Part 119: A Greta Response

A photo of a young greta Thunberg talking into a microphone.

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. Well, the “festive” period has come and gone. I’m hoping as many autistic folk as possible had a calm and stress-free Christmas and New Year, but I know that’s wishful thinking. It can be such a difficult time for us. For once, Christmas went to plan for me… but it was touch and go for a while. The plan was to spend Christmas Day with my son and his partner at their home. But in the days leading up to Christmas, my back problem flared up significantly. I was in considerable pain, and my mobility was reduced to near zero at times. To make matters worse, I came down with the worst cold I can ever remember having (covid tests proved negative). I was thoroughly miserable throughout that time. Fortunately, the cold cleared up. I spent most of Christmas Day at my son’s home, enjoying the company of him and his lovely partner. It was a nice day – quiet, low-key, great food, and equally great company. I just sat on their sofa resting my back, while they looked after me. Between Christmas and New Year, I had an appointment with my physiotherapist, who told me I would be seeing plenty of him over the coming weeks and months. There’s a lot of work to be done correcting and improving my mobility, and managing my pain.

I met up again with my son and his partner on New Year’s Eve for an excellent meal at a restaurant. Apart from that, I had the calming solitude of my own flat, books, and TV. It means that, despite the health issues, I’ve exited the Christmas period with far lower stress levels than normal. The previous year had also been calm and quiet, but I hadn’t been able to see my son and his partner due to covid issues. This time, all boxes were ticked.

Now something of a personal update. Regular readers will know that for over a year now, I’ve been looking for somewhere to live. I’m currently in a rented flat, having sold the house my wife and I lived in due to the marriage breaking down. I never expected trying to buy a new home would be so difficult for me. I’ve been let down repeatedly as I’ve made offers for properties, only to be either outbid, or outright gazumped, or lied to by vendors. I’ve been in this flat for fifteen months now, and I’ve had enough. I want my own house again. Well, it looks as though I finally have some success. There are still a couple of hoops to jump through, but even my most pessimistic self is having to come to the conclusion that all the lights are green. I’ll talk in more detail over the coming weeks.

Before I move on to the specifically autism-related stuff, I wanted to say this: I often talk about how workplaces treat employees who suffer health problems that lead to absence from work. My strong feelings about the issue stem from the many years I spent in management. I had to complete countless return-to-work meetings with staff who had been absent, and always felt extremely uncomfortable with the general thrust of the policy around staff absence, and even more uncomfortable with the workplace management culture of attitude toward health-related absence. Something I haven’t mentioned quite as much is the way many managers and team leaders in workplaces seem to think their role makes them health experts. I decided LinkedIn would be a good place to post something about this…

A screenshot of my post on LinedIn.  The text reads: A common mistake made by managers and team leaders when dealing with staff sickness. I've witnessed this on many occasions, and even been the target of it at times. I'm talking about the way some managers and team leaders seem to feel qualified to dispense casual, uninformed medical advice. Sometimes, it's just a simple, "You should tell your GP to do XXX," or, "You need to try XXX therapy," or "My uncle had XXX, and he had this treatment. That's what you need." But sometimes, it's more dangerous. Once, I mentioned to a manager that I was in pain because of an ongoing problem, and I'd forgotten my painkillers. He said, "I've got some paracetamol if you want a couple." I said okay. Then I saw him pull out a box of ibuprofen, and offer me a couple. I'm allergic to ibuprofen, and they could have made me very ill indeed; they are NOT paracetamol. Good job I saw the packet, eh?
If a colleague is ill, they do not need your medical advice or opinion, managers and team leaders: That's what doctors are for.

The negative attitude taken by many employers toward staff with repeat health-related absences tends to be particularly true of mental illness. A lot of the alleged support for staff with mental health problems from big employers tends to be in the form of access to free counselling from third-party providers. This is usually limited to a few short sessions, more often than not taking a CBT-based approach, or directing the employee to their own GP for drug-based treatment. Let me reiterate a point I’ve made before: I would not want to demonise drugs like anti-depressants, particularly as I am currently using some successfully. But they usually treat symptoms, not causes.

