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A brief manifesto.

I am affected by what is known as Asperger's syndrome. I know this not because I have diagnosed myself as having the condition like many on the Internet do, but because multiple professionals independently diagnosed me as having it, long ago when my mother was desperate for answers on how to raise me, years before I was mature enough for the gravity of the diagnosis to hit me the way it does now. Those with Asperger's have a reputation for being extremely skilled in a particular field despite otherwise being very deficient (especially regarding interacting with people), and this has perhaps blessed me in regards to my puzzle-writing abilities. Nonetheless, I sometimes wish I could trade some of the honor that my talent has brought me (including having co-written two tests on Logic Masters India with World Puzzle Champion Palmer Mebane) with a life that more closely resembles that of a normal human being, because Asperger's has made me a magnet for bullying.

Bullying upsets me so much that I could write a very whiny piece about bullying that nobody will ever actually read. Instead, I shall provide this summary: I was bullied in school. I was cyberbullied within the puzzle community. I was cyberbullied within other communities. The result was low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, and a hardened misanthropic heart. Having experienced bullying and the awful consequences firsthand, I have decided to write out a few tenets that I deeply believe in, and which I hope that we as the logic puzzle community can embrace. Perhaps these tenets could be borrowed by a bazillion other communities, too, but the puzzle community is the one in particular I care about.

The puzzle community must be welcoming. People on The Grey Labyrinth bullying me over my Christian faith nearly cost me my life and my eventual puzzle-writing career. While I accept that maybe I wasn't a mature person then, and absolutely wasn't a skilled puzzle author, I still wish I could have been welcomed with a more constructive type of criticism. My vision for this community of ours is that newbies can be treated with a great deal of respect. Gentle guidance, not name-calling, is what will bring newbies into the fold. On that note, I must applaud Art of Problem Solving, a community whose focus is on mathematical competitions more than the logic puzzles that are the focus of this blog, for being as PG-rated as it is. My life might have been on better footing sooner had my first online puzzle community been more like AoPS than the GL.

The puzzle community must be united. I envision a haven where numerous individuals who are like-minded regarding puzzles can set aside every other difference they have and talk about puzzles. Anything that might threaten to divide us (like differences in religious or political views) should be kept very separate from the joy we derive from puzzles. Does that mean we have to keep our views bottled up completely? No, not necessarily. While it isn't advertised very much, BoardGameGeek has an entire subforum for Religion, Sex, and Politics (RSP for short), designed to allow rational discussions to occur while not letting the discussions creep into the board game discussion, which everybody expects to be pure fun. With the RSP discussion and board game discussion thus separated, the quality of both kinds of discussion is improved. Nobody who wishes to avoid the drama that politics tends to bring in has to worry so much about it sneaking into their fun. (I suppose that maybe my early stay on The Grey Labyrinth might have improved with such an idea, instead of "Off Topic" encompassing things like time-wasting Flash games and politics alike.) [Edit: I have learned that people in the RSP section of BoardGameGeek aren't any more civil and tolerant than anywhere else on the Internet. But then, having them segregated from everything else, including other off-topic discussions which are less controversial, is still probably a good idea.]

The puzzle community must be philanthropic! Every other freakin' community has some sort of philanthropic thing. Video gamers seem to have a marathon for every franchise and for every occasion. Whovians have a really geeky book. Even bronies have something! While I have met some awesome people within the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom who don't make me feel like a sinner for daring to have different tastes from theirs (shout-outs and bro-not-hooves to Corran Horn and Subido of BoardGameGeek, and to Facebook follower Adam Placencia!), my point remains that I feel the puzzle community has the potential to do better. This was what drove me to do that one thing last year, and I am determined to find a way to do the same thing, but more successfully.

I was recently alerted of the existence of American Red Crosswords, a set of crosswords written by multiple talented cruciverbalists to raise money for the American Red Cross. This is great! But what about the rest of the world? People in India whose English isn't all that fluent won't be into crosswords written by Americans designed to challenge people whose native tongue is English. However, some of those residents of India are more adept at logic puzzles than most Americans. They deserve a chance to participate in something that's both philanthropic and related to their hobbies, too. Let's give them an opportunity they'll never forget.

