A Touch of Alyricism

Dedicated to the equally fascinating topics of autistic advocacy and the 'sisterly sophistries' of radical gender feminism. Other topics may occasionally crop up. Contactable at alyric@gmail.com


Polemicist since Grade 8

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ed: In Need of Fixing

Some blog posts are more important than others. As any Hub reader knows, there are reams of Facebook style socialising blogs mixed in with more substantive pieces. I don’t begrudge the need for the social dimension usually, unless I could see that the whole thing might descend into social group think of the calibre of the Autism Speaks message boards. Given the numerical presence of autistic bloggers on the Hub, that seems to me unlikely, so it’s not really an issue except for some due vigilance to ensure that the actual autistic presence remains very high. Otherwise very important posts, like the following may be marginalised.

Ed of ‘Ed’s autism page’ wrote a post by invitation for Christschool’s blog , titled: “In need of Fixing”. The subject matter – abuse of people by systems supposedly designed to aid and treat them can really only be adequately addressed by someone on the inside, like Ed or like Amanda or a few experts who know very precisely what goes on, but much more importantly for the likes of you and me who are so insulated by lack of experience, these folks are coming up with cogent arguments about why these abuses happen. Not a thing is going to change unless the dynamics become transparent. For me, Ed’s post raised a large number of points that really made me think about this, and those points are what I’d like to focus on. Naturally, this post is simply to encourage as many folks as possible to read Ed’s post in its entirety and gain their own insights. So to the points in no particular order:

• The way that we (the public) know that Republicans are behaving inappropriately is because Democrats reported or make sure that it gets reported. The way that we (the public) know this about Democrats is because Republicans make sure of it. Without this competition how would we know?

Sounds simple enough, but how often do we note that only in truly equivalent power structures, is oversight actually going to work? So the first question for any system is the equivalence or lack of among the elements. I think the conundrum of the JRC could be explained quite well if you have a closer look at the supporting structural elements.

• The reason that some violations of public officials who aren't a part of the Republican/Democrat system are hidden from the public for a longer period of time is because those who set regulations and are thought by the public to be enforcing those regulations choose to conveniently ignore or look the other way. They also often knowingly contribute to the problem and are in positions to set and enforce regulations for the very purpose of protecting the violations and the violators within their same (or a similar) branch of government.

This is probably the main point and well supported by the many references Ed gives. ED goes on to elaborate some of the reasons why the regulators are not regulating. Among which:

• Whether authority comes from parents, teachers, or someone who is granted this authority by the public, what should be responsibility is too often seen as entitlement. Direction and guidance too often becomes unnecessary control and manipulation when regulators don't get regulated.

If I have this right, then what gets done is what can be done and that does not have to bear any relationship with what should be done. What enables the moral vacuum between reasons and actions is that no one is regulating the regulators. Perhaps a hopelessly naive question, but shouldn’t all this be perfectly well known, since people have done lots and lots of work on systems and the corruption of systems, which strictly speaking, human rights violations by regulators would fall under?

• When every behavior is seen as an emotional response and gets critiqued as unsophisticated, populations of people have their values made obsolete. If on the other hand behavior is seen as the result of a mental or spiritual defect it may become more convenient to dismiss that very same population of people as deserving of being ignored and other more severe types of punishment.
Rationalisation 101 and note the two ways to do it. Ed made a point that really got to me on this aspect of things:

• The understanding of this dynamic begins with the acceptance that the US Mental Health System was never intended to provide for the needs of its consumers. It was designed to meet the needs of the public. It is a type of corrections Department where punishment is the primary method of enforcing behavioral standards.

Now we can see the necessity for the rationalisation.

• I've noticed that oppressed groups are often taught that they do not and cannot understand the sophisticated language of their oppressors. I've seen that often when people were taught that something is beyond their capacity for learning they don't put many efforts into finding out whether this is true or not. Sometimes people's liberation is really not as far away as they are taught.

Just thinking how much of a step it would be to even begin to question the status quo as delivered by the system. Also thinking how many never get anywhere near that step.

• I have also noticed that people who are caught up in the oppression of others sometimes have little understanding of what they do and how it is oppressive because their scope of understanding is limited to a realm where oppressed populations are not allowed to express their experience.

OK, this was a real eye opener for me, never ever having come close to imagining it. I keep thinking of the essay “The Smile”, which I can’t find back. Is there a single oppressive system of any type which is not maintained by that ‘limited’ scope of understanding?

• I believe behavior is seen as the cause of (or what needs fixing in regards to) learning disabilities, psychological and psychiatric problems, and certainly many neurological problems as well. I believe that one of the main reasons that autistics are treated more severely within all these classifications (which I have been described having all of them at different times since birth) has a lot to do with how what is all too quickly determined as misbehavior is treated with the worst forms of punishment. In a typical institutional environment, I think autistics are the least adaptable to these harsh environments which can lead to a cycle of gross misunderstandings and the worst kinds of treatment.

This total emphasis on punishment as the naturally deserving outcome for institutional residents is more than a bit disturbing. It is of course, the way the JRC is run, which makes that institution in the scheme of things, just one more institution, albeit with much more formalised punishment regimes. For the rest, it seems that the same structural elements that defy regulation in other institutions are at work here as well. There are no equivalencies of oversight, so that never works no matter how many complaints and/or attempts at regulation are made. The parents do not want their children back, so they will rationalise anything on the grounds that ‘you didn’t know Caroline before’. The fact that Caroline remains essentially unchanged doesn’t count for much. The regulatory authorities don’t want to upset anything either. Every time JRC does something outrageous, on top of their endemic torture regimes, that is, the authorities cave. After all, for them it’s a good deal and reasonably economical. Matthew Israel is nothing if not a good marketer. Basically he’s said – leave your very worst behavioural cases to me and I will look after them for a price you will be able to pay. And he does. There’s a reason for using punishment. It’s cheap because it’s simple and any fool can do it. Combine with computerised instruction, which doesn’t require teaching qualifications and the whole show can be run by a bunch of high school drop outs. Profits will flow and everybody benefits, except the clientele. But as Ed points out, the system is not set up for them.

There’s a lot more in Ed’s post that I haven’t mentioned and that’s because these are complicated ideas that I’m working my head around.


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