Creation of Dreamspace
“All forms of violence are quests for identity. When you live on the frontier, you have no identity. You’re a nobody.”
—Marshall McLuhan: The Education of Mike McManus, TV Ontario, December 28 1977
Humans, like the other mammals, are imitative creatures. Once upon a time, alienated teenagers only fantasized about mowing down their classmates. Nowadays, there’s more and more “space” — social license — for disenchanted and disenfranchised youths to make such morbid fantasies come true. At the same time, if there is a growing sense of unease, mistrust and fear being directed at such youths – if in short they are expected to act in extreme and anti-social ways — this is likely to provoke such behavior, or at least increase the possibility of it.
The way I “see” it, not with my outer eyes but with my inner or intuitive vision, is that a kind of dreamspace is being created that is slowly being filled by actual events. This may sound like an idea that belongs more to the realm of metaphysics or gestalt psychology than to sociology, so to clarify, I’ll use a personal example. As a boy and teenager, I had a propensity to steal. By and large, I stole only from businesses, and never from people (i.e., never personal items, though my parents were not protected by this “code”). However, if I noticed, for whatever reason, that someone suspected I might steal from them, even if it had never crossed my mind, there was a much higher possibility I would then do so. The fear and suspicion of others reinforced the tendency in myself, so that, to a degree, their suspicion provoked the very behavior in me which I was being subtly accused of. (Suspicion, after all, is a kind of accusation.)
By the same token, if alienated, Aspergerian, or just plain “weird” teenagers are regarded by their parents and teachers, the mainstream media, and even their peers, as “time-bombs waiting to go off” (as Adam Lanza was described by witnesses), this creates a psychic atmosphere — a dreamspace — in which, even against their will, individuals may find themselves picking up the (spoken or unspoken) fears of those around them and acting them out. Simply put: if, due to lack of understanding, a person is treated as a threat, eventually they will become a threat. Why? Because, by being perceived this way, they will feel threatened.
Autists do not respond well to socialization; or perhaps better said, they are resistant to culture. They are poor at imitative behavior, and so do not learn the basic social cues of language and gesture (to put it mildly). They are misfits in the profoundest sense of the term. Because of this resistance to socialization, they are perceived as anti-social. But a herbivore is not opposed to eating meat (or to carnivores); it simply does not engage in that behavior. Since socialized behavior is seen as the only natural, healthy kind of behavior, however, autism is perceived as an aberration and a threat to society (a “plague”). And while the threat is, in a certain sense, real (society does require individuals to submit to socialization in order to continue), it is not a literal threat any more than vegetarians are a literal threat to the meat industry (though the meat industry will fail if they become the norm). Since this subtler fear remains beneath conscious awareness, while the feeling of a threat remains, society’s fears are then projected onto autists and people imagine them capable of the worst kinds of neurotypical behavior, e.g., of violence, insensitivity, and psychopathology. Autists, or otherwise alienated, misfit kids, as the “other” of the social group, become unwitting receptacles for that group’s projections. In a word, scapegoats.