I was introduced to something Aida Hurtado calls the Pendejo Game by a friend of mine and wondered how it related to me and my autism:
Trick Number 6: The Pendejo Game
When you, the outsider, come close to subverting my power through the sheer strength of your moral arguments or through organized mass protest, I will give you an audience. I will listen to you, sometimes for the first time, and will seem engaged. At critical points in your analysis I will claim I do not know what you are talking about and will ask you to elaborate ad nauseam. I will consistently subvert your efforts at dialogue by “claiming we do not speak the same language.” I will assert that many of our differences, if not all, are due to our different ways of communicating. I will ask you to educate me and spend your energies in finding ways of saying things so that I can understand. I will not do the same for you. Instead of using your resources to advance your causes, I will see you like a rat in a cage running around trying to find ways to explain the cage to me, while I hold the key to open the door. At the same time, I will convince you that I have no ill intentions toward you or those like you. I am simply not informed. The claim of ignorance is one of my most powerful weapons because, while you spend your time trying to enlighten me, everything remains the same. The “Pendejo Game” will also allow me to gain intimate knowledge of your psyche, which will perfect my understanding of how to dominate you. (Aida Hurtado, 1997)
As someone explained it to me, the person maintaining status quo already knows the answer/solution ahead of time and is using their questions to keep you in your place. They have no intention of listening or letting you share in their power.
It would be fair to say that autists belong to a minority group in society. We are considered atypical, abnormal, deviant, diseased and flawed by the majority. Neurotypicals (or non-autists as I call them) consider themselves the template for how a brain should be. In my case, I also belong to two other minority groups. One is my X-chromosome and the other is my walking and sitting challenge. Growing up in a fundamentalistic church certainly taught me a lot about gender imbalance. Society in general taught me more about the imbalance that follow with being in perceived flawed groups.
Bullying has been one arena where I have been exposed to the Pendejo Game. And that set me to thinking about myself and how I have treated others.
There is this “game” that parents often play with their children when their children are fairly young. This is not a true game, where there is balance, but it is an introduction to power imbalances. The parent has something that the child wants. They ask the child if she/he wants it. Of course, the child tries to communicate their yes. Then the game begins. The parent asks several times in various ways if the child wants and adds a certain tone to their voice. As the questions continue the child becomes frustrated. Once a tipping point is reached and the adult has achieved whatever reaction they wanted the child is given their object of desire.
I cannot remember if I did this to my children. Most likely, I did. In this so-called game, I see the beginnings of learning the Pendejo Game. Bullying carries with it the same sort of painful communication. We have all seen it. Perhaps we have been both victim and perpetrator in our lives. While writing this memories of unpleasant old interactions between fellow pupils drop into my thoughts.
As an adult, I find it more difficult to recognize when someone is using me in their Pendejo Game. Not until afterwards, do I realize that I have been played the fool. My sincerity met their insincerity and lost.
Recognizing when non-autists are being insincere is incredibly difficult. Their emotions are so chaotic. Insincerity seems to be the main ingredient in the Pendejo Game. Insincerity and fear of having to share. Whether or not autistic people are able to feel empathy seems to be one such area that non-autistic people are afraid to share. Why that is, is completely baffling to me.
According to Wikipedia:
Empathy has many different definitions that encompass a broad range of emotional states, including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions; discerning what another person is thinking or feeling; and making less distinct the differences between the self and the other.
It also is the ability to feel and share another person’s emotions.
All of the autists I know seem to have this range of emotions. Speaking for myself (and only for myself) I care deeply about a great deal of people and objects. Because I know how certain emotions feel, I am able to guess how another person might feel. But I also know that I will never be able to put myself in their place, because I am not them. No one is truly able to empathize, we are only able to project and use those projections to our best ability. Then I act – most likely in an unconventional manner, but the person knows that I am trying to be there for them.
Sometimes I feel as though non-autists are the ones who lack empathy. They want autistic people to express their emotions in a manner that fits whatever definition the non-autistic person has created. When that does not happen, we seem to lack empathy. This desire to see autistic people as non-empathetic becomes extremely problematic when so-called experts become stuck in a non-autistic definition of what and how emotions are. Defining the autistic world in this manner does not fit with the definitions of empathy that I have seen.
Repeated questions that seem to do their best to keep me (and other autists) in the mold of atypical, abnormal, deviant, diseased and flawed only serve to prove that the other person somehow sees autistic people as a threat. In answer to those questions, my only alternative ends up being to leave, thereby proving their hypotheses once again. They win.