Theory of Mind & Autism
I don’t remember my childhood, except for a few fragments here and there. My best guess for why I don’t remember my childhood (besides traumatic experiences, of which there were undoubtedly many) is that the me that remembers wasn’t there at the time. It, I, had not been constructed yet.
There’s a well-known example of a three-year-old who is shown a small object being hidden somewhere in the room while its mother is outside. The child is asked where the mother will look for the object when she returns; the child answers that she will look in the place where it is hidden. The child assumes its mother knows the location of the object because the child itself knows where it is. It hasn’t yet learned to recognize (or theorize—since we don’t really ever know for sure) that the other people (bodies) around it have a consciousness independent of its own.
There are lots of assumptions in the above paragraph. Whenever we use language we are falling prey to culturally conditioned assumptions passed down over the generations, through language. Language itself is a system of assumptions out of which, it might be assumed, a self-aware self constructs itself. Language creates a matrix or womb (commonly known as the mind) through which it can procreate and propagate itself. How and why? To know the answer to that we would have to ask language, and language, like the UFO, like the magician, and like the government, lies. How do you know when language is lying to you? Its lips are moving.
Autistic people, at least the more severe or low-functioning kind, are said not to develop the capacity of theory of mind in the same way ordinary (neurotypical) people do. For the autistic person, as for the small child, everything is experienced as an extension of his or her own consciousness. This also is an assumption, assuming for example that a small child or autistic person experiences consciousness as belonging to them, or as existing in some way separate from their larger environment. The consciousness that has become embedded in the language matrix of “mind” and shackled to a mental self-construct, can only perceive everything through that lens, as belonging to a similar sort of selfness.
How can we think outside the box when thinking is contingent on the creation of boxes to think inside?
One thing we can observe with reasonable certainty is that autistics have difficulty adapting to social rules. They find it hard to adopt the correct behaviors because imitation (the means by which creatures adapt to their social environment) does not come naturally to them. They have to observe behaviors and copy them without every really understanding why these behaviors are being performed. That is something we all do as children (or so it seems safe to assume); most of us forget this and take on the imitated forms of behavior so completely that we end up believing they are generated internally and fundamental (like that mind-constructed self thingy) to who we are.
When I went to private, single-sex school in the UK—complete with uniforms and military training—never for a single day did I believe in the behaviors I was imitating. I learned to imitate consciously, as a means not to get into (too much) trouble. I was not so much imitating as imitating imitation. As a result, I learned how to get around the social norms being laid down, how to adapt them to more closely match my own internal sense of reality so I wouldn’t go completely insane. I literally re-tailored my uniform and turned the institution’s brand of conformity into an expression of my lack of conformity. Clever. Innovative. Necessary for my psychological survival. None of that would have been possible if I had fully taken on the institutional programs and internalized them. I would never have questioned the behaviors I was imitating, and I would have had no interest in adapting them to better fit my own interiority. Apparently for some of us, innovation is the only way to function.
Why do autistic children get imitation wrong (i.e., fail to be socialized)? According to the theory of mind model, it is because they can’t put themselves in the other person’s shoes—they can’t imagine the thinking that drives the desired forms of behavior. Neurotypical people, in contrast, having developed theory of mind, create an internal narrative to explain the behavior which they are imitating. The behavior then becomes innate and the mental self that is created to justify the behaviors becomes the internal prison guard keeping them in line, keeping them hardwired to the social matrix.
For most people, imitation is unconscious and internalized. They are like method actors who become the role they are playing—as compared to the kabuki theater of autistics. Autistics appear crazy or damaged to well-adjusted people, just as I was seen as a freak at my school. The degree to which I was tolerated—I adapted my rebellion to ensure it didn’t threaten the system I was rejecting—suggest that I had at least enough theory of mind to guess how insane people would regard my own behavior, and to adjust it accordingly in order not to get expelled.
