Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Facebook Archive

This is an archived post containing my Facebook notes that just involve general thoughts in recent times, however, less recently than the beginning of this blog (hence it being pre-dated). I don't feel like creating 4 whole posts so I'm going to put them all here.

1. All About Asperger's Syndrome - Sunday, September 12th, 2010 

A lot of my friends ask me what Asperger's Syndrome is. For those that don't know, it is a disorder that I was diagnosed with at age 19. I have found a web site that explains it quite well. In this note, I have copied parts of this text that I believe are relevant and that anyone confused should read it. I will also include a link to where I found it so that anyone interested can find out more.

Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental disorder that is characterized by:
  • limited interests or an unusual preoccupation with a particular subject to the exclusion of other activities
  • repetitive routines or rituals
  • peculiarities in speech and language, such as speaking in an overly formal manner or in a monotone, or taking figures of speech literally
  • socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers
  • problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or inappropriate facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze
  • clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
AS is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. Other ASDs include: classic autism, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).
Parents usually sense there is something unusual about a child with AS by the time of his or her third birthday, and some children may exhibit symptoms as early as infancy. Unlike children with autism, children with AS retain their early language skills. Motor development delays – crawling or walking late, clumsiness – are sometimes the first indicator of the disorder.
The incidence of AS is not well established, but experts in population studies conservatively estimate that two out of every 10,000 children have the disorder. Boys are three to four times more likely than girls to have AS.
Studies of children with AS suggest that their problems with socialization and communication continue into adulthood. Some of these children develop additional psychiatric symptoms and disorders in adolescence and adulthood.
Although diagnosed mainly in children, AS is being increasingly diagnosed in adults who seek medical help for mental health conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No studies have yet been conducted to determine the incidence of AS in adult populations.

In 1944, an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger observed four children in his practice who had difficulty integrating socially. Although their intelligence appeared normal, the children lacked nonverbal communication skills, failed to demonstrate empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy. Their way of speaking was either disjointed or overly formal, and their all-absorbing interest in a single topic dominated their conversations. Dr Asperger called the condition “autistic psychopathy” and described it as a personality disorder primarily marked by social isolation.
Asperger’s observations, published in German, were not widely known until 1981, when an English doctor named Lorna Wing published a series of case studies of children showing similar symptoms, which she called “Asperger’s” syndrome. Wing’s writings were widely published and popularized. AS became a distinct disease and diagnosis in 1992, when it was included in the tenth published edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual, International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), and in 1995 it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic reference book.

The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Some children with AS have become experts on vacuum cleaners, makes and models of cars, even objects as odd as deep fat fryers. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors.
Children with AS will gather enormous amounts of factual information about their favorite subject and will talk incessantly about it, but the conversation may seem like a random collection of facts or statistics, with no point or conclusion.
Their speech may be marked by a lack of rhythm, an odd inflection, or a monotone pitch. Children with AS often lack the ability to modulate the volume of their voice to match their surroundings. For example, they will have to be reminded to talk softly every time they enter a library or a movie theatre.
Unlike the severe withdrawal from the rest of the world that is characteristic of autism, children with AS are isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. In fact, they may approach other people, but make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior, or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest.
Children with AS usually have a history of developmental delays in motor skills such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment. They are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy.
Many children with AS are highly active in early childhood, and then develop anxiety or depression in young adulthood. Other conditions that often co-exist with AS are ADHD, tic disorders (such as Tourette's syndrome), depression, anxiety disorders, and OCD.

With effective treatment, children with AS can learn to cope with their disabilities, but they may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with AS are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to maintain an independent life.


2. Kissing, Hooking up and whatever the fuck we call it these days  - Thursday, December 30th, 2010 

I wouldn't normally go to the trouble to stage an intervention like this, but the human crisis is at a point that I can no longer ignore it.

Relationship drama ONLY EXISTS IF WE ALLOW IT TO.

Let me begin. I consider kissing people, or hooking up with them, to be a completely normal/natural thing. I attach no stigma to it, I just enjoy feeling the lips and tongue of another person. What's so wrong with that?

