Articles, autism, creative writing

Autism Self-Diagnosis: A Good Idea?

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Autism Self-Diagnosis: A Good Idea?

Self-diagnosis is never a good idea… were you going to let me get away with saying that?

That can’t possibly be true in every case.

‘Googling’ symptoms can be dangerous; image search seems to only bring up the most horrific puss-ridden images of swollen glands and WEDMD thinks you have cancer.

All the time.

And you should never treat it with anything other than a trip to the doctor…

Isn’t that the kind of advice like: ‘Just go down to A.E., to be sure’ – that is killing the NHS in England?

Sometimes, self-diagnosis might be a good idea. For example, with something as simple as a sniffle, use traditional remedies for a few days, assuming it’s a cold, then if it doesn’t go away…

Okay, I’m going to stop teaching Gran to suck eggs. You should know this. The ‘self-diagnosis is never a good idea…’ thing is just offering common sense to hypochondriacs, it really means if you’re the sort of person who goes from investigating a symptom to extreme paranoia in a matter of moments, you shouldn’t self-diagnose. You should go to the doctor.

For the rest, presumably, the majority of people, certain conditions are probably best diagnosed by you!

So, What About Autism?

The article ‘Autism Diagnosis is not Special Snowflake Syndrome’ explains why autism is one such condition. The simplest summary of this article can be seen on Google if you ask ‘why self-diagnosing autism is good’:

‘Because no one is a special snowflake. Special snowflake syndrome isn’t a thing. The root of selfdiagnosis is a lack of good resources. A lot of people, particularly women and people of color, didn’t get diagnosed as children because autism was seen as a white, male disease.’

Luterman, S. (2017). Autism Self-Diagnosis is not Special Snowflake Syndrome.

Now, I don’t know what ‘special snowflake’ refers to? Sounds like some new pejorative term that means nothing until you use it to insult people who are different from you in a way that you find irritating, probably because in your eyes that very difference seems to make people treat them better than you think they should be treated? I don’t know, sounds lame.

The rest of the point is spot on. There are lots of reasons not to get diagnosed.

When I started school the work of Hans Asperger had only been published in English in the UK for around five years. No one but a true autism expert and trailblazer could have diagnosed me. I was check for ADHD but failed that because of my penchant for obsessively engaging with a specific, repetitive task when away from my peers, which in those days meant that my behaviour when trying to switch between a multitude of diverse tasks when around a ton of screaming kids was voluntary and therefore I should be bullied by children AND teachers for my entire time at school.

I self-diagnosed, sort of. My mother, after ten years working with autistic children, finally realised when I was twenty that I had Asperger’s syndrome.

Rather than tell me, she got me to watch some YouTube videos where people with Asperger’s syndrome discussed how it made them feel. It was this girl:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3PwG36iKH8

YouTube. (2017). Trusera.

Who made me realise that I am not an alien, a robot, insane or any of the other things I considered when growing up trying to figure out why I felt like I was the sole member of some strange species.

From that day on I sought to find out all I could about autism. I was already training to be a teacher, studying a three year course with strands in child development and special needs provision, so I had a huge range of sources to investigate and what is more I got to test my developing knowledge by writing essays about autism. The first I got a mark of 45% and I stormed into the course leaders office and tried to rant my way to what I considered a fairer score. This did not work.

By my third year I knew a lot more, both about the condition but also about how to write about something about which so little is definitively known. If you think you are an expert on autism that is fine but that can only really mean you are an incredibly experienced and reflective practitioner because almost nothing you can say about autism is a ‘fact’. I’d go as far as to say there are no true facts for autism because I’d go as far as to say we don’t know what it is.

But that doesn’t mean a diagnosis isn’t helpful. Even if autism is a misunderstood condition or range of conditions with overlapping symptoms, a diagnosis can mean the difference between surviving ‘the system’ or not.

Formal Diagnosis is Important:

I completed my degree, surviving my second and third years after my first year descended into the usual spiral of accidentally upsetting people, realising that those people didn’t like me, then intentionally upsetting people to the point of being ostracised, all the time resenting the way people seemed to treat me differently from the outset, giving me no chance to learn how to change. Once I knew other people went through this, after I had read a dozen books bouncing in my seat calling out to my mother ‘this is a description of me; this is so me; I can so relate to this; how have I never known other people feel this way?!” I didn’t feel so bad. I survived with a handful of friends who I told about my condition, which led to lots of interesting discussions where I got to discuss how I perceived people’s behaviour and how they perceived mine.

However, once in the working world, still with only a self-diagnosis, things changed.

