Social constructs and disability.

Everybody learns how to interact, and everybody learns that there are parts of themselves that must be changed or hidden.

This is for the best, mostly. One can’t go hitting others, even if one is quite angry.

So, there’s a… polishing? phase of life. Finishing, I suppose, certain educators of people socialized as women may assert.

And that’s a template. “Woman”. It’s a template that society creates. Sometimes explicitly, as in various religions or archaic cook books where what a woman does, as enforced by the template, is described in detail.

But I think those are often a cannonization of existing norms.

Humans are social creatures, as a group we do better when we’re together. Looking after each other, specializing a bit here and there, people who tend to the near, the community and people who roam.

Those roles are all templates, built over time, repeated patterns that prove themselves over and over. Finding those patterns is a key way our brain has been optimized. There’s significant advantage in that pattern matching.

I don’t know if there’s something about scale that … let me back up.

I am making a lot of assertions. None of them have been validated. Sourced objection to any is welcome, it takes a village afterall. Opinion shared in the interests of exploration is welcome, but I’m not here to convince anyone or be convinced by anyone.

These templates stabilize over time, and can stagnate. They are the status quo, and therefore they are taught implicitly as well as explicitly. Deviating from the status quo often has real risks. We’re taught to avoid intense heat because it damages our bodies. That’s a good template to follow!

I think that the scale of our societies enforces these templates, and I think most of the 20th century in the society I inhabit (southwestern ontario from 1977 on) has held these templates to be Universal Constants, like Gravity and the Speed of Light. They aren’t.

Gravity is measurable. Manliness isn’t. Morality isn’t. A good life is not.

Capitalism is a specific artificial construct and it claims that money is a universal constant, and that morality and success and a good life are measured by it. These things are not true.

Ability is a social construct. There’s a template of “able bodied person”. Ability is measured in a capitalist society by one’s productivity. If you can not earn enough money to feed yourself, you are not able.

That’s a tough assertion to support all on its own and I’m too ignorant of the details to bring it home. I’m past things I’ve read at some time or another and deep into the reality I’ve knitted together for myself.

I think it’s grounded in truth, but it’s reasonable to say there are other measures, but that’s not entirely where I’m trying to go here either so I’m going to leave it as a very big gap in my understanding, to be explored more soon.

Humans modify our physical environments to suit our needs. At an individual scale the impact those changes have is minimal, and if we are the ones modifying our environments then we can modify them for specific needs.

At scale the indivdual is lost and the modifications are made to suit the templates. At scale, the templates are believed to be fact, and deviation from those templates is punished. Directly, with explicit commands to behave in certain ways, and indirectly with incentivizations like the ability to acquire and keep a job to buy food.

These templates, these social constructs are not constants. I’ve seen people say they aren’t real. They aren’t real measurable force, but they have a real impact. The reason to call them unreal is to help us recognize that they are variable. Ultimate, to recognize that we are the ones who impose them on ourselves.

The consequence of not conforming to those templates is real. People get attacked. Verbally, physically, emotionally, for not conforming to those templates. People who don’t conform to those templates are held up as examples of wrongdoing, of deviance, of otherness.

These templates are what we consider normal. If we deviate from them physically in such a way that we are not able to conform - we are physically unable to use our legs in certain ways, unable to process sound waves, have a small lesion in our basal ganglia (perhaps) that makes it impossible to process non-verbal forms of communication - we are disabled.

This is all social model of disability stuff, obvious I think if you’ve encountered the concept before and obvious I think as well why it’s on my mind, with the context that the formal report confirming my autism and documenting some of the ways it has impacted my life.

My autism doesn’t disable me, society does. I conform to the vast majority of templates enforced by my society. I am white. I am biologically male and have learned to perform manliness sufficiently, most of the time. I have extremely valuable skills which capitalism lauds and rewards me for. As far as disability goes I’m still playing on easy mode and since I have financial privelege I was able to pay someone to help me understand how my brain works which believe you me is an extraordinary privilege.

I don’t know what impact knowledge of my disability is going to have, but I’m pretty sure because of how well I fit those templates I’m going to be lauded for it. And I know that because of how well I fit those templates I need to work harder to help the people who don’t. I’ve only just learned about it myself and have started sharing it, broadcasting it really, but I’m still isolated.

It won’t have meaningful impact on my employment, at least until my age also becomes an issue, and since I’m a white man with unique skills even that’s going to happen a lot later to me than it will to others.