Tuesday, 7 December 2010

To Absurdity - And Beyond!

I'm an unsociable old bugger. In times past, I was an unsociable young bugger. Parties have always been dull at best, terrifying at worst. My current self-employed situation means I can avoid busy transport times, work weekends and shop at night or while everyone else is at work. I have always hated nightclubs and discos, will have nothing to do with karaoke or any other party games and before the smoking ban banned me from the pub, I was rarely to be found in one on a Friday or Saturday night. I'd usually be in there Tuesday and/or Wednesday when it was quiet. Now it's small Smoky-Drinkies, mostly at weekends but they aren't anywhere near as scary as a busy pub.

I don't like crowds. I won't go near a city centre now that Christmas shopping is in full swing. If you meet me, I might not say much and will probably avoid eye contact unless enraged. That does improve with time. I won't be attending any Christmas parties. Visitors are a disruption although I make an exception for Smoky-Drinky evenings. I know they won't be staying and I can corral them in specific parts of the house.

I can be obsessive and compulsive, traits that come in handy in my line of work. I have never caught an infection in the lab and I can perform the same test on multiple samples and it will be exactly the same test every time. If I spot a typo in one of these posts after publishing, I have to go back in and correct it. I cannot leave it.

I can't go to funerals. I can't take them seriously enough because I can't understand what all the crying is about. Death happens and often, it's not really a surprise. Then again, when someone leaves the room they cease to exist for me. I cannot make small talk. If I have nothing to say, I am silent. Oh, I can write masses but casual chat? I'm useless at it. I can sit in silence for hours and so still I've actually had sparrows perch on me in the garden. Oh, I can creep people out with those long still silences. Thinking does not require movement.

I could never wear these. They would drive me nuts because I'd be trying to keep them level all the time.

That's enough to diagnose me with Asperger's. Years ago I would simply have been diagnosed as 'a grumpy git' but now, every deviation from the British Standard Human has to have a syndrome attached to it. There is nothing wrong with me. It's the rest of you that are weird. Especially you constantly-moving fidgets who talk all the time. How do you do it? Why ask how my family are? They're not here. Besides, I don't know how they are unless they phone me and tell me. They know I'm not likely to ask unless I'm already aware of some problem.

My dislike of clubbing, karaoke, parties and idle chat does not make me 'dysfunctional'. I just don't like those things. I really don't want to be 'adjusted' to be 'able to do them'. I don't want to do them. No more than I'd want to try parachuting or mountain climbing or sailing or any of a million other things that some people enjoy. I'm not ill, I'm just non-standard.

Everyone, in fact, is non-standard. There is no British Standard Human outside the minds of the Righteous. Therefore everyone can have a syndrome. Therefore everyone can be taken away for treatment at any time. Feeling a bit low today? You have 'depression'. Feeling full of joy one day and gloomy the next? You have 'bipolar disorder'. That win on the horses one day followed by the death of your dog the next has nothing to do with it. Only the symptoms matter.

Why? Money, of course. It is not in any drug company's interests to cure anything. There is little profit in a pill you take once and then you're fixed. There is considerable profit in treatments for things that can't be cured and that will last a lifetime. There is fantastic profit in claiming that a personality difference is a personality disorder and selling you treatment for something that cannot be fixed because it's not a fault at all.

Suppose you took your car to a mechanic and he said 'Oh, I can see the problem. Your car is the wrong colour. We'll keep repainting it until we find the colour that works.' Unless you're such an imbecile you shouldn't be driving anyway, you'd take that car to another mechanic straight away.

Yet doctors get away with that all the time. Feeling sad? Here, have a pill. This is not to deny that there is a real illness of clinical depression, but the definition is now so wide that a few days of feeling a bit glum can get you onto medication. There are real cases of bipolar disorder, but you can get almost everyone into the definition now.

