Is It Me Who Lacks Empathy?

I’m somewhere on the autism spectrum. So, it was never obvious to me that people with Asperger Syndrome lack empathy. Simon Baron-Cohen thinks that people with Asperger Syndrome have an extreme male brain, which means, they have low ability to empathize.  To begin with, we have a direct, blunt way of speaking. This is not the only reason why he thinks so. But I will not get into all that here.

I think I know what this means. When I was a teen, no one could make a loose statement within my hearing distance without my expressing my disapproval, usually with detailed arguments. I found it hard to believe that people found it offensive because this would not have offended me. For long, I did not even know that this offended people. Continue reading “Is It Me Who Lacks Empathy?”

Aspies Are Superior Beings

A cat, not a defective dog.

The Urban Dictionary has some interesting definitions of the term “Aspie”:

A superior being, while deficient in chaotic morasses such as small-talk, inferior double-standard-laden customs and values trumpeted by Neurotypicals, and deciphering Neurotypical body-language, more than makes up for it with a sharp, penetrating mind that is highly adept at developing an intense focus on a subject giving them a near-savant level of proficiency, an inborn sense of principles that allows them to develop practically consistent characteristics and values, and an ability to reason independently, reducing their susceptibility to dogma, acceptance of groundless assertions, and the hazards of groupthink.

The eccentric man with the encyclopaedic knowledge, monotone voice, and static facial expression must be an Aspie.

An aspie is one who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is believed to be part of the autism spectrum. Aspies, while being quite gifted verbally, have social, emotional, and sensory integration difficulties, among others. Aspie is an affectionate term, and is not meant as a put down.

My son is an aspie, so he’s not so great at making idle chit chat at parties, or even at being in crowds, but he can get us home from anywhere. He says he just consults the map in his brain. Continue reading “Aspies Are Superior Beings”

The Reason I Jump

As a result of all the killings in the world and selfish planetwrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists.

The Reason I Jump is a memoir of Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. Excerpts:

“Even at my age, I still enjoy this TV programme for kindergarten kids, ‘Watching with Mother’. Reading that, you must be thinking, ‘Ah, this guy’s just a big kid, after all!’ But that’s not the case, in my humble opinion. Sure, we may appear to resemble small children – our fondness for gentle, kind, beautiful things – but we tend to prefer simpler, more straightforward stories, not because of childishness, but because we can more easily guess what’s going to happen next.”

“I don’t know whether people think I’ll understand baby-language better, or whether they think I just prefer being spoken to in that way. I’m not asking you to deliberately use difficult language when you talk to people with autism–just that you treat us as we are, according to our age. Every single time I’m talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable – as if I’m being given a zero chance of a decent future. True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect. That’s what I think, anyway.”

Criticizing people, winding them up, making idiots of them or fooling them doesn’t make people with autism laugh. What makes us smile from the inside is seeing something beautiful, or a memory that makes us laugh. This generally happens when there’s nobody watching us. And at night, on our own, we might burst out laughing underneath the duvet, or roar with laughter in an empty room ….when we don’t need to think about other people or anything else, that’s when we wear our natural expressions. Continue reading “The Reason I Jump”

On Adam Smith (Asperger)

“As to his personality quirks, the famous Professor of Moral Philosophy had a harsh, thick voice and often stuttered. He was the quintessential absentminded professor. His life was one of ubiquitous disorganization and ambiguity. Books and papers were stacked everywhere in his study. From his childhood, he had the habit of speaking to himself, “smiling in rapt conversation with invisible companions” Stories abound of his bumbling nature: the time he fell into a tanning pit while discoursing with a friend; the morning he put bread and butter into a teapot, and after tasting it, declared it to be the worst cup of tea he had ever had; and the time he went out walking and daydreaming in his old nightgown and ended up several miles outside town. “He was the most absent man I ever knew,” declared one acquaintance. “He’s a most absent-minded creature,” she later wrote, “but one of the most lovable”. We know pitifully little about his love interests. We know from his biographers that as a young man Smith was in love with a beautiful and accomplished young lady, but unknown circumstances prevented their marriage.”-The Making of Modern Economics, Mark Skousen

Is Empathy Good?

Is Empathy the solution?

I had read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence long ago, perhaps thirteen years ago. I did not like it. What angered me? I knew that it was an attempt to undermine the concept of IQ. Goleman thought that empathy is wonderful, and can solve many problems. I was never convinced. First of all, people feel sorry for all the bad people. In any case, it was always clear to me that almost all problems happen because people are not thinking enough. When I read Charles Murray, my suspicions were confirmed:

“While concepts such as “emotional intelligence” and “multiple intelligences” have their uses, a century of psychometric evidence has been augmented over the last decade by a growing body of neuroscientific evidence. Like it or not, g exists, is grounded in the architecture and neural functioning of the brain, and is the raw material for academic performance. If you do not have a lot of g when you enter kindergarten, you are never going to have a lot of it. No change in the educational system will change that hard fact.” Continue reading “Is Empathy Good?”

