Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Neurodiversity in the future?

 

Don’t be intimidated by the hefty word “Neurodiversity”. It’s simply a word that describes the incredible diversity of human minds, in which no two of the billions of us on the planet are exactly alike. We are all “Neurodiverse”. There are not two groups of people in the word, “normal people”  and “the neurodiverse”. There is only flawed humanity, all of us imperfect, all of us with needs, all of us interdependent.

Neurodiversity is not a new name for “Neurological Disability”. It is the name of a social movement by neurologically categorised outsiders with labels like autistic, ADHD, the dyses, etc to remind us of the wonder of the extraodinary diversity of the human mind, and to bring us back to our senses. It calls us to stop dividing people into “the productive” and “the unproductive”, where the possession of “a job” is the highest measure of virtue, while those who cannot win the gruelling race to get one, are punished by punitive welfare systems and grudgingly doled out the meanest portion to survive on.

Despite the fancy name, the recognition of the value of Neurodiversity changes nothing about human nature: it just gives us a “rallying cry” - in the jargon of our age - to mobilise for what humans have strived towards throughout the ages:  fairness, justice, a fair share of the riches of the world around them. That is, enough to have their basic needs met, and enough over to allow them to develop their potential, to care for each other and to enjoy the beauty and glory of our world.

In a nutshell, the aims of the Neurodiversity movement, are most succintly expressed by the 19 th century dictum: 



From each, according to their ability
To each, according to their need

In other words:  in the ideal world – which is one that all people of goodwill instinctively want to strive towards - our aim should be to extract no more from each individual than they have the ability to give, and distribute to each no less than what they need to thrive.

This is no easy ideal in practice. Not least because, “How do we know for sure each person’s abilities and needs are?”. To find that out is a life’s work for an individual and an ongoing work for society. It involves all our individual love and our intellect, which are, lest we forget, at the root of all our institutions,  our caring professions, our scientists, our welfare systems.

This is a mighty task, and change is slower than a lifetime.

Even more so at the time of writing, February 2021, where pandemic, global warming and populist politics point to a an immediate future of great economic upheaval and uncertainty. We know that in such times, the majority will turn against minorities and seek to eliminate them. We need to expect the best, but prepare for the worst. 

At such times, it will require courage to stand up for minorities along with humility, patience, perseverence and work. And it must be real work in the service of the future of humanity not “busy work” as conscripts goaded by the carrot of consumer goodies and the stick of a punitive “welfare” system. We must not buy in to the belief that work, any paid work,  is inherently a virtue. Not when it is used to pollute the planet for the sake of producing consumer junk for people in a perpetual dissatisfied state from the meaninglessness of their working lives.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Neurominorities Volunteering on Boards: Exploitation?

Emboldened by calling attention to the rapid "Commodification of Neurodiversity" in my Stanford Neurodiversity Summit Keynote, I want to take it further. It takes me weeks to write a blog piece, so I thought I would put it out there, "strike while the iron is hot"... i.e. do it while I am still energized. 

My point is not to start new dichotomies. In my speech I emphasised that all solutions to problems are double-edged swords. Thus, volunteering as a board member, panel member, can be empowering. However... 

I have volunteered for decades since I became the sole parent of an autistic child, since most carers find it impossible to retain their careers. I found volunteering initially empowering until I began to wonder if I was allowing myself to be taken for granted and exploited. 

Bottom line, I now find myself to be an age pensioner who cannot even afford my medical bills. 

Now that's a wake-up call. Don't end up like me at retirement! 
A boiling frog
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/
65694152@N08/5983908269/

So for me empowerment became exploitation... like the story of the boiling frog (note: it's a metaphor, not science)  ... They say if you put a frog in water and up the temperature very very gradually, it doesn't notice before its too late. Frog boiled to death. 

So don't be mad at me because I am now scrambling to commodify myself before its too late.

It would be great if you shared your experiences in the comments, either in your own name, or anonymously if you are worried about exposure

And then let's see where it goes. 





Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Pinned Post: Explaining Neurodiversity

I am generally credited with being the originator of the term Neurodiversity while writing a sociology honours thesis,"Odd People In: a personal exploration of a new social movement based on neurological diversity" (UTS Sydney 1998). 


