Tag Archives: politics

Politics: if you don’t care now, when will you?

The more I watch the news or see people talking about politics on Twitter the more frustrated I feel. That’s not just a reaction to Brexit, Trump etc., it’s down to the reporting, or the tone of the conversation itself. I am sure if you are from the UK you are more than aware of the actions of our government over the past eight years: austerity, cuts, changes to the benefits system, sanctions for the sick and disabled and cuts to social care. There have been studies done linking the government’s actions to tens of thousands more deaths than would be expected over any other eight year period.

https://fullfact.org/health/austerity-120000-unnecessary-deaths/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIq72awYrg3gIVGYbVCh05WgumEAAYASAAEgJHifD_BwE

And you don’t have to look far online to find stories talking about the rise in crime, and the cuts in police funding, the changes to benefits that lead to disabled people not being able to leave their homes or afford food, the rise in food banks, and the fact that more working people are having to use food banks due to delays in getting their benefits of up to 12 weeks after being put on universal credit.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/food-bank-uk-benefits-trussell-trust-cost-of-living-highest-rate-a8317001.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/06/universal-credit-surge-in-food-bank-use-trussell-trust

Over the past two years we have seen the UN issue a report that strongly condemns the UK governments treatment of disabled people this has lead to people saying the UK is going backwards in its treatment of disabled people.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/un-disabled-rights-uk-government-denounced-criticised-united-nations-austerity-policies-a7923006.html

There have also been reports of a humanitarian crisis in the NHS with patients being left for hours, and sometimes days on corridors without treatment.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/06/nhs-faces-humanitarian-crisis-rising-demand-british-red-cross

Just last week UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston reported on the scale of poverty in the UK, being very clear a large part of the poverty he was seeing is a result of the governments cruel and unnecessary policies, and that if they wished to they could end those policies overnight, and improve the lives of millions.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46236642

In short it’s pretty clear to anyone looking in from the outside, or anyone living here who wants to see it, that in the past eight years the Tories have brought in a raft of totally unnecessary polices and cuts that have brought misery, and in some cases even death, to the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. We have seen the impact of cuts across the country: domestic abuse centres have closed down leaving abused women and their children with nowhere to go, the sharp rise in food banks and the use of those food banks by people in work, cuts in mental health care that leave those in need with little or no help, cuts to benefits that leave disabled people unable to leave their homes or afford the help that they need to live a decent and dignified life.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/30/disabled-readers-austerity-disability-cuts

There are benefit cuts linked to suicides, and a rise in mental health issues among claimants.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/15/exclusive-new-study-links-universal-credit-to-increased-suicide-risk

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/universal-credit-benefit-mum-suicide-14544736 )

Cuts to the NHS, increasing privatisation, a hostile environment for disabled people and immigrants, the Windrush scandal, the list goes on and on.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43726976

And the steep increase in homelessness since 2010.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/27/universal-credit-fuels-homeless-crisis )

Every day you can see the misery this government is inflicting on its people, and you can see the lack of care, and the targeting of the most vulnerable. People who lived through the Thatcher years of the 1980s say that this is worse, and that it’s getting worse year on year. And yet even though you can see this with your own eyes it’s not always the sense you get when seeing people talk online, or watching the news. It’s not that they never speak about these things on the BBC, but there is no thread. There might be a piece one week that runs for a day about the increase in homelessness, where they will let experts say that government cuts and changes to benefits are driving the numbers up, and the next week there might be an segment on care homes that are having to close down due to lack of funding, but these things hardly ever run for more than a day, and never feel like a part of the same story. There is always someone from the government there to brush them off, and they are never linked. But in fact they are clearly part of the same story; if you are talking about cuts to policing then how can you not also link that to a story about cuts to mental health services by the same government? They clearly connect and are part of a bigger, overall story. Yet every crisis is reported on its own, as if they are all unconnected and just happen to be going on at the same time. The government is never challenged on them all at once, instead they are asked about each one on its own. The debate is broken up in to multiple debates, so the question will be asked “Can we really blame the government for X? or Y? or Z?” And not “Why has X,Y,Z and a dozen other things happened under the same government, at the same time?” This takes away from the real issue – the fact that this government has systematically made the lives of the sick, the poor, and the disabled worse with every new policy.

