It’s primary season right now, as multiple democratic candidates fight for the luxury of getting steamrolled by Fuhrer Trump. Super Tuesday was a few nights ago and the results were depressing. America has spoken. They apparently want a demented old man who’s been in politics longer than I’ve been alive. They want someone who, last year, promised a group of billionaire donors that “Nothing would fundamentally change,” if he was elected. If Joe Biden doesn’t represent change, and our current president is so intellectually bankrupt that he believes vaccines cause autism, where does that leave us Aspies? Out in the cold, that’s where. To be clear, this isn’t a pro-Bernie post. This is just a spot where autism and politics converge.
Ninety-four percent of jobs created since 2005 are either temp, gig, or contract, meaning that if you’re a younger person, job security is more a fantasy than reality. This uncertainty is one of the reasons a Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders is so popular, despite him looking like a cross between the crazy doctor from Back to the Future and the “Beware the groove” guy from The Emperor’s New Groove.
It’s my opinion that we currently have a “sales” economy. I call it that, because like in the fields of sales and marketing, our economy is geared towards individuals who are charismatic, on their feet thinkers, who have a high stress threshold. These are all traits successful sales people generally have. They are also traits that autistics generally don’t.
Picture yourself hunched over your computer, filling out job applications until your eyes go blurry and your hands cramp. Picture repeating this every single day for months, maybe years. Picture finally receiving an interview request. You show up in a pair of ill fitting slacks, shoes that hurt your feet, and a scratchy button-down shirt with a tie that’s slowly strangling you. You meet the interviewer, shake his hand, sit down. Suddenly, he’s firing questions at you, like an interrogator.
“What do you know about this company?”
“What would you say your greatest strength is?”
“Why did you leave your last job?”
“What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome and how would that apply to this job?”
And finally, “What relevant previous experience do you have?”
You stumble through this inquisitive cannonade like a fat kid through an obstacle course, and by the time the interviewer gets to their last question, you’re exhausted. You’re also totally screwed because you don’t have any relevant experience. You tell the interviewer this because you’re a terrible liar, and they walk you to the door, explaining that they really wanted someone with experience. You know this is a catch twenty-two. Almost no one around you has “experience.” You need a job to get experience, but you can’t get a job because you have no experience, but you need a job to get experience…
On the subway ride home, while you listen to a deranged vagabond is scream gibberish, you think about the interview. You think about a guy you know who recently landed a job with no relevant experience because he fabricated his resume. He told you to do the same, but you didn’t, because you know that, unlike him, you don’t possess the charisma to back up a fake resume.
A few years ago, I worked for a city-wide after school program that catered mostly to underprivileged children. We made minimum wage and our hours were limited. Occasionally, there’d be a special event of some sort and our boss would go around asking if we wanted to work a few extra hours. Whenever they asked me, I froze up. I wanted to say yes, but I needed a few seconds to remember if I had any prior commitments. Inevitably, during my delay, someone always rose up from the shadows, or crawled down from the ceiling, or instantly transmitted onto the scene and agreed to whatever hours they were offering before I could. Eventually, they stopped offering me extra hours. Eventually, they passed me up for promotion. Eventually, they reduced my hours and my responsibilities to such an extent, that I got the message and resigned.
I struggled to think on my feet and that was seen by the higher ups as a lack of commitment.
My friend once worked for a boss that expected his employees to work eighteen-hour-long shifts with a smile on their faces. My friend’s job responsibilities included (but were not limited to) being a porter, a short-order cook, a busboy, a janitor, a garbage man, a painter, and a cashier. He also was expected to help set up for special events, check coats in, run front door security, and bartend. Sometimes, he was expected to perform all of these tasks at the same time. My friend kept up with his overwhelming workload the best he could. Often though, he fell behind and found himself being lectured by his superiors. Once, his supervisor pulled him aside and forced him to listen to Martin Luther King’s famous speech, The Street Sweeper, in order to “motivate” him to work harder. The supervisor then stopped the video before MLK said, “[the capitalists] use everybody as mere tools…they just love people that they can use.” But I’m sure that was just a coincidence.
My friend worked hard, but sometimes, he’d just shut down. He didn’t have a high enough threshold to buffer the stress caused by the insane number of tasks demanded of him.
The economy, and by extension the job market, is no longer working for average people. For many autistic adults, it’s an outright disaster. Unlike seemingly most Americans, I don’t see our president as some messiah who will solve all of our country’s ills, but when someone who’s vying to be the most powerful man on Earth says “Nothing will fundamentally change,” I find that extremely concerning and disheartening.