Interesting Perspectives On Asperger

With a most retentive memory, his conversation was solid beyond that of any man.

1) John Rae: Life Of Adam Smith 

“With a most retentive memory, his conversation was solid beyond that of any man. I have often told him after half an hour’s conversation, ‘Sir, you have said enough to make a book.” His conversation, moreover, was particularly wide in its range. Though Smith seldom started a topic of conversation, there were few topics raised on which he was not found contributing something worth hearing, and Boswell, no very partial witness, admits that his talk evinced “a mind crowded with all manner of subjects. I shall be accused of going too far when I say that he was scarcely ever known to start a new topic himself, or to appear unprepared upon those topics that were introduced by others. Indeed, his conversation was never more amusing than when he gave a loose rein to his genius upon the very few branches of knowledge of which he only possessed the outlines.”

2) I often read that High IQ Asperger kids are not good at empathizing. Jim Sinclair has the best explanation that I have read, of how people with different perspectives always have difficulty understanding each other. And why things are a lot different from how they appear.

Continue reading “Interesting Perspectives On Asperger”

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

An important truth about literature is that its greatest pleasures are beyond most readers. Only people with an artistic bent of mind can enjoy great art. But, there is more to it. Great literature demands deep learning, and an over-learning of the fundamental principles of human nature that comes from hard-won experience.

Consider this passage in Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time”, on  Christopher. He was then a thirteen-year-old high IQ boy who has the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of what they call “Asperger Syndrome”, though Mark Haddon never claimed that the boy has Asperger. The fact is that he sees things as they are:

“I colored all the cars in with red paint to make it a Super Super Good Day for Mother. Father said that she died of a heart attack and it wasn’t expected.  I said, “What kind of heart attack?” because I was surprised. Mother was only 38 years old and heart attacks usually happen to older people, and Mother was very active and rode a bicycle and ate food which was healthy and high in fiber and low in saturated fat like chicken and vegetables and muesli. Father said that he didn’t know what kind of heart attack she had and now wasn’t the moment to be asking questions like that. I said that it was probably an aneurysm.” Continue reading “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time”

The Myth Of Mental Illness

If you believe you are Jesus or that the Communists are after you, then your belief is likely to be regarded as a symptom of schizophrenia.

In less enlightened times, these children were called lazy. But, today a boy who can’t sit still is sent to a psychiatrist, and he is instantly branded as a case of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But, what if these children simply don’t like sitting still? As Bryan Caplan observed, “No one accuses a boy diagnosed with ADHD of forgetting to play video-games.”

When I was a teen, I was taken to psychiatrists many times because I read while having food, did not sleep on time, and bunked classes—and because my parents had a hell of a time raising me. But, what if I liked to read while having food, wanted to sleep when I felt like and did not like being lectured to? And what if the problem was with my parents and not with me? You never know.

Once an intelligent man (and I have not seen many intelligent men) told me: “If people do not have a prejudice against you, they will have no issue with the things you do. It does not matter how crazy it is. But, if they are prejudiced against you, they will find everything that you do crazy. I won’t tell you his name, but there was a famous cricketer who had the habit of running naked on the field before a match. But, his team-mates and the authorities did not have issues with him. They were so tolerant.” Continue reading “The Myth Of Mental Illness”

Autism Light In The Illicit Happiness Of Other People

The Illicit Happiness Of Other People

To see human nature as it is, you have to be someone who finds the norms of the society bizarre. You have to be someone who finds it hard to identify with them. You have to be an outsider who lives here, on earth, among people. Continue reading “Autism Light In The Illicit Happiness Of Other People”

The Nerds Shall Inherit The Earth

There were times when brawn mattered more than brain.

A lady who thinks that there is always a touch of Aspergers in high IQ men was describing a friend of hers: “He is able to walk, speak, write and care for himself. He is a wonderful writer. But, he does not make eye contact. He cannot read social cues. He does not understand sarcasm. He tells inappropriate jokes. But, he is very kind, and assumes that every one is honest.”, she said.

I asked, “There is a boy who stays behind my flat. He is often surprised when I say “America’s Great Depression, Page no. 63, Last paragraph.” or words to that effect when he asks me questions like, ‘Where does Murray Rothbard discuss the effect of savings during an economic depression?’. It was a book I had read seven years ago. Is that how your friend is?”
She said, “Yes. That is how our friend would answer. He remembers every word he has ever read of every book, even from thirty years ago.” I named him. When she asked, “How do you know?” I replied, “His knowledge is encyclopaedic.”, and she said, “You are very astute.” Continue reading “The Nerds Shall Inherit The Earth”