Thursday, July 31, 2008

My first conference presentation! (Autscape live blogging part II)

Well, today i gave my presentation...

I think it actually went surprisingly well. The time slot allotted was 1 1/2 hours, and i started a bit late as i was waiting for people to come in, but the room soon filled up - the majority of people there were interested. I thought my talk would take 20-30 minutes, and it ended up taking over an hour, partly because of questions and interruptions (coughLaurentiuscough ;) ) and partly because of me going a bit rambly and remembering things i needed to say that i had forgotten to include on the handout.

I didn't conclude as conclusively as i wanted to, but then, that's always a problem for me (as those who read this blog may well have noticed). My conclusion was essentially that there is a need and a place for impairment-specific groups and organising, but that impairment-specific groups need to recognise that they are part of a wider disability movement (and an even wider pro-diversity/anti-discrimination movement).

The discussion afterwards, although shorter than i wanted it to be, was also really good. I was surprised and flattered by the several people who told me how good they thought my presentation was - i was really nervous at first, but presenting to an autistic audience massively helped - i knew i wouldn't be judged for the little style things that a predominantly NT audience would probably have judged it negatively for, like sitting down and standing up again multiple times while speaking, pausing/trailing off a few times to shuffle my notes, having to run out halfway through to get a glass of water because my throat was so dried out from talking loud enough for a room full of people to hear me, frequently not looking at the audience, etc...

I think i actually managed to influence a few people's views in favour of the social model of disability, which is very very cool :)

It was pretty knackering, though (and my throat is now feeling raw)... but, i am kind of elated...

There's a discussion on alternative sexualities later this evening, which sounds awesome. Have met one trans person and several people in poly relationships here.

Pissed down with rain today, but the scenery is still inspiring. Swifts and swallows flying around in massive flocks all over the place.

Mozart and the Whale was... interesting, but i'm not sure if either of the leads came across as genuinely Aspie-like to me. More coherent thoughts on it in a future post (probably).

Off to collapse for an hour or so now...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Live blogging from Autscape 2008...

well, maybe not strictly "live", as nothing is happening *right now*, but i'm there...

My presentation is going to be tomorrow. I don't know if i'm going to live up to the standards of the incredibly inspiring (if slightly frustrating because of the presenters flicking through slides full of info too fast for me to write any of it down) presentation on LARM-UK (London Autistic Rights Movement) and Autreach-IT (I'll edit this post to put links to their websites in here).

I simply can't believe i didn't hear of either of these before - LARM is a network set up for active political campaigning for autistic rights, and they're committed to the social model of disability (which makes me feel optimistic for tomorrow, altho i know that there will be a lot of people with very different views, and it will be challenging for me in terms of presenting my position successfully, but i know i have some strong allies), and Autreach-IT is an utterly awesome sounding project to get accessible communication technology (based on the "One Laptop Per Child" idea) to autistic people living in settings (care homes, etc) where their communication needs are not recognised... and, IMO, it really has the potential tobreak out of the "disability technology" ghetto, and become universal assistive technology...

There was an incredibly moving short video put together by a 12 year old non-verbal autistic kid, to illustrate the power of the technology - i'll try to find and post it...

I missed a couple of the other presentations i wanted to see because my own inertia made me miss breakfast, and so i had to go on a food mission to the nearby town (Settle), but the Yorkshire Dales scenery is incredibly beautiful (despite intermittent rain), so i found it impossible to be too pissed off... (I will post photos when i get back...)

Loads of thoughts about the general atmosphere, being around so many other autistic people, etc swirling around my head, but can't verbalise them very coherently right now, so i might post again tomorrow, if i get time (or do a more thorough post when i get back)...

Anyway, i'll cut this short because the film showing (Mozart and the Whale and Snow Cake) is about to start...

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm off...

OK, REALLY quick post, as i need to leave the house in about 20 minutes.

I'm off to see some friends in Manchester, then staying overnight there and going to Autscape tomorrow morning. I'm getting back on Friday night, but then within the next couple of days after that i'll be off again to the Camp for Climate Action (see my posts from last year's Camp here)...

I'll blog about Autscape when i get back from it (i don't know if "live" blogging will be possible, cos i'm not sure if there will be internet access there or not). I'll also try to reply to the various comments that people have left that i haven't had time to... sorry, i suck at replying to comments on my blog...

Hope everyone has a good time over the next week or so (this weather makes me feel GOOD :) :) )...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My presentation for Autscape

I thought people who read this blog might be interested in the presentation that I am giving at Autscape on Thursday...

I haven't decided exactly what I am going to say yet, but this is a loose outline. It's more intended as a handout for people who want to come to the presentation (hence the links, intended as stuff to look at if people want to look further into the topics touched on), and i'm going to start by talking a bit more generally about the disability rights movement, ascertaining how much the people there know about it.

Then, after talking for a bit, i'm going to turn it into a discussion (i decided to do a bit of a "hybrid" between a lecture-style presentation and a semi-presenter-led discussion). Hopefully some interesting and challenging views will come out of it...

(I was meant to finish this about a week ago, but only just finished it. I'm off tomorrow morning, to see some friends in Manchester, who i'm staying over with tomorrow night, then going from there to Autscape on Tuesday...)

Anyway, here it is (links ain't hyperlinks cos it's a printed document):

The Social Model of Disability is a major part of the ideological groundwork of the disability rights movement. Put simply, the Social Model states that there is a difference between impairment (a physical or psychological difference from the human "norm" - e.g. autism, deafness, blindness, a missing or paralysed limb) and disability (the social disadvantage experienced by people with impairments). Thus, according to the Social Model, people are not "disabled" by having an impairment, but by society's failure to accommodate the different access needs that they have as a result of having an impairment. "Disability is injustice, not tragedy; unequal treatment, not inherent inequality" - Cal Montgomery, "Critic Of The Dawn" in Ragged Edge Magazine, http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/0501/0501cov.htm

(There are debates about whether the Social Model, stated simply, ignores the reality of impairments and/or regards them as irrelevant, and if this is a bad thing or not. These are beyond the scope of this short presentation, but recommended reading is Liz Crow's essay "Including All Of Our Lives: Renewing The Social Model Of Disability", which can be found in the book "Encounters With Strangers: Feminism and Disability", edited by Jenny Morris, or at http://www.disability-archive.leeds.ac.uk/authors_list.asp?AuthorID=49&author_name=Crow%2C+Liz)

It is easy to see how the Social Model applies with regard to people with physical impairments - a wheelchair user is disabled by steps into buildings, tables at heights that hir wheelchair cannot get under, etc. But how well does it apply to autism? The accommodations needed not to disable autistic people may be subtler or less obvious - e.g. changing assumptions about verbal and non-verbal communication, what constitutes "rudeness" or "politeness", etc. Autscape badges are arguably an example.

Experiences of autistics within the Disability Rights Movement: has the Disability Rights Movement accepted and accommodated autistic people?

