Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.
NOTE: This post contains swear words. Sorry about that, but I couldn’t find any other words that properly articulated what I wanted to say.
Why do some people assume that having a mental illness, disability, or not being neurotypical automatically makes someone’s opinions, thoughts, or dreams invalid? Are they under the impression that people with a “condition” aren’t able to string together coherent thoughts? Or is it that they think that people with a “condition” can think, but just not well enough to be able to make sense of the information and world around them and properly comment on it? Or is it that they think that “those people” think… I don’t know… wrongly?
Why is this? Why is it such a big deal when someone has a neurological or developmental or mental disorder?
I’m guessing here, but I think that sometimes it’s as simple as discomfort. You know how some people get all weird and don’t know where to look when someone in a wheelchair is nearby? That kind of discomfort. They don’t know what to say or what to do, and in their efforts to try and not act strangely, they end up acting really strangely even though the person in the wheelchair is still a human being who has dreams, desires, and fears – just like them.
Maybe it’s because we’re conditioned. Thanks to movies and TV shows (and history), anybody with “problems” gets rounded up by men in white coats, strapped into chairs in old brick buildings with bare walls, white sheets, and very harsh fluorescent lighting. Forced injections, lots of screaming, people rocking back and forth in a corner, electroshock… that sort of stuff.
It could be fear. The gunman who shot up a restaurant. The woman who pushed kids onto subway tracks. The guy who blew up a building. That kind of stuff makes the news, and it seems that the knee-jerk reaction is to assume that someone who commits a horrible act has to have a mental or developmental or neurological disorder. Nobody hears about the mechanic down the street with Down syndrome, or the autistic lady who runs a daycare, or the kid with dissociative identity disorder who saved the sick puppy he found on his way home from school.
It could also be that someone’s just being an asshole. Twitter is truly the most horrible place on the Internet, but some people seem to go out of their way to stand out. Take the recent Twitter posts by Maxime Bernier, a Canadian politician and leader of the PPC, a federal political party. I don’t like talking about politics or politicians, but this particular set of posts made me angry:
Okay, I see what you’re saying. Greta Thunberg is a 16 year old Swedish girl who has been getting a lot of attention lately for her work raising awareness of climate change. The climate change debate is a very hot topic, and there are people ringing alarm bells on both sides. “…to give up our freedoms and way of life” might be a bit much, but I see what you’re saying.
The 16 year old has an agenda. Agreed. I also have an agenda. So does my mother-in-law. So does the old Japanese fellow who fixes watches at the repair place down the street. Everybody does.
I’m not as cool with the second part of this particular tweet, though. It reminds me of the kind of catastrophizing I do when my OCD is hitting me really bad, like when I’m scared that the kids next door will die because I left the freezer lid open. Take a few breaths, try some grounding [https://www.samplesizezero.com/grounding/], give your therapist a call.
I’m no political expert and can’t really comment on the first part, but I didn’t know Ms Thunberg is autistic. I’m going to look that up.
Huh. Interesting. Oh well, no big deal… right?
Wow. Okay, now you’re just being an asshole. I’m guessing you Googled her, found a Wikipedia page, and then wrote down the things that you thought would stand out. I assume by “mentally unstable” you mean that she can’t possibly be thinking properly, right? You forgot the “selective mutism” part, by the way.
I’m not sure why you point out that “she wants us to feel the same” because you also want people to feel the same as you do, right? Isn’t that kind of the thing behind people arguing over something? To get others to see things their way? Isn’t the whole point of a political party to get enough people to feel the same as you do so they’ll vote for you? Come on, man…
This is a 16 year old kid who wants to save the planet. Didn’t you want to change the world when you were a kid? Wait a second… didn’t you start your own political party because you didn’t win the Conservative leadership and you think everyone else should follow your plans instead of the guy who more of your colleagues voted for?
No shit your concern is not for Greta Thunberg’s feelings. Hopefully she is either ignoring you or has never heard what you’re spewing. Oh, and the whole “if we let her and the movement she represents” thing? She’s a 16 year old kid from another continent – how is she (and the movement she represents) going to impose her will on everyone? I agree that our political system is far from perfect, but we do have elections where the citizenry chooses which party most closely aligns with their own values.
Instead of slagging the kid for her views and telling people not to listen to her, why don’t you present your own message and build your following that way?
I just did some checking – far from exhaustive, I’ll grant you, but I did not find any articles that mention that the frequency of childhood suicides has increased because of Ms Thunberg’s climate activism.
I did, however, find several articles that show a clear link between bullying and suicide. Just in case you’re wondering about the bullying part, it could be something like some kid pushing another kid around on a playground… or an adult in a position as a person with an audience (like, say, the leader of a political party) who ridicules people online, or calls them a menace, or claims they’re mentally unstable.
You’re right – whether Greta Thunberg is being manipulated is definitely her and her parents’ problem.
Extending that argument a bit, anyone who is influenced by Thunberg’s words and actions should be responsible for how those words and actions influence them. You have a voice and want to influence other people – why should she not be allowed to? Do you not trust people to be able to think for themselves?
As for the second part… I’m at a bit of a loss for what to say here, other than stating that a 16 year old “should be denounced and attacked” – no matter how you meant it – makes you look like a whiny, scared little prick. Did you get all bent out of shape when Malala Yousafzai came through with her message of human rights? She had brain damage from when those thugs tried to murder her, you know. She probably wasn’t thinking properly either, right?
Back in the day, I was taught that if I was to get into a fight, I should try to fight the biggest, meanest looking person as possible. That seems like bad advice, but consider this: there’s always a chance I could beat that big monster dude, and if I did, people would be pretty amazed and I would walk/limp/stagger away as a hero (yes, I was stupid when I was younger). Sure, the chances were pretty good I’d end up wandering around with a baggie full of my own teeth, but that’s the risk. I could, however, pick a fight with the 93 year old paraplegic with the oxygen mask. I’m almost certain I could kick her ass, but I’d probably look like a bully and a boob for picking a fight with a 93 year old paraplegic with an oxygen mask. On the off-chance that she won, though… well, I’d look pretty goddamn pathetic.
Maxime Bernier, able-bodied and well-educated man of 56 years, picked a fight with a 16 year old who is, in his own words, “Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear.”
And he looks pretty goddamn pathetic.