I am in a lot of pain these days, so my thoughts are more fragmented, winter is a rough spot for me and it makes it hard for me to focus on things and keep things straight when dry skin and painful joints and sinuses keep tugging at me, honestly I would really just like to hibernate and get past this season and get on with my life. A warmer climate is sadly not an option, my wife’s work and my dislike of places where folks legally have the right to shoot me if I have an autistic meltdown kinda make me want to never visit most southern states again…ever. But, I digress, before I even got started, one thing I have thought about a lot recently though is rituals.
Ok, so when talking to educators and other’s who pride themselves as being “in the know” on spectrum, one thing that comes up is what are my rituals. First, based on the current social paradigm, one would think that question would be considered rather rude, as it is certainly prying into my personal life. Frankly, I don’t care, but it is telling that strange repetitive behaviors I have are classified as rituals in a way that is abnormal. Yet to me, societal rituals and religious rituals are nonsensical to me, and our society has many rituals we are expected to observe. In my case, with functional mirror neurons so I can read people’s reactions, but the “socialization issues” of being on the spectrum, it is directly connect to my very logical and rational way of thinking, and I see so much ritualized behavior every single day, and yet folks are not challenged on those rituals.
The dominant paradigm sets the acceptable vs deviant notions of rituals, so when you do not fit the dominant paradigm, when you think so differently that you are honestly confused as to how folks accept and roll with certain socially expected behaviors, you are forced to try and understand the highly ritualized behavior of the culture you live in. And the dominant society has so many, sometimes at odds with different worldviews and sometimes taken so for granted that it is assumed it is part of the natural human condition. When one is part of the dominant paradigm and the world makes sense, that position of cognitive privilege means you do not have to hone your assessment skills. An example of this is being a native English speaker in this day and age, though many choose to learn another language, most don’t and many even get offended that non-English speakers can’t seem to learn English well. The dominant paradigm views the world through a cultural and personal lens that their privileged position allows them to never have to develop a cognitive toolkit to navigate the world, the world is expected to navigate around them. Another example is general knowledge of the happenings in the US, in many ways folks in Europe and Asia know more about what is going on in our nation on a macro-scale than the residents in our nation, we take for granted how things function and because we do not perceive other’s as a potential threat we don’t have to take the time to understand them either.
So, when the dominant paradigm exists in an interesting position of privilege that allows them to wear rose colored glasses in regards to their own actions and demean those who are different or even against their worldview. It is easy to label “the other” as flawed, backwards, or barbaric. Instead of understanding, that culturally, as well as inherently through neurology that folks value and prioritize things differently. This comes back to the notion of rituals, societal mores and values, and the inability to see their own rituals whilst constantly pointing out perceived deviancy from these norms as somehow making an individually morally inferior. I am not going to engage in small talk, I am not going to say something polite because it is expected, when I say something nice it is because I mean it, and I often do, I am quite a nice person, I hold no ill will towards people in general. Don’t get me wrong, I am often frustrated with people, and often feel like I want to defenstrate them for being obtuse, but this is a personality conflict stemming from different ways of thinking, not a inferiority/superiority issue. You see, in many ways, I have fewer rituals than society writ large, because I see irrational and illogical action constantly and choose to not take part in it, I disdain cultural detritus and archaic holdovers, even though I respect their origins and intent. Add into it that I can read micro-expressions well, and I am often frustrated, I hate lying and I see lies constantly, little white lies, grey lies, or big whoppers of lies. I don’t want someone who does not feel a certain way telling me they feel another way to spare my feelings, my feelings are hurt by deceit, never truth. Certainly if someone attacks me with micro-aggressive language I might get irritated myself, but it is honestly not that hard to be direct and honest without being insensitive, simple statements like “this is not meant to be an insult” or “hey, have you thought about it this way?” can go a long way in making speaking the truth an relatively painless task. Likewise, we are conditioned to assert ourselves as always knowing what we are doing, the extrovert ideal for leading, a culture of everyone seeing being the alpha as more critical than any other role. And when you have a society of alpha’s, you have a mess, you have in fighting and violence, when you demean the omega’s who are trying to create a social accord, perceive them as weak. In many ways, it is a warrior society, be it a physical battle or a business one, the take no prisoners approach to crushing the opposition and silencing it becomes the culture of the bully. Ritualized warfare in the form of modern business practices is one way to look at things, one ritual society writ large takes for granted.
So politeness, competitiveness, ritualized warfare in business, the constant need to label things as sacred for one person or another and thus being angered or indignant when someone fails to observe your notion of the sacred, all these things are social rituals. Standing when folks enter a room, giving someone who has no common interests your complete and undivided attention, rote learning of facts over thinking about them, more social rituals. I could certainly go on and on about such things, the layers and layers of expected behaviors that when you do not think that way, makes every social interaction an exercise in walking on eggshells because you don’t want to offend. In a lot of ways, I envy those who are wired to not care if they offend, to be so direct and blunt that they do not even consider the others, but for someone like me, I think of all the possibilities, social analysis paralysis on a large scale, granted it is what makes me a social scientist, scene violations, testing hypothesis, and breaking taboo. I try to not offend or manipulate folks over much with these, but honestly that does come naturally to me, everyone I meet informs me about the world and cognition, and thus by default become part of my massive social testing and experiments, nothing personal folks, just how I am wired, especially when I must understand the dominant paradigm in an attempt to navigate it.
So, I think everyone could benefit from thinking about their own rituals and societal rituals, what is the underlying purpose and function for them, they are not totally meaningless, they exist for a reason, but often they are bandaids based on a faulty understanding of human context and the extreme diversity of neuro-make up’s found in the world. My rituals, may sometimes be bizarre, especially the ones connected to making sure my sensory functions are uninhibited, it may sometimes seem crude, but there is a logic behind it, even when not readily apparent to others. And if I can take the time to follow some of societies rituals, then society should be able to understand some of my own as well, and that of many other people as well, for being just rituals, we all have them, and if they are not harming others, then there is no moral judgment to be had, no malignancy, nothing noteworthy at all, move on and let folks do what they will.