It is telling in this regard that, in his Bloodlands lecture, Timothy Snyder points out how, during the late 1930s, those who stuck their necks out to rescue Jews were mainly outsiders and “deviants” (Snyder’s word), people who were already marginalized (or who chose to marginalize themselves) by society. Like the gypsies persecuted by the Nazis, these outsider-types were people accustomed to being in a liminal state. Since they didn’t belong to the dominant social group and yet co-existed with it, moving between the margins and the mainstream meant they were effectively on the inside and outside of society at the same time.
Ironically, such marginalized people (especially when self-marginalized) can have more freedom within a society than those more established in it (just as homeless people have more freedom, in a certain sense, than movie stars or CEOs, and just as I had more freedom at my school). This sort of bilingualism loosens the hold of the language/social identity and allows for an internal flexibility that amounts to ideological freedom. Marginalized people in 1930s Europe were more sympathetic to the plight of the persecuted people, not only because they could identify with them, but because they were less threatened by the loss of stability, or of identity, that was occurring at a group level—having never really felt like they’d had it to begin with.
Invasion by Language
A social identity begins with our family unit. As we grow older, it extends outward to embrace the idea of a “world” to which we, human beings, belong. The longer we live, the more we “expand our horizons,” the larger our social identity becomes. In the West, this is considered progress, ideologically speaking. It is often lumped under the liberalist notion of tolerance and inclusivity, while subtly or not so subtly endorsing and even enforcing homogeneity.
For example, socially marginalized people—usually following a period of persecution—are encouraged to identify, to take pride in, their marginalized status (gay pride, black pride, transgender pride, autist pride, etc.), but only so they can be incorporated into the larger collective, integrated or, in the words of the Borg, assimilated. Marginalized groups band together to assert not so much their right to exist separately from the larger social community but their right to belong to it. Paradoxically, the right to be different is asserted not as an end in itself, but as the means to the opposite end, that of becoming the same. As a result, the category of sameness expands to include more and more races, sexual practices, neural divergences, and so on, just as the Borg expands the more races it can assimilate. Biological facts become “politically incorrect” because they undermine the ideology of equality that can only implement its agenda by erasing all differences between people, and eventually, the idea of individuality itself.
Transhumanist tracts often include some sort of orgiastic anticipation of a future, Borg-like hive consciousness erasing all differences between human beings, even while transhumanism is sold as the apotheosis of human individuality. The dominant culture pushing the transhumanist-homogenization agenda also holds up individuality as the highest value, an obvious irony that is rarely recognized, probably because the transcultural values that drive the agenda are truly “transhuman,” i.e., do not pertain to any sort of human experience—potential or otherwise. The problem is that ideology (any set of values sourced not in experience but in language) and individuality are mutually exclusive. When an ideology is formed around the idea of individuality, it can only become the opposite of itself—a Borg to shadow and assimilate the Starship Enterprise.
The Starship Enterprise had for its Prime Directive (its foremost ideological principle, in words) that of non-interference. It broke this code every episode, not simply because otherwise there would be no show that week, but because the same set of values that created the Prime Directive was congenitally (so to speak, while lacking any genitals at all) blind to its own infractions. The values of human beings—including those on the Starship Enterprise—are not only firmly embedded into their behaviors but inseparable from those behaviors. In other words, Kirk and co simply did not—could not—see the recurring imposition of their values as a form of interference. To them it was always a form of assistance—of doing the right thing. As with American foreign policy (and domestic for that matter), “morality” overrules “law” every time, because those who create their own laws will always create the necessary loopholes to get around them.
Who or what the “those” refers to here (besides bureaucrats and Plutocrats) is unclear, because once again language (and ideology) appears to be in control of human beings, and not the reverse. Probably this has to do with the law of the unconscious, namely that whatever we suppress or disown always controls us at a hidden level. Language only appears to be the creation of conscious minds; in fact, it is the means by which the unconscious constructs a mental self by which to operate in a word of objects and images. We are living in, or as, a never-ending series of remakes of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which we are snatched from infancy on, and the means of invasion is language. As for that which invades—it is by definition beyond our comprehension, because that which creates language can’t be identified by it. It is our “God.”