I did not define the term, thinking its meaning self-evident. Since then there have been a proliferation of definitions, and as I expected, most people intuitively "get it". But inevitably, some definitions seem to me to miss the point, especially when they take neurodiversity to be a synonym for "neurological disability". 


While I understand that language evolves and changes, I am determined to defend my intuitive understanding of the term vigourously, and have thus unpacked the complex meaning furled within it. 


To read my definition, click on the "What is Neurodiversity" tab above, or here


Contents

  1. What Neurodiversity is
  2. What Neurodiversity is not
  3. What the Neurodiversity Movement is
  4. Fundamental Principles
  5. Neurodiversity and Conservation
  6. The Dark Side of Neurodiversity
  7. Neurodiversity and Eugenics
  8. Neurodiversity and "Difference vs Disability"
  9. The Future of Neurodiversity
If you are interested in going to the primary source, see my republished thesis 

Carry On Regardless!

Am I the only one who can spend more time agonizing about what kind of “regards” to send in a business letter than on writing the whole damn letter?

I’ve had enough, I just can’t take it anymore,

I. AM. NOT. DOING. IT. ANY. MORE!

Life is too short!

One of my autistic traits is that I am ALWAYS sincere. (Well, almost always, unless I have been taught to fake it for the sake of self-preservation in a dog-eat-dog world business world, where duplicity is the norm, and actual sincerity is viewed with suspicion).


In this world, I understand the Regards Hierarchy thus:

  1. Kind regards
    Opening gambit: we haven’t met yet, so let’s be civilized, and let me assure you that I don’t intend to rip you off, while keeping you at a polite distance

  2. Warm regards
    The next round: We still haven't met, but let’s pretend we are practically bosom buddies

  3. Just plain unqualified Regards
    Uh-oh!

  4. [Regards omitted]
    We have engaged the services of a Debt Collection Agency

I CAN’T DO THIS! I do not know you! It is literally painful for me to protest emotions that I do not, cannot, have. All I want is a job/a gig/a refund/more time to pay! Why else would I be writing? I don’t know which adjective to use! This is taking me forever! Can we please just get on with it?

Although, I must admit, when someone sends me their “Highest Regards”, I’m like “Wow, reeeeeeeeeeaally? Well OK, if you insist!”.

To avoid drowning in this quagmire,  I have composed the following sign off:

Disclaimer: the absence of “Regards” and other salutations and protestations of sincerity in this letter do not signal hostility or unfriendliness on my part.They are merely a recognition that this is a business transaction between people who do not know each other. Sincerity is assumed, unless the matter needs to be taken to the courts.

Related Issue: Kisses

How many x’es in a sign off between friends?

I usually sign letters to female friends as “Jxx”, which seems to me to be just right.

One “x“ would seem too perfunctory, too cold, almost a matter of form,  while xxx seems unnecesarily effusive. After all, we should know each other well enough by now to know that of course we have a warm friendship, while not denying that nobody is perfect, and frankly, sometimes we do piss each other off.

This works for me, until someone ruins it and escalates with an extra “x”.

What to do? Should I respond in kind, or will this signal the beginning of an arms race of x’es?

And what if someone then trumps everything with a capital X????

Armageddon!

And let’s not even talk about the delicate situation with male friends. So many worrying factors to consider. If I use an “x”, will they feel their manhood threatened? Will they worry that I consider them effeminate? What will their wives think? Will they think I’m offering them a sexual liason? 

Best not to even go there.

-------------------------------------

Yes, folks, my mind really does work this way. I’m serious!

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What is wrong with this Wikipedia definition of Neurodiversity?

This is a typical definition of Neurodiversity found at random on the web. There are innumberable such, all referring to "normal" variations. 

First, it's important to be wary of the "passive voice" which confers authority by fudging who is speaking. If there is an omitted "by" in the sentence , it's worth asking "by whom". So... 

Regarded by whom? I submit: by an echo chamber of Wiki editors rephrasing earlier Wiki editors. In true viral mode, these definitions  were then adopted by myriad respectable institutions and replicated ad infinitum. 

