Tourettes and Aspergers: Freedom of speech

I once had a housemate with Tourettes Syndrome. Every day, and most of the time (unless he was otherwise socially occupied) he would engage in grotesque tics and outbursts of profanity. He would keep me up at night and distract me. He would sometimes injure himself to the point of bleeding. Medication had a limited effect. I was considering secretly recording him and making ring-tones out of it. But that would have been mean.

He did have some control over it. If I asked him to pipe it down, he could oblige for a while. But he definitely was not able to control himself for long periods of time. I felt bad for him; I imagined what life must be like for such individuals.

But I didn’t need that much imagination; there are parallels with my own condition. Though I can control myself at any given time, my mild case of Aspergers will inevitably sneak up on me and assert itself. Given enough time, it’s a certainty that I’ll say something socially awkward. At the time, I’ll think I’m being funny – and many times my statements actually are funny. But they can also be offensive, random or inappropriate for the length of time I’ve know the person I’m speaking to. Later on, I’ll ask myself what I was thinking. For many years I would kick myself in such situations. Now that I know there’s a name for it, and that there are others like me, I’m liberated from beating myself up too much. Now I can just shrug and say, “Oh, my Aspergers just kicked in.” Pretty cool.

Many people, when they see a Tourettes sufferer, or an autistic person, will be quick to judge. They’ll think, “why can’t he just control himself? Nobody’s forcing him to do/say these things.”

The question of free-will has always been a tricky one. Philosophers have struggled with it for eons. My own opinion, based on what I’ve recounted above, is that human nature is subject to what may loosely be called “free-will” only within the confines of short periods of time. When it comes to the utterances of our mouths, there is a continuum. At one end of the continuum is the raving, psychotic, madman. At the other extreme is what we call “normal.” I think there’s such a thing as “pathologically normal.” These people are so normal that they appear to be merely reflections of the mores of their societies, with no quirks or irregularities of their own. How boring.

Can we apply the above to criminal behaviors, such as rape or murder? Can it be said that certain people are only able to control their violent natures for short periods of time, and that sooner or later they’ll give in to their natural urges? I’d say the answer is probably “yes,” but that the rest of us have the duty to protect ourselves from them.

 

About jewamongyou

I am a paleolibertarian Jew who is also a race-realist. My opinions are often out of the mainstream and often considered "odd" but are they incorrect? Feel free to set me right if you believe so!
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12 Responses to Tourettes and Aspergers: Freedom of speech

  1. CharlesK says:

    My view, and that an amateur one, is that humans can control themselves in a way that other animals can’t. Have you ever tried to teach a dog not to bark when your neighbour comes home from work? You can see the anxiety in his eyes as they roll to look at you but the barking doesn’t stop. He knows he isn’t supposed to bark but can’t control it. Chimps apparently can’t stop making socially embarrassing utterances that experts who know them well and can read their demeanour say they wish they weren’t making.

    So someone with Tourette’s perhaps has the control system broken?

    Unlike autism, asperger’s seems to me to be towards the end of a normal spectrum. I am considered a little weird, but I have met perhaps 50 socially awkward, bordering on pathological, high functioning programmers in computer labs or at ACM programming competitions over the years. One, a grad student in comp.sci. at McGill University sat at his desk with his back to me, staring at the wall, while in an extended one-on-one conversation. Forget about no eye contact – not even a chance of eye contact.

    I do agree that I am capable of free will for only a short period of time. Most of my mental and physical activity is more like a badly delivered jazz solo.

  2. Pingback: Tourettes and Aspergers: Freedom of speech | Jewamongyou's Blog | About Aspergers Syndrome

  3. CanSpeccy says:

    There are different levels of willfulness in human behavior.

    If while driving, someone cuts me off or does some other annoying thing, I am apt, at least subvocally, to cuss the bastard out. This is so near to spontaneous that it might be said that I lack free will in the matter.

    But if, after reflection, I act or speak in some particular way, am I acting with any greater freedom?

    Yes, I am acting in accordance with my deliberate intention. But how could I act otherwise. Could I will to will act otherwise? and if so could I will to will to will to act otherwise?

    It seems clear that at some point all behavior must be considered the result either of the workings of a rational automaton with a hierarchy of goals, or the consequence of mere chance.

    This view is mistakenly used by liberals to justify leniency to criminals: the poor creatures cannot help themselves. But by treating crime as a consequence of factors beyond the criminal’s control, society abandons a vital tool in the prevention of crime: namely, deterrence. Knowledge that a career of crime may lead to the gallows, alters in a predictable and deterministic way, the voluntary actions of a potential criminal in ways that benefits society.

