Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


Leave a comment

Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #2

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

2. Late blooming

Not acknowledging that many of us grew up in environments that weren’t conducive to fostering our talents ended up as late bloomers, then assuming we’re Né’er-do-wells or we’re unmotivated or unambitious. We just haven’t bloomed yet, and it’s a profound difference… but when we do bloom, look out.


Leave a comment

Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #1

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

1. Sensory differences

Telling us that our sensory differences are “no big deal” and that we just need to “be resilient” and learn to deal with it. They assume their brains are the same as ours and assume we can habituate when we can’t, so instead force us to be in awful environments to try to “habituate us” to the stimulus. Which is just further traumatizing us. Thinking they get to decide what is loud, bright, painful, or tastes funny.

Neuroclastic


6 Comments

Is New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown lawful?

Two law professors, Professor Andrew Geddis, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, and Professor Claudia Geiringer, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington raise some questions about the legality of the lockdown orders that we in Aotearoa New Zealand are currently living under. We are, as from midnight last night, at Level Three, whereas we were at Level Four for the previous 33 days.

It will be interesting to see if there are any genuine challenges to the legality of the current lockdown orders. Such a challenge is likely to come in the form of a request for a judicial review. Two badly formulated claims for habeas corpus (A v Ardern [2020] NZHC 796; B v Ardern [2020] NZHC 814) have failed, but the article by Geddis and Geiringer certainly raise some issues that I think need clarification.


6 Comments

Thinking about the lockdown

This post isn’t so much about the lockdown itself, but about my reaction to it – specifically as an autistic person and migraineur.

According to Lloyd Geering, it is thought – specifically language – that separates humans from other higher forms of animal life. With language, we can construct alternative realities (religion, stories, metaphors etc), communicate our thoughts and ideas precisely to fellow humans for example. Without language, we’d be little different from the great apes. I’m not convinced.

Apparently most humans think in words. Take for example, the wife. I’ve asked her how she thinks. She grew up knowing only the Japanese language, but studied English literature in University. As she describes it, she thought in Japanese. For the first few years of living in Aotearoa New Zealand, she continued to think in Japanese and it was necessary to translate English conversation into Japanese, consider the response and then translate that into English to reply – a process that was quite tiring.

Eventually she started thinking in English, which is how she says she processes her thoughts today. However she still retains the ability to think entirely in Japanese and can switch from one to the other more or less on demand. Although the switch is a conscious move on her part, once the switch is made, no further effort is required until it’s time to switch again.

She finds the role of translator very tiring because of the effort of switching modes between the two languages. It becomes exhausting in very quick time. I notice that the sign language translators for our government officials have quite short stints, often requiring more than one person during a single address by the Prime Minister or other official. Mentally it’s hard work. I find this true with all communication.

Many autistic people seem to think primarily in images and it is necessary to translate those images into word patterns in order to communicate their thoughts to others. Here, some autistics will say that the effort to communicate with other autistics and neurodivergent individuals takes much less effort than when communicating with allistic (non-neurodivergent) individuals. As approximately 98% of the population is not autistic, communication with the wider community can be challenging and exhausting.

I have an almost nonexistent ability to form mental images even from quite detailed descriptions. Likewise, when it comes to recalling visual images from memory, I don’t visualise anything. I retain knowledge about what I must have seen, but more or less in the form of a wordless set of bullet points that I can translate into sentences if required.

I have in the past described my mode of thinking as thought bubbles that combine and split, similar to oil in a lava lamp. Each bubble contains a concept or groups of concepts that are constantly reforming through the splitting and recombining.

When it comes to communicating, I consciously have to go through the process of splitting a concept into groupings of progressively smaller ideas until they reach the size of paragraphs. From there it’s necessary to construct sentences, at first without words, and then to choose the necessary components of language in order to communicate in written or spoken form.

I reverse the procedure when taking in what someone has said or written. While the metaphor of bubble seems appropriate when it comes to levels approximating paragraphs and smaller, it is less appropriate for “higher” levels. They are more like clouds, having no clearly discernible boundaries and can combine and split is ways where it’s not possible to precisely know when they split or join.

So what has any of this to do with the COVID-19 lockdown?

