you know normally when someone yells about my clothes in an approving way they're: a) female and b) not hitting me??
you know normally when someone yells about my clothes in an approving way they're: a) female and b) not hitting me??
"i'll just walk there" it's 31C you are wearing plastic flipflops and you have a limited timeframe so you can't take it easy what actual part of your brain thought this was an acceptable idea you flay-footed fuck
"just walk to tottenham court road we have plenty of time" (at least we got to visit the museum of the order of st john while the garden was actually open: https://www.instagram.com/p/
charlie decided we needed a large bottle of gin and i decided we needed a small bottle of gin and what with the two bottles of wine we went through before chris arrived and the half a bottle of pimms, i was right and he wasn't
definitely very allergic to grass my entire torso looks like someone's been firing angry cats at it
we did not feed the parakeets because we were too drunk and i am 500% delighted that i do not remember the majority of the conversation i am only very annoyed that i remember having to pee in the trees
went back to chris's in a valiant attempt to sober up a bit. how this actually worked: charlie drank a litre of water and threw up five times and was still incomprehensibly drunk. chris arbitrarily smashed a glass, i was directed to drink about half a bottle of gin and hung out of a majillionth floor window of a tower block in paddington watching the sun set over london on midsummer's day while waxing aggressively pretentious
we tried to go to g-a-y late, which somehow involved being in a restaurant on wardour street briefly which i largely remember because i have a receipt; chris informs me they both started nicking stuff the minute my back was turned but thankfully i was concentrating too hard on trying to understand salad to really notice
g-a-y late wouldn't let us in. not because *i* was monumentally drunk. not because charlie couldn't remember his own face. no, because chris, probably the most sober of us (who'd also had to put my nose piercing back in for me) "was too drunk"; we decided the bouncer was actually just wildly prejudiced against slavs and complained loudly about this all the way to Heaven, which was shut; we ate the peanuts we'd bought for the parakeets all the way to the RVT, which was also shut. Union briefly tried to tell me my PASSPORT WASN'T VALID ID? but we got in, which seems like a waste of time because it was almost empty and at least three of the people who *were* in there were straight; we left in the hopes of making an entire last hour in XXL / Pulse @ SE1 (bear night) but didn't get there (would probably have been fucking empty anyway WHAT IS WRONG WITH LONDON does NO ONE go midweek clubbing anymore) and found ourselves, eventually, in Bar Italia (Charlie demanded we go because he's never been and the Pulp song).
Bar Italia is very expensive. We sat there eating a cheese melt and yelling at Genesis videos in absolute delight before making our way home.
Oh you think the evening is over? Stopped for chicken from Hardies, AKA "how not to have a hangover" (the other part of not having a hangover is to drink water every time you wake up and take a paracetamol the FIRST time you wake up, then keep sleeping until you're not ill, I am pretty sure at least 50% of hangover is just being tired), and on the way back to the house ended up in a lengthy conversation about the overall shitness of men with a junkie-in-remission who was wearing a rainbow bra and accidentally killed her boyfriend's cactus.
My brain politely decided to wake me up repeatedly to inform me that I "probably have eye herpes now and will go blind" but I recognise "alcohol panic" when i see it (more or less) and just went back to bed.
here i am regretting my choice to remove all the skin from the tops of my feet and foolishly thinking this was the dumbest injury i was going to get this week (i have since SUNBURNT MY MOUTH): https://www.instagram.com/p/
here is charlie consuming his fourth or fifth glass of wine: https://www.instagram.com/p/
Anyway it took me until about four to start on the test writing and I've had to bow out of a social engagement this evening (partly because I don't want to go anywhere further away than the pub on the corner and partly because it is like standing inside a boiled bollock today - about 10C cooler but also 100% more humid - and partly because the friend I was meant to be seeing subluxed her knee this morning - she has EDS - and I didn't think we'd get the best out of socialising while one of us was sweating gin and the other was having pain sweats), but I've done it, so here it is:
( Read more... )
... I started trying to fix the font on that but it involves removing so much crap it's really not worth it.
Feels much better now. But no doubt this means the heatwave is over. You're welcome.
It's the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, a bittersweet occasion for me because I'm sad to think the days are getting shorter now already. It feels like I haven't had a chance to get used to or appreciate them yet. It's been a real catastrophe curve of a year, so time passes without me noticing it.
