Protest art-The Rise of American Facism

So I am deviating from my normal topics of autism and aphantasia, but still sticking to my guns of looking at humanity’s context.  The problem with ultra-nationalism is that it is completely predictable and often cyclical in nature.  The feelings and attitudes don’t just blossom into existence, they are already there and people with power frequently utilize this to their advantage.  The reality is, 50% of the population is below average intelligence, this is a statistical reality, that is not a judgment call, but with that comes a decreased ability to perceive cause and effect. As the world becomes more nuanced, more complicated, more grey, it also creates more fear, trepidation and anxiety in the population.  As I have stated many times, no individual human can fully understand objective reality, we have limited senses and limited intellectual capability, the fact is our primate mind is still adapted to the African savannah and many trappings of modernity are showing some individuals as being maldaptive to it. I am from a sensory perspective, there is simply too much data, both knowledge and sensory out there for my brain to handle, I have to fight consciously against black and white ideation, I see the appeal of a simple explanation that suddenly makes the world make sense, and that ideology reduces stress and anxiety on some levels.

In the case of fascist ideology, it is a perfect tool to manipulate people who lack the faculties to engage in extensive introspection of themselves and their own flaws and instead seek to apply the problems on external sources.  By creating fear of an external threat, you tap into this population, who by their very primate nature seek sense, order, and security in a world they simply cannot understand.  It comes in waves and surges, nationalism is not always facism, but it is a fine line. Fascism is a capitalist political system the connects protectionist economic policies with ultra-nationalist politics, and fosters xenophobia of difference.  And it is not just one population that suffers as a result, anyone who diverges from the desired “superior” culture is at risk.  I am not Jewish, but I am on the autism spectrum and during WWII , especially as a child with my frequent outbursts, I would have qualified as a mentally deficient, and I too would have met a state sanctioned end, maybe not a gas chamber, instead they got parents to sign off on euthanasia, left us exposed to the elements during winter, kept us in massive group bunkhouses and did not treat for fatal communicable illnesses, more passive aggressive in nature, but again the culling of difference that was perceived as undesirable.

Now onto the role art plays in this.  Protest art has a long history, my first exposure to Renaissance political art was Heironymous Bosch’s painting of a monkey.  In the case of protest art, it has the power to communicate in a way words simply do not convey well.  I can talk till I am blue in the face about Donald Trump and Facism to a Trump supporter, but it hits that subjective filter where their fear and anxieties are over-riding their frontal lobe, they are thralls to their amygdala and they process a challenge often as a hostile threat and thus a fight or flight reaction.  A visual medium is able to target the brain in a different way, it may be offensive, it may still elicit a hostile reaction, but the imagery also has a chance to plainly show what words are unable to convey. In my case I love to explore dichotomy and juxtaposition,  so in this case a treasured symbol desecrated by a symbol most find abhorrent.   I am a disabled veteran from a multi-generational military background on both maternal and paternal sides.  For me the flag is a powerful symbol, it means a great deal to many, some positive, some negative, but seldom neutral in it’s nature.  Until the rise of Trump’s fascist worldview I had considered using the flag in art off limits, it had too much chance to be divisive.  And yet, I don’t think many Trump supporters actually realize how far down the fascist road they have traveled, so I chose to create an piece to illustrate this, to show the symbolism of the flag, the swastika, a physical wall, the hand of a brown person behind bars, to call out his rhetoric as well. Not easy for me, since planned and conceptualized art is not my strong point, I do far better creating as I go and letting my state of mind influence the final outcome.  Yet, I felt the imagery was needed, that some needed to see images they may hold sacred juxtaposed with imagery they have a visceral reaction to.  And maybe, just maybe for some it will cause a cognitive stirring, it will get them to engage in just small amount of self-skepticism and introspection, even if it is just assessing their present image and saying “you are wrong we are not like that at all”, to which I say “then prove it.”



Aphantasia and my artistic process

So I have been silent lately, moved into the new house (At least I own this one!), disruptions to routine, same old crap. Mostly comes down to whatever I am perseverating on at the moment, which tends to block out anything and everything else going on, makes me horrendously unreliable, which is why I seldom ever promise or commit to anything.

That said,  I now have my own art studio space with the new house and have been spending a tremendous amount of time in there…mostly playing around with acrylics on canvas (I have texture issues with oils getting on my hands, drives me nuts).  I have traditionally focused on colored pencils, pen and ink, etc.  But I came across something interesting about the artist Grandma Moses, how she got into painting as a result of arthritis and decided to give it a try since my hands cramp horribly trying to do drawings. And wow, painting is so much easier on me, and I get to do really satisfying things like fill syringes with paint, smack the plunger, make huge spats, even whipped a canvas with 20 lb test fishing line dipped in paint (the one shown), and pretty much any other crazy idea that comes into my head, which is just lovely.  That and based on my super long blog posts, I am really beginning to realize I might better communicate my thoughts via a visual medium than 4k+ words.

So, as an aphantasiac autistic individual I have a lot of barriers in regards to traditional fine art.  And frankly I am glad, I hate being “normal”, such a foreign concept to me, I do like the concept of outsider or Art brut though quite a bit.  Now, some youtube videos on aphantasia have focused on lack of “imagination” and one even said you would be unable to sculpt because you could not imagine the outcome.  It really shows how biased we are to our own cognitive and sensory process. I would think that if you are an artist and visualizing is critical to your process, not being able to do that seems foreign, even impossible…it should be foreign it is a different mode of thinking, but certainly not impossible.

So how have I been creating art?  Like when I do a math problem, I have to do the work in front of me, I have no inner template to go from, I may have conceptualized an idea (though usually those are the worst paintings for me by far) but for the most part I build up something on the canvas until, like a Rorschach test, I begin to see something form in front of me, and then I can guide that process.  When I finish a painting, I am seeing it for the first time, and it is amazing, because it informs me about myself in ways I otherwise could not fathom.

