Identity and Diversity

I wrote the article Diversity and Inclusion yesterday and it was normal to receive some criticism from a fairly nationalist point of view disillusioned with the double standards of anti-non-white racism and anti-white racism. That is about the only way I can put it because anti-white racism is still respectable in this insane world, depending on where you are.

The reality of human nature is one of brutal competition, which is capable of being moderated by compassion and care for the weak. It is not all social Darwinism as in the ideas of Nietzsche regarding the Ubermensch and the primacy of the will. Christianity does provide a motivation to assist those who are weak on condition that they acknowledge themselves to be weak or different in some way, something we call humility, which is being true to our self-knowledge.

This is a consideration that has made me sceptical about so-called Neuro-diversity, the school of thought that considers autism (wherever on the spectrum) to be a difference rather than a handicap. Those of us who have been diagnosed for autism can be grateful for help, but it invariably has to be on the helper’s terms. Otherwise we have no right to their time or effort. If we are in distress, people will usually help. If we claim equality, then we are on our own and subject to the rules of competition and the stronger will of the other.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that autists are some kind of superior being in intellectual terms or having a special talent, but it is an illusion. Most of us have social difficulties. Perhaps we are particularly sensitive bullshit-o-meters to detect sophistry, deceit and double standards, but the non-autists are in the majority. Is this sensitivity a part of autism or another part of our complex personalities?

A short while ago, I was asked about my opinion on “conversion therapy” on people identifying as homosexuals to “make them normal”, especially if the therapy is enforced by authority or the young person’s parents. My own intuition was that no one should be forced to do anything, but that there are consequences of choices. Someone who self-identifies as “gay” should not expect the majority of society to adapt to his lifestyle or tolerate it when it is publicly known. Autism appears to be the result of a modification of genes in the brain, whilst there appears to be no physical cause of sexual orientations. Imposing one’s identity in either case will not appeal to empathy and compassion but hostility and rejection. Self-identity can be a part of a person’s private life, but imposing it on the majority will provoke only indifference or anger. Being a unique person isn’t something pathological, but we ought to avoid provoking the collective majority as if expecting them to make adjustments to their views. Even more so when we live in a post-rational, post-everything and essentially nihilist society.

Should we fight and campaign with slogans, shouting and mob behaviour? Some think it is the only way to fight for the rights of minority identities. There were such people under the Nazi regime who died martyrs like Sophie Scholl. Perhaps they did more good than those who went to the catacombs and waited out the period of tyranny. Why protest for acceptance as homosexual, someone wanting to identify with the opposite sex, autistic, artistic or anything? What difference does it make to society and the hard-right tendencies who would return to Victorian morals and 1930’s totalitarianism?

I myself obtained the label of “high-functioning autistic”, known as Aspergers Syndrome before the psychiatric establishment absorbed it into the general autism spectrum. My attitude has evolved over the years during which I have written a few articles. It is only very exceptionally that it produces a Mozart or an Einstein – and we are not certain they had this condition. Both are now dead and cannot be diagnosed. It has blighted my life in my family, at school, in seminary, in parishes and now in marriage. If there were a cure, I would go for it. I wouldn’t have to be a part of the conforming collectivity. I could still be odd, an eccentric, an introvert, and be a little less alienated. It is a painful way of life, because we don’t know what we are missing if we haven’t experienced it – something like the fulness of non-verbal human communication enabling us to be social creatures.

My whole point is that these minority identities cause hardships in life. We would be better without them were that possible. At the same time, we have to come to terms with our imperfections, defects and difficulties. We join the long lines of people who humbly went to Christ to pray for a miracle healing. Some had the faith to accept such healing and others went away as they came. Such is the lottery of life. This may be the beginning of humility and the necessary disposition for relying on God more than mankind and the world.

The degree of suffering is extremely variable. I belong to that very “mild” category that I have learned to mask and adapt throughout my life. I have had to adjust insofar as I have needed to have a relationship with my family and colleagues at seminary and in the Church. Some people cause me a great degree of anxiety and it is just a matter of resilience until such a time as I can go my way and continue life. Others “on the spectrum” face serious difficulties and some have to be institutionalised. Should we consider “medieval” cures or euthanasia as the Nazis did? They denied the quality of humanity to the “useless eaters”, and European humanism and justice condemned them after the war. We Christians are called to compassion and to do what we can to help, which is best done by training to be a doctor or a nurse. We are not all called to that vocation.

In my own experience, I have known some who identify as Aspergers or other autists. I have been to organised events to find out whether I would experience a special empathy to them. I found some to be tender and loving souls. Others were constantly complaining about their experience of life and being rejected. I sometimes find autistic people to be extremely intolerant and unable to consider the possibility of other people’s views. Their example hardly makes me want to wear autism as a “badge of honour”! I think it is sufficient to be individual persons with our ways of life, on condition that the freedom of others is respected. Something that has done me a lot of good is the notion of truth as expounded by some of the German Idealists and the notion of reasoned dialogue. Not all truths are absolute but are the result of subjective individual experience.

Perhaps difficulties caused by mental and neurological conditions can help to make us more compassionate and open to others. I don’t wish I could be better at social games and politics. I spend a lot of time on my own and my marriage is loveless. I often reflect on my experience of life, knowing that it is not what most people experience. I think I have intuitive and empathic gifts, but I am not sure they are very different from most other people. How do I describe the colour red in human language? Are we sure that we all see the same thing that we call red even if we are not diagnosed as being colour blind? I try to learn to give and love without expecting anything in return. I think about things critically, rather than go along with prevailing opinion. Seeing films is very instructive in terms of understanding what people’s values are, and those things I personally find unacceptable or merely difficult. I just have to accept the fact that most people would not care less about what I think. Why should they?