Who can blame them? Nobody owns the term. I never defined it either, thinking its meaning self-evident. Nevertheless I will put my oar in based on the intuitive Aha! moment I had while writing the work that contained it.

And for goodness sake, do NOT go to Wikipedia for a definition of Neurodiversity. It seems to be changed almost daily by heaven knows who, and it is clear that most of these people don't "get it", they just mash up earlier misconceptions. 

Neurodiversity is not a judgment. It has nothing to say about Normality or Morality. 

Neurodiversity names a biological reality, the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within Earth’s human population.  It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs. That is all. 

Normality is a socially constructed term originating in the 19th century mostly for the use of the bogus science of Eugenics (see my thesis for more detail on the construction of normality). 

I recognize that words evolve beyond their origins by way of a dialectical process. But for the record, I intended the word 

  • to function as an addition to the toolbox of intersectional analysis and 
  • to suggest a name for the emerging 1990s civil rights movement of NeuroMinorities

And it should never be used as a synonym for Neurological Disability, so that respect for Nature’s awe-inspiring variability and its challenge to our ethics and practices becomes the latest stigmatized term for “the Other”.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

We are not "The" Vulnerable: the dangers of the definite article

Before you talk of "The Vulnerable", ask yourself by what means a significant proportion of the populace is rendered vulnerable

Summary

  • I propose that the term "The Vulnerable" is a depoliticized euphemism for people who require social security support due to structural injustice as much as to inherent disability

  • I further argue that applying the definite article "The" to minorities is a powerful method of othering them

  • While some of us may be inherently vulnerable due to heredity, injury, or life stage, as soon as we require government supports and services, this linguistic sleight of hand subtly strips us of our strengths, our agency, our capacity for choice, and our status as citizens

  • Thus reduced to the faceless"Other", we do indeed become vulnerable to stereotype, stigma, pity, and finally compassion fatigue

  • And when compassion for minorities is exhausted, all of us become vulnerable to being divided and ruled by the worst of populist demagogues
---------------------------------

This came to me while I was listening to a presentation by an Emeritus Professor of Sociology who I admire for their life-long dedication to social justice. Though I am in awe of their work, I found my hackles rising as the speech went on. It soon became clear why. It happened every time they used the term "The Vulnerable", as in:

"We" must do more to help "The Vulnerable".


Now I knew this was well-intentioned shorthand for a birgeoning list of marginalized populations too long to itemize: including the many people at the bottom of the socio-economic heap who require require social security to survive: these include people who are: sole parents, disabled, carers, retirees without superannuation, public housing tenants, unemployed, homeless, indigenous, refugees, diasporized, working poor and more. BTW you may notice that many of these groups are overwhelmingly female.  

"Hello", thought I, "I am, or have been, all of the above except homeless and indigenous. But I thought I was part of the concerned and enlightened 'We' attending this symposium, not one of  'Them'!

Suddenly I felt like my sense of competence and belonging was at risk of being ripped away, revealing the tragic mask of "The Vulnerable". 

Theatrical Masks Tragedy and Comedy
Can "we" avoid imagining ourselves in the Blue Mask
when we consign others to "The Vulnerable" bin?
Image by John Hain from Pixabay


Well! I was damned if I would allow myself to be consigned to that nameless mass of the wretched of the earth, "The Vulnerable Others". I consider myself and many of my ilk to be smart, resourceful and resilient people who struggle to survive trauma and deprivation, and yet give back to society when we can. Whether via the energy we put into voluntary work, into caring for family, or in the taxes we paid in our working life, before discrimination, (you know the intersections I'm talking about ), unequal wages, carer responsibilities etc shut us out of paid work. 

So what does "vulnerable" actually mean? 

I disregard the concept of "showing vulnerability" as popularised by Brene Brown, since that is a personal choice, not something imposed from above.

From the definition on the right,  it is clear that while people in need of special care - due to youth, old age, or disability-  may be inherently vulnerable to risk, the rest of us rendered vulnerable by exposure to harmful agents or agencies

We are all vulnerable to having something done to us, whether by neglect, prejudice, greed, irrational belief in inhuman ideologies legislated by people with money or power. 

