Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Autism Epidemic Vs. The Asshole Epidemic


Pretty much everybody by this point has been exposed to the media driven alarm sounding siren of the "Autism Epidemic". Every year, the statistics of autistic spectrum disorders appear to rise rapidly. It has been described that "While 30 years ago Autism used to occur in only 1 out of 10,000 children, it now afflicts 1 child in 166!" (Or in the last 2 years, 1 in 100).

Holy crap! It's the Vaccines! It's the pesticides! It's the government performing experiments in league with tyrannical aliens!

While it appears there is a bit of an unexplained increase, the majority of this so called "rise of autism" is related to the changes in developmental psychology, diagnostic testing, and social awareness. (Don't you dare leave comments about Vaccines, Jenny McCarthy fans.) In the past, people who were in fact autistic were labeled as: psychotic, emotionally disturbed, schizophrenic, mentally retarded- or, with Asperger's, more likely- just odd, awkward, weird and "boring". The causes of autism have been identified as being largely genetic, with possible influences including older parents, genetic imprinting, testosterone, and even "assortative mating".

While we can't really say for sure what the perfect recipe for autism is, we do know, that there doesn't seem to be any way to really prevent it. No matter how many parents "stick it to the man" and refuse to Vaccinate their children, there will always be autism. (Unless, there is a "cure" discovered similar to the Downs Syndrome "cure".)

But did you know, that there is another alarming epidemic on the rise, that is even more frightening and possibly more destructive than Autism- but that it is completely preventable, and with longterm treatment could be highly curable?

This tragic disease has symptoms consisting of:

-an inability to form genuine and long lasting meaningful social relationships
-the psychological distortion that the sufferer exists at the apex of their own world
-persistent delusions and paranoias about themselves and others
-an inability to empathize with others
-a repertoire of destructive habits and behaviours
-an impairment in the ability to perceive a sense of objectivity
-a prolonged fixation with external superficialities
-ritualistic empty social behaviour of no apparent purpose or meaning
-increased aggression, drug and alcohol use, and risk taking behaviours

OMIGOD!
That sounds pretty dysfunctional! Who would want their kids to have this horrible disease of the mind?

And there is ONE SIMPLE preventative measure to ensure your child does not suffer from this debilitating psychological illness, which is silently rising in numbers every year, leading to the proliferation of society's ills.

What is this simple method of prevention?! A pill? anti-oxidants?!

Nope. It's even easier than that. The magic secret is:

NOT raising your kids to be selfish, spoiled, conceited brats, so that they turn into selfish, spoiled, conceited douchebags when they grow up.This sounds a lot like common sense, but sadly this kind of sense is the sense that is no longer common.

I just finished reading the book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. It thoroughly reviews the evidence against the statement that: "Yeah, sure they seem more superficial and spoiled, and all that rap music sounds horrible, but my parents thought the same about my generation. Kids will be kids." And, "You have to love yourself. You are the most important person you will ever know. People with high self esteem are the ones that succeed in this competitive world. You can never  give your kids too much."


Most people have their "generational blinders" on, and don't see any reason to be concerned with the many recent cultural changes, since "all teenagers are self absorbed," and people also thought there was some kind of narcissism epidemic in the 70's.

Or, could it be...
That this attitude of superiority, entitlement, and superficiality, started in the 50's and became increasingly worse, with the prevalence of diagnosed narcissistic personality disorders rising as well?

They authors of this book believe so. They write: "When observing cultural change- especially changes in the negative direction one runs the risk of mistaking ones aging for a true shift in culture. Change is difficult to take when you're older, and it's easy to conclude that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. We have tried to avoid this bias by finding as much hard data and considering as many perspectives as we could. Many cultural changes were eminently quantifiable: the fivefold increase in plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in just ten years, the growth of celebrity gossip magazines, American's spending more than they earn and racking up huge amounts of debt, the growing size of houses, the increasing popularity of giving children unique names, polling data on the importance of being rich and famous, and the growing number of people who cheat."

A recent study also reported that College students today have less empathy and sympathy than others than students a decade ago.

Narcissists are primarily concerned with being special. To be special in this world, you are expected to be beautiful (there's no longer an excuse to be ugly, when you can buy beautiful!), rich (because everybody knows that $= stuff, friends, and happiness), famous (it doesn't matter what for, just as long as there are a lot of people that talk about you and look at you), charismatic and exciting (it's okay if you lie, as long as you look cool doing it!), and successful (you have to be THE BEST at SOMETHING... even if that something is selling crack).

(Yes. Paris Hilton is wearing a shirt of herself.)

Then you are automatically an awesome person, and you deserve to think highly of yourself. Why waste your time with knowledge, meaningful relationships, self actualization, spirituality, meditation, community involvement, social justice, environmental awareness, compassion, and understanding- when you can just buy a nosejob, make money on the stock market, get 5 million views for a stunt you recorded for youtube, purchase books that teach you how to successfully lie and manipulate people, order a Russian bride, and sell crack in your spare time?