Some autistics (along with other people with "hidden" impairments/disabilities) have felt alienated by the Disability Rights Movement, claiming that it has been mainly focused on the needs and rights of people with physical impairments, and that those with other types of impairments have been neglected or even not regarded as a valid part of the movement. An example of this is Sarah Triano's account of her experience at a national ADAPT action: http://www.disabledandproud.com/movement.htm (scroll down to the section titled "AN ALIEN WITHIN MY OWN COMMUNITY"). See also the experiences of Cal Montgomery (who is both autistic and physically impaired) with her local CIL in this article: http://www.ragged-edge-mag.com/reviews/ckmontfoucault0905.html

Some argue that there is a "hierarchy of impairment" within the DRM - with either some impairments being regarded as "more disabling" than others, and thus people with those other impairments as "not really disabled", or people with physical impairments being regarded as capable of self-organising, whereas people with mental impairments are regarded as incapable of self-organising, and thus not deserving of a place in the disability movement. However, writers and activists such as Cal Montgomery and Amanda Baggs have challenged this, with a lot of success, and many people with neurodiverse impairments have played major roles in the disability movement (for example in DAN).

Disability (as a term) and the Autistic Rights Movement: There have been mixed attitudes in the autistic rights/autism acceptance/ neurodiversity/etc. movements towards the term "disability" and towards associating with non-autistic disabled people and their struggles. Some have enthusiastically embraced the social model of disability and considered themselves to be a part of a pan-impairment disability rights movement, while others have tried to argue that autism "is not a disability". For a very good example of this debate, see the following blog posts:

Welcome to the Disability Community by Joel Smith: http://thiswayoflife.org/blog/?p=287
This post is mainly for three sorts of people... by Amanda Baggs (Ballastexistenz): http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org/?p=480
Not just about barriers by ABFH: http://autisticbfh.blogspot.com/2008/01/not-just-about-barriers.html

Is this based on ignorance or misunderstanding of the social model, and the difference between impairment and disability? Parallels with the Deaf movement, many of whom see themselves not as "disabled" but as a "linguistic minority"?

(Disability activist blogger Kay Olson (http://thegimpparade.blogspot.com) said, in a comment on my blog post asking for input for this presentation, "This is where I think the disability rights movement could often gain from being understood or more explicitly promoted as a "difference" rights movement.")

Is there a role for impairment-specific organisations within the disability movement?

Many activists within the disability rights movement have argued against impairment-specific organisations, saying that the DRM should cover disabled people of all impairments, and that impairment-specific groups go against the social model, by dividing disabled people against each other by impairment groups, as charities (e.g. RNIB, RNID, Scope (formerly Spastics Society), Autism Speaks, etc.) and the medical establishment do.

However, according to the principle of "Nothing About Us Without Us", if there are specific issues relating to a particular impairment (which might not affect other categories of disabled people), then people with that impairment have the right to self-organise to deal with those issues. Disability activists who are physically impaired but neurotypical, for example, may not recognise some of the issues faced by autistic people (but also vice versa).

My blog (Biodiverse Resistance): http://biodiverseresistance.blogspot.com

Some notable autistic blogs:
Ballastexistenz (Amanda Baggs): http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org
This Way Of Life (Joel Smith): http://thiswayoflife.org/blog
Asperger Square 8 (Bev Harper): http://aspergersquare8.blogspot.com
The Autistic Bitch From Hell (Whose Planet Is It Anyway?): http://autisticbfh.blogspot.com

Some other notable disability blogs:
Chewing The Fat (Dave Hingsburger): http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com
Crip Power (Miss Crip Chick's Blog): http://crip-power.com
The Gimp Parade (Kay Olson): http://thegimpparade.blogspot.com
F.R.I.D.A. (Feminist Response In Disability Activism): http://fridanow.blogspot.com

Friday, July 25, 2008

Call for papers on autism


CFP: Special Issue of Disability Studies Quarterly on Autism

Submission deadline: Jan. 1, 2009

Projected publication date: Summer 2010

Co-editors: Emily Thornton Savarese, University of Iowa, and

Ralph James Savarese, Grinnell College

We are looking for completed articles, from a disability studies perspective, on what the medical community refers to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We are especially interested in pieces that engage the so-called “low-functioning” end of the spectrum, where increasingly those presumed retarded and lacking social awareness are writing back to the empire of science. As the field of disability studies has theorized cognitivedifference, it has had to refine its cherished social-constructionist approach, making sure to account for physiological distinctiveness in the organ of sensibility, a distinctiveness that has been interpreted in a myriad of ways, most quite prejudicial. We are interested in the burgeoning neurodiversity movement, which has self-consciously resisted such prejudicial interpretations, often revealing the “science” of autism to beanything but reliable and objective. How to talk about autistic difference? How to represent it? How to convey its gifts and challenges? Who can talk about it? What role should parents play in this representational arena? What role should teachers, doctors, researchers, therapists, media entities, and academics play? What kind of interdisciplinary approaches are needed to understand, respect, and even cherish autism?

We are open to the widest array of progressive approaches and topics. The latter include, but are not limited to issues of:

movement and cognition
perceptual acuities
popular cultural representations
the arts
treatments, cures, prevention
disability rights
perseveration, echolalia

Questions or queries may be sent to emsavarese@hotmail.com or savarese@grinnell.edu

Labels: call for papers

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some anarchist/libertarian links

Some good posts on anarchism/libertarianism that i have found recently:

Polycentric Order: Resolving Anarchist Conflict

Conflict between the socialist oriented and market oriented camps within anarchism can get very tedious. Many anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists appear to emphatically claim that market anarchism isn't truly anarchism, that opposition to private property and capitalism is a requirement for one to be an anarchist, conflate currently existing political and economic systems with a free market and sometimes even defend welfare states as if take the edges off of the alleged evils of capitalism. Some anarcho-capitalists appear to get baited into functioning as vulgar libertarians or they generally associate themselves too closely with contemporary conservatism and therefore end up defending currently existing corporatism as if it is the result of a free market, claim that all forms of socialism are statist political systems, defend paleoconservative positions on issues such as immigration and romantisize feudalism and colonial America...

I am really pleased (coming more from the anarcho-communist side myself) that someone coming from the "market anarchist" side of things has said "it is of course true that non-state institutions may sometimes qualify as examples of rulership."

Ze also makes a good distinction regarding "private property":

Market anarchists tend to define private property in terms that should actually appeal to a socialist, which is that legitimate private property is the product of labor - a labor theory of property aquisition. How can a socialist oppose labor when that is supposed to be their forte? If consistant to their principles, the market anarchist does not support all legal private property titles, for they have an independant standard of justice in property aquisition that would delegitimize currently existing conditions. In short, they oppose the currently existing legal construct. The vulgar libertarian, however, does fall into the trap of defending all or some illegitimate portion of currently existing private property titles and buisiness arrangements.