£70,000 is in the 95th percentile for personal income. This means that if you earn £70,000 you earn more than 94% (or thereabouts) of people. If you're earning more than 94% of your fellow countrymen, you ought to be rich, right? Like, if you're better off than the vast, vast majority of people, you should feel well off, or else how must the poor buggers on less than you feel?
The problem is, of course, that £70,000 doesn't actually buy that much these days. Like, it won't get you a mortgage on a decent house anywhere in the home counties. It won't buy you a new car and a couple of holidays every year after housing costs. It won't pay school fees for your little ones to go to private school once you've paid for housing costs either. £70,000 a year doesn't feel rich; and that's what the problem is.
If you look at the lifestyles our parents had, well, this is what my parents did in the 80s:
- owned a home
- bought a new car every two years
- didn't go on foreign holidays but DID send me to private school
- were in the pub three nights a week
Now, I'm not saying they didn't work for that: they did. My dad had two full time jobs (mild mannered biology teacher by day, superchef by night) and my mum worked 9-5 too. They worked bloody hard. But the same amount of work in the same jobs these days would get you, if you were lucky:
- a rented house that is one of three poky little Barratt boxes built in the back garden of the kind of house your parents owned
- a second hand banger that you run till it dies, or a bus/rail pass
- a cheap holiday for now, but only until brexit happens and then we have to pay visa fees and the exchange rate is knackered and oh look we can only afford Butlins
- Pre-loading because the pubs are so bloody expensive, thank you alcohol duty escalator
How bloody scandalous is it that even if you're in the 95th percentile you are still struggling, and you are well worse off than your parents would have been on an equivalent income adjusted for inflation etc.? If 95% of the country is not getting a good enough income, that's a bloody disgrace and somebody ought to do something about it.
Anybody know any politicians?
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Today is Brian Wilson’s seventy-fifth birthday. I’ve talked about him often enough on this blog that it almost seems a ludicrous understatement to say I’m a fan.
But I’d like to explain, since it’s his birthday, what it is that makes him important to me. This is going to be a bit rambling, I’m afraid.
I’d like to say first off that I don’t claim any special insight into Brian’s personality or life — I’ve met him twice in my life — for minutes one time and seconds another — and while I’ve had longer conversations with people who know him, I’ve never enquired about his personal life because that is absolutely none of my business.
But the Brian Wilson who is revealed by his art — who may or may not be anything like the real man — I know him very well. Very well indeed.
My dad has, in his own mind, a special relationship with John Lennon. They’re both from the same city, they both had fathers who abandoned them when they were very small and re-entered their lives in their twenties, and who died without re-establishing much of a relationship. Both their mothers died when they were seventeen. Both were highly intelligent but probably dyslexic, and dismissed as troublemakers at school. And so on.
They’re probably not really anything alike, but there were enough similarities in their lives (apart from the whole being in the Beatles thing) that my dad thinks of records like John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band almost as being expressions of himself. They speak to him on a very personal level that very little else does. And Lennon’s speech patterns were close enough to my dad’s that my wife sometimes gets freaked out hearing him in interviews or session recordings because he sounds so similar to her.
And this brings me back to Brian Wilson. When Holly and I went to watch the film Love and Mercy, a rather wonderful biopic based around Wilson’s life, she got *seriously* freaked out during the scenes where John Cusack was playing the older Wilson. “He’s playing you!” she kept saying.
Now, I share no life experiences at all with Wilson, and have very little in common with him as a person as far as I can tell. There’s not the same parallel there as there is with my father and Lennon.
But there’s *something* similar there. A certain way in which the world has damaged both of us. Possibly a similar neurological condition. A certain view of the world.
Whatever it is, there’s a connection I feel with Brian Wilson’s music that’s deeper than I can express verbally, though I’m trying here. A wounded innocence, an almost childlike attempt to take joy in things that you know will hurt you. A deep lack of self-worth, almost a disgust at oneself for existing. A howl at the injustice that permeates the world. A sense of definite wrongness.
Some writers or other artists have work I can experience and think “yes, this person thinks like me”. Wilson, almost uniquely, has the ability to make me say “this person *feels* like me”. And the music of his I like the most is often not the exquisitely perfect, crafted, music which has gained him critical acclaim — Pet Sounds is an incredible album, of course, but I’d take Smiley Smile or The Beach Boys Love You, or the hissy bootlegs of fourth-generation tape copies of his 1977 demos, over it.
