Just a quick companion piece here for Zygmunt’s account of his grappling with the social justice system of extroverts — a group that if not provably neurologically distinct, certainly seems to have its own style of consciousness. A lot has happened in the world of “deserval” in the nearly two years since Extroverts and the Concept of “Deserval” was written. Public consciousness is increasingly occupied with questions of who deserves what; as I write this morning the Occupy Wall Street movement has entered its thirtieth day with related protests underway in dozens of other American cities, while this past weekend several European cities had tens and hundreds of thousands of people in the streets demonstrating for economic justice.
In drawing a distinction based on number, the protesters’ rallying cry “We are the 99 percent” is drawn from the same well as last December’s entry Which War Are We In: Good vs. Evil, or The One vs. The Many? That post also brought up the significance of distributed, decentralized systems, which was a theme I was following closely at the turn of the year as governments around the world were coming to terms with Wikileaks and the distributed network known as the internet. In the New York protests and in others modeled on it elsewhere, one signature move is exactly this turning of a decentralized face toward the authorities, with no discernable leaders and as yet no specific demands. As calls for the occupants of Zuccotti Park in New York to narrow and unify their objectives along ideological lines poured in from groups both opposed to and “concerned” for the movement, I couldn’t help but think of the spat I barged into a couple months ago, when the call was going up for the neurodiversity movement to unify its goals and objectives in like manner.
With all this in mind, that both the neurodiversity movement and those who fly the banner of “We are the 99 percent” are engaged in a struggle of The One vs. the Many, I wanted to throw out three quotes I’ve run across recently, in order to encourage consideration of neurodiversity in light of what’s being learned by and from the ninety-nine percenters.
The first and most lengthy comes from Mike Konczal’s Rortybomb, one of the Top 25 Best Economic and Finance Blogs from this year’s Time Magazine roundup. Konczal has done something fascinating with the We Are The 99 Percent tumblr. “At the site,” as he relates, “people hold up signs that explain their current circumstances, and it tells the story of a whole range of Americans struggling in the Lesser Depression. It is highly recommended.” He goes on, “In order to get a slightly better empirical handle on this important tumblr, I created a script designed to read all of the pages and parse out the html text on the site … After collecting all the text on all the pages, the code then goes through it to try to find interesting points.”
Note: before getting hung up on literal thinking here, remember that while autistics may represent far from ninety-nine percent of the population, autism itself represents the fact that there is more than one way of being in the world. There are in fact many, Many legitimate ways of being in the world, and this is where we join the battle of The One vs. The Many.
Back to Konczal’s statistics, he comes up with a graph of the age distribution of those who had posted (about a thousand at the time) along with the twenty-five most frequently occurring words describing the relevant concerns of posters — and what he then does with and notices about those words should be not only disturbing but familiar to anyone living as or raising up an autistic person.
So if the 99% Tumblr was a PAC, what would its demands look like, and what ideology would it presuppose? Freddie DeBoer is discouraged after reading the 99% tumblr. He’s concerned it reflects a desire for restoration of the glory days of the 90s-00s, which concerns him because “this country cannot be fixed by wishing to go back to the economics of 2005.” Concerned that the solidarity is one that, at most, is a I-got-mine-you-go-get-yours form of neoliberalism (as he imagines it, “I went to college and I don’t have the job and the car and the lifestyle I was promised”), DeBoer is worried that We Are the 99% isn’t “a rejection of our failing order. It is an embrace of it in the most cynical terms.”
With all due respect to DeBoer, the demands I found aren’t the ones of the go-go 90s-00s, but instead [a] far more ancient cry, one of premodernity and antiquity.
Let’s bring up a favorite quote around here. Anthropologist David Graeber cites historian Moses Finley, who identified “the perennial revolutionary programme of antiquity, cancel debts and redistribute the land, the slogan of a peasantry, not of a working class.” And think through these cases. The overwhelming majority of these statements are actionable demands in the form of (i) free us from the bondage of these debts and (ii) give us a bare minimum to survive on in order to lead decent lives (or, in pre-Industrial terms, give us some land). In Finley’s terms, these are the demands of a peasantry, not a working class.
A peasantry, not a working class. My takeaway here, aside from the heartbreaking, infuriating implications for we ninety-nine percenters in general, is that autistics in particular have been denied similarly actionable demands all along, in the form of (i) free us from the bondage of uninformed, unreasonable expectations regarding our behavior, expectations that can never be met without informed and reasonable accommodations, and (ii) give us the accommodations, understanding, and respect we need in both our physical and social worlds (yea, though “territory” both cheap and dear to many will have to be turned over or shared in the process) so that we may lead decent lives.
My takeaway is that autistics have been living like peasants all along.
Here I’ll pause to say that I follow Ari Ne’eman on Twitter and that save for two occasions I have never, ever known him to share or comment on anything not directly related to his work and his concerns as the first openly autistic presidential appointee, serving on the National Council on Disability. And yet twice in the days since the Occupy demonstrations began I have seen him making mention of them, wondering what will come of it all. And so of course I don’t know that I’ve seen Mr. Ne’eman’s focus waver at all actually.
My second quote is from Jack Crow, who appeared in this space not long ago with Advice for Children, Unsolicited. I introduced Jack to Shift Journal from a comments thread on his blog The Crow’s Eye; he is one of the few people I’ve ever met who got what this site is about immediately with little more than a sentence’s worth of explanation. Here he is developing an idea that actually has appeared in two posts that I’m aware of; I’ll combine them here into one train of thought:
At the point of resistance, where we meet others who want to struggle, who want to fight, who have reached the apex of a necessary question, our origins matter less than our aims.
“What is that question? ” you might wonder.
I’ll gladly tell you. The question is, “Why shouldn’t everyone have it easy?”
I mean, everyone. If you can ask this question, I kindly submit to you that you are all the way there.
So why not take the next step?
Why not resist?
6. A coherent message which can be simplified to this: It Should Be Easy For Everyone. This conservatarian/bootstrapper ethic which dominates our culture and society has got to be fucking attacked, and mercilessly. Hard work and poverty don’t improve character. They break lives.”
It Should Be Easy For Everyone.
It should be easy for everyone.
It should be easy for autistics.
It Should Be Easy For Autistics.
The final quote I have is from technologist, science fiction author, and journalist Meredith L. Patterson aka @maradydd on Twitter where her profile describes her as “angry young mathematician.” Her words might well have been posted with the hashtag #contextfree, but I expect if you’ve read this far it’s safe to let them speak for themselves:
@maradydd Meredith L Patterson
The *whole point* of privilege is “Everyone deserves X.” Do not forget this.
14 Oct via web
[image via We Are The 99 Percent Tumblr]