The Pointy-Eared Robot and the Republican

28/10/2013 11:20 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

...And the first part of my title, paraphrased and sewn together from two separate scenes, is pretty much what neuro-typical Captain Kirk called Asperger-like Mr Spock in the most recent Star Trek film, Into Darkness.

Kirk couldn't understand why Spock didn't seem to be responding emotionally to the fact that he'd pulled the Vulcan out of an active volcano seconds before Spock would have been stir-fried.

Kirk had displayed concern and empathy regarding his first officer's imminent demise, only to be told, upon the Vulcan's arrival aboard the Enterprise, that "you violated the Prime Directive."

In short, and if I've got my Wikipedia-based definitions right, Spock failed properly to demonstrate either cognitive or affective empathy - the understanding of another person's perspective or emotional state (cognitive) and/or the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion (affective).

Put simply, Spock failed to say:

"Thank you for saving me from a horrible death, Captain. I know you'll probably be thrown out of Starfleet for this, but I am eternally grateful!

No, I can't imagine Spock saying that either. Kirk probably felt like calling him a pointy-eared robot and many neuro-typicals may think people with autism are unable to empathize with others.

Liane Kupferberg Carter's blog in July's Huffington Post goes into the pros and cons of autism and empathy better than I can, so I'll just say this:

My mother broke her hip last month.

I did my best to understand her pain. I stayed with her in A&E, liaised with the nursing staff, brought her everything she needed and did everything I could. I even fed the cat. My first response was logical - people with autism, on the whole, think logically first and emotionally second. So, in a word, we do have emotions (sometimes very strong ones) but they can be bunged in the back seat by the brain while the logic does the driving. I even joked with some of the staff that the best thing to do was work with them rather than run around waving my arms in the air and ranting, "do something!"

But it wasn't funny. I knew Mum could lose her country lifestyle, her mobility and her Attendance Allowance. I knew how fragile her existence was and what could go wrong. Ever since my father died in 1999 and I'd become her administrative carer (as I termed it), I'd lived with the knowledge that everything could change if she took a single tumble down the stairs. My response, both then and now, was to do everything I could to help her and the practical nature of the focused Asperger brain was actually pretty useful. Walk the halls weeping later, make sure Mum has her biscuits and books about Downton Abbeynow. Do not demand action from the consultant. Find out the facts.

Perhaps the colloquialism "keep calm and carry on" could have been coined for Aspergers!

We were very lucky. Mum turned out to be one of the 3-5% percent of senior citizens who recover from a hip fracture without surgery, she only spent eight days in hospital and there is a good chance she will be able to enjoy the rural life for a few years more.

But when the worst of the worry was past, the emotion did come forth. While Mum's hip was being treated and I was holding the fort, the Republicans were holding the U.S. government to ransom over Obamacare. Relatively unrelated matters, but a few days after Mum came home, the autistic ability to think in pictures summed up for me how I felt.

Quite illogically, I imagined what I'd have done if a Republican had walked into the ward while I was sitting with my mother, wagging his finger at me and saying something like "you really should be paying for this."

I'd have killed him with my bare hands.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.