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 offendedpeople.Continue Reading
When people ask me why I do not write for the mainstream, it reminds me of an incident that happened over a year ago. I mailed Psychology Today’s editor Hara Estroff Marano, saying that I would like to write on Asperger Syndrome. I am sharing this exchange, to illustrate why—much as I would like to—the effort is often not worth it for me. Contrary to what people believe, editors do respond (This is not true of Indian editors. They have poor personal standards.), and are not prejudiced against unknown writers at all.
May I write an article for Psychology Today on why direct communication is a great virtue, in people with Asperger’s Syndrome? As a man somewhere on the autistic spectrum, it was never clear to me why the direct communication style of people with Asperger’s Syndrome is considered harsh and insensitive. Some psychologists like Simon Baron-Cohen think that the people with Asperger’s Syndrome communicate directly because they have an extreme male brain, and hence, low ability to empathize. But, if directness makes people uncomfortable, this is perhaps a problem with people and not with direct speech. People are indirect when they are not fully comfortable telling you what they really think. An Aspie can easily claim that he finds it more exhausting to interpret the indirect demands of people, defend himself against their implicit accusations, and meet the indirect demands others impose on him.
I often notice that people are unable to put themselves in my shoes and understand that my disagreement does not indicate a conflict, or personal enmity. This is a classic case of failure of introspection. I suspect that this means that the neurotypicals are deficient in the cognitive component of empathy. They are also unable to be nice to Aspies despite the disagreements they might have. I suspect that this means that they are deficient in the affective component of empathy. Now, is it the people with Asperger’s Syndrome who lack empathy? If someone is willing to defend true, unpopular positions even when most of his peers disagree with him, I think he is a dynamo of self-responsibility. I think literalism and disagreeableness are the fountainhead of human progress. The triumph of the disagreeable over the agreeable is what the progress of humanity is all about.
The right to offend and insult is the most important human right. When a writer insults a religion or group, or person, people consider it an annoying kookiness. But, this is an important aspect of writing. I have heard people saying that they despise Rushdie because they value decency over talent. This is a projection of ones vices onto others. It is not Rushdie’s fault that others are bigots. But, decency is merely an effect. Decency flourishes when people are not offended by the truth, when people are not offended by what someone writes on a piece of paper. If you are offended by what someone writes, it is your problem. You should respect yourself more. If you find it hard to respect yourself, like almost everyone, you should learn how to earn it. I do not give a hoot for the feelings of the people I write about, even if it destroys families, even if it is that of mine. Curiously enough, people tend to think of writing as a luxury. It is as if the writers have a choice, to not write about certain things. Of course, it is true that they have, but then people have the choice never to engage in any sexual activity in their whole lives. Should they, if it offends people? But, there is something about writing that only the best writers understand:
“Before the success of Menagerie I’d reached the very, very bottom. I would have died without the money. I couldn’t have gone on any further, baby, without money, when suddenly, providentially, The Glass Menagerie made it when I was thirty-four. I couldn’t have gone on with these hand-to-mouth jobs, these jobs for which I had no aptitude, like waiting on tables, running elevators, and even being a teletype operator. None of this stuff was anything I could have held for long. I started writing at twelve, as I said. By the time I was in my late teens I was writing every day, I guess, even after I was in the shoe business for three years. I wrecked my health, what there was of it. I drank black coffee so much, so I could stay up nearly all night and write, that it exhausted me physically and nervously. So if I suddenly hadn’t had this dispensation from Providence with Menagerie, I couldn’t have made it for another year, I don’t think.”-Tennessee Williams, The Paris Review Continue Reading
1)He will not be a noisy, messy baby like those types you can see inside the Delhi Metro. I do not want them inside my home. When I was a child, when my mother used to keep me somewhere, I wouldn’t even move. I want my child to be like how I once was.
2) He will inherit my IQ. This is a safe bet. Even the smartest people I know often have a hard time coming to grips with the things I quickly gathered when I was young. If I marry Krishnapriya, our child’s IQ will be astronomical, but it will still be a little less than that of mine.
3) I will be impressed by his frightening conscientiousness. He will wake up at 4 O Clock in the morning, and will not drink, smoke or do drugs. He would have finished reading a book by the time his lazy college-mates wake up. Continue Reading