But that’s not to treat him as some sort of instinctive primitivist, an outsider artist. Wilson is often treated that way by the kind of people who want to mysticise mental illness, but while his illness has obviously affected at least some of what his music says (and probably that’s at least in part what I’m responding to) it doesn’t affect how his music says it.
As a composer, arranger, and (at least until the mid 1980s) a singer, Wilson is a consummate craftsman. He is someone who has studied popular music of all styles — doo-wop, jazz harmonies, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector, George Gershwin — and created his own vocabulary from those things in a very deliberate, determined manner. He famously said “I’m not a genius, I’m just a hard-working guy”, but he’s both.
What he has to communicate — the particular emotions his music, and only his music, conveys — is innate, and not something that can be learned. But producing something like Good Vibrations isn’t innate. That’s something that requires hard work. And without that hard work, he wouldn’t be able to communicate the emotions in that way. Millions of people undoubtedly feel the way Brian Wilson does, but only he made “God Only Knows” or “Surf’s Up” or “A Day in the Life of a Tree” or “Still I Dream of It” or “Where Is She?”
So… well, I can’t express what Brian Wilson’s music means to me, because I’m not as good at my art as he is at his. But what I can say is that literally nothing in my life for the last twenty-two years, since I first properly listened to Pet Sounds as a teenager, would be the same without his music.
He still tours, and still has the best touring band in the world, but he’s been noticeably frailer for the last couple of years. I’m going to see him again in Liverpool next month, and these days I always wonder if it will be the last time — not because I expect him to die (he’s someone who’s far stronger than he appears — he’s had to be, to survive at all) but because he’s seventy-five, and has more than earned retirement if he wants it.
But selfishly, I hope he doesn’t want it. He still seems to get some joy out of performing, in a way he didn’t before the late 1990s, and his performances definitely bring joy to the audiences.
I’ve been critical, over the years, of a lot of his work — he’s as capable as anyone of turning out a bad or lazy album — but I’ll never be able to criticise him as an artist. For Brian Wilson the artist, and to the extent I can care about a man I’ve never had a proper conversation with for Brian Wilson the man, I can only feel love and mercy.
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It is obscenely warm. Despite sleeping pills I woke up at 5am and kind of drifted until I got to my alarm. Went to the gym nice and early, finally practiced my wobbly-ass form with the barbell without a) any weights but b) the smith machine. Wobble. Wobble. Tense hands. THIS HAD BETTER BE WORTH IT. Also did mountain climbers next to a man who had clearly been doing them for a lot longer than I had so that I could just, you know, marinate in my shame. Still, it's always apparent that my mood is much better if I go to the gym than if I do not.
Bleached hair. Got distracted and left it in for longer than usual. Hair is now basically white. I like it.
Took Jess down to the British Library's dinky little Queer History/Anniversary display, which was pleasantly comprehensive, and as usual Jess basically skimmed a third of the exhibit and I insisted on reading every single thing and got on her nerves relentlessly (last time this happened was at the one at the Tate Britain which we'd paid a fairly large amount of money for and I just don't get it. At all. Why BOTHER if you're only going to glance at things?); we settled on going to Granary Square as a compromise between "going home immediately" (Jess's plan) and my usual "I want to stay out, you can go if you want". The fountains look lovely and would be great fun to go to with someone who isn't a 400% fucking killjoy; the trees were overoccupied so we sat by the large grassy steps https://www.instagram.com/p/
Still not being in the mood to go home, I took Jess to Dishoom for drinks:
(very excellent mocktails)
We sat for some time ("Against British Rule. As a former colony, you should be in favour of this." / "Uh, the fuck am I? I'm not one of those mad anti-monarchy types." / "I mean, that's not the same as being governed from Britain. Have you seen how badly we fuck everything up?" / "Have you seen how badly AUSTRALIA fucks shit up?" / "Yeah but at least it's your own fuck-up. There's a modicum of agency." = my girlfriend, the Australian, arguing in favour of remote rule by fucking idiots, for some reason?), I had the same pleasant strain of nostalgia as when I was in Whitechapel on Sunday. We had a brief look around the art displays by final year students at CSM, but ran away because there was a drone. (J: "They're not fucking dangerous!" / "DAVE CUT HIS HAND UP ALL TO FUCK" / "There's one you can get that follows your hand" / "What a great way to cut your hand up all to fuck" / "I don't think they can do that" / "HE BLED ALL OVER HIS FUCKING FLAT". I've also managed to fly the microdrone (before it stopped charging or working) into my own face repeatedly.)