Because the translating of thought clouds into words requires effort, isn’t instantaneous and is somewhat imprecise, I usually spend considerable effort practising the translation of ideas into words and refining them so that they will be intelligible to allistics. When I’m happy with it, I can store it away in memory from where I can recall and recite it, rote form, when appropriate.

Nearly all nonconsequential communication – small talk – comes from this memory bank of prepared sentences, both for what I say, and for matching input from others. Under normal circumstance, I need to constantly refresh what is stored, otherwise the content fades over time.

Since the lockdown, the necessity of, and demand for, using prepared sentences and phrases has diminished. So much in fact, that I notice I am not in a state of constantly refreshing existing ones or preparing new ones just in case they’re needed. The outcome is I feel less stressed. I don’t feel I’m in a constant state of rehearsing for a performance commonly referred to as life. Mentally, I feel relaxed, and for me it is quite a novel experience.

For many migraineurs, stress can be one of the triggers for a migraine attack, and I suspect in my case it’s a primary cause. Since the lockdown, the frequency and severity of migraine attacks has diminished significantly.

Particularly noticeable since the lockdown is that often a migraine attack goes through just the aura phase, with a shortened or nonexistent prodrome phase, acute phase (the actual headache and associated severe symptoms), and postdrome phase (the migraine hangover).

I appreciate that for most people, isolation and the lack of communication opportunities can be distressful and can cause anxiety and stress. On the other hand, I’m relishing it. Perhaps when this pandemic is over, I should consider becoming a hermit 🙂


4 Comments

ANZAC Day 2020

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served” It is, I believe, the most important day of the year for most Kiwis. But what it means does vary from person to person.

From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day

I have mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. While, like most Kiwis, I consider it a day of remembrance, I along with an increasing number, find that the day adds weight to the futility of war. In this respect, I think there is a growing gap between Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia about the significance of the day. From my observation, in Australia, the day is also one of growing national pride, whereas here it is much less so. But keep in mind, this is purely a personal perspective.

ANZAC day traditionally starts with a Dawn Service held in every town in the nation. Last year the event was curtailed somewhat as it came so soon after the Christchurch shootings and due to security concerns, but this year, an even greater threat, COVID-19, has seen the cancellation of all services.

Instead, we were encouraged to “Stand at dawn” at our gates, entrances, porches and balconies. So shortly before dawn, I made my way down our driveway to the entrance of our property, and stood “Apart, but together as one” with many, but by no means all, of the households in our cul-de-sac. It was too dark to see most, but the quite murmurs of nearby households could be heard while I listened to the virtual dawn service broadcast over RNZ National.

Since my father died I have made a conscious attempt to attend the Dawn service, usually in person but sometimes by listening to a service on the radio or watching it on TV or online. My father made a point of taking part in the Dawn Parade that makes up part of the dawn service.

The parade consists of Returned Services personnel (veterans) and more recently, members of their family and their descendants, and also of current service men and women, fire and emergency personnel, and other services. Those with service medals are encouraged to wear them – on the left if they are your own, or on the right if worn by a family member or descendant.

In one respect my father stood out from every other returned service man and woman. He would be the only one that didn’t display any medals on their chest. Don’t get me wrong – he did have many medals, including several for bravery, but he refused to display them. He felt that displaying them was a form of false pride. It must have taken a lot of courage on his part to have put up with the ribbing, criticism and sometimes direct insults that he received every year from those he had served alongside.

It is as much for my father’s steadfast standing on principles, as for any other reason, that I now observe ANZAC Day. It is also My Father’s Day.

Sunrise shortly after dawn service 2020
Sunrise following Dawn Service


Leave a comment

COVID-19 nights

Our home sits on a hill around 60 m (approx 200 ft) above the township, and we have a splendid view eastwards towards the ranges in the distance. The main floor of the house is around 6 m (20 ft) above the street, and the bedrooms are a further 3 m (10 ft) above that. This provides us with a good amount of privacy as all the homes we can see from within are below eye level, allowing us to leave the curtains open in the evening to view the nightlight.

Since the lockdown, we’ve noticed how quiet the streets are in the evening. We’re not exactly a bustling metropolis, but even so, there’s normally a moderate of traffic throughout the evening. But not now.