There is also the fact that whenever you see, or read a report on one of the issues mentioned above the government is given a chance to reply within the story. Now that’s not what I take issue with – my issue is the fact that the reply is always tacked on to the end of the story. Instead it should be looked at, checked against the facts, and talked about within the story. Let’s think about something else for a moment, say the anti-vax movement. We all know vaccines don’t cause autism, that’s just a fact. So if you run a story about that you don’t need to go and find someone who rants on Facebook about vaccines leading to autism, and give them a platform. You can find what they say and break down why it’s wrong, but you don’t need to make them sound legitimate. But if a story runs about how universal credit can lead to people having to use food banks, and you talk to people who say “I am using a food bank due to being put on universal credit.” and you talk to people who run food banks who show you the logs they have of all the people who have come to them after being put on universal credit, then just having someone from the government comment something along the lines of “That’s not true in fact we help….” is not very useful. It makes it look as if just saying “Nope” in the face of facts is a legitimate way of arguing a point. The government can say no if they want, but the point should be made that the facts are there, and they are just acting as if they are not instead of addressing the issue. Facts have to mean something. It’s fine to get the governments response to stories, but if they flat-out lie, try and tell you facts are not facts, or twist things up in a way that can be shown and proved, then it’s your duty as a journalist to show that, not just print what they say and leave it up to the public.

But talking of the public they also have a roll to play in this. Often I hear people saying things like “Things are bad, but you cant blame the government.” or “All politicians are the same.” To say things like this is both to turn your back on facts, and to absolve yourself of any responsibility. If it’s not the governments fault, and if every party is the same why do you need to vote? Why do you need to keep up to date with what’s going on? Why do you need to care if you can have no impact? Being cynical is an easy way out. To care is hard, to want to change things is hard, and to put your trust in a political party is hard. But here’s the thing, not all parties and all politicians are the same – if you ever hear anyone say that you know for a fact they don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

But even those who do have some understanding of politics and do care can frustrate me. The bottom line here is that the government we have is genuinely awful, the country is suffering, you can see the spread of misery and poverty. When I see people on Twitter saying things like “I hate the Conservatives, but I don’t think I can vote for Labour if they do/don’t do…” I just don’t know what to say. I am not someone who thinks the Labour party in any form is perfect. I can recall how angry I was over the Iraq war as a child, and there have been plenty of times I have disliked something Jeremy Corbyn has done, but at no point have I felt Labour under Corbyn would be anything you could even compare to the Tory government.

In politics in the UK you realistically get two options, then unless something dramatic happens you have to wait fives years to be given a chance to change the government you end up with. You don’t get the time to wait for the perfect party, the party that ticks all your boxes and leaves you with zero worries. No one ever gets that, you are not special so you don’t get it either.

If you can see the government we have now, see what the options are and say “Well yes this government is doing all that awful stuff, and a Labour government would not be anywhere near as bad but still….” then I think you have to take a good look at yourself. Voting is not about making yourself feel good, it’s about doing something for the good of the country as a whole. You might not love who you are voting for, but if you know they will do less harm to people than the party in power right now that’s all that should count. Right now the main focus has to be on getting the Conservatives out of power, and Labour is our best option for that. I like Corbyn, but while you might not you still have to admit that he would not proactively target the weakest and most vulnerable in society like the Tories have been doing. I have no problem with people taking issue with things Corbyn and Labour do, now or if they ever get in to power, as I say I do this myself. But what I do have an issue with is people acting as if they can in anyway be compared to the brutal, and targeted cruelty of a Tory government. Politics is not about perfection, it’s about doing the best you can for those who need it the most. This goes for politicians, but also the public; think about all the pain that comes with a Tory government, and then think about if your issue with Labour is really that big.

Over all what I am trying to say is that we need to be honest with ourselves about how things are. When you see things on the news or read about them on Twitter try and think, why are they happening? Who has the power to stop them? And what’s the common thread? The rise in food banks, homelessness, child poverty, cuts to the NHS, a crisis in mental health and social care services, cuts to the policing budget, benefit cuts resulting in suicides, ill health and homelessness, the demonization of the disabled and immigrants, schools unable to afford basic equipment, cuts to SEND services and a myriad of other cruel policies. These things might be reported out of context, as if one day they just happened and no one can tell why, but that’s not true. The truth is that they are all results of deliberate acts by the Conservative party. We live in an age that will be looked back on with sadness, and incomprehension by those lucky enough to have been born too late to live through it, in years to come. They will feel anger and sadness looking back the same way people my age look back on the Thatcher years. The truth is if you’re not angry now, if you’re not passionate now, then you never will be. If now is not the time you stand up, look at what is happening and say No, say I am better than this, I am more humane than this, then you will never do so. What is happening now is not accidental, it’s not unavoidable, and it’s not right. If you do not speak up, and speak out now then when will you?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Are autistic people at a greater risk of being radicalised?: My response.

