PRATIE PLACE

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From my classmates' list-serv

As you know I don't usually print anything about politics - and I'm avoiding the subject as best I can, I don't get a newspaper, or watch tv, or listen to talk radio - but this discussion slipped through via the Yale mailing list...

Part of the country's problem is that we've had this national disingenuousness about political labels. Reagan called himself a conservative, but was really a Dixiecrat. Bush I called himself conservative and wasn't anything. Clinton called himself a Democrat but was really a Republican (and the finest Republican president we've had since Eisenhower!). Bush II calls himself a compassionate conservative, but is really a robber baron.

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Bismarck: "Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made."
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The greatest lie sold to the American people is that the media are left-leaning. In fact the opposite is true. It’s a hallmark of the society’s reactionary forces (I agree with John Dean that they should not be called conservatives but authoritarians) that, with few exceptions, they consistently abstain from public argument on the merits of any position.

When the obscene energy consumption of the U.S.A. and its palpable and accelerating effects on a fragile globe is the topic, the tactic is to discredit Al Gore by saying that he “needs a crisis so he can be a hero” ... When this country’s scandalous failure to deliver health care to everyone in it is on the table, the tactic is to call Michael Moore a communist and ask whether we’d all like to go to Cuba for treatment.

When poverty coupled with the outrageous current trends in income disparity is the subject, the tactic is to point to John Edwards’ expensive haircut as evidence that (a) he’s a hypocrite and (b) things are just fine. And they get double points for arguing that it’s trial lawyers like Edwards who are responsible for driving up the cost of health care. You get my point: the strategy is to downplay or deny the problem and demonize the advocates of change.
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From a classmate who proposes that Ralph Nader has borderline Aspergers Syndrome: But I know quite a lot about Asperger's and the autism spectrum. Thinking of it as a disorder is not right. The autism spectrum (AS) is just one more human variety of being, thinking, dealing with other people. Odd affect and aloofness are not enough to make a diagnosis that someone is "on the spectrum," but they certainly will make the possibility occur to one who is familiar with it.

And to rule AS out, it's not enough to host Saturday Night Live, either. Asperger's doesn't mean you can't deal with special events, teaching, public speaking, book writing, etc..-- on the contrary, those things tend to be easier for AS people than normal social chat or teamwork, and this fits descriptions of Nader's style. (I once heard Tony Attwood describe universities as "sheltered living" for those with Asperger's, and end a speech by describing the main AS trait as "a thirst for knowledge.")

Since the spectrum goes from classic autism -- like my brother and Rain Man -- through Asperger's Syndrome (monotone obsessions), all the way to fairly normal people whose oddnesses are in the autistic direction (who love to lecture on their favorite subject), it seems plausible that someone like Nader-- whom I know little about, but who lives alone, has never married, is "a Puritan" and whip-smart but emotionally odd-- could be on the spectrum.

It might seem pointless to identify a possibly AS side of Nader, since he is obviously very successful; but I hope the more all of us realize the spectrum extends from profoundly disturbed and dysfunctional all the way to very successful "almost normal," the more people will be kind to the clueless nerds, absent-minded professors, space cadets, and "airheads" in every group.
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That's very plausible. He's also got a wicked fear of contamination, which I think relates to his anxiety about foreign trade. Someone sneezed at the dinner table, and he asked with alarm, "Do you have a cold?" The poor woman said, "Yes, I think I might be getting one," and Ralph ordered her to sit at the far end of the table. He explained that he had a fear about that sort of thing.

When other people wanted to relax and have a drink at 10 PM and look out at the weird Alaskan twilight, Ralph wanted to hold forth about things in the ship's library. He seems to have no sense of pleasure at all.


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3 Comments:

At 8:29 AM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

That stuff about Asperger's was very interesting. I have a friend who coordinates services for students with special needs for a local school district and another friend whose young son is suspected to have either Asperger's or autism. He is 4 and does not like to play with other kids and has some discipline problems. I just read an article that stated that one reason that more kids are getting these diagnoses is that when such diagnoses are made, they can secure better services for their problems. Let's face it, Einstein's teachers thought that he was retarded . I've worked and gone to school with people who were very intelligent but had no social skills or sense of humor.

 
At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend and I laughed at a party recently upon realizing we'd both enjoyed a quote by Tony Attwood (an "Aspie" who writes and lectures on the subject of Asperger's Syndrome). He wrote something to the effect that when he lectures at a university, he entertains himself by picking out which among the faculty has AS...unless it's an engineering school, in which case he tries to pick out which among the faculty DOESN'T have AS.
--Lisa S.

 
At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m actually fairly convinced that Ralph Nader has Asperger’s, or at least strong Asperger traits. (Mind you, it might be wishful thinking as I have the syndrome myself and he is my hero, pretty much). I recognize a lot of my own personality in Ralph Nader: a very genuine and very strong discontent with the injustices and status-quo in politics (I’m Canadian, so for me it’s both in Canada and the US), a very focused interest on fiscal issues, and fiscal aspects of social issues (I have a feeling that on strictly social issues, Ralph Nader is a bit of a libertarian, like me, a bit “live and let live”. That seems consistent when one looks at his positions on abortion and gay rights). Nader also looks slightly awkward in one-on-one social situations and looks fairly odd (seems to not care about fashion and always dresses very formal, has a relatively strange posture), but at the same time, is very comfortable lecturing people. He is also eloquent and uses an extensive vocabulary, but he has a tendency to repeat the same quotes and stories. Also on the social level, it has been told that he feels extremely betrayed when someone changes their minds and “abandon” him, yet he is not said to be particularly loyal to people himself (but he is extremely loyal to causes). That’s a lack of reciprocity, which is also a component of Asperger’s. And the fact that he lives alone and seemingly doesn’t need the company of personal friends is another sign. And also the very strict ethical system he has, he seems pretty inflexible and set in his ways.

Now, he’s obviously way smarter and way more self-disciplined than I am. I wasn’t trying to put myself on his level of intellect and dedication!

It is said that both OCD and ADD is often comorbid with Asperger’s. Maybe Nader has more of an OCD side which would explain the absolute dedication and self-discipline (and also the germophobia) and less of an ADD problem. I don’t have much of an OCD side, I have ADD though, I’m very scattered and unfocused at times. But I can certainly see some Asperger’s aspects in him, a lot of the ones I see in myself.

 

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