There is a real horror of change in the human race now. The world might warm or cool and that terrifies people. It's changed in my lifetime, I remember summers where we heard of people dying from the heat and summers that were so washed-out that barbecues were selling for peanuts because nobody could use one. Winters with a couple of days of light snow, and winters where you'd open the door and find a three-foot snowdrift against it. Temperatures in the UK can top 30C in a hot summer and reach -20C in a severe winter. Fifty degrees of temperature difference in one year and people are terrified of half a degree of global warming over the next hundred years.

The fear of change extends into all aspects of life. Someone smokes. That's not 'normal'. Someone drinks. That's not 'normal'. Someone has too much or too little body weight for their height. That's not 'normal'. Someone leaves their curtains closed all day. That's not 'normal'. Someone likes to go out at 1 am just to wander around. That's not 'normal'. All these things and many more were shrugged off as trivial differences in the past but now they are seen as threatening deviations from the British Standard Human. You must not be different. You must conform. Resistance is futile.

The definition of normal becomes narrower by the day. Soon it will reach the point where none of us can possibly fit into it. Those declaring the Aryan perfect norm certainly don't, but then the last guy who wanted it didn't fit it either. It is not an issue for those who want it because they won't have to fit it. Only the plebs must fit.

The day is coming where, if you park your car nose-in in your driveway, while everyone else parks nose-out, it will be noticed and reported. Here there are already strict rules defining what we can do to the fronts of our houses. They must all look largely the same. Seriously. If the money is ever there, I'm not building a conservatory at the back of the house. I'll build an observatory on the roof and sit in the glass dome sipping whisky and smoking. At last, something I could do with a lottery win! Although I doubt I'd be allowed to. It's not 'normal'.

We used to have a great tradition of eccentricity. Viv Stanshall, Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine, to name a very few of the famous ones. Every town, every street had its oddballs. A great-uncle of mine was sent to live in an old people's home in his eighties because he kept starting fights in pubs. He could speak English but would only speak Welsh just to be difficult. He didn't like the home. Restricted smoking and no booze. I remember thinking, even as a small child back then, that it was as if he had been sent to prison.

Now they look even worse. There are several such homes here and you'll see very old people shivering outside with cigarettes that, if ASH are to be believed, actually killed them forty years ago. The buildings look nice enough but there are no gardens. There are regimented flower beds and lawns tended by Council employees but the inmates can't touch them. They can't smoke in their own homes. They can't tend their own patch of garden. They eat what they are given at times directed by their handlers. If I ever end up in one of those places I am going to be trouble. So, 'retirement' homes, when the doctor says 'We have Leg-iron for you', I advise you to have no rooms available. Because I will smoke in them, I will drink in them and I will eat what I please, when I please, with salt on it and if I want to stay up all night and sleep all day, deal with it. It's not going to change.

But then I am not vulnerable. I can understand what is happening around me and react to it. I can pretend to be 'normal' when necessary. I can also exaggerate my abnormality when I think it's likely to be amusing. There was once a nurse who came to my house. She wanted a 'personality profile'. Well, I wasn't always writing stories but I was born with the imagination and sense of absurdity that is so much fun to have. I sat her at the dining room table and took a seat myself. Mine was placed so she couldn't get out without going past me. As the questions progressed, she became more and more nervous. I have unusually pointy canines and one of the lower ones juts out like an orc's. Dentists have offered to fix it, but I like it. After she left, I couldn't stop laughing for hours. She never came back. So yes, I might be a long way from the tedium of State-directed normality but I can look after myself.

Would I do the same now? Probably not. These days I would engineer a personality blander than John Major so they'd leave me alone. I would probably refuse to even take part in the test. These days, being different is dangerous. Ten years ago I might have dressed up as a Borg to take the piss but now, even preferring the wrong kind of hat could get me sectioned.

Being different is no longer allowed. You have to conform to the increasingly tight definition of 'normal' or you are considered dangerously deviant. It's all very well for the likes of me who can talk down most of the intrusive and pathologically insane medical profession but for those who can't it's a very different story.

As Anna Raccoon ably demonstrates. I'd advise everyone to sign that petition because no matter what you think of my deviant life, yours is deviant too. You are not the British Standard Human any more than you are the Urban Spaceman. It does not exist. It cannot exist.