I think there would be a lot less shitty argument going on between "market" and "socialist" anarchists if this was more widely understood. (Of course, part of the problem is people who are really more accurately described as "vulgar libertarians" calling themselves "market anarchists".)

Perpetual use is an absurd criteria for ownership, for it would imply that as soon as one parks their car somewhere then it is no longer theirs and therefore someone else may expropriate the car for themselves. In short, it would justify theft.

I have to disagree somewhat with this bit, as i don't think any anarcho-communist believes in a standard of perpetual use. (This is similar to Mike's comment on my last post, where he says "Carried to its extreme conclusion, it seems we would have to admit that the hotel guest gains indefinite title to his room immediately upon check-in, and should never be evicted even if he doesn't pay the lodging fee.") I think nearly everyone would recognise that a hotel is something different from a home that one permanently lives in, and that "perpetual use" is unrealistic - but i think that a condition of general use, as brought up a couple of paragraphs down, is realistic as a criterion for rightful ownership: a house that someone lives in for 10 months out of a year is, IMO, rightfully owned by a person, but a house that someone lives in 4 months of the year isn't. (I'm reminded of the ridiculous argument often used against squatters that "they could move into your house while you are on holiday".) Similarly, if someone "owns" a whole fleet of cars that they never use, but just keep in their front garden as a symbol of how ostentatiously rich they are, then i think "stealing" one would be fully justified, if you really needed a car to get somewhere, and couldn't afford one - but stealing a car that was just parked outside someone's house, but that was their only car and they used it every day to take the kids to school definitely wouldn't be justified...

An interesting cunundrum to present a social anarchist with is, "I want to be a wage slave, I want to work for a boss, so what do you do if I truly do choose to enter into a contractual relationship with someone for wages in exchange for my labor? Why can't I rent out the products of my labor if I sincerely want to? What if I want to opt out of the worker's collective and look for an employer?". If an individual is truly autonamous, then noone may legitimately force them out of this personal association or force them to remain in a particular association, whether it is a single individual or "the majority" or "community".

I think i still have to think a bit more about this, but i think i have to agree with it - largely, in fact, because of how much it reminds me of the radfem-versus-sex-pos arguments about BDSM relationships - which, while some of which are (arguably) IMO problematic in terms of power relations, i would unhesitatingly defend the right of people to engage in (as long as, it should go without saying, everyone is consenting). I have to take the same stance on non-sexual interpersonal relationships as i do on sexual ones...

Anarcho at Anarchist Writers: Quoting Marxo-capitalists out of context?

I haven't read Rothbard, but this is still a nice deconstruction of the "anarcho-capitalist" position.

"Even worse, the possibility that private property can result in worse violations of individual freedom (at least of workers) than the state of its citizens was implicitly acknowledged by Rothbard. He uses as a hypothetical example a country whose King is threatened by a rising “libertarian” movement. The King responses by “employ[ing] a cunning stratagem,” namely he “proclaims his government to be dissolved, but just before doing so he arbitrarily parcels out the entire land area of his kingdom to the ‘ownership’ of himself and his relatives.” Rather than taxes, his subjects now pay rent and he can “regulate to regulate the lives of all the people who presume to live on” his property as he sees fit."

Shagya Blog: More On Those Pesky Social Services

This post pretty much sums up my ambiguous feelings on the "welfare state":

The reason why social anarchists assert the need for positive freedoms is that in the real world we can't wait around until the perfect stateless – and therefore classless - society comes into being. In the real world people have needs and these must be met, if they cannot be not through mutual aid due through state-enforced economic inequality, then through government. To destroy social welfare – as well as protective legislation like the 8 hour day, or vacation time – and leave the rest of the state – and therefore class society with all its vast inequalities intact is to condemn the vast majority of the people to Third World misery.

(although i would query the bit about "protective legislation"... but i think that's for another post...)

It also needs to be pointed out that even in an anarchist society a significant minority of the population will have to be subsidized or supported in some manner think of the aged, sick, those with mental health problems etc. In a free society – and therefore one without the present vast inequality of wealth, and the resulting culture of narcissism and sociopathology – this could be done by mutual aid. In the meantime, and I have been discussing this for years, we can work to democratize, mutualize (de-state) existing social welfare measures. For example, Unemployment insurance should be run not by the state but be set up as a cooperative along the lines of a credit union. All workers become members of this coop and elect a board of directors for their city or region. Hospitals should be taken back by the community and run by elected boards representing the user population and the work force etc.

This is really heartening to read as well - and reminds me that i really, really need to fully write up my thoughts on the employer/employee relationship inherent in the current independent living movement model of personal assistance (which i am now actually living on the PA side... more on that in future posts), and how that can be squared with an anarchist philosophy... not so sure about the "unemployment insurance" bit, but the idea of democratising hospitals... wow. That would certainly stop shit like this (or this, or this, etc, etc, etc) happening...

And Werner in the comments saying that "vulgar libertarians" "mirror certain Marxist delusions"... hell yes - how many times does it need to be reiterated that the whole equating "socialism" with state authority and equating "liberty" with capitalism thing that both groups do almost as a matter of pseudo-religious dogma is complete bollocks...

Ok, this one is from 2 years ago, and from a blogger who seemingly hasn't posted since December 2006, but it's still very much worth reading, on the same subject:

Lady Aster: libertarianism: the music of a people who will not be slaves again?

(I'm not sure if this is the same Aster who used to comment, but recently stopped due to an argument about abortion rights, on Charles Johnson's Rad Geek blog... if Aster sees this, i'd like to say to her that i always liked and admired what she had to say there...)

I know plenty of people dependent in one way or another on the state. None of them like the system, and most resent its control over and its indifference to their lives. They support the system, tepidly, because they know of no other practical alternative- and because they know the Republicans who represent the 'free market' in their eyes would gladly leave them to die. Some of them take benefits from the system more or less for granted, true. But this is because because they've given up hope functioning as individuals, and this is turn is usually only because various systems of oppression (statism included) have painted them into a psychic and economic corner.


Protest first not wealth transfers but the controls the welfare state enforces on people. Libertarians should rise in anger when government largesse is used to control peoples' lives or serf-farm them out to corporations as 'workfare'. Don't tell the poor that they are lazy if they don't want to work in humiliating jobs at starvation wages- show how our crony capitalist system is at fault for offering them nothing but humiliation and starvation wages. Show how the spirit of liberty is the same spirit which could empower them against everyone who wants to run their lives- whether that be the state, corporate bosses, welfare bureaucrats, criminal gangs, or abusive parents and husbands.

Don't act like the poor are your natural enemies and the rich are your natural friends. Don't act like corporatism, rife with privilege and racism, in equivalent to your ideal. Don't act like the middle class or 'productive citizens' are better than the poor, are your first priority, or retain their positions because of merit or special virtue in a state capitalist world where the real mechanism of a free market has marginal play. Talk to people. Invite them your meetings. Reach out and understand their concerns and show that libertarianism will help them, not how morality shows that they should help you.