West Street, which runs along the foot of the hill is a major thoroughfare in and out of the town, and also caters for traffic that’s simply passing by the township. After most sensible people are in bed, West Street still has a regular flow of heavy vehicles carrying goods to and from the various freight hubs in the region. We see little now.

The Palmerston North airport, which we can just make out in the distance some 20 Km (12 miles) to the southeast, normally has evening and early morning passenger flights, and freight-only arrivals and departures through the late evening and early hours of the morning and we can observe the landing lights of aircraft as they take off and land. The only aircraft we seem to see or hear now is the occasional military aircraft from the Ohakea airbase, about 19 Km (12 miles) to the west

A pilot training school is also located in Palmerston north, and it’s not unusual to see a many as five to ten light aircraft flying in large circles doing night time landings and takeoffs. But not now.

However, there is one event that now occurs more regularly than on pre COVID-19 nights. The photo below was taken from our bedroom window at close to midnight and illustrates the event. I’ve circled it so that you can more readily identify it

View from bedroom window at midnight
A COVID-19 night

What I’ve circled is the flashing blue and red lights of a police car that has pulled over a car (it’s always a car and never a commercial vehicle) on West Street. As it happens regularly now, I presume the police are doing random checks to ensure motorists have a valid reason for being out and about instead of in lockdown.

Of course it might be that I now spend more time gazing out the window than previously, and that’s why I notice it more, but I don’t think so. Sure, it’s not that unusual to see the occasional lights of police and other emergency vehicles at night, but they’d appear at random spots around town, seldom in that section of West Street we can see from our house, and certainly not almost nightly.

What else has changed? It’s quite clear we don’t use our car much as we used to. I went to put some items into the recycle wheelie-bin that sits beside the car under the carport, and came away with my hair and beard smothered in spiderwebs. Never had that happen before!


Leave a comment

Here’s to Level Three

Kia ora!

Last night, the wife and I raised our glasses (Giesen NZ Riesling 2017 if you’re curious) to celebrate the news that the nation will move from COVID-19 Alert Level Four to Level Three as from 11:59 PM on Monday, 28 April.

In practical terms, going to Level Three will make little difference to our personal lives. Our isolation bubble will not expand – it will remain at just two people. All retail facilities in town will remain closed apart from those that have been allowed to remain open during Level Four – supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations.

However it will mean that we will be able to drive the few kilometres to Kitchener Park and take the boardwalk through the forest. One difference here will be that when the wife needs to sit to ease her back pain, she’ll use a collapsible 3-legged stool instead of the fifteen or so park benches scattered along the walk – all in the interests of preventing contamination of our bubble.

Perhaps the most significant easing that Level Three provides for us will be that many more items will be able to be purchased online for delivery to our home. Currently deliveries can be made only for products that are considered essential.

We have also been given a start date for our home renovations – 1st of June, provided the Alert Level has dropped below Level Three. As almost all work will be inside, there’s no way we can keep our bubble protected from the various trades people who will be working on the project.

Unlike in the US, where we have seen news clips of shoulder to shoulder demonstrators calling for the end of COVID-19 restrictions, here we’re seeing concern that the relaxations are happening too soon. Under Level Three, child care facilities can re-open as can and schools for students from Year 1 through to Year 10. The emphasis is on can. Government advice is to keep kids home if at all possible. But there is considerable apprehension from staff mostly around managing social distancing for children – something that will be almost impossible to control.

Our Prime Minister has an approval rating of around 90% for her handling of the pandemic, even though our nationwide lockdown has been one of the most restrictive of any nation – certainly among those with a Western style democracy.

This is no more readily apparent than the public reaction to a comment on facebook by Simon Bridges, leader of the National Party and the Parliamentary Opposition, and currently chair of the Epidemic Response Committee, where he was critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Most see it as political grandstanding, including many National Party supporters. At time of writing, the post has attracted over 28,000 comments – mostly negative.

News headlines are suggesting there’s leadership coup being planned within the National Party, but of course they’re being denied. National Party support has plummeted to around 30% – way down on its pre-pandemic rating of low to mid forty percent, and doesn’t bode well for the party in the upcoming general elections currently set for September. I can understand why Jacinda Ardern is reluctant to push the election date back to November – a call being made by both the opposition and her coalition partner.