Locals converged on FP last night apparently to give flowers to Finsbury Park mosque. The neighbour of the dickhead being charged with murder and terrorism has described him as "an absolute cunt". It is important to remember (I chant to myself, because Jess is pissed off if I talk about it) that there are more people who want peace and integration than assholes who want death and disorder.
Bought a ticket to a panel talk on the gay history of London; Jess is mildly passive-aggressing about me refusing to go see QOTSA with her, despite having asked me if I would enjoy it if I went before she bought the ticket. Repeatedly. "I will go with you if you want me to go" / "But are you going to enjoy it?" / "Probably not, no?"
[I have written the dialogue for Emma's comic. Submitted my story. Now there is no putting off rewrites. BOO]
I like Vince, as a person. I like his stance on bees. I like his dancing.
None of those three things makes him suitable to be leader of the party, though. I mean, yes, he's got long service. And he did that one joke when he was acting leader that one time. But I'd really like something more than that to enthuse about in a potential leader.
Plus, there's all the things that make him unsuitable to be leader:
- He's not a liberal, he's a technocratic centrist. This is fine if you are (shadow) chancellor; commendable, even. It's not acceptable in the leader. The leader needs to inspire. Technocratic centrism is the opposite of inspirational.
- His stance on brexit is... at odds with the majority of the party's members and voters is probably the kindest way of putting it, and is already bringing out the "but we must appease the racists! We can't tell people they are wrong!" faction. If he wins, and maintains this stance, I predict a halving of our membership in pretty short order.
- Tuition fees. OK, so he's not entirely to blame for the policy cock up (all those of us who voted for coalition, myself included, must take out share of that blame) but he is the person responsible for the catastrophic mishandling of the implementation and representation of it, and a big part of the reason Labour, why a party which introduced and then trebled tuition fees, can still point at them like an albatross round our necks.
- The British Press, bless them, are not known for their nuance and balance. His name will be "Sir Vince Cable, the man who privatised the mail" - whether he wins the leadership or not, tbh.
- Ten years ago he declared that by his own reckoning, he was too old. I do not believe he has got younger in that time.
So far, to my knowledge, the field looks like this:
Definitely not standing: Jo Swinson, Jamie Stone, Layla Moran, Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael
Probably not standing: Stephen Lloyd, Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine
Probably standing: Norman Lamb, Ed Davey
Definitely standing: Vince Cable
If anyone else declares that they are definitely standing I shall go into my reasons further, but based on Ds&Ps, and subject to persuasion at hustings, I expect my ballot to look like this:
- resigning from the party
This is a reminder to self, because the heat is destroying my short-term memory even by my standards. I have a lot of ideas for things I need to write at the moment, but I’m also currently doing freelance work, finishing a novel, tweaking the Beach Boys book, finishing an overdue story, and editing Holly’s book. And sitting around almost completely naked, complaining about the heat and humidity.
So, things I need to write soon:
The rest of my Hugo reviews.
A post about storytelling in the Arabian Nights. Maybe a series of these.
A post or posts about shared universes and why I love them even though they often lead to terrible storytelling.
A post in praise of Greg Egan.
A look at the Lib Dem leadership candidates once announced, and what I think they mean for the future of the party if any.
A post about Stephen King
Some thoughts I have about Doctor Who, which need to take shape properly before they become a post, but which are sort of tickling me. They seem to tie into the shared universe stuff and be about Gallifrey.
Two big posts for August I need to start working on already — Jack Kirby’s centenary and the fortieth anniversary of Elvis’ death
Some stuff about Menippean satire
And the next two blogged books — either Nilsson or Roy Wood, and a book on autism.
(Also I need to restart the Batposts)
I’ll try to get at least one of these up tonight
After some wrangling, and walking, and hurting my feet with flipflops, and a heavy, bag, and complaining about the heat (it's been 28/29C the last couple of days and as a country we're not really equipped for it. I like this kind of weather but I like it better when I don't have to DO things and people don't keep trying to be AFFECTIONATE on me. STOP HUGGING ME. IT IS TOO WARM FOR PHYSICAL CONTACT.)
