Update: I have received an apology, which I accepted, from the Jewish Review of Books for their allowed use of the term, “moral autism.” However, the points I make below are still relevant to the issue, and something society needs to think about.
I am new to the Jewish Review of Books. Looking for an interesting intellectual outlet that also garnered a positive understanding of Judaism, I came to this website with eagerness. I thought to myself, “wow, something to challenge me.” An honest website, without trying to force ideas down anyone’s throats. A truly intellectual endeavor. Then I saw this sentence in a promoted book review:
Chaouat dares to ask whether, given the moral autism of so many of Theory’s luminaries when confronting the basic political questions of our time, his own romance with it has been a similar waste.
“Moral autism” implies that persons on the autistic spectrum are devoid of feelings, of understanding humanity, they harbor a degraded morality and ethos. A person of such self-centered narcissism that they promote hatred to render themselves superior. That persons with autism care only about themselves and their own perspectives. That society itself does not matter. Only they and how they think matters.
The irony here is that the post, which promotes an ignorant and outdated view of autistics, keenly and adroitly decries the intellectual vapidness of those who slavishly adhere to anti-Semitic stereotypes when discussing Israel, Jews, or Zionism. This post is a review about the “French Theory,” encapsulated into European thought and hegemony. It is a look at how truly despicable this topic has become, particularly post 9/11.
So here I am, the parent of two autistic young men, who are not only highly ethical and moral, but concerned about the world we live in, and I see from an intellectual standpoint the abject amoral and ignorant view about those on the autism spectrum. The irony, is not lost on me, that the author of the book review in question, is a respected individual, who rightly parses hate when it is directed at the Jewish people, somehow misses his own intellectual dishonesty when it comes to autistics.
Interestingly this is not the first time I have confronted this among the so-called intellectuals, of either Left or Right. And I do point it out to them. Invariably their response is that “I am ignorant,” because the dictionary says it is okay, or that it is an acceptable turn of phrase among academics. Not that they are wrong to have used it. Not that they are sorry, and hadn’t thought using this phrase through to its ultimate conclusion. But that I, am either too sensitive, too ignorant about autism myself, or simply trying to make trouble.
It is not lost on me that those who decry anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of the Jewish people throughout history into the present day, see no cognitive dissonance in the dehumanization of an entire group of persons, autistics. Making them less human, less capable, and less wanted in society. After all, if a people have no moral or ethical underpinnings, as the term “moral autism” implies, riding the world of them would be a good outcome, no? Remember while it is anathema, and even illegal in many parts of the world, to abort a child because of the color of their skin, or their gender, it is considered a societal blessing, to rid the world of a disabled child by aborting them, or even in some nations in Europe promoting euthanasia once they are born. Perspectives have consequences of great magnitude that define who we are as a society, and human beings. Remember before the Nazis committed the Final Solution, they practiced their killing methods on the physically disabled, and the mentally infirm.
It is not lost on me, that the intellectuals of today find it horrid that we would use racist, anti-Semitic, or misogynistic language to describe people, yet find no issue with the debilitating ignorance surrounding autism. They do not bother to find out who autistics are, and how they actually function in the world. It is ironic that intellectuals who seem so politically correct in their daily endeavors find it simply beyond their ken to acknowledge their own moral vapidness.
Shame on them.