Righteous Anger

Righteous Anger

There is a time and place for reasoned debate, for putting a point across politely but firmly. Such as when your meal at a restaurant isn’t what you ordered, or when you’re comparing favorite bands with a friend. Situations that really don’t affect your life very much: maybe a temporary disappointment at most.

But there are other times, other places, where the stakes are higher.

A matter of life or death.

There are many hate groups. They target individuals and groups that they perceive as different, as lesser people — sometimes not even people at all. They will spread disinformation, try to sow doubt and fear to stir up feelings against their targets. Ignorance breeds fear, which can lead to hatred and persecution. The purpose of these hate groups is simple: to drive out or eradicate their targets.

Who do they target? It might be you, your family, people like you, friends, neighbors, people a couple of blocks over, people in the next town, state, country. Where do you draw the line and say that somebody is no longer your concern? At what point do their differences make them undeserving of your support and compassion?

If you are the target of persecution, injustice, hate, are you going to respond calmly? Some might. I probably would. At first. But when that doesn’t work, what then? You have two choices: run away or stand and fight.

If somebody else is the target, what then? Do you walk on by, leaving them to their fate? What if it was a woman walking along the street and getting hassled by some guy? What if she was your daughter? Well, she is somebody’s daughter. Probably somebody a lot like you.

Does the thought of this happening to somebody close to you anger you? I know it angers me.

Those people on the receiving end of persecution: they’re a lot like you and me. They can try to run away or they can try to fight. If they run the haters win. If they fight the haters are likely to win: like most bullies they pick on the weak.

But if you and I stand with them… If we bring our friends… If we harness our righteous anger and direct it at the oppressors…

All of us standing together become strong. Stronger than those who would destroy others.

Be angry! Be passionate! Fight for what is right. Stand up against those who would harm the innocent and helpless. Because if you don’t, who will? And when your turn comes, who will stand by you?

Those people who are being targeted right now by various hate groups bent on their destruction are your brothers and sisters, your fellow people. And like these Muslims in Pakistan who banded together to protect Christians while they prayed, you can show that being fellow human beings gives a connexion that transcends any difference.

You can always recognize hate speech. Whenever a group is being singled out, portrayed as different to the speaker, as less than the speaker, that is hate speech. Whenever a group is denied a voice so you only hear one side, that is hate speech.

And when members of that group express their anger, instead of ignoring them or telling them to be quiet, think about why they feel angry. How they are being treated to provoke such a reaction. And listen to their voices. Understand them. And stand with them.

This post was inspired by the ongoing activism in the Autistic community against the hate speech of Autism Speaks, their tactics of portraying Autism as a disease to be feared and eradicated. But what I wrote applies everywhere there is hatred and fear. Please make the effort to reach out to those who are the targets of such hatred. Understand them. Support them. Be for what is right by standing and fighting against wrong.

Thank you.

Teasing Trouble

Teasing Trouble

I find teasing very hurtful; this is a consequence of being unable to read people. I have to take everything I am told at face value, take it literally, because I am unable to determine intent based on anything other than the words spoken. I have to rely on people’s honesty.

This means that whenever anybody says something about me I have to assume that it is their honest opinion of me. Because teasing involves negative comments – criticism or accusations – that paint me in a bad light, that suggest the speaker thinks ill of me, I experience feelings of betrayal that cause me great pain. My trust in that person is compromised.

An example: I have a close friend, somebody I used to work with, who is like a sister to me. Yet there are people I see socially who persist in teasing me by suggesting that there is a sexual attraction or relationship between us. As a married man I have an unshakeable loyalty to my wife – strong loyalty like this is not uncommon in Aspies – not to mention the implied insult to my friend. Knowing that behavior like that would be unthinkable to me – such impropriety – I am forced to conclude that these people are being deliberately malicious.

I fail to see their motivation, unless it is to cause me hurt. Yet when I challenge them they just say that they are “only teasing” and lay blame on me for not humoring them, for not joining in their childish games. They appear to assume that I can distinguish between this teasing and serious talk. Am I supposed to feel flattered that I can pass to this extent? Would they “tease” somebody in a wheelchair about their more obvious disability? I believe that  less visible psychological conditions like autism, because they’re not obvious like many physical conditions (I prefer not to refer to disabilities – we may be defined by society at large in terms of our impairments but I would rather focus on our abilities than dwell on those things that are difficult or impossible to achieve through accident or the roll of the genetic dice), are considered less real, less valid, as if these people believe that we could choose to think and act in a way they consider “normal”.

Small-mindedness; unthinking, petty, vindictive cruelty. And for no better reason than their own amusement. I may be no saint myself but at least I would not intentionally cause someone pain. I would feel remorse and apologise if I was brought to understand that I had unwittingly done so. I would not try to pass it off as “only teasing”: I would feel as hurt because I had hurt them.

Teasing. It is in the same vein as bullying in my book. And I have no truck with either.

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

I’m the first to admit I can be a stubborn character. Once I decide on a course I can dig my heels in and pursue it come hell or high water. For the most part I choose to do things I enjoy – that includes being helpful because that makes me feel good as a result. But I don’t do anything because I feel I ought, because I want to conform, because everybody does it.