    But action arising involuntarily, cannot in theory be deterred, and thus is not, under any reasonable legal system, treated in the same way as deliberate action.

  4. Stealth says:

    “…human nature is subject to what may loosely be called “free-will” only within the confines of short periods of time. ”

    Does this explain the irrational, self-destructive actions of celebrities such as Amanda Bynes, Justin Bieber, and Paul Rubens? Speaking of Rubens, he sure did disprove the notion that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

  5. destructure says:

    “Given enough time, it’s a certainty that I’ll say something socially awkward. At the time, I’ll think I’m being funny – and many times my statements actually are funny. But they can also be offensive, random or inappropriate for the length of time I’ve know the person I’m speaking to. Later on, I’ll ask myself what I was thinking. For many years I would kick myself in such situations.”

    Story of my life.

    I would, however, point out a difference between tourettes and the herky jerky motions of autism versus aspergers. With tourettes and autism the outbursts and motions are unavoidable. I’ve heard them described as an itch that grows until it explodes. Awkward comments, however, are merely the result of a peculiar type of blindness regarding certain social aspects. Aspergians aren’t compelled to make them. It’s more like someone bumping their head on something they didn’t notice. With experience, intellect and constant vigilance one can train themselves to bump their head less. But they’ll always bump their head some. *shrugs*

    The discussion of free will is interesting. Losing ones temper is an interesting example. Some people have very bad tempers while others don’t. I consider rage surrender of ‘free will.’ However, with practice one can avoid losing their temper. They still might lose their temper if the source of their agitation persists long enough. But they can choose to leave, diffuse the situation or avoid such situations altogether. I prefer to let the feeling wash over me and accept it — kind of like meditation.

    • destructure says:

      Laughter is another interesting example showing the limits of free will. Not only is it spontaneous it’s also contagious.

      Chuck Norris Facts are some of my favorites. Most people don’t get it but the following always makes me laugh til I can barely breathe. Even if I don’t laugh at first, I eventually start to chuckle and end up laughing hysterically. Here it is — the funniest joke in the world to me.

      Chuck Norris once challenged Lance Armstrong in a “Who has more testicles?” contest. Chuck Norris won by 5.

  6. anonymous2 says:

    Nerd humor is frequently about abstract ideas people don’t grasp, or it is seen as offensive to a group. “Conventional” humor is heavily about organizing a social pecking order, putting individuals in place. Nerds don’t understand why it’s bad to insult a group because they judge individuals fairly and equally, a sure sign of low status in the modern West. We also don’t understand why racism, racialism, and race realism all seem to mean the same thing to non-nerds.

    The pathologically normal probably don’t drink enough to kill excess brain cells. 19th century drinking was serious business. So was industry, art, literature, and science. The quirky weirdness of Eastern Europe is contrasted most heavily with the submission and creative stagnation of non-drinking Islamic countries.

    • Rob says:

      “Nerd humor is frequently about abstract ideas people don’t grasp, or it is seen as offensive to a group. “Conventional” humor is heavily about organizing a social pecking order, putting individuals in place.”

      This is very true. If one acts around their friends like a straight incarnation of Stephen Fry, he may succeed in entertaining them but it won’t do well for his social rank. He will only earn himself the reputation of being the clown of the group. On the other hand, the sneering sarcastic humour of Jimmy Carr, which necessarily involves the putting down of others, will elevate him to ‘alpha’ status among his peers, earning him access rights to fertile females. This is why it always frustrates me when I hear women say they are attracted to funny men, as it seems to apply only to those who use humour to advance their status within a group – and I refuse to partake in such primitive behaviour despite being perfectly capable of doing so.

      It seems even psychologists don’t understand this distinction. I once read about a study in which a man told jokes to another two men within earshot of a female subject, and then one of the three men would ask for her number. The joke teller had much greater success than the others (twice the success rate, if I recall correctly). They concluded that women are attracted to humour, but this in my opinion is a naive interpretation. I propose a further study: Have the same man each time tell some rather unamusing joke, and have his friends either react positively (with laughter), or negatively (with awkward silence). Then see how the joke teller’s chances are affected by his friends’ reactions. I would bet money on his friends’ reactions being what determines the female’s response – by the same factor or two or greater. I think women really are that impressionable, sadly.

      I’ve noticed that in social groups, the ‘alpha’ male alone has the power to determine whether someone’s attempt at humour succeeds or fails, simply by whether he himself chooses to laugh. People are just like sheep (or chimps, more accurately).

  7. Mandy Dee says:

    Would you allow me to submit this on my twitter?

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