I still don't fully remember my half-dreamed story but it has all the colour trappings of the Yashim mysteries and the Orhan Pahmuk book that I read (My Name Is Red) which are set in Istanbul at different times, so the weather feels pleasantly appropriate. Whitechapel smells, sounds, and in this weather feels a lot like Ahmedabad did in 1988, although without the animals and the omnipresent dust (there has, in the intervening time, been a massive earthquake, a lot of regeneration, and tarmac: the Ahmedabad of my sketchy memory is long-dead) and that makes me feel terribly relaxed and - well, to be honest the weather does that anyway. Lassitude and oppressive heat and whatnot. The dusk and the flapping net curtains. (I had to chase a girl down the road in my flipflops because she'd left her phone in the cafe I'd walked into).
Lassi, there, which also tastes of that particular point in my childhood. I don't think I ever had kulfi as a kid. I'd have remembered. I'm furious.
The week ahead:
Corrections on the story (it's being/has been proofed), author bio (ish), submit to anthology, forget about.
Queer Museum Exhibit Tuesday with Jess
Wednesday hair trim, parakeets with Chris, clubbing with Chris & Charlie probably or possibly just Chris
Thursday ??? I need to work on this garbage book but I'm also in the process of vaguing my way to a very low-key hangout with someone new and I don't know when that's happening; evening I'm seeing Miranda
Saturday Queer Fayre at the Tate Britain / Jamie's birthday drinks / Duckie with Charlie and whomeverself will stir their fantasmagorical stumps in my unholy direction.
Sunday EID in the square probably, there is nothing whatsoever untoward about showing up at one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar with a thumping hangover. Maybe I'll have some ham first as well just to be 100% kafir twat
(Nay, I am just going because I love a good party and the Humanist Assembly is always on my work weekends, and I think after poisoning myself at Jamie's I will want the soothing embrace of teetotalitarianism, at least for a couple of days).
ETA: Cock I forgot, have to letter that comic as well, or at least write the dialogue for it
Ian Fleming hadn’t had much of a chance to head into town recently. While he was technically still working at the Admiralty, he’d been seconded to Bletchley for several months now, and London was too far away, and too dangerous, for him to travel there casually. So when Dennis Wheatley invited him to come into the city for a drink, Fleming jumped at the excuse. Wheatley was one of the few people in the world that Fleming knew could both be trusted and be helpful with his problem.
Fleming and Wheatley had been friendly acquaintances for some time, and Fleming couldn’t help but admire the older man. Wheatley had had few of Fleming’s advantages in life, but had nonetheless managed to rise to a much higher station than Fleming had, thanks largely to the success of a series of novels he had written which combined espionage and international intrigue with plenty of sexualised violence. And Wheatley’s new-found wealth had allowed him to live the kind of extravagant life to which Fleming could only aspire.
They met in Wheatley’s club. It was one of the more discreet establishments, and one where rationing didn’t seem to have affected the ability to get a decent meal and a good drink. Conversation during dinner was mostly casual – mutual acquaintances’ latest romantic escapades, the sales of Wheatley’s most recent book (a potboiling thriller about occult forces aiding the Nazis, which Fleming had made sure to read before the meeting), and the lamentably socialistic policies being pursued by the National Government in recent weeks.
After dining, they retired to leather armchairs, with a glass of Imperial Tokay for Wheatley, a whisky for Fleming, and Hoyo de Monterrey cigars, to discuss more serious matters. After a reasonable amount of small talk for appearances’ sake, Wheatley set his glass down on the small table between them and turned to Fleming.
“This Hess business – your doing, I take it?”
“Now, Dennis, you know I couldn’t possibly tell you that even if it were true, at least in a public place such as this.”
“Nonsense. You know as well as I do that the men at this club are, without exception, as trustworthy as any in the Empire.”
“Come now, you must have something you can tell me?”
“Not about Hess, directly, but something you may find interesting.”
“I’m planning to get in touch with Aleister Crowley soon. I have a little job of work for which he may be useful. Given the subject of your recent novels, I thought it might amuse you.”
Wheatley raised an eyebrow. “You are joking, I hope?”
“What do you mean?”
“The man’s an absolute monster. The very Devil himself.”
“Then I shall be sure to bring my longest spoon. But you know Crowley, I believe?”
“A little, to my shame.”
“Have you any advice?”
