An Aspie On Injustice and Suffering

I need to write, but I don’t know what. There’s so much in me, I wish it would just come out. When I was first looking up Aspergers, I read how most people’s brain can be compared to a chalkboard that is written on and then erased to make space for new writing. But the Aspergers’ brain isn’t able to be erased in the same way, rather there are words upon words written and every space on the board is filled. I just wish I could clear it.

I wish things didn’t upset me in the way they do. And most importantly, I wish they didn’t stick with me to the very core of my being. I want to just shake them out of me, clear that chalkboard, feel my muscles relax, and feel my chugging brain slow down to a normal rate.

Human stupidity and disregard for actual issues rattles me to the core. I wish it didn’t, but for some reason it just does. I don’t understand how people can say words just to say words. I don’t understand speaking with no thought behind it. I can’t wrap my brain around looking at an issue on a single level, looking at it without ever considering the long-term ramifications, and a perspective other than your own. I don’t understand how sometimes I feel like the only person looking at the bigger picture when that is what things are eventually about. I honestly don’t understand why everyone just doesn’t do that. It makes more sense and is a lot less careless and selfish.

povertyIn high school, I remember a documentary growing a livid seed within me. They had shown life in a sweatshop in Malaysia and the workers who keep Walmart’s clothing prices down by living on pennies a day, starving, filthy wearing rags and no shoes, and living in decrepit houses shared with multiple families while eating off the floor because they had no kitchen table. And this is on a “salary” for working from break of dawn to midnight. Even if you did not see this part of the documentary, mention sweatshop in Malaysia, and you are not painted a pretty picture.

Well, in this documentary, they ended up flying a young Malaysian women, who worked in this sweatshop supporting her family (parents, grandparents, siblings) sewing the stripes down track pants, to a Walmart in the US where those pants were sold. Then the reporters interviewed people buying the clothes at Walmart and asked if they would be willing to pay one extra penny, three extra pennies, etc., for these products. When you make literally pennies a day, even one extra penny is an improvement for you. It wasn’t just the responses of “No” that made my blood boil, that triggered furious thoughts bouncing rapidly back and forth around the vigorously spinning wheels in my brain without losing momentum. A simple “No” is ignorant and annoying, but I could probably just assume this is a bad person and have my brain free.

What enraged me was how the people continued to speak, “justifying” their stance and despite being told how the Malaysian workers lived. One lady spoke of how that’s no excuse because she has it hard too. She works to support her family also. She said she has car payments that she has to pay and house payments. This women was wearing clean clothes. This women had shoes. This women was already far better off than the Malaysian workers who would be receiving the extra penny.

Malaysian Home
A home in Malaysia

In buying a shirt for 1500 pennies, when she is already wearing a clean one, you can assume she could spare one more penny. If this woman is eating her food on a table that night, she is a thousand times better off than the Malaysian workers. If she has less than 16 people in a house that our building codes would not mark as condemned, she is a thousand times better off. If her “working hard” means not working 16 hour nonstop days, she is a thousand times better off. If she is supporting just her children and not also her parents, grandparents, and younger siblings, she is a thousand times better off. Car payments? Are you kidding me? How many pennies is that? And while she is talking, my brain is in an angry spiral going over how many pennies and loose change are probably lying useless in her car, under her couch cushions, rattling at the bottom of her purse (which by the way, being able to buy a purse makes her a thousand times better off), how many instances she’s dropped 100 pennies into a pop machine in exchange for one can of pop (not a life necessity), and all the pennies on the ground this woman has dropped or ignored stepping over. She is profiting from others’ suffering and refuses to see anything wrong with it. And I am furious.

I am furious at how someone cannot realize these facts. I am furious how someone cannot think outside their narrow blinders. I am furious how this woman’s brain function can put herself on the same level as these workers because she “struggles” to. I am furious how someone has no desire to even take in information and learn something new that could impact others in a positive way, especially others that live in true and constant suffering.

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On the off chance I should ever come into a large sum of money, I have a running list in my head of organizations I would help first. In these organizations I have seen suffering and feel an inherent guilt that I don’t do more. I feel like since I am so much better off, I owe them a debt.

