Monthly Archives: August 2014

You

I don’t remember your name but I can’t forget you. We were in school together, grade prep and maybe one. I remember we were best friends. We used to play together on the bars during recess. I remember other people making fun of me, and vicariously you, which made me sad. You suffer from Down syndrome, which to everyone in the school (maybe the town) made you some kind of enemy. It made me sad that no one else could see what I saw. I remember someone who always had a smile for me. I remember someone who was happy just to be together. It has always seemed like a lot of stress to me, trying to put on the pretense of making small talk, but you didn’t care. Very few people I feel comfortable around but I remember that was never a problem with you.

I remember something else. I was in the hallway at the school, and I remember parents descending like a mob. Everyone was there and watching you being taken away. Is it all a dream? I don’t know, but I remember it. I remember it because I have a clear memory of my father standing next to me. I remember asking him why they were taking you away. My dad said you were going to a special school. I never really questioned it but even at the time it seemed strange. Why had so many people arrived to make sure my friend was taken away? It still doesn’t make any sense.

This was in Mortlake, Victoria in Australia. It was some time between nineteen eighty and nineteen eighty two. It was around the time when Father Gerald Ridsdale was living at the Catholic presbytery.

When he came to that town we all rejoiced. He had a fluffy beard, he looked like Santa, and he acted like him too. He loved children. He made sure to treat us all like we were special. As it turns out, he perhaps loved them too much. He came to welcoming arms, and left behind him a hundred lifetimes of shattered memories.

I remember the corner of the school yard we would all sneak out of during lunch time. I can still remember the taste of the sour grass we used to suck, and the flowers which, when you removed their petals, looked just like an Olympic torch. And when kids snuck out of the grounds they could run a short way to visit Gerald.

He had a game: if you told him a joke he would print it in the newsletter and give you fifty cents. I don’t remember the riddle I told him, but the answer was porpoise. I can see his chest of drawers from his room even now. I don’t remember much else, but every day I wonder. Now I see it from the eyes of an adult, it was like sneaking through the lion’s den.

And I wonder too, was it Gerald who led the mob against you? I don’t know. Coincidence? Maybe. All I have is bits of memories, it was so long ago.

I’m not even sure of anything, truth be told. The only reason I even think about this is that every time I think of you I cry, and I don’t understand why. Do you have the answers?

I’ve seen photos of myself not long after that time, and I can see the fear in my eyes. Is it all just a fiction? I know they say that we can create very real memories that never happened, but this DOES seem oh so real. And then there’s the crying. And the sadness that I can’t seem to make go away. It’s there always.

Sometimes I wonder where you are, and whether you still smile every day. And sometimes I wonder do you remember me? And does it even matter?

Advertisements

Sociopaths And The Collapse Of Conservatism Prologue

A Tale Of Two Blogs

This is part of a series on politics and psychology. You can jump to other parts here:
Prologue: A Tale Of Two Blogs
Part 1: The Most Annoying Thing
Part 2: Sociopaths, Losers and the Clueless

It all started in a weird sort of roundabout way. Here was an article, full of moments of incredible insight. About small things, and about large things. Maybe about both at the same time, as is the way of most thought travelling from the unconscious forward.

Perhaps, it’s impossible to say for sure, this was how it was meant to be. As though a philosophy was slowly forming, and my conscious mind had just not been made aware of it yet.

This piece I had written, I sought feedback, but the same thing kept being said: this is two blogs. Disjointed. Skipping from one random thought to the next. Now psychology, now sociology, now politics. Perhaps they were right, even though social proof is often misleading in these cases, it seemed likely that the writing hadn’t hit the mark.

I put the article aside to think some more. I must admit I had trouble defining what it actually was that I intended to communicate. Something about it confused me, yet, at the same time, something about it seemed to connect, in my mind at least. It remained unpublished for many weeks, my unconscious pondering the problem.

There was some not very good writing in the meantime…writing experiments more than proper articles. Then one morning as I lay half awake this idea popped into my head. It was a grand idea…well a hypothesis really, at first. It was politics, but it was also sociology, and again psychology (of the pop variety at least)…and yet one more thing: math. An idea of set theory, so applicable it seemed like a bolt of an idea. But politics and maths? I’m not talking obvious connections like economics. Rather the kind of connection that leaves people saying things like, “but we’re not talking about maths, we’re talking about politics”.

I’ll get to that idea soon. But first it occurred to me that these ideas that had been bubbling around inside were all somehow intimately connected. And therein lies the first problem.

Many times I’ve found myself confounded, when attempting an analogy, or a metaphor, by a miscommunication. At first, well at least the first time my understanding started to clarify, I saw this as a pattern/facts dichotomy. Perhaps I should explain a little more clearly.

As far as I can tell, given my background in computer software, and understanding of people, as well as pop psychology, there are, as is usually the case, two types of people.

