So I come to the third and last of the key permaculture ethics – fair shares. And, for me, this is the one most closely tied to what I consider a fundamental aspect of being autistic, a strong and abiding sense of justice. It’s certainly an aspect of myself I feel to be of fundamental importance and a deep deep part of who I am.
Permaculture allows us to take care of, to nurture ourselves because without that we cannot truly give of ourselves for others, whether that be as producers, carers, artists, builders of community or anything else.
But, as nurtured individuals, we are then required to share with others our time, produce, energy, wisdom or whatever we have to offer. Keeping ourselves to ourselves, just as much as hoarding of materials, is not acceptable, as long as we have sufficient for our needs. We are not individuals in isolation but part of a community. This might be our local geographical community, our nearest neighbours; or our local group of friends; our families, living locally or spread across the country or the world; or those with whom we share common interests and perhaps meet and share with through social media; or it could be any combination of these or perhaps we are part of multiple communities of different types.
For autistic people, one of the most wonderful aspects of the modern world is the ability to be part of a worldwide community of fellow autistics through the medium of the internet. Many of us may never have come across another autistic (at least that we’re aware of) in real life – someone who really gets us, who has similar experiences of the world, who shares our extra sensitivies, our issues with executive functioning, our overpowering anxieties. While the mainstream media bemoan a fall in face to face socialising and the amount of time people spend looking at their phones instead of talking to each other, autistic people are coming out of ourselves and our isolation to form the best friendships we’ve ever had – friendships which don’t require us to leave the safety of our homes, to go out into a dangerous, judgmental world and engage in that most exhausting pastime of socialising with neurotypical people in overstimulating environments like pubs, restaurants or clubs.
But I digress.
We may be part of one community or many and we are all part of that vast community that is the world.
I read in an article recently (it may have been about Covid-19 or the Black Lives Matter movement – I forget) that, while we might care about the plight of others, it can be difficult to care about people we’ve never met, on the other side of the world, and we just can’t care about everybody. But that isn’t true – at least not for me. I can care for every living person on this planet and for the other life too. Why would that be hard? I don’t need to know them personally, to have met them or even seen a picture of them. I simply care about them. Is this just me? Surely not. Perhaps this is part of that awesome sense of justice that is sometimes considered an autistic trait.
I cannot see injustice and accept it – racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, classism, persecution, abuse or neglect in any form is abhorrent to me. Many people would say the same so what, you might ask, is different about autistics? Is it the black and white thinking, rigidity, literal understanding that are all thought of as characteristic of autism? Or perhaps it’s the extra sensitivity we have to pain and suffering? Who can say? But the other autistic people I know are extraordinarily generous and far more likely to struggle with taking care of themselves than with caring for – and sharing with – those around them.