I learnt to read early and devoured books as a child. When I was about six or seven I read The Magic Porridge Pot and it frightened me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was about a starving girl living with her poor parents at a time of great hardship. She went into the forest to find berries to eat and met a strange old travelling man with whom, despite her hunger, she shared some of what she had collected. She told him about how poor and hungry the people in her village were and, because she had shown him kindness, he gave her a magic pot together with two spells, one to start the pot producing a supply of nutritious porridge and another to stop it.
She took the pot home and found that what the kindly old man had said was true. As soon as she spoke the first spell, it produced porridge. Whenever the pot was full she stopped it with the second spell. She was able to feed the family and the whole village. This wonderful food put hope in people’s hearts that they could survive this terrible time and soon they began to prosper.
But then a terrible thing happened. One day, when the little girl and her parents were asleep, a man from the other side of the village who had heard the spell that made the pot produce porridge crept into their home and stole it. Back in his house he used the spell to command the magic pot to produce porridge, and it did. But, in a moment of pure horror, he realised he didn’t know how to stop it.
The porridge flowed over the table onto the floor, throughout his house and into the surrounding fields and houses. Soon everyone was panicking, climbing up on roofs to escape this great flood. There seemed no end to it, eventually the whole world would drown in the thick, sticky porridge.
Eventually the little girl woke up and realised what had happened. At the top of her voice she shouted the magic word that would stop the pot, fortunately the pot heard her and that was how she saved the world.
This story frightened me as a child. But what if the Magic Pot has, as it were, been turned on again now … and no one knows how to stop it?
I think it has. The ‘pot’ is the autistic nature of modern government. (Which for us English is, essentially, the European Union, an unelected supranational organisation controlled by unelected technocrats with huge dictatorial powers.) The ‘porridge’ is the tens of thousands of invasive directives, regulations and political decisions, ‘red tape’ that has flowed out of Brussels and oozed over Great Britain and Europe over the last fifty years, unstoppably burying democratic choice in any matter of consequence in a remorselessly growing mountain of bureaucracy. Jean Monnet, the principal architect of the European Union, displayed Asperger’s traits and the way the EU grew and now operates is one that autistic people would not see anything wrong with.
Back in 2004, when Joe and I first wrote about the autistic nature of government and administration, our big concern was to point out that, from the psychological perspective, when government forced individuals, families, schools and businesses, and just about any other kind of organisation, to conform to an intense regulatory ideology, binding them with invasive rules and regulations, they were impinging directly on a fundamental innate human need: that of feeling one has a certain degree of autonomy, volition and personal control over events and circumstances. That is still our concern because, when people feel out of control, they become anxious, angry and depressed. So, however well meaning politicians and bureaucrats are, the continuing growth of rules, regulation and ‘red tape’ not only diminishes our humanity but also contributes to the increase of mental illness and the rise of addictive behaviour, as happened under communist rule in the Soviet Union.
What we hadn’t quite realised back then was the number of people on the high end of the autistic spectrum who are attracted to work in administration and government. It is now widely realised that people with Asperger’s syndrome are far more common than previously thought. And, because of their overriding need and liking for rules and procedures, they rise easily to exert a disproportionate influence on how the country is run.
Tony Blair, for example, through his speech and behaviour, displays many of the signs that fit a diagnosis of Asperger’s and this goes a long way to explain his success – as well as the disasters he inadvertently caused.
Once you become familiar with the pattern of behaviours associated with the condition, it becomes ever easier to spot.
In Blair’s case his autistic charisma is well attested, as is his role playing and tendency to reinvent himself, sometimes literally speaking with a different voice according to what he judges his audience might relate to. The unnatural pattern of pauses and the stress he puts in inappropriate parts of sentences when he speaks, much mimicked by satirists, is another manifestation. He suffers excessively from a sense of duty but has difficulty separating fact from fiction, which often earns people with Asperger’s the reputation for lying and deceit. He has enormous energy and capacity for work but has difficulties in seeing things from other people’s perspective. He is a ‘straight-line’ thinker.