We are all vulnerable to the actions of unregulated enterprises, landlords and employers; predatory pedagogues and priests; inadequate social security entitlements,  the policies of neo-liberal ideologues, the incitements of tabloids, and more. 

People who are already inherently vulnerable are made more so by governmental failure to fulfil their duties of care, whether financial, or through a failure of regulation. 

I'd rather be called by the good old Aussie term, Battler. Because battling to keep our heads above turbulent economic waters is exactly what most of us do. 

Because what happens when everyone is lumped under the rubric of "The Vulnerable"?  I say it lumps everyone under the same heading of "there's something wrong with them" rather than "there is something wrong with society". Hello, Social Model... 

Some alternatives to "The Vulnerable" 

  • Battlers
  • Social Security Recepients (including those who should be but have been denied) 
  • People made vulnerable by social inequities and exclusions
  • Structurally Disempowered People
  • Socio-Economic Minorities
  • Be specific: unemployed people, sole parents, people shut out from labour markets by age or disability prejudice, people who cannot work and cannot survive on an inadequate pension.




Is "The" the most dangerous word in the English language? 

I have heard it described as such. Don't ask me where, but it certainly resonates.

Obviously the definite article is hardly dangerous when referring to places and things: the garden or the desk in the study 


But when it comes to humans and their collectives (by ethnicity, gender, class, ability etc) history has demonstrated that the danger is real.

Why? Because "the" presumes that the thing being defined is already known, that "we" share a common understanding of its referent, that the meaning attached to it is obvious, self-explanatory, and thus must be universally acknowledged by all sensible people. In short, indisputable common knowledge.

The question is, who defines what this "obvious" understanding is? Who "owns"the stereotype? Too often, the "obvious" is defined by the dominant culture and is used to stereotype and devalue minorities.

For a more indepth contemporary explanation, check out "Linguistics explains why Trump sounds racist when he talks about The African -Americans". (though I think the author is being a little too polite to Trump... )

Thought experiment 1

Look at each item on this list. Shut your eyes. What is the first image, thought, or other sensation that rises in your mind? (Don't censor it. If something ugly comes up, don't feel guilty. Remember, you are just reproducing a socially implanted prejudice. It's not your individual fault. What matters is how you act on a prejudice once you recognize it for what it is)
  • The Blacks
  • The Feminists
  • The Gays
  • The Jews
  • The Neurodiverse
  • The Neurotypical
  • The Vulnerable
  • The Whites 
If you belong to a minority, you may use those terms positively, yet when used by the dominant culture they are more likely to trigger feelings of how you have been hurt by stereotypes. Even if the dominant culture uses them positively, it’s still dangerous. Who hasn't heard the following? 

I can’t be racist because I admire ... [... the Blacks for their athletic prowess, the Jews for their cleverness, The Neurodiverse for their uncomplaining productivity, the Autistics for their genius with IT, the Aborginals for their wonderfully primitive art...]

In short, a great formula for the exploitation of minorities, lest they try to compete with the dominant culture and excel in any field that has not been alloted them.  

An interesting note: we do not often hear “The Autistics”. Perhaps our culture is wising up somewhat. Certainly linguistic research suggests that this reductionist usage of the definite article is in decline. 

Thought experiment 2


Even worse, look what happens when we make the group name singular, so that a whole minority becomes telescoped into one single inndividual.

Without censoring yourself, what image was planted in your mind by racist cartoons depicting "The Aboriginal" “The Jew”, “The Negro”, "The Blonde". Were they old or young, male or female, dangerously clever or stupidly suited only to menial work, ugly or beautiful?

When referring to human collectives:
  • simply leave out “the”
  • turn the word into an adjective: the Gay Movement,
  • qualify it: a few/some/many/most disability activists


Correction

     



    Friday, 19 June 2020

    Are these common socio-political terms doing more harm than good?

     
    Are these prominent taken-for-granted terms in the medical and sociological lexicon doing more harm than good? I've often wondered. I realise my chances  chances of shifting these entrenched concepts are slim, but I offer up these ruminations as  food for thought.  As always I  recognize that language evolves and my objections may not resonate especially with younger generations. 

