For those of us on Twitter, there’s been a tag-theme flying around lately, called “IfTheWorldWasBuiltForMe”. If you missed it, or you’re not on Twitter, don’t worry; essentially, people who are “ActuallyAutistic” (another popular and excellent tag) express their (our) opinions about how the world might look, feel, and function if it was built for those of us on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.
I believe this became a semi-trend in response to an excellent post by a talented writer in our own community, who goes by the name of Rhi. In her post, she details many of the various changes one might see if the world was to be made more compatible and livable for those of us on the spectrum.
I’d like to take that concept and examine it from a (microscopically) different angle. In addition to the sensible “wish-list” that Rhi’s post (linked to above) and one of my recent posts on the subject described, we’d probably notice a few other interesting phenomena in a world run or dominated by Aspie/autistic people. (Note: I live in the US, so these may or may not be as much of an issue for those living in other places.) 🙂
I’d like to flip the tables on this 99%-NT-to-1%-spectrum ratio for a minute. What if 99% of the world were on the spectrum and the other 1% fit the current definition of neurotypical? (I know, I know–we’d have to reverse the terms, too; our own spectrum orientation would be considered the New Neurotypical, and the currently-neurotypical would become the New…what? “Spectrum”? Something else? I’m not sure.)
With that aside, let’s explore….what would such an Aspie/autistic person-dominated world look like?
For one thing, the Post Office would be much more efficient! So would pretty much all government and business entities, since everything would probably be a lot more systemized and logical. There’d be none of this “standing in a line that extends out the door while only one of four possible positions is actually staffed” business.
Policies, procedures, and processes would likely make a lot more sense. People wouldn’t have to ask, “why ___?” only to be met with a robotic, “because that’s our policy” (which seems to be a thinly-veiled version of a parent telling a child “because I said so”). Companies with nonsensical policies would be called out and held responsible…very responsible.
Much more could be done online than is currently the case. Ample product/service information would be available online, with complete and comprehensive details, without having to call a phone number or go to a brick-and-mortar store. Web technology would be a lot more stable (i.e., it wouldn’t crash), and secure (i.e., minimal–if any–hacker/scam risk).
The words “customer service” would mean just that; serving the customer. Customer service representatives would be trained to be straightforward (that is, without “PR/corporate” mumbo-jumbo), effective (in that they’d actually solve the problem, paying meticulous attention to detail as they did so), and they’d actually be responsive and supportive. Oh, and they’d be available by email or a (well-functioning) live chat interface. In fact, a lot more business would probably be conducted online.
And of course, the devices (computers, smartphones, tablets, and the like) that we use for such research, communication, and transactions would not freaking need to be upgraded every three months! The manufacturers would know better than to even start nagging; manufacturers who begin to nag any sooner than about 2-3 years after releasing a new product would be publicly shamed and subsequently ignored. Software manufacturers and app producers wouldn’t dare dream of releasing anything but a fully-tested, debugged, top-notch product; Aspies don’t stand for “bugs” or “rapid release” updates.
Employment would certainly be easier; jobs themselves would be Aspie-friendlier, and the right people would be selected for the best-fitting jobs. People wouldn’t have to enter a career field they feel lukewarm about (or perhaps even dislike) simply because of its job security, salary range, or benefits package.
I think this would be due to the difference in Aspie priorities from those of the NT world; Aspies tend to value the important professions such as teaching, art, writing/literary production, language, medicine, nature conservation and environmentalism, civil rights law, entrepreneurship, organization, library maintenance, true journalism, mentorship, apprenticeship, “green” farming, craft work (such as jewelry, for instance), and invention/innovation, and thus some of these professions would carry a higher salary tag. Although some of those aforementioned fields are currently valued among the higher-paid positions today, some of them are not–but should be. I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that socialites, sports players, and celebrities who constantly find themselves in trouble, would generally find themselves obscured in anonymity; nobody would give a shit about someone without any substance or contribution.
Obtaining such employment would certainly be easier, too. The discord between the fear-filled job-seeker who wants to bury any checkers in their past and the interviewer at the prospective company who assumes every candidate is lying and hiding something, would be nonexistent; being able to lie easily isn’t exactly on the Aspie trait list, and people would simply take each other at face value. Interview questions would be direct and to the point, and so would the interviewee’s answers, and they would be understood as such. No game-playing or beating around any bushes; anyone who did so would be ostracized and probably kicked out of the applicant pool in favor of someone without such issues.