Extend your notion of liberty to something more than formal noncoercion. When someone speaks of the tyranny of their boss or workplace, don't tell them the relationship is 'voluntary' and thus the tyranny isn't real- tell them instead how statism makes possible social and economic relations that always feel like heirarchy and tyranny. If you don't feel this, maybe you need to learn to rebel against the boss yourslef. And it just might be the reason you don't feel this, and they do, is because you are bribed well for your corporate serfdom and they are bribed poorly. In which case it is your love of freedom for its own sake that has been dampened, and theirs which still flares. In a certain sense a poor person who reaches for the state to fight corporate tyranny deeply resented is more libertarian than the libertarian with perfect theory who meekly submits to the 'just' control of bosses micromanaging their lives.

(I'm not sure that i agree with some of the more market-oriented bits in between those 3 quotes, like the bit about "how life would be if they could start their own businesses", which i think is a bit ambiguous - does it mean start non-hierarchical co-ops, which i would thoroughly approve of, or become entrepreneurs within the capitalist framework, which i wouldn't? - but, if market-oriented libertarians generally followed this post's advice, i certainly wouldn't be anywhere near so frustrated and pissed off with them... and they might have something meaningful to offer the disability rights movement...)

Lady Aster also has a really good post on the same site about sex-positive feminism and libertarianism...

OK, that got to be a bit more than just link-and-quote. Never mind...

Edit to add: apparently, this is my 100th post. Woot. I hadn't thought that it would take me over a year to reach 100 posts, but so it goes... i was interrupted by a lot of stuff. (And it's fucking weird that i've had this blog for over a year... i somehow missed the anniversary of it, too...) Maybe my goal should be to reach 200 by the end of 2008...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Libertarian Ethics

I am writing this because I realised it would be relevant to several of the posts I am currently planning to write, and it would make it somewhat easier to write them if, instead of explaining basically the same ethical position in each one, I could just link back to this...

Libertarianism is my most basic and fundamental ethical and political principle - it is what underlies pretty much all my other principles. I am an anti-capitalist, a feminist, a believer in the social model of disability (there needs to be a snappy word for that - social-modellist?), etc., because I am a libertarian, and not vice versa.

Unfortunately, the word “libertarianism”, particularly in English-speaking countries, has been grossly distorted in meaning in its commonest usages - hence my need to explain here what it means to me...

“Libertarianism” has seemingly come to mean a sort of amoral, social-Darwinist style of extreme free-market capitalism, based around a belief that “free trade” (something which I actually believe is an oxymoron, at least when using the word “trade” as it is generally used in an economic context) is the only ethically acceptable way to run an economy. However, this isn't the word's original meaning - according to Wikipedia, the term was coined by the French anarcho-communist Joseph Dejacque in a letter to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, although other sources say it was first used by Proudhon himself. At any rate, the original (and still mostly current in Europe) usage of the term as a self-description was by anti-capitalists, and the “default” libertarian position was and is the one which needs a qualifier as “left-libertarian” or “libertarian communist/socialist” in the UK and US.

Libertarianism, as far as I am concerned, means a political philosophy which holds freedom from coercion as its primary value, the value which all other values derive from. Thus, as far as I am concerned, a libertarian must be a feminist, because all of the key feminist issues, as far as I can tell, revolve around women lacking and deserving the freedom to control their own lives and their own bodies, and fighting for liberation from a restrictive system of patriarchal family and relationship structures and gender roles. Similarly, as far as I am concerned, a libertarian must be an anti-capitalist, because capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with liberty - as exchange-value, the most fundamental component of capitalist economics, needs some form of authority to define and regulate it, and the capitalist wage-labour system could not exist without coercion (at least in its negative form of threats, e.g. of poverty for not working). (I will expand on this particular topic in a future post, because it's hugely controversial to say the least, and I think it deserves a post to itself.)

As Wikipedia notes, “Libertarian is an antonym of authoritarian” - i.e., it is not, despite the popular understanding in the English-speaking world, an antonym of “socialist”. In fact, as far as I am concerned, the only true socialist is a libertarian, and the only true libertarian is a socialist (which is a pretty good working definition of an anarchist).

(As an aside here, I have become convinced that the disabled people's liberation movement is quite possibly the one movement which holds the key to unifying libertarianism and socialism in such a way as to resolve some of the apparent contradictions in present left-libertarian thought, because it is quite possibly the only movement which is necessarily both libertarian and socialist. This, however, I also intend to expand on in a future post...)

My libertarian ethic basically boils down to this: no person has the right to forcibly prevent any other person from carrying out any action which harms no person other than the person doing it - or, to use a slightly more elegant phrase, “Do as thou wilt, an it harm none”. (OK, I'm not so into the mysticism... well, OK, sometimes...)

One corollary of this is that, as far as I am concerned, no moral judgement is possible of self-regarding actions - what X does to X is no one's business but X's. Of course, it can be convincingly argued that there is no such thing, in reality, as a wholly “self-regarding” action - but, still, I think that, in most everyday situations, the distinction between self-regarding and other-regarding actions is fairly robust and fairly obvious.

Going a bit further, when it comes to other-regarding actions, as far as I am concerned, if all parties in any interaction are fully and freely consenting to that interaction, then no ethical wrong has been done. (Sure, there are plenty of things that 2 or more people can do to each other that I find deeply repellent, but squick does not morality make.) Thus, even one person killing another person might not be morally wrong, because there are situations in which people consent to their own deaths - and I support an inalienable right to suicide, despite the fact that I agree that “we shouldn't be offering assistance with suicide until people can get the assistance they need to get up in the morning”. (if anyone can find me the source of that quote, I'd be very grateful...)

It follows that my definition of “harming someone” isn't necessarily the same as the one generally accepted in mainstream society (and certainly not the same as that held by most medical professional types). As far as I am concerned, “harm” is not defined by material damage to a person, but by antithesis to that person's will – a person is harmed by having something happen to them that they don't want to happen. Thus, while performing bottom surgery on a trans person could certainly be considered “harm” by a purely material definition (a lot of pain, a lot of tissue damage, the loss of organs, a lot of energy needed to recover) – and if the person is transitioning from male to female in a patriarchal society, it will probably do social and economic “harm” as well – it's not harming that person, because it's what that person wants – whereas denying them that surgery emphatically is harming them.

Similarly, while I consider myself to be fundamentally anti-violence, my definition of “violence” isn't necessarily the same as the standard one. I define “violence” as the violation of a person's will, the imposition of something unwanted on a person (whether that something is material harm or anything else), or the prevention of that person from having choice or agency in what happens to hir. This means that consensual BDSM, even if it involves typically “violent” acts such as beatings, isn't violent, whereas, for example, forcing someone to live in a “nursing home”, where they are denied agency over things as basic as what and when they eat, if and when they can leave the house, and even when they can go to the toilet most definitely is.