    • Assess, assessment, assessor 
    • Dementia  
    • Race
    • The Vulnerable  
    • Welfare

      A list of specific arguments and alternatives for these individual term here

      Most of us use these words with the best of intentions of promoting health, wellbeing, and social justice.

      But I see these words as problematic for a variety of reasons. Including that some
      • breathe life into outdated and pernicious concepts that are best forgotten, 
      • are frequently misunderstood, 
      • some
      • trigger extreme emotional reactions and conflict or
      • embody the language of dominance and submission


      I base my ideas on Richard Dawkins' Meme Theory or Memetics

      Memetics are analogous to genetics. Memes are ideas and thoughts that reproduce similarly to viral genes. You could consider them as thought viruses, transmitted from host to host by discourse, i.e. by communicating them by any medium.  Once  we “hear” a meme, our minds become its hosts, ready to transmit it to other minds.  A meme's strength grows every time it is transmitted. 

      And here is the bad news for those who care about the common good: 

      Whether you are for or against a meme, as long as you transmit it, its power grows. It doesn't matter whether your intent is Pro-social or Anti-social. 

      The only way to attenuate a virus is to try to fade it out. 

      A perfect example:  I have often said to people who want to stamp out the Neurodiversity Movement,

      As long as you keep talking about the Neurodiversity Movement,  you are the Neurodiversity Movement!


      The Race Meme


      One well-known thought virus is the idea of "Race"


      While the term "Race" has a long history, its current usage as a tool of discrimination dates back to the pernicious "discoveries" of 19th century pseudoscientists. Their claims that there are vast genetic gulfs between different ethnic groups, have long been  refuted

      "Race" is not a biological fact. It was socially constructed for anti-social ends, as an artefact of European colonialism which need to justify its enslavement, exploitation and robbery of the "Other" and ended up in the horror of the Nazi holocaust

      Nevertheless as long as the word exists, it continues to spark bigotry.

      We have a problem:  while Race is not real, Racism is

      Therefore in order to fight Racism we are inadvertently keeping the bogus concept of Race alive. 

       


      Scientific racism, sometimes termed biological racism, is a pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism, racial inferiority, or racial superiority. Historically, scientific racism received credence throughout the scientific community, but it is no longer considered scientific.Wikipedia


      To reiterate the Bad News: whether you are a Racist or an Anti-Racist, as long as you keep mentioning Race,  the false idea that Race is a biological reality persists

      One solution: Always put scare-quotes around "Race"


      Assess / Assessment/ Assessor


      What’s wrong with it?

      The current usage of Assessment has segued from its official meaning below,  to the accepted term for the process by which the Helping Professions diagnose individuals, often for the purpose of determining their eligibility and entitlement to benefits.

      But check out the dictionary meanings e.g. 

      The dictionary.com definition of the verb "Assess" 
       

         

      To assess means to oversee a complete set of information and make an overall judgment. 

      It's fine to assess inanimate objects: documents, sites and situations. But one flawed human cannot “judge” another human in their entirety.

      This language signals an awkward power relationship especially when Helping Professionals are in theory ethically required to be "on the side of" their client, and their interests. Yet when they take on the role of Assessors, they are placed in the difficult position of serving two masters. They become the gatekeepers of  "welfare" systems 

      It is dehumanizing to treat humans as objects to be assessed.  Especially when it involves the reduction of individuals to fit to criteria or boxes to tick which in most cases, and especially in NeoLiberal, are chiefly concerned with minimizing taxes and welfare expense. 

      Thought experiment: 


      Visualize the scene of an Asses
      so
      r assessing the Assessee: Who sits where? What is their spatial relationship, and what does it signify

      This is NOT a criticism of individuals - often social workers and other helping professionals, mostly women, I imagine. In my experience, helping professionals do their best not to dehumanize their clients but to make the welfare system work for them.

      My criticism is of neoliberal "welfare" systems and their language of “power over” 


      Replacement: 


      • Consultation
      • Social Security Eligibility Interview
      • Social Security Advice and Advocacy Service

      Dementia


      What’s wrong with it?

