Cultural Tolerance for Asperger Syndrome

I am somewhat interested in why a brain specialized in mathematical reasoning and physics intuition is so at odds with social norms. The “deficits” of an Aspergers brain seem to give rise to incredible talents in most cases. Any given psychological or physical “disorder” is a random mutation being tried out on the stage of natural and sexual selection. There are certain mutations that are undesirable, such as Schizophrenia, Lupus, Diabetes, etc. Though I think we often throw the baby out with the bathwater. Many Autism spectrum disorders give rise to savantism of some sort. Mathematical and musical talents are the most common gifts to those with Aspergers. There are social deficits that come along with Aspergers, though I would argue many of our social norms and emotional intuitions are childish and archaic. In my experience with Aspergers, most times I am socially reprimanded it is simply for telling the truth. “Normal” people lie or sugarcoat a vast variety of things according to social norms. I do think people have a right to their feelings. I think if someone is offended by something, they have the right to object. If someone says something with the intent to offend or hurt someone, that is unacceptable. Emotional pain is just as real as any other type of pain. However, we need to understand that there are appropriate times to tell the truth, if it is valuable enough, even if people are offended by it. Imagine if I said that I was offended by the color green and that no one can ever wear that color again. Or if I was offended by pronouns, we could never speak well again? Recognize that we only accept censoring offensive things because we all agree more or less with what is offensive and what is not. Cursing, lude sexual behavior, making light of horrific things, etc are all things that we generally agree are offensive. If we all felt emotional pain when viewing the color green I’m sure that color would be considered taboo. However, different cultures have different ideas of what is offensive. Logically it is a fine line to walk when balancing truth against hurting people’s feelings. When we factor in all the social nuances of when to be brutally honest and when to sugarcoat it become incredibly difficult for someone with Aspergers to understand. Although we, as humans, often find the behavior and norms of chimpanzees or bees difficult to understand. I bet you are offended by the seeming comparison between non-Aspergers people and animals. I don’t blame you, but that is not what I intend here. My point is not that Aspergers or non-Aspergers people are right or superior but that they are both different and interesting sets of norms in their own right. I don’t blame people for getting offended at my honesty, and I try to be as respectful as possible of all the social norms I understand. Though I expect some sort of tolerance and respect of my social norms in return. What I expect is for you to understand that people with Aspergers are not trying to offend you, we just have different cultural norms. Imagine if you were offended by someone from Japan who doesn’t make eye contact with you because in Japanese culture that is considered aggressive. Would you be tolerant of cultural norms or would you assume the Japanese person is an asshole? In many Eastern European cultures it is considered an insult to not belch loudly after a meal. If someone from this culture did so after a meal would you condemn and punish them or would you explain to them that this sort of behavior is offensive in your culture? This is just basic tolerance and respect for your fellow man or woman. What if there was a linguistic barrier and someone said something that came off offensive but was not intended to be? I think just some basic respect and compassion for people with Aspergers would go a long way in easing our pain. Most of us like to live by the social norms we understand and just need them explained to us better. Most of us are compassionate and don’t want to hurt others. I think if you had a conversation with someone with Aspergers you would be very interested in our unique world perspective. Many of our quirks and faux pas can be endearing or funny once you understand we mean no harm. I think much of the intolerance and prejudice against those with Autism comes from an unfortunate societal tendency to condemn, blame, and draw lazy stereotyped conclusions without any information at all. Rumors and wild assumptions can be enough for a “normal” person to decide that they know another individual. The insanity and childishness of the rumormill and gossip slaves is something people with Aspergers can never understand. Maybe actually have a conversation with someone with Aspergers, maybe ask them their side of the story. You might just learn something.

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