Strengths and weaknesses (whether personal or career-based) on the job would no longer be an issue; they’d be understood. We wouldn’t have to debate with ourselves whether or not to disclose, nor would we have to hem and haw about when or how much to disclose, and then worry about how our disclosure will be received. Our job positions would be a lot more stable, and we wouldn’t have to live in fear of slipping up in a world not geared for us. Our traits would be not only accepted but desirable, and one’s accomplishments would be applauded.
Day-to-day office life would also be less of an uphill battle. There’d be no time for office gossip or rumor mills. There’d be plenty of structured, regular breaks (during which we can rest our brains) spliced into an intense, productive workday. Slacking off, milking the clock, conversations around the water cooler about who got kicked off the island last night, etc, might actually be looked down upon, seen as lazy or petty, and that might be grounds to terminate someone.
Schools would likely have no problem setting stricter entry requirements, on such milestones as literacy, math competency, and others. Grades/marks at all levels would most likely be determined differently. The class work would be less bureaucratic, with less of a “busywork” feel, and more intellectually stimulating and meaningful. The words “group” and “work” would never be uttered in tandem, and each individual student would be judged on his or her own merit and work, without being forced to “cooperate” with other kids. Thought processes–not just answers–would be emphasized.
However, if you came up with the wrong answer, you still got the wrong answer, and nobody would pretend you did well and advance you to the next grade level anyway. You’d have to keep reviewing the lesson, develop the skill, do the work correctly, and get the right answer, before being allowed to advance.
Diversity of talents, cultures, and viewpoints would not merely be tolerated, but valued, praised, and encouraged.
Behavior policies would be much stricter, and bullying would result in immediate expulsion. This would probably be a mere technicality, however, since bullying is also not an inherent Aspie trait; it would probably never have to be enforced, because such a situation probably wouldn’t arise very often. “Good enough” would not be acceptable; students would be expected to earn their grades/marks and not everyone gets a trophy. The concept of self-esteem would still exist, but it would be earned, not simply given. (And the students would be fine with that.)
Assuming that the default neuro-type is that of the spectrum in this hypothetical world, counselors (whether employed by schools or not) would give advice (whether regarding career preparation or personal/psychological wellbeing) that actually made sense, advice that is relevant, constructive, and helpful. They’d already be well-versed in our issues; our concerns (such as anxiety, physical clumsiness, or meltdown/shutdown prevention, for example) would be the default, rather than the exception (which currently only results in spectrum people getting overlooked, bypassed, and misdiagnosed, and thus we receive advice, treatments, etc that are completely irrelevant for us). Incompetent professionals who fail to help their willing/compliant clientele would probably lose their licenses and, in perfect Aspie-bluntness, be told to go direct traffic or wash dishes.
Nobody would think twice about seeing a bunch of people walking around flapping their hands, squealing with delight, spinning in circles, playing with their hair, self-soothing, staring, or looking at the ground. Hell, people probably wouldn’t even notice. Stress-inducing places such as hospitals, doctors’ or dentists’ offices, etc, may provide weighted blankets, books, and self-soothing/stress relief toys in their waiting rooms/front lobbies, instead of “Glamour” magazine (ugh!).
Eye contact would not be an expected social norm, nor would shaking hands. Rather, making eye contact any more often than “very occasionally” would be perceived as potentially hostile, threatening, or distrusting. Frivolous small talk would be considered a waste of valuable time; smiles and/or a head-nod would probably get tossed back and forth instead, and this would be perfectly acceptable.
Speaking of cultural norms, there would probably be a lot more diversity of–and openness toward–different religious beliefs, gender identity, and sexual orientations. There probably wouldn’t be a church on practically every block; you’d probably see fewer religious entities overall, and there would probably be a lot more diversity among the ones remaining in existence. Instead of passing five churches on your way to work, you might pass one Esoteric or Orthodox Christian church, a Buddhist temple, and a Unitarian Universalist church.
