Friday night's episode of Battlestar Galactica dealt with the concept of individuality, a concept we supposedly treasure in Western society. I've commented before on this blog on the strange way we deal with some psychiatric patients, mainly those in the high-functioning autistic spectrum, something that became apparent to me only when studying psychology a few years ago. Psychiatry works from a book called the DSM-IV, which stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. Somewhat crudely put, this implies a diagnosis of a mental disease is based on a statistical analysis of the presence of certain behavioral factors. Or, in other words, on a deviation from the mean.
In some cases, where people become a hazard to themselves and/or their environment, the issue may be more clear cut and society may have to intervene. However, what do you do with people who can take care of themselves, are capable of leading lives in a way that does not keep others from leading theirs in peace, and insist they don't want treatment, because they are happy just the way they are?
Apparently, you drug them anyway, because Mommy/Daddy/society knows best:
Because autistic people usually have some challenges in life, there are some people who think finding a cure for autism would be in the best interest of autistics.
Who the hell are we to make that determination? Doesn't liberalism (in its classical John Stuart Mill sense) mean live and let live? Are we going to take control of everyone's personal affairs once he or she gets confronted with 'challenges'? But wait, the text goes on:
People who are interested in a cure for autism include physicians, therapists and parents of autistic children, who believe the benefits of the unique, and arguably, rewarding subjectivity experienced by the autistic is not worth the social and functional strains entailed.
The severity of functional 'strains' and whatever challenges they may offer, are best determined by those who experience them. And the social aspect is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Some have compared the neurodiversy (sic) movement to the pro-anorexia movement.
The difference being, of course, that pro-anorectics actually risk killing themselves; those who do not want to take their ADHD drugs may live to be a 100. Which makes it important to ask: for whose sake are we treating people that do not wish to be treated and mean others nor themselves any harm? Could it perhaps be the case that they make us feel uncomfortable, and treating them is far from a selfless act, but rather a way of shaping the world to reflect our limited acceptance of human diversity?
Perhaps one day, we'll look back on the early 21th century and consider our attitude towards those with different neural wiring to be petty and bigoted. Or perhaps, we will all take our daily shots to keep our behavioral parameters within the narrowly defined bounds described in the DSM-XIII. A brave new world, indeed, and one in which we will have made ourselves immune to change - for the better.