(I have seen libertarians use different definitions of violence - for instance, while this is an awesome article, its use of the phrase “consensual sexual violence” is, IMO, unfortunate, because according to my definition of “violence” it's an oxymoron... however, I think my use of the word is the only consistent libertarian one which can keep the sense of “violence” being an inherently bad thing...)

(I can't consider myself a pacifist, in the strict sense of that word, because I do believe that, sometimes, a particular act of violence is necessary to prevent greater violence, and I also believe in the legitimacy of self-defence. Strangely enough, it was actually the abortion issue which led me to stop defining myself as a pacifist - when I did consider myself a pacifist (while I was still a Christian, but on my way into anarchism), I had to take an anti-abortion viewpoint, because I believed that - at least after a certain stage - a foetus was a person, and killing it was therefore violence against a person. The argument that it only becomes a person at birth didn't really work for me, because I fail to see a meaningful difference between a baby outside the womb and that same baby a few minutes earlier inside the womb. Realising that violence against a person can be necessary to prevent a greater violence (in this case, forcing the mother to go through pregnancy and labour against her will) resolved my feminism versus anti-violence problem for me...)

One question I have to ask myself is whether, and if so how, my libertarian morality has any connection to my autistic neurology. I believe that, in at least an indirect way, it does. The single defining experience of my undiagnosed autistic childhood, if I have to choose one, would be being treated as if my own beliefs and judgements about myself were false, and that others knew my needs and desires better than I did, meaning that it was appropriate to deny me those desires “for my own good”. Of course, I believe that all, or nearly all, children in Western society experience this – but I experienced it with a particular intensity that is very difficult to verbally describe, particularly to non-autistic people, yet, I have noticed, even with my difficulty in describing it easy for those who have similar experiences to understand.

One of the things that is most noticeable about autistic people is that, due to our differences from the norm in sensory perception, we tend to regard relatively small things (e.g. temperature, light levels, texture of food or of clothing) as crucially important, whereas most neurotypical people would regard them as trivial, as “not worth complaining about”, and certainly not as serious rights violations if (for example in the workplace) we don't get them. This, I think, actually extends more widely, to other areas of life. I have lost count of the number of times I have been outraged to the point of utter horror by instances of denial of autonomy that the vast majority of people would regard as either justifiable or trivial enough to be “not worth worrying about”.

One good example is restrictions placed on people in the name of “health and safety”, which the vast majority of people just seem to accept, without questioning, and even to regard as important examples of human rights being defended (usually in the context of a “right to be safe”). (The concept of a “right to be unsafe” seemingly either never occurs, or seems absurd, to them.) Yet, if one of those restrictions or impositions (e.g., having to wear ear plugs or plastic glasses to work in a factory) is something that is completely intolerable to someone because of autistic sensory issues, although that person would be perfectly capable of doing the job if ze didn't have to wear them, then the ridiculousness of such paternalism (an employer being forced, against both hir own interest and that of the worker, to force a worker to wear something that ze not only doesn't want to, but that would also probably vastly increase hir likelihood of having a dangerous accident due to putting hir in a state of sensory overload) becomes all too obvious to that person. (Yes, I have lost jobs over that exact issue.)

(An equivalent for people with physical impairments would probably be not being allowed to use lifts in an emergency such as a fire – something ostensibly for “safety”, but which leaves people unable to use stairs completely unable to get out of the building unaided in such an emergency...)

A very uncomfortable thing about being against such things is that, usually, it puts me in complete opposition to the vast majority of socialists, and even many anarchists, and the only people who are likely to agree with me are Daily Mail-style conservatives who like to rail against “political correctness gone mad” and extreme “right-libertarians”, whose pro-capitalist positions I find as vile as paternalism...

I think autistic people very often feel the desire to be “left alone”, to be allowed to live our lives as we see fit rather than constantly harassed and questioned in “concerned” terms about why we are doing things that seem counter-intuitive to neurotypical people, far more keenly than the desire to be “supported” (in the sense of active intervention). I think this “naturally” does lead to a libertarian mindset, simply from universalising what we want for ourselves into what we want for all people.

However, I'm nervous of such a viewpoint being attributed totally to “the autistic experience”, both because I've also known autistic people with highly authoritarian or paternalistic views on some aspects of life, and because it reduces belief to an inevitable result of neurology, rather than something arrived at by individual choice or reasoning, which in turn could lead to such beliefs being dismissed as “pathological”, which is IMO one of the worst kinds of illibertarianism of all (personally, I don't think that, even if a belief was an inevitable consequence of neurology, that that would make it “pathological” - but that doesn't mean I don't think the danger of such attribution is real)...

Anyway, the main purpose of this post was to set out the basic ethical “framework” that underlies most of my more specific positions on issues. It probably isn't complete, and I'll probably return to the subject at some point in the future. Debate welcome...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Britain's Missing Top Model

So... the other day, I watched the first 2 episodes of the BBC “reality TV” show, “Britain's Missing Top Model”. This show is about 8 young disabled women who are competing to get to be a professional model (only one gets the contract at the end, and one or more are eliminated each week, similarly to other “reality TV” shows like Survivor or Big Brother). I had very, very mixed feelings about the program...

I'll start with the representation of impairment and disability on the show. Right from the start of the first episode, the focus on impairment in a very individual way was obvious – the opening shots included one of the contestants sobbing about it being “not fair” that her “body won't do what I tell it to do”. There also seemed to be a lot of hierarchies of impairment – both conscious and unconscious – on display – one of the contestants, Debbie, who has one arm, considered herself to be “lucky” for “only” missing an arm, in comparison to Sophie, a wheelchair user, while Sophie was presented (possibly through selective editing) to be heavily in conflict with the 2 deaf women, due to her impairment being “visible” and theirs not. This polarisation felt strongly like it was the deliberate intent of the programme-makers to create conflict between different impairments.

(The hierarchies seemed to be in both directions – both considering “more severe” impairments to be “more genuine” than “less severe” ones, and considering the “less impaired” to be “luckier” or “better off” than the “more impaired”. I need to write a post on the various forms of hierarchy of impairment that exist...)

While there was no evidence that anyone involved in the program was aware of the social model of disability, there was some interesting stuff around disability, as opposed to impairment, being relative to surroundings and circumstances – for example, both the deaf women expressed sentiments to the effect that they did not consider themselves “disabled” in primarily-deaf environments, or environments where they were known and understood, but that they did feel disabled in the environment of the show, where hearing and oral communication were important – even “disabled” relative to people with other impairments... which, IMO, is at least the beginning of an understanding of the social model, but it was somewhat disappointing that this was not really explored further...