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My sponsor child

My sophomore year of college World Vision hung up cards around our campus. Each card had a picture of a real life child needing help that you could pick up and wear around your neck. It was supposed to raise “awareness.” After wearing one of these cards, I couldn’t take it anymore. This made no sense to me. The deep brown eyes of the pudgy little toddler standing in red sand in Aids stricken Africa was not getting any help by me wearing her picture. Yes, awareness does increase more people taking on children so down the line there are benefits. But what is the likelihood of this very child being sponsored among thousands of other children? And how long would this take to happen? How many years? How could I pat myself on the back for wearing a card like a humanitarian and continue on with my day like it is nothing when there is a real life child across the world needing instant help? And when I am decked out in luxuries such as consistent meals, proper shelter, and access to medical help?

Before the day was over, I was in my dorm room on the phone with World Vision and officially sponsoring the child in the picture around my neck.

My sponsor child's handprint
My sponsor child’s handprint

Although I was studying and made very little income of my own accord, I did not care that it was $35 a month. However, I was surprised to discover that people thought this was a reckless or poor use of my finances. Whatever I have here, is a thousand times better off than what this child and this family has. So I budget better for the month? So I do less fun things? I have food. I have a roof over my head. I can’t understand not seeing this reasoning. I really can’t. I couldn’t understand why this even had to be explained. And I still felt like I was not doing enough. I wished I could take on more children. I sent this child many packages in which I still felt wasn’t enough or frequent enough giving their situation and given mine.

This is where I feel I stand on the outside of the world. I was shocked that I was the only one I knew taking on a sponsor child. None of my classmates had taken on a child despite wearing the tags around their neck. I felt like the only one with this moral dilemma. Even when I spoke to people out of college, family members a generation older than me and more than financially stable, no one actually took on a child.

I am not writing this to attempt to show that I’m a good person, have a high moral conscience, did something for someone else once, blah, blah, blah. 🙂 This is a blog about Aspergers and I am trying to portray how my brain is wired. In fact with this wiring, most of the time I feel like I am a terrible person. I am able to see the suffering in the world and the constant need for support in those around me, and I am inherently aware of my limitations, flaws, and the lack of help I do offer in opposition to what I am able to offer. I feel aware of how much I don’t do for others almost daily. And I feel like this awareness puts me at a high level of accountability as I know, but don’t act… which is one of the things I hate most and have no tolerance for in humanity. And now I am back to the Aspergers’ circle of thoughts and confusion as I can’t make this thing I am talking about black and white. I can’t fervently hate this in humanity, fume endlessly over it, but then not act in accordance to this 100% of the time. I can’t understand this contradiction. I can’t understand gray areas and levels of gray areas. I can’t give myself the sympathy of human error and human limitations of emotions and time because I can only see things black and white. Perhaps that is why I have my running list in my head of organizations I would donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to if I ever had it. I think I need to feel that there is some kind of redemption on a larger scale that makes up for my flaws now.

This is how my brain works and perceives situations. I can’t understand people not acting. In fact, I’ve gotten myself in trouble at work before being the only one to act on an injustice, despite all other coworkers fuming over it for months and despite being illegal. I have to watch myself not to lose my job over these things. I can’t understand why people just talk and talk over things that are wrong, but make no actual attempts or real follow throughs to fix them. And I have to watch myself in my anger in people around me for not acting.

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I often feel devastated, heartbroken, over my friends because I don’t get that when I am suffering from something like a meltdown, trigger, or unexpected change rocking my world, they don’t do something that is acting, especially after so much kind talk and promises. To me that is black and white. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. If you say it, do it. Otherwise, it feels like lying and insincerity. And I feel stuck and guilty trapping myself in this black and white box too as I know I can’t live up to it either.

The anger of injustice and stupidity rocks my being and sticks with me. I feel it even in my muscles and it’s hard to shake. I need an escape. I need a redirection of my thoughts and energy expenses, otherwise the fire builds and consumes. The more I talk about it, the more I think about it, the more I search for a solution or understanding, the less I prevent it from fading. I need a replacement focus. And, phew, this one has worked. My muscles have relaxed already. Putting my focus into this blog post has helped take my attention off some of that muck on the chalkboard.

Since seeing that documentary in high school, I’ve refused to shop at Walmart. In the ten years following, I’ve had to pick up a few things here and there, but I’ve never been near the clothing. I also banned my mom and family from ever buying clothes there (I was in high school…) and got really upset if my mom ever did buy something like a shirt. I still maintain that.

The first thing I’ve been planning to do upon finishing this post is to visit the World Vision website and sponsor a child—not because I am anything close to a good person, but because with my wiring, how can I not?


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