The Evil Men Do
Rene Girard has pointed out that, in liminal states—stateless states, nations stripped of sovereignty— mimetic violence rapidly escalates. There’s a conundrum here: imitation is necessary for socialization—the creation of a socialized self and the adopting of language—to occur. And where imitation and socialization starts to break down, liminality (lack of structure) increases and the collective and individual sense of identity begins to falter. At this point, mimesis kicks in with renewed fury, both boosted and distorted by the anxiety of social incoherence and identity loss. The society that is breaking down is at risk of accelerating that breakdown in a mad, mimetically violent dash to try and restore order (Nazi Germany again being a handy template for watching the process in action).
Once institutions and group arrangements begin to break down, once the social cohesion begins to erode, people no longer know how to behave. In confusion, they look for charismatic leaders, “false ceremony masters,” to guide them. Distress and confusion (panic) combines with the attempt to imitate what others are doing to relieve the tension. This is commonly known as mass hysteria. Since the greatest danger of this kind of lynch mob situation is that the members will turn on each other, the essential thing becomes to find a common object on which to release all that pent-up fear and rage. Enter the scapegoat.
I already looked at (in part two) how theory of mind might be a primary, perhaps not yet identified, reason for this escalation of violence. People attack each other—or more frequently join forces to persecute a weaker social member—not because they want to, but because they are in a state of near-panic and don’t know what else to do. Worse still, they don’t know what their neighbors are going to do to them. The more stressed they get, the darker their imaginings, and vice versa, in a rapidly escalating social frenzy of terror and rage. Since the hardest thing to do when everything is going to hell in a hand basket is nothing, it is the dark imaginings that many people act on, and act out—that act through them—making their worst fears reality. And yet no one is really “responsible.”
“For evil to prevail, all that’s required is for good people to do nothing” is the moral assumption that underlies and overrides any consciously contrived Prime Directive, from now to forever. The unspoken (because un-cogitated) assumption is always that one’s social identification is equivalent with good, and that anything outside of that is akin to evil. The assumption is that being identified with “the good” allows for one to identify (and combat) evil, and vice versa, that recognizing and opposing evil affirms one’s allegiance to goodness.
The reverse may be closer to the truth: for evil to prevail, all it takes is for “good” (socially adjusted identity, or “pod”) people to get busy trying to eradicate evil in order to spread their version of good.
The third, generally unexplored option is that of not trying to beat the system or join it, but, as in my school daze, of appearing to join it as a means to pass relatively uncontaminated through it. This is the liminal approach of neither resistance nor compliance. It may just be the only approach that is not entirely futile.
Part One of History Through a Liminal looking Glass.
Reblogged this on Situation Nominal and commented:
Pretty good, but I don’t think you’ve got it quite right. You had to learn by imitating, but most neurotypicals don’t. It isn’t that they internalise the learned rules, it’s that they actually think that way to being with. What appears as something you mist learn is just the product of their hardwiring.
Neurotypicality is a spectrum, the extreme ends have more hard wiring than the middle. True autism is the absence of hardwiring, Asperger’s is some of the ‘wrong’ hard wiring, but we use what we have to learn to imitate the others, though we always feel like we are performing a role.
Thanks. Is there a (mis?) assumption however in saying that NTs “actually think that way to begin with”? No one thinks that way, or any way, to begin with, thinking has to be learned, via language. And language seems to be learned primarily through imitation.
On the other hand, maybe there’s something in the idea that neurotypicality relates to being hardwired to the dominant culture/hive mind and so is preverbal. Still, my guess is this makes people more amenable to the language implant, rather than already implanted with the NT behaviors.
I don’t think that thinking has to be learned, words have to be learned, but basic thinking would happen regardless. Autistics that don’t learn any words still think, and in many ways probably think better than those that are mentally ‘trapped’ inside a word prison.
They think in pictures, or abstract shapes, sounds, music, rehearsed movements or even textures, and those with synaesthesia may even be able to easily translate ideas between sensory modalities.
