Society vs Individuals

17 Nov

In amongst yesterdays fun and games, the author of the paranoid piece itself, JB Handley included the following statement:

What parent of an autistic child would write, “my main concern is to create a better world for all people, but especially for people with disabilities. Autism is a great challenge. People with autism deserve respect and support”? Give me a break! A real parent would only have one main concern, the concern we all share: giving our own child the best possible life!

I commented briefly on this paragraph by Handley but the more I mulled it over, the more I thought it deserved its own blog entry.

There are those that believe that even though they are parents, they have a responsibility to society and particularly to the society in which their own child belongs. Sullivan’s child, like mine, is autistic and therefore disabled (amongst other things) and so we (and many of our online friends and colleagues) believe that we owe a debt of responsibility in our writing to both this particular society. We believe this for numerous reasons:

1) The betterment of that society is the betterment of the society in which our child resides.
2) Its simply the right thing to do.

However people such as JB Handley clearly believe their own child and no one elses is important. There is no such thing as society in this world view.

This tallies neatly with their other set of beliefs. I’m talking of course about vaccination. To choose to vaccinate is a supremely societal act. When you vaccinate you are saying that not only do you believe in protecting your _own_ child, you believe in protecting the society around him/her. The concept of herd immunity illustrates this perfectly:

More than a hundred years ago, scientists were noting that not everyone had to be vaccinated against smallpox to stop an epidemic in its tracks*. Scientists also noticed that when they were wiping out smallpox, not everyone needed to be vaccinated to have the disease disappear. In many places, it was enough if 80% of the population could be vaccinated and revaccinated in a 4-5 year period.

Why do we do this? Why do we need to protect the herd? We do this because no vaccine is 100% effective. There will always be people who cannot be vaccinated and these people need to be protected. Why? Because its the right thing to do.

Anti-vaccinationism takes the directly opposite path. They claim – as does JB Handley – that it is only ones _own_ child that matters and that society can go hang. By electing not to vaccinate they not only put their own child at risk, they also put the herd at risk. They have forgotten that one of societies greatest accomplishments was learning to work together for the common betterment of us all.

One of the things that speaks most to not just Handley’s set of beliefs but the beliefs of those he speaks to is the idea that anyone could find what Sullivan said as anything but crazy:

A real parent would only have one main concern, the concern we all share: giving our own child the best possible life!

Remember that when these parents march ‘together’ they are nothing of the sort. They are a group of individuals looking out for No.1 and No.1 only.

6 Responses to “Society vs Individuals”

  1. vmgillen November 17, 2010 at 19:34 #

    Hear hear! this illustrates the source of many big problems – lack of social connectedness/awareness (hey- isn’t that part of the ASD Dx?) The tendency of professionals to label and medicalize leads to treatment of the individual (sort of – those treatments are based on studies of groups, for goodness sake!) without consideration of anything ‘external’ to the ‘patient’. Feh.

  2. stanley seigler November 17, 2010 at 21:33 #

    [LBRB say] However people such as JB Handley clearly believe their own child and no one elses is important. There is no such thing as society in this world view.

    not sure what people such as JB (and hypocrital religious folks) clearly believe…would imagine most believe in a society (even madoff)…and in the abstract believe in the common good over the individual (not in practice tho) and give it much lip service…

    full disclosure: if i had to choose between my daughter and the common good…it would be a most difficult decision…my daughter might win.

    much gray…lil black/white…nietzsche may be right…we have to look “beyond good and evil”…dont really believe this but it gives one pause to ponder.

    stanley seigler

  3. Prometheus November 17, 2010 at 21:54 #


    The comparison with “herd immunity” is apt because efforts to make the world a better place for autistic people – or disabled people – in general will also make it a better place for our disabled children.

    I have absolutely no doubt that JB is unable to fathom why someone, anyone would want to help anyone but themselves and their direct family without remuneration. Since he would never help a stranger without getting something in return (public acclaim for his generosity, at the very least), he is suspicious of those who do, feeling they must be “scamming” for personal gain.

    Fortunately (for the species), most people understand that helping those in need is its own reward. Not everyone needs public acclaim for their “good works” – some just do it because they feel it is the right thing to do. Not everyone’s moral compass is stuck pointing to their wallet.


  4. stanley seigler November 18, 2010 at 05:02 #

    [Prometheus say] Not everyone’s moral compass is stuck pointing to their wallet.

    weel not everyone maybe…but your focus is on JB…justifying Kev…it should be on society…society in general doesn’t give a damn about those with special needs…much lip service. lil action.

    if it did we wouldn’t be having these discussions…there would be no lack of support for those with special needs…no poverty…there would be social justice for all…

    stanley seigler

  5. autiemum November 21, 2010 at 10:58 #

    slightly different take — at various times I have felt that the schooling/education being offered to my child was bad for her and also bad for all the other children experiencing it. I didn’t stay to try to make it better for everyone. I took her away.

    I completely disagree with JBH that no true parent cares for other peoples’ children. I would almost say the opposite, that the more you care about your own child the more you feel also for others.

    But when you have to choose you have a responsibility to your own child to choose them. No one else will put them first. The parent must.IMO


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Society vs Individuals « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - November 17, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Alltop Autism. Alltop Autism said: Society vs Individuals […]

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