Oz and Autism

I’ve written a couple of philosophically based posts now, and one on psychology, and God knows how many about Oz, so it’s quite a surprise I have yet to write about my one true passion, my advocacy for persons with autism. Well, I have my reasons: first, I’m scared I won’t do it justice. After all, I’m not particularly close with any person with autism. I know a lot of them, but not to the extent that I’d truly understand them enough to speak for them; Second, autism seems too wide a subject. And as I’ve been following a lot of autism-blogs with their specific posts, I wouldn’t know what to add anymore. Third, well, it was our thesis. I’ve written about it for a whole academic year, so writing a blog post about it didn’t seem so appealing.

So after spending three days on my last evaluation seminar in my dear organization, the Ateneo Special Education Society, I realized that I did have an avenue to discuss it. I realized that this is what project miserably wicked was all about. While that project didn’t turn out very well, a look back at why I wrote it in the first place helped me see the connections. So here goes, Oz and Autism. Even if you’re not a fan, do take time to read it, I’ll try to make it understandable.

I’m 99% certain that neither Gregory Maguire (Wicked Years author) nor Stephen Schwartz (Wicked composer) were autism advocates, but they’ve created such a relevant story in Wicked for the advocacy! Oz, a land of diversity, had all sorts of creatures, among them the Animals. These Animals were different from animals in the sense that they had human intellect, and different from humans in the sense that they looked like animals. Now before anyone gets offended, do understand that these Animals are more human than anything else, and if they did really exist in the real world, they should be treated as humans too. That’s Elphaba’s advocacy. Case in point, Dr. Dillamond, a professor in Shiz University in Oz. He teaches history, and he’s as good as any other teacher out there (except for the fact that he can’t pronounce Galinda’s name right). He was one of the last few Animals left that stood for his right to speak.

Dr. Dillamond

Dr. Dillamond

You may be starting to get the picture now. Good job. Animals in the Oz world are like persons with autism in this world. They’re really no different. Their mannerisms and whatnot may be different, but their capabilities certainly aren’t. However, certain people like the Wizard and Madam Morrible (the antagonist) think that the Animals are lower beings, that they did not deserve the same treatment as human beings. What’s sad is that these people are quite influential, so they have followers who end up believing the same thing. And when advocates like Elphaba stand in their way, well, pop goes the green witch.

Elphaba is the passionate advocate. She really tries to understand the Animals’ plight and wants to take action for them. Screw bureaucracy, screw structures and politics. Elphaba just wants what’s fair for the Animals, and she believes that this shouldn’t even be a problem in the first place if only the leaders, influential people, and media would recognize them. In the real world’s case, media plays the role of Glinda. While it is admirable how NGOs and even some government officials do recognize and fight for PWAs, they might not be influential enough, especially here in the Philippines. Here, media is the most influential thing. Whatever people see on TV or in the movies, they emulate. This is a sad fact because honestly, Philippine showbiz needs a lot of work, as can be seen in the controversial series, Budoy, which gave Angelman syndrome a bad and unrealistic image. I’m sure they meant well with this series, as does Glinda most of the time, but they end up being more selfish than anything else. They care more for their own public image and ratings than for the advocacy itself, which affects the way they do show their “advocacy” (if you could call it that).

"Popular, you're gonna be popular"

“Popular, you’re gonna be popular”

The Wizard is even worse. He represents the hypocritical bullies. He pretends to help out but his actions are actually discriminatory. I didn’t know such hypocritical bullies existed until I got deeper into the autism community this year. It’s sad that such large scale organizations exist and are being considered “wonderful” by many, even by advocates. His act of silencing the Animals is similar to how some of these organizations try to “prevent” autism, like it’s such a bad thing. Some of the things they promote are prevention before birth and overstimulating so that they can be “cured”. It’s a selfish outlook in the sense that they’re acting to make the PWAs fit into our world, when we should be the ones adjusting for them. Why should they be forced to live like us? They’re different, not less. So they have the right to stay the way they are.

Obviously, I’m a biased because I love Elphaba, but her principles do match mine. Persons with autism should never have the problem of struggling to fit in with us, with what society and the masses want. They shouldn’t have to undergo overstimulation because it just hurts them. They deserve full acceptance and they deserve their own rights. True, we can’t all be passionate advocates like Elphaba, but at least let’s be fully accepting of them and not treat them like they’re beneath us.

So there you go, that’s my Oz-take on the world of autism. And hey, if you want to read our thesis, do PM me. It’s about the narratives of adolescents with autism in the Philippines. Or you could follow these awesome organizations on twitter: https://twitter.com/autismphils and https://twitter.com/AteneoSPEED Thanks for reading, and munch on!

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