The dominant culture is a word prison, layered over the top of gender typical social behaviour traits, body language, pheromone reception, status signalling, etc. That stuff is not learned by neurotypicals. It should be built in to our subconscious, and it’s the absence of that stuff which presents as autism. What people really learn is how to control their behaviour, to sublimate their raw desires into more complex and socially acceptable patterns, but which ultimately lead to the same rewards, be it food, status or sex. The use of words is just one of the ways people do this. “You don’t take, you ask politely” etc.
People are now in grave danger of forgetting what’s really going on underneath their word based thoughts, which is why the world is getting in such a mess. A person with sub-clinical autism is often seen as having the height of ‘intelligence’, despite their being almost completely useless at the basics of survival outside of a highly complex civilisation.
Yeah I meant language-based thinking. Maybe we need another word for what happens in NDs. Cogitation?
My main interest (here) is how language embeds itself in the perceptual and cognitive faculties of human beings at a biological level and so takes over our thinking, essentially thinks us (the constructed identity) into being. And how neurodiversity might relate to a biological mutation/attempt to develop immunity to the language virus.
Apparently it has something to do with the Jews too! (Read Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH & Walker Percy’s THE THANATOS SYNDROME, for examples.)
Well I’m not Jewish by religion, but I think I’m at least partly Jewish by genetic inheritance, so maybe I have a bit of an insiders view.
I’m missing the culture and education, so I’ve tried to work things out for myself, and I’m not a perfect physical specimen, but I do have some ‘odd’ things going on in my head. What seems to happen is that they have more of bridge between concious and subconscious minds. They understand how they work, and from that understand how the rest of us work, far more than we understand ourselves. So they can create imagery and ideas specifically designed to control our subconscious minds, in ways we don’t understand, but which ultimately influence our behaviour.
Well I don’t know, but it’s amazing how successful the Ashkenazi have been at infiltrating the mass media. We don’t really know what’s going on or who to believe any more.
I wonder if forcing your child to learn to talk is in some ways a cruelty. We might be better off in a more natural state, if it weren’t for the rest of civilisation of course.
Thinking in this direction you might be interested in this, if you haven’t read it already.
That’s the first time I heard the term Ashkenazi & now I am wondering how that’s even possible? The correspondence of those last 4 letters is pretty eerie. I think you are onto something but there’s a contradiction, in that Semites are generally thought to be the least neotenous types, whereas autistics are highly neotenous. You are both Jewish (partly) and neurodiverse: are these genes complementary or opposed? (Hope that’s not an impolite question, more like i am thinking out loud.)
Thanks for the link, looks interesting.
Well talking about this seems to be dangerous territory, accusations of racism etc. but here goes.
I have Asperger’s, but that really just seems to be a code word for being neotenous (developmentally delayed) and likely androgynous or queer. So I’m chromosomally XY but personality wise, emotionally and somewhat physically female, to a degree that I now consider myself a transsexual though I still present as male.
My ‘neurodiversity’ seems to be actually the result of being a someone with the mind of a girl being forced to try to grow up as a boy, and for a while desperately try to convince myself I actually was one, even though I never seemed to be able to figure out how to behave how I thought I should be able to, nor could I work out why other people seemed to think I was so strange.
It’s a bit like this person, not quite as traumatic, but still I’ve had a lot of very difficult conflicting feelings to get my head around. http://www.transsexual.org/mystory.html
It’s all still somewhat confusing to, to me as much as anyone else. I mean, I have a nominally male self-concept but fairly strong female sex, reproductive and emotional drives, if that makes any sense. It didn’t become unbearable enough for me to finally resolve my dilemma until about 18 months ago. I now ‘know’ at my emotional core that I’m really a girl, and I actually want to live my life that way.
My research and self-experimentation with hormones has taught me that many of the difficulties I’ve had and the sense of social alienation I had previously attributed to ‘Asperger’s’ may be the result of my brain struggling to run on testosterone instead of estrogen, and might even be fixable via HRT and eventual gender transition, which I do now intend to pursue.
