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April 21st, 2016

My Non-Neurotypical Prejudices

Although I've never received an official diagnosis, I have plenty of good reasons to suspect that I am in fact high-functioning autistic. In particular, I'm likely in the part of the spectrum formally denoted as Asperger's Syndrome. During the process of getting the man-child tested for autism and his subsequent treatment and aid, I've had this suspicion validated by a few professionals who were and are working with him. Yet, I don't feel the need for an official diagnosis as I've been incredibly fortunate in some of the friendships I've made as an adult. The guidance and input I've received by those in my life have provided a good deal of training and insight that allow me to navigate the neurotypical world far more easily than I did as a child and teen.

That's not to say that I don't see the value of a potential diagnosis and professional assistance. I'm just not certain that the amount of time in energy in engaging in such a process will be fully justified by what I could gain from it. I say this because I never use my non-neurotypical tendencies as a simple excuse for behavior and statements that cause issues with others. Instead, whenever a situation arises where I've inadvertently offended and/or confused someone, I reach out and ask for guidance so that I'm less likely to make the same mistake in the future. It's resulted in an oddly paradoxical situation for me: I care deeply about the feelings of others and try to respect them, even though I frequently don't display or experience empathy in the way that I sense that I should.

By necessity, I became more selfless and kept my ego in check as I underwent this learning process. It's vital if you're going to interact with others in a fashion that's not instinctual and to accept criticism intended to help you learn. That doesn't mean that I'm a completely altruistic. In fact, I still harbor some rather intense feelings of intellectual superiority. But, I see it as a weakness of sorts; a prejudice I constantly persevere against.

As a result, I'm certain that a good deal of this is part of the reason why I've steadily gravitated further to the left of the political spectrum as I've gotten older. To me, a core governing philosophy of liberalism is one of empathy and understanding; working towards a greater good is a logical extension of all that. Yet, I think my learning process has produced a somewhat unintended side effect. I have come to see conservatism, with its emphasis on rugged individualism, as a condescendingly selfish and lazy political philosophy.

I know that such an assessment is highly prejudicial/judgmental. I do actually understand why someone would choose such a way to view the world, and I would go so far as to state that it's not a completely immoral filter to guide your actions and beliefs -- so long as you are not actively using it to justify intentionally maltreating others. However, it jarringly runs counter to all my efforts to be more understanding, empathetic, and easily understood. In short, I've worked hard to work with the world around me, and I see how much happier it's made me. Thus, when I see someone metaphorically (and sometimes literally) giving the middle finger to society and saying their individual wants are far more important than the notion of societal good, some of my intellectual snobbery starts mutating into moral snobbery.

In other words, how dare such a person state that no one should have work as coexisting with others and learning how to play nice? What the hell is wrong with such people?

Look, I know that reaction is a fault that lies within me. This is my prejudice. It's just that it's one what I'm finding a lot harder to overcome than nearly all of the others I've harbored and learned to overcome. The funny thing is that over time, I've had to  learn how not to take intense discussions and debates over hot button issues personally -- it's another of my non-neurotypical quirks that has caused me trouble in the past. Yet, this prejudice is different because it actually is personal in a way that arguing over the deregulation of the American banking system isn't.

I don't know how successful I will ever be in overcoming the intellectual and moral prejudices inherent in the way my brain's OS is coded. I will certainly keep trying, though, as I've figured out other ways to alter and overcome my programming. I just wish other "neurotypical" individuals would work as hard as I have at playing nicely with others.

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