Thursday, 7 March 2013

How To Understand

If we begin as a blank slate then the outcome of us as a person is either wholly or mostly determined by direct experience. Even extrapolated ideas and complex emotional states are things that require more basic building blocks. It's supported by some evidence that we make decisions before we are consciously aware of it and any hesitation or deliberation before we outwardly commit is just going through the motions- it will not affect what we choose in any way except to provide a slightly opportunity for any consequential new information that rarely shows up. Does this make decisive or impulsive dispositions ideal? I'd say no; we do take some control and shape ourselves and what we will do in the future whenever we reflect and we do this more than we realise. When we read, when we play, when we listen and when we regret. Conscientious people ultimately have more free-will. That is my opinion.

Frequent praise I hear about Autistic people is the lack of malice, prejudice and a surplus of curiosity and sincerity. There are some semantics at work here; another perspective is that it's naivety. Both are valid but they can't both be right: if the former is right then Autistics are more conscientious, if the latter then Autistics are not learning from direct experience. Here we hit the limitations of language: there is no word to describe a person who is both stupid and smart, lazy and active, blank and filled in. Or the idea of a person starting as a blank slate is wrong, completely wrong, not just slightly. This isn't an exception that proves the rule- it's an unmovable obstacle. The only resort is to cheat and say "it's just their nature". The problem with the blank slate is that it is itself a blank slate- it doesn't say anything about what the human condition. Naturally it ran into problems and this is what led to all the modern theories about 'human nature' that plague us to this day- that people are by default selfish and can only cooperate or behave altruistically when it serves them to do so. But whilst social darwinism in the late 19th century was simply these ideas dressed up in the clothes of actual science, the branches of modern philosophy from the 18th century were themselves trojan horses for those of the 17th and 16th century. They weren't new: they were the same root idea that has always sought to justify rather terrible behaviour. I could sympathise if they just wanted to be left alone, it's what happens when such people are left alone long enough to cultivate power, connections and assets; they don't reciprocate to everyone else.

I suppose it informs my politics, which I now know to be 'left-wing' but I don't find myself being socialist or liberal, so not 'far left' or 'centre-left' as these positions are described. I never intended for The Files to be political: it was supposed to be ethics, Autism, data and standards in public life when applied to social security in Britain. When I went to London in March 2011 to lobby MPs with the National Autistic Society, others attending weren't political either. But they mainly parents and carers of Autistic adults and most were older than 50 years: not loud-mouthed opinion spewers and not word mincing diplomats. Grey, stern and grim-jawed. It was a relief, but I never would have even got there without extensive help and support. The NAS picked up the bill for train tickets, the support group charity lent someone familiar with both myself and London. I receive DLA Mobility because I can't cope in an unfamiliar place without assistance. I will not be eligible for PIP. I refuse to accept that my MP and the government do not understand this. Knowing what others are capable of understanding is a crucial component of trust and too much has happened for myself and others to trust them any more. There are extremely few people who have ever succeeded in making me feel this way about them.

I didn't go with my mum because I didn't tell my mum. She wouldn't understand. 



1 comment:

  1. "there is no word to describe a person who is both stupid and smart, lazy and active, blank and filled in".

    Yin and yang. It's the human condition - that's why we can apply incredible intellectual resources - to develop something wholly stupid, such as a neutron bomb. Or being male - I'm lazy, and watch TV; but active, in spending an hour looking for the remote.

    Interesting piece. Not convinced by all of it - usually the more conscientious somebody is, the more limited their will becomes, because they find themselves constrained by the liberties they value: they recognise that their freedom ends where another person's begins.

    But certainly thought-provoking. Especially the part about so many campaigners being non-political.

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