The pet lovers’ dreaded debate part 3: double standards

What bothers you about people’s attitudes towards animals? There are a million answers to this. Farms. Unethical breeding. Negligence. The internet is full of protests about these issues, and because they are bigger and more serious than what I’m blogging about, I should probably cover them myself one day. But for now, I’m coming back to an old pet hate (pun fully intended): cat prejudice and double standards.

First, hear me when I say this. I love cats. I relate to them. I mean, I don’t automatically bond with people I don’t know. And I don’t think they are better than dogs, because who are we to call one species “better” when, in the human world, most of us stand for equal rights?

People claim that cats control us. Plenty of cats do try to persuade you to feed them when they’re hungry just by staring at you and following you into the kitchen. But so do dogs. The reason we have to train dogs is so that they know who’s in charge. Do you see? Any pet can wrap you around its paw, if you spoil it. If you stick to a strict feeding schedule and don’t give in to your pet’s every whim, then they are not controlling you.

Also, believe it or not, cats are capable of being trained; it’s just that teamwork isn’t in their nature. Why judge them for this? I hated group projects at uni myself! If you reward a dog for learning something new, it will react as if it has successfully pleased its pack leader. If you reward a cat, it will react as it would to a successful hunt – it used its brain and got a tasty treat as a result.

Then there is scent marking. Dogs and cats do this in similar ways; one of them being physical contact. A dog will jump up at you, a cat will rub against you, and in doing so, both are claiming you as their own. Why do humans hug? For the same primitive reason. It helps secure a connection. People find this thought endearing in dogs, and like the idea that the dog is excited to see them. Why does a cat do it? Ask any cat hater, and they will claim cats are trying to own you, want to trip you, or are impatient to be fed.

If a dog bites a human, people will (correctly) insist it isn’t the dog’s fault, it’s the owner’s fault for training it wrongly (or not at all) or the other person’s fault for ignoring its body language. The same happens with a cat? Apparently cats are just nasty. People are quick to defend a dog’s flaws that were caused by human influence (or lack of), or biological nature, or are an unfair generalisation. And rightly so. Because these are vulnerable animals we are talking about. And cats are no different here.

Cats are not living for world domination, and to think so would be anthropomorphising them unrealistically based on cat prejudice hyped up by fiction. If any creature lives for world domination, it’s the homo sapiens. Cats simply live to survive as comfortably as possible. Don’t we all?

Any more thoughts on this issue? I may have covered them here or here. Or possibly even here, for cat/Asperger comparisons. Otherwise, fire away!

Bouncer’s usually the one to initiate our after-work catch up!

 

Advertisements

Proud to be different?

For those of you who don’t know, I’m not only autistic, I’m also biracial. Specifically half Taiwanese, half British. And throughout my life, I’ve had more people than I can count react to this. Often unprompted. I get complete strangers saying ni hao to me. Men trying to be funny. Women selling Chinese literature. Boys at school who wanted to “have my Chinese babies.”

People have argued that there’s nothing wrong with saying “ni hao.” It’s only hello, right? Well it’s not funny. Or cool. It makes me feel the same as when men catcall me – they might not be using a direct insult, but it is still disturbing. Plus how do I know they’re not making fun? You don’t go around singing Lion King songs to black people. Or assuming that an autistic person is a living incarnation of Christopher from The Curious Incident. Oh, wait…

Yet being in a minority is seen as special. Which brings me onto a conversation I had with Mum, following a man-trying-to-be-funny incident the other day.

These days, it’s both healthy and trendy to do a Lady Gaga and proudly say “I was born this way, hey!” And many people believe it’s good to be different. Great that they think that, but it’s easy enough to say when you haven’t fallen behind at school, dealt with countless preconceptions about your race or how your brain works, feared judgement even from those closest to you, had people take you less seriously than they should…Sometimes I still hate being different. There, I said it.