Yet it seems to happen, that invariably, among my friends and everyone else, that there will be a person that one 'regrets' hooking up with, for whatever reason. They then take steps to ignore, or worse, excommunicate that person. It seems to be as though some sacred 'border' has been crossed. I'm not suggesting that you make out with everyone you meet, but that if you do kiss someone, then have the decency to treat them like a mature adult afterward.

Most of the people I have hooked up with are friends of mine. I feel no embarrassment when I see them or think about that, even if the hookup happened in a drunken state. People are people for christ's sake. Let's stop suppressing our desires for each other. There are obviously cases in which it might be a bad idea to hook up with someone, but I posit that if that person is a friend, or simply attractive to you then go right ahead. No stigma. No drama. Just learn to enjoy the interaction. That special feeling to know that you have tasted another person. People are wonderfully complex beings, to say something like "ah that person is a bad kisser/bad-looking/not my type etc.". Again, I am not advocating indiscriminate hookups, simply that it is so reductionist to make such a statement about a person and then proceed to apply that to the entirety of that person.

I may introduce myself as Dave, aged 20, studying film and psychology at UCT. These could be called my characteristics. I could proceed to describe parts about myself (e.g. I weigh 62 kilogrammes, I have black hair). The point is, NONE of these really are saying something about the PERSON that is me. I don't know whether you call them souls, spirits etc but you are more than just your mind and body. And this spirit thingy is unknowable through such reductionism.

The point is, social and physical intercourse of people of any nature is one of the better ways to discover that which is still good about people, individually and collectively. So we should stop erecting barriers around ourselves and each other.

Happy New Year everyone :)

3. I'm not any crazier than the rest of you  - Sunday,  March 13th, 2011

Hello everybody

It's that time of year again where we're all partying, making new friends and losing others. We're creating and destroying relationships, and telling stories about them. (I love stories, don't you?) We so often find ourselves in situations that necessitate describing ourselves or others to people. No descriptions will ever be the same, as each is unique to the situation. (This is the same way I see personality, but I'll make another post about it some day).

One way we attempt to describe ourselves is to champion our uniqueness. I think that uniqueness, for each of us, is that special combination of personalities (yes, plural, see above) that creates the complexity of the human being that no other person has. As such, when I describe any person as having a psychological 'disorder', including myself (something I am accused of doing to often) I am NOT attempting to 'put them in a box'. For fuck's sake, people. Any one of you that know me should know me better than to think that my method of relating to people is predicated on the basis of psychology textbooks. I use their descriptions as a PROXY to understand people, NOT to assimilate them.

Over the months I've told people about so-called 'psychological disorders' I may possess. Here is a very short summary.

-Asperger's Syndrome. Probably the most important, since it influences everything else. And then, not even THAT important. For the most part, all it means is that I will likely interpret everything you say at face value, place less importance on non-verbal communication, respond with a variety of emotions to things 'demanding' singular emotion, challenge every status quo imaginable and have strong opinions about everything. It also means that my social knowledge is based mostly on my intellectual learning instead of intuition. I am a VERY empathic person, I just don't display empathy in the way you're probably used to it.

-ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder. (Side note: ADD no longer exists, the term was rendered defunct with the publication of the DSM-IV in 1994.). (Side note number 2: No, not everyone with ADHD is hyperactive. Look it up). What this means is that I have a different sense of time perception to a lot of you. I am trying to normalise my time sense in order to accommodate colleagues by taking melatonin (to sleep in the evenings) and Concerta (a type of Ritalin that works for 12 hours) in the mornings. (No, Ritalin does not make me, nor anyone else that has ever or will ever take it, a dull, unresponsive person. In fact, it has the opposite effect). In effect, I cram for deadlines, get very bored by things that don't interest me, procrastinate obsessively, suffer periods of insomnia and other periods of hypersomnia (both of which could result in narcolepsy and depression). Like normal student behaviour, except pushed to the extreme by my neurological chemistry, making it harder to change my habits without chemical intervention.