I probably should have done it as a teenager, but back then it seemed like the stigma was way too high to even consider it, and I was in the middle of doing exams at a single sex school and didn’t know who to turn to. You obviously get a much better physical result if you start as early as possible though.
I don’t think it will be that easy a process to go through, it’s bound to be a difficult step to mentally rewrite your whole self-concept in mid-life, but that’s a software issue not a hardware one, and it seems to be the right thing for me to do to hopefully have a less dissociated personality and then be able to establish a successful relationship with someone, which is something I’m now sorely missing.
If my body hadn’t been overrun with testosterone, and had I been through a normal female puberty, I might now look something like this, according to my facial bone structure.
I’d love to be just like her, she seems to be a match for what I feel my core personality to be, but I was born a boy so I as much as I suddenly secretly seemed to want to be a girl when puberty hit me as a teenager, I assumed my parents would never allow it, so I got heavily into computers and things instead, and just assumed then I would have to give all that relationship stuff a miss.
Anyway, as a way of trying to come to terms with my situation I worked out how facial proportions and head shapes are a direct correspondence to the degree of sexual dimorphism of the brain. Now I can better judge how other people are likely to think and behave. It’s in the space between they eyes, the size and shape of the nose, the vertical compression of the face, the overall size of the head and the shape of the back of the skull.
This seems to hold true across all races, so a lot of what people think of as genetic differences are actually down to sexual dimorphisms, driven by uterine hormone levels. There are extreme outliers of males and females, but most people fall somewhat in the middle. I seem to be towards the extreme female end of the scale, which is probably quite unusual for a genetic male.
From learning all that I can tell that Ashkenazi Jews have essentially managed align their culture to reproduce themselves at the mid-point of the gender spectrum. Both the males and the female are roughly the same brain-wise. So the males have more female traits than non-jews, and the females have more male traits. I expect this is what essentially gives them insight into our behaviour. They know how we work, but they don’t really feel constrained to play by the same rules as most other people.
From doing lots of research around the web I now know that transsexuals can often be total geniuses, with 160+ IQs. Having brains containing aspects of both sexes seems to allow them to think both convergently and divergently simultaneously, which can make them brilliant professors, engineers, programmers, and probably film directors too.
A fair amount of the computer revolution of the last few decades, both hardware and software, is now know to be due to the work of a few out transsexuals, and there are probably many more hidden away in back rooms creating technical marvels, who will never come out of the closet. The social stigma can still be pretty intense. Places like Microsoft and Google now seem fairly accepting of things like that so long as you are a ‘genius’ they don’t care how you dress, but people who are coping still don’t want to potentially upset their parents or disrupt their whole lives unduly,
So there’s all this speculation about the source of Jewish higher intelligence.
They think that because the Jews in the middle ages were excluded from most occupations, they all got into banking etc. where they genetically selected for males who possessed the highest ability to memorise vast quantities of information, which then led on to their amazing achievements in science and the arts, and IQs that are often a couple of standard deviations above the norm.
I now think it’s simpler than that, they are basically just androgynous, Presumably if you have some cultural knowledge of human reproductive timing you can make sure the right people pair up and reproduce at the right time to gift the next generation with the same set of traits.
I don’t know if that’s explicit practice, or just a cultural effect, but it seems to be the end result. They are more of a matriarchal culture, and it seems the elder females have more of a say in who gets to marry who and when.
So I don’t know if they know they are androgynous, but it maybe does explain their ‘difference’ and sense of being a race apart and their continual feeling of isolation/persecution.
People who are different like us seem to suffer same-sex peer rejection at a level beneath their concious awareness.
We don’t necessarily know why we’re different, they maybe don’t know why we’re different either, but something about us seems to make them want to gang up on us and attack us at worst, or at best socially isolate us.
I think their historic persecution thing is more of a cultural complex than a reality. Yes Hitler was a very bad man, but overall they now seem to have a lot more actual power and influence than most are prepared to admit. Bringing up the holocaust at every available opportunity is a good way to deflect attention away from whatever they are really up to, and their having control of much of the media empire means we only hear the news they want us to hear.