Now how do I guide this process from the start? I often have something eating at me, often socio-economic, social sciences, or political in nature.  For example the featured image is called “Refugee in Hijab” because I can see again the cycle of fear and demeaning that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy in full swing again, so many scared primate minds creating the conditions to make that which they are afraid of, unable to see the connections and correlations between there actions and the end result. These mood and thoughts influence how my brain is interpreting the image forming before me, so what I am thinking or worrying about influences how I guide the end product.  Such a fascinating process really. I often complain about how my conscious and sub/unconscious mind do not seem to communicate well and see eye to eye.  I have even denigrated my desire to do art in earlier blog posts, but the reality is, I am beginning to find more value in it, to get past my aphantasiac tendency to just define my existence through words.

So will I ever learn to doing realistic art? Not likely, could I? To a degree, I could learn to do still lifes and landscapes, draw what I see and translate it to an image on canvas.  But I am not interested in these things, they do not hold new thoughts, ideas, or inform me about the world or myself in interesting ways.  I want my art to be interesting, cognitive, maybe occasionally political or teach a lesson when possible, but over all I want people to wonder what the heck was going through my mind when I made that painting…because that is exactly what I am doing too!  Looking at the art that helps me get insight into myself, helps others get insight into me, and since as someone on the spectrum, even after studying social science so extensively, I still struggle to connect with people in a way I feel is meaningful. Sure I can meet others halfway, do the small talk, which can be important and validating to many, but for me? It has little value, I am investing my energy into helping someone else feel well, and still leaving myself out like an alien on the sidelines.  So my artistic process is an exploration of communication with myself and interpersonal communication, we shall see how this goes.  On the upside, with canvases hung all over my house now, out of sight, out of mind is much less of an issue!

Training that Pattern thinking

So, I have been quiet lately, but I think I can begin to get back into the swing of things since my life seems to be resuming some semblance of normalcy .   One of the ideas bumping around in my noggin, but also alluded to in some earlier blogs, is training pattern thinking in terms of logical thinking.  Logical minds are very good at connecting the dots and seeing correlations, but the inferences made and conclusions generated are still only as good as the quality of the data that has been retained.   With extremely logical minds, we see patterns, connections, and correlations in so many different ways, and it can become extremely hard to separate out the useful and trivial data.  I have the beginnings of a solution, and before I forget for any credential freaks out there, I do have my M.ed. so I am not clueless on topics related to pedagogy, that said, training the logical thinker to be able to sort through this data becomes a powerful tool for empowering the individual and helping calm the chaos of a world filled with beautiful patterns.

When I see bad pattern thinking, I often see issues of ideology or unreasonable correlations as the biggest issues.  In the form of ideology, rigid thinking patterns in regards to one’s belief in how the universe works results in the loss of pertinent data in favor of data that already fits their existing world view.  Harold Garfinkle might say this is part of the social creation and re-creation of shared realities.  Through social consensus we often agree on a reality that is highly subjective, based on anecdotes and belief as much as valid observation of objective reality.  When this ideology is challenged, because it based on a rigid and flawed data set, the individual can become hostile, feel threatened, shut up and move on, but they will most often dance around the subject in some way. The internalized notion of reality that is under threat defends itself, best described I think as feeling one’s sanity is at risk, when one challenges a pillar of a person’s identity, and that pillar becomes undermined, it is the perfect recipe for an existential crisis, and I do not think everyone makes it through that experience, so in a very real way, it is a threat to them to challenge these firmly held beliefs.  Yet, children taught to train their logical thinking will be able to better construct a worldview, and though their personality may still hold onto that worldview rigidly, it will be more informed and inherently more flexible.  Likewise, in the case of unreasonable correlations, properly trained logical thinking will help them vet the soundness and validity of their logic, helping to prevent the uptake and retention of bad correlations.

As it stands now, I see four primary things that need to be taught to logical thinkers, and are beneficial to everyone as a whole. First, we need to teach very basic logical syllogism, a simple logical equation that helps determine if an idea is sound, valid, neither, or both.  Secondly, we need to teach Occam’s Razor, not necessarily in that term, but simply reinforce the notion that the most likely answer is it, and that it is the starting point for getting to the real answer, jumping straight to “my teacher must be an alien” is how you end up with the stereotype at least of the “crazy conspiracy theorist”, often tremendously great logical minds, that are simply not weighing the probability of their correlations well.  Thirdly, we need to teach the scientific method, especially in regards to reinforcing that correlation is not causation.  Finally, we need to teach reflexive triangulation, and that is helping it become habit to test correlations against at least three scenarios or thought experiments to quickly determine if ones logic is at least sound. With these cognitive tools developed, the extremely logical mind and pattern thinker is better able to quickly determine the value and use of correlations they see.  It foster’s a healthy sense of skepticism towards rote understanding, and will greatly strengthen critical thinking skills that could translate into a real asset later in life as well.  It may seem like a lot, but many of these concepts can be taught outside of lesson plans and embedded within everyday class behavior, below are a few ideas for use in the classroom to help teach these things, and this is targeted towards the elementary aged students, as this would be the appropriate time to help focus those synapses.

Teaching logical syllogism is fairly easy given the numerous everyday examples of wrong correlations that younger concrete learners very naturally make.  So when a student exhibits correlations based on uninformed logic and a mix of magical thinking, the educator can break that down using logical syllogism and show the student the process while also helping shape their line of inquiry and correct erroneous correlations.  Likewise, you can even break their answer down in a way that shows they were using underlying logic well, that it simply had the wrong data, and thus the child can have the positive aspects of how they arrived at the conclusion reinforced, while still correcting the errors.

Occam’s Razor is already taught to a limited degree, every time an educator challenges a child’s guess as to why something happened with a “do you think that likely?” or a “did you consider this?”, the child is learning to look for the most common patterns, be they social or based in object reality.  Yet, reinforcing this concept verbally would be beneficial, ask questions along the lines of “what do you think is the MOST likely answer?”, and use this tool to engage the students in thinking about probability as part of following a line of inquiry to get to the right answer.

