The lives we kill

“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.” (Stephen Hawking from an interview with Ken Campbell on the 1995 show “Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken”)

Brainwashing is something that happens to all of us. Often we are brainwashed to the point of blindness. Letting go is immensely difficult. My religious beliefs, cultural beliefs and common-sense beliefs have all needed pruning. In the Mormon church members are taught that humans may one day become as gods, creating worlds of our own. Culture taught me that humans have a Right to nature. From common-sense lessons, I learned that humans were much more intelligent and complex than other living creatures. One after the other, these flawed and dangerous beliefs have been revised.

Letting go of the idea of my own importance was intimidating at first. I had to defy the advice of Mormon leaders to NOT seek outside sources. Ready access to information on the net made that possible for me. Today information is accessible to a degree I can barely comprehend. Some of it is garbage, but much information on the net is verifiable and valid. Learning Truth has been amazing, beautiful, freeing and mind-opening.

Now. Now I believe that I have no more or less right to exist than any other living creature. By life, I mean any collection of atoms that enables a creature to consume another. Everything from single-celled life to the collection of cells, bacteria and fungi that make up my body. My cells are no more significant than other cells that exist. Except to me, that is, and a very small circle of family and friends. Understanding that plants have their own form of communication and discoveries about other animals‘ helped me realize that intelligence, as humans define it, isn’t a valid definition for all life-forms. After all, we humans seem to happily destroys vital life-sources for short-term gains, and that seems pretty stupid to me.

Right now, in North Dakota, the US Government is deciding whether it will break another treaty with Native Americans. The Dakota Access Pipeline will trek across vital food and water sources. We shall see how corrupt the judge making the decision is. Wars (conflicts) about water are likely to become more common as clean water becomes scarcer. At times it feels as though the only reason countries, organizations or communities go war is short-term gain, yet long-term consequences for current life may be dire. Western culture pollutes to an unprecedented degree. Air-pollutants, water-pollutants, land-pollutants and light-pollutants are all a symbol of our consumer-addicted economies. Humans are committing species’ suicide and ecological murder. Most of us probably don’t even care. Empathy for future generations and other life-forms is sadly lacking in our evolutionary development. In more than one way, Hawking’s description of humans as self-important “chemical scum” seems fitting.

Malawi: Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe changes women’s lives

Equality matters. Unwritten sanctions against people who speak openly about bodily functions, especially female body functions, seem to exist everywhere. Menstruation is one of these topics. Sanctions against menstruating women are many. Young girls still get their first monthly bleeding without knowing what is happening. We are expected to hide the fact that we menstruate and must make as little fuss as possible. Menstrual products (reuseable pads, disposable pad, cups, tampons, ets.) are expensive. In many countries there is no access to menstrual products. Women must use rags that leak and are forbidden, by unwritten rules, to wash and hang their rags where they can be seen. Girls stay home from school because they bleed through their rags or there is no access to a toilet. Both genders enforce this form of discrimination and body-shaming. However, some women (and men) take steps to make life better for menstruating women. Especially poor countries struggle with access to menstrual products. Malawi is a place where a month’s supply of disposable pads may cost up to two days salary.  Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe’s reuseable pads can make a huge difference in the lives of women.

Easing the menstrual woes

Brenda Twea | May 22, 2016

Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health. It is the natural monthly occurrence in healthy adolescent girls and pre-menopausal adult women. The onset can occur anytime between the ages of eight and 16, resulting in about 3 000 days of menstruation in an average woman’s lifetime.

In addition to persisting taboos, women and girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by a number of other factors, including limited access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options leaving many to manage their periods in ineffective, uncomfortable and unhygienic ways.

Very often, women and girls miss school and productive work days and fall behind their male counterparts, because of practical needs such as water and space for washing and cleaning the body, material for absorbing menstrual blood and facilities for proper disposal of used materials.

Example of Ms. Mhango-Kunashe’s reuseable menstrual pads. Credit MW Nation€€

Menstrual hygiene and management can be essential in ensuring that one’s everyday life is not interrupted by menstruation. A College of Medicine research scientist and project coordinator for Global Early Adolescent Study, Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe is producing reusable sanitary pads.

