Reclaiming Neurofuturism: Are neurodivergent communities in danger of separatism?
I have been active in the Autistic community now for over half of the past decade. Still, when we consider some of the greatest thought leaders within our community, I am aware that my time is a drop in the ocean. However, in my time I have seen a growing trend towards inadvertent separation from wider society culminating towards what can only be viewed as a sort of self-imposed segregation.
This is dangerous.
I’ll be honest, I can count the number of non-Autistic people I interact with regularly on one hand. Almost all of the people in my life are Autistic, and most of them are part of the wider online communities I exist within. This has been important for mitigating my sense of isolation and alienation from the world, but perhaps it has an echo chamber effect, which limits my access to ideas and knowledge.
Knowledge is power, and that power is largely controlled by neurotypically performing agents. However, we need to consider the power that is wielded within our own communities. There are distinct do and don’t rules that by the sum of their parts have become identity politics. What has started out as a means of liberation and protection from harm has become at risk of harming the community itself.
This doesn’t mean that communities shouldn’t have rules. There are people and attitudes in our world that are overtly harmful. Normative violence is insidious in the way it indoctrinates us into believing things about ourselves and others. What we must be aware of is the policing of thoughts and knowledge production.
The Autistic community especially has become so attached to certain ideas presented in certain formats that we often see the same concepts packaged and repackaged, lauded as new knowledge when in fact they are thoughts that were explored at the inception of our community back in the days of dial up internet.
What we need are thought leaders who are willing to take risks, explore new avenues, and build upon the foundational knowledge that those who came before us provided. Yes, sometimes we will get it wrong, but overall, we need to sometimes come up with the wrong answer. It is better to produce a falsehood if that falsehood brings us closer to the truth of the matter (if such a thing as objective truth even applies here).
We need to understand that the knowledge that exists within our communities is helpful, but not nearly the whole picture. In separating ourselves from those who might challenge that knowledge, we risk the opportunity for growth. Only through challenging our own ideas can we build upon the knowledge that exists.
This is the danger of separatism. It is the antithesis to evolution. We must liberate neurodivergent people fully into the world and not into a bubble that is curated to never challenge them. Only through trial and tribulation can we grow the knowledge that we need to truly free ourselves from oppression.