First there are those amongst us, who primarily deal in facts. Now, perhaps there needs to be a better word for what I’m talking about here but I’ll try to elucidate. I’m not talking about facts in the sense of something being true or not. Rather I’m talking about facts in the sense of discrete pieces of information, easily measured, and all in their own little clearly marked boxes. For instance, and I’ll coin a phrase just for the sake of the argument, it is a thoughtlet that in democratic societies politicians tend to gravitate into two dominant parties.

“But the hour presseth them; so they press thee. And also from thee they want Yea or Nay. Alas! thou wouldst set thy chair betwixt For and Against?”

Excerpt From: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. “Thus Spake Zarathustra.”

The second type of person is the type that thinks in patterns. They don’t concern themselves too much with facts and figures (although this doesn’t necessarily mean they believe in nonsense or oogity boogity), but rather concern themselves with organising general patterns of ideas. They more easily see the connection between, say, the movement of atmospheric pressure and the political vacuum of war and peace. This gives them advantages in predicting general outcomes for an unknown discipline, but less understanding of specific areas of knowledge.

I am more of a pattern thinking person, although I only realised this a few years ago. Till that point it hadn’t occurred to me that there was any reason to suspect that others didn’t even understand the general style of thinking I was using.

Pattern thinking is the basis behind such things as fables. Almost no one would suggest that “slow and steady wins the race” only applies to tortoises, so at least on some level pattern thinking must be understood by most people. And yet in most topics it seems to be almost anathema.

Where does this resistance come from? It’s probably out of my range of skills to make conclusions, although I do have a certain suspicion. Most of us, from the age of about five, are sent to school. It becomes a (if not THE) dominant influence on our modes of thinking. For (I assume) reasons of efficiency all the information is delivered via a number of discrete categories: maths, science, history etc. Therein, with increasing levels of difficulty, we are presented with gruelling examinations, testing us on each topic individually. Is it any wonder than that we develop minds that try to separate conversations to singular discrete topics? It’s probably also the reason why we hear arguments like: why should I learn statistics if I’m never going to be a statician? (Answer: you’re an idiot.)

There is perhaps nothing more preposterous a notion than that of separating ideas into their own baskets. LIFE IS MESSY! Life doesn’t separate itself, it just is! Economics (to use an example) can be no more separated from philosophy, can be no more separated from politics, can be no more separated from psychology, can be no more separated from baking, building, designing, nor living than a heart can be separated from a living being. Sure, you CAN separate these things but what you have left is a pile of human remains WITHOUT life, only death.

As if one can play soccer without considering the importance of a healthy heart and diet! In that regard, at least, perhaps sports people are a little ahead.

And yet we must never let the disciplines cross. And why? Why must we talk about political climate WITHOUT discussing the mental state of those in charge of it?

It’s obvious, in retrospect, that Adolph Hitler was seven hens short of a dozen, but if he was around today, and there ARE MANY JUST LIKE HIM, we would excuse him and mark the naysayers as deluded conspiracists!

It’s no longer viable to talk about these things as separate ideas. EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS CONNECTED. DISCONNECTION IS DEATH, and it’s high time we talked as so.

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….” George Orwell, Why I Write

Sociopaths And The Collapse Of Conservatism Part 1

The Most Annoying Thing

This is part of a series on politics and psychology. You can jump to other parts here:
Prologue: A Tale Of Two Blogs
Part 1: The Most Annoying Thing
Part 2: Sociopaths, Losers and the Clueless

The most annoying thing for many sufferers of mental illness, so far as I can tell (or at least for me), is when a well meaning normal tries to relate. It’s a special kind of (probably unintentional) arrogance that assumes they would have any idea what it’s like to suffer the kinds of anxiety that true sufferers go through.

I figure it’s all meant to be some kind of harmless bonding exercise. I suspect, and this is just hypothesis, that it stems from the fact that for many people the worst thing they’ve ever had to deal with is having to drink Pepsi instead of Coke (which I understand, believe me). And so you go through life trying to optimise your privelige, “Oh you like drum and base? I like drum and base TOO!”. Of course it’s assumed that they’re already in agreement of all the really important matters in life and what they’re after is simply another priveliged person with whom they won’t have to worry about what station the television is switched to.

So when a person with really difficult problems opens up to them, they respond in the only way they know how: a sort of quasi believable connection. “Oh you sometimes think of slashing your wrists with razor blades because your uncle used to rape you as a child? I have bad days TOO!”

And it gets even worse the longer a normal attempts to be supportive in this world that completely bamboozles them. They attempt to offer advice…which at the end of the day is like a mouse trying to tell an elephant how to lose weight. There’s two things wrong here: one, they’re assuming the problems the other person has are the same (either in intensity or type) as the problems they experience, and two, they’re assuming that the only reason they’re not in the situation the other person finds themselves in is because of the rather intelligent actions they took.

This is largely because most people are still living under the delusion that most if not all of our actions are the result of conscious free will. Many religions, for example, express free will as some kind of gift. The reality couldn’t be further from it: most discrimination comes from using the concept of free will to judge and persecute people who never had any real choice in the first place! (This, as an aside, is one of the main tenants of existentialism.) If you’re still convinced that this is true then youhaven’tbeenpayingattention!

