In my work as an autistic advocate, I have encountered many people I disagree with. Many of these people have totally unrealistic expectations, and have overly dramatic reactions to reality. They believe that if reality does not suit them, then they should fight tooth and nail against that reality. In this blog post, I shall not name any individuals in an unfavorable light, as I believe that trying to destroy people’s reputation is one of the tools that they tend to use. I will not stoop to that level.
I was recently a cohost of the United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN)’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida. One of the meetings that my superiors scheduled for me was with a company representative for Walmart. For those of you who do not know, I detest Walmart. In my opinion, they are doing so many things that are wrong for the workers, wrong for America, and wrong for the world. Yet, I believe in having a reasonable meeting with everybody on the planet, even the people who you ardently oppose. I told the Walmart representative that I am willing to meet with anybody, and try to understand their side of the story. The representative liked that a lot, and then mentioned all of the people who protest his business. I then told him that I adamantly disagree with almost everything his company does. He asked me for examples. I gave them to him. He stated the corporate policy, which has corrupted, perverse, corporate logic behind it, but a form of logic nonetheless. He offered to put me in touch with some other representatives of his company. I asked him to send me their information, and I told him that I might reach out to them, but I might not. We wished each other a good day.
The above paragraph perfectly illustrates how someone should meet with their most bitter enemies. However, many of the people I have worked with or encounter in the autistic “advocacy” movement do not believe in this policy. First, a bit of background. I believe that advocacy is using peaceful, diplomatic measures such as public speaking, meetings, negotiations, and other measures to try to change the world for the better from within the system. It should be mentioned that many of the people in the self-described autistic advocacy world do no such thing. Instead, they use hostile measures such as protests, demonstrations, lawsuits, and other combative endeavors to make their point of view known from outside of the working framework of The System. I describe this as activism.
Much of the community which I term the autistic activism community can accomplish great things in concert with advocacy. The problem is that there is very little advocacy among their members. In fact, many of their members whom I have spoken to do not see the world in a rational light. For example, the equivalent of Walmart for the autistic community is Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks does not view autistic children and adults as competent human beings. The autistic activism community is making things much worse though, by refusing outright to meet with them. As an autistic advocate, I have no reluctance to meet with Autism Speaks about policies, so long as they treat me with respect. The autistic activism world would say that Autism Speaks doesn’t know how to respect people. I, as an autistic advocate, would give them the benefit of the doubt.
Then again, the autistic activism world has never seen Autism Speaks in a completely rational light. All they see is an unmovable, opposing force guilty of horrible, despicable acts. A very popular autistic activist blogger has said, “They are murdering us!” This is just not true. The organization condones a number of belittling policies, but in no way do they condone murder. I was speaking with one of the more rational people I know in the autistic activism world, and he surprised me by saying that he believes that Autism Speaks is complicit in attempted genocide of the autistic world. Once again, this is completely irrational. As you can tell, my biggest problem with the autistic activist world is that they let their hatred blind them to rational thoughts and behavior.
Personally, I am horrified by the policies of Autism Speaks. I believe that they are belittling to the autistic population, and that they are trying to exclude us from making decisions about our own futures. This in itself is a flagrant violation of human rights, and a rather large one at that. As a political scientist, this makes the organization’s policies beneath my contempt. However, if any of my jobs ever required me to meet with them and hold a peaceable conversation, then I would. The world is improved when you meet with your enemies and try to work for a better outcome together.
The leading autistic activist organization, which has unfortunately misnamed itself the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), believes that you should not go to the table with people who oppose your viewpoints. If there is any lesson from my discussion with Walmart, it is that going to the table, even with your most hated enemies, can leave you with a greater degree of understanding. Instead, ASAN devotes considerable time, money, and resources into training people into how to react towards Autism Speaks and a number of other people and organizations with hostility and hatred. We at Autistic Reality believe that ASAN’s end goal of greater inclusion for the autistic community is extremely noble. However, we are very saddened by the amount of hatred that they condone. We at Autistic Reality believe that going to the table will always help promote a better world. We at Autistic Reality believe that working together can solve a great many problems. We at Autistic Reality believe in autistic advocacy!