Hello Europe, Hello World

Greetings and introductions from an anonymous commentator (including, of course, the reasons for said anonymity)

(28/09/17)

Welcome to my new project, a blog on political issues, ethical issues and, mostly, issues that are a bit of both.

About Me

Two years ago, I had no interest in politics. In the 2015 election, I didn’t even vote. I understood politics to be mind-bogglingly complicated and tediously hypothetical; it was about drawing lines between tax bands, combing through the specifics of civil law, fine-tuning the most efficient structure for public services, and 1,001 other equally boring things.

More recently, however, I’ve developed a keen interest in politics, after finding some recent developments extremely worrying. More often than not, I consider my concerns to be ethical and/or humanitarian rather than political; to me, politics is an ambiguous concept that often crosses an ethical line. A lot of people don’t seem to acknowledge these overlaps between politics and ethics, but this cross-over is precisely where my own interest lies.

On the top-line political scale of conservative versus liberal, I consider myself a hard-line liberal. In terms of party allegiance, I’m a committed Liberal Democrat. I’m a bit wary of describing myself as left- or right-wing, because of the wide variety of opinions that exist as to what the term “left-wing” actually means. Suffice to say, however, that every possible definition of the right-wing (especially, but not only, the far-right), makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.

I’m also a practicing Christian. I don’t believe in forcing my religion on others, but neither do I have any reservations about letting my faith have a major impact on my political views. Faith is, after all, a big part of who I am, and the values at the core of my religion; compassion, fairness and, above all else, commitment to helping the less fortunate, are freely transferrable to people of all faiths and none.

My ability to work is severely impaired for medical reasons so I don’t have a career or professional aspirations as such. I have done casual labour in the past when my health has permitted (and hope to do so again in future) but have had to put this on hold in recent months as my health has deteriorated. Mostly, I concentrate on my volunteering and charity work. My volunteering experience spans several different areas but I like to keep an outward-facing perspective; international aid is my main passion, though on a more local level, inter-faith and multi-culturalism issues are also an area of interest.

Last and most, I’m a proud European. Although I’m of white British ethnicity, and my family have been born-and-bred British for as many generations as anyone is aware of, I personally choose not to identify as British or English. Much discussion as to the reasons for this will no doubt follow in later articles, so I won’t explore them now. As far as I’m concerned, my nationality is European and the European Union is my country. Run the twelve stars of the EU up a flag-pole and I’ll stand to attention. Hoist a Union Jack and I’ll remain unmoved. It’s not that I wish to cause offence, or that I bear the UK or any of its citizens any ill will. It’s a simple matter that, as far as I’m concerned, the UK isn’t my country, and the Union Jack isn’t my flag.

About My Condition

As you can see from my pseudonym, I have autism. More specifically, I was diagnosed with high functioning autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) as a teenager. Autism is a complex condition and, since this isn’t a medical publication (and I’m not a medical professional), I don’t intend to go into it in detail. There are just a couple of key points I wish to make for context, however.

The first point to make is that we autists* see the world differently; our minds work differently to those of neurotypicals*. The differences extend to the rest of our bodies too – our sensory perception can be wildly different to that of a neurotypical. The most common example is that many autists experience some sensory stimuli (especially sound) far more keenly than neurotypicals. We call this “hypersensitivity” or being “hypersensory”, and the effects can be overwhelming to an extent that is nigh impossible to put into words. This is why some autistic people wear ear defenders in crowded or noisy places – though in truth, most of us avoid such places completely if at all possible.

The second key point is that autism rarely exists in isolation, but is usually associated with additional mental health complications. I myself have a lengthy and ongoing battle with anxiety, depression and fatigue. Some people believe these other conditions to be part and parcel of having autism; an idea which isn’t technically correct, although we autists do have a massively increased susceptibility to these complaints.

*Autist – short-hand term for a formally diagnosed autistic person.

*Neurotypical – technical term for someone who doesn’t have autism or any other life-long condition affecting brain function. In short, “normal people”.

My Reasons for Writing

In short, I’m writing this blog partly to have my say, but mostly to maintain my own sanity.

Autists are generally prone to obsessions. My main obsession in recent months has been politics and its ethical implications. The resulting effects on my mental health can hardly be overstated. My ethical-political worries have deepened my depression, wrecked my sleep pattern and created divisions in my personal life that have at times even threatened to divide my family.

Dealing with these feelings, however, is not as simple as blocking them out. Whatever your opinion on the extent of my own passion, the issues I worry about are completely real, as is the human cost that arises when ethical concerns are not properly addressed. My unusual way of seeing the world has been a heavy burden up to now, but I believe that it also has the potential for good, if I can just overcome my extreme confusion as to how to harness it. This blog is my latest attempt to solve this fiendish puzzle. As to whether or not I will succeed in this, only time will tell. But I’m optimistic. In social justice, awareness is everything. In contrast, many negative, xenophobic or uncompassionate viewpoints are founded largely on ignorance or flawed information.

My Reasons for Anonymity

As most politicians, campaigners and lobbyists find out the hard way at some point, politics is often attached to dangerous levels of hate. From disagreement, heated discussion and fierce competition to slander, violent assault and even death threats, political engagement is never without a very unpredictable level of risk. Given that my autism and my additional mental health complications already make me a vulnerable member of society, I personally have to take these risks especially seriously.

Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. But my fluctuating anxiety levels render me housebound for a day or two on a semi-regular basis. Perhaps, therefore, my anonymity might best be described as a precaution taken for my own peace of mind rather than my actual physical safety. Hopefully you will be understanding of this; after all, I’m not a professional politician, public figure or holder of any official position of political authority, so if I were to tell you my name, I wouldn’t really be telling you anything significant anyway.

My Reasons for Declaring my Condition

There are three simple reasons why I wear my autistic heart upon my liberal sleeve. Firstly, I didn’t want to write anonymously without explaining why I’m doing so. Secondly, I’ve always been very open in general about my condition, because I’ve always believed that this is how we autists can best promote awareness, acceptance and destigmatisation. Thirdly, autism and politics are not naturally easy to combine. In addition to the danger of hostility that I outlined above, there are a number of other risk factors, including the high probability of a chronic information overload, a major problem for many autists. With this in mind, I wanted to demonstrate that, with appropriate caution, the right adjustments and, most importantly, a commitment to doing things at your own pace (on which note, please don’t expect in-depth analysis within an hour of a big story breaking), engagement in politics IS possible for autists.

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