But by all means be proud of your brain. Or heritage, or whatever. If you’re neurotypical and/or firmly rooted into your home country by 10 generations, your support means a lot to people like me. Either way, remember that no matter how well things are going, it can be tough. And if you’re not happy in who you are, don’t try to pretend otherwise – it’s ok to be frustrated.

If it does get you down and someone is trying too hard to be positive, say: “I’m glad you think it’s a good thing, and I realise that it’s important to be happy in who I am. But being/having x,y,z can be hard because (insert reason), and sometimes I need people to acknowledge that and sympathise.” This isn’t the same as being pitied just for being in a minority – it’s simply feeling sorry that someone else is struggling.

And if someone says something careless without trying to hurt you, just explain that you are a regular person. Say that displaying preconceptions about you makes you feel really uncomfortable, especially because sometimes people do mean it unkindly. Or because they have assumed something that just isn’t true. If they are apologetic, accept their apology and move on. If not, just…move on.

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to counting red cars. And giving out fortune cookies. Zai jian for now!

Proudly autistic and Asian

 

Us versus them – which is which?

You know what they’re talking about on the news at the moment? You can bet it includes people, politics, and prejudice, no matter when you’re reading this post. On Facebook these days I see about a gazillion hot topics trending. I don’t know if Facebook has become more news-y or if I’m just better at noticing these things, but I’m going to talk about one particular controversy: people’s attitudes towards race and religion.

Yes, you heard me. If you see another blog post from me, you’ll know I didn’t commit social suicide today after all.

As a student living in today’s society, I have seen more online articles and videos than I care to count. Am I alone in that? Somehow I don’t think so. Looking through comments sections following numerous topics of discussion sometimes makes me feel like losing faith in humanity. People often seem to hype up hate towards Christians, Muslims, refugees, anyone who falls under a social category that may have caused problems for other people in the past. But to me, they’re missing the point. It isn’t having beliefs that’s wrong, and it certainly isn’t heritage. It’s cruelty. Which anyone is capable of and anyone can choose not to commit.

As for ‘we should help our own people first’: why do we prioritise people based on race and not on how much they actually need help? We are all people; there should be no ‘our own vs others’.

One thing I have learnt in recent years is this: we live in a society where too many people think that the way they see the world is the way it works. As a Christian, I don’t know whether to be more saddened by the fact that Christians get labelled as prejudiced, bible-bashing bigots or by certain individuals who do nothing to kill that stereotype. Is Christianity meant to show people how best to live, love and learn? Absolutely. Does it make a believer any more or less of a person? I don’t think so.

Atheists who freely post on the internet that all Christians are indeed prejudiced, bible-bashing bigots are being no better than the people they are accusing, in my opinion. Why should it be right for some social groups to shove certain people into a box but not others? Sadly it’s not just religion versus atheism wars where this is apparent. Cats versus dogs, introverts versus extroverts, Harry Potter versus Twilight? You name it.

I mean, just look at the conflicts that arise as a result, and you will see where I’m coming from. I could think of a million and one comments to add to such things, but am no more likely to do so than a football fan turn off the TV to drive all the way to Manchester so they can shout insults at the losing team. In other words, my stance on topics like that are for me, myself and I. And my blog, occasionally.

One of my principles in life is that the world is too big and complicated for us to ever understand it. I have my beliefs and am always trying to improve my understanding of God, faith, and the world in general. If any belief or opinion of mine is right or wrong, it will be one small thing compared with everything else I am right or wrong about. In short, no one on this earth has all the answers.

So with this principle, what morals do I go by? Keep an eye on your own thoughts and feelings. Accept you won’t always be right, and try to understand where other opinions come from. Above all, treat others with the same care and respect you expect to be treated with; at the end of the day, they are your equal.

 

Disabilities in the media

What ideas come to mind when you think of autism? Dyslexia? Cerebral Palsy? Disabilities as a whole? These days, we have increasingly wide access to information about the world around us, and so this means disability awareness has improved. But how does the media affect our understanding?