Just watch a video like this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O1gNVeaE4g
and then think about how all those same techniques can and are readily being applied outside of the domain of video games and websites to manage the economy as a whole.
Wouldn’t you call someone who thinks like that a psychopath? Deliberately and knowingly creating social systems that set other people competing against each other for status, and thereby extracting the ‘surplus’ value out of every interaction?
Seems like lots of people wanting those extra status badges poured a hell of a lot of time and money into the recent higher education bubble, but did they really get anything of value out of it, other than putting themselves in a lot of extra debt? Those great jobs that they think they have now been promised don’t seem to be materialising, do they? Who gets to say if we are primarily a manufacturing or service based economy? Now that everything is being made in China, how much is left for us to do?
They are very good at spinning stories which fit with our existing biases, and seem to be able to move an entire culture towards ever greater liberalism over successive generation, by influencing the right people and setting the overall social agenda.
A lot of more right wing people seem to be blaming this rise in feminism, identity politics and cultural marxism etc. on their infiltrating the education system, saying it’s bringing about the downfall of the west.
I guess I’m all in favour of increasing sexual liberalism, if it means I now get to transition relatively unopposed, but I am aware that there is a serious down side to our sliding ever further in that direction, that a lot of people caught up in the very left wing echo-chamber seem to be missing. I hope there are still some ‘real men’ my age left out there when I’m ready for them. 😉
So I don’t know if that makes me antisemitic, or just crazy. I have Jewish ancestors and relatives and I think they are good people. On the other hand there does seem to be a certain core of very powerful people with a larger agenda that maybe operates against our interests, but I’m not privy to the details so I can’t really tell.
Thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect we can’t really judge another persons level of intelligence if it vastly exceeds our own.
So for all I know, I could be the one that’s really an idiot, and a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and other people are actually running circles around me intellectually.
You should probably take everything I say with a mountain of salt, but anyway, that’s roughly what I’ve worked out on my own thus far.
Thanks for speaking fearlessly. It’s the first time I have heard this particular theory, the transgender-ness of Jews. I wounder how it might relate to how penile mutilation (the means for a male to have a sex change) is foundational to the jewish religion?
Well, that’s kind of why I linked you to that ‘Jesus and the Unabomber’ thing. He is very anti-circumcision, as he thinks it creates an early life trauma which can sufficiently wound the psyche of the infant that they dissociate from their emotional core, (or soul, for the religiously inclined).
So yes, it’s possibly like God played a very mean trick, and created a race that works the opposite way around from the rest of humanity, and then made it impossible for them to fix the problems for themselves because they religiously insist on the removal of the very part of the body that would allow them to reach a proper orgasm in later life. 😉
I’m not Jewish, I wasn’t circumcised, thankfully, and I’ve no idea what they get up to in the bedroom and whether it really works for them or not.
For my own case I know that I can’t do ‘it’ because in my mind ‘it’ only ever works the other way around, which is, needless to say, a very frustrating situation to be in.
It seems like relatively frequent orgasms are actually vital for healthy long term psychological functioning. It’s a sort of ‘reset’ button for the brain, restoring the system for the next cycle of growth and creativity.
Perhaps they have some religious ritual that is designed to achieve the same effect.
There’s some more related stuff over here:
sorry for the delay in passing this, thought i had already. did you get my email?
Yes, I did. Sorry I didn’t respond. I’m not sure I want to put my name, or my voice, to a podcast, it seems like potentially dangerous territory. You’re welcome to use what I’ve linked to, and I can provide a lot more links to details to back up my theory if you like.
Well the ‘what autism is’ bits I’m pretty sure of by this stage, the more conspiratorial bits I’m not so clear on.
Basically there seems to be an agenda of making people more androgynous, and big push for LGBT freedoms is a part of that. Or it’s a way of essentially removing the distinction of a middle class, once all those administrative type tasks are automated away or moved overseas.
I’m no longer so convinced that those ‘in power’ are actively ‘evil’ per se, just that they are working to a much larger scale agenda than most of us can imagine, and they don’t mind pulling a lot of strings and covering a lot of things up to make sure that the plan comes to fruition.
