“Social skills” are not what we might think they are…

It would seem, from my Autistic viewpoint that non-neurodivergent communication is a series of learnt, well rehearsed and well rewarded bows and gestures. A series of signals and signs, calls and echoes, all performed and repeated like a dance whose rules and regulations have been lain down by generations. Lain down in millennia of oppression and forced disconnection from how we actually communicate and empathise with each other as human beings. It would seem that the difference between Neurodivergents and majorities is their ability to be conditioned into thinking this is the way we actually should behave towards one another.

Hierarchical social structures are based on the illusion that one person is more powerful than the other. And that power often comes from symbols. Other times it comes from having more knowledge, or more skills or creating the illusion of importance.What has happened to experiencing real emotions, real connection, real affection, real meaningful relationships in our current culture? 

We live in a world where some young people are now connecting more with brands than with their own families. We live in a world where people feel a distance from others they do not know while forgetting that we are all connected, we are all related, we are all one family and we are all one. 

Autistics and others diverge from this idea of what is appropriate or acceptable. We do not comply. We do not take part in the beautiful but meaningless-beneath-the-surface dance and so we are ostracised, pathologized and abused. We are cast out because we refuse to play by illogical and harmful rules. Neuro-majorities are the proud emperor and we are the child telling them they’re wearing no clothes.

They are wearing no clothes as they continue to dance. The dance which was carefully cultivated through generations of systems, coercion, hardship, struggles, revolutions, wars and social classes. It is there to stop opportunities for true connection. To stop us being who we are meant to be. It keeps us divided and keeps us believing that we need to be wary of each other when in fact it is the masters of the dance who we need to direct our attentions towards. 

The carefully cultivated dance – a symbolic ritual where one bows to another, registering the relinquishing of power, winching in defeat. The other struts, registering the win. And so the dance is played out amongst us, each day, as we talk about the weather and see who wins this round of power games. Passed on from one generation to the next as “etiquette”, as “manners”, as “social skills”, as whatever nice word we can find to hide what it truly is: A ritual for our generalised oppression. The truth is -no one ever wins.

The dance – the social skills that we use to remind each other to follow the rules, to do as we are told, to follow instructions, to fit in and go along with what those who have won the power game for now are telling us we should do. The dance where we pretend to feel, pretend to interact and pretend this is who we really are.

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