Behaving Under Capitalism – Diary of a Baba
Posted on October 20, 2017
Before I start, I just wanted to lift up all the courageous voices that have shared such personal and painful #metoo stories of sexual violence and toxic masculinity. It has given me pause to reflect on myself, the work i need to do and also how to raise a feminist autistic son. There is so much to be done and so much trauma. Until we dismantle and transcend patriarchy and the many systems of oppression, I know as a cis man, I’m perpetuating these systems everyday.
This and many other things lately have made me think a lot about how to behave under capitalism. Ultimately there are good behaviors we want to see in society like love, kindness, compassion, humility, cooperation, and mutuality, to name a few. Sure, when the revolution comes these behaviors may be more natural. And yes, it is not just about behavioral change, it is about transformation but lets be real even after the revolution we will need some rigor and good behavior.
“As an austistic, he is receiving ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy – basically behavioral therapy on how to understand social cues and essentially how to “pass” under capitalism.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because of Collin. As an austistic, he is receiving ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy – basically behavioral therapy on how to understand social cues and essentially how to “pass” under capitalism. Though there are these elements of conformity, and there are a lot of criticisms of ABA (trust me), ABA has helped us a lot.
Here are a few examples:
Expressing dissent: For the last few months, we have been developing Collin’s capacities to verbalize his dissent versus yelling or screaming. When someone pushes him at school or in the playground, he now can say, “STOP THAT!” or “NO THANK YOU.” We are developing his capacities to say “NO!” and to draw boundaries.
Reading social cues: We are also educating him on social cues like when he hurts someone’s feelings (including our feelings) or is violating space or consent by touching people. Later in life, it will help him in social situation with women (or men) so that he knows how to respect boundaries.
Revealing his superpower: Last week, Collin screamed and cried “DONT CLAP FOR ME!!”. He had an amazing morning routine where he ate breakfast, then put on his pull ups, shirt and pants ALL by himself. It was a personal record for him! So naturally we clapped for him BUT it triggered him so much he had a meltdown. This however is not an unusual response. He reacts this way when too much attention and energy in the room is drawn toward him. Collin has a superpower and we are learning about it everyday. I’m sensing his superpower of being able to absorb a lot of energy. very powerful indeed.
“Collin has a superpower and we are learning about it everyday.”
Regardless of what it is, behavioral change is something we work with him on everyday and it will be this way for awhile, if not forever. This should be a lesson for all of us.
One time, Collin had a brief interaction with another baby and suddenly grabbed something from the baby. I immediately got into my tiger baba stance and looked him in the eye and asked him to apologize to the baby but he wouldn’t. The mother of the other child said it is okay if that is the way i want to parent but Collin does not need to apologize. I said Collin that needs to understand what he did was hurtful.
I know this can be a little unsettling to hear and a lot of work but ABA therapy has taught me the daily practice of rigorous follow through AND being loving at the same time.
In fact, I think all children and all people could use some form of behavior therapy. To address all the sexual violence and toxic masculinity, I think that a lot of us cis men can use some behavioral therapy AND we also need ways for women and femme identified folks to heal and be supported to be their best selves. But again this is not a one-off or a training, it is something that needs to be an everyday practice.
“…this can be a little unsettling to hear and a lot of work but ABA therapy has taught me the daily practice of rigorous follow through AND being loving at the same time.”
I honesty don’t know a lot about behavioral change and what it will really take for society to accept Collin and other autistics, disabled people or anyone who does not fit the norm. I know that Collin can “pass” for now but I fear and dread the days that he will be isolated and bullied by other children for being an autistic.
In the meantime, we are going to build up his capacities to “pass,” defend himself, speak up for his needs, and the needs of others. We are going to harness his superpower of absorbing the energy of others. And really, I’m looking forward to the day to follow him and others in co-creating a liberatory world for our future generations.
(Image of Collin looking out at Lake Merritt. The sun is setting and he is pictured with his arms open wide. He is having a blast.)