The Hegemonic Agenda Behind the Pathologization of Autism


There is a long history of pathologization being used as a tool of social control. This is a history that I am too lazy to go into much detail for the purposes of this post, but will do in later posts. For this phase of the blog, I am not doing much research, but simply writing whatever comes into my head.

But yeah, there has been a long history of pathologization and social control. Watch this video about philosopher Michel Foucault to get a brief background on the theme:

So basically, in periods such as the Renaissance, people who under modern standards would be considered mentally ill, then were considered simply eccentric, and perhaps even wise. Many of the great writers and thinkers of the Renaissance were probably people who would be considered mentally ill today. But in those days, they were considered fully equal members of society, who roamed the streets and participated in public life just like anybody else. There was no such thing as insane asylums, and what we now see as “mental illness” was not seen as something needing to be corrected, treated or punished. This is a more recent phenomenon, although there are examples of it from various places and times in history. For example, the first guy to discover the Earth is round was probably declared insane and called a blasphemer by the Catholic Church and hung. Or something like that. I’ll do the research later.

Now, we move forward to the modern day, where the predominant global hegemonic ideology is neoliberal capitalism. It is, of course, not the only ideology, but I would say it is the main one, which affects the greatest percentage of the world’s population. Perhaps only North Korea, Cuba, and various tribal communities around the world could claim to exist outside its influence.

Neoliberalism’s successful implementation depends upon the establishment of open global free-market trade; an easily manipulable, abundant supply of cheap laborers with a high, largely Protestantism-inspired work ethic; and an elaborate, subliminal web of propaganda mechanisms designed to make people in all corners of the world fall for this truly insane* ideology that is detrimental to perhaps 90% of the world population’s well-being.

Obviously, the implementation of this ideological scheme depends upon the moulding of its intended subjects (which is essentially the labor force of the entire world, particularly the third world, as well as the indigenous communities whom neoliberalism seeks to proletarianise into it) into the ideal cogs to fit into this particular machine. It seeks to create a global army of hard-working, obedient, docile laborers who will accept low wages and shitty working conditions and do what they are told without question. Of course, most, if not all, ideologies have their own visions of what an “ideal citizen” to fit their system would be. Communism certainly had its own, for example. But this is the 21st century, when neoliberal capitalism dominates, so I am going to focus on this.

Pathologization, or disordering, is a technique used to inferiorise, dehumanise and “other” those people who fail to meet the standards of the “ideal citizen” that any given ideology expects all people to be. Incidentally, the word “pathologization” and all its variants are labelled as incorrectly spelt on this website, as well as in Microsoft Word. So is “neurotypical,” for that matter. A subtle neoliberal censorship attempt perhaps? Nah, I think I am being a bit too Orwellian there. Damn it, Slavoj Zizek! You make me overthink these things!

Autistics, in particular, make arguably the worst docile, obedient citizens among all demographics of society. We are a neoliberal’s worst nightmare! We are disobedient, we throw tantrums if ordered to do things, we are impossible to condition, and we are incapable of learning the social skills necessary to develop the virtually mandatory “salesman personality” that is essential to keep capitalism running at full speed. We pretty much have to be pathologized!

To make matters worse, we are very intelligent, and very literal-minded and honest people. We are too smart to be socially conditioned, and therefore we resist it. I suspect, anyway. I can’t speak for all Aspies and autists, but this has been largely my personal experience. Honesty is a trait incompatible with neoliberal capitalism, because it makes it difficult to make sales, especially of useless products.

Literality (in other words, the interpretation of everything as singlespeak– a term I coined in a previous post) is detrimental to capitalism because it relies on doublespeak to function. Concepts such as “economic freedom,” “progress,” “equal opportunity” and “climbing the ladder” are all sayings with double-meanings. They are sayings that sound like they have positive connotations, but in reality can have extremely detrimental effects. An autist, by happy accident, might one day use one of these terms in a very literal manner, or use different, more critical-sounding words to describe one of the aforementioned themes that are supposed to be said in doublespeak. For example, an Aspie might call “climbing the ladder” “pushing people down the ladder and climbing over them.” This is why over-literal singlespeak must be suppressed as a legitimate form of social interaction. Autistic literality is disruptive to the façade of neoliberal capitalist doublespeak.

This article, laced with blasphemous amounts of singlespeak, contains themes I believe should be quite central to any radical autism rights movement. I therefore propose another slogan:

The Right to Singlepeak.

*No pun intended.

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