Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Can Society Do for the Neurotypical?

Commenter In asks whether it is possible for neurotypicals to transcend their state to become not neurotypical.  At first blush, this seems a strange question, as most people would prefer to be neurotypical---or at least to have available a very good emulation capacity.

But it is true that the garden variety neurotypical mind is vulnerable to a lot of exploits.  Game and salesmanship exemplify a lot of these, and value investing as a strategy relies on the fact that the neurotypical mind feels a loss of X approximately as negatively as it feels positively about a gain of 2X.  That 2:1 risk aversion isn't common to all primates btw, some species have nearly no statistical risk aversion.  Human beings have been coming up with these hacks for thousands of years, in some cases writing them down like Ben Franklin, Carnegie, or a myriad of other practical manuals for selling goods, services, and status.

But what can we, or society, do about this?

The Bible, in the Old Testament, is the long story of God attempting to get the Jews to love him---God is a lover who wants to be loved, reading the bible, particularly the accounts of the prophets like Hosea, and the cycle of degradation and partial redemption played out in Judges, Kings, and Chronicles should give you some empathy for His position.  God is essentially trying to teach the Jews to be grateful---to have gratitude for the many gifts he has given them.  But gratitude isn't in our neurotypical nature.  We don't like people better that do use favors, or who we owe a great deal to, we like the people WE have done favors for.  The stereotypical complaint of the neurotypical about the non-neurotypical is that they are selfish (and don't get it).  The stereotypical complaint of the non-neurotypical about the neurotypical is that they are ungrateful (and don't get it).  In my more lucid moments I realize both are correct.

Interestingly, when God brings the pain---shows the Jews His 'hand', in the Old Testament, they tend to fall back into line, repent, and beg Him to deliver them. He loves them, and it terribly pains Him to do so, but he does what is necessary.
In the New Testament, God seriously doubles down on His strategy to teach human beings gratitude, basically allowing a member of the Trinity to be dismembered on and after the Cross.  Pretty extreme stuff, when you think about it, but how many folks, even fairly devout Christians, act as if they are truly grateful?
Not many, which IMO is a big part of the reason why Tim Tebow makes many of us so uncomfortable.

So on the gratitude count of the indictment, even the Master of the Universe is having grave difficulties.  He says His is a work in progress though, and that he'll finish what he started.  I believe Him, but I recognize from the fact that He is having so much trouble that anything I, or a society, could do will have even less fruit.

On a lot of the other aspects of being neurotypical, most Western societies prior to around 1960 were considerably more functional.  Conservative sexual morality and the fairly harsh consequences for bearing children out of wedlock kept many of the worst problems associated with hypergamy largely in check.  Society collectively practiced what you'd call 'Game' on most of its immigrants---fairly mild hazing promoted far more actual assimilation and loyalty than the present coddling approach.  One of my great-grandfathers, for instance, immigrated from Sicily and lied about both his age and place of birth to get INTO WWI, and such behavior was more the norm than the exception.  Men were encouraged to be reasonably dominant, or at least not unreasonably timid or deferential in their romantic relationships, which counter to the the modern intuition, made women happier in general.  Divorces were very hard to obtain and required cause, which made them considerably more rare.  Obviously there were costs associated with all of this, any good reactionary recognizes that every system or decision will suck for somebody, but the overall effect was far more functional.  Back in the early 60s, less than 1 in 4 blacks were born out of wedlock, less than the rate for white people today.  Today, being born IN wedlock is unusual for black people, and the rate for white people is similar to that experienced by blacks in the 60s.

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