Section 13(1) and Aspergers

OK – this is a topic that people who know me have had to listen to me rant on and on and on….

And, I have tried to write it up – and have at least 18 drafts to prove it…

Because… this is something SOOO IMPORTANT that it deserves the most perfectest write up ever!

Because… this shows an internal inconsistency in the Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Code – the ‘Hate Speech’ bit!

It clearly demonstrates that Section 13(1) is in contravention of itself!!!

That, if I my layman’s understanding of our legal system holds, would render the whole thing illegal.  After all, a law may not contravene itself, may it?

Yesterday, I got a comment on my last post, which said exactly the same thing I had been ranting on and on about.  (The comment, not the post – well, the post, too, but that is implied.)

Actually, I read it out loud to my husband, who thought I was reading my words, so close was the sentiment!

Hi Xanthippa.

Your blog has got me thinking… Perhaps we Aspies particularly resent censorship boards like Canada’s because we are used to “saying it like it is”, speaking the truth (as we see it) bluntly and plainly, and not being stopped by thin-skinned people taking offence. Aspies can’t detect _likely_ offence in advance, and if we played it safe and avoided all _possible_ offence, we’d never say anything!Whereas those who support Canada’s state censorship system are probably neurotypicals who are good at treading their way carefully, taking cues from context. They have picked up, for example, that joking about assassinating President Bush is “brave dissent” while joking about assassinating President Obama is “racist hate speech” that will get you visited by the FBI.

Aspies like to have the rules laid out clearly, neutrally and consistently. They/ we don’t like implications, winks and nods, and “It just is, okay?!” So you get someone like Ezra Levant (almost certainly an Aspie) asking why the Emperor has no clothes, why Canada’s censorship rules are applied differently to Christians and Muslims, and a lot of people regard him with distaste: he’s rude, he’s offensive, he’s loud, he’s rocking the boat, he “just doesn’t get it”.

Perhaps Section 13 could be struck down as discriminating on basis of a disability, do you think?

That is exactly correct!  I’ve been ranting on this for years!

*  * *

Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Code is the ‘hate speech’ section which has, lately, been applied to silence people with unpopular views.  The key bit of the wording is that a person is forbidden from communicating anything which could potentially give offense to someone or a group.  No, not ‘just anyone’ – only people who are members of ‘protected groups’.

In other words, it is illegal, in Canada, to communicate anything that might offend people, based on their sex, race, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, and so on, or stigmatize them, or is likely to increase ‘general hate’ against them.

*  *  *

Now, let us look at  the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome (an Autism-spectrum disorder):

Aspies For Freedom (an Asperger’s support group) lists, among others:

  • Criterion A. Severe and sustained impairment in social interaction
  • Criterion C. The disturbance must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

About.com tells us that

“The essential features of Asperger’s Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction…

“…  The disturbance must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Dr. Leo Kanner, a psychiatrist at Hopkins and a recognized authority on Asperger, wrote in ‘Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry with Practical Neurology’ about ‘Aspergers’:

It is characterised by impairments in reciprocal social interaction and communication

I could go on, in a typically Aspie obsessive manner… but, you get the picture.  Aspies (people with Asperger’s Syndrome usually prefer the nomicker ‘Aspies’ – it is less cumbersome) have a neurological disorder, which prevents us from having ‘normal’ social interactions.

We cannot tell when we are boring you.

We cannot tell when what we are saying is offensive to you.

We cannot tell if people are so fed up with us, they are about to loose their patience and beat us to a bloody pulp, because we have just said something they consider ‘insensitive’ or ‘offensive’.

We think the rest of the world ought to get over themselves and their stupid emotionalism and its burdensome public display and grow up!  (And get some logic, while they’re at it.)

We also lack the ability to ‘believe’.

Oh, we can accept rules – and love to adhere to them scrupulously.  So, Aspies CAN follow religions.  We just can’t believe in them.

We can take some God(s)’s existence ‘as given’ or ‘pre-defined parameter’ – but not as an ‘article of faith’ to be ‘believed’.  There IS a difference.

Despite what some clinicians think, we CAN accept ‘alternate realities’ (make-believe) – as long as it is presented as a concept (not ‘truth’ – but a ‘different game’) and is internally self-consistent.  That  is why we love Spock (the first ‘real’ Aspie character on TV who was not a villain – at least, not intended to be perceived as a villain, even though his appearance followed an ‘evil-man’ archetype) and why we CAN accept alternate reality rules.

