Re-thinking Thinking

Season two of the BBC’s Employable Me has hit our screens and 15 minutes in I’m tearing up.

In a nation careering towards ‘full employment’, there are thousands who are unsuccessful no matter what they aim for.

Employable Me focuses on those looking for work, whilst battling with various physical and psychological conditions that make life difficult. The series follows one chap with a case of Tourette’s so severe he puts his arm through a car window. Others in the series have Cerebral Palsy or Autism.

I’ve never struggled to get work. Despite below average educational achievement I’ve been given chances by incredible employers who see something in me. This trust in me has seen me walk through the door of Number 10, travel the UK encouraging faith leaders, and act as a PR for one of the most prominent disaster relief agencies in the world.

I am a white, Middle-class (ish), Oxford accented male. My IQ is decent, I have a supportive family, a strong church community and loving mentors. I’m a very luck guy.

This, of course, isn’t the case for many many people in the UK.

There are people with PHDs, IQs in the genius end of the scale and diligence beyond anyone. Yet they can’t find so much as a single part time job. This is something that we, as a nation, should be ashamed of.

You see, millions of us in the UK look at these geniuses and see ‘disabilities’. We see someone who walks ‘funny’, talks with a slur, or who has an inability to look us in the eye. Our primitive ape brains fire warning signals around inside our thick skulls and we judge these people as less than us.

Autism, for example, is still referred to as a disability by many. But do most of us understand what it is?

I refer to Autism as a sociological difference, as opposed to a disadvantage of any sort. I’ve been blessed to be around many people on the Autistic Spectrum and have come to admire the way in which their brains are wired.

For some Autism can be as significant as a crippling depression and for others their it manifests itself through a high attention to detail. I’m reaching a point where I fail to understand why we still view Autism as a disability.

Take my friend H. H has Autism. If we sat on a bus and he saw a girl he liked, he’d walk down the bus and declare his affection for her. Completely uninhibited. For H, he has done nothing wrong. He believes he has done the polite and honest thing, it’s not always well received.

This can make H a difficult person to be around, unless you get to know him and love him.

For a period, H worked in a suit store, he’d be the go to man. I’d walk in and he’d pick the perfect outfit. I wouldn’t be allowed to leave without a decent pair of shoes and until he had given his approval. No tape-measure came out and it fitted perfectly. His Autism had given him the ability to dress anyone and make them look and feel incredible. Sure, the process could be more intimate than I was used to, but the result was amazing.

H is a prime example of what Employable Me looks to promote. He found a vocation where his extraordinarily wired brain served as an advantage. It wasn’t a barrier to him, but it was to others.

Many people in our society are not educated enough on these super-humans. We see the differences, but only the negative ones.

One of the most well-known theories of Evolution is ‘survival of the fittest’. This understanding says that those most adapted to a certain environment are those who are likely to survive. In the past, this has meant that those with Cerebral Palsy would be the first to be eaten by a sabre-tooth as they couldn’t run. Autistic citizens who avoid eye-contact could be denied trust. Society was not welcoming to those wired differently.

But today is different, society today has new needs.

We need artists, people who can bridge multiple cultures. We need coders, those who can see pages of numbers and jargon and instantly recognise a dodgy algorithm. We need polyglots. We need bold adventurers. We need problem solvers, those that can see through the noise of the world. I need people obsessive about grammar. We need more people like H.

Those with Autism are beautiful and wonderful people. Sit down and engage with them, you’ll discover people who have solutions to economic challengers. You’ll find people who can string together the English language into prose that puts Byron and Shakespeare to shame.

Stephen Hawkins can hardly move his own eyes. Yet he can make sense of Dark Matter and the invisible forces that shape our universe. Whilst some mock him for the way he talks, few would deny him the title of world’s smartest man. Society has found a ‘need’ and a place for Hawkins. He thrives and we benefit.

All too often we fail to look past others neural-wiring. I believe that we are missing out on a societal revolution that could change the face of humanity forever. We could fix our economy, negotiate peace and predict an election correctly.

In Britain we are privileged with some of the world’s greatest psychologists and scientists. We no longer have an excuse for overlooking these amazing people. We can harness the power of those wired differently and humanity could achieve so much more.

That’s why Employable Me brings me to tears every time I watch it. That’s why I am in love with getting to know those who see the world different to me. I believe that each person is a wonderful gift from God and that if we give these people the dignity they deserve, we will see a world more wonderful than we can imagine.

It’s time to re-think thinking.

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