In regards to the scientific method, for the most part it is taught reasonably well, but we tend to keep it compartmentalized instead of using it as a thought tool that can be applied to any line of inquiry.  A hypothesis can be generated and tested in social settings, while playing games, etc.  For example, almost any game can be manipulated to give unfair advantage to some of the players, an educator could engage the children in rules changes and see how it affects the games, it also helps to reinforce why we play with standardized rules and agree as a group to follow them, a not uncommon lesson many children have to learn.

Finally, the seemingly hardest is to teach the habituation of triangulation, that is when one sees a connection between two things, they then learn to take that correlation and apply it to at least two other scenarios or different perspectives, this helps teach the mind to look for validation in the form of seeing if the correlation holds up to other scenarios. It does not guarantee a correct answer, but it helps quickly eliminate bad correlations when it becomes apparent that in other situations the perceived correlation does not hold up or apply well.  Teaching this can be done via line of questioning and teachable moments, but can also be incorporated into early testing and activities, by have children learn to seek out and make three good connections to their central idea.

As integrated learning methods, most of these need little modification to an existing pedagogy, instead it becomes an additional tool and approach to help students better understand how to think, check their thinking, and a bit more about themselves.  Trained to reflex you have a powerful tool to teach intuitive types and non-intuitives alike.  For the intuitive thinkers, it helps ensure the data they choose to incorporate, and thus influences their intuition.  For the non-intuitive, it teaches a method by which to build up understanding and arguments, to step outside just the here and now, but to thing expansively or in the long term.  Though like many of ideas, this one it but a nascent one, I believe that coupled with an educational system that puts emphasis on understanding one’s own self-identity along with the academic work, we will empower our descendants to think critically and have a broader perspective.

Thoughts on Religion and Church from my psuedo-vacation

Been extra quiet this month as I had to go to Florida for 17 days for a family medical issue, and trying to get any real work done outside my personal space is really just not likely to happen.  I did go to church with my mother one day though, and that got the old gears going in many ways, so I figured I would share this bit, as it was a novel but also strangely familiar experience.

Going to church was every bit as stressful as I could have expected it to be, but not because of the content or message (the church is very very liberal, we are talking quips about Palm Sunday and Gay Pride Parade sort of liberal, actually was quite amusing), but the very nature of the use of space and expectations for socially sanctioned ritual.  In regards to that specific experience, I pretty much went into shutdown mode not long after entering the space.  The congregation was warm, friendly, and welcoming, which for me was extremely uncomfortable since there were tons of hand shakes, hugs, pats on the shoulder and back, way more physical contact than I was mentally prepared for actually, too touchy and that was just the beginning.  The space was acoustically a nightmare, this church was actually in a dance studio, so everything echo’d and amplified. Finally, an entire wall was mirrors and the Pastor stood in front of that, so I was able to see everyone every single time I looked up, I spent almost the entire time hunched over staring at my feet and desperately wanting to cover my ears to reduce the noise. To say it was a sensory nightmare, was an understatement, I wish I could have kept my sunglasses on too, anything would have been a small blessing to use some church parlance here.

The experience also had me thinking back to my youth, and how I am conditioned to not see a church as a sanctuary where all are welcome, but instead a place of ridicule, judgment, and suffering.  I can recall in childhood the stares when I could not hold still, how my feet would burn with pain having to stand up, how the noise was a cacophonous roar, all the time I was expected to make eye contact, because failing to do so consistently got me labeled as being untrustworthy.  Over the decades that tainted and damaged my view of Church, for a long time it led me down a road not too far off from the view of Richard Dawkin’s and Christopher Hitchen’s, angry anti-theism, attempting to place the ills of the world at the feet of the Church.  I was wrong in that, a person’s religious views do not inherently make them rigid and judgmental, it just happens to be a very common occurrence in my life experience and in the churches I attended over the years. As I have stated before, rigid ideology and belief is the underlying issue, religion does not have a monopoly on that, and not all religions are equally rigid in their worldview.

In turn this has had me thinking about autistic meltdowns and church, I had a few in church, many would label it as me being a spoiled brat, some went as far to claim I was or was at least at risk for possession.  And it is not just the meltdowns after all, the skeptic in me wants to question and challenge, to seek more data, and when the expectation is that one takes these things on faith, I became inherently flawed as well for not just doing so.  One thing I loathe about sermon’s is that the congregation must sit there and just listen to the sermon, it is horribly one sided, this social conformity that assumes a great deal about the person giving the sermon being an authority on the matter being discussed. Listening and absorbing, approaching a religious leader after with questions but never feeling able to actually challenge them for fear of retribution from them, the congregation, or my own family.

I wonder then, based not just on my own experiences, but the experiences of others on the spectrum in church, or parents who are now trying to advocate for their children to a congregation that sees them as a distraction, as individuals flawed and unworthy of being there, how many of us in the past have suffered at the hands of a church’s judgments and assumptions.  How many children on the spectrum who had meltdowns have been thought to be possessed? How much have we suffered at the hands of neurotypicals who in their honest ignorance could not and did not know any better, and thus applied their limited worldview in judgment upon us?  How many of us have suffered true religious trauma and still do so today? Ostracized, judged, pointed out and denigrated for things outside our control, especially when the very space, the very nature of how we congregate for worship is a horrendous sensory and cognitive nightmare for so many of us on the spectrum, and yet again the onus of our actions is upon us, the focus on the flaws in an individual vs the flaws of the socially accepted ritual and paradigm.

I fret and worry about non-neurotypical children in religious settings constantly, and the judgment faced there diffuses out into the communities as well. In a way, a church can be an epicenter, not just for a solid sense of community, but for the judgment and suffering of those who do not fit into the dominant paradigm, who through no inherent moral fault of their own, cannot thrive in that particular environment.  I then see a possible solution as well, through education, through combating ignorance, where the Pastor’s, Priests, and Clergy have the power to disseminate real knowledge and understanding on autism, real compassion, to expand the dominant paradigm’s understanding of who we are and how we unintentionally more often than not are made to suffer in those pews and outside the church doors.  And if they can welcome and embrace these children, find time to create a space for them to avoid overstimulation without fear of judgment or damage to their self-identity in the form of feeling they are wrong, unworthy, or even in my personal case, made to feel I was actually evil and flawed beyond words.  This would benefit not just the congregation, not just the people of faith, but the overall community as well, it could help address issues of bullying based on ignorance of the difference, it could help mitigate suffering within the community, if only they could see that it truly is not a flaw or fault to simply be different and unable to thrive in certain environments. To understand how both in the Church and in greater society as well, the very environment can be harmful and damaging to those of us on the spectrum.  And in doing so, find a bit of redemption as well for themselves, for the untold generations who have suffered for just being different and having difficulty coping, for being wired to not always take things on simple faith, but by their very wiring must question and try to understand.