But we recognize them to be ‘non-real’.  And – naturally – we say so.  Especially when somebody is wrong and thinks it is ‘real’.

It is our responsibility to educate them!  To do any less would be insulting to them…

We are especially good at pointing out internal inconsistencies – within belief systems, ‘holy’ books (scriptures), the behaviour of clerics vs. the tenets of their faith and all kinds of things like that.  Good and persistent!

And THAT is why so many Aspies earn the wrath of religious people….. because we will never understand why it is OK to correct someone’s misconceptions regarding physic or mathematics, but not regarding bronze-age myths and demonstrable reality.

Actually – any age myths…

With our lack of social skills and inability to ‘take things on faith’ – both conditions are documented as being biologically based and not something we can just change because we want to – we are BOUND to offend a lot of people. Or, so I am told.  Especially with all that religious nonsense!  And I mean NON-SENSE!!!  As defined…

(Is this a good demonstration?  I hope so… I was trying to convey the understanding of our internal thought processes….)

I suppose it would be a fair parallel to describe Aspies as ‘offensiveness-deaf‘!  And, this disability is a well documented, recognized medical condition.

*  *  *

Ah – but our constitution states that no person shall be discriminated against on the grounds of a medical disability!

Would it be legal to pass a law that penalizes people for not standing when the National Anthem is played – even if they were deaf and did not hear it?  Or of they were a paraplegic or otherwise disabled and unable to stand?

Would passing such laws, which punish people because they have a disability, be tolerated if that disability were anything other than Asperger’s Syndrome?

NO!  IT WOULD NOT!

We would not tolerate such laws!  And, our constitution specifically forbids discrimination on these grounds!

Yet, Section 13(1) is a blatant and shameful discrimination against people who have a medical disability which prevents us from knowing when we are likely to ‘give offense’!!!

*  *  *

OK – this is where I tie it all together….bear with me, please, I’m almost there.

1.  Section 13(1) makes it illegal to communicate anything which ‘is likely to offend’ or stigmatize a group or individuals (on ‘protected grounds’), or expose someone to hate.

2.  One such ‘protected ground’ is ‘medical disability’.

3.  Asperger’s syndrome is a medical disability, whose defining characteristic is an inability to successfully socially interact with others:  in other words, rude and offensive behaviour is an invountary symptom (and even a diagnostic criterion) of this medical condition.  As such, Aspies cannot tell if they are ‘likely to offend’, just as deaf people cannot hear and react to sounds, or just like people cannot significantly change the amount of pigment in their skin!  By just existing, we are ‘likely to give offense’!

4.  Therefore, Section 13(1) makes it a criminal offense to live with this specific medical disability!

5.  By criminalizing our very existence, Section 13(1) seriously stigmatizes Aspies, simply because of how we were born! It is very likely that we, as an identifiable and protected group, will be stigmatized and we are likely to be exposed to hate, as a direct result of the existence of Section 13(1).

6.   However, Section 13(1) forbids anyone or anything to stigmatize a group on protected grounds, or expose anyone to hate – and having Asperger’s IS a ‘protected ground’!

7.  That is an internal inconsistency.

8.  Therefore, Section 13(1) is in contravention of itself.

Q.E.D.

    Diaspora and our ‘bronze-age-brains’

    There are two common-use meanings for this term:  diaspora and Diaspora.

    The ‘little d’ diaspora refers to any (more-or-less) peaceful migration or immigration or general re-settlement of a socially cohesive group of people with a well-defined social identity into an already populated area, with no intention of integrating into the host society.  The ‘capital D’ diaspora refers to one specific ‘little d’ diaspora:  the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans and their resultant scattering around the World.

    At this point, I am only focusing on ‘little d’ diaspora.

    This ‘diaspora’ is a curious concept:  a group of people who share a common ancestry/language/culture/religion – such as a tribe, or a clan, settle in an area already inhabited by ‘different people’.  Once there, they do not attempt to gain the land by conquest:  they either legally purchase it or, if the population density is low, they simply settle there and eventually claim squatter’s rights. So, there is no war.

    The ‘newcomers’ are usually not perceived as hostile, so the people in the ‘host culture’ do not harbour hostility towards them.  Or, at least, not particularly so.  At the beginning.

    But, we, humans, have come to be who we are by following a certain path of social evolution.

