Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mexicans, Aspergians, and history

There was a Mexican couple at one of my last appearances, and we talked about the way Aspergian traits seem to be inherited. Their visit got me thinking about how Aspergians fit into today’s world, and how we’re perceived by different cultures, and what that may say about Aspergians through history.

Their questions made me realize that I know nothing at all about Asperger’s in Mexico. I’ve been fortunate to do radio shows all over the world to support the foreign publication of Look Me in the Eye. I’ve done interviews and discussions in Brazil, other parts of South America, and all over the US and Canada. But Mexico – right in the middle – remains an enigma to me.

In a few hours I’m on my way to speak to the staff at Google. We now know that tech companies like that are full of Aspergians. Indeed, Aspergians are all over the creative, scientific and technical scenes. When we read Aspergians of the past, we hear names like DaVinci and Newton – more creative, scientific, or technical people.

Where were the Aspergians in other cultures? As far as we know, Asperger’s and autism are fairly equally distributed among populations and races. So getting back to the Mexicans . . . who were the Aspergians in their past? Where are the Aspergians in their present, for that matter?

Some parts of Mexico are very similar to the US. They've got medical research, scientific labs, and engineering firms. I'm sure they have their Aspergians, just like here. But what about rural Mexico, which is, after all, what most of the world was like before all this new tech stuff sprouted? What do the Aspergians do in those places?

Perhaps that sheds light on another question: What did a creative eccentric do in Mexico, 500 years ago? Were they the priests, the ones who are credited with the advanced calendar and astronomical knowledge? I really have no idea. What about Asia? It’s well known that many eastern cultures revere and venerate certain traits (love of math for example) that are closely associated with Aspergians. I’ve expressed admiration for those attitudes before. But where does it come from? Who were the Asian Aspergians of yesteryear?

I have no knowledge of forensic psychiatry, or whatever skill one would use to identify people with Asperger’s in the past based upon their writings or what’s known of them. But perhaps some of you in the blogosphere do . . . who were the Aspergians in other cultures in years gone by? What did they do, and why?

In our own culture we know people with more autistic impairments were historically dismissed as retarded. There was an ugly period where some went to “state schools” or other institutions but prior to that, most lived quiet lives in their communities. The lower functioning population was not just written off, though. Our written history identifies a good many “different” folks with extraordinary talents and abilities.

I have often wondered about the evolutionary purpose of autism and Asperger’s. As far as we know, it’s been with us forever, but why? Did we - as some people suggest - evolve to be out of the box thinkers? It would not surprise me to learn that the world needs a few people whose thinking it totally unique to move society forward, at all levels of functionality. Perhaps a look at Aspergians in other cultures would give some insight.

14 comments:

Crazy Momma said...

That is a very interesting thought. Makes me wonder...

I look forward to hearing what you find!

kaanll said...

Looking forward to seeing you in Dayton Ohio next week

Realmcovet said...

Leave it up to you to think of a question like that!!

That's actually a great question, (like there are any dumb ones)... one I've actually found myself asking over the years of learning all I have about my own family.

My mother's of Filipino descent, while my father's Caucasian. They both exhibit many qualities on the spectrum, which has probably been the glue that's held their marriage together over the years. How they managed to meet, considering they were both on opposite ends of the globe is a miracle within itself. I ask my mom a lot of questions about her culture, and what it was like in the Philippines for someone with a brain that thinks a bit differently. It almost seemed to me that it was as though many of the traits of autism spectrum were just a way of typical thinking in her area of growing up. Like it was "normal" to have a nickname for everything, and social/emotional characteristics seem to be very similiar as well.

In regards to Mexican culture, it wouldn't surprise me if Salvador Dali was/is on the spectrum. I dunno, was he "Mexican", or "Hispanic"? I'm not too well versed in those different sub-cultures. Wish I was though.

Definately food for thought. :)

Melanie Avila said...

This is very interesting. I don't have any insight into people with Asperger's in Mexico, but I have seen many people with Down's and they seem happy and well cared for. Granted, that may not be the case throughout the country, but it did give me hope.

I worry that those with greater challenges in life are not helped as they should be.

Thomas said...

A friend of mine was severely persecuted for expressing himself as a creative artist in modern-day Mexico; it doesn't seem to me like a society with much room for difference or dissent, even though, being made up of so many diverse regions, it might be better tolerated in some pockets than in others.

BTW, speaking of Aspergians in the creative arts, did you ever see the movie "Mozart and the Whale"? What do you think of it?

I asked an Aspergian friend of mine why there are so few actual actors with autism chosen to portray characters with autism onscreen, and he speculated that perhaps there simply aren't many actors with Autism-spectrum conditions. Do you know of many folks in the film industry who are on the autism spectrum? It seems like the film industry really enjoys portraying people with mental, psychiatric and developmental disabilities, because, as they behave differently, those characters are so easily made into props and foils; the film industry seems much less interested in employing people who have those conditions.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm sorry I missed your talk!! My husband got sick that day and I had the kiddos.

Sigh.

Anne said...

"What an interesting guy!" the dj/programmer from another show said to me as he was listening to this interview. I think you'll agree. Author of NY Time bestseller LOOK ME IN THE EYE, aspergian, inventor, engineer John Elder Robison really gives one insight
into the possibility about what is happening in the autism brain and heart. . Truly delightful listening.


http://www.livingtheautismmaze.com/
radiator_092408.mp3


http://livingtheautismmaze.com/events.htm
archived shows of The Next Frontier
Producer & Host Anne Barbano

Kanani said...

Hey John,
I've posted the account of our time in Hollywood on my blog.
Hope you're enjoying Silicon Valley, over to Corte Madera (say hi to Don George for me) and also San Fran.

Itry said...

Hi John,
I am frequent visitor to your blog.
I follow rTMS news.
Any updates?
Thanks.

Michelle O'Neil said...

"the world needs a few people whose thinking is totally unique to move society forward,"

You got it.

China said...

We have a 9 year old boy who was adopted from China at age 3 1/2. There he was wasting away in an orphanage.
I read your book and am glad to find your blog. I blog about my son at http://spectrumkids.blogspot.com. The Title of it is: "Brilliant Spectrum Child: the adventures of Orangeboy and his antagonists".

Casdok said...

You pose lots of questions, some of which i have thought about.
I wonder if we will ever know?

twinx123 said...

"One of the two best autism moms ever" from Boulder finally finished your book this afternoon after you signed it Monday night. It was amazing! I literally read pages 265 through 266 while driving (technically while waiting at red lights). It's the kind of book I want to write someday -- balanced between some painful passages and downright hilarious chapters.

Thanks for writing it, and thanks, too, for your kind words of encouragement that night. You really picked me up -- and I needed it.

平平 said...

^^Thanks!!

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