For all the harm that has been done, that same mechanism could now be a powerful tool to expand the conversation and the dominant social paradigm, so help further tolerance and understanding more in line with the views of Jesus of Nazareth, the church could again help unite community instead of being used by some as a mouthpiece to spread intolerance out of fear of the erosion of their views of morality.  I do not understand how so many people of faith pick and choose intolerance, swear the Bible is infallible, yet consistently no longer practice or judge based on many Biblical references, how is it we manage to so blindly cherry-pick our ideology.  Homosexuality is an abomination to so many, because of the the Biblical references, but tattoo’s, divorce, slavery, and a host of other Biblical references are now view differently. Logically, if one admits to some of these being flawed, then it is only logical to view other one’s as being flawed, that whether or not it was divinely inspired, fallible humans wrote, edited, translated, and altered this work over time. I suppose this is a topic for another time, the myopia of religious institutions, that overshadow the words of Christ in favor of Leviticus or Paul.

A (not so) short blurb on being genuine and normalizing harmless behaviors

So, I have been reading a lot of autism advocacy related stuff today, many of the points I support, sometimes the delivery seems counter productive, but by and large it is well done, and the intent is absolutely what needs to be said.  In essence a great deal of it comes back to needing to expand the dominant paradigm, normalize behaviors that folks fear or worry about out of ignorance, understand that nurture is ever so important.  I mean seriously, when you read some of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum, mental illness is so common in the population that it is believed and accepted to be a normal part of being on the spectrum.  It really is not the case, it is the hijacking of a healthy sense of self identity from being labeled, demeaned, bullied, and often abused because one happens to think and interact with the world differently.  Those of us who are verbose and extremely verbal can often pass un-noticed, but the cost can be substantial as we keep forcing ourselves to act in appropriate manners, suppressing very natural tendencies that are in fact…harmless.  Yes, we need to learn a few rules of etiquette, just like everyone else does, understanding of personal space and personal property are important concepts, but when the kid messes it up, the last thing they need is to be insulted, demeaned, or yelled at.  Violent words or violent physical acts are expedient, and in our time obsessed society expedience often trumps healthy nurturing techniques.  Even I slip up sometimes with my daughter, when I am stressed or overwhelmed myself, I can be short, because I can see the eyes looking, I have spent my life fearing the judgment of others, but  I work hard to be my genuine self everyday. I am also getting better at not being reactionary with my daughter as a result of working to be more at ease with myself. An example of being more genuine occurred today; I went shopping for a few things, instead of pulling down my hoodie, taking my hands out of my pockets where I am fiddling with things, and removing my sunglasses, I kept them on.  I kept them on because even though I dislike people judging and making assumptions, I cannot prevent their ignorance, but I can keep myself from being over-stimulated by doing things that are in fact, in my best interest. And I have heard the dominant assumptions many times before, folks who have something to hide, or are on drugs, etc. When in many cases, it has nothing to do with any of those things. But the dominant paradigm favors assumptions based on what they perceive in object reality, filtered through a ignorant worldview…and once again that is not an insult, and it is why it is imperative we expand the dominant paradigm to stop judging what they don’t understand, by educating them on both the reality of folks on spectrum, or a host of other social issues based on assumptions, and by working to normalize these things so they are not strange, frightening, etc.

I have seen so much speculation on “why are we seeing more ASD diagnosis”, part of that is the diagnostic criteria of course and a increased understanding of these things.  But, we also live in a world that is far more stimulating and overwhelming than anytime in human history, our very use of public space is inherently harmful to many on the spectrum who struggle with hyper-sensory issues. You add in a healthy dose of rigid thinking that fails to recognize certain behaviors as being something far different than what they assume they are seeing, and you have huge levels of frustration.  It is why I do not lie to my daughter, lies have been so damaging to me, being demeaned and bullied for being simply curious, when folks assume some nefarious purpose.  I recall as a child I was at my friends house, they were very welcoming over all, a nice Mormon family.  I was in the hallway staring off into space and their eldest daughter, who was two years younger than me had her door open, and apparently she was getting changed…whatever, I was not remotely a sexual being then, even though this was around the time another peer had started abusing me.  I don’t even think I was particularly looking at her, I was waiting for my friend Sean to get something.  Well, his mother, normally very accommodating, let me know in no uncertain terms she thought I was being inappropriate, and I made the situation worse by countering with my matter of fact answer “what? I have sisters too, not like this is anything new” I paraphrase of course.  Well, she did not take kindly to that, scolded me, and because I was so angry, embarrassed and frustrated that she assumed I being deviant or doing something wrong, I promptly started bashing my head into the wall.  I did that a lot as a child, but it was rooted in anger, embarrassment, and frustration, when people judged me and made assumptions, it not only frustrated me because they clearly did not understand what they were seeing, it made me feel deviant, bad, that there was something grossly wrong with me.  See, some of the “social” issues are related to mirror neuron function and missing cues, but plenty of them are because the dominant social paradigm is itself ignorant, they see something and thus they “know” what is going on, without ever asking, without ever wondering about how folks can think so very differently. I am logical, I am rational, I am curious, to the point that when denied knowledge I would try to find ways to seek it out.

Another example…feminine hygiene products, these things baffled me.  My mother will tell you that on my 11th birthday the first thing out of my mouth that day was “what are tampons used for?”, I had been asking for YEARS, because…I was curious, nothing more, nothing less. As a matter of fact, for a long time I thought I was deviant because I even stole a few maxi pads and wore them for a few days, but at that age, as I look back, I understand now, that kid who I once was, who was so long ago beaten into submission, was once again, just curious, and they had a pleasant light fragrance that I enjoyed, a baby powder scent.  I was not some sexual deviant, I was not gay, I was not even experiencing gender issues in that particular event, I was freaking curious.