A few days ago an article was published in the Daily Mail in which Clare Allely, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Salford, stated that she thought autistic people might be at more risk of being radicalised and explained why she thought that was. I will cover some of the points made in the piece and talk about why I disagree with the article itself, but it might be worth you having a read of it before or after reading what I have to say about it. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4633128/Autistic-people-risk-radicalised.html

Let’s start with the opening lines. First of all the article talks about people with `traits` of autism. Right from the start this is vague, and unhelpful language. If you know anything about autism then you know that you are either autistic or you are not. You can’t have people with `traits` of autism, but what you can have is people who act in a way that is stereotypically thought of as autistic. What I mean by this is people who would be classed as `loners`; those people who do not have a lot of friends and tend to spend most of their time on their own in their rooms. Yes some autistic people might be like that, but this in itself is not a sign of autism.

The article then goes on to explain what terrorism is, and that the last few years have seen a rise in so called `lone-wolf` attacks where an individual commits an act of violence due to being radicalised without necessarily being part of a wider group. It lists the types of terrorist, and then jumps in to explaining how being autistic can make you more likely to participate in terror activities. The aim being to “ ..illustrate how some of the symptoms of ASD can ‘help’ make a pathway towards being inspired to act on behalf of a terrorist cause, join a terrorist organisation, engage in directed attacks – or indeed carry out lone wolf terrorism.”


Now where to start with this? First off there are no `symptoms` of autism – autism is not a disease. This might sound like a small point in the wider scope of the article, but when as an autistic person you hear words like `traits` or `symptoms` being thrown around it’s hard for you to take anything else that is being said seriously.

Then we have the so-called `symptoms` themselves; the things that apparently make autistic people more likely to go out and murder innocent people. The article makes the point that autistic people can often be lonely and isolated and feel a need to belong, as well as having a tendency to hyper-focus, which if they focus on the wrong thing can lead to an obsession. Let’s break these down, starting with the last. Yes autistic people often, but not always do have a special interest or more than one, and often we do dedicate a lot of time to said interest. But why would taking an interest in something lead to a loss of feeling or a desire to kill? I know a lot of non-autistic people with a keen interest in serial killers: they know all the names, read books on them and watch hours upon hours of TV about them. But this in no way means they want to hurt anyone let alone kill them. It means they have an interest in a dark subject. Of course this is different from looking up terrorist videos online, but my point is – autistic or not – having an interest in people who do bad things does not mean a loss of all human feeling, or a desire to go out and replicate the things read about. Autistic people are making the point more and more that special interests can be, and often are a good thing, and most of the time if they are not positive per say, they at least are not negative. But too often they are still talked about by professionals as `obsessions` and treated like something that at best should be tolerated, but never embraced. Linking them to an interest in terrorism and acting as if they can be the first step on a path to murder is hardly helping autistic people fight the old and out-dated negative image of autism itself, and special interests in particular.

What about the issues of autistic people being lonely and isolated?

It is true that some autistic people can find themselves in this situation. I have spoken to, and know many autistic people who do most of their communicating via their computer as they find it hard to go out and interact with people face to face. I myself don’t go out and socialize much, and I never have.

I understand the underlying idea that if you find yourself alone, and not fitting in you can end up falling in with a `bad crowd` so to speak. You can end up changing yourself to fit in with the people around you, whether you’re autistic or not. But again making the jump from that to someone being willing to kill people, and then die themselves just to gain a bit of respect from someone on the internet seems a bit far-fetched to say the least.

In fact autistic people from what I have seen (and I don’t have statistics, I am just going off the hundreds of autistic people I have spoken to, or read about) seem much more likely to hurt themselves when they sink in to the depths of loneliness. Depression can set in and people can turn to self-medicating with drugs, drink or self harm as can non-autistic people. Again I am not saying this is the case for all autistic people, but it is much much more likely than someone planning to deal with their loneliness by committing murder.