When the British Standard Human becomes law, none of us will be allowed to exist.

21 comments:

Bill said...

It's all to do with labels. If someone has no label they cannot me administered by the state or any of it's mytriad of quango/fake charity/healthist arms used to transfer cash from the public to the private in some great sham of governance.

I nearly spilt my tea when I read that you don't do funerals. I don't either. Once the life has left the body why get all tearful when what may actually be an empty wooden box is lowered into the ground or passes through a curtain for 'incineration on the one ecologically sound burning day the council nazis will allow in an effort to cut down on carbon emissions and save the polar bears'?

Bill said...

Bugger. That should be myriad of course!

vervet said...

OT but smokey-related, I thoroughly enjoyed a programme called 'Operation Mincemeat' (discovered on iPlayer - this is a licence-free zone!). All about a WW2 spooks mission to deliver false info to Adolf & chums. Anyway, that's beside the point.
This particular branch (MI7 I think) all (16 or so) worked out of a single basement room in the Admiralty building, which looked to be no more than about 20' x 20'. Talking about the working conditions, a couple of the secretaries described working for hours and days on end, all packed together in this sigle basement room, and ..... smoking was permitted !! Yes - the photographs proved it, and the male members were mostly smoking PIPES ! The (delightfully upper-class, very well preserved, non-coughing, non-expectorating) ladies talked of the constant smoky atmosphere in which they were confined for hours and days on end.
But these ladies, all in their 80s/90s, looked great and all still perfectly sane.
Explain that away Deborah Arnott.

Captain Ranty said...

I don't do funerals either. After we buried our daughter next to Pittodrie stadium I said "Never again". It very nearly ripped my heart in two. I also grew up rather sharpish after that and I now adopt your thinking. It is as much a part of life as anything else we do.

What is normal anyway? My significant other has been asking me to "Be normal!" almost since the day we got married in '83. I have no idea what she means. I think I am normal. For me. It may not suit everyone else on the planet but they will either get over it or not. I am not concerned either way.

When Billy Connolly moved to Aberdeenshire (Banchory?), he bought a huge lump of granite and stuck it in his garden. He then got a stonemason to carve the words "There is no such thing as normal" into it. Billy said that it was a lesson for his kids. I think it is a good one. As long as you aren't hurting anyone else your version of normal is just fine by me.

Naturally, in our bizarre nation, to offend someone is now an offence. How lovely. As Steve Hughes says "So what? Nothing happens". That's how I feel. Mind you, I have discovered that I am offended by very little. When I am offended I get over it.

Great writing as always Leggy. I'm with you on the typo's. I feel acutely embarrassed when I spot one. I drop everything to correct them.

CR.

Anonymous said...

I have realised that going to a funeral is pretty pointless as the person you are going to 'see off' is not there. If the world was run by vampires would hearses have sirens and flashing lights?
Cheers Leg Iron- Like the idea of sitting in the glass dome!-Vivid

killemallletgodsortemout said...

CR

Last paragraph:-

"I'm with you on the typo's..."


Should be typos - no apostrophe.

Captain Ranty said...

Killem,

I actually spotted that after posting but there is no edit mechanism.

I live in shame.

CR.

microdave said...

Did you spot "Spike Miligna the well known typing error" and correct it?

I think I can safely say that I'm not "Normal" - I refuse to waste my money on a shiny new car, for a start. Like you I don't do parties and clubs, and try very hard to avoid family "Do's", although I usually have to put in an appearance just to avoid major rows. Unfortunately I've reached the age at which funerals are becoming more common place. I have mixed feelings about them - I feel it's only right to show your respects, but these events often become an excuse for a good old knees up. The claim "it's what he/she would have wanted" is rather presumptuous unless the coffins occupant gave specific instructions.

I'm not on my second or third marriage,with 2.4 kids unsure who their parents will be this week. I haven't been declared bankrupt or owe thousands of pounds on a bunch of credit cards - although there are 2 welders I never got round to paying for small jobs, totalling £25.... I am undoubtedly regarded as a miserable old git, but I can see from the blogs I frequent that I'm not alone!

