The Woke Contrarian

I don't think I'm one of them either. I'm one of mine.

OK, you’ve sold me on abolition

(CW: rape, murder, child abuse)

I was ambivalent before, mostly because of violent crimes like murder and rape. (Also, a lot of abolitionist writing is heavy-heavy-heavy on the jargon, which makes me grit my teeth even as I cheer the writers on.) But I’ve done more reading into what prison abolition actually means—it doesn’t just mean letting violent criminals walk around killing and assaulting people. It means providing the resources people need so that they never commit crimes in the first place. It’s a gradual process, not an immediate “let’s get rid of all the prisons” demand. It’s not incrementalist in the sense that it upholds current systems with piecemeal tweaks here and there; it’s a ground-up rethinking of how we prevent harm and move toward a better, safer society.

Abolition calls for accountability without using the prison system to punish and isolate, or simply “cancelling” or shunning the harm-doer. This isn’t to say that everyone needs to become BFFs with Bob the Axe Murderer (and especially not his victims’ relatives or friends). It means that you need a way to prevent Bob from becoming an axe murderer, or figuring out what he needs to put down the axe and become a functioning member of society again. And incarceration isn’t going to stop the violence; instead, it will just perpetuate the cycle.

I have read restorative- and transformative-justice stories about incestuous child molesters being rehabilitated. Hands-on parent–child sexual abuse is probably the most horrific thing I can think of—and I should know. I would be open to reconciling with my parents if they actually took responsibility for what they did. (I’ve never confronted them about the sexual abuse; I hadn’t contextualised the abuse when I was still in contact with them. But I knew about their emotional and physical abuse.) The problem is that they refuse to be accountable for their actions. Other survivors may not agree with me about reconciliation, and it’s not their job to. There’s a hotline, A Call for Change, designed to reach people either before or after they’ve abused their partners. ReSpec, operated by a former staff member at Feminist Frequency, is a monthly support and accountability group for people who have caused harm, whether that’s harassment, sexual assault, or something else. Circles of Support and Accountability surround recently released sex offenders and provide them with a community that makes them less likely to offend.There are organisations like Stop It Now! that provide confidential support to get people to stop using child sexual abuse material. These groups let people know what they’re doing is wrong before matters get worse, and there needs to be more of them.

People who cause harm may do so for complex reasons. Yes, even murderers, domestic abusers, and rapists. That doesn’t excuse their actions in the slightest; it just means that there are ways these crimes could have been intercepted without the involvement of police and prisons. We put a stop to rape when we teach people not to objectify each other and dispel the notion that people owe each other sex. We stop child abuse when we remind adults that kids are somebody and not something. We stop murder when we learn that we cannot take others’ lives to settle scores or remove obstacles. Prisons don’t teach any of those lessons, since policing and prisons themselves are violent. They lock people up, sometimes for life, instead of teaching them values.

I can understand the need for restorative justice in my own life. I’ve fucked up. I’ve never assaulted or murdered anyone. But I have said horrific, despicable, wildly out-of-character things I regret and can never take back because of untreated bipolar disorder (which can result in poor impulse control, grandiosity, and straight-up delusions and psychosis). These things haunt me to this very day, even though I don’t say anything destructive when I’m taking medication for my mood episodes. But even though I wasn’t in my right mind, the things I said still caused harm. They still ruptured relationships, either temporarily or permanently. They distorted the truth. They were cruel, distorted, vile. You could be possessed and swing around an axe without intending to hurt anyone, but an axe is still an axe. The blade still cuts.

Prison abolition teaches that “we are more than the worst things we’ve done.” And that’s why I’m an abolitionist.

More autism community frustrations

Back when I was on Twitter, I noticed autistic people who would say that anyone who identified as a highly sensitive person was actually autistic and expressing internalised ableism. You can be sensitive without being autistic. People who say they’re highly sensitive rather than autistic are just saying what’s true for them, not trying to dissociate themselves from the disability community.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

“Inclusion”

Offering undifferentiated instruction to students who are getting severely confused or bored to tears isn’t real “inclusion.”

Merely physically including students in a classroom isn’t real “inclusion,” especially if they get beaten up for being too different.

I support accessible and inclusive classrooms, but a lot of the talk about “inclusion” doesn’t support the real thing at all.

The unholy marriage of sexism and anti-intellectualism in the autism community (CW: rape/child sexual abuse)

I find it really fucking infuriating when highly intelligent autistic people attribute every single positive trait or ability of theirs to autism. Typically, these people are women or AFAB nonbinary, which gives it a weirdly sexist feel. Admittedly, this fury is personal and is connected to old, deep trauma.

(I’ve been talking about myself a lot more lately, mostly because I’ve been processing over three decades’ worth of trauma, and it’s inextricably tied to my beliefs.)

My father lived in a 1950s time warp, where women were supposed to be quiet, tidy, somewhat dull, subservient, mousy, and unambitious. The idea of having a loud, intelligent, brash, creative, dreamy, transmasculine child was anathema to him.

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Why the fuck do certain leftists love using “politic” as a singular?

“Anticapitalist politic.” “That’s not my politic.” “I support a politic of decolonial liberation.” Why not just call it “politics,” “view,” “viewpoint,” “stance,” or just plain “opinion”? Or just replace it with -ism, like “anticapitalism” or “anticolonialism.” “Politic” as a singular is weird jargon.