Like many successful people with Asperger’s Blair will take enormous risks, which is not always a bad thing, but is sometimes catastrophic when it involves the lives of millions and goes wrong. He is rigid, controlling and dominating with a love for grandiose schemes and an obsession with his legacy, all traits found among such people. Knowing that we have been ruled for nine years by a highly talented but nevertheless autistic person should make it no surprise that the term target obsession disorder (TOD) was coined while he was prime minister. Neither should it come as a surprise that he has surrounded himself with similar people who have these characteristics in common. Even labour MPs call Gordon Brown’s policies and behaviour “autistic”.
A new book full of insights about this is Unstoppable Brilliance: Irish geniuses with Asperger’s Syndrome by Professor Michael Fitzgerald and Antoinette Walker. They list some of the features of Asperger’s Syndrome that involve exceptional talents and abilities described by the writers. Because of the heterogeneity in autistic spectrum disorders, there can be considerable variety or difference in the features observed.
To end with, here is an interesting summary of autistic features. I have marked in bold characteristics which I think could be applied to Blair from observing him on TV, radio and through reported observations from people who see him often, though others traits could probably be listed too:
SPEECH & LANGUAGE
Idiosyncratic or peculiar language:
Fascination with words
– Word repetition or echolalia
– Pronoun reversal / poor syntax / literal meanings (difficulty with figurative language)
Inventive use of language: neologisms / liking for word games / puns / rhymes / capacity for poetry
Higher verbal IQ
Linguists / polyglots
Pedantic / verbose / malapropisms
Unusual voice qualities: high-pitched tone or monotone/unusual stress patterns
Simple, slapstick humour / talent for mimicry and impersonation
Liking for solitude
Difficulty showing emotions, especially affection
Variable desire for company: selective company / preference for family members, close friends
Difficulty reading other people’s minds and behaviour
Failure to recognise faces
Lack of empathy
Gullibility / naivety
Excessive formality / robotic
No turn-taking / adapting content of speech to listeners
Inappropriate behaviour / rudeness
Childlike capacity / immaturity (in adulthood)
Limited / eccentric interests
Intense focus on one or two subjects
Preoccupied with own agenda /self-motivated / autodidactic / insatiable curiosity / avid reader
Non-compliant / non-conformist
Originality of thought / innovative / inventive
Intense concentration / hyperfocus / phenomenal energy
Excellent rote memory for facts and details
Preoccupation with details
Preoccupation with parts of objects, especially mechanical
Difficulties prioritising, except own interests
Poor organising abilities, except own interests
Repetitive routines or rituals (compulsive)
Desire for sameness
Repetitive motor mannerisms: hand/toe/finger flapping, rocking
Impaired sequential time: being ‘in their own world’ / living in the ‘here and now’
Few facial expressions (apart from anger or misery)
Lack of eye contact
Innocent, charming faces, flashing eyes
Autistic charisma / poise
Poor autobiographical memory
Cannot construct narratives of self
Potent imagination / fears, paranoid traits
No pretend play (as children)
Difficulty differentiating fact from fiction
Musical ability / understanding of musical form
Controlling and aggressive (autistic aggression)
Hypersensitive to criticism
Autistic superego / harsh conscience / moral intensity or, rarely, the opposite
Religiosity / interest in metaphysics / supernatural / immortality
Co-morbidity / impaired or poor health, especially depression / poor hygiene
SENSORY PERCEPTION/MOTOR CO-ORDINATION
Good visuo-spatial skills
Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli:
– hypersensitive, especially hearing, touch, smell, sight (colour)
– hyposensitive, especially touch, hearing
Synaesthesia (mixing up of senses)
Insensitivity to pain
Delayed sensory processing
Peripheral perception – peering, squinting
Anxiety due to sensory overload
Huge capacity for observation
Fragmented perception – e.g. seeing only the door handle in a room
Motor clumsiness / awkward motor movements
Clumsy, awkward gait
Poor muscle tone / lax joints
Poor aptitude for sports
Posted by: Ivan