I got a job at a special needs school teaching a class of autistic children. Early on, I told my mentor about my self-diagnosis and explained that sometimes my behaviour might seem strange, but that I wanted her to ask me about it and work with me to find a balance between functioning ‘normally’ and making the most of my ‘differences’ to benefit the school. It seemed right to me that someone with Asperger’s should teach a class of classically autistic children as symptomatically it can, in many cases and I like to think mine included, be a condition somewhere between neurotypical and autistic.

For example, I can present as quite charming in an interview sitting because I have learned the rules for that form of social interaction but in others, such as the McDonalds queuing system, there are no definable rules and therefore on the rare instances I enter McDonalds for a veggie burger, no mayo, I hop around, scowling through deep thought, responding to every beep, bleep and bling bling bling by jumping out of my skin whilst I try to figure out what everyone else is doing, so that to everyone else I must seem like some space invading drunk. Or maybe I don’t stand out at all. That’s anxiety, it can you feel ten times too big.

So to have someone that could learn all the rules for interacting as a teacher, and I swiftly mastered parents evenings, even phone calls home, and became beloved of my children, teaching assistants and parents.

My mentor even kept letting me think she agreed with me that being high-functioning autistic and working with autistic people was a great idea. She even offered to get the school’s behavioural psychologist to interview me and try to organise a formal diagnosis, something I had been fighting for since university.

Now, to the main point I want to make: SELF DIAGNOSIS FOR AUTISM IS A GOOD IDEA. NO ONE WANTS TO BE AUTISTIC, UNLESS THEY ARE REALLY MISERABLE BECAUSE OF A RANGE OF SYMPTOMS THAT MATCH UP WITH A LIST OF AUTISTIC TRAITS.

I highly doubt anyone who has read as many books as I have on autism and who had worked with autistic people in education for almost ten years, at every age from four to nineteen, thinks it is a fake condition. The way it is diagnosed is by looking at traits. It you have a ton of autistic traits and it is making you miserable, you deserve a diagnosis for autism, because you are autistic.

I met lots of people who disagreed with that, as a teacher, and eventually I had to quit teaching and take on a subsequent list of similar but reduced roles; I have been a teaching assistant, a nursery leader, a nursery practitioner, a play leader and a play practitioner. Due to anxiety, over the years I have gradually had to work less and less.

I believe if I had put my career on hold and FOUGHT for a diagnosis after finishing university, my life may have worked out different.

I was betrayed by a mentor who decided two terms into the year that actually it wasn’t okay for me to plan lessons on my own, even though my lesson plans were regularly ‘borrowed’ by other members of staff; it wasn’t okay for me to take notes with my head down in staff meetings then feedback my ideas through email, because no one else took notes so they didn’t know what I was talking about, because staff meetings weren’t professional, they were social, and that was my problem; it wasn’t okay for me to sit in the ‘chill out’ room where we sent children having aggressive outbursts, essentially a locked room with an open skylight, basically a form of torture for autistic people! I did it because I couldn’t believe it was humane and after five minutes I was blind and burning up under the intense light beaming directly through several layers of glass into a sealed, padded room. I complained, my complaint was responded to, then months later I was accused of ‘using’ the facilities, like some autistic creep just trying to get free sensory play by masquerading as a concerned teacher!

By my third term put on report, which I could not accept. The gist of the report was ‘you can’t act autistic and be a teacher at a special needs school, no matter how much you are liked by everyone other than the teachers’.

I quit.

Here’s the thing, I was basically begged to stay on as a teaching assistant. And what is more, they didn’t want me to be class based, but to teach music to groups of children throughout the day, throughout the week, from every class from nursery to six form.

And I did it. Because I was a naïve idiot. I got paid like a TA to be music coordinator and teacher for a two-site special needs school providing for ages 4-19. I went mental.  I had a full-on breakdown that ended with me ‘running away from home to live in the woods’.

In 2014 I lived in an eco-squat, where for one year I was truly happy living among wonderful freaks in a natural paradise but after a year I left, after becoming swallowed up by anxiety yet again, and I went back home to live with my Mother.

A month later received a call to tell me the referral autistic diagnosis I had applied for so many years ago, I can’t even tell you exactly when but it was sometime when I was teaching, so pre-2013, had finally gone through .

Talk about synchronicity! Within a month of coming back from the eco-squat, where I refused to answer my phone for most of the year, I received a call that finally lead to me being diagnosed in an afternoon following a bunch of questions that I had already come across and asked myself years beforehand when I self-diagnosed.

I am autistic, officially, and it’s no truer now than it was before I got diagnosed. To all the people who pulled dirt face and told me ‘you can’t self-diagnose’, you were wrong, yes I can, I did, I was right, you were wrong, you were wrong, you were wrong. Get stuffed.