“Well, you’ve already refused my most important advice – to avoid him at all costs. But whatever you do, don’t mispronounce his name like that. He has a little rhyme – his name is Crowley, because he is so holy, and his enemies call him Crowley, in wish to treat him foully.”
“I know Crowley of old. He can be a charmer, if he wants to. Frightfully clever, frightfully witty. But cold with it. And the man’s a bugger. Of course, you and I are men of the world, we know that such things go on. But he’s proud of his beastliness.”
“Many of them are. Goes with the territory.”
Wheatley nodded and took a sip of his Imperial Tokay. “Crowley’s an odd fish all round. Writes about sacrificing children, engages in the most frightful beastliness imaginable, and a cruel, cruel, bastard of a man. But he has his own principles, of a sort, and if you’re on the level with him he might help you. But don’t trust him an inch.”
“I’ll bear it in mind. Anything else I should know?”
Wheatley paused for a second, then drained his glass and placed it on the table. He leaned in, a serious look on his face.
“Look. I know you’re a sceptic about this whole magic business. So am I. You know I’m a rational man. But…have you ever heard of a poet called Victor Neuberg?”
“Can’t say I have. He any good?”
“No. But that’s not the point. Crowley performed an enchantment on him and convinced him he’d been turned into a camel!”
“No, of course not!”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that, using only the power of his mind, Crowley managed to convince him that he had been. Poor man ended up in an asylum. Still there, as far as I know.”
“Surely he could just have been doolally to start with?”
“Possibly, possibly. I mean, very few people spending time with Crowley are liable to have their heads completely screwed on, are they?”
Wheatley snapped his fingers in the air, and within seconds a waiter had brought refills of the two men’s drinks. It was reassuring, Fleming thought to himself, that in these times of rationing and austerity it was still possible to live a civilised life in the capital, if one had the right friends.
“Still,” Wheatley continued, “it’s disturbing just how many people in Crowley’s life end up dead, or mad, or both. He turns everyone against him eventually, because he cares nothing about anyone other than himself, and he’s elevated his narcissism almost to the level of a religious principle. He’s a very dangerous man.”
Fleming sipped his drink and thought for a while, trying to find the best way of phrasing the next thought.
“Look, Dennis…I see two possibilities here. Either Crowley has no powers other than an ability to persuade the gullible to do what he wants – in which case we can make use of him, or…”
“Or Crowley is a magician, and magic does exist. In which case, given that the Germans have been looking into magic for years, we need to be able to make use of his magic, and quickly.”
“And you think you can make use of a man like Crowley? Rather try to make use of a bull elephant in musk.”
“Ah, but a bull elephant charging at one’s enemies could be a great deal of use.”
“Quite. Until the moment it turns around.”
Fleming sipped his whisky thoughtfully, and the talk turned to other matters.
This is an excerpt from my novel, Destroyer. If you like this chapter, please buy the book. It can be bought in hardback from Lulu. The Kindle and paperback editions are available from Amazon (UK) and (US). For non-Kindle ebook versions This Books2Read Universal Link will give you links for your preferred ebook retailer.
Tagged: destroyer, fiction
When I went to the website I was asked to do a little survey, so I got to vent a bit there about how ableist they've been.
Went to yoga on Wednesday for the first time in a while and it was great as usual but, having started this at New Year, I'm not used to being sweaty while I'm doing it! It makes my hands slippery which is no good when the likes of Three-Legged Dog is hard enough for me anyway. I suppose I can be grateful that this isn't a problem I'm going to have most of the year.
(Man, this morning I've already washed all the dishes and tried to clean the coffee off the kitchen floor (I always miss some, because everything in our kitchen is black!), did laundry and hung it out in the sunshine, and went to yoga. And it's only 10:30. I feel far too virtuous a person and am glad I had crisps for breakfast so I have some evidence that I'm not.)
I can't find any submission guidelines for this FUCKING anthology oasdh aouhvaicsas
It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the neurotypicals are at it again.
Tomorrow is Autism Pride Day, so of course today Twitter has been dominated by responses to a stupid tweet from a neurotypical journalist “thinking out loud”. She’s deleted the tweet and issued a fauxpology, but what she said was that Theresa May has no empathy because she’s a “super-functioning” autistic person.
So, just to make things very, very, very, clear for the ten millionth time:
Lack of empathy is not a characteristic of autism. Some autistic people have no empathy, just as some (most?) people with neurotypicality do, but most autistic people have a far, far higher degree of empathy than most people with neurotypicality.
