What is the best treatment for the poor and the disabled – freedom or welfare? I had an online conversation with a friend about the board of a charity that she had joined. We agreed on one thing about what we as autistic people benefit from charitable work. A survey revealed that Autism Speaks was in a top ten list of autism blogs. How the hell can a charity that supports the eugenic methods of treating autism be on this list?
Some of my friends support Autism Speaks in a way that they see it as a charity that supports autism. But what they don’t recognise is the work that it does from the point of view of the recipients of the charity. For instance, do they even know what happens to charitable donations that go to them? Do they buy into charity giving like a fashion statement or a real cause to fight for?
As an autistic person, I have resources from charities that provide some kind of service. When you see these charities at work they often claim to be non-profit social enterprises. Well now! In a sense when you run a business you have to have something to sell to make money. In the case of restaurant you sell food and drink and to make money out of that you need customers. Charities sell services and to make money they rely on donations for payment, but the users of their service have no need to give validation to their fundraisers.
Charities make their money from donations and their services are for the disabled and the poor, but they operate to a system that doesn’t require an effective form of accountability. They can offer a service to help people like me but what I get out of it is not always useful to me. There is no freedom of choice in what kind of opportunities that I can have to be free from the obstructions and prejudice that I have to be independent of aid.
If you really want to help people like me then you should ask what is required of the autism community and it’s recipients. Real change comes from giving the people the power to gain from change. As I have said before the real reason people don’t experience positive changes in their lives isn’t because of a lack of money, it’s because they have no power.
I have already covered this topic in A Puzzle in a Tunnel where I criticised the charity sector for refusing to advance the disabled to achieve what their abilities can give to them. I think the commercialisation of charity and philanthropy is no longer about helping others, it’s about profiting from the existence of poverty. When I see people with fancy logos of autism support groups like Autism Speaks I often think that they are nothing more than passive egotists. They aren’t clued up on the issue and they just wear the T-shirt but don’t read their stories. Pathetic!
This industry of making fashion statements out of autism issues is about as useful as a throat lozenge to someone with hypothermia. You don’t solve disability issues by making an example out of the stigma of living with a disability, you do it by giving that charity recipient an opportunity to make something out of his useful abilities. If you think your charity handouts are going to help make people’s lives then you are giving them peanuts to fritter away. We are better than that and deserve something better.