“I sew reusable, washable sanitary pads made out of cloth. They can last for two years. This is a low cost alternative, a once off purchase which a girl could use for 24 times or more,” says Kunashe.

Tinapads, as they are called, are made of three types of fabric; flannel, toweling and water proof material. The pattern has wings which are snapped with press buttons to wrap it properly and comfortably on the underwear. “This will ensure that a girl stays in school all year round. If she is absent then menstruation management problem will not be the reason for her absenteeism,” she says.

Kunashe adds that she came up with this innovation after noting that girls usually stay home from school for days due to lack of proper and dignified sanitary materials. She notes that this affects their class work, and translates into poor performances and rises in school dropout rates.

“Our objectives are to reduce absenteeism rates caused by lack of sanitary products, keep girls in school, motivate them to stay in school, break the silence around menstruation and expose girls to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) because our distribution will go along with three sessions on body development, body feelings and changes and how to cope with that,” she says.

Kunashe says it will be a pack of nine sanitary pads, down from the initial 10. The number was reduced in order to bring down the cost.

“In the pack of nine, three will be used on day one, three on day two; and two on day three and the remaining one on day four. The target is for the pads to be used once a month so that when they are washed, they should not be used again until the following month. As such, they will last longer. …”

The rest of the article may be read at The Nation

“Funny Numbers” with Robert Osserman, Steve Martin and Robin Williams

A goal of The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at University of California, Berkeley, is to communicate its love for mathematics and the mathematical sciences. Professor Robert Osserman (1926-2011) held a series public conversations on how cultural matters relate to mathematics. One of those conversations, entitled “Funny Numbers”, was with Steve Martin (actor, play-writer, author and musician). The San Fransisco Chronicle’s Jonathan Curiel described the December 15, 2002 event as

“Martin taking out a banjo and playing the instrument like a country music star; Osserman saying some things as wittily as his famous guest; and — halfway through — Robin Williams suddenly walking onstage, where he bantered, imitated, cajoled and gesticulated (about math, Trent Lott, French people, etc. ) as only Robin Williams can do.”

I laughed. Three incredibly intelligent people playing with conversation, Osserman helpless with laughter at times, held the public in the palms of their hands.

 

Assigning gender and “experts”

From Hverdagstoy
From Hverdagstoy

My daughter is a woman, yet was assigned male at birth. She has given permission to tell this part of her life.

Here in Norway, even now, anything that does not involve penis-hatred, makes you a person who is not a true transgender. Until the law is changed (in the works) a person cannot legally change their gender without a full surgical change of every single gender identifying body-part. That also goes for intersex people. (This law was changed July 2016 and you no longer need a physical transition for change of legal gender) In addition, hormone treatment cannot start at the onset of puberty – even to delay puberty. Unless, you get the diagnose “F.64.0 transseksualisme” at Rikshospitalet, you will be referred to psychological services instead. So people lie about how much they abhor their bodies. Without dysphoria, no treatment.

Through most of her life my daughter has presented as female. From she was about five years old she grew her hair out. It stayed long until a hair-dresser took it into her hands to cut it off. Never went back there again. When she was about ten years old, she came to me and very clearly told me she no longer wanted to be a boy. We sat down, talked about it and figured out exactly what she meant. I said I would see what information I could find and if there was a place we could turn for help.

I called around and said something like, “I have a daughter who is experiencing …… Is there any person there who can help her.” Norway is a small country (5 mill) and our access to specialists on gender in children is small. One place that is supposed to provide such expertise is Institutt for klinisk sexologi og terapi. Its founder is considered one of Norway’s foremost experts on sexuality. His name is Thore Langfeldt. This is the person we went to, and we thought we were in safe hands.

