Example: The pledge on Change.org, 'Befriend an Autistic Person'. People make a pledge, as stated, to befriend an autistic person. Because autistic people can have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends. True. We often face bullying, loneliness, isolation. Also true. Having friends, even one, can help us, make us happier, improve our lives, even if it's only a bit. True again. So what is my problem with this pledge? It seems awesome.
The answer is: It could be awesome. It really could be. But it can also be horrible:
- If someone befriends someone else just because they think they should, not because they truly like the person, like being around them, doing things with them. I would want someone to befriend me because they like me, because they like being around me. Not because they think they have to, and/or because they pity me.
- if someone decides they have befriended someone, but it isn't mutual. But they don't recognise that it is not mutual. I, and probably others, might not be able to make that clear.
- if someone thinks they have befriended someone, but it is not an equal relationships (in terms of power). If they are more a sort of carer (welcome or not, and whether they recognise it or not).
I probably haven't expressed this in the clearest way, and there might be points that I forgot. But this is why that pledge on Change.org makes me uneasy. The text that accompanies the action does not warn for any of these things. Even if it does, the above things may still happen. But if people are forewarned, they will happen less (so I hope, anyway. I have faith in human beings left).
(and I really, really don't mean to hurt anyone, especially the people who initiated this, but there is a trap that is so easy to fall into, for anyone, even the warned, that you simply cannot post too many big warning signs, often. And it is currently a good example, and the only one available to me now. I need it to explain what I mean.)