The attitude of one contestant in particular, Kelly (who was born “missing” one hand and forearm) was interesting, if problematic, as she several times said that she “never considered herself to have a disability”, with an insistence that suggested she implicitly saw “having a disability” as an inherently negative thing that she wanted to distance herself from. (Kelly also possibly revealed some of my own prejudices, as I found myself almost instinctively taking a strong dislike to her due to her accent and tone of voice, which were of the type I tend to associate with strongly intolerant people with a lot invested in being culturally “mainstream”, and a particularly vicious and hateful attitude towards those who are not “mainstream” - of course, there isn't any real inherent link between that attitude and any particular vocal mannerisms, but it was a very strong, instant association for me.)

There was a lot of discussion on the BBC message boards about representation, particularly in terms of the range of impairments represented. Of course, with the almost infinite diversity of impairments, to be “fully representative” with a group of only 8 people is realistically impossible – although some absences, such as any kind of neurodiversity/cognitive impairment (unless Jenny's brain injury counts) or any kind of visual impairment, were particularly noticeable, especially when there were 2 deaf women and 2 arm amputees out of the 8. However, the representation issue that is more interesting to me is that, despite the fact that they apparently had 350 applicants from whom to pick the final 8, those they picked were all white and very thin (as well as young and “conventionally attractive”) - in fact, the programme makers seemed to be so desperate for thin, white women that, even though the title was "Britain's Missing Top Model", they had to ship in thin white girls from Holland and America rather than allow a non-white or bigger-than-size-10 British woman in. (There was no data in the first 2 episodes as to whether any of the 8 women was anything other than heterosexual.)

(I think it's very telling that Lilli, the contestant who was least thin and darkest in hair and skin tone (although still “white” and still definitely thin by global female standards), and who was eliminated at the end of the second episode mainly for not being “in shape” - which is, I think, actually a subtler form of disablism – was also the one who, after being eliminated, seemed to have something of a feminist awakening, and developed a critique of the modelling industry which led to her no longer wanting to be a model. This was for me the most positive thing in the first 2 episodes...)

There was also a commenter on the BBC message board who said that hir friend had applied to go on the show, but was not picked because she was “too disabled” (although ze didn't clarify exactly what that meant)...

Of course, it's easy to make the argument that any questions of the disability politics of the programme are overshadowed by criticisms of the modelling industry as a whole (and ones that I would mostly agree with). However, there is ambiguity here -while modelling is (IMO) undoubtedly a form of objectification, and full of all kinds of nasty sexist, patriarchal and capitalist elements, which there has been ample analysis of, disabled people's responses to sexual objectification are complex, as Eli Clare (who now has a website! woot!) points out in the chapter “Reading Across the Grain” in “Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation”, when talking about disabled model Ellen Stohl, who appeared on the cover of Playboy:

”Many of the feminists who criticized Ellen didn't know two cents about disability and ableism. For them objectification meant only sexual objectification. Within their analytic framework, soft pornography, like Playboy, was simply and entirely problematic. They rejected Ellen and the disability activists who supported her as dupes of the patriarchy. I wanted to shake them out of their narrow, single-issue analysis. I won't deny that Ellen is sexually objectified in the pages of Playboy and on the cover of New Mobility. But within the context of disability, the meaning of this objectification shifts. Ellen becoming a sex object, being seen and acknowledged as sexy, splashed in colour across the pages of a sex magazine, represents an important fault line, a sudden and welcome admission of disabled people – or at least one white, heterosexual disabled woman whose disability can be made invisible before a camera – as sexual.”

(italics mine)

Clare goes on, on the next page, to say:

”At the same time, I want to remind Ellen's disabled supporters about the dangers of accepting beauty and sexuality as defined exclusively by nondisabled people, by straight people, by white people, by rich people, by men. Let us remember disabled bodies in all their variety. I look at my body set off-center by CP, tense and shaky; my butch body often taken to be male; my body marked, both visibly and not, by rape. I will never look like Ellen Stohl. Nor will most of us. We will never, as Ellen so gracefully does, meet the dominant culture's standards for beauty and sexual attractiveness. Even if we did, I do not want Playboy to define anyone's sexuality – female or male, disabled or not. I believe disability activists need to feel some ambivalence about Ellen in Playboy, even about Ellen on the cover of New Mobility.

My analysis of the sexual aspects of “Britain's Missing Top Model” is pretty much exactly like Clare's analysis of Ellen Stohl's Playboy shoot – while I think the same feminist analysis applies as to any presentation of female bodies for the male gaze, from a disability perspective it can be seen that objectification is a “step up” from not even being considered worthy of objectification. However, all of the disabled women in “Britain's Missing Top Model” fit the same criteria as Ellen Stohl – they are white, young, thin, “conventionally” attractive (at least by the conventions of the “mainstream”, Western modelling industry – which arguably aren't even the same as the conventions of most “mainstream” Western people), and can be positioned and photographed so that they do not “appear disabled” - which is probably the root of Sophie's conflicts with some of the other contestants, as well as Lara Masters' attacks on the deaf and “invisibly” disabled contestants – even though Sophie also fits those criteria as well as Ellen Stohl does (having the same impairment), and even Lara Masters, despite having a more severe and noticeable impairment than any of the contestants, is still thin, white and “conventionally” attractive.

Also, despite the apparent intent to objectify these women in, if not an explicitly sexual, then at least a gendered and thus implicitly sexual context, they seemed oddly desexualised – despite me being exclusively attracted to women, attracted to a pretty broad range of female body types, generally most attracted to women in roughly the same age range as the “Britain's Missing Top Model” contestants, and having a specific “thing” for visibly disabled women, I didn't find myself feeling aroused once while watching the first 2 episodes – in fact, in the scenes which were most obviously intended to be “sexy”, the lingerie modelling in the shop window (in which the contestants found themselves filmed nonconsensually by random male passers-by with camera phones, as well as consensually by the programme makers, and similarly jeered and whistled at by passing men), I felt much more distaste than arousal. But then, that could just be me being “wired up wrong”...

There were a number of things said which I found strikingly, even shockingly, nasty and bigoted which in fact probably had little or nothing to do with disablism, and a lot more to do with the prejudices inherent in modelling as an entire industry (or, indeed, even Western capitalist society as an entire culture) – such as one of the contestants' statement that she felt like she was “not a woman” when not wearing make-up, or the statement by one of the presenters at the start of the second episode that “99% of people never will have... beauty” - which, while probably not intentionally disablist, certainly shows an attitude to the concept of “beauty” which feels to me like it's made out of the same sort of ideological “fabric” as disablism.

The constant, infantilising use of the term “girls” for adult women (whose ages were between 19 and 27) also really annoyed me, especially as it's a usage that, while commonplace, I always make a specific effort to avoid (OK, I have one friend who refers to most women under about 40 as “girls”, but she also refers to most men under about 40 as “boys”, so it's presumably not sexism in her case) – again, this was probably more unexaminedly sexist than disablist in intent, but it felt especially bad in the context of the incredibly prevalent infantilisation of disabled adults (which I think is probably even stronger than patriarchy's infantilising of women) and its very real concrete consequences of loss of autonomy in fundamental aspects of life.