Had I self-diagnosed younger and fought harder for a referral maybe I wouldn’t have felt pressured to quit teaching when people started making issues out of things that, for two whole terms, they considered charming quirks. Or so they claimed.

Had I had a diagnosis in the first place, maybe I’d still be working at Riverside School in Orpington, and maybe I could have helped prevent such insane idea as Headmaster Steve Solomon’s ‘autistic people shouldn’t be allowed to wear ear defenders’ or his de-facto imprisoning of children with four-limb athetoid cerebral palsy by putting nine of them in one class so it’s impossible for them to ever go on school trips because you try getting nine kids in wheelchairs on one minibus with four members of staff in time to go on a trip and get back before the end of the millennium!

Self-diagnosis is often the first step in formal diagnosis. It was the case with me; it will have been for thousands. Don’t let naysayers who don’t want to believe that anyone different from them is ‘special’ prevent you from fighting for the change you NEED to see in order to function happily in modern, western society. The worst thing that can happen is you get told no and then someone helps you to find out what is making your life so hard.

There’s no legit drug to treat autism and there’s really very little special treatment we receive, believe me, getting diagnosed has helped me to get on the social housing ladder, but in the UK if I were a woman I could get that simply by getting pregnant, and some people do do that to get on the housing ladder, so there’s no point attacking someone who is already miserable for trying to find a label that they feel justifies their perception of reality, whilst possibly opening up a massive support network, when they won’t benefit in any other really meaningful way.

Unless, you are a mother who thinks their child has special needs, and you ARE trying to get them special treatment in school.

In which case fight, fight, fight, fight , fight, never give up fighting, your child is special and if no one can see if you need to fight ten times harder. Ignore the naysayers. Get your kid the education they need and deserve. Once again, the worst case scenario if your kid isn’t autistic is that whatever if wrong with them, if you want to put it that way, is looked into.

Take it from me, this is my final advice, I’ve worked in schools since I was seventeen, I’m twenty-eight now, and I can tell you the less fuss a parent makes the less they get listened to. Make yourself a feature at your kid’s school; let the staff know if they mess with your kid they will have to face you. Otherwise, your kid might just get bullied by the staff. I still see it to this day, it still causes me to fall foul of my peers to this day, but that’s part of my autism. And I own it.

References:

Luterman, S. (2017). Autism Self-Diagnosis is not Special Snowflake Syndrome. [online] NOS Magazine. Available at: http://nosmag.org/autism-self-diagnosis-is-not-special-snowflake-syndrome/ [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Trusera. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV26P1e_RjXk_vp5uMNtsRw [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017]

 

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Meltdown at the Surgery

So…

Yesterday I uploaded a ‘letter’ that I intended to give to my doctor. I wrote it yesterday for my appointment, because I can never succinctly explain what help I am after but I believe I communicate better through text than speech. 

I had a good day. Getting on the bus I fought the cause of a man whose Oyster had broken, and won! Together we wore the driver down and he agreed to let the man on, on the proviso he got a new card at the other end of his journey, once he had dealt with his business. 

Then, on the bus, on the way to the doctors, I noticed everyone was sitting on one seat, with a bag next to them, so I did this:


It was my way of ‘flying a flag’ of love. It worked too, kind of. No one smiled at me, so I could remove it so we could sit together, but when the bus broke down the most visibly and audibly distressed man chose me as his confidante to rage with about the matter. I laughed, and admitted the bus broke down at my stop anyway, and he laughed too. Love spread, mission achieved. 

I got to the doctors a delightful five minutes early, a first for me, then sat in the waiting room, full of people and no less than three screaming babies, and sat for forty five minutes listening to the horrific noise of the beeper that tells you when the board had the next appointment up. I waited because I knew, even though it was getting later and later, I was going to see my GP, a woman who has supported me with almost fortnightly appointments for nearly two years…

Then, bing, my name, but not the name of my doctor, no. Instead, the head of the surgery, a frighteningly cold man whom I have seen just once, before I was diagnosed, who essentially accused me of making so little sense that there was no help that could be provided for me. I promptly melted down in his office, that time. 

Well, I am a creature of habbit it seems, and in the time it took me to walk to his office the real me was gone and I was that stone headed, fork tongued embarassment that so many of ‘us’ become, when we panic.

I scratched myself. I beat myself. I cut myself. My arm is a mass of whelts, bruises, cuts and chicken scratches. I had to, it was the only way to get the pain out of my mind and into the ‘real world’.

The doctor patiently told me to go back to the waiting room, to wait for my usual doctor to see me. 

Cheers. 

I may have lasted a minute before running for the corner and hiding behind the fire extinguishers, where I lay screaming in fear for…well it felt like an age. When the doctor finally came I was too far gone. I hated everyone and everything. When my mother arrived I told her I hated her, so she left quite quickly. 

