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Society vs Individuals

Posted Nov 17 2010 4:24am

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

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.

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Society vs Individuals « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com:
    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev, Alltop Autism. Alltop Autism said: Society vs Individuals http://bit.ly/aUGTy5 [...]
  2. vmgillen:
    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.

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