Another observation that struck me from the second episode was the implicit anti-pleasure agenda of attacking women for going out drinking and enjoying themselves, and the way that that was linked to their looks, but not just in a “looks-ist” way, but also through a “health-ist” agenda – the idea that a woman's body is not something she can make her own decisions over, but something that needs to be paternalistically policed in order to keep it within an “acceptable” standard of attractiveness (which quality is, of course, not defined by the woman herself). The petty, patronising attitude of the casting director also added to the impression that one of the main things this show is about is women hating women.

This leads in to what was actually the strongest thing I came away from this with – the inherently deeply nasty ideology of nearly all these type of “reality TV” shows. Like other programmes whose format involves contestants being eliminated at the end of each “round” - e.g. “Big Brother”, “Survivor”, “The Weakest Link” and plenty of other “talent show” type competitions, it's all about conflict and attrition rather than co-operation – with each contestant encouraged to be jealous and suspicious of all the others, because there can only be one winner. This kind of format inevitably leads to petty, vindictive cruelty and backstabbing – with the irony being that the purported “realism” of “reality TV” is a complete fake, because, far from such shows showing people “as they really are”, and thus revealing some sort of fundamental truth about human nature, their environment is a completely unnatural one, bearing no reasonable relationship to actual “real life”...

It's worth noting that, for people with many types of impairments (perhaps unsurprisingly, those unrepresented on the show), such an environment would be completely unbearable – many autistic or otherwise cognitively impaired people, with a lack of the sort of mainstream “social skills”, non-verbal communication abilities, “tactical” dishonesty, etc. that are acutely necessary for dealing with such situations would feel so much anxiety that it could easily lead to complete breakdown, and would almost certainly be the first victims of the nasty, competitive instincts unleashed by such manipulation – they wouldn't stand a chance, simply because of their impairments, which is, I think, an aspect of disablism which probably never even occurred to the programme makers, so deeply ingrained was their implicitly social-Darwinist ideology. (The horrific recent case of Alex Barton, an autistic boy who was actually “voted out” of his primary school class by his teacher, in a “re-enactment” of the “reality TV” show “Survivor”, inescapably comes to mind...)

This post has already got really long, and I'm sure there are other worthwhile observations I've missed out. But no other disability blogger that I'm aware of seems to have posted about this show, so I thought I'd be fairly thorough in putting down everything I thought about it... I watched this, despite already knowing I would dislike it because I already knew how fundamentally unpleasant to someone of anything like my ethical/political views both “reality TV” and the mainstream modelling industry are, simply because it featured disabled people on UK TV, which is a fairly rare thing in itself (at least in any context other than “medical” documentaries, which tend to be all impairment, no disability). It probably actually is raising more awareness of disability issues than any other BBC program I can think of from the last year or so. Still, I'm not sure if I'm going to bother to watch the remaining episodes...

The BBC's official “Britain's Missing Top Model” site is here, (on which the already shown episodes can be watched on the BBC iPlayer – not sure if this is only available within the UK) and there is a discussion board for the show on the BBC Ouch site here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hugely frustrating communication issues, and inadvertently hurting other people.

(This isn't anywhere near as coherent as I want it to be, and a large part of me is certain that posting it will actually exacerbate, rather than clear up, some if not all of the situations it describes. But I'm going to post it as it stands anyway, and maybe edit it later, because I feel a strong need to put it out there...)

I'm really upset and frustrated with this discussion.

This is something that keeps happening to me – I post something in response to something written by someone who (usually) I like and admire, which that person (or someone else) disagrees with part of, or asks me to explain further. I try to explain further, and somehow compound the disagreement, or don't quite express myself clearly enough, with the result that what I said gets misinterpreted, or gets things inferred from it that I didn't intend to imply. I then try to set out my views more clearly, but the compounding of disagreement gets worse, and starts to get interpreted as a personal attack. From then on, my every attempt to correct and clarify – usually with the intention to aim for agreement, since that's nearly always my aim in discussion (and maybe that's something problematic? I dunno) – can only make things worse...

(here and here are other examples, and too many threads on Barbelith, before I gave up posting there, to count...)

The thing that particularly gets me is that, in nearly all of these cases, I really don't want to “attack” or to offend the other person(s) involved – usually, my desire to clarify my views and to get them to, if not agree with them, then at least to see them as reasonable, is so strong because they are people who I like and admire and who have said things that I agree with and find true and inspiring. Unintentionally offending people who I admire is very upsetting for me, and it makes me feel a genuine, heartfelt desire to apologise, to tell them I don't want to make them angry or upset, and that that wasn't my intent.

However, I then get caught in a worse double-bind, because, apparently, it isn't legitimate to apologise to someone for offending them, rather than for what you said - which I also really don't understand. I have always passionately believed that retracting something you have said, if you still believe in it, because you caused offence to someone by saying it, is the height of hypocrisy (which is why it infuriates and disgusts me when politicians do it, as they seem to do all the time, particularly when what they said in the first place was something I agreed with, or that exposed the hypocrisy of other politicians). But I also genuinely feel ashamed and guilty for offending people I like when my intention was not to cause offence - but, then, it seems I am not allowed to attempt to make any kind of reparations for the offence, without retracting what I said - so I really don't know what to say or do when in this kind of situation, especially when it seems not to be the content of what I said, but the "style" of "how" I said it, that has caused the offence (since it is content that I pay attention to, and style, to me, is irrelevant).

In some of these cases, it seems that my writing style is the cause of the offence, as much if not more than the content of my views. This seems to be tied into some concept of "appropriateness" (which is a concept I always struggle with) - that some writing/speaking styles are appropriate for some topics, but not for others, and that this somehow depends on how "personal" the topics are -
which is a completely incomprehensible dividing line for me, as the dichotomy between the "personal" and the "political" (or sociological, or philosophical, or whatever) is one that has never meaningfully existed for me.

Also, it seems that the issues which I feel the most passion about are the issues which I'm most likely to get accused of being offensively “dispassionate” about, and the topics which I have the most personally invested in are the ones on which I'm most likely to be accused of “treating this as if it's just an interesting topic of conversation” - and I really can't work out why this is - although, I'm getting some sort of impression that, for maybe most people, emotional involvement in something and intellectual rigour about it are mutually exclusive (or perhaps that the application of someone else's attempts at intellectual rigour to something that is emotionally important for them is unwelcome) - whereas, for me, the more "personal", the more emotional and directly-relevant-to-me something is, the more I want and need intellectual rigour in thinking about it.