The GP kept doing that INCREDIBLY ANNOYING thing all neurotypical doctors do, asking me what she could do to help:

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO HELP AUTISTIC ADULTS IN THIS SOCIETY, IT IS POISON TO US.

You solve the problem. I said that but it didn’t go over well, so I decided to give her an easy option: 

‘Give me enough Valium to take three a day every day for as long as possible so the pain goes away, and give me a repeat prescription so I can keep taking it forever’. She said no, thank God, I said goodbye.

I am officially done with ‘help’. Autism is not a disease and no doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist or any other tick-box checking, essay writing, braindead automoton venting their own self-hatred by revelling in the raw power they have over the life or death of people with fewer letters after their names. To survive the pyschic battery and emotional manipulation that must be intrinsic to being brainwashed into working for the pharmaceutical companies, you must be some kind of psychopath.

Doctors are psychopaths. They cannot help us. Only a new age will save us.

Autistic people are the Rainbow Tribe. Don’t lessen yourself by succumbing to their debilitating labels, drugs and ‘therapies’. Be the best you you can be, keep smiling and drawing and laughing and singing and forget their waiting rooms, autistic people arent good at waiting, the time has come for change.

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How Do You Connect with Humans?

I am, have for many years been, confused by the concept of making a connection with another human being. 

I’ve had friends but even when I’ve had best friends for a period of time, inevitably, eventually, they move on and I get left with a sense that I was only ever a placeholder, someone to simply be there until someone better comes along, like a robot dog because your parents won’t let you get a real one yet. 

Whilst I know that part of the problem is my oversensitivity; sometimes perhaps it is not intended to cause offence when friends make friends, and indeed it wouldn’t, were it not for the way in which I always end up becoming the third wheel. I rarely bond with any friends of friends, the friends are always so specific in their personalities and they are rarely as discriminatory as I when choosing new friends and so I end up with the challenge of trying to get someone from the zeitgeist to accept me for who I am and not to assume that because I am noticeably different from other white twenty seven year old English people I must be doing it on purpose to prove some sort of point about “normal” people; I never even noticed such a thing as normal until I started getting in trouble at school for not being it.

I want to make more connections with more like minded people, wrote the blogger online, but I didn’t know how, perhaps still don’t, until recently I got some sort of reprieve. 

I have made a new friend, at my local dog walking park where I go to be around dogs and the, generally, kind people that care for them. I practise some of my hobbies there, ukulele and guitar and flower sticks and staff twirling, all good stuff. It was whilst flower sticking that I met and spoke to a nice woman and it turns out we have lots in common. I feel like I have made a real friend, we have only know eachother for a week, but we have lots of shared interests and most importantly we are both anxious; for people who do not share this trait I cannot overestimate its importance. Being anxious is like the difference between having the spirit of a herbivore and the spirit of a carnivore. My spirit animal is a rabbit, my ears are always listening to every little sound and my eyes darting to chase each one and I keep my ears close to the ground and my legs linked perpetually to their throb, so that the moment I sense danger, I can run. 

It’s good to meet others like that. So maybe, after all, you do just have to keep doing what you love, in as public a place as you can stand, until someone notices you and starts a dialogue; how do you do it? 

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The Things I Want to Believe… (or a rant about the Law of Attraction)

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Everyone’s enlightened!

It seem’s like in the last few years nearly every one I know has had some sort of spiritual (damn, I wanted to get part way through this without using meaninglessly ambiguous terminology) enlightenment. I do not exclude myself from this sweeping statement, nor am I trying to nullify any potentially valuable changes people have made to the way they think about reality. I just want to know, how long we can go on patting ourselves on the back for realising that reality doesn’t exist before we realise that knowing that doesn’t actually change anything? The way people talk is changing but our lives remain pretty much the same…

I am sure there are lots of reason why this empowerment of thought has not lead to real social change. For this article I want to examine one:  the ‘Law of Attraction’; the idea that we create our reality purely through our thoughts, which I consider bullshit, albeit planted firmly on sound psychological principles.

Firstly, it’s not a law:

‘A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspects of the universe. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_law)’

Such repeated experimental observations have not been made. It is actually nearly impossible to test the Law of Attraction according to this criteria because the people who developed it as a concept have cleverly written in the clause that if you don’t whole-heartedly believe in the Law, then it won’t work. Therefore it cannot be tested scientifically because for a fair test to take place the testers would have to forego any belief bias until after they had conducted their experiments.

