After misogyny, patriarchy and gender disparity, ableism is making its rounds as the resident curse on humans. We aren’t able to identify our inherent bias and inherent blind trust for humans who fall under the spectrum called “typical”. We celebrate neurodiversity and write books after books that echo Neurotribes but fail to see how we didn’t learn much from the parent book. It’s sad but I’m glad Greta Thunberg brought it to the forefront so we could talk about it.
I’ve heard of people asking for autistics to speak for autistics. And believe me I had the same fears. That if an autistic advocated for fellow autistics they’d be misunderstood or simply, dismissed. Such is my experience with autism. At a recent family wedding, my daughter wasn’t included in the wedding because she’s autistic and her brother wasn’t included because he’s the sibling of an autistic. Well, my in-laws practice ableism too, like most people in this world.
But….. Greta isn’t talking smack. She’s actually asking adults, in the sanest, most profuse way possible, why we aren’t worried. She was emotional like all of us should be. She was incensed at how people weren’t interested in hearing what she had to say.
Whatever might be said of our acceptance of autism, the reaction to Greta has shown almost the whole world how we view autistics. They’re still considered an aberration. They’re still placated by being called diverse instead of outright “mentally ill”.
But here’s the problem in my opinion! The problem isn’t that we think autistics are mentally ill. The problem is that we heard there are autistics in this world, took absolutely zero time to learn what autism is, decided to jump on the benevolence bandwagon to call them diverse and gifted and exceptional and differently abled, then came unhinged when autism showed itself to be simple, pragmatic, aware and similarly abled. That we couldn’t handle. That we couldn’t fathom.
And how could we? We never understood autism. We never tried to know what it means to be an autistic. We have treated neurodiverse individuals as aliens, in my opinion. We know they exist but aren’t completely convinced we will ever see them. Then we see them. We shriek and look for some infrared or ultraviolet weapon to get rid of them.. And when that won’t do we simply call them mentally ill. In Greta’s case, suspicion towards her competency and capacity as an autistic is being practiced
Say what you want but right now, in this moment, Greta has been the only one to cry for Mother Earth. She has been the only loyal one, autistic and all.