In many ways, it is all too easy for us to put certain concepts into boxes. For example, when someone talks about dyslexia most people would automatically think of someone who has trouble reading and spelling. We can’t help it, and believe it or not, it is not necessarily a bad thing. The human brain needs to retain information about a topic to draw on whenever that topic is mentioned, so they know roughly what they are dealing with.

The flip side of that thought pattern is that it is all too easy to latch onto stereotypes. We learn from the internet, the news, books and what other people know. It is the media that has the power to inform and misinform, and this is where stereotypes can arise. People have assumed I am slow, a mathematical genius, unemotional, prone to tantrums or even unable to talk! Sometimes you just have to laugh…

Ever heard of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon? The protagonist, fifteen year old Christopher, has a photographic memory and knows all the prime numbers to 233, but has no understanding of people at all. A good read, but also an unfortunate misrepresentation of Asperger’s, thanks to whoever wrote the blurb. In other words, stereotypes are often a combination of exaggerated truths and popular myths. I’ve heard it said somewhere that a stereotype is a story but not the whole story. Very well put…whoever originally said that!

And yet, thanks to the ever-developing media, understanding is continuing to grow. You see disabled fictional characters who manage to prove their worth as valuable members of society. Or maybe characters who get to know someone with a certain condition and become a better educated person for it. Ever seen the kids TV show Arthur? Arthur’s friend George spends one episode trying to deal with dyslexia and another befriending a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. And now there is apparently an autistic character on Sesame Street. Fiction does play a part in educating the public.

This is another post based on one of my online Demon articles but what inspired me to put it on my blog now was two blog posts portraying how much prejudice and ignorance there still is. One was about how the author will never love his girlfriend’s autistic toddler (come on, how many non-disabled toddlers are completely angelic? My now-18 year old sister hated the world at that age).

Then this one http://everydayaspergers.com/in-our-defense-another-aspie-basher/ was a reaction to an ignorant article about Asperger’s Syndrome. I would appreciate the witty responses from the author of this blog, but according to the article mentioned in the above post, there is no chance of me ever having a sense of humour. You know, because I have Asperger’s. Obviously.

Got more to say on this topic? Affected by any kind of disability? Interested in the media? Any opinions are more than welcome!

Original article: http://www.demon-media.net/features/disabilities-in-the-media/

The pet lovers’ dreaded debate part 2

I will never understand dog lovers. Or at least the ones who use this as an excuse to hate cats. Does this mean I have a problem with dogs? I’ve already explained this: not at all. Despite having done a similar rant here, I’ve been feeling a part two for that post brewing for months now. So here goes.

To me, hating an animal feels like more than just opinion. If someone told me they hated the colour blue, or spicy food, or classical music, it honestly wouldn’t bother me. Nor does it offend me when people are afraid of cats. Fear is a tough thing to overcome. But choosing to hate an animal without any real understanding? That’s what feels like prejudice to me. I’ve learned to still like and respect individual cat haters, but as with all prejudices, it will always bother me.

Now dogs need a pack leader, be it themselves or otherwise. This means that a dog would be loyal even to a leader who abused it, because following a leader would feel safer than leaving the group. While this is irrelevant regarding loving human-dog relationships, in this case it is instinct, not love. So why are dogs more compliant than cats in loyalty/obedience studies? They recognise the scientist carrying out the study as a leader to be obeyed. Cats don’t; if they show unconditional affection to a person, it is because they like them, not because they feel they have to. As with people, you have to work on a healthy relationship, not just expect one.

But why do cats slaughter wildlife? It’s instinctive, it’s how they’ve survived and it’s also why we domesticated them. If it’s any reassurance, cats aren’t nearly as responsible for the destruction of wildlife as traffic, pollution and loss of natural habitats by human beings. Similarly, both humans and cats kill for food. Those that don’t live on the streets don’t have to, but the difference is, we choose to kill for food/cruelty/war with other humans, or we can decide not to. Cats, like most animals, don’t have the same decision-making capacity.