Secondly, I keep hearing/reading people claim that ‘scientists have found proof’ that the Law of Attraction is true; well, this is a lie. Someone please name the scientists and name the experiments, because I haven’t found any. There are many writers (find a list of them here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/srinivasan-pillay/is-there-scientific-evide_b_175189.html) who claim that the ‘law’ is based on sound scientific principles but they are not scientists themselves…

Science fiction is when you take a concept that scientists do not fully understand, such as the peculiar way that matter behaves at a sub-atomic level, and create your own concept by combining your imagination with the little you understand of the actual scientific information .

The Law of Attraction is science fiction; we don’t know why measuring matter at a sub-atomic level can appear to change the nature of that matter. We need to do more experiments.

When scientists say things like ‘your belief system determines the reality you see’, you need to remember your belief system is not just about what you think, it is about how you have evolved to perceive reality. A prawn will have a very different belief system to that of a human being regarding how the world looks because its eyes work in such different ways.

Most ‘proof’ of the law of attraction is really mean anecdotal evidence, such as this:

 http://www.joeseeber.com/law-of-attraction-proof/

The problem with anecdotal evidence concerning the Law of Attraction is that only anecdotes supporting the existence of the Law will be deemed relevant by those who espouse the Law; if I claim to have tried using the Law of Attraction to get the things that I want but that it didn’t work, then someone who believes in the law will tell me that it is my belief that it didn’t work that prevented it from working, eventually.

There is a fundamental flaw in any system that requires you believe in it in order to prove that it works; such a system can never be scientifically proven because it is nearly impossible to conduct control experiments. For a believer, the only time the law is relevant is after it has worked, until that moment you have to keep believing in it or it won’t work…

Sounds a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes…

So why has the theory that we can have anything we want just by wishing for it become so popular when it is little more than a science-fiction tale? Well, as well as tenuously borrowing credibility from Quantum Theory, the Law of Attraction also manipulates data regarding the value of positive thinking…

If I believe I am definitely going to get a certain job, for example, then my senses will be attuned to finding that job and I will be more likely to notice an advertisement for that kind of job. If I make it through to the interview stage, my belief that I am going to get the job will give me the confidence to interview well, improving my chances of getting the job. The fact is, if you are actively thinking about something you want, in a positive way, then your mind will be more prepared for finding and achieving that thing. This is not a scientific law or a magical spell, this is confidence; of course positive thinking works.

However, if a meteorite blows up the workplace before I start the job then I won’t be able to do it. This might be a pretty rare occurrence, but it is possible.If someone else believes whole-heartedly that they can get the job and that person has better qualifications than me, they will probably get the job, no matter how hard I believe otherwise. It’s possible the company is hiring to replace a long-term employee, who might decide just in the nick of time not to quit.

There are numerous factors in life that we CAN NOT CONTROL. Understandably, the Law of Attraction is very appealing to people who, like myself,suffer from control issues. For people with illnesses like depression or bi-polar disorder, or for people with neurological conditions such as autism, the idea that we create our own reality may not only be comforting but it may also seem intuitive; such conditions are often accompanied by a lack of empathy and increased sense of anxiety, an inability to see the world from someone else’s perspective and an innate fear as a result. The Law of Attraction both confirms that you are in control of your own reality and negates the importance of other people in shaping it.

I do not think that this is a healthy idea. As an autistic person, I would love to believe that I am the all-powerful master of my own universe, and sometimes I even tell myself that I am; when I am struggling with a particularly negative experience it can really help to tell myself that I am in control of how I respond to that situation. I can choose whether to be upset or not; sometimes it is incredibly difficult to overcome negative thoughts purely through positive thinking, but it is good to try. I can’t actually change reality though, just how I think about it and, to a slightly lesser extent, how I respond to it emotionally, however, people who claim to have mastered the Law of Attraction say they they can change reality; so, my final question is, why do they all seem to choose to wish for such mundane things?

The people making money (from selling videos/books/seminars/etcetera) about the Law of Attraction all just seem to want money; whilst it is true that the Law of Attraction has brought them money, lots of people make money from selling salvation. Lots of preachers claim that if you believe in God he will reward you financially, and funnily enough these people tend to be the only ones for whom the theory works. So how do you make money from the Law of Attraction unless it is by selling people the Law of Attraction?

Well, the law proposes that if I open an envelope and imagine a bill inside, then I will find a bill but that if I open an envelope and imagine a cheque inside, then I will find a cheque…

That’s called manifestation!

Now, this claim seems both extravagant and bland to me; money isn’t important, you just use it to buy the things that are, it’s a middle-man. If you can manifest your own reality(!), why bother with a middle-man? Why bother manifesting something as boring as money?

Instead of thinking about money, you should think about what you really want. If you want to live on a beautiful desert island, visualize that island, visualize being on that island, believe that it is going to happen for you…

Now, either get off your arse and do something to make it happen or prepare to spend a long time sitting on your arse imagining. If you do the former, remember you made it happen through a combination of factors, all of which were facilitated by your positive mental attitude. If you do the latter, remember that your sore bum doesn’t really exist unless you measure it.

