"Would the World Be a Better Place If Everyone Were Like You?"
I'm not a Buddhist, but I've gained a lot by studying Buddhist ideas. One of my favorites is questions which do not lead to edification.
The idea is introduced in this sermon. There's this guy who wants to follow the Buddha, but he's bothered because the Buddha doesn't answer certain crucial questions that religions are supposed to explain, like whether or not the world has always existed or whether or not we continue to exist after death. So he goes and asks.
The Buddha refuses to answer. He says that those unanswerable questions aren't helpful and that we should focus instead on what he does know: how to stop people from suffering.
The autism community likes to ask unanswerable questions. This is the favorite:
If you could take a pill and cure your autism, would you?
The only honest answers I can think of to that question both come from the original, longer version of the song "He's a Very Nice Prince" from the brainy, adult fairy tale musical Into the Woods.
How can you know what you want 'til you get what you want and then see if you like it?
If I were neurotypical, I would experience much of the world in a completely different way. How can I possible say that I prefer this way of experiencing things, or that way, without experiencing them both?
The Baker's Wife answers:
If you know you can't have what you want, what's the profit in wishing?
The problem with asking about whether or not a cure for autism is desirable or not is that it avoids the more significant truth: there is no compelling reason to believe that autism is, or ever will be, curable. It doesn't matter whether or not I want to be cured of autism or not. Autism is unusual physical development of the brain. That's not something that you can cure. Asking whether or not I would like it to be cured is not helpful. And any answer I would give would not be meaningful.
Autistic people should not be forced to say that we do not want to be cured in order to assert our own value.
But the question that bothers me most is one that I am often asked in private messages but rarely in public:
Would the world be a better place if everyone were like you?
This usually follows some assertion I have made about my value as a gay person or as someone with autism. The reasoning seems to be that obviously it would not work very well if everybody were gay or autistic, therefore those things must not be okay. On some level, the reasoning seems to be that everyone needs to be the same.
And, of course, the world would not work very well if everyone were the same. On the most basic and obvious level, we need both males and females to reproduce. But once we have a complex society, we also have different roles that we need people to play. We need people to be policemen. We need people to be kindergarten teachers. A good kindergarten teacher does not need to be able to be a cop in order to have value.
The world has room for straight people and gay people. And although it is amusing to imagine what a world with only gay people would be like (for starters, there be would be very little abortion), it's not especially helpful.
It doesn't lead to edification.
Nor does asking me if the world would be a better place if everyone were autistic.
We don't live in that world. Imagining and then evaluating it is not helpful. That does not mean that I do not have equal value as an autistic person.
I can have value even if an entire world of people exactly like me would be unworkable.
I can value myself without asserting that I would reject a mythical cure.