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Autism and anarchy: The importance of autistic anarchism

This is the fourth and final instalment of Loukas’ Autism and Anarchy series; read the first here, the second here, and the third here.

In the previous four articles, I’ve shown how self-diagnosis is important for autistic liberation, how that personal liberation is always part of a bigger autistic community, and how the autistic community, like other disabled communities, is best seen as a class struggle against a system of ableist supremacy.

Now, I’m going to say why anarchism is important for all of this. You might say – what’s the need to label things or relate them to anarchism? Can’t we just work for personal and collective liberation with everyone and not label things?

Well, I’m not a big fan of political labels, but I do think anarchism is essential for the work I’ve been talking about. Partly, this is for general reasons. All political theories and movements that claim to be about liberation eventually turn on the people they supposedly want to liberate because they want to create stable power structures, whether as their own separate states or as some kind of structure within an existing state. People’s constant personal need for liberation is messy and causes power structures to dissolve. That’s why liberal, socialist, and other movements have often seen major conflicts between leadership and grassroots. Thank you for getting us here, the leaders say to the movement members, but now we want to build something solid, and we can’t have you ruin it.

Anarchism, for me, is just the name for a kind of politics that never stops being messy and never stops listening to personal and collective desires, no matter how unreasonable they seem. The reason I respect anarchism more than other ideologies is because it doesn’t pretend to be a scientific insight that others should follow. Rather, it is about bringing the existing urges and dynamics that lead to liberation and making them the core of the politics instead of just using them until it’s time to pave over them when building that new concrete structure.

What does all this have to do with autism? Well, I think autistic (and ADHD) people generally live with less of a filter on life. We tend to work things out based on key principles of right and wrong rather than what is best for our careers or for our group to win power. That means we often tend towards being the local anarchists, whether we call ourselves that or not. Anarchism can exist as a separate movement but it also bubbles up constantly when people involved ask, why should we stop pushing? Why shouldn’t we demand it all? These kinds of conversations happen all the time when social movements are in conflict with supremacy. Many movements have been domesticated by being offered the chance to become the managers of a piece of the supremacy. Because discrimination and exploitation keep on happening anyway, this then leads to natural ruptures between the everyday experiences of the class and the way the organisations’ leadership respond.

Anarchism is the idea that there should never be any concrete paved over the movement; it should always be in touch with its most exploited, angry and sad experiences of class conflict.

At the same time, there are a lot of autistic fascists or followers of other kinds of authoritarian ideologies. This might seem to contradict what I said about a natural link with anarchism, but I think it’s just the reverse of the same coin. The autistic experience of no filter and no intuitive understanding of the group means many of us are attracted to systems that seem to explain everything. Just follow the books, follow the rituals, and you’ll be ‘right’. Maybe some element of this kind of structure is inevitable for us autistics. We all need to have simple rules of thumb to guide us when we can’t feel the vibes.

But I think autistic politics that is based on authoritarian ideas is always far more than a rule you might use as support – instead, it’s like choosing to wear a whole-body plaster cast that makes you pose as a ‘normal’ person. It may have its origins in someone trying to solve their confusion at how the world works or in being told these things are true as a young person, but it’s not a path towards personal or collective liberation. How do you know what you want when you’ve already decided that some leader, maybe dead, already knows better than you what you need?

So, I think autistic people who choose to submit in this way to find peace are suppressing part of themselves. This then seamlessly leads into movements that suppress other people- to being constantly on the attack to avoid having to face yourself and your own doubts. Based on my earlier articles, you can see how this kind of inauthentic behaviour is the opposite of real liberation and finding real autonomy.

This brings us back to anarchism. If you pursue real, messy, thoughtful, and caring liberation, you’ll probably find yourself acting like an anarchist, whether you call it that or not. The good news is there are millions of us who’ve found ourselves in the same kind of position, and we’ve written and talked about it so you can find your own unique way of understanding and dealing with it. Some of us may be dead by the time you read this. But you’re not alone.

~ Loukas Christodoulou

Image: Mary Austin

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