Curiosity still defines me, it drives me to try and learn so much about everything around me, I may be bad with names and dates, things that can inhibit testing for many, I happened to develop some generalized ideas of era and chronology so I could normally get the numbers and answers off the tests, but when I fail to produce these things folks assume I do not “know” something, but I know a tremendous amount of data on so many subjects that most folks I know have at many points called me the “smartest” person they know.  I am not of course, I am just an information sponge with a few perceived disabilities, but honestly it is what people say and how they act that defines them, not some name given to them at birth.  Interestingly enough, in the world of online gaming, I tend to remember people’s handles quite readily, because they pick names that define them, it is an extension of who they perceive themselves to be or an image they want people to believe, and it is much more real to me than the name on their birth certificate, it informs me about who they are in a way a normal birth name never will, save for maybe details on cultural or ethnic background, which I find mostly unimportant as I respect people of all origins and backgrounds, it is mildly insightful if they have an accent and show some cultural traits related to it, otherwise it is just a holdover from immigrant ancestors.

So many of these behaviors, like swaying or head rubbing, are harmless. It is when the dominant paradigm makes judgments and hasty assessments based on a lack of knowledge and understanding that harm, demeaning, and even trauma ensues.  It is the failure to understand that for some people, these behaviors are perfectly natural, they are not nefarious, they are not perverse, they are not deviant, they are curious, or they are spacing out and not doing anything related to what they assumed.  I cannot count how many times I was chastised for failing to show respect, not because I would not have naturally wanted too, but because I was lost in my head, the ole “head in the clouds”, thinking, questioning, pondering. So in a way, my very intellect began to be harmful to me, I was not always free to think in a way that was natural to me, to learn in a way that is natural to me.  And somehow this defines me within the dominant paradigm, it is deficiency, disability, when it is none of those things.  Yes, some of the spectrum have severe quality of life issues, but we still denigrate, infantilize, or inhibit even their healthy sense of self identity, by labeling them as low IQ, or “non-verbal for life” and thus insisting upon only teaching them “life skills”, when that is one area they won’t flourish in, so stop wasting energy on the Band-aid approach and find their gifts, their joy, their healthy sense of identity. And maybe they will never hold down a job, but that does not mean they are without worth, basing someone’s entire worth on employability is myopic and limited in perspective, we need our difference, it pushes us forward.  Stop trying to re-write every bit of our genetic code with labels of deficiency, instead we need to understand how out of balance society is, and in the extreme cases, then and only then do we correct the genetic damage if the technology is available, but don’t cull the entire autism spectrum genes from the species, that is paternalistic eugenics, embrace neurodiversity, target only the severe and truly crippling genetic damage, and otherwise, make space for us, take the time to understand us, and for all those holding to rigid ideology in their “Christian nation”, listen to Christ, stop judging, after all, I have found plenty of room to forgive those who caused me harm, because I understand the patterns that have resulted in allowing people having things so very wrong.  And if the demeaned can forgive those that demean, then it is not much to ask, that those who are in the dominant position take a few moments to understand us, get past ignorance and fear, so that all us, through our own endeavors, in the myriad ways they occur, can contribute to the collective well-being and knowledge of our species, to ensure a better and brighter future for all, instead of just those currently favored as well adapted by whatever the dominant paradigm in that particular culture or nation is.  Let us be curious, let us comfort ourselves, let us be ok with who we are instead of saying we are defective, and watch as the frustration lessens, as meltdowns become less frequent, when folks listen with open ears and minds and hearts.

How the education system breaks difference

I want to take a bit here to talk about the current westernized education system, though the model has been applied in many places across the globe.  With human populations being the sheer size they are, it is easy to understand how being able to quantify a person statistically is appealing, but it is also dehumanizing and cannot truly objectively get the results it desires.  Our very methods of testing are based upon what is valued or considered the ideal, or even just normal by the dominant paradigm, and thus when a child fails to thrive in that, they are defective, disabled, morally inferior to others.  This is a judgment based on ideology, not neurological fact.  When one talks about the bell curve and intellect, the measure of intellect is biased by the society measuring it, it has pre-conceived expectations on what makes someone a “functional” member of society.  Introverts for example, those who may favor deep thought, or have their “heads in the clouds” are often demeaned as lazy, because many in our society believe you need to see the activity directly in front of their own eyes, they fail to understand how many variables there are to meaningful human endeavor.

The current education system continues to try and apply one size fits all approaches to education, even though there are so many of us who keep saying clearly that we need to teach to the difference.  While working on my Masters in Education, a common theme for the US education system was the notion that an educated population is needed for a healthy democracy, but our standards for what makes an educated person are both limited and woefully out of balance.  The intersection of the industrialist mindset with our education system, coupled with the cost of it due to varying amounts of legislation, red-tape, and bureaucracy has turned it into a rigid behemoth, that serves only those well adapted to the dominant paradigm.  We favor rote learning and knowledge over critical thinking and being able to apply that knowledge, it allows ignorance to flourish, because no amount of quantifiable facts and statistics can truly indicate an individuals ability to think and apply that knowledge.  Knowledge that is never applied, might as well not be taught at all, facts, figures, names, and dates do not a truly educated person make, we have confused these notions with being able to think critically, wisdom, and the not so common “common sense”.

Compartmentalized learning is the backbone of the current education system, an obsession with certain skill sets linked to specific subject matter, and for many this is a perfectly decent way to learn, but many of us, those who naturally favor logical thinking over “observant” or as I call it, empirical thinking, do not learn well this way at all.  Rote learning lacks context, it does not allow for an immediate value assessment for us, because many of us need to see it applied, see the interaction of different subjects to better grasp it, rote learning stands alone from a complex intertwined system, and some of us learn best by trying to understand the entire system, not just bits and pieces kept distinct.  I have said before, and will say it again, though I am bad at math as we currently teach it, I have a very naturally mathematical mind, my lack of visualization and thus ability to manipulate numbers in my mind, does not mean I do not do math constantly, that I don’t assess angles and degrees, subtract, multiply, add or divide constantly.  Yet there is no system or test in place where I can show competency, because we have a rigid idea of what it means to understand such things.