We can choose how we think about things and our actions can change reality, in accordance with a specific set of scientific laws, some of which we do not fully understand yet. That’s about it.

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The First Victory

The people of Runnymede Eco-Village (my home for most of 2014 and where my heart still lives) have won their first victory in the ongoing battle to win the right to live free on the land:

http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/victory-eco-warriors-court-hearing-9016100

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This is a wonderful start to our campaign. Runnymede Eco-Village needs to survive; as my mother puts it:

As a mother of one these’hippies’, I can catergorically say that all the while he was living with these guys, he never claimed a penny in benefits. He lived there for the best part of a year, choosing this way of life at a particularly low point in his own. My son is Autistic and struggles, (as do most autistic people,) with social situations and the day to day expectations of modern life. The Runneymede community welcomed him with open arms and he was able to feel safe and at home, for the first time in many years.
I have been to the village myself and found the inhabitants to be warm, polite and friendly, unlike the ‘locals’we encountered in the local pub, where we had lunch! The area is clean, not stroon with litter as suggested, but rather muddy!
My son is not from a privaleged upbringing, I am a working single mum, who struggles to pay my rent every month , like many others. I personally feel someone needs to listen and learn from this community.’ 

-Linda Cheal

Thanks Mum and thanks to the good people in the system who are making it possible for us to try and change it.

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The Real Reason for the Runnymede Eco-Village Eviction

The Real Reason for the Runnymede Eco-Village Eviction

Right to Life

This world does not belong to any one person; you cannot own reality, you can only use some of it, some of the time. When another human being acknowledges your right to eat a piece of fruit or sleep on a bed they acknowledge the oneness; we are all a part of the same universe realising itself and we should take no more or less from our experience than is necessary for our happiness. Nothing should be considered more important than our shared right to a happy existence.

I have never felt entirely comfortable with ‘the system’ that I was born into. I thought I had a problem and from some peoples’ perspectives I suppose I do; for some people the system works. I don’t necessarily want to ‘tear down the system’; I wouldn’t want to assume that I could provide a One-Size-Fits-All alternative. There is something I want though.

I want the people who are happy to work more than forty hours a week doing a job they hate for the sake of earning money to pay for their house and car (and all the other things that I don’t want) to stop treating people like me as lesser. From my perspective those people have the problem; they assume there can be a One-Size-Fits-All society and that it is right that we should all work to make it live.

Well, I don’t Work to live, I live to work, and work can be fun. 

Building our long house in the summer.
Building our long house in the summer.

Not having a job doesn’t mean not having a life and not owning a home does not mean not having the right to live. Some of us don’t want to be part of a system that provides ‘everything’ for us in return for specialising in one, often very time-consuming and stressful, role in society. Some of us believe we can travel and find food and work and everything else that can help contribute to a happy life, along the way. Some of us just want to be happy and can be when we are being left alone; if that isn’t the simplest definition of a victimless crime, I don’t know what is.

Land ownership and use is not a black and white issue and property law does not always protect the righteous; when our species has supposedly reached a pinnacle of achievement, why have we lost the right to simply find a piece of land and  live on it? It must have stopped being acceptable at some point in human history…ironically, that point in history is still considered by many to have been a great victory for freedom; the signing of Magna Carta was anything but that.

You could leave your home right now, find a piece of land that is not being used by anyone or for anything, which could not be used by anyone or for anything (except sustainable living) and set up a home on it but if you do there is nothing to stop a rich person, or an organisation of rich people, from taking it away from you. You can build a home for yourself and the people you love, people who perhaps cannot be happy living in a One-Size-Fits-All Society, but they can take it away from you whether they intend to use the land or not.

I know this because it is happening right now.

Runnymede Eco-Village

Runnymede Eco-Village has existed for three years. It stands in woodland, on the side of a hill, atop which crumble some listed buildings. The slope is extreme and where the land is dented or plateaus, it floods. The forest is home to several protected species of animal, including bats and rare spiders. A public right of way goes through the land and the surrounding area belongs to the National Trust. In three years, the Village has never caused any problems for the surrounding towns but has lived peaceably with the people of Egham, Old Windsor and beyond. Locals visit the site regularly, often bringing gifts for the villagers, who always treat them with love, kindness and respect.

Some people come to Runnymede to stay when they need a break from their hectic, inner-city lifestyles. Others come to Runnymede to live when the stress of work or illness or family strife forces them to ‘run away’ from ‘everything’. Everyone is welcome in Runnymede and as such you can pretty much find at least one person who has experienced similar suffering to your own; it is an amazing place to heal.