Since the population would be predominantly Aspie, the roads would be less congested (most Aspies try to minimize their out-and-about time, consolidating their errands into as efficient a trip as possible, mapping out ahead of time where they need to go and what they need to do), and because of this, drivers would be calmer and more courteous. Vehicle insurance rates would probably plummet. The irritating phenomenon known as “Rush Hour Traffic” may or may not even exist. People who engage in road rage would stand out much more, and would be dealt with swiftly and harshly, and exposed for the jackholes they are.
News headlines would probably not feature graphic photos or upsetting headlines. Tragedies, if they must be reported in the first place, would be covered in a sensitive and respectful manner, preceded by plenty of advisories regarding potentially sensitive material, complete with a countdown timer. In addition, any headline, phrase, or graphic likely to cause a trigger response may be required to be digitally tagged in such a way that TV sets and cable boxes could be programmed to detect the “Trigger Tag” and blank out the picture, unless you opt-in by selecting “show Trigger-Tagged material” in your TV/cable box menu settings.
Commercial breaks would be shorter, quieter, less obnoxious, and less intelligence-insulting. You might see ads for “Wired” instead of “People” or “Time” magazines, or ads for spas, retreats, and affordable environmentally-friendly power sources or solar screens, instead of endless waves of prescription drug commercials, fast food joints, and bottom-of-the-barrel stores.
Flavor enhancers wouldn’t “need” to be added to food at restaurants; many of us have very active senses, including that of taste. The default product variation would be “unscented”; you wouldn’t have to hunt for it at the store. Natural essential oils might be located next to these unscented products so that you could add your own desired scent yourself. And every ingredient would freaking labeled, “trade secret” cop-outs be damned. People wouldn’t slather on the perfume or cologne, either. In fact, it would be looked upon with the same socially-incorrect disdain and explicitly banned in airports and other public places, just like smoking is today.
There would be child-free flights on airplanes (or dedicated child-free sections of the plane). The same goes for restaurants, which would also all be carpeted and their sound systems would either be lower in volume or turned off altogether. This may also apply to stores or shopping malls (if the latter even still continue to exist).
Toy stores would likely carry a lot more Legos, and they would be available in loose pieces, with generalized and nonspecific function, so that they could be melded and shaped by the inventive Aspie mind into whatever we wanted (as opposed to being confined to specialized little pre-made sets with strict instructions). Toy stores would also carry a wider variety of toys, most of which would probably be more educational and interesting. And they might carry older throw-back toys, like the older versions of Nintendo. I’m not so sure Barbie would be so popular.
There would probably be playgrounds just for adults. They’d have similar equipment (for the most part; there might be some more “advanced” equipment), except that adults could comfortably fit into–and use–them. Everything would be scaled a bit bigger. And nobody would bat an eye if you called up a friend, both of you in your 30s or 40s, and asked them if they wanted to come over and play Nintendo…or with Legos…or to go to the adult-sized playground for a few hours.
There would be no societal expectation of “giving up childish things” or “doing adult ladylike/manly things” like going shopping, going to dinner at a loud restaurant, or watching the basketball playoffs at a loud sports bar with a bunch of beer-bellied guys.
Females who got together in big groups and clucked like hens while stuffing their faces would be considered unintelligent and tacky, and males who downed beer after beer with “the guys” would be considered Neanderthal. And most of society would have no time for that.
Nobody would have to second-guess what you’re saying, trying to figure out your “hidden message” or “honest truth”. People wouldn’t get butthurt over every little thing, either because they’d be expected to “lose the drama” and be more sensible than that, or the world wouldn’t be so caustic that they’d need to. They’d call a spade a spade…and the world would be OK with that; it would be expected. People who caused drama or took over-offense at every tidbit of communication would be advised to seek counseling for a little emotion-management.
We might feel more comfortable, less anxious, more liberated, and less pressured. We might feel freer to be ourselves, without feeling like we have to mimic those around us in order to be accepted. And maybe it’s the allistic people that might be the ones who feel socially awkward, whereas we may not…except that (I’m hoping) we wouldn’t shun them.
And even after all that, I realized that I’d forgotten about another one-third of the written material I had planned out for this post, so stay tuned! There
will be is a Part 2. 🙂