For anyone interested in NZ style politics, have a look at live streaming and recordings of previous sessions of the Epidemic Response Committee. This committee oversees government actions while Parliament is in recess during the lockdown.

Before the current crisis, the National Party had a comfortable lead over the Labour Party – often by as much as ten percentage points even though support for its leader trailed far behind that of the leader of the Labour Party – 5% – 10% for Simon Bridges compared to 40% to 50% for Jacinda Ardern.

We now see National have the lowest support for more than a decade. In Aotearoa New Zealand, our MMP electoral system means that parliamentary representation almost exactly reflects party support at time of a general election. Although in opposition, National has has been the largest party in Parliament. If an election were to held today Labour would be able to form a government with support of the Green Party.

I can’t see National and Greens being able to form a coalition in the foreseeable future, being at opposite ends of not very wide NZ political spectrum. Think of Biden as National, Sanders as Labour and Greens as Andrew Yang. There’s no popular support here for an equivalent of the Republican GOP.

kia haumaru, kia kaha
Keep safe, be strong.


3 Comments

Foolish Trump

In an interview, Helen Clarke (our Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008) has labelled Trump’s decision to freeze contributions to WHO as foolish. “I can’t think of anything more foolish in the middle of a global pandemic which has gone beyond being a health crisis to being a full-blown economic and social crisis,” She said.

Trump had”no substantive point” in making the move based on his concerns about the organisation’s management of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“At the end of this ghastly matter… for sure the WHO will do a full review and lessons learned as it did after Ebola. And after Ebola where it had initially not responded well, a whole lot of new mechanisms were put in place, and that has put the WHO in a much better position this time to be handling the epidemic.

“But this is a virus which we knew absolutely nothing about four months ago, almost nothing about three months ago, and everybody is scrambling to keep up.

“So in a sense to defund and make accusations against WHO is to shoot the messenger, that’s been trying to tell the world for several months, that this is serious, and countries need to prepare.”

“Of course, he has half a point around the travel restrictions. WHO doesn’t advise those, and I think one of its concerns is that countries might be less honest and transparent if they knew they were going to be, those sorts of consequences,” Clark told Checkpoint.

“Obviously New Zealand also moved by the end of January to stop people who were not New Zealand citizens or residents coming from China, or even transiting through China in the previous 14 days,” she said.

“I understand the kind of sensitivities in the WHO around travel bans but countries like the US, New Zealand and many others have got on and put them on anyway.

Helen was critical of the delay in Beijing reporting the outbreak to WHO, but acknowledges this might be due to local factors and not the central government:

“On the issue of transparency, yes, of course, with an authoritarian society which doesn’t operate the way the US does or New Zealand does – with our free and open media, and the ability to say what you want and raise whatever questions you want – things are different.

“And the reality is there was knowledge in Wuhan at least a month before the notification of the disease to the WHO.

“I might say from my experience of dealing with China with such a critical issue, which was over the milk powder scandal back in 2008, our experience was that when we blew the whistle in Beijing, Beijing moved at the speed of lightning.

“Down at the regional level they’re not always so keen to tell Beijing about a problem. But if you go in at the top, Beijing can act very quickly, and my impression is that it may well be that the regional people withheld knowledge from Beijing, as well.”

Helen was also critical of the UN’s reaction the pandemic:

“There has been a crisis mechanism that was activated by WHO some weeks ago but it’s at the Mike Ryan director level. What Dr David Nabarro – who used to advise Ban Ki-moon on pandemic response – has recommended is that the Secretary-General should convene a pandemic emergency coordination council.

“I think that should be a standing body to be activated whenever something like this arises.

“This is the sixth public health emergency of international concern since 2003. On average, these horrible events are going to come around every three years.

“So a standing capacity, which would be the Secretary-General, the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the Director-General of the WHO.

“Their networks are huge – the IMF and World Bank – they have the ears of every finance minister in the world.

“And what’s going to release money now for a response that will fight the health aspects of the virus, and the economic crisis and social crisis, is the finance ministers.”