Runnymede villagers share Christmas with the people of the Vineyard, Richmond.
Runnymede villagers share Christmas with the people of the Vineyard, Richmond.

It is not possible to build permanent structures on top of the land where Runnymede Eco-Village is currently situated; development will occur atop the hill on the flat areas surrounding the listed buildings but the woodland will never, can never, be developed.

So, I ask you, if the local populace support the existence of Runnymede Eco-Village and the land is useless to anyone else, why is it currently being evicted?

Magna Carta

This year will mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, often lauded as one of history’s most important documents, supposedly protecting the rights and freedoms of human beings.

The Magna Carta was simply a treaty forced upon the king by rebellious Barons in the 13th century; it was written to limit the power of the Crown and protect the power of the Barons.

In the modern-age we do not fear the tyranny of the Crown; most countries do not have a royal family and in England the Queen is more-or-less a figurehead, with very little real power.

In this age, the world is ruled by the rich and the rich are ruled by the banks. This is not conspiracy but fact. It is plain to see; whoever has the most money has the most power. The banks have the most money. The banks have the most power. The most powerful banking families are very open about how much power they wield:

“Give me control of a nation’s money
and I care not who makes the laws.”

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

So the Magna Carta is as important a document as it has been claimed to be, but not for the reasons often given. It marks the turning point in history when we stopped worshipping the Crown for being God’s chosen representative on earth and we began instead to worship wealth, and those who have been chosen to monitor that wealth.

Is it any wonder that this year Runnymede Eco-Village is facing the threat of eviction?

When the festival at Runnymede occurs and the Queen and Barack Obama meet at the Magna Carta memorial, mere metres from the home I built for myself from recycled materials, will they want to be reminded of true freedom? Runnymede Eco-Village would prove that you can live without money if you love your fellow human beings and seek only to live in peace, without harming another living thing. That is not the spirit of Magna Carta.

Magna Carta is about protecting the rights of the rich. It is about property. It is about saying: ‘Even should I die and my land be left to rot, protect it, for it will always belong to me, even when I cannot use it, and the rights of the living poor should never overturn my rights as deceased rich’.

If this was an issue about squatters taking over someone’s home while they were on holiday, or travellers destroying wildlife before moving on and leaving the forest decimated, then I would understand the motives behind the eviction, but this is just about the wrong sort of people being visible at a time when the right sort of people want to revel in their own selfish success.

The Queen was born into wealth; since the day she was born she has had no freedom. She and people like her will never be able to understand the desire for freedom for it has been bred out of them; maybe to her freedom is abhorrent, for her gilded cage has always been well-stocked with all the essentials for survival, and more besides.

As long as you do not hurt another human being, you should be free to feel how you want to feel. If you know a certain situation is causing you misery, you should be allowed to leave that situation. That situation is your own gilded cage.

By saying I do not want to work for money, by saying that I do not want to own property, I do not believe that I am saying I do not want a life but, sadly, that seems to be the prevalent attitude of those who run our system.

Living in Runnymede, in any eco-village, you have to give up a lot of creature comforts: you have to work a lot harder and wait a lot longer to make a cup of tea on an open fire; you cannot afford to be fussy or wasteful or greedy when the food you eat is what the super-markets throw away every day, you make the most of what you find; you have to walk a lot more when you can’t afford a car; you develop stronger friendships when you work together for survival, sharing everything from food and clothes to beds and fireplaces.

We are not lazy. We are not selfish. We don’t want something for nothing. We work hard, but we work for ourselves. We live in the real ‘real world’. All we want is the same rights as people who do want to live in the money system, the world that is a human construction. We want the right to the same quality of life, we just don’t want to be forced into trying to achieve it through the same methods.

I will never be happy owning property. I will never be happy working to pay rent. In truth, all I need to be happy is food in my belly, warmth, and love. I don’t need money for any of those things, or I wouldn’t if those in control of the money system were not so determined to stop the self-determined from seeking those things directly.

home
My home…

The ‘Real World’

It’s very easy to claim that you ‘need money to live in the world’. It’s also very easy to point out that no other animal uses money but they all seem to get by just fine, until human beings kill them, often for money.

We only ‘need money’ because if we try to grow our own food, to live sustainably off the land, we get evicted.

I don’t have children but if I did I would be expected to provide them with food and shelter. I would want to as well.

What if I demanded that my children draw me a nice picture every time they wanted to eat? They would grow to think that you ‘need nice pictures to live in this world’.

The child best at drawing would probably grow fat and lazy and start bossing the other children around, in return for giving away a few of his less-valuable works. If I had a blind child or a child with a disability affecting their fine motor skills, that child would probably die or become entirely dependent on the fat and lazy child. If I had a child that always tried to do the right thing, according to what I had told him, but who found drawing a challenge, that child would most likely end up a permanent nervous wreck, constantly struggling to reach the pinnacle of success that came so easy to his rotund, slothful sibling.

