Does Stephen Harper have Asperger Syndrome?

by Thoughtful Musings
(Canada)

This is just rambling musing, but have you ever noticed that the most common descriptions about Stephen Harper also happen to be hallmarks of Aspergers?


Now, to be clear, I've never met the man, and doubt very much that he has been tested for Asperger Syndrome.

Nor am I trying to cast a pall over people with Asperger's Syndrome either. My own son has this condition, and I love him to pieces.

However....

If you're at all involved with someone with Aspergers, then you'll know that Asperger syndrome behavior can be more than a bit challenging.

And, that's why I thought of Stephen Harper. :-)

Let's start with the positive.

Very smart. This is a common description of this kind of high functioning autism - Aspergers. The ability to take in knowledge, and communicate quite well, often with fabulous vocabulary.

Do you notice though that this compliment is often followed by "but...." ?

The most common criticism being poor social skills. Often stuck in their own minds, like many folks with autism, Aspergers folks often miss the social cues that the rest of society send out.

Listen to any Canadian pundit or comic and Harper's lack of social skills are often a talking point. It apparently is too big of a trademark trait to ignore.

Lack of empathy is another common complaint about Stephen Harper. For instance, he has a seeming inability to comprehend the impact of funding cuts on social service agencies, but has no problem with giving money to tangible things - socially negative items - like fighter jets and jails.

Aspergers symptoms also include a hyper sensitivity to all senses, and an acute interest in visual presentation.

For kids, that means they will take one look at food and decide whether to eat it based on its appearance alone - and there is no convincing of them otherwise.

As an adult, there are tons of examples where Harper has demanded hyper-vigilance in how things appear. For example, demanding that the Conservative party colors or logo appear just about everywhere.

That includes the official Canada government website that turned Tory blue soon after he came into power - never mind that the country's colors are red and white.

It includes adding the Conservative logo to oversize government cheques for federally funded programs - a clearly misleading action.

Most recently, it even includes official government press releases headlined as being from the "Harper Government" rather than the Government of Canada - as if the term Canada no longer pleases him.

Surprise - lack of empathy is also a common description for adult Aspergers in particular. It's easier to get away with this as a kid. But as an adult, empathy is not only a social requirement, it's a key indicator of emotional intelligence.

As every parent and teacher of an Aspies kid knows, a need for control is absolutely a trademark of this type of autism. The older they get, the more they demand to control their environment. At best, a lack of control will leave them flustered and confused.

But try to demand that they behave in a certain way, or be in a certain place where they can't do what they want, when they want to do it, and you can expect trouble.

At worst, and all too often, it can lead to out of control, even violent behavior.

Cue the reports of Harper ranting out of control in private meetings, shouting at staff and other politicians, and apparently even throwing furniture about.

It can be very taxing and emotionally exhausting to those of us who put up with the demands and unpredictable rages of those with autism.

Is it an explanation for the number of people who have left the Conservative party once they are part of Harpers team?

If you follow the media at all, it's impossible to miss the references to the degree of control that Stephen Harper demands in just about every area - especially media.

This week alone, during an election no less, Harper is restricting media access to a bizarre degree. Only 5 questions can be asked daily, and four of those are from people who paid over $10,000. to be on his election tour - even two in each language. The fifth question can be asked by a local media outlet.'

But that doesn't mean he will even answer the questions posed! He only answers the questions he likes.

Media as a whole are kept a very safe distance away, behind a barricade. So much for helping to inform the public.

Even more bizarre is the incredible degree of screening of people to his "public" rallies - really micro-managed photo ops.

Not only do people need to register to attend, they can still be removed (by the RCMP!) if they are deemed to be even slightly, possibly opposed to Harper policies.

Students have been removed for posting a Facebook photo with an opposition politician, being part of a university group to restrict water bottles on campus, and even for being part of a group encouraging students to vote.

Even seniors have been rejected if they dared to speak up on any issue.

Apparently, only the most compliant and quiet are allowed to be in his presence.

What the heck is he afraid of? And why?

Lastly - at least in terms of the most noticeable autistic symptoms displayed by Aspergers - is the lack of awareness and concern over how they are perceived by others.

When it comes to the kid who dresses to please themselves versus fashion dictates, it can be a charming streak of independance.

As an adult with power however, it can become a real hindrance to responsible social behavior.

Charged with contempt of Parliament, Harper shrugs it off.

Complaints and evidence in tampering with election funding process? Re-cast as a difference in opinion.

Evidence of hiring convicted con-men as staff? Denies involvement - shrugs it off as not his problem.

Evidence of distorting facts, bending truth and wholesale falsehoods? Another shrug.

There are those who seem to admire that - sort of a Teflon politician unaffected by scandal - as if it were a sign of strength.

Those of us who recognize the symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome however are more likely to see it as a sign of personality disorder. Perhaps unavoidable, given the pull of Aspergers effects - but certainly behavior to watch for, and control.

Lastly, and importantly, if Aspergers' Syndrome doesn't explain his bizarre behavior, then how else do we explain it?


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