I accept the basic premise that intolerance is learned, but there is an important watchout in regard to differences in brain wiring. I’ve been a party to instances of discrimination that don’t seem to arise from a learned discriminatory mindset. Instead, they occur as gut level clashes between one person’s involuntary vibe and another person’s built-in threat detection apparatus. I’ve encountered individuals who find the Asperger’s vibe so disturbing they leap from noticing differentness to fight or flight without applying the intellectual and moral filtering we expect in a civilized society. I’ve seen the process often enough that I’m convinced that hard-wired discriminatory behavior is real. And if it’s hard-wired, we need to allow it, right? After all, social scientists and law-enforcement folks frequently advise us that the key to personal safety is paying attention to our inner voice. It’s an extremely tough problem – and I have no idea what the right answer is. All I know is that folks on the receiving end of involuntary discrimination are often unable to respond in a way that has a chance of producing change. We know in advance that civilized discourse is ineffective in these situations. Directing information to another person’s brain doesn’t do much good when their behavior is controlled by their gut.
In Praise of Kindness and Respect
Those of us who are stuck with non-standard brain wiring know what it’s like to be bullied and marginalized. We’ve also received plenty of moral and practical support and experienced great kindness. We would love it if the big world were to outlaw meanness. Maybe someday, but in the meantime I suggest we work on acquainting the people around us with their power to make or spoil another person’s day. One thing that I want to do with these pages is give air time to those who use their writings and their example to advocate for ordinary kindness and respect. CHECK IT OUT