The short and simple of this acquaintance was that Sophia needed to work through her bullying and all would be well. By “well” it was understood that Sophia would be comfortable being a boy. I am Aspergers. Eleven years ago I was leaving Mormonism and had no clue about what gender really was. I’d always (and still do) presented as non-conformative as female. The idea of gender has confused me for as far back as I can remember. Some people call that gender queer. Me, I call it me. All three factors led me to accept Langfeldt’s verdict, and Sophia’s went through many years of unnecessary identity-struggles.

How life would have been for her, if Langfeldt had listened better and been a bit wiser is impossible to say. Perhaps better. Perhaps worse. Prejudice exists everywhere. What we can know is what did happen. Because Sophia was female in all but clothing (we aren’t exactly very fashion/gender-conscious) the boys would not accept her. But neither would the girls. All because of an initial. Things got dark in periods. Suicide was often thought of and planned by Sophia. During a two-year period she even tried presenting as male. All of the symptoms of depression were there.

Finally, the autumn of 2014, Norwegian TV2 showed a documentary series called “Født i feil kropp“. She once again went to Langfeldt who claimed she was “just gay” and to not tell us. Sophia knew she was very much into women. Thankfully, she found a better shrink. One who claimed that she was one of the most obvious cases of trans-woman that he had met. She told us. No problem. Here she is, one year after starting hormone treatment, and her hormone levels are well within female levels. She looks, sounds and behaves more like the world views women than I do.

Equal rights

Often when I use the words “equal rights”, there is an assumption that I am going to say something negative about men. Granted, there are a few men out there I would like to rant and rage against, #Drumph being the most obvious one at this time. However, equal rights means equal rights: that whoever/whatever I choose to fight for gets to have the same rights I would accord, if I could, to any person I like. I have chosen to fight for equal rights for people and animals. I do that one post, one individual, one conversation, one mail at a time. A militant attitude towards any kind of life doesn’t work for me. My Aspie mind becomes confused at the rhetoric that often lacks logic and has a one-sided view of the world.

I might have been that militant some years ago. Aspies are probably more susceptible to being manipulated into that kind of thinking. At least I am. But once I confronted my own deep-held beliefs about many topics (yes, including religion), I discovered I had been wrong. Admitting to being wrong sucks royally. But once I understood the psychological processes involved, it somehow became easier. Now I know that most of my understanding, opinions and knowledge is flawed. I also know that is true for the rest of the world. So, I seek to inform myself. For each new understanding, I see that there is so much more I do not understand. I guess that is kind of a dream condition for my type of Aspie. Digging into information and understanding the human mind is a need for me. Understanding the human mind is my “interest”, insofar as Aspies have special “interests”.

Poverty is an area of the human condition I would like to see reduced, even if that means I must give up something. Cause that is what equal rights is all about. The have’s (whether it be power or wealth) must share with the have not’s. A thanks to “Max Waller” who shared this youtube video on his Twitter. One part of fighting against poverty means fighting consumerism.

Rosling, Hans and Ola: How Not to be Ignorant About the World

I admit it. Some of my bias has been negative.

Rosling’s world is the present one. Once oceans begin rising, coasts will vanish. Along with the increasing desertification going on and depletion of food in the ocean, these statistics will most likely change quite a bit. Oh, well. Time will show.

Enduring bullying – one of my heroes

This post has been moved from my book-blog to this one

Hans Petter som liten

Man, I’ve re-written this article so many times. Who knew something like this could be so difficult.

My little brother. The baby of the family. A baby who is 195 cms worth of length. I think that translates to about 6’4″ for those of you who have not yet advanced to the metric system.

We go back a long way. In fact all the way back to the time when I was about 6,5 years old. I have no memory of him being born. In fact I have very few memories of him as a very small child other than the fact that he was really cute, I wanted to bite the top of his head and we would swing him between us down the long hill from church. He loved that.

My memories of my youngest brother do not really amount to much until the time our family moved to the US. He was around 7 years old at that time and his life was about to get really tough.

You know how some kids take to bullying like ducklings take to water. Well my baby brother had the great misfortune of meeting up with some of those kids. As a seven-year old boy my brother had three things that made him stand out. The first was that he was a gentle kid (he is now a gentle man) who did his best to avoid trouble. The second was that his English was poor due to us just arriving in the US. Finally, he has dyslexia. Three gifts for a bullier. Some kids and their parents I just want to beat to a pulp.