There are so many different ways people think and learn, we approach basic questions from so many different points, and those of us who think differently are often demeaned for it, we then fail to thrive because the way we are taught does not make sense.  And this is not just an autism spectrum issue, the school to prison pipeline exists because of a failure to teach to difference, that the logical mindset found in so many cultures and genotypes is disdained in our society, it reminds us of the indolence of the old European aristocracy for example.  But the failures of the European Aristocracy is not how they thought and what they valued, it is the same issue as we see today, in that they failed to understand, utilize, and value other ways of thinking and interacting with the world.  So in old Europe, the empirical, grounded in the here and now, was demeaned, it was the “peasant” mindset, considered short sighted and intellectually inferior, while it was never any of these things, it was simply difference.

Yet, through our one size fits all approach, many of us fail to thrive within the academic system, and somehow that becomes our fault, either being “disabled” like many of us on the spectrum are listed, and we do have some differences that make us maladaptive to the current paradigm, but that is not disability, it is the failure to expand the system and teach to the difference (once again, there are severe forms of autism that are lifelong disability, but we create a great deal of that artificially). We continue to allow the mentality of “kids will be kids” as an excuse to let us be demeaned and bullied, and yes kids will be kids, but that is not an excuse to ignore a teachable moment, to expand their understanding about different ways of thinking, and the value of that, when kids act this way, it is our duty in a democratic society especially, to teach them better than that.  When cultures clashed historically there are ideas exchanged, these ideas foster innovation, but this is also found on the individual level as well, difference pushes us forward, and to demean one inherent way of thinking over another is not just morally reprehensible, it is self defeating in the long term, it leads to trauma, mental illness, caste systems and social classes. Sure, there is mobility within the US economically, but that mobility is based upon certain careers and endeavors, and not everyone can do those things and thrive, it is a pleasant lie we tell ourselves, because many people do not value those things, and we should not be forced to suffer because of an inherent way of being we had no choice in.   When I think about the school to prison pipeline, I see logical thinkers greatly affected, be them autism spectrum or populations of African descent, see, logical thinking is very common throughout the world, it is very beneficial for survival, it is flexible and reads the patterns of the natural world easily, and thus many genetic populations favor that way of thinking.  In the US and many areas of Europe, there are so many Empirical thinkers, this lends itself well to changing the environment, constructing and building things, taming instead of adapting and moving with the natural world.  Both of these ways of thinking have their benefits and their limitations, these are different gifts and we must make room for that to flourish.  “Being White” as discussed by many educators as a plague amongst many school populations, most often associated with African Americans, is more than just flouting the dominant paradigm out of spite and an effort to maintain their own cultural identity, it identifies and demeans those who think close to the dominant paradigm and value rote book learning over wisdom and life experience.  It identifies a difference, and that difference is demeaned because it is not consciously understood and applies to the dominant paradigm that has in turn consistently demeaned them.  It is a cycle, and cycles can be broken, and our education system is the tool that is used to break so many of us, to make us feel unworthy and under valued, that our failure to learn in a way that is contrary to how we build up our understanding of the world somehow makes us faulty.

Life today is very rigid, we say we are free, but few people understand what liberty really means, the ability to say what you want without consequence is not freedom, it is A freedom, a singular example, but that alone does not make us free.  One might argue that we are able to go into a host of careers, we just have to buckle down and get our education. But when that very education does not teach to how we learn best, then we have already started passing a subtle moral judgment on what types of thinking are valuable, and what are undesirable.  The cards are stacked against us based on so many differences that no child has ever had a say in, not just inherent thinking, but privilege based on race, sex, and social class, often found in the very poor funding found in some schools, with leaky roofs and old, outdated text books, vs cutting edge technology.  And this is tied to enclaved communities, communities so fearful of difference than a black or latino family moving in can cause home values to drop, based of ignorance and fear, instead of giving those who are culturally and racially different a chance to flourish on their own merits.  Ignorance and fear are great movers and shakers in our economy, and as a result, based on how we fund ours schools currently, that leads to enclaves that demean and keep out difference, that label children, before they have even had a chance to establish a healthy sense of self identity as doomed to fail, as defective, as trouble makers who cannot just listen and do what they are told.

Well, some of us are experiential learners and skeptics, we will not take you at your word, we need to come to our understanding of things in a different way, this is not defective, it is simply different.  I remember keenly more than a few times where I was told by an educator, an authority who is supposed to nurture my knowledge and understanding, that I was going to amount to nothing, simply because I did not thrive or relate to the education system, because I questioned it, questioned my teachers, questioned their credentials, and always tried to see things from multiple points of view.  Coupled with facing a scary and overwhelming future, tied down to repetitive work force tasks, soul numbing and devoid of value to me.  I avoided studying many topics, because I was constantly told I would starve if I did so, but for the few who regularly read my works, there is little doubt I have a philosopher’s mind, coupled with a love of empirical data and science, both forms of thought inform me so much more than just one way of thinking ever could.

When you cannot learn the way you learn best, then you suffer. When you are told that you are less worthy, because you think and approach things differently, self-defeatism creeps in, mental illness, lethargy, anger, and a host of other traits that further alienate us from the dominant paradigm.  We end up being “degenerates”, “hoodlums”, “future criminals”, and a host of other labels, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, it hijacks out self-identity and sense of self worth, and thus we make those who do not fit in the “other” and based on faulty context and false dichotomies, this status makes us undesirable in society, and this society closes doors of opportunity to us, and we deviate from the dominant model.  In many ways, this is a sizable chunk of criminality, self employment in a fashion that does not force one into a boring and pedantic 9 to 5 job, it has more excitement, it allows for more self-determination, and for many that makes it worth the risks.  We created a system that is so rigid, that is literally becomes almost prophetic in it’s ability to predict the course in life for certain ways of thinking. Add in further bias, in the form of racial profiling and cultural demeaning, then the deck becomes further stacked against certain groups, we see it now in the constant struggles of black men in our society.  And when people do stray, when they make mistakes, commit a crime, or a host of other things as a result, it becomes a label for life, even though we never gave them a chance to thrive in the first place.  We are not a nation that forgives, we are a nation that judges, and believe that heinous acts are the work of someone evil, heartless, or cruel and never allow them to find a better path, they become the label and the record of that label haunts and follows them for life, it is a human tragedy of epic proportions.