Also, unlike us, cats can’t survive without meat. As a vegetarian myself, I would not emphasise this point lightly. It’s also worth noting that if all a kitten learns to hunt is toy mice and pieces of string, then it will grow up to be a pretty poor hunter anyway. Thomas thought that hunting was as simple as charging towards his prey while meowing his head off!

So to wrap up, let animals be animals without being judged or stereotyped. Drop the cat v dog wars. Rather than hating, maybe educate yourself about cats – or any animals or people you don’t get – or just accept what you don’t know and keep an open mind. A passing cat might be worthless to you, but it’s probably someone else’s beloved pet/loyal friend/living mousetrap/hopeless hunter. As the saying goes, one pet owner’s trash is another’s treasure!

20140613_085753

Who says cats don’t like human attention?

Part 1: https://unwrittengrace.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-pet-lovers-dreaded-debate/

Part 3: https://unwrittengrace.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/the-pet-lovers-dreaded-debate-part-3-double-standards-98/

The pet lovers’ dreaded debate

A few years ago, I started planning an article to send to a pet related magazine. Which brings me to this post’s topic. I’m sure I’ve definitely touched upon it here before, but it is one that will set my teeth on edge until its opposing sides officially call a truce. What exactly is the topic? Oh yeah…cat v dog wars.

Now, as a cat lover, I could come across as being a bit biased. However, I like to think that two years of studying animal care and an autistic fascination with cat behaviour (and animals in general) have given my views a touch of rationality. I also have little patience for stereotypes, which, given that I am a non-homophobic Christian and an Asperger person with emotions, has occasionally proven…challenging.

But hey, being human means that you do have a say in the world about commonly accepted misconceptions. Write about them, blog about them, go wild and actually voice your opinions. Animals, on the other hand – love ’em or hate ’em – are at our mercy, from our impact on their habitats, to our systems for breeding them, to the way the media portrays them. And cats are no exception.

Dogs are widely accepted as being Man’s Best Friend. I like dogs; I’ve known some great ones. Dogs are very much “pack animals” and so are pre-programmed to look up to a “master,” to whom they will most likely be loyal and devoted. Being a “dominant” species, we like the idea of an animal that worships us. Cats simply don’t have the same concept of leading or being led. This is not selfishness, disloyalty or even stupidity – it is just a different survival strategy for life in the wild.

Does this mean you cannot develop a strong relationship with one? Not at all. Cats have been known to sense human emotions like dogs, to actively seek out someone close to them and even to pine for that someone when apart from them. To a cat, a much loved and loving human is a mother figure whose presence has been scientifically proven to bring out their more kittenish behaviour. All it takes is a little understanding on the owner’s part.

More sub-consciously, as a social, “dominant” species, we like to read faces and see facial expressions. Which is why many people prefer dogs to cats. I’ve said before, this is one of the many things cats have in common to Asperger people: reduced recognition and use of facial expressions. Interestingly, this is also why cat lovers often prefer tabbies and white cats to black cats – it is easier to see their facial features. ‘Tis another form of animal related prejudice, but maybe a topic for another day…

After that long rant, you may be thinking I think cats are better than dogs. If so, you are thinking wrong. Being better suited to cats does not make cats superior. No more than me preferring apples to grapefruits makes apples more nutritious. Animals are simply vulnerable to how we see them, and consequently treat them. Which, I hasten to add, does apply to some cat lovers’ beliefs that dogs are dumb and smelly. Again, they are simply a different creature, and no more deserving of human/media conceived prejudice than any other creature.

I still have more to say on this issue, but, as if on cue, my ever loyal companion Bouncer has come meowing for me, clearly wanting to help me finish this blog post. So as a closing thought, while I still have this desk chair to myself: what are your insights into animal misconceptions?
untitled
His eyes aren’t usually that creepy…

Part 2: https://unwrittengrace.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/the-pet-lovers-dreaded-debate-part-2/

Part 3: https://unwrittengrace.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/the-pet-lovers-dreaded-debate-part-3-double-standards-98/