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More on Zeno’s Paradoxes and the issues with Autistic to non-Autistic communication

As you may have noticed from my most recent blog post, I am somewhat down a rabbit hole at the moment. In my previous article I discussed Zeno’s paradox of plurality and how it applies to the dehumanisation of Autistic people and the double empathy problem.

Today I would like to consider another of Zeno’s paradoxes and how it applies to the double empathy problem.

This particular paradox was known as the Dichotomy Paradox. Essentially, it explains that when travelling from point A to point B, one must first travel to the halfway point between the two. To then travel from that point to the destination, you must travel half way again. This continues infinitely when travelling towards a fixed destination and thus Zeno argued that you can never reach point B.

When considering communication across different neurocognitive styles, one must also consider what the goal is. If we presume that the goal is “successful communication” then the double empathy problem tells us that this is very difficult due to the different styles of communication. Despite this, Autistic people are always expected to be the ones to put the emotional labour into communicating. This has been discussed by Rachel Cullen, a recording of a livestream with Aucademy featuring them can be found here and here).

We then encounter the dichotomy paradox. Neurotypicals remain a fixed point in the goal of successful communication, while we as Autistics are constantly expected to move towards the goal by accommodating their preferred communication styles. It is as if we are constantly reaching the halfway point, and never reaching our destination. No matter how well we accommodate neurotypical preferences, we are caught in an infinite regression of distance, not achieving the aim.

This to me, highlights the deeper issue of dehumanisation and objectification of Autistics. Neurotypicals (perhaps subconsciously, sometimes consciously) consider themselves the pinnacle of humanity, a goal that all should be striving for. We know from the existence of the various compliance based behavioural interventions, that Neurotypicals do believe this in many cases. Evidenced by the fact that it is considered “gold-standard” to teach Autistic people to hide their Autistic nature.

As Dr. Monique Botha mentioned in their recent seminar, there is a reason why researchers and professionals insist on person-first language. “I want to eradicate autism” sounds much less like genocide than “I want to eradicate Autistic people”. However, both of those statements mean the same thing. This is justified because whether or not they overtly see it, neurologically queer behaviour and experience is seen as non-human. Remi Yergeau argued this dehumanisation was due (at least in part) to a perceived lack of rhetoricity in their book Authoring Autism.

Autistic people are viewed as husks, mindlessly performing nothing, controlled by an abstract spectre called autism. This then is perhaps why so many neurotypical people insist on person-first language, and ignore our preference of identity -first language. Why would they take a step towards the all consuming spectre? Surely it is better to leave such a thing trapped in that infinite journey towards a goal that is never to be reached.

This, then, is the appeal of neuroqueering to me. When I embrace my neuroqueer self, I no longer have to be trapped in the infinite journey towards performative neurotypicality. I escape the dichotomy paradox by abandoning societal expectations, and being true to myself. True to what nature intended for me. I am Autistic, I am divergent, and that divergence is a thing of beauty.

We need to raise up our fellow Autistics, high above the dichotomy of neurotypicality and neurodivergence. We need to embrace a world in which these words are redundant in meaning because no one group has the power to oppress another; and when our fellow Autistics are lost in the dark, we need to shine our own light, and guide them back to the daylight.

Neuroqueering the Neuroculture: Exploring our place in society through the neuroqueer lense

Recently I started talking about a concept I call neuroculture, by discussing the risk of harm to society if the prevailing neuroculture becomes homogenous (find that discussion here). In this discussion, I would like to explore our individual contributions to said neuroculture, and how we can effect change in a neurotypical dominated culture.

It’s no secret that neurodivergent people are actively oppressed by society. We live in a neuroculture that assumes anything outside of neuronormative standards is broken or sick. Neurotypicality has become the dominant culture, and with it, the pathology paradigm.

Despite this, largely on the Internet, smaller and more contained neurocultures are developing. These cultures are still largely homogenous, consisting mainly of a particular neurocognitive style. However, the advancement of the neurodiversity movement and an increased understanding of what is and isn’t neurodivergence is allowing people of many different ‘flavours’ of neurodivergence to come together. Thanks to this, there are now neurocultures developing that allow for the inclusion of multiple neurocognitive styles.

So now, we have two distinct neurocultures, the dominant neurotypical culture, and a neurodivergent sub-culture.

Here is where neuroqueering comes into the mix.

In order for society to survive, we need a fully inclusive neuroculture, that allows neurotypical and neurodivergent people to co-exist without any one group retaining more privilege than another. Effectively, a neurocosmopolitan society. In order for this to happen, the prevailing neuroculture needs to subvert and erase the neuronormative standards that hold us back in the pathology model.

Neuroqueer theory tells us that the best way to destroy neuronormativity is to intentionally queer our neurological processes. To put it another way, the mask must be fully destroyed, and we must act in a natural and authentic way, not the way that society expects us to act.

This will be difficult for everyone in the current neuroculture, but especially difficult for neurotypicals. Neuronormative standards come easily to them, and subversion of those standards has been stigmatised for a long time. Therefore, the neurodivergent led neuroculture needs to model the queering of societies expectations and roles. It is on us to teach the dominant culture that there is another way to exist.

By engaging in the act of neuroqueering, we ‘normalise’ the subversion of neuronormativity, and the more of us who do so, the more ‘abnormal’ society as a whole will become. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Of course it’s not a quick or simple process. Many of us are not privileged with the safety to just drop the mask completely. That’s why advocates and activists must work everyday, and change the neuroculture one small step at a time; until each drop becomes an ocean of change.

Society needs a cosmopolitan neuroculture to thrive.

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