-Anxiety. Although there are many kinds of anxiety in the world, the two main ones we deal with can be grouped by acute anxiety (panic) and generalised anxiety. The former is not a problem with me, but the latter is. Last year, I took medication for it, but I no longer do, as I have been working at the causes of the problem and feel much recovered. I still have the potential for anxiety (as do we all) and it could be a potential problem in my life. All I can do is appeal to those close to me not to encourage my anxiety and be sympathetic when I feel it, which these days is fairly uncommon.I will try my best to describe what might be encouraging these anxious feelings so that I may assist you in being a good friend/partner/family member.

-Depression. Essentially a non-issue for me now, I haven't felt true depression since 2009. I feel flashes of it, but I would say that most people have flashes to the same effect. Smoking pot has helped me realise that I, in fact, am no longer depressed and have no good reason to feel like that again.

It must be noted that according to the guidelines of the American Psychological Association, the lifetime prevalence for all psychological disorders is 44%. This means that 44% of people will, at some point in their life experience a condition that would merit a clinical diagnosis of a psychiatric condition. (I'm also wondering what this says about the other 56% of people).

What this serves to teach us is that all of us are crazy in our own way. I know fully well that I am eccentric, and I choose to be this way. I find it the truest reflection of my personalities not to care overly much about my deviant thoughts and behaviour - instead I am proud of being the way I am, and I encourage everybody to be proud of the way they are too. That means, WORK ON YOUR FAULTS - if you consider yourself too prefect to warrant improvement, then you are arrogant, not proud.

Thank you, and enjoy your life! I certainly intend to enjoy mine.

P.S. Too weird to live, but much too rare to die. - Hunter S. Thompson (from Dr Johnson).

4. How to institute change - Tuesday,  April 5th, 2011
So these days, it's easy to see what's wrong with society: A mere handful of rich people control 84% of the world's wealth, and wealth = power. Or does it?

See, I've made a post about this once before, in the context of basic consumer economics, in which I posited supply is proportional to demand - strictly in the sense that if enough people have something, the price of not having it greatly exceeds the price of having it. (Then with the manufactured excuse of scarcity, you can then force people to pay in their blood. I wish I just meant this metaphorically).

However, it applies to everything else, and it's been on my mind constantly. If you want to make weed legal in South Africa, for example, some rational reasons aren't going to change government's mind. Institutions in their very essence of existence, cannot afford to allow change, for as time progresses, we see how institutions become increasingly less relevant to our lives. Instead, the kind of thing one would have to do is organise a protest and all go and smoke in front of Parliament, with too many people for the police to arrest, every single day. Then once everyone has gotten high they can all go home. I don't know, I'm still working out the practicalities. The point is, if enough people do something, the cost of not supporting them will be higher than the cost of supporting them.

I mean, think about it. If every single person in a normal school were to express their honest opinion regarding the instruction to wear identical clothing that is uncomfortable, they would all realise the same thing: they don't really want to wear it. And then the idea suddenly becomes ridiculous - why put up with something a large number of people dislike? As an individual, you could deliberately flout the rules and show up in drag or something. That would likely just get you detention. Alone you would not be able to fight it, for the cost of disobeying is greater than the cost incurred by obeying. The only way to reverse this is to achieve CRITICAL MASS.

Critical mass is that ideal figure - the proportion of population required to institute change. Obviously, each society has a different critical mass to each other one. What has to be done, then, is that this critical mass (in the specific context) has to be found, and enough people encouraged to partake and ignore threats that the threats themselves become empty. Let's pretend we could get a hundred thousand people to smoke weed outside Parliament every day. And then  the police will try and arrest them all? Yeah, let's see how long the economy can cope with that. Indeed, 46% of Californians voted to legalise weed in December of last year - now imagine, instead of voting, they had just gone to the same place and smoked. 46% of the population of California is seventeen million people.  

I can't count the number of times I've wanted to change something, but been dissuaded because "I will just lose out if I fight". COME ON, this is ridiculous.

So basically - apathy has to go. Apathy is a political weapon that the ruling parties use against us - they make us think we have no hope. We CAN fight, and we WILL.

Viva la revolution!


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