If we want to reduce mental illness and criminality, then we must look at our education system and our culture of demeaning difference.  If we embrace teaching to the difference, allowing rote learners to keep learning the way they do best, but allowing logical and experiential learners to do the same, we will have more well adapted people who will endeavor and contribute to society, since feeling that one is valued and belongs is such an important part of self-identity and mental health.  So what if they cannot tell you the exact date something was written, a ballpark figure is just fine, all they need for history for example is an understanding of chronology, the fine details are just knowledge not likely to be ever applied, that does not mean the learner did not learn the important aspects of history for example.  “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”, well folks, no culture or society has yet to properly do this, we keep assuming we have, but the cycle of demeaning, violence, and trauma is still alive and well, and we are working our way up to another cycle of it right now.  It is not names, dates, and specific locations that inform us of the lessons of history, it can all be paraphrased and understood in the terms of the intersection of human difference, individual and cultural.  Sometimes I wonder (seriously, this is a correlation, an interesting idea, not something I believe to be scientific fact, I am a pattern thinker after all) if the volume of empirical thinking we see in Europe and the Middle east is not tied to the amount of Neanderthal DNA in a population, that within our human genome there are two very different fundamental ways of learning.  I will use the China example again, after all trace amounts of the Neaderthal genome exist in Asiatic and Indigenous North American populations, that they developed a system of testing to identify empirical thinkers to help run the bureaucracy, An interesting thought to think that two races shared DNA and that as a result two ways of thinking exist within the human genome in regards to how we learn our schema and build up understanding. Regardless of origin, fun idea that it is, it benefits us all, the thinkers, the do’ers, nurturers, teachers, and so many other different ways of thinking once you begin to factor in inherent chaos in the wiring of the brain. So much difference….and yet we continue to assume that a one size fits all approach is desirable and beneficial to society, and that a child is to blame for that difference.  How short sighted we have been, even when science continues to indicate that there is a tremendous amount of diversity in how a brain can function.  But even those scientists often work within the dominant paradigm, and thus they too are biased, their subjective cultural lens applying judgments based on difference and it’s failure to flourish in what they consider to be an enlightened society, we are so very far away from being enlightened, we are still at war with our selves and each other, and we still fail to learn the lessons of history, and thus still hostages to the choices of our ancestors.

Chaos, morality, Christianity, difference, and part of my world view.

This is almost pure moral philosophy, my philosophy, some will take offense, some with think I am way off base, but for all who dare to read further, there is truth in this, maybe not your truth, but mine, so I take this chance to make public a few thoughts on Religion I have kept close to my chest, it is not an attack, it is an attempt to illuminate.  It also includes some of the very chaotic nature of how I think, and thus has some academic value for those who wonder about such things.

My mind has been exceptionally chaotic of late, I have wanted to write so many things but cannot maintain the focus I want, I am stressed and overwhelmed as usual, unable to sequester myself away from the myriad of distractions in my world. My mind is ever seeking more and more knowledge to prove what I have already hashed out as a worldview.  I worry I am re-inventing the wheel, or that I will offend, or a host of other things.  My mind is chaos, by it’s inherent nature, where one person may see one clear path or a very discernible paths, I see a multitude that is so overwhelming, I cannot shut out the voices of individuals, I try to hear and listen to them all, in this the internet is not proving to be my friend. I am trying to stop, trying to spend less time learning and adding to my extensive body of knowledge and instead put together a world view, an ideal, my interpretation of massive patterns of human thoughts, fears, and difference into a manageable form, and I am not sure I can.  My mind does not prioritize well at all, unless something becomes an immediate concern in the here and now, it will go beneath notice, I am a truly cerebral being to such an extreme I fail to even take proper care of myself at times save for forcing it into ritualized behavior.  This mind craves structure though, which is why it is so easy to imprint another perspective onto my own conscious thought patterns, where a book or movie I watch can alter the very cadence and tenor of my thoughts, because I am unable to do so on my own.

In regards to autism, I have wondered why I have been so hesitant to not simply lump myself in with say Asperger’s, besides the mirror neuron function which is so common, because I am not high functioning at all. To even get this blog as messy as it is required a shocking amount of hand holding from my wife, I cannot focus enough to translate my thoughts into action well at all, and the constant bombardment of stimuli makes it all the worse.  I understand now the pull and desire to be a hermit, but I do not wish to cut myself off from the world, but I cannot sanely remain mired but feeling ever impotent at the same time.  My daughter is both a source of great joy and extreme distress for me, a conundrum in a small package, a beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, and sadly hyper sensory child, who is precious to me beyond words, and it is for the children today and ones yet to be born I feel so compelled to define humanity’s context, to demonstrate as clearly as possible just how wrong we have been, how cultural detritus and a failure to understand inherent and fundamental difference continues to create societies filled with haves and have nots.