I really don’t care be pressured by people into doing something I don’t want to do. Any time I get that kind of pressure I start to feel irritated and I can quickly get angry and snappish. I’m not a naturally rebellious type. I don’t take stands to make a point or to be contrary. I do it for purely personal reasons, not to fit in with some group of people.

I’m the eternal outsider; I never feel fully part of any group: I don’t get that involved. And to a large degree that leaves me immune to the pressures that social groups can bring to bear on their members to conform. I feel no need to think, speak or act the same way as others. I have enough confidence these days not to worry if people don’t like what I do. I’m comfortable in my own company, doing my own thing.

I keep trying to understand peer pressure; to work out why so many people have a need to be part of a social circle. I find it all very confusing. Are these people’s values really so malleable that they may be changed to match the group norm? My values are deeply ingrained and have been consistent throughout most of my life. Do these people go against some of their natural inclinations to follow a stronger urge to conform and be accepted by the group? If so, wouldn’t this cause an internal conflict, some feelings of discomfort or even guilt?

I’ve seen people act in certain ways when in a group that they would never consider doing when alone. This can include being critical of and putting down people who are not members of the group, and even bullying. There appears to be a suspension of personal responsibility: whatever the group does is the responsibility of the group rather than devolving to each individual within it. There appears to be self-censorship: there must be no disagreement within the group, so no member feels able to take a dissenting position on anything.

I find it all rather depressing and dispiriting. Is it a failure in education that people are so reluctant to think for themselves and stand up in defense of their values? Or – a darker thought – is it just human nature? Are we doomed to a society shaped and dominated by inter-group rivalries and conflict?

Enough of this – I dislike ending on a negative note and this subject is getting me down. I’ll just continue to hope for enlightenment and respect, and treat others as I would like to be treated in return. Perhaps it’s just a drop in the ocean, a solitary candle against the darkness, but at least I can hold my head high.

Puppetmaster

Puppetmaster

You said I made you do it
When you treated me unkind,
As if you were a puppet,
My strings controlled your mind.

I think you chose to bully,
Tried to make me feel at fault.
My skin is thick and calloused
From the injuries you wrought.

So now I keep my distance,
Ever watching, on my guard.
Getting close to you again
Would push me much too hard.

I Think I Need A New Word

I Think I Need A New Word

I’m struggling to think of one word that will describe the feeling of acute mental discomfort and anxiety I get when I hear somebody making hurtful remarks about anyone I know. I don’t know if there is a word for it: maybe those people never feel like this. It would explain how they are able to behave in that way.

This feeling I get is so intense that I find it hard to describe, especially when I try to tell the people causing it how they are making me feel with their malicious comments. I don’t do that very often – it invariably ends up with them turning on me. But it still makes me angry that they feel so superior that they have the right to put others down.

And then they try to justify themselves by saying they are being honest and direct. No, they’re not. They’re simply being rude, voicing their opinions behind people’s backs and presenting gossip and rumour as fact. I’ve noticed that they never explain why they hold those opinions. There’s an arrogant, unspoken assumption that the reasons are so obvious that any “right-thinking” person would be in agreement.

I don’t know how to handle this kind of behaviour except by walking away – it upsets me so much that I overload. I feel that I’m letting the target of the comments down by not standing up and defending them, but I’ve tried and I can’t handle the stress of the confrontation that results.

I guess there are just some people out there who are hazardous to one’s health – poisonous if you like. Certainly incompatible with my peace of mind and general well-being.

To All The Bullies

To All The Bullies

There are some people out there who enjoy hurting others. I’m not talking about the sadistic psychopaths detained in high-security hospitals and prisons, although there are similarities. I’m talking about bullies. Those contemptible people who inflict mental and sometimes physical abuse on those they perceive as weaker.

I’ve suffered the teasing, taunting, name-calling and threatening behaviour. I’ve felt too afraid to even bear to be within sight of any of those responsible. I’ve ended up with depression, withdrawing – literally locking myself into the safe haven of my bedroom.

I would wonder why I had been singled out, what I had done to deserve such hateful treatment. Typical victim mindset, blaming myself – assuming the fault lay with me. Because I never fitted in: the quiet, shy one on the edge of things. Always nervous and awkward in social situations and with a set of unusual behaviours such as hand-flapping and repeating my words to myself that made me stand out.

I’d love to be able to say that I rose above such things and didn’t let the bullies bother me. But it wouldn’t be true. It bothered me to the point of breaking down in tears of pain and frustration. I ran away with my tail between my legs. I never confronted any of those responsible – that’s something I can’t handle. I shut down when faced with that kind of situation – confrontation and aggression.

I think it would be understandable if I hated those who had bullied me. But I don’t. I fact I don’t think of them individually at all, but rather as a class of people who are poisonous and to be avoided. They are narrow-minded, insensitive, morally-deficient and totally unnecessary and unwanted in my life. I have absolutely nothing to do with them. I carry on with my life, stick with the people who are my friends, and exclude any who would harm me.

The bullies may or may not care that I have excised them from my life – either way it doesn’t matter to me. Because I now accept how I am – I’m content to be myself. Different is good in my opinion. I have supportive friends and a loving wife. I got told I’m “special” by one of my friends last night – little things like that make me feel good about myself. I have people who care about me. Why would I allow negative, destructive influences into my life? So I’m not even going to say goodbye to the bullies from my past – they are long gone and aren’t missed.