I learned this new word from my friend Rick. I like it. It has a robust movement to its physical form, flow and force. It sounds and feels like thick copious slimy globules arising from a pit of bubbling sludge. This word has a sensorial constitution that matches its meaning. Thank you, Rick!
“Bloviation” – such a proliferate and aggressively dominating activity in the field of Autism and Neurodiversity. Autism is a trendy topic these days, isn’t it? Everyone – from the housewife ‘AutismMom’ to the Professor in Psychiatry, and the outright quacks touting ‘cures’ and ‘healing touches’ mushrooming like unbridled viruses in between – seems to be dancing vigorously around the jolly campfire of Autism.The word makes me think of the many (I have lost count now, it is a long and wearying list) instances of having to silently endure protracted lectures, workshops, conversations, discussions, seminars, forums, conferences etc where non-autistic / neurotypical, so-called ‘experts in the field’ (with ‘decades of experience’ working with countless autistic persons, of course) blather on and on, expounding theories constructed out of little or no insights from actual lived-experiences, confidently spreading erroneous or inaccurate ideas and information, without due citations from progressive science or quoting from old and outdated studies, musing in hyped-up dramatic tones, and performing plastic rituals that ooze tokenism…
I shudder – it is a white hot freezing cold feeling, this searing through the soul.
As a researcher and multi-artist in the field of autism and neurodiversity, each time I see autistic, neurodivergent and other disabled people being paraded about like performing circus animals in Arts and Disability events and contexts, I cringe and recoil, as blood and verve drain away, leaving me exhausted and angry. Time after time, the circus ring-a-ding presents a fresh slap in the face of all the advocacy and impassioned utterances of progress, empathy, respect, equity and empowerment that circle and echo repeatedly in the hallways of Arts and Disability talks, lectures, conferences and theoretical effervescence. There is no synthesis between theory and practice, no synchrony, just wild dissonant abandonment.
Sitting through – because that is all the Actually Autistic Professional is allowed to do – the spirit is repeatedly triturated, ground to a hapless heap of dust.
And the soul crushing effect, this lowering of the human essence into the abyss of degradation and deflation, can last for days and days after each experience, as the autistic mind continuously processes detailed fragments of information retained from the entirety of the traumatic experience.
In this setting, this excruciating mise en scène, this mourning and grief, the Actually Autistic Artist and advocate is nevertheless required – sometimes even commanded – to proceed cautiously please, according to prescribed neurnormative-dictated constructs of socio-political diplomacy. Too often, however, professional complaints and protests to offending parties are treated at best (by well-meaning neurotypical ‘confrères’) merely as childish tantrums to be placated, and at worst with pomp censorious authority, wrapped tightly in the thick fog of gaslighting. Every disabled disability advocate knows this process, this libretto, all too well, in every field of practice, not just the arts.
Each and every time, I am thrust with a violent force into the scene of the final sacrifice in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). To me, it is that tragic cadential moment where the captive subaltern is forced to dance, to perform, towards an agonising death, surrounded by its taunting colonial masters. Is this the pre-ordained script for the actually disabled / actually autistic artist in the gyrating Epic called the “Arts and Disability”,? Can the finale be changed, or is it an inexorable fate?
Perhaps it is time to take the entire conversation back and situate it on our own platform – the Actually Autistic / Actually Disabled stage. One that we choose for ourselves, not that which is designed and built by the non-disabled colonising forces. One in which there is no prerequisite social-political posturing of ambiguous, veiled or hushed up mumblings, no copious mists of gas lighting, and no contemptuous slime of condescension. Just honest truth and a light shining onto a path ahead clear of the debris of gurgling bloviation. Is this even a possibility, I wonder?