It comes down to healthy self identity, and for me, that may be forever out of my grasp, but I know one thing, I am special, special needs but a special view point as well.  The same ability that allows me to act, to imprint another’s thought patterns onto my own is the same ability that allows me to empathize with anyone, no matter how horrid, no matter how damaged, I can put on any pair of shoes and walk in them for awhile.  And this is an ability that is both crippling and valuable, that of the tortured soul seeking to stop the insanity and cycle of demeaning difference and harm, that seeks to speak out about how no one worldview as it stands is even close to ideal, because there is too much difference inherent in our brain’s wiring, let alone the differences of culture and society for folks to grasp it easily.  When you are part of the dominant paradigm the universe makes sense too you, but a safe sensible universe for some is phenomenologically speaking  impossible, a confounding and confusing hell.  The ABCD approach to life and credentialing seems so sensible for so many, but for people like me it is insurmountable, the never ceasing questioning of a mind that must get to the underlying functions, I am so tired of seeing so much human endeavor wasted throwing itself insanely at the symptoms and not even looking for the subtext, the underlying cause, why do we see these patterns repeat, why do individuals and cultures and nations rise and then inevitably fall, we have missed something, and that something is being made clearer every day through science and understanding, but that does not mean spirituality and faith must be sacrificed upon the alter of science, some aspects are being proven false, whatever form a supreme being may take, there are rules and laws found in object reality, the possible and impossible as far as our limited comprehension goes, to even attempt to qualify or quantify such a nature is an act of hubris.We cannot understand truly that which we have no context for, it is like shooting darts in the dark hoping something hits the target and sticks.  Some feel individuals channel the divine, that prophets have an open communication pathway with the divine, but there is no solid evidence of such, often it flies in the face of logic.  I often think of Paul/Saul, logically speaking alone there was no need for a prophet after Christ, I see him not as anything divine, but an earnest mind trying to understand the teachings of someone he never met, and he translated it well to the needs of his culture at the time, with the best of his understanding, but so much harm as come from it as well. I see more quotes of the Old Testament and Corinthians than the true words of Christ, Christ who found disciples from various walks of life, who interpreted his words in different ways based on their understanding of him, but we excluded 2/3 of those different voices when the Bible was put together, we muzzled difference in exchange for a more black and white and simple understanding, the Gnostic texts show differences, but so does the Bible.  Did Judas hang himself or did his guts spill out upon the ground? Biblical literalism certainly does not hold up under such scrutiny, but the different disciples had different perspectives and it is through the understanding of all we have some notion of the mind of Jesus.  When you silence some in favor of another you lose context, you disregard some voices because they may not have thought in accord with the belief system you have, and what a shame that is.  Let me state this now, I am a pattern thinker, I personally perceive Christ in terms of a man seeking understanding much akin to me, if I did not triangulate my logic and the correlations I see in my patterns, this is how one would end up with someone who has a Christ complex, but I see it as a specific part of the minds hardwiring, certain minds cannot stand the pain and trauma in the world, they cannot carry that burden alone but for some reason we continue to try, like any one individual could have all the answers, absolve the world of perceived sins, while tackling the real demons and real sins of false knowledge and ignorance, the demeaning of difference instead of at least trying to understand just how different one human can think to another. We must expand our understanding, we must make room, even if you do fundamentally disagree, if there cannot be an accord on some matters, than maximum self determination and arguments based on principle are the answer, not demeaning, or attacking.  I used to read the Daily KOS frequently, but I see it as demeaning as more conservative media, it calls folks who think different idiots and uses fear mongering as much as the right to get their point across, instead of trying to understand why we think so different, why somethings threaten one group but not another, and we cannot get passed that without communicating that difference, without understanding how the animal mind is alive and well living in tandem with our conscious mind, that we all have a little bit of fate tied directly to how we think and understand the world around us.

I wish at times I could stop caring, use my gifts to ensure the thriving of my family and the rest of the world be damned, but that is so against my fundamental nature, and that is something many should be thankful for, I do not lie when I say I can conceive of myself breaking bad, in a horrible manner, someone like me who succumbs to the damaged and scared animal part of their mind can do untold damage to others, though it is lost in my writing because I always provide too much context, I know it is well within my power to utilize my face to face charisma for poor ends, to take the truth as I understand it, which is not everyone else’s truth, and abuse it for my own gain. But I refuse, much like I sucked at sales, because I refused to manipulate folks into spending their limited income on things I knew would not live up to expectations, fulfill them, or add greater meaning to their life.  I do not like lies, I do not like lies of omission, I do not see myself as a predator taking what I want from the world without repercussion, because I see children in adult bodies, damaged, scarred, scared, and demeaned, I see the repercussions of all my actions constantly, ever single choice I make, even the small ones not anchored in ritual as having the potential to do both great harm as well as be beneficial.  This again talks to the chaos of my mind, ever branching probability and options, a world of color and patterns, a world filled with joy as well as trauma, we must expand our understanding of difference, it is a moral imperative to stop demeaning and start understanding, the dominant paradigm will not remain the dominant forever, it will be over turned at some point and replaced, and in this culture of bullying in the US right now, were we speak words of sophistry but fail to truly communicate we are in danger of fracturing, of turning upon ourselves, because we lack the understanding to reach out and communicate. We label one side or the other as evil, and thus believe we are good, false dichotomy.  We must move beyond, seek morality and fight against amorality and succor the immoral so they can see and understand the harm done to them and thus transferred via cultural meme like a virus to others.  The spirit of the Sanhedrin is alive and well and even flourishing right now, but instead of trying to divest them of power, we must learn to share it.

I need translators, I am sure I am missing huge points of my worldview here, it is expansive, such a large pattern, but the underlying causes are there…stop fighting the symptoms, and start finding the underlying cause, and for much of that, it lies in the failure to understand the difference that drives us forward but currently often drives us apart, and that is a human tragedy writ large.  I yearn for the days of Old Toledo Spain, when Muslim, Jew, and Christians worked side by side trying to understand the universe as well as each other, and there are so many more voices than that, so many faiths and world views. Once upon a time, like many, I viewed religion as a source of great evil in the world, but religion itself is inherently neither, there are atheist traditions that have also caused great harm, it is rigid ideology that cannot make room for difference that is the root cause, it is the failure to expand understanding even when it is frightening, to play it safe, to enclave, to avoid that which you cannot understand or comprehend that is the great failure of all cultures and ideologies up to this point, as I have stated before some have done better than others, but in the modern world those who are maladaptive suffer, or become scapegoats, or who pay for privilege hoisted upon them by external powers in the form of market dominant minorities a la Amy Chua. No one path leads all folks to the same end point, we need different paths for different minds, we must expand, we must grow, and we must nurture that difference, for within this diversity is the key to not just our success, but the survival our species, it is in short a moral imperative that we get this right.