    Each one of us is, first and foremost, an individual.  And, even in the most collectivistic of human societies, there is an acknowledgement (or a lament) that we are, indeed, individuals.

    This fact that each of us is an individual does not, in any way, change that we are also very social:  we nurture our young and have long learned that pooling our resources can help us survive and succeed.  We don’t always agree on how much of our resources ought to be pooled, and how this pooling ought to be accomplished – but that is a different matter.

    Different human societies have indeed reached different states of balance (or, imbalance) between the ‘individual’ and ‘society’.  This is only to be expected, because humans are such a prolific organism that we thrive – or, at least, survive – in greatly varying regions of the world.  These produce very different pressures (stresses) on the different human groups and their social rules that they govern themselves by.  Thus, very different attitudes, moral codes and social rules had developed.

    Many people I have talked to seem to think that there is some sort of a ‘universal’ set of rules of ‘morality’ that all people subscribe to.  I am sorry to disappoint these people:  there is no such thing.  It is only because most cultures which had, historically, interacted with each other had been ones which were also in physical proximity:  thus, both a similar set of environmental pressures and long-term contact (such as trade) between the cultures served to spread ideas, learn of each other’s attitudes – in short, served as a ‘normalizing’ pressure on the development of these cultures.  This then gives an ‘appearance’ of ‘universal’ concepts of ‘right and wrong’.

    Thus, this ‘universality’ is no more than an appearance.  What worked for one group of people in one specific time and place became their set of ‘right and wrong’.  Sure, if they learned a rule that seemed to produce better results, they usually found a way of incorporating this new rule into their society.  (Often, this was in the form of a new deity – which is why so many monotheistic cultures seem to freeze in their ‘moral’ development… but THAT is a completely different post!)

    Isolated cultures are  prime examples of just how different ‘right and wrong’ is, depending on the pressures on the society.  Most ‘mainland’ cultures prospered if there were more offspring:  the more babies born, the more were likely to survive and become productive members of their clan, the better the clan did.  So, in most of these cultures, homosexuality (actually, most activities which would divert natural sex-drive away from baby-production) was forbidden and became considered ‘immoral’.  I remember my Anthropology prof telling us about an isolated culture on a small South Pacific island, where the overpopulation was the stress which drove the development of the society.  On this island, homosexuality was not only permitted, it was considered to be morally superior to heterosexuality!  As a matter of fact, heterosexual sex was taboo for over 300 days of the year…

    The same is true of ‘murder’ – the concept of ‘killing another human being’ as ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ is actually not all that common… as I have ranted on before.

    As any physician will readily confirm, our brains are not any different from those of our bronze-age ancestors.  Sure, when we have better nutrition and vitamins, when we grow up mostly free of diseases, our brains develop into a much fuller potential then they would otherwise.  But not all our ancestors were malnurished or ill….  Our brains are have the very same physical characteristics, the same ‘blueprint’, if you will, that the brains of our bronze-age-ancestors did.

    What differentiates us from our ancestors is our culture – our learning and our social attitudes.  In other words, ‘culture’ is what ‘defines us’ as ‘us’.

    As opposed to ‘them’.

    And this ‘them’ concept is extremely important to the way our ‘bronze-age blueprint-of-a-brain’:  because in our bronze-age past, ‘them’ could never really be trusted!  The simple fact that ‘they’ were not ‘us’, but ‘they’ meant that ‘they’ did not have a vested interest in ‘our’ survival.

    That is why so many ‘ kings/chieftains’ would marry a daughter of a king/chieftain with whom they had just reached a peace-treaty:  the ‘father-king’ would have a vested interest in the survival of his grand-children, just as the ‘bride-groom-king’ has a vested interest in the survival of his own children.  This marriage and its ‘blood-bond’ reduces the ‘they’ factor and makes both sides see the other as at least a little bit more part of ‘us’.

    Which brings me back to the ‘diaspora’:  the very point of a diaspora is that the newcomers do not become part of the ‘us’ which surrounds them. By the very definition of the word ‘diaspora’, these newcomers have a fully formed cultural (which includes religious) identity of their own and are not willing to compromise it in any way – especially through mingling of the blood!

    In other words, the newcomers – by their choice – do not become ‘us’ to their neighbours/hosts.

    This results in both sides being unable to fully trust each other:  blame our ‘bronze-aged brains’!