The article has no weight to it whatsoever. It says that because autistic people can be lonely and need to fit in they are more likely to become terrorists, and yet all it offers us to back that up is two cases of autistic people becoming terrorists. I don’t for one second dispute the fact that there will be autistic terrorists as I feel that there are autistic people in every walk of life – both good and bad. But to make the headline-grabbing claim that autistic people are more likely to be radicalised is just foolish and lazy writing.

But it’s not just lazy.

To make the jump from saying some autistic people might be lonely and looking to fit in, to them being willing to go out and commit murder is a strange jump. I worry that the only real way to make such a jump is to accept the defunct idea that autistic people don’t feel empathy. This is an idea you still see pushed by professionals in some places despite it being outdated and wrong. Autistic people sometimes do find it hard to express how they feel, or even understand it themselves, but that’s not the same as not valuing human life, and being willing to take it. In fact lots of autistic people are overly emphatic, and are profoundly affected by what they see on the news. This might not always be visible, or even understood by the autistic person themselves (it might just come out in a sudden bad/low mood).

Autistic people have been fighting to get rid of the idea that we are unfeeling and cold-hearted for years, and saying that we are more likely than non-autistic people to become involved in terror is not helping that fight at all.

But it is nothing new; each time there is a school/college shooting in the USA what is one of the first things we hear? The shooter was `kind of a loner`, and then within hours that changes to `perhaps autistic?`. Why? Because he spent a lot of time alone and was `weird`, and apparently that’s all you need to be to be classed as autistic. It’s just something else that makes the killer `other`. In the shock people cast around for something, anything to help themselves make sense of the senseless violence. And they light upon the idea of autism. Autism is different. Not all children are like this so what are people meant to think when they hear that “ if your child’s class has an autistic kid in it, he is the most likely one here to start shooting”. That might not be what’s said, but if you hear autism talked about in the wake of each and every shooting it’s what people start to think. I know of one case where a mass shooter has been autistic (not saying there is just one, just that’s the one I know about) but I know of a lot more where autism has been talked about despite the killer being dead and undiagnosed.

Autism has nothing whatsoever to do with violence. And yet we keep hearing it spoken about as part of the motivation for killers. If we start hearing it talked about each time there is a terrorist attack, to where could this lead? At best it will lead to a more negative and fearful view of autism and autistic people – putting the public image of autism back years, and undoing a lot of the good work done by autistic people to promote a more positive, and realistic view of autism.

At worst it could lead to the public viewing autistic people as a danger, and autistic people suffering because of this. We have seen Muslims being attacked due to the idea promoted by some of the media that they are `all terrorists`, or `sympathise with terror`. It might seem like a jump to imagine the same thing happening to autistic people down the line, but there is already an idea in the media that we are dangerous due to the constant linking of autism and shootings. If the same starts to happen with terror attacks then given the current climate, and desire to place blame, it would not be wholly unlikely to see autistic people being shunned, or even attacked.

Also, without wanting to turn this in to a personal attack, I do find it worrying that the writer of this article teaches the next generation of psychologists. When you see a point being made in the national press with so little weight to it, that can cause so much harm to the people it talks about, you do worry about the fact that the next generation of professionals might believe it, and have the ideas generated by such stories in the back of their minds when working with autistic people.

The article claims that it is going to offer advice on how to help autistic people avoid being radicalised. This is apparently the justification for writing about such a topic. But in fact the article hardly says a word about how to stop this supposed problem. It simply makes a lot of wild claims, talks up the idea, and then ends. It is not as if this is a real documented problem and the article is there to provide help. In fact the article expressly states that there is no evidence for the claims that it makes and the research in to autism and radicalisation is `in it`s infancy`. Given that this is explicitly stated toward the begining of the article it seems even stranger that towards the end there is a call for all terrorist suspects to be assessed for autism. It is highly irresponsible to make a call for action as big as this while at the same admitting you have no hard evidence to back up the claims that this call for action is based on.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be vulnerable to ISIS propaganda

  • Autistic people are more isolated and lonely and so may be easier to target
  • Their obsessive and compulsive tendencies could also put them at a higher risk
  • Findings suggest people involved with terrorism should be evaluated for ASD

    So if people with ASD could be at higher risk, how can we protect them from falling under the spell of terror organisations such as the so-called Islamic State?