If the goal is to keep us mentally entertained and fairly oblivious while shifting us gradually into a much less resource intensive mode of civilisation then I can’t exactly object to that. If virtual things can keep our minds just as busy, then maybe we don’t need to enslave all those people in China with our rampant consumerism.
Yes i think in Australian Haute culture the film “bad boy bubby ” seminally illustrates this concept . The fact that the film is extremely popular both here and abroad tells me that there are a lot more autistic people out there than one might suspect . It was nominated as best film at the venice film festival , so perhaps the Venetians resonated with this on some deep level . It was the gas masks that triggered me , cheers Jasun , big fan of your work
which concept precisely?
emmajoey’s discussion of genes, race, gender, etc. is so far from any thinking on how any of this works re: genetics, epigentics, and so on that i have no idea where to begin to address the ignorance. For instance, there is no gene for autism or ‘jewish’. So i won’t, simply state what i have.
To my main point – there are plenty of people who do most of their thinking without language. Some people think about making buildings, wiring circuits, constructing garments, painting paintings, modeling sculptures, and so on using words but most do so using images (2d, 3d, moving thru time or static). Why thinking so often gets boiled down to simply ‘language’ is an interesting question to pursue.
and i know several autists who definitely have theory of mind. It may not be ‘standard issue’, they may not be that motivated to take it into account, but they have it all right.
I appreciated this article on a number of points, especially as it concerns liminality and being an outsider, although the content regarding autistic spectrum particularities is new to me and something I’d like to understand further. I have a deep background in Neuro-intensive care, Trauma, Neuro-trauma, and neurological illnesses from the critical care medicine dimension and, although I have cared for children with autism they certainly were not in my care for their autism.
I also grew up in a family divided by the Atlantic Ocean and in vastly different cultural, linguistic and social context, with divorced parents whose cultures of origins were unknown to, and misunderstood by each other. So growing up involved traveling from one cultural reality where everyone was certain that “everything had to be done a certain way,” to another where the rules were profoundly different.
So I grew up in liminality and have lived my life in liminality, eventually apprenticing in an indigenous tradition where apprentices are required to experience and live in very different cultures, languages and professions as part of that apprenticeship.
After spending a number of years teaching and sharing what I’ve learned around the world, there’s a certain sense of absurdity that I get from even trying to do that, because it’s like trying to teach “liminality” to people who, mainstream or “alternative,” are caught in that trap where they either deny the psychopathology at the heart of the culture, or they react to it in entirely predictable ways – precisely what you point to in your distinction that “for evil to prevail it suffices that good people do ‘good’.”
My sense from traveling and teaching around the world in the last six years is that modern “citizen-slave cultures” are entering profound and global psychosis, without any further remedy than allowing that psychosis to play itself out in the fullness of its devastating consequences. At the same time, many indigenous people whose scale of reference for understanding the human experience spans tens of thousands of years beyond the “when’s the next iPhone coming out” context of “modernity” (from the Latin “modo”: just -right-now”) this is just a phase in a huge cycle. Our challenge is to navigate it, individually and as the sorts of “communities” which are practically non-existent in the Western world.
What I’ve seen worldwide is that, overall, the human protoplasm and neurology is so profoundly debased and damaged that the notion of “change” or “improvement” seems to me to be more and more of a delusion fantasy. Yes, certain steps CAN be taken, with certain people. It’s possible to make choices for our health, for reconnecting our ideas of wealth to what’s actually alive, to building alliances – but in the West it’s going to be an incredibly turbulent ride.
If that sounds dramatic to us, it’s mostly because we’ve been so busy getting programmed in front of screens to notice that fossils from ocean bottoms are all over the highest mountains of this world, and that everything CYCLES.
anyways, thanks for your brilliant work. I’ve delved into a number of your articles, which I find a source of rich insight, and am looking forward to listening to your podcasts.
All the best to you and I wish you good surfing on the clusterfuck tsunami!