The problem with all those so called "meaningful" activities, is that they take time, and effort, and many people strive all their lives without coming close to accomplishing them. But ordering plastic surgery and wives off the internet is easy, and guaranteed.

But, as the book explains- Narcissists really aren't better than other people. They just think, and act, as if they are. Besides having a delusional and distorted view of reality, this leads to destructive relationships, impulsive habits, consumerism, debt, drinking and drug problems, aggression, lack of empathy and compassion, and inevitably- the spread of the disease to the offspring of the "perfect parent".

Then why is it that parents are not concerned with the fact that their child is turning into a narcissist, but seem to be devastated when they learn their child has Asperger's Syndrome?

Because- narcissistic people are popular, and "cool". But people with Asperger's Syndrome, no matter how much knowledge and moral integrity they may have, are (usually) not cool. (Unless they have genius mind superpowers, and then they can be cool because they are "eccentric" and misunderstood)

Most parents would dream of being able to gush: "My darling Susie is the regional winner in her gymnastics team, and she just got accepted to an exclusive opera academy!" (But they probably won't mention the fact that darling Susie spit on the losers, and that she constantly asks to have breast implants when she turns 18, and refuses to walk her dog.)

But parents do not (usually) boast about their autistic kids accomplishments, such as "My Sara has the most extensive collection of antique garlic presses in the state!" or, "My Jimmy just spend the entire weekend recreating New York city with toothpicks!"

It is more socially acceptable, and admirable, to be an asshole narcissist, than it is to be a kind socially awkward autistic person. (Not that autistic people can't be assholes. Of course they can.) Because while they may be educated, moral, and humble, and hardworking- their lack of social skills means they probably won't be a popular, over-achieving, image of a "perfect" child.

Parents also like to believe they "made" their child, so they can live through their accomplishments vicariously. But parents can't easily change or influence autistic behaviours, which I think scares the hell out of them.
Their child is a "stranger" in the family, in their own world. They feel a loss of control over their ability to shape their child's personality and future.Some parents are relieved, and even welcome a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, but it seems that many more are shocked, disappointed, and heartbroken, and are keen to begin therapy immediately to "fix" their defective child, so that they can be more "normal".

A good parent is suppose to tell the child that he/she is special and different, can achieve anything, and provide the child with lots of presents, dance lessons, soccer lessons, and designer clothes, so that the child fully understands how special and loved they are, so their self esteem remains high leading to high achievement in their careers, and very proud parents.
Unless of course your child actually is "special" and "different", in which case they constantly remind the child that they are normal.

Many people also consider the behaviour associated with Asperger's Syndrome to resemble the arrogance that comes with being a Narcissist, and may confuse the two. Autistic people may appear rude, disrespectful, and self absorbed. But usually this is due to communication problems, mind blindness, and an inability to understand social gestures.

The BIG difference between Autistic asshole behaviour, and Narcissistic asshole behaviour, is that-

Autistic people often can't help it, probably don't mean to be an asshole, and may even regret their behaviour. This is because they have a neurological difference in brain wiring. Narcissists know exactly what they are doing, are socially manipulative, but just don't give a shit about the people they hurt, or the consequences of their behaviour. This is because their parents told them they were special, and they could have whatever they want, even if it means screwing over other people. But it's not called being a "jerk"- it's called being "competitive" in a dog eat dog world.

Another main feature of Narcissism is being self absorbed to the point of believing "it's my way, or the highway." Or, "You are either with us, or against us!"

So pretty much "Western Culture" itself can be described as being a giant obese arrogant asshole. Our culture is so much of an asshole, that we pretty much believe that WE AREN'T EVEN A CULTURE. Just like a narcissist believes he is special, and better than other people, without actually having objective proof.

As if our habits, social structures, economy, and art, is the default template for the whole of humanity, and the most desired version of humanity. This, is REALITY over here. Anything not like us, is a deviation from the norm. This is just the way things are. And obviously, since we're so great, it's the best way of doing things, so there's no reason to even contemplate alternatives.

(I also recently read this interesting review of using western college students to construct "universal human behaviour" studies, at the neuroanthropology blog. They write: "I’m not sure I’m persuaded by it, but maybe slavish obedience to peer pressure, high levels of inebriation and pizza consumption, cluttered living spaces, transitory sexual relationships, intermittent high-stress all-nighters punctuating months-long periods of sloth-like inactivity except for feeding, drinking and playing video games – maybe this is in fact what humans choose to do when divested of all responsibility for themselves with virtually no immediate pressures except for self-created social ones. Or maybe I’m just describing my own time in college.")