Similarly, in my experience, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) does not necessarily help with many of the causes of depression or anxiety (for some people, in certain situations, it can). The thing with using drugs or CBT is they are reactive treatments to problems that have already emerged. While it can be argued, successfully, that they can help re-occurrence of problems, too, they are not fully preventative in the first place. Considering the massive prevalence of depression and anxiety in society, and the cost this widespread illness to our health services (and thus our taxes, or private treatment), and the cost to productivity in workplaces, you would think preventative measures would be high on everyone’s agenda. But it simply is not the case. Drugs and therapy continue to be seen as the responses to mental illness.

The human race needs a revolution in terms of how we approach mental wellbeing. If the the way we live, they way we run our world, is causing mental distress to ourselves, we need to change the world. This is important for autistic people who suffer depression and anxiety – more or less all of us, I fear. I think most autistic people can envisage a fantasy world in which the environment is so different that our autism-related problems evaporate, through major accommodations. But it’s not only about autistic people. The whole world would benefit from a socio-cultural shift toward creating what would basically be… wait for it… a nicer world.

A nicer world is a fantasy I sometimes indulge in, but some people go to great lengths to try to make our world better. I’m not just talking about mental health issues but, for example, climate change activism. One of the most famous climate change activists happens to be autistic; Greta Thunberg…

The most amusing and annoying autism-related event I came across over the festive period was the hilarious slam-dunk response of high-profile autistic climate activist Greta Thunberg to trash-talking fool Andrew Tate, on Twitter. The annoying part came with yet another trash-talking fool getting involved, and using an anti-autistic slur (something that has had lesser coverage than the Andrew Tate issue). Let’s take a walk through the sheer brilliance of this social media comedy caper. It all starts with the colossal ignorance, misogyny, and narcissism of Andrew Tate. If you are thinking Andrew Who? you won’t be alone…

Andrew Tate is a 36-year-old British-American complete asshole ex-kickboxer and social media “personality”. Apparently, where he is concerned, social media personality is the same as getting banned from various social media outlets due to sickening misogyny. Anyway, this asshole, without provocation, decided to tweet something he thought passed for witty at Greta Thunberg.

Now, bear in mind, Greta is a young woman, who at the time of writing, has just turned 20 years old. She has pretty much devoted herself to climate change activism, which is as noble a pursuit as you can get. Also, she’s autistic. Greta has divided the autistic community a little, but some of the criticism directed at her has been a bit over-the-top, and some of her critics fail to understand she’s still growing up and finding her way in the world. To Tate, she probably seemed like an easy target for his bile. Boy, was he wrong. Greta’s reply to his tweet was brutal…

If Tate had any sense, he would have contacted a burns ward after that reply, and then left well alone. But he has no sense, as we will see as this story unfolds. He decided to bite back at Greta, tweeting a bizarre video rant full of hate, which shows a boxed pizza being handed to him – so he can “wittily” comment that the boxes will not be recycled… Now, the pizza box becomes quite important…

You see, shortly after posting the video, Tate and his little brother were arrested in Bucharest, Romania, on charges of human trafficking and rape, because that’s the type of people scumbags they are. Now, at some point, someone suggested that the branding on the pizza boxes was of a local pizza vendor in Bucharest, which tipped off the police to Tate’s location. It’s not likely to be true, as Tate had been living in Romania for a while, and the police almost certainly knew his location all along. But still, the rumour provided a little further fun for Greta…

Now, to the annoying side-script to this Twitter spat: Enter Julia Hartley-Brewer, minor TV and radio presenter. Bear in mind what we know about Andrew Tate, and the reasons he has been arrested, then read what JHB tweeted…

Many of the people who have complained about JHB’s tweet have focused on her use of the word autistic. I’ll come back to that. But just think… Andrew Tate, the renowned misogynist, boasting about his privilege, and who has been arrested for rape and human trafficking… but she’d rather live his life. It’s incredible, isn’t it? But anyway, such was the outcry about JHB’s autistic comment, that she deleted the tweet, and followed it up with a mealy-mouthed attempt at justification…

This really is a craven attempt at self-justification, and it will not wash. If you verbally attack someone, as JHB did in her initial salvo at Greta, and you include the word autistic in that attack, then you are using autistic as an insult. Considering Greta Thunberg’s high social profile (the kind of profile JHB could only dream of), her gender, and her public declaration of autism, I can only begin to wonder about the amount of prejudice and hate that comes her way. The fact that she handled Tate with such good (cutting) humour speaks volumes about her as a person. Long may it continue.

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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.


You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

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