      Dementia is one of the most terrifying words in the English language, that's what! It's up there with Schizophrenia, though it isn't as scary to look at. 

      Dementia is un unhappy ending you can start dreading just prior to turning 30.

      It terrifies by implying a total loss of mind.

      It is soaked in stigma. Especially as it is horribly reminiscent of demented (crazily dangerously insane), or “dementors” (fictional evil beings).

      The reality: most often a gradual loss of memory and functionality and a part of Neurodiversity. 

      Whether this loss of cognitive functions becomes a negative or positive experience is largely dependent on the kinds of accommodations that are  offered and the attitudes of the people around you. 

      But like everything that affects the human mind/body, it doesn’t mean that some people won’t suffer. Im not against a cure. I just want to say to the psycho-medical profession, “Change the name” and stop terrifying us. 


      Replacement:

      • Semnesia (loss of memory due to ageing or premature ageing)
        • Vascular Semnesia or 
        • The name of the specific syndrome. e.g Alzheimer's Syndrome

        The replacement should evoke respect for elders, suggest a gradual turning inward and withdrawal from the day-to-day in preparation for death and a gracious acceptance of help by those who have made their contributions to society and more…

        Poverty


        What’s wrong with it?


        It is loaded with stigma. It shames and devalues individuals
        It hides structural injustice - the reasons behind individual poverty

        Replacements: 


        • Impoverishment reminds us that social forces often cause poverty, and not necessarily the fault or choice of an individual 

        The categories of Intersectionality

        In my original work I proposed a new category "Neurodiversity"  to be added to the "Intersections of Class, Race, Gender, Disability". This was before I had heard the term "Intersectionality". I now have reservations about Intersectionality and Identity Politics, even though I was an eager early participant. But that is a huge topic out of the scope of this blog post. 

        The original Intersections were Class, Gender, Race, Ethnicity. Disability

        These are unlikely to changed in the near future, but FWIW this is how I see them.

        It seems to me that Intersectionality refers to the categories of Heritage. Thus my favoured terms are Asset Heritage, Genetic Heritage, Ethnic Heritage, Deep Heritage

        I have singled out Race because it is the only descriptor that has no scientific validity, either within the natural sciences or the social sciences. It is thus an especially harmful and pernicious memetic concept that should ideally be dimmed out of our consciousness. The derivative "Racist" however is of some utility if the original meaning of  "race" is forgotten. 

        A disclosure of my status on these is on my To-Do list in the biography of this blog. In the meantime it  can be gleaned from my book. 


         Original  

        How I see it


         Class 




         Asset Heritage differentiated as
        •   Inherited Capital Assets
        •   Inherited Cultural Capital    
                        
         
         Disability






         Genetic Heritage

         Disambiguate into

        • Ability
        • Difference
        • Impairment
         
          Race and Ethnicity       








        Racism

        Racist 

         

        Combine into Ethnic Heritage

         Differentiate into 

        •  Deep Heritage or  GeoHeritage  
        •  Ethnic Identity  
          • Dominant ethnic groups
          • Minority ethnic groups   
        Bigotry 

        Bigoted

         
         Gender





        Differentiate as
        • biological sex including intersex  
        • gender identity
        • sexual orientation
                 



        So-called "Race"


        What’s wrong with it?


        The term is irretrievably mired in an ugly morass of misconception and the worst of human impulses. While science shows there is no such thing as “Race”, we cannot deny that there are clusters of superficial traits of appearance that originate from our early geographical dispersal, which allow the identification and mistreatment of minorities. 

        Replacements:


        • Deep Heritage
        • GeoHeritage
        • Diaspora Minorities

        To my mind, Deep Heritage resonates with deep respect for our ancient origins, our extraordinary adaptations to the diverse planetary regions our ancestors dispersed to, and the rich cultural styles they developed. It is a constant reminder of the genius of human creativity. 
         

        But what about the derivatives, Racism, Racist, Racists?


        Since the noun ‘race’ is discredited, why use the derivatives?

        Because they remain useful in political action. 

