Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Aspergers at root of Thatcherism?

Independent Online Edition > Health Medical:
"Sir Keith Joseph, the father of Thatcherism whose free market principles are still followed to some extent by Tony Blair, had a form of autism that is reflected in his political philosophy, a psychiatrist believes."
It is - I reluctantly conclude - conceivable. Thatcherism was very attractive to me, until I saw the results. And in all fairness, something of the sort was required to save Great Britain from herself at the time, though I think the medicine was taken long after the condition had passed.

Joseph - who died in 1994 - was a brilliant lawyer who served in Harold Macmillan's government in the 1960s but was prone to eccentric behaviour and errors of judgement that can be attributed to his mental condition, Professor Fitzgerald said. In the early 1970s, he was urged by friends to challenge Edward Heath for the Tory leadership but he lost any chance of winning after making a speech in Birmingham in 1974 in which he implied that the lower classes should be deterred from having children.

Professsor Fitzgerald said: "That is the kind of comment he would make and mean it from the depths of his heart but it was absolutely strange. He had a lack of empathy and he was naïve in social situations. Once attending a camping exhibition, he surprised visitors by giving a lecture on Communism. He was regarded as so eccentric that the other members of the Cabinet suspended normal rules of behaviour for him."

After accepting he had no chance of winning the leadership of the party, Joseph urged Mrs Thatcher to stand and they became close political friends. In the mid-1970s, Joseph set up the Centre for Policy Studies which developed the free market ideas of the US economist Milton Friedman and impressed them on Mrs Thatcher.

Thatcher, by contrast, was warmly and universally regarded for her warm and personable presence and fondness for the small concerns of kittens, babies and National Health Recipients.

Actually, there is a lesson here. In our way, we are like wizards; we have damn fine insights that may in some ways be superior to those of the Neurotypical, but they only as good as the Neurotypical that applies them. And putting us on the throne is to waste a perfectly good wizard.

While I would differ with the good professor that Asperger's is a "mental disability," considering the number of high-powered individuals he considers to "suffer" from the condition, I will say, and speaking personally with direct knowledge, that it is a limiting condition. We do not think "better" but we do think quite differently. We do not lack empathy, as the professor assumes, but we do not think in emotional terms.

"Thinking the unthinkable" is what we do best. And there is clearly grave need for those of us who can contemplate hard choices without suffering total nervous breakdowns.

But that's also why the naked advice of an Aspie cannot be applied unthinkingly, or simply prettied up with some Madison Avenue glitz. Asperger's thought is not a replacement for neurotypical thought, or the thought-processes of any one of a dozen other mental differences that are currently considered "disorders" when they are, in fact, merely differences. They should be considered as different perspectives with particular, powerful applications.

Consider, where would we be were it not for the highly refined and practiced perspective of the professional paranoids? I'd be inclined to say that such people are owed a great debt by the peoples of the world, for they may well be largely responsible for substituting a Cold War for a radioactively hot one.

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