And I love it when TV reporters interview people after a violent murder has "shocked" a leafy suburb. They always manage to find one who says "we can't understand it, they were such nice normal people, always kept themselves to themselves"

And I must have spent 20 minutes riting this so if Ive missed something well so be it...

The Penguin said...

I signed it - much as I fucking hate that sort of thing, and even though I doubt it'll have any effect at all. Too many cunts with vested fucking interests.

The Penguin

Mark Wadsworth said...

"Fifty degrees of temperature difference [in one area] in one year and people are terrified of half a degree of global warming over the next hundred years."

That is the whole point, it's the same in most places (except the tropics where it's 25 deg C all year round, allegedly). And humans can survive in northern Siberia or at the fringes of deserts (where the day/night fluctuation is about 30 or 40 deg C), in Helsinki or Honolulu.

As to asking how people's families are, what is even more bizarre is if I mention that I'm married and we have kids, people sometimes ask "Do you have a photo?"

WTF would I carry photo's of them round with me? I know what they look like and where they live etc.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

At last, someone who seems to think much as I do; makes me feel all normal all of a sudden, it does. I've a background as a biologist and I work with computers for a living and in both lines of work being somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum is a positive asset, not a hindrance.

A character out of place, a comma missed, a misplaced bracket and computer code either won't work or will misbehave badly. Messily-written code is also a curse to the likes of me, but unfortunately not to all programmers. I remember working on the code of a chaotic bloke who grew up learning Assembler, then applied his dubious skills to Perl; a viler mess cannot be imagined, nor should you try without chemical assistance. I re-wrote it; sanity is worth more than a bit of time.

An now, as I look around, the world seems to be going stark, staring bonkers everywhere. There's a cult of celebrity every bit as poisonous as the ancient Roman love of gladiatorial games, and the modern politicians give those ancient ones a pretty good run for their money in the madness stakes, too. Idiots gibber and burble about global climate change, when a simple examination of the recent geological history of the planet shows that the global climate has, for the last few thousand years, alternated between longish periods of frigid ice, and shorter hot interglacials.

We're in an ice age now, technically speaking; there's ice at the poles. If the climate tips to proper interglacial then deserts will expand, and seas rise; conversely if the ice returns then the glaciers will once more haunt Scotland, whilst the great fertile plains of Doggerland will be accessible once more, whilst the channel will close and Britain will be an island no more.

Humans will survive. That's what we do, survive. We came through the last couple of ice ages without a problem which is pretty good going for a tropical-adapted animal. Our politics won't last, mind, but then politics never does survive. Honestly, why worry; the one thing that's an absolute gold-plated cert is that the climate WILL change over time, and there's nowt we can do about this. Adapt and change with it, that's the way. Oh, and don't worry.

fraser said...

I'm with you on all that mate.

I wouldn't say i was anti-social,but when i'm at home thats because i want to be left alone.I really hate people turning up at my front door.

Yes, the Christmass idiots are out in full force,so if i need anything now its at the crack of dawn.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir
What a brilliant thought provoking piece.
I think I have always realized that everyone is abnormal. I suspect everyone in the land reading what you wrote (an echo of Ernie Wise there) would see some characteristic applying to them. Many items in your list apply to me.

The startling revelation to me is just how right you sound that it is becoming increasingly unacceptable to "them". I don't think I really noticed before. I felt that chillingly. Thanks. I'm on my guard now. I hope.

By the way should this :-
"Unless you're such an imbecile you shouldn't be driving anyway,"

actually read :-"If you are such an imbecile you shouldn't be driving anyway"

tinks said...

An excellent post following on from yesterday's shameful Asperger's story.

I fear though I may not be normal, for I exhibit certain traits that could mark me out as being odd. Fortunately I have an outlet for this in music, though like a lot of creative people I have to suffer for my art.