        On the other hand,  the adjective Racist is so overused that it has become the subject of endless denial and fruitless passing the moral hot potato.  We've all heard

        “I’m not a racist, but...”

        Which switches focus from the big picture, that hatred of the “Other” eventually rebounds on all of us, to a defensive individual reaction that derails further discussion and entrenches prejudice. 

        Thus the association with science legitimizes it amongst those who use it ignorantly. 

        Do we need replacements?


        Language is dynamic and we do not remember the origins of the words we use. The best hope is that the derivatives are decoupled from the pseudoscientific R-word as it is gradually forgotten. Replacements need to signal strong cultural disapproval, thus:

        • Bigotry, Bigoted, Bigots

        Or, as  #BlackLivesMatter shows there are other positive ways to fight for minority rights for diaspora peoples


        Welfare


        Thought experiment


        Imagine a person or people “on welfare”, imagine a government "welfare" agency. What images come to mind? 


        What's wrong with it? 


        Like the word “vulnerable”, Welfare suggests passive recipients who are devoid of agency, initiative, and capacity for choice. 

        Replacements:

        • Social Security
        The word security reminds us that this is a form of insurance
        Social Security is that portion of the tax that most of the currently “able” pay forward against future incapacity or misadventure whether to themselves or their families. It also comes out of general revenue, which is why it is important that business pay their taxes, and why corporate tax-dodging is so reprehensible.
         

        Tuesday, 24 March 2020

        Covid Days: Minimizing friction in close quarters

        My daughter and I had "The Big Covid 19 Discussion" about how we were going to manage an indefinite period of isolation in close quarters together. We came up with this list which she has transcribed for anyone who is interested.




        Most importantly, let's realise it will be impossible to avoid friction entirely, however we can take steps to keep it to a minimum.

        1. Remember that the other person is not a mind reader – if you aren’t sure what the other means, ask politely. If there is a misunderstanding, don’t apportion blame, just work it out between yourselves.
        2. If the other person appears irritable, take a moment to recognise that it may not be about you.
        3. Take a moment before responding – this is IMPORTANT!
        4. Remember, we are not multi-taskers!!! One instruction at a time, otherwise it is confusing and stressful.
        5. If someone is engaged in a task, realise they may need time to finish that task before moving on to the next thing.
        6. Words/phrases to avoid: “Well – “(said defensively).
        7. THINK before acting
        8. No SUDDEN moves
        9. No snatching!!!
        10. Knock before entering a room
        11. Put aside whatever you’re doing in that moment and give your full attention to the other person if they want it.
        12. Modulate tone of voice and facial expressions when conscious of it, but DON’T suppress feelings. We know that VENTING is important, and we can work it out. After every storm, there is a rainbow.
        13. If grievances arise, take a breath and air it calmly. Do NOT bottle it up. If you hold it in, it will only EXPLODE later.
        14. Respect the other’s need for space. If they say they need some down time, then respect their wishes. They will find you again when they are ready.
        15. Remember to use the magic word when requesting that something be done.
        Remember, our moods and interests are not always in harmony. Sometimes we may not be able to enjoy what the other is enjoying – though often we do! It’s temporary, not the end of the world

        And finally, enjoy dancing, singing, laughing, and telling stories together!

        Wednesday, 18 March 2020

        Warpies and Wefties of the World, Unite!


        Everybody knows that there are just 
        two kinds of people in the world.  But what are they exactly? I submit ...

        Warpies and Wefties


        Yes, it is one of those absurd, over-generalised binaries. But bear with me, because you will find that these are binary opposites that unite us rather than divide us. Thus I believe they are a great metaphor for building harmony between neurotribes whilst avoiding medicalised jargon.

        I base my argument on 

        The Art of Weaving 

        (as Social Metaphor)


         "Warp" and "Weft" are of course names for the diametrically opposite threads which, when interwoven, create infinite varieties of fabrics




        Weaving is arguably humanity's oldest technology, one that combines Art and Usefulness. And one generally associated with the Female, which doubly appeals to me.