But "OVER THERE", in that hot place where people listen to bizarre music, where people wear funny sheets around their head, and actually live with their parents without being ashamed- Those people, belong to a strange "culture". And one day, when they've had some sense knocked into them, and they too are developed and free, they'll come to understand REALITY as well, and give up their silly cultural identities, and realize that music should be 3 minutes long and have a predictable rhythm of chorus and verse, T-shirts and jeans are the most comfortable and stylish modes of dressing, and when parents get old and useless they are sent off to a home, and you are only obligated to visit them on holidays.

And since we profound knowers of Reality are so intelligent and capable, our society will progressively get "better"- with better technology, better healthcare, better art, and better people. Because we're special! And you might as well look good doing it, right?

So of course, parents want asshole children, because they want them to be successful in an asshole culture. They may realize their children are becoming shallow, empty, and cruel to others, however if it "get's them places", then whats wrong with that? Except- there is something wrong with that. These behaviours have a demonstrable impact on the world. Some people may find narcissists amusing- but not when they steal $20 from your wallet, or sabotage your job interview. Narcissistic behaviour leads to a lot more problems, vs. the benefits of being full of yourself. For example when Narcissists don't get their way, they tend to enjoy hurting other people as punishment.

People with Asperger's syndrome however, mostly keep to themselves, don't participate much in social competitions, and are usually fine with the way they are, even if it means they are unpopular and have socially inappropriate hobbies. And many have a highly developed sense of morality and do not take pleasure in harming or teasing other people. But Asperger's is a scary diagnosis.

Instead of being obsessed about perfecting a "perfect child", and trying to fix their children on the autistic spectrum, parents should be more concerned about the creeping epidemic of Narcissistic personalities, and the consequences of their behaviour on others. After all- You CAN'T prevent autism. But you CAN teach your child to be kind, down to earth, curious, humble, and co-operative, and not to be an asshole to other people. Then they will learn to respect and work with others, while having high self esteem at the same time. In the end, they will be more successful, than the children who are told they are "special" and "are destined for greatness" without explaining what the qualities of what a great person should be, and how to work towards that goal.

BUT- it's hard for the parents to admit that they fucked up. It's easy to say, "my child is weird because of genetics (or vaccines)! I put him in the best programs, and he's made progress, but, you know...he's still weird. It's not my fault!" It's not as easy to say, "My child is a a superficial misogynist asshole. I guess I shouldn't have given him that $5,000 dinosaur slide, his own credit card, and designer clothing. Maybe I should have thrown in more moral lessons. Maybe I should have disciplined him when he beat up other kids. Maybe I shouldn't have told him he was special every day, and that he could one day be the president, even if I caught him cheating on his homework, and throwing rocks at squirrels." Because Narcissists, also don't like to admit to failure.

Autism apparently now affects around 1 in 100 children. But adults with characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder now number 1 in 10, and growing. Why aren't more people at least a little bit worried about that? In an asshole culture, it's getting hard to define what a narcissist even is anymore, when most people are overly concerned with social status and white teeth these days. We're almost out of superficial things to obsess over. Whats next? In the future am I going to be expected to feel ashamed of myself because I have moles?

Yes, our culture is an asshole.
But at least asshole-ness is not permanent.
Let's hope we find a "cure" before it's too late and we turn the whole world into a big pile of crap.

18 comments:

  1. lol. very good article on asshole epidemic

    ReplyDelete
  2. If I were single and gay I would marry you based on this post alone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent. You could write a short book and publish it.
    I think it would be widely read.

    America needs to know that it is an Asshole. Those who need to hear your message in particular are the bullshit artist politicians who support the nonsense concept of "American exceptional-ism."

    ReplyDelete
  4. lol i love your humorous writing

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  6. I have a friend who claims to have a latent case of autism slash aspergers.....but wasn't diagnosed til like 35. To know her, is to know she is full of shot. She claims these diagnoses as an excuse to behave like a sociopathic, psychopathic, assholes adult woman. She has these diagnoses about as much as I'm a millionaire. People like this give the true sufferers of these diagnoses a bad name. Cuz people that don't really know her take her bullshit as truth and then think that all people with these diagnoses are assholes like her. And believe me, I am not exaggerating. If anything, she is more of an assholes than I am even portraying her as.

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  13. Every Trump supporter needs to read this. Let's not make our world any easier for assholes to succeed in, we can end it any day if not for all these flashy remarks, vague superficial monologues, and love for our own horrifying past. Just let the cycle end already.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Aspies can be major assholes due to lack of empathy, need to control and self absorption; check out the forums where legions of women fight for their lives in miserable marriages of oppression by their mindblind mate.
    Aspergers=Asshole
    I have lived it for 15 years

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You just came to an Autistic person's blog and complained that all Autistic people are assholes—because you are married to an asshole who happens to be Autistic.

      Autistics do not lack empathy (a "fact" based on shitty research methods.) Some may lack it. Some have it in excess. Often the issue is communication more than anything.

      Sounds like you married your own kind, Melanie: You married an asshole.

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