What if one child just decided the whole thing was nonsense, and went out to find an apple tree and eat the fruit directly from it?

Ideally, that should break my system. The child should come back to his siblings, tell them that they don’t actually need nice pictures to live, they should listen, and together they should go to the apple tree and eat for free.

But then, what if I told them all that eating from the tree was a crime and the apples were mine? What if I picked all the apples from the tree and stored them away then started exchanging them for nice pictures? What if the majority of the apples rotted and the children who decided to oppose my system starved to death?

Currently, the system demands that we give it pieces of paper with nice pictures on in return for food. The huge surplus of food the system creates is thrown away. People starve.

Currently, the system demands that we give it pieces of paper with nice pictures on in return for a place to live. The huge surplus of buildings means that our country (and others in Europe) is littered with abandoned and/or derelict constructions. People die on the streets.

I can’t think of a simpler allegory; the system is an insane parent homogenising reality so that instead of thinking about food, warmth or love, we  think of money, which supposedly represents all those things but isn’t actually integral to the creation of any of them.

Runnymede Eco-Village is a place for people who want to be happy, healthy and safe and have access to all the wonders of reality without needing to exchange nice pictures in return for things that the planet either gives us for free or gives us in return for real work.

Making the things you want, that is real work; travelling to the places you want to go, that is real work; forming relationships with people you care about based on their actually personalities, that is real work. The best thing about all these real forms of work, they are also fun!

Again, if you are lucky enough to be really good at drawing nice pictures, I mean making money, and you enjoy the job you do, then by all means carry on. For those of you that don’t, just think, if you had the forty hours a week back every week, what could you achieve?

What do you want from life? Money itself or the things money can buy? With forty hours a week to dedicate to your goal, what could you achieve?

Maybe, instead of flying to that exotic holiday destination, you could go by land and experience everything along the way too. Maybe, instead of buying that new computer, you could learn how to build part of a computer or how to create your own software, team up with a bunch of likeminded people, and build your own computer; or car; or house; or anything!

Everything that has ever been created by a human being was made from the stuff of the universe. Human beings adapt reality to their wants and needs. Money is not necessary unless we choose it to be.

The Real Reason for the Runnymede Eco-Village Eviction

Runnymede Eco-Village is a statement. It proudly declares ‘we see the hypocrisy inherent in the system and we oppose it’. This is a dangerous statement.

Clearly, the man who ordered the death, by drone attack, of Anwar al-Awlaki (former Muslim anti-terrorist preacher and American citizen until persecution at the hands of the US government turned him against the US and converted him into a ‘hate-preacher’) and his sixteen-year-old son, will not want a bunch of hippies on a hill overlooking the festival that will celebrate 800 years of global-domination by the most-wealthy. If al-Awlaki, an American citizen living outside of his society and speaking out against the tyranny of the US government, was a terrorist, then what are the villagers of Runnymede Eco-Village? We live outside of our society and speak out against the tyranny of the UK government and, by association, the US government also.

Read here for more on the murder of al-Awlaki

I suppose we should feel lucky that we have not been blown up by drones…yet.

On that note, let’s just remember how the land was divided up all those centuries ago: war.

The major land owners today inherited their land from their ancestors, who won it by force. To say that it is right for the rich to protect their land from the poor is to say it is right that some human beings take from other human beings by force. If that is the case, what is to stop the elite from growing in power until the day comes when they have no more land to grab? What will they take from us next?

Is it still okay to take land by force? If not, should all the unused land owned by the Crown be given back to the people as common land? Or was there a cut-off point in history when it became no-longer acceptable to carve land up according to martial prowess?

Was that point of the signing of the Magna Carta?

I think it’s time to stop accepting the lie of Magna Carta. It does not protect you. It does not represent freedom.

We have a chance to make this another cut-off point in history, the point where we stop allowing some human beings to take far more from nature than they could possibly need to survive, in terms of land and food, and insist upon every living thing on this planet having the right to live as he she or it wants to, providing they do not infringe on anyone else’s right to the same.

To some this may sound a terrifying, unworkable, anarchic system, but it  can actually work. Surprisingly, when people are happy, they don’t seek to outdo each other, they seek to help one another. People who have little share a lot. In truth, if we weren’t forced into a greed-focused, competitive capitalist dystopia, we would take care of each other.

How do I know? I was part of a community of people who proved it: Runnymede Eco-Village.

yorkley
The defence tower built by our sister community, Yorkley Court.Still resisting after nearly two months. Please sign their petition here.