Five years of hell ensued. How did he respond to the bullying? For one thing he never changed from being a gentle person. He just wouldn’t give in and give up. He was fiercely protective of those he loved. At one time he even took on another kid for something that kid said to me. I didn’t stop the fight. In fact I figured it would probably give him credit with the other kids. But that was and is the kind of brave person he is. If someone he loves is being hurt, he will do his best to protect that person even if it means getting hurt himself.

It’s one thing to do something like that if you are good at it – whether you fight with words or physically. But my brother has never been one who has quick come-backs or been a good fighter. Granted, all he has to do is sit on you now and he’ll probably win, but still. Fighting with words and body has never been his strength. He has paid for that a great many times.

Why would that make him my hero? It’s all about love. His love for people is so great that he is willing to risk himself (and he knows he is risking himself) for them so they might hurt less.

Shakespeare, William: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1600)

Artist: Bill Watterson
Artist: Bill Watterson

Once upon a time I attended High School. English Literature was one of my classes. We were told to memorize something from The Tragedy of Hamlet and present it to the class. I chose this soliloquy by Hamlet. Even though I was not alone in reciting that day – and we got to stay at our desks – I was terrified. But I survived.

The feeling inside my mouth and head when I say the words out loud is amazing.

From: Act III, Scene 1: Elsinore. A room in the Castle.
Enter Hamlet.

  • Hamlet. To be, or not to be- that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d. To die- to sleep.
    To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub!
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
    Must give us pause. There’s the respect
    That makes calamity of so long life.
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
    The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
    The insolence of office, and the spurns
    That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his quietus make
    With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,
    To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
    But that the dread of something after death-
    The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
    No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    And enterprises of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry
    And lose the name of action.- Soft you now!
    The fair Ophelia!- Nymph, in thy orisons
    Be all my sins rememb’red.

College Humor: If Jurassic Park Were In Different Geological Eras

“If Jurassic Park Were In Different Geological Eras” – Let’s just be glad they chose the Jurassic period.”

2015 Jun 22: Asperger’s versus the bullies: eight tips on how to cope

Advice I wish had been given to me in school, at church or by any kind of knowledgeable person when I was a child. I was bullied. A lot of people I know have been bullied. My youngest has been bullied. There are shitty people out there and we need to know how to protect ourselves in a constructive manner:

kennedy1

The story of Kennedy, sadly, is not a unique one.

*****

Kennedy LeRoy, a 16-year-old student from Chino Hills, California, had Asperger Syndrome and suffered from bullying. He was an extremely compassionate young man who loved helping other people. He was famed for being able to sense pain in others and take it away. He felt joy from it.

On 12th June 2015, Kennedy went to his bedroom and took his own life. His parents, who were led to believe that the bullying had ended a long time ago, have been inconsolable. The news articles make painful reading, and the interviews with Mom and Dad physically hurt to watch. His suicide note- spread across social media at his own request- gives some heartbreaking insight into his life’s challenges. Like many people with Asperger’s, he did not just have Asperger’s.

*****

I won’t lie- Kennedy’s story really affected me. And his story illustrates a problem that affects far too many youngsters. According to bullyingstatistics.org, 14% of American high school students have considered suicide, and 7% have attempted it. (In a country with over 300 million people, 7% of all high school students is an unacceptably large number.) I couldn’t find equivalent statistics for the UK, but the NSPCC reports that 45,000 British children talked to Childline about bullying in 2013. Of course, we don’t know how many more bullied children didn’t talk to Childline that year.

And of course, when we talk about bullying-related suicides, we don’t take into account the many teenagers who survive school in the literal sense, but grow up with a far more negative attitude to life than they deserve.

Just so there's no doubt here, if the bullying is "just" verbal, IT IS STILL BULLYING. It was for Kennedy.