As a nation we pay a high price for a bloated state where people and organisations have to justify they misery making, petty existence. If only the righteous, the know-alls, the people on the make would let us be, let us be ourselves.

It takes all sorts to make a world, and that's how it should be... in olden days they used to say of the outsiders 'he's harmless'. Most of the time they were right, and people got on with their lives.

Zaphod said...

Although there are no "normal" people, most do aspire to normality. Thet don't care what normality is, as long as they all share it.

It's understandable, in a sociobiological context.

But normality is relative. They can deviate by five percent and still belong, as long as there is a visible minority who deviate by twenty percent.

They do actually need us oddballs, and I think they instinctively know that. The UK has a tradition of tolerating, even celebrating eccentrics.

What's changed? Something has.

Anonymous said...

Now, I know I have a tendency to blame the anti-smoking attitudes of many people for a lot of things, so I’m biased – but does anyone else out there, like me, feel that as anti-smoking sentiment grew, so social events became increasingly disappointing? Maybe it’s just coincidence, but it does seem uncanny that the places where smokers were first made to feel unwelcome (I’m thinking of house parties where there were children living in the house, even if they weren’t there at the time) were the first to become stagnatingly boring places to attend for a social event, and that as the anti-smoking trend spread to other places, so did the uninspiring-ness of the social events there.

I do still try, I really do. I always adopt a rather jolly-hockey-sticks “Oh, it’ll be fine” attitude beforehand, but whenever the event is over I find myself wondering, with increasing frequency, why in fact I bothered in the first place.

Leg-iron said...

Microdave- sometimes my keyboard drinks too much.

Seriously, when you have 60 samples that must all be processed exactly the same way and must all be done today, OC is not a D. It's an advantage.

As Dr. Dan says, what used to be called 'attention to detail' is now called 'a disorder'. It's all in the name of equality.

To twist an old and possibly obscure Scottish song -

Ye socialists by name, lend an ear, lend an ear.
Ye socialists by name, lend an ear.
Ye socialists by name,
Your faults I will proclaim.
Your doctrines I must blame,
You shall hear, you shall hear.
Your doctrines I must blame,
You shall hear.


History. Stop teaching it, and it comes back to haunt you.

Angry Exile said...

"Here there are already strict rules defining what we can do to the fronts of our houses. They must all look largely the same."

Oddly enough here there are also strict rules defining what can be done to the front of houses, at least on the newer estates and suburbs. They must all look largely dissimilar. I believe this may be to disguise the fact that all their occupants are largely the same and behind the front doors it's all becoming a bit Stepford.

Anonymous said...

Does the correction to your English at 7-12-2010 19:26 above have no merit?

Leg-iron said...

Anon - I run two businesses single handed. This isn't one of them. Sometimes I can't respond to every comment. One of those businesses is entering its annual recession where all the companies I work for shut down for Christmas so I'll have a bit more blogging time for a few months.

The correction would be correct if it was a single sentence, but would reverse the meaning of the whole sentence in context.

'Unless you're an imbecile, you'd take that car...'

'If you're an imbecile, you'd take that car...'

See?

I appreciate errors being pointed out, but this isn't one.

Stewart Cowan said...

I didn't realise we were so alike, Leggy. I don't feel so bad after reading that. Thanks.

There appear to be two areas developing where someone can get locked up for absolutely anything - the Terrorism Act and mental health.

I read there are new walk-through scanners being sited at US sports venues which analyse the way you move and determine if you are a potential baddie.

They could literally lock you up for the way you walk. In the UK, that could have been for up to 42 days if the vote had passed.

Of course you can still be stitched up the old-fashioned way like Mr Wikileaks by playing around with Swedish bimbos.

Faked suicides are also popular, if they really hate what you're doing.

Basically, if you're not "normal", i.e. compliant, then they can make a case that something is wrong with you. If you exhibit "abnormally" high levels of honour, bravery, wisdom, compassion, patriotism or integrity then you haven't been properly reprogrammed and are deemed a potential danger to the system.

I remember when all this was just science fiction.

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