupt either.

I do not think the NAS should always chose safe and relatively tame speakers from the spectrum, the NAS should be better than that, leave that to the provincial autism societies.

This guy they chose is a musician but not an activist, and I suppose from the perspective of what he said, that was not particularly what the NAS wanted to hear either as he was effectively saying the NAS should not bother with awareness campaigns.

No it really annoyed me when the guy advised people not to disclose their dx on job applications, that gives you no legal protection from dismissal later. That really got me, it is not good advice, and does nothing to strengthen the laws that I and countless other disabled people were campaigning for in the cold hearted Thatcher years.

Anonymous said...

"the cold hearted Thatcher years."

I was one of the unfortunate school leavers during the Thatcher years.
I was unemployed for three years.
Just as I was giving up all hope of ever getting a job, an interview came up where I was asked,
"Is there anything that you really hate?"
I said "Margaret Thatcher", and when I told my family this, they thought it was a stupid thing to say and I regretted it.
But I got the job!
Hating Margaret Thatcher got me a job!
Twenty years later I still laugh at the irony, and I'm proud that taking a risk and speaking my mind paid off.

Anonymous said...

Larry you acted in a way that was in synch with your values and beliefs. That you concern yourself with the fallout shows you are a rational man.
Should you or anyone make efforts to conform in society. Absolutely!
The reason is that most of society is not autistic and asking society as a whole to make exceptions for you or your behaviour is nonsensical.
Of course having said this you are who and what you are and to try to completely disregard what you are and disregard all the makes you different from the "normal" neurotypical person is not going to work and it would be similarly nonsensical to do so.
The answer for me is to know myself, conform where I can (if this means hiding/masking my autistic identity and fudging my way through life - fine), picking my battles carefully, being as tolerant, informative and educationalist as possible and at the end of the day if I make an error or if something autistic comes to light, I don't apologise for being me, even if that is autistic.
The fable was a good one. If you are a scorpion in a population of frogs and raised as a frog. You are going to know fairly quickly you are not a frog. To survive in the population you are going to have to be a frog to the best of your limited ability, but sooner or later down comes that tail. When it does, it is because you weren't ever a frog.


Anonymous said...

Larry said:
"but hang it all I am fed up with other peoples names in my dx, so I don't really want another one."

You're right, you should definitely have your own Dx. "Chronic Larryitis", perhaps? Good thing it isn't contagious, and there's NO chance of it being perpetuated genetically.