Kennedy stated that one reason for his suicide was to raise awareness of the damage that bullying can do, and indirectly stop other people from being bullied. A noble cause, and an idea that came from a wonderful mind… but (and I’m so sorry, Kennedy) the worst way of doing the right thing.

I’ll never claim to know the specifics of his life and depression, except what he wanted the internet to know. But I will say, without any doubt whatsoever, that the world would have been a better place if Kennedy had stayed in it.

*****

But that’s what bullying, depression and anxiety can do to you: they can make you forget how valuable you are, and make you disregard your rightful place in the world. And now Kennedy’s gone, all I can do is help him in his quest to claw something good out of a dreadful tragedy.

So, here’s my attempt.

*****

A few important points before we start:

  • This article is not just for those who feel suicidal. It’s for anyone dealing with bullying or harassment at school.
  • This article is not just for people on the autism spectrum (despite the title). I’d give this advice to anyone. But since I run an autism site, this is how I reach people- autistic or not.
  • I was bullied at school, I grew up with Asperger Syndrome, and I made it to the other side in one piece anyway. The following is mostly a blend of advice I followed, and advice I wish I’d followed.
  • There is a list of good bullying advice pages at the end of the article. Browse these too.

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This is for you, Kennedy- and for all the others.

kennedy2

 

Eight tips on how to cope with bullying

1. Tell someone you trust

There’s a reason I’ve put this one first. It’s extremely important. And I firmly believe that if Kennedy had done this, he would still be alive.

His parents believed him when he said the bullying had been resolved. And they don’t blame the school for missing any signs of bullying, because the signs simply weren’t there. Kennedy had become too good at hiding his depression from the people who loved him. In his own words, “every time someone asked me how my day at school was, I lied straight through my teeth.”

So lesson one- if people love you, let them help.

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First and foremost I’d recommend telling your parents (although there’s a list of alternatives below, for those who don’t have the kind of relationship that would allow it).

Of course, telling your parents can be difficult. Here are the biggest reasons teenagers keep their suffering to themselves.

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Bullies try to shame their victims into keeping silent. Words like ‘tattle-tale’, ‘snitch’ and ‘grass’ were invented to keep good people silent. (Yes, in Britain the word ‘grass’ means snitching. Don’t ask why.)

But think about it- why would bullies invent words to discourage you from telling others? Because they don’t want you telling others.

And why don’t they want you telling others? Because it would be good for you.

So screw them. Tell someone anyway. They don’t deserve your obedience.

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Anxiety issues stop victims from talking. I won’t lie, anxiety’s a bitch. I was ‘lucky’ enough to have it as an adult, and had a head start in learning some life lessons before facing it.

One of the most important life lessons I learned was this: THE BEST WAY OF OVERCOMING SOMETHING YOU’RE AFRAID OF IS BY BEING BRAVE AND DOING IT ANYWAY.

I used to be terrified of speaking to large groups. Later, I became a teacher who did it every day. That wasn’t magic. That was me having the bravery to speak to large groups until I became comfortable with it.

Yes, this is me. Yes, I’m skydiving. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I did it anyway. And no, I’m not afraid of skydiving anymore.
Yes, this is me. Yes, I’m skydiving. Yes, I was scared. Yes, I did it anyway. And no, I’m not afraid of skydiving anymore.

If you’re afraid of telling someone, decide to yourself that you’re going to be brave, sit down with someone you trust and ask them to listen to you. It won’t matter if it takes you an hour to put the words together. If they’re loyal enough for you to put your faith in, they’ll listen.

*****

Victims don’t want loved ones worrying about them. That was me, through and through. I made that decision out of love.

And, looking back, I was wrong.

Why?

Because by not seeking help, I was doing more damage to myself . By trying not to worry people, I was giving them more to worry about.

Because if the situation had been reversed, I’d have wanted to know how to help them.

Because worrying about someone’s an important part of loving them.

Because what’s the point of building up a trusting relationship if you don’t use that trust once in a while?

And finally, because I was taking an opportunity away from people who would have loved to help me. That was its own kind of wrong. ……………………………………………. (stars added by me)

The rest of the article may be found on Autistic Not Weird