I know this blog is a few days late in responding to the article, and some of you might feel that I should have ignored it instead of drawing more attention to it, but as I have tried to make clear I do not feel that the article is the whole of the problem. I feel it is part of a wider issue where autism is linked to violence, and autistic people are demonized. And once a group of people are demonized it changes the way society views them, and leaves them vulnerable to abuse and even physical attacks. Autistic people are misunderstood, and vulnerable enough as it is.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Why politics can be life or death for disabled people ….

(Note: I should have written and published this before the election, but I think it`s worth putting out now. One because the result is still not fully confirmed yet, but also because it will still be relevant for other elections, or just to help people get a sense of what is going on in this country.)

Some people are happy to let politics pass them by. They turn off the news and skim past links on Twitter, acting as if it has nothing to do with them. “Its boring” they say, or even worse they make the close to unforgivable statement that “None of it matters anyway”. It should be clear to anyone reading this how silly such a statement is, and I wish that I could just say “On their own heads be it” and leave them to their ignorance, but the truth is the consequences of such ignorance falls on all our heads. Politics underpins everything in life, so by all means if you have no interest in how much tax you pay, the cost of what you buy, the state and price of your healthcare, education, the emergency services, terrorism, poverty, civil and equal rights, crime, homelessness, war or the environment, then feel free to take no interest in politics.

But if you do care about any of those things then you already have a vested interest in politics. This means you can`t just sit back and ignore what’s going on in front of you in the political world. It means that you understand that what you see on the news will have an impact in your real life. There are some groups of people who can see, and feel this more than others.

If like me you are disabled/autistic, and have lived for the past seven years under the Conservative government, you won`t have been able to avoid seeing the devastating real-life impact of their policies. I could sit here and list the atrocities committed by this government, and the coalition before it – and perhaps I will do so in another blog – but for now I want to talk a bit more about what it feels like to watch the fight for number 10 unfold in front of your eyes knowing the very human cost that losing this fight could bring. I will touch on the destructive policies of the Conservative government, but if you want to know more I suggest following these links. ( https://www.theguardian.com/profile/frances-ryan

The Conservatives have launched a two-pronged attack on disabled people, both cutting our benefits, and also cutting the budgets of local services set up to help disabled people. There are people with mobility issues who have to drag themselves around on their own floors because they are no longer able to get carers to come in, and help them to care for themselves. Some people find themselves confined to their homes as they have their mobility benefits taken off them, or find that they are no longer entitled to the modified cars they depended on to get out and about. Disabled people who are unable to work are having their benefits cut to the point where they can no longer feed themselves, let alone pay for care. It`s not going too far to say that disabled people in England in 2017 are treated as less than human by their government.

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The welfare state is being butchered in front of our very eyes, and the cleaver falls first on those least able to defend themselves from its blows. There have been hundreds of suicides linked to cuts in benefits. Think about it; if you need X amount of money to live and you find that money cut, cut and cut again it`s not hard to see what the outcome is. You can`t pay for your care, you have to face the daily struggle of just trying to stay alive, only now you have the Conservative government blocking your attempts. It`s not hard to see how people are driven to, and past the point of giving up all hope. And its not as if disabled people are not speaking out about this. On the BBC`s Victoria Derbyshire show a disabled woman named Fiona confronted Dominic Raab M.P. about these very issues. She told him of people she knew who had been driven to the point of taking their own lives by the harsh cuts to disability benefits. Raab said it was childish. He was recently promoted to the roll of Justice Minister.

Fiona summed it up when she said “This election is life or death for us.” Disabled people don’t get to ignore politics any more, we don’t get the chance to pretend it does not impact on us. We can see the levels of humiliation, degradation and death caused by the Conservatives and their heartless, soulless, brutal brand of politics. We can`t just flick the T.V. off and stop thinking about this. We are watching the election, and its outcome knowing that if the Conservatives remain in power real people will die as a direct result of their actions. Some people will be watching events unfolding, knowing that the chances of them surviving five more years of life under the Conservatives are slim at best.

It must be nice to be able to exist in a state of blissful ignorance; a world where the savage reality of cuts to the most vulnerable, and the levels of suffering that they produce do not exist, or do not matter. But some of us can`t live in that state of ignorance. We know that the fight against the Conservatives goes far beyond a clash over political view points, and for some disabled people it is a fight for dignity, for the right to be treated like a human being, and for life itself.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762