Autistic people sometimes have difficulty in reading other people’s emotional states. That difficulty is not due to a lack of empathy. It’s a perceptual difference, and is roughly equivalent to a blind person being unable to see someone smiling, or a deaf person being unable to hear tone of voice. If you don’t think that blind or deaf people lack empathy, then don’t think it of us, either.
And this is not something that is limited to autistic people. People with neurotypicality have *exactly the same difficulty* in reading autistic people’s emotional states. The main difference is that autistic people are punished for this inability, while people with neurotypicality are given a free pass. We’re forced to conform to neurotypical forms of expression, and told we’re doing it wrong anyway. When it comes to emotional communication, autistic people are like native French speakers being forced to communicate in English, and being told that any time we speak with an accent or misunderstand an idiom it’s because we’re literally subhuman and don’t have the basic human quality of empathy.
When autistic people do understand someone’s emotional state — when the person with neurotypicality has managed to learn to communicate successfully with people who are unlike them, or when the autistic person has expended massive amounts of mental effort to become emotionally bilingual — they are usually far more empathetic than people with neurotypicality. (I say “usually” because the things which stop people having empathy can coexist with autism just as they can with neurotypicality. Autism isn’t a magic wand that makes you into a good person).
For many autistic people, in fact, we are over-sensitive to other people’s emotional states. I can become so overwhelmed by someone else’s sadness that I lose all ability to function and will do literally anything to help them. Most of the autistic people I know are so aware of injustice and hurt around them that they put all their energy into fighting injustices that many people with neurotypicality are completely unaware of. Distance-diagnosing people is pernicious whenever and wherever it’s done, but I’d say that figures like Gandhi or Albert Schweitzer show far more of the characteristics of autism than May ever has, and are far more typical of how autistic people respond to injustice.
People with neurotypicality seem far, far, more likely in my experience to only show empathy for members of a particular group with which they identify (white people, English people, men, Christians, heterosexuals, members of their own family or whatever). It’s certainly not true for *all* people with neurotypicality, but as a crude generalisation they separate people into in-groups and out-groups and only care about in-groups. Autistic people, on the other hand, very rarely see ourselves as members of a group at all, and don’t often distinguish in the same way between deserving and undeserving targets of empathy. Which of those actually sounds more like Theresa May?
(Yes, I’ve just done precisely that separating in-groups and out-groups thing, and unfairly demonised an out-group based on it. Hurts, doesn’t it? I actually took about twenty goes to write that paragraph because I didn’t want to unfairly hurt my friends with neurotypicality, even though I think that kind of paragraph is absolutely necessary as a rhetorical device in this post.)
Theresa May is the Daily Mail made flesh, a perfect living representation of the views, values, and behaviours of middle-class, middle-aged, white, suburban England. She is stupid, cruel, and appears to have no hinterland whatsoever. These are not characteristics of autism, but characteristics of privilege.
Evil is not a disability, and disabled people are not evil.
And this matters for two reasons. The most obvious one is that this is being used to excuse May, and she does not deserve excuses, but blame.
But more importantly, this kind of bigotry kills people. Autistic people die, on average, sixteen years younger than people with neurotypicality (for autistic people who also have epilepsy, it can be much, much younger than that — if I were one of the twenty to forty percent of autistic people who have epileptic seizures, my current life expectancy would be about four months). For autistic people without comorbid neurological conditions, the two biggest causes of death are stress-related heart disease and suicide.
As someone on blood pressure medication because stress has at times raised my blood pressure to 200/100, and who has suicidal ideation caused by depression on a semi-regular basis, this is a statistic that holds a very personal meaning to me. I would quite like to live past my mid fifties, if it’s all the same to neurotypical broadsheet journalists who complain about others’ lack of empathy.
(Meanwhile of course there are “autism charities” which suggest that more empathy is needed — for parents of autistic children who murder them.)
And the only way to increase autistic people’s life expectancy (other than prompt treatment of comorbid conditions like epilepsy and diabetes, which we are at very high risk of) is to remove the stress which comes from living in a world designed by and for people with different brain architectures to ours. And the very, very, smallest, most trivial, first step in that process is to recognise that we are human, and that we share the human capacity for love, for empathy, and for decency.
There are a lot of words I could use for what Theresa May is, none of them complimentary. And none of them are “autistic”.
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Tagged: autism, politics