Friday, September 23, 2011

Ignoring social mores

All pictures of lynchings are disturbing to me at some level but the one below haunts me like none other. It has the usual horrific scenes... the victims; the jubilant crowd; someone pointing with pride to the evil work. However the thing that stands out is the couple in the lower left. He has a tie on, she is conscious of being on camera but not ashamed. I do not know their story but it appears that they are on some sort of date... to see men murdered by a mob.

I cannot say that I would not have gone to look out of curiosity but I pray that I would have the decency to be ashamed of the entire thing including my curiosity and presence. Indeed if my image was captured for posterity at such a tragedy I might not be able to live with myself. Part of me wants to grab the people here who are the curious bystanders, the gawkers, the lookie-loos and demand an explanation of why they are not outraged.

So how does this apply to work and having ASD? For some reason that various scholars from multiple disciplines have studied, for centuries really, people as a whole can suspend their rational senses and act in inhumane ways with stunning rapidity. We tend to focus on the most egregious examples: lynchings; genocide; internment. But if anything Groupthink showed that this happens when the impact is not so high.

How often though, are those of us on the Spectrum left out of the mass movement? Not because of any immunity to racism or stupidity but simply because of a resistance to change? An adherence to 'the rules' as we learned them? This resistance may lead us to question mass delusions in business settings where an idea takes hold and suddenly the leadership and our peers believe that some idea or process will save the day. Our lack of joy, much less our outspoken skepticism, is seen as a betrayal; criticism and ostracism follow. It is painful but it does not mean that you were wrong.

I cannot offer a clear piece of advice because mob mentality cannot be broken down to simple actions. If you see someone pulled from a jail with the intention of being hanged by a mob be sure to speak up. On the other hand if the Director of your department calls a meeting excitedly talking about a new way to do business that involves semi-comical chanting and wearing taupe bandannas is pointing out that it is silly really worth losing your job? That is up to you.

For myself I can only say that more often than not I have spoken up and while I have the knowledge that I was true to myself I also know that it has kept me from better salaries, projects and positions. There are consequences to our actions.

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