I close with a snippet from a reader e-mail: One of the things that makes the puzzle community meaningful to me as a *community* is the amount of generosity in it -- how many wonderful authors give away their works for the enjoyment of all, and how many top solvers give their advice to help others learn to solve better.  I think the next step in that generosity is things like your fundraising drive. Whenever I feel like ChipIn for Children's Charities was a failed experiment, words like these embolden me to find the time to experiment again. I promise that when that experiment rolls around, it's going to be awesome.


Grant Fikes said...

I don't wish to insert this in the main body of the message, lest people freak out or something, but the big catalyst that made me post this little thing was the Boston Marathon terror attack of April 15, 2013.

Boston, being the site of one of the most prominent annual puzzle-related events in the world, is definitely a city where I don't want people to be murdered by terrorists. However (and I'm not proud to admit this, because it serves my public image no real good, but it does prove my point about bullying begetting bullying), my first reaction was to recall the 2007 bombing scare in the same city, and how fans of a certain cartoon were absolutely derisive towards what they perceived as an overreaction; the part of me that's cynical, misanthropic, and hardened from coming to accept bullying as a fact of life imagined these fans thinking the people in Boston deserved to die from an actual bomb, rather than mourn the loss of human life. Yeah, I bet you all really admire me as a person now.

Here's my human response to the events in Boston: the 2007 scare is extremely unfortunate, whether or not it was an overreaction that people thought these Adult Swim characters were liable to explode and contacted authorities. At the very least, said reaction is a sign of the times in our post-9/11 world. And no human being should have to worry about dying a violent death in a public place because a terrorist suddenly detonated a hidden bomb during a marathon. Not being murdered is a basic human right.

BoGreenNews said...

Also, it is a basic human right to be loved. Thanks for being my friend.

Grant Fikes said...

Bo, are you kidding? It is I who should be thanking you for being so willing to humor and mentor me since my youth! By fostering a love of mathematics, you played a gigantic role in where I am today! Not everybody has the patience to deal with a 10-year-old with Asperger's, or a 25-year-old with Asperger's, but you have done so with grace. I owe you more than I can ever hope to repay.

David said...

Three words, Grant: You. Are. Awesome. Don't ever forget it.

Lee Jones said...

You are awesome, man.

Jon Michelson said...

It's been a year since the last comment, so I'll add here that I, too, think you are awesome Grant. So sad that you had to endure so much bullying ... really ANY bullying. I'm glad you were able to persevere through it. We have all benefited by your contributions to the puzzling community and by your broader comments like this blog entry itself.

Grant Fikes said...

Jon Michelson: You really think so? I've battled suicidal depression since at least 2007; various things have caused this, but the most recent of these triggers, one which didn't exist even at the time of the last comment on this post, has been the revelation that I am supposedly a racist bigot. One of my longtime colleagues was Tweeting some things that implied solidarity with the Ferguson protesters without any sort of disclaimer that their terrorizing of local businesses which had nothing to do with the supposed injustice was wrong. Pissed off, I went against any good person's judgment and posted on Twitter. Due to the character limit, what I said was something like "I preferred when Trayvon Martin was killed because at least people weren't trashing local uninvolved businesses." My colleague deemed me irredeemably racist and declared a boycott on my puzzles. He didn't come to the conclusion that I'm an emotional person who picks words poorly, but rather he jumped to the easiest conclusion that I'm I racist because I preferred the death of one black person over the death of another one.

I've tried to be open about my mental struggles on Facebook and stuff in some vain hope that I'll raise awareness that this crap doesn't discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, but can affect anyone from any walk of life at any time. Alas, sometimes all this does is gets other people to affirm why I should kill myself. Apparently, I lost a Patreon supporter by the mere act of Tweeting about my depression that I just remembered that I'm a racist bigot who's a liability to the world. I said I'm a racist bigot, ergo I must be one, and ergo I deserve no money. Can you see why I'm so cynical and misanthropic?

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