(As an aside, what is the deal with “praxis” instead of “practices” or merely “actions”? Or just dropping the word altogether, as with “politic,” and replacing it with -ism, -ation, -ity, or some other suffix? For example, “liberatory praxis” instead of “liberation.”)

Is this some subconscious desire to sound more educated or woke if they write and talk like this? I don’t think most of it is intentional, but it makes me want to gouge my eyes out every time I read it.

 

I want there to be more space for…

…leftists who are metaphysical idealists. Religious leftists. Leftists whose views come from their religion, not in spite of it. I hate that, at least for some, to be a socialist, you have to be a materialist. Nope, I tried that for a while. Materialism just doesn’t work for me as a way to understand the Universe, though I respect those who have made it work. As a grad school professor of mine said repeatedly, “Intelligent people disagree.” And I’m going to do that with the materialists.

Ambiguous activist argot

(CW: child sexual abuse, incest, and rape)

  1. Abolitionism or defunding the police. I’m no fan of prisons, policing, or psychiatric wards, but abolitionists need to be clear about what the alternatives are. People aren’t going to trust you if you think “restorative justice” is going to stop murderers, rapists, and child molesters. (I don’t think restorative justice would have stopped my paedophilic child-raping father from attacking me when I was a preschooler. There’s no restoring someone who destroys a child’s innocence.) Rapists, serial killers, and child molesters do not deserve to be in the community. Would you want Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, or Ted Bundy walking free to rape, murder, and torture more victims? I don’t, either. You need to present a solution for policing, forced psychiatric holds, and prisons that is free from logical holes and written in plain language. So far I haven’t seen anything of the sort, even though I’m sympathetic to their cause (with the exception of exceptionally violent criminals).
  2. Decolonial/decolonise. I’ve complained about this term before, since it’s often used to defend authoritarian groups and regimes like Hamas, the Taliban, and North Korea. But it’s ambiguous: do you mean creating systems that include peoples who were or are formerly imperial subjects? Or do you mean that you want to kill everyone who belongs to the coloniser’s ethnic group, regardless of their individual political beliefs (Hamas)? Or are you trying to establish a new form of ethnic supremacy to replace the previous one (North Korea)?
  3. Anticapitalism. What do you mean? Do you mean doing away with the market economy? Or private business? Or do you mean using barter instead of currency? For me, anticapitalism refers to socialist economic systems in which the general public (or a government representing the public) controls some or all of the means of production. Goods and services can be provided by governments, individuals, and unions, depending on the form of socialism. Socialism on its own doesn’t lead to equity (cases in point: USSR and my favourite whipping boy, North Korea).

 

Dumb Dichotomies: the settler/Indigenous construct

When you divide Americans (as well as others from similar cultures) into “settlers” and “Indigenous,” you are unintentionally excluding Black people, who were brought to this continent by force. Stolen people did not steal this land. Instead, we were stolen from our own lands. This kind of good-and-evil, dichotomous thinking doesn’t stop anti-Indigenous racism. Instead, it just drives wedges and ends up alienating Black people.

(There is so much about “anti-imperialist” and “decolonial” cant that makes me want to pitch something out of a window—and I come from a miscellany of colonised cultures. I do not feel represented by these people at aaaaaaaaall. It’s sad when you have friends and colleagues talking like this, but you don’t want to make them feel bad.)

Autism community rants, part 1 of over 9,000

Saying I’m not autistic is disingenuous, but I’m not in love with the label and use it only for convenience and politics. Here’s why, in classic bullet-point form:

  • I keep finding myself thinking, “What the hell do you mean by autistic, anyway?” This is because there are several neurotypes associated with the diagnostic criteria for autism, not one. (But I also don’t think the old structure was ideal, either, since the Asperger Syndrome construct was also heterogeneous—and connected with a Nazi collaborator.)
  • The accommodations each autistic person needs are too heterogeneous for a single label. People with intellectual disabilities have relatively straightforward accommodations: slower instructional pace, easier materials, more explanations, more patience, more adaptive supports. Autistic people, on the other hand? Make it faster, make it slower. Be more abstract, be less abstract. Be more explicit, be less explicit. Be more linear, be less linear. Use a firm and even tone, be sensitive to your tone of voice and adapt it as necessary. These accommodations are sometimes self-contradictory.
  • Attributing all my eccentrities and atypical abilities to autism reminds me too much of my early childhood, where everything, everything, that wasn’t standard issue was attributed to PDD-NOS, and therefore ready to be restricted, tamed, denied, or suppressed.
  • I hate the “high-functioning”/“low-functioning” bullshit. The same goes for “you’re not like my child.” But acknowledging that the autism label is imperfect, or that it shouldn’t be used in a totalising way, is not the same thing as that.
  • Autism isn’t always a developmental disability. It’s better described as asynchronous or differentiated development, especially among certain populations.
  • I have less in common with hyposensitive autistic people than I do with neurotypicals. I’m hypersensitive, that’s why, and NTs and hypersensitive autistic people are better at picking up tone of voice and body language than hyposensitive autistic people. (My affect is calm, though, and it’s hard to get a rise out of me despite my sensitivity.)
  • I think some people end up using the autism label to pathologise being highly intelligent, creative, or sensitive—and the saddening part is that I keep seeing creative, sensitive, and intelligent people using the diagnosis to apologise for themselves. That’s heartbreaking.

 

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