Growing up, I was a troubled child; delivered diagnosis’ of High-Functioning Autism, and ADHD, at age 7. I saw the world in black-and-white binary. Things either were, or they were-not. This is a peculiar way to interact with the world, as the world, as people, as reality struggles to conform to these binaries. I came to understand, to realise, that the world was comprised of more shades of grey than I first understood. In a binary world, feelings don’t make sense, nor does non-verbal communication; these abstract things cannot be thought of in a casually deterministic way; this happens so this equals that, or this means that. Nor can two contradictory phenomena occur in parallel, as this way of thinking does align with the binary paradigm, the paradigm through which I viewed the world. This perceptual framework has many advantages and disadvantages; the most notable being:
- Discipline (pro or con; depends how you look at it though)
This binary system of perception basically meant I completely disregarded feelings and emotions, placing the highest value on order and logic. Thus, I could implement routines and order myself to carry out actions with relative ease. Why? Because my feelings didn’t matter, all that mattered was logic and reason; abstract things, such as emotions, were of little imortance.
2. Hyper-logical (pro or con; again, depends on how you look at it)
This binary perceptual framework, a framework that I believe to be common among the Autistic, meant that I placed enormous value on logical analysis and logical flow of arguments. I was great at analysis, painful at parties, as you can imagine. I was that guy that was always like “oh but A + B = C , not Y”.
3. Emotions went over my head (con)
The subtleties of language, the interplay between tonality, non-verbals, word emphasis and reading between the lines was totally lost on me. Humans have a funny way of indirectly, and subtly communicating things without having to directly speak them; I found myself (unknowingly) at the butt-end of many jokes, and completely unaware of the exchanges of energy within a room… This further lead to my social ostracism.
I’m not sure how I exactly learned to view the world in abstractions, rather than a black-and-white, 1 and 0 binary, however, I do believe that meditation played the single biggest role in my perceptual growth. Additionally, I also attribute significance to the many mind bending experiences that I’ve had throughout my life; the debates I’ve had, the psychology lectures I’ve watched, and the informal education that I’ve received. These things allowed me to see not just the detail (the binary 1 and 0, the objective standalone fact), but also how this detail, how this apparent binary or objective fact fit into the bigger picture, and how it related to other thing(s) (context).
The Power of Context
Context is such an unbelievably powerful force; the true cutting edge of perception, of human discretion. The clearest, and most obvious example of this, that I can think of, is self-defense vs. murder. In both cases, the binary detail is the same; someone was killed by the hands of another. But, what’s missing here? Context.
Killing within the context of self-defense is no longer an egregious act, but rather an understandable and totally natural reaction to a kill-or-be-killed situation. When someone is laid to rest because they were, or were immediately intending to inflict harm on others, we do not feel sorry for them; they deserved it. However, killing in cold blood is seen as reprehensible and totally unacceptable for any reason; hence, murder. This is a stark example of the importance of context.
Now, let’s explore a situation which is less clear:
We could all agree that destruction of property, most of the time, is wrong, no? But let’s take zoom out and take a bird’s eye view… The end of May 2020, and the beginning of June, has seen America erupt in civil unrest. Peaceful protests turn violent, stores are smashed, cars set ablaze; stores plundered. The murder of an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of Police, has sparked not only nationwide protest, but also international protest. On the surface, one may be forgiven for thinking these riots are only about race; I, however, disagree. I believe that racism is a LARGE part of the unrest, and the murder of George Floyd is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I believe it goes something like this…
Figure 1 (this image isn’t mine; I just agree with it).
These riots are not only angering those who care about racial inequality and racism about any kind; these riots, this looting, is a direct attack on the oppressive oligarchy of corporate-socialist-capitalism that is the United States of America. Oligarchy, in that, a small number of powerful people and companies have disproportionate influence over the internal machinations of the country, when compared to the lower and middle class. Increased corporate profits, whilst simultaneous stagnant wage growth for the lower and middle class; all wealth flows to the top. It’s almost as if the lower and middle class are bound by a modern form of slavery; neoliberal capitalism. It costs money to live, and you don’t have an option to go live in the wild, so you must play the game. Predatory marketing brainwashes you into accruing debt, and without so much as your conscious awareness you are now enslaved; you owe money, and they will get it from you
The argument I’m putting forth is this:
- Racism is a massive, systemic and oppressive force within The United States of America (obviously it also occurs in other countries, too).
- This racism creates systemic economic and social inequality.
- Non-whites of lower class also feel economic inequality in their own way.
- All of these groups feel discontent, upset and angry for their own reasons, in their own ways.
- When one event occurs that sets off mass civil unrest, other marginalised groups (I’m not diminishing the experiences of systemic racism of POC) join in this civil unrest, for their own reasons; expressing their anger, frustration, marginalisation and discontent by looting from the very same oppressive structures that propagate systemic oppression (of several kinds; economic, racial, social) of POC.
I’m not sure that I’m in a position to say what is wrong or right in this situation, however, one may zoom out from the granular, detailed hi-resolution perspective, and observe things from a bird’s eye view. Here you can observe the context in which these individual things occur, and from here, I think a reasonable person could understand the plight of those who riot.