Helen said another action the UN could make would be for the Secretary-General to go the Security Council to formally state the pandemic was a threat to global peace and security, and ask it to make a resolution to that effect.

“Security Council resolutions are binding. If it says that, as it did with Ebola six years ago, and calls on all member states to use all necessary means to fight it, that really ups the ante for global coordination.”


7 Comments

What will Level 3 look like?

We’re into our fourth week of lockdown in COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

The government has made it clearer what Alert Level 3 will look like after the current Level 4 lockdown ends. Unlike many parts of the world where lockdown has not been as as wide ranging as here in Aotearoa New Zealand, our “bubbles” have been restricted to single households. All businesses have been closed except for essential services – supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies and petrol stations. Even online business has been prohibited unless it fell into one of the essential services and it had an online presence before the lockdown commenced.

This has resulted in off shore businesses targeting NZ consumers as they have been able to sell into NZ whereas local businesses cannot. This is particularly true of mail order businesses based in Australia and multinationals such as Amazon. Hardly what one could describe as an even playing field.

When we go to Level 3 (whenever that may be – it won’t be announced until next week at the earliest), some relief for NZ businesses won’t come soon enough, but still many will remain closed. So this is how Level 3 will play out:

For businesses:

  • Workers must work from home if they can
  • Workplaces must operate safely – keeping one metre between workers, recording who is working together, limiting interaction between groups of workers, disinfecting surfaces, and maintaining high hygiene standards
  • Retail and hospitality businesses can only open for delivery and contactless pre-ordered pick up – customers cannot enter stores
  • Supermarkets, dairies and petrol stations can continue to allow customers into their stores, with the same restrictions and measures in place as Alert Level 4
  • Businesses cannot offer services which involve face-to-face contact or sustained close contact (e.g. hairdressing, massage, house cleaning, or door-to-door salespeople)
  • Other in home services can be delivered if it is safe to do so (like tradespeople for repairs or installations) – keep two metre separation from those in the house

Personal movement

  • People must stay within their immediate household bubble, but can expand this to reconnect with close family / whanau, or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people. Bubbles must still be exclusive: Bubbles cannot overlap
  • If you were in the wrong place when the restrictions came into place, and need to get home, you can now move throughout New Zealand to do so. You can only move once, and in one direction. New Zealanders can move to or from the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau once, and in one direction.

Recreation

  • The most important principle here is to stay safe (so that you do not need rescuing or medical care), and to stay physically distant from people outside of your bubble.
  • You can do activities that are local, which you can do safely, and which do not involve interacting with other people, or equipment touched by other people. You should go to your nearest beach or park, not your favourite one. Staying overnight at a bach or holiday home is not permitted.
  • If you are an experienced surfer, you can go to your local break. If you’re not experienced, don’t surf.
  • If you want to go fishing you can do so from a wharf or the shore, but don’t cast off the rocks or fish from a boat (boating is not allowed).
  • Tramping is ok for day walks on easy trails, same for mountain biking if you are experienced and know the trail (whereas the rest of the world hikes, Kiwis tramp)
  • Do not use any common equipment touched by people from outside your bubble.
  • Hunting, boating, yachting and any team sports or training are not allowed.

Gatherings

Up to 10 people can gather for:

  • Funerals and tangihanga
  • Wedding ceremonies (not receptions).

Full details can be found on the government’s COVID-19 Website.

For the wife and myself

Personally, it will allow the wife and I to visit the nearby forest park and stroll the boardwalk loop. It will also allow us to resume online purchases for products other than food and pharmaceuticals. We had made a decision not to make offshore purchases so that our impact on local business would cause as little harm as possible.

Apart from that, it will make very little difference from our current situation in Level 4 lockdown. Our children and grandchildren will still be off limits – they’re in different towns. For all practical purposes the CBD will remain closed, although we will be able to order the occasional Hell pizza for home delivery.

From what I have read regarding COVID-19 lockdowns in other jurisdictions, our Level 3 will still still be more restrictive than the high level lockdowns in many countries around the globe. The goal here is to eradicate the virus, not merely flattening the curve. Still looks like the best option for this nation until a vaccine becomes available.