Much appreciated. Reading more Girard currently, some penetrating insights, such as this one: “It is in the very wish to cause a break that the continuity between fathers and sons is maintained.”
For awhile I wondered whether I was on the spectrum somewhat. The answer seems to be that I don’t think so, or at least my neural wiring is relatively typical. However, my background, the raw social material that I imitated to build an identity, was very unique and highly complicated (not unlike what Journeyman O described, although in a different manner), and so the rules I developed to form an identity had to account for the high complexity of my social environment. Maybe add some trauma into the mix.
As a consequence, the last paragraph resonates: “The third, generally unexplored option is that of not trying to beat the system or join it, but, as in my school daze, of appearing to join it as a means to pass relatively uncontaminated through it. This is the liminal approach of neither resistance nor compliance. It may just be the only approach that is not entirely futile.”
Regarding Jews: this may be obvious to the readership here, but the Hebrew g_d created the world from language. Working in a scientific discipline steeped in genetics and epigenetics, I tend not to take genetic statements about intelligence or behavior too seriously, acknowledging at the same time that genetic variants that modulate risks of various conditions, some of them behavioral or neurological, do occur in different frequencies in different populations. I’ll also acknowledge that the Ashkenazim are more highly represented in higher social spheres than their representation in the population as a whole; the heavy language-focused nature of the culture probably explains this phenomenon. In other words, no evil cabal of Jews, just a people who are more socially adapted to a world where language manipulation helps to confer elite status.
Absolutely, regarding the Jews, tho there appears to be more to it even, as I am finding out reading Girard, and hope to be able to share soon. A strange circular process, in that the Hebrews used language to create a religious system centered around a G-d who created the world from language (and “named” the Jews the Chosen People).
Regarding neurodiversity, it seems worth considering that, if neurology can determine forms of behavior, forms of behavior might also determine (alter) neurology?
On language and its inherent capacity for deceit, a chunk from Italo Calvino’s _Invisible_Cities_ (1972):
Of all the changes of language a traveler in distant lands must face, none equals that which awaits him in the city of Hypatia, because the change regards not words, but things. I entered Hypatia one morning, a magnolia garden was reflected in blue lagoons, I walked among the hedges, sure I would discover young and beautiful ladies bathing; but at the bottom of the water, crabs were biting the eyes of the suicides, stones tied around their necks, their hair green with seaweed.
I felt cheated and I decided to demand justice of the sultan. I climbed the porphyry steps of the palace with the highest domes, I crossed six tiled courtyards with fountains. The central hall was barred by iron gratings: convicts with black chains on their feet were hauling up basalt rocks from a quarry that opened underground.
I could only question the philosophers. I entered the great library, I became lost among shelves collapsing under the vellum bindings, I followed the alphabetical order of vanished alphabets, up and down halls, stairs, bridges. In the most remote papyrus cabinet, in a cloud of smoke, the dazed eyes of an adolescent appeared to me, as he lay on a mat, his lips glued to an opium pipe.
“Where is the sage?” The smoker pointed out of the window. It was a garden with children’s games: ninepins, a swing, a top. The philosopher was seated on the lawn. He said: “Signs form a language, but not the one you think you know.”
I realized I had to free myself from the images which in the past had announced to me the things I sought: only then would I succeed in understanding the language of Hypatia. Now I have only to hear the neighing of horses and the cracking of whips and I am seized with amorous trepidation: in Hypatia you have to go to the stables and riding rings to see the beautiful women who mount the saddle, thighs naked, greaves on their calves, and as soon as a young foreigner approaches, they fling him on the piles of hay or sawdust and press their firm nipples against him. And when my spirit wants no stimulus or nourishment save music, I know it is to be sought in the cemeteries: the musicians hide in the tombs; from grave to grave flute trills, harp chords answer one another.
True, also in Hypatia the day will come when my only desire will be to leave. I know I must not go down to the harbor then, but climb the citadel’s highest pinnacle and wait for a ship to go by up there. But will it ever go by? There is no language without deceit.