        And thus Weaving seemed to be both an adaptable and enduring metaphor for harmonizing in these fractured time

        But before I extend the metaphor to humans, and get into why the warp and weft metaphor has such exciting possibilities for uniting opposites by weaving them together constructively, a brief intro:

        Weaving Basics for Novices



        WARP
        • Taut fixed threads
        • Provide structure
        • Limited colours



        WEFT
        • Threads at 90°
        • Provide variability
        • Many colours


        WOVEN

        • Intersections create virtually infinite variety 


        SEPARATELY
        A tangled useless mess

        INTERSECTING
        Infinite potential



        TAKE THE QUIZ


        Are you a Warpie or a Weftie?


        If inclined, do take this well-meaning, if totally unscientific test. If you are perfectionist like me, you will complain bitterly that the test lumps together adjectives that are unrelated and doesn't reflect your uniquely fascinating"spikes". Just do it anyway. 

        How to score:


        Afraid I haven't figured out how to setup a quiz on blogger, so you will need a writing implement...

        1. Rate each item 1 to 5 from "Not at all like me” to "Totally me"
        2. Subtract the Warpie total from the Weftie total
        3. Warpies will of course have a negative value but only for linguistic reasons - i.e. warp usually precedes weft in English usage. No negative aspersions intended. On the contrary, the point is to show we need each other




        WARPIES

        WEFTIES

        THEIR GIFT

        Provide the backbone of society: Create, maintain and perpetuate social structures

        Provide adaptability for society: Weave through established social structures, experimenting, creating change


        PRIDE

        Pride themselves on being orderly, predictable, responsible, reliable, prudent

        Pride themselves on being change agents, brainstormers, creatives, subverting ossified cultural mores


        CAREER STRUCTURE

        Vertical: prioritize staying in stable employment and rising  through the ranks. Will build up an upwardly mobile CV as they progress

        Horizontal: In traditional jobs, may move in and out of work, with a patchy  CV: From billionaire innovators, to social security recipients


        VALUES

        Security, stability, promotion. May be willing to sacrifice intellectual and  moral freedom for career


        Flexibility, autonomy. Unwilling to compromise intellectual and moral freedom for career

        ACCUMULATION

        Accumulate money due to stable  employment, prudence,  build up retirement funds


        Boom and bust, may end up millionaires or penniless at retirement, and even homeless:

        RELATIONSHIPS

        Tend to stable upwardly mobile relationships and marriages


        Relationships tend to be less stable, often de facto

        OPINIONS OF EACH OTHER

        Consider Wefties to be erratic, untidy, unpredictable, unreliable, self-indulgent, lazy


        Consider Warpies to be authoritarian, controlling, boring, dictatorial

        DREAMS

        Dream of throwing it all away and becoming beach bums and artists. Rarely do it till retirement, when they splurge on travel

        Dream of getting through just one structured day perfecty:rising early, getting chores done,  having regular mealtimes, sleeping by midnight. Rarely achieve it


        BIGGEST REGRET

        Not spending more time with family, being creative

        Not building a career, not paying attention to accumulation


        ENVY

        Weftie freedom and creativity

        Warpie wealth and status


        COGNITIVE PROFILE

        Cognitive profile fairly level across strengths and weaknesses

        Cognitive profile "spiky" across strengths and weaknesses


        SLEEP PATTERNS

        Morning people: regular sleep patterns

        Night owls:irregular sleep patterns, insomnia­




        Why is this a good metaphor for society?



        Warp and Weft, separated, are weak and useless

        Warp and Weft, intersecting, are strong, and have infinitely diverse potential

        Their strength as a metaphor is that unlike the ND/NT divide, they do not oppose each other nor diverge in a different direction, perhaps never to meet again. They separate off, but only to meet again in a constructive fashion.

        Warpies and Wefties intersect and create the fabric of society

        They do not divide society

        They construct society together


        We need each other!




        Disclaimer


        This is not intended to replace the Neurotypical/Neurodivergent binary which is a necessary advocacy tool. I intend it as an affectionate, plain English form of self-identification for the people it suits.
        The description will obviously fit many who have been the object of prejudice in work and education. It is obviously not a "disability label" though there maybe obvious overlaps with neurodivergent conditions