We need to be thankful to be able to live independently, and assume the responsibility that goes with it. So-called “mild” cases may carry more stigma than anything else. The whole problem is one of broadening the diagnostic criteria to range from “a bit eccentric” to “severely disabled” and in need of care for life. The debate surrounding the absorption of Aspergers Syndrome into the general autistic spectrum is a double-edged sword. The big problem is that no two persons are the same, let alone two autistic persons. The point of a scientific diagnosis is typical characteristics in common. That would be difficult with those who are diagnosed at the high-functioning or of moderate intensity without the intellect being retarded or whatever expression the psychiatrist chooses to use. It can be called a disability in that it makes it difficult for us to succeed in life according to the most conventional criteria.

The problem is social interacting, which is hardly an “evolutionary advantage”. In my experience I often find Aspergers people so focused on their interest that they become intolerant and sometimes quite intemperate and aggressive. I have had to will myself to learn a more “liberal” and tolerant way of thinking on pain of finding myself in total isolation. Would that be a good thing? One has at least to trade and deal with others. Perhaps the extreme empathy and intuition bit has nothing to do with autism at any position on the spectrum. Psychiatrists and psychologists are surely still researching and working on their knowledge and analysis, since much of their science is little more than speculative analogy and comparison.

I can understand where identity politics and claims come from: discrimination and bullying, cruelty and the Mark of Cain. For me, the true value of a diagnosis is not to give me my identity but a scientific or quasi-scientific marker to help with self knowledge and understanding. This is a basis on which we can educate ourselves in the art of relating to society in the measure that we judge necessary for our own interests and our duty to help the weak according to Christian humanist principles. I often think of the Elusive Scarlet Pimpernel who rescued people who risked being sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution and smuggled them to England. We have to learn to be lambs in the midst of wolves to use an expression from the Gospels.

I have used this example of autism, which is a part of my own life experience, to think about other minority experiences. Who cares about our sexual preferences if we keep quiet and discreet, knowing that they are not “normal” even if they might feel normal for us. Being a woman at one time meant being silenced and subjugated in a man’s world. I would have had a lot of sympathy with early feminism and personalities like Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. Most women are moderate about their relations with men and society at large. Some seek to impose totalitarian tyranny on men and their husbands in particular! I have recently been researching moral and psychological abuse committed by women against men. It is too easy to have dissipated thoughts about the scold’s bridle and the ducking stool! Two wrongs do not make a right. At the same time, men suffer from “inverse sexism” which actually is nothing other than sexist discrimination, this time committed by women. Fortunately, legal authorities and judges are beginning to recognise this fact.

It would be a good idea for us to study history and come to understand something about the roots of revolutions – the replacement of one tyranny by its opposite extreme, a new tyranny that is infinitely worse. It is a prospect that I see happening in our own time with the “Woke” culture and the new anti-white racism. We live in frightening times, in the midst of a pandemic of a virus which potentially has the virulence and lethality of the Spanish Flu of a hundred years ago (if we get a second wave). States have reacted by imposing lockdowns or other “social distancing” restrictions. This has a marked psychological effect on those who are diametrically opposite autism, those who have an excessive reliance on social life and crowds.

Our identities are related to the nobility of spirit to which some of us aspire. This is an ideal to which we aspire. Christians call this nobility holiness, a complete harmony between our desire and what is acquired spiritually in part. The diversity has to be lived in a compromise with the degree to which we desire a social life and healthy relations with other people. Doubtlessly, these reflections will continue and become more refined as the “history of the future” unfolds.

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1 Response to Identity and Diversity

  1. Stephen K says:

    I missed this post when it first appeared. There is a lot in this, and not surprisingly, not unconnected with your later treatise on liminality. I think you say a lot of common sense things. I find myself unsympathetic , now, to a lot of identity politics. Identity and diversity: what are these things? When do they cease to be what they purport to be and how have they become such touchstones of civic morality?

    The issues/problems you write about are not far removed from my own developing thoughts about the essential solipsistic character of our existence, masked by encounters with people who appear to have similar thoughts and feelings. I am increasingly concerned with and exercised by the notion of love. Like all things (I suppose) it has meaning and reality only if experienced. But can we be sure that what we think it is by our experience of it is what it is for everyone? How elusive these things can be! I know only that I have heard lots of stuff about love by people saying how it is or ought to be (movies, churches, ads, peers, popular culture, theology or philosophical writers etc.) but my experience has brought home to me feelings or thoughts of say, duty, lust, desire, wistfulness, heartbreak, guilt, remorse, fear, disempowerment, exhilaration, reassurance, control, possessiveness, infatuation, manipulation, indulgence….the list can go on. It seems to me that we are incapable of perfect love, that is, love with which the recipient of our hopes or needs will be perfectly satisfied, and love which we hope to receive from another will fit our own need perfectly. I often think all we may have to hold onto is the renewal of a decision to be kind and patient and open to those we live with or those we meet or those we hold dear. I have to speak in generalities but Love is a lifelong school, and I feel like I have been a classroom dunce for a long time.

    Perhaps love and loving is just how it is as it is, but perhaps the capacity to love better or more satisfyingly is tied to wisdom and the serious spiritual search? I don’t know the answers but suspect that exploring the inner world of the spirit will help.

    Another challenging post, thank you.

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