A group’s members must never be censored from sending each other messages about any fairness problem

It is common sense to the ethic of support, in any supportive group set up as caring for our needs and problems, that any member of a group can raise with the others, for their thoughts, any problem with how fairly the group is working. This includes raising it personally with anyone on a contact list and/or who you are on confident enough terms with for it. I’m concerned with aspie local groups in real life, here, and what it means for them to work properly.

Imagine if members were banned from spontaneously raising issues with each other about the group, telling each other there is any problem. Then the group’s leadership, one person even, could cover up anything they liked about their reaction to any problem raised by any member. That would not be an ethical way to run a group, it would be a dictatorship. Also, when a group compiles a policy or code about how it is going to cope with any sorts of difficulty, it needs to gather views from its members on what needs they need the code to reflect. That is responsible. It works in the ELAS group in Edinburgh.

Otherwise the policy can expect to run into unforseen problems and clashes. dunfermline_abbey6446aYou can’t have one centralised leader simply announce that she alone is going to write “a strict code of conduct” to suit herself and slap it on everyone.

As of yesterday [– 9 Oct 2009] there is an actual case of this, in Scotland. The Fife Aspie Solidarity Group, run by PHAD. It illustrates, worldwide, why it is important to any aspie group’s ethicality, its medical fairness to hearing all its members’ needs, that a group must never be constituted as owned by one person who is the leader, who has final say over everything and can decree new policies.

Constraint on the way we can talk about problems, so that it does not itself turn into personal bullying, is sensible. But a group should discuss its constraints and make sure they don’t amount to censorship of the expression of any problem at all. It’s right that you should not be allowed to identify a person and make attacks, same as here. It’s right that you should have to try, firstly, to get a personal problem solved in the gentlest and least disruptive way. But what happens when the “proper channels” for this don’t work? e.g. because they let you down and don’t solve or recognise the problem? This is a possibility anywhere, throughout life, it is why one of the safeguards of freedom is entitlement to speak out about it, as a failing of the system. It’s why free speech matters instead of offices of the astate deciding everything and what is ever heard about it.

You must be allowed to describe the nature of the problem, keeping names anonymous, and the nature of how you think the system for solving it has let you down, and consequent ideas for change. Anything you can support factually you must be allowed to say, not gagged on the excuse that it is a libel risk – the whole point of speaking factually verified is it’s not libel. This is basic to the freedom and uncorruption of any group, to keeping leadership cover-ups impossible, hence to any group’s sheer medical ethicality. This is a standard for local groups’ ethicality that needs campaigning for.

Suppose your group leadership then expects you to take part in group praise of work in support roles, done by a member who has abused you by setting you up for a horrible rejection experience and turned his back on you when it happens. You are then in an emotionally bullied position. Suppose there is a generous supply of private “proper channels”, to raise it through, including a bigger support organisation that assists the group, but all you get is noncommittality that by default changes nothing, evasion of direct comment on the case at all, and libel scares against describing it as the crime of vulnerable adult abuse it is. Suppose you email other members in the group’s contact list, keeping it all anonymous and raising as a system failiure that this injustice was happening. Don’t be so naive as to ask them to care to do anything for you at all, of course. So suppose you just set out the situation and the proper moral non-abusive solution that would keep the group running properly and keep everyone safe, and you tell folks they need do nothing at all, for you have put the solution in place just by writing the message, unless anyone actively says otherwise, and why they will be in the wrong if they do. You say, read the message then comfortably move on from it and everything will be fine.

This is common sense, and an act of discussing with the other members how to deal with a problem in the group – anyone in any group must naturally be willing for that. If the one overcentralised leader rules this a misuse of members’ contact details and likely to upset folks, and just announces her own rules about it, she is seizing back the power to keep the final decision on all problems and to censor members from discussing with other members when there is anything wrong with the group. Then the wrong outcome, even on an abuse issue, could be imposed by leader decision and all talking about it would be banned! Ever mentioning any problem to anyone except through the leader, even anyone you closely trust, will be banned in the code and will count as subjecting them to upset and misusing the contact list. This would be like communism and AFF. I won’t stay in a group that requires submitting to this, I won’t class msyself or anyone else as safely protected under such a regime. This needs the scene to campaign on as a principle to watch out for everywhere.

It’s like saying: the country needs placing under some strict codes to stop disorder upsetting folks, in which our leader must keep us feeling safe by never being told otherwise, so let’s abolish parliament and ban news of anything the government disfavours. On occasions in history this solution really has been popular. It has never turned out well.

See the next story about Phad, the wholesale tyrannical coup that the above event led to.