25 June, 2012

How Indistinguishability Got Its Groove Back

is something that might someday appear in all its parts and might not. Right now I'm primarily interested in writing about staff infection. Spoiler alert though: the answer to "how did indistinguishability get its groove back?" is exactly that.

Or like I said before: it never really lost it.

I think there are two reasons "staff"--very broadly defined as doctors, teachers, therapists, aides, and a million other people--end up trying to control people with disabilities.

1. They believe people with disabilities inherently need to be controlled.

2. They get in a position of power because of people with disabilities' support needs and/or youth, and have the opportunity to make people with disabilities more convenient to deal with.

Whichever reason is not your reason can be used as a straw reason to support the real reason. I could give examples but basically you know it when you see it. Doing this relates to the Harder Fallacy and Shocking Behavior and things like that.

The way indistinguishability got its groove back is that a person with power looked at a person diagnosed with autism and decided they didn't like the way person's body looked or the way the person felt about things. Or (I say when I get angry) the way the person said no.

The person with power started trying to change the person with autism's body (or whatever). The person with autism couldn't defend themselves because they couldn't talk. Or, if they could, other people felt their beliefs, opinions, and arguments were inherently weaker than those of people without disabilities.

The person with power told their coworkers or their employees or the other people in their field to do the same thing. They by and large did.

Occasionally someone was bothered by it but afraid of losing their job, being seen as a pushover by their coworkers, or not being respected by other autism scientists. But most people weren't bothered. Maybe the original person with power was very charismatic and converted them. Maybe they already didn't like how the person with autism's body looked. Maybe they just didn't think about it, accepted it as part of their job, and eventually came to be a little passionate about its rightness. After all, no one was trying to change their bodies.

When I say this happened once I mean that people in power make this decision about people with autism on a regular basis. Probably as you are reading this a person is deciding to be this way, and their decision will spread because it doesn't occur to many people to question it.

To some extent this is true about any decision within that dynamic. Let's say someone decided that all kids with a certain disability have to play soccer, or read Tarot cards. I think this would actually catch on to a greater degree than you would expect. But indistinguishability is such a historically popular thing for people in power to choose to force on disabled people that it has a kind of momentum. You just think about it and it's already there.

Every person in power who unthinkingly chooses or supports indistinguishability is adding to its mass. It's an army of laziness, an army (usually) of feeling safe in your body. Of being able to talk about how much you love The Office in between sessions of training a kid with autism not to make jokes that don't have an obvious punchline. It's easy to do pretty much anything to people with disabilities but indistinguishability has an army.

The pressure of the army makes room for more soldiers. Obviously. This has all been an excuse for a pun. The way indistinguishability got its groove back is that indistinguishability actually is a groove being worn into the fabric of society by sheer constance and bullheadedness. Have a nice day.


  1. Normal people have lots of empathy, but it only really works well with other normal people. With obviously atypical people, normal empathy is broken. Clearly, the problem lies with the obviously atypical people...

  2. Of course I meant "normal people's empathy is broken" above!