I get the strong feeling that, if I was having some of these conversations face-to-face, I wouldn't get regarded as taking such a “combative” attitude as I do on the internet. Tentatively, I wonder if that might be to do with the size of the “chunks” of conversation in those respective media – in a real-time conversation, people tend to speak in short sentences, with a much quicker back-and-forth rate, whereas on online discussion threads people tend to make longer statements at a time, trying to set out more of a comprehensive position in each one. I don't know if that has something to do with it. I'm fairly sure that, in my case, it can't be the commonly-cited presence or absence of non-verbal in addition to verbal communication, because I basically don't do non-verbal communication in any circumstance, and tend to find online interchanges easier to accurately state my views in as a result of that.

(I also think that I probably come across as more "sure of myself" on the internet than I do in face-to-face conversations, more definitive and authoritative in my views, which might contribute to it. I always thought that was a good thing, but... maybe not...)

This post isn't just to ask “where am I going wrong?” - it's to express my genuine bewilderment at what happens to me in these sorts of interchanges. I am really, utterly clueless as to what I am doing here that seems, repeatedly, to be so offensive – and yet, saying so seems to merely compound the offence. Frankly, this sort of thing makes me want to give up communicating with people altogether (although, of course, I know that that's not what I really want, it's just how hopeless and despairing it makes me feel – that literally whatever I say in an attempt to clear up an accidental offence I've caused to someone by stating my views will inevitably make it worse, but so will saying nothing).

And this, which I sought out in order to try to make some sense of this and see where I am going wrong, actually makes me feel worse, because, according to those rules, with my communication impairments I will *never* be capable of "civil discourse". And I'm not quite sure whether the things that Ballastexistenz talks about in this post (and the other posts that she links to in it) are the reasons why I get this, because that would seem to absolve me of "guilt" for what happens in these kinds of interactions, and I keenly feel that guilt (whether it's rational to or not).

Have any other autistic people encountered this? If so, what tactics have you found to be helpful in dealing with it? I'm really, really not sure if this is an autistic thing, or if tentatively seeing it as an autistic thing is just making excuses for being an asshole (even though I don't want, and am not trying, to be an asshole).

Any responses whatsoever are welcome. I'm not trying to be disingenuous or feign ignorance of anything here. I genuinely am ignorant of whatever social values I'm transgressing. And i know this is going to come across to people as whiny, self-obsessed, passive-agressive and all kinds of other things that i don't intend to be, but always seem to get accused of being (to the extent that i have to conclude that the accusations are accurate, because if everyone other than me thinks that i am something, then the only logical conclusion i can come to is that everyone else is right and i am wrong). But i want to not be those things... which is why i'm, rather pathetically and probably hopelessly, asking for advice...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Weird shit is happening with my computer.

OK, so some time last week, because i was in a hurry to leave the house and thought i had shut it down already, i accidentally turned my computer (along with all my electrical stuff) off at the mains without shutting it down first.

Since then, every time i start up my computer it comes up with a blue screen saying "One of your discs* needs to be checked for consistency... you can cancel the disc checking, but it is strongly recommended", and giving me a countdown of 10 seconds to cancel disk* checking.

If i allow the 10 seconds to count down, the blue screen then fills up with the line "Inserting an index entry into index $0 of file 25", with the bottom line flashing, and... stays like that (i've tried leaving it for about an hour). The only thing i can do to get it off that screen is to press the restart button (thankfully, my PC, unlike some, actually has one).

If i press a key within the 10 seconds to cancel the disk checking, Windows boots up as normal, but i get a series of dialog boxes saying "The file or directory C:\$Extend\$ObjId is corrupt and unreadable. Please run the Chkdsk utility."

Apparently, if Windows's search function is to be believed, there is no such file or directory as $Extend or $ObjId on my computer. I searched for and found the Chkdsk utility, and ran it, which resulted in it saying the same "Inserting an index entry into index $0 of file 25" line, but saying it was 1% counting up to 100% completed. I thought this might have resolved the problem, but apparently not, as the same happens again every time i turn my computer on.

Also, every time i start Firefox, it gives me the "Restore previous session" dialog box, asking me if i want to restore the tabs from my "last" session, which are the tabs i had open when i accidentally turned my computer off without shutting down.

And i seem to be unable to download anything from a web page, including email attachments - if i try to open rather than save an attached document, a box comes up saying the document cannot be saved because i "cannot change the contents" of my Temp folder, and to "change the folder properties and try again [which i have no idea how to do], or try saving in a different location." If i try to save rather than open, and select a location to save it in, the same happens with that folder...

(Trying to save an image from a web page by right-clicking and selecting "Save Image" seems to do... absolutely nothing.)

Also possibly but not definitely related:

- I keep getting a pop-up saying a Firefox update needs to be installed, about 10 minutes after every time i start Firefox. Whether i click "Restart Firefox Now", or "Later" (which gets the reply "The update will be installed the next time you strt Firefox", the same happens next time.

- I keep getting a pop-up from my Windows toolbar saying "General error - not enough free memory, write error".

- Pages containing QuickTime media seem to crash Firefox every time i go to them, giving me the "Firefox has encountered an error and needs to close" message.

Obviously, as i can still get onto the internet, this isn't anywhere near as bad as the last time my computer fucked up (which involved me having to take it back to my brother (who built it for me, but lives about 100 miles away) and do a complete backup and reinstall, which involved transferring all my files to another hard drive, which i neither have nor know how to do... but it's still pretty annoying, especially when i get an email with an attachment i can't access, or Firefox crashes with 12 tabs open and then, when i start it again, reopens the tabs from that "last" session instead of the actual last session... and, as i want to get into image editing, i very much want to be able to download images from the web...

I'm using Windows XP.

Any ideas for what went wrong/what i can do? (I really, really don't want to have to reinstall Windows again...)

*Both spellings of this word ("disc" and "disk") look wrong to me. This is one of my weird spelling blind spots...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fucking raging right now.

I am fucking incandescent with rage right now.

Yesterday i got a text from a friend and fellow disability rights activist saying that she was in hospital because Social Services had taken away her Direct Payments, due to her having had trouble with recruiting PAs, and thus leaving her with agency carers who changed from week to week, so didn't have time to get to know her or her impairment, leading to her ending up hospitalised with a potentially very dangerous infection because they weren't doing her personal care properly. She's now been told by a doctor that she's well enough to go home, but is refusing to leave the hospital until Social Services give her written confirmation that they are returning her to Direct Payments so that she can employ continuous PAs.

And then, just now, i found out (through a friends-locked post on her Livejournal from nearly 2 months ago) that another... i'm not quite sure if i have the right to call her "friend", because i've only met her offline once, but definitely comrade in the UK disability rights movement, has been in a fucking nursing home since at least March, and probably almost no one else in the movement knows about it...

Both these people are young, highly intelligent, passionately committed activist women. That shouldn't matter, because no one should be treated this way, regardless of age, IQ, involvement in causes or anything else, but this really fucking hits home. If i had a physical impairment as well as a mental one... this could be me.

Too angry for reasoned comment right now.