“Thoughts simply arise in the brain. What else could they do? The truth about us is even stranger than we may suppose: The illusion of free will is itself an illusion” Sam Harris The Moral Landscape, p112

In fact, there is almost no scientific evidence that supports the idea of free will, while most indicates that thoughts are initiated unconsciously while coming all but completely debunking the myth of free will (in the sense that people usually think about it in terms of contribution to outcomes, let’s leave the religious interpretation of free will to another time).

And so, with this myth prevalent in their minds, along with perhaps a certain amount of Dunning Kruger effect, normal people go ahead and make suggestions such as, “just go out and have fun”. The same principle applies to many things in life, and it’s really no different to claims such as “go get a job”.

Privilege, not to put too fine a point on it, is like being lucky enough to have a seat on a crowded train…and THEN having the gall to eviscerate other passengers for wobbling around.

It’s quite convenient, in fact, for people in positions of privilege to perpetuate this belief. It allows them to continue their privileged lifestyle completely guilt free, and to oppress the people that otherwise might claim sovereign right to their properties. This is something I’d like to call The Abbott Paradox.

But wait, doesn’t paradox imply some aspect of irony? At first appearance, it would seem that applying this sense of privilege reinforcing logic advances the status of the normal while oppressing the status of the victim. And for the short term that is almost certainly true. But what is paradoxical about this logic is that IN REALITY a divided system will almost always collapse and take down the top and the bottom with it both!

For instance, in the nineteenth century, before the invention of public garbage disposal, cholera threatened to wipe out entire populations! And it wasn’t just the poor who were at stake since so many poor people with cholera meant rich people were contracting it too. Hence began the tradition of publicly funded waste removal (aka socialism..omg).

In fact, the vast majority of human improvements have come about because of social minded decisions. Think about it: where would we be without roads? Gas pipes? Water pipes (aka aqueducts one of the earliest examples of social responsibility)? How about police? Ambulances? Firemen? Our armed forces? Public education? Whether you like it or not, you are a socialist by the very virtue of enjoying civilisation. Even the basis of civilisation, the social contract, IS ITSELF A FORM OF SOCIALISM!

If we look still further back, to the dawn of time, as seen in our closest living relatives, “even the most extreme form of human tolerance and altruism is in part driven by our genes”.

What would happen if we take away our medical system from poor people? DO GERMS OBEY THE LAW? They bow to no master and will attack and destroy the lowliest pauper to the tallest of kings all the same. Do you want to live in a world where you could contract a deadly disease by merely walking down the street?

Or to return to the original topic briefly, do you want to live in a world where people under extreme mental stress lose control and kill yourself or your friends and children?

This is why inequality is bad for everyone. The only difference between the privileged and the oppressed is that the oppressed have seen the man behind the curtain. H G Wells explained it best in The Time Machine, in which the underclasses are pushed so far down that they are forced by necessity to EAT THE RICH!

It gets worse. Lately, it seems, there appears to be a growing delusion that not only should we reduce support for the oppressed classes but that the government should spend as much on services for the rich as the money those people contribute. As though the government were nothing but a pay for service toy for the rich. The self entitlement is astounding. Far from the truth though, they ignore the fact that their wealth was set in place HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO at GUN POINT!

NO. Government assistance is repairing the damage of YOUR forefathers. They wax rhetorical about true Australians (AS IF THERE IS SUCH A THING), but in truth Australia was founded on the backs of criminals and paupers. And now they want to take back what WE created.

Capitalism has truly become a farce. It serves no one but to perpetuate the DELUSION that some are born masters and some are born slaves. And the lie exists in many forms, whether it be mental illness, race, creed, sexual identity, or more, but they all exist for some purpose: to maintain the position of the rich, paradoxically making us ALL poorer by virtue.

There’s a second paradox though. Kind of a meta-paradox you might say. In fact, the likes of Tony Abbott are guilty of NOTHING MORE than that which they were preordained to do, caused by the hidden restraints of the privileged class. The truth is that the encumbant rich are in fact suffering from one of the strongest mind traps of all: one that is in PLAIN SIGHT! That may be the silver lining to our current times, that long after we’ve evolved past this idiocy, that Abbott will be remembered for the sad, degenerate, mentally redundant imbecile that he is.

“‘Cause I’d rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sadmen roaming free” David Bowie All The Madmen

I guess there are people out there that will see this all as quite a stretch. Wondering how I got from misunderstanding of mental illness to REBUKING THE SYSTEM AS A WHOLE! I suppose it’s easy to dismiss this as the rantings of a mad man. But just like epistemology revolutionised modern thought, it is idiotic to ignore the truth of all ideas: ALL IDEAS COME FROM FRAGILE MINDS.

I suppose that’s the point of this whole blog. If you’ve been wondering why I switch from philosophy to psychology to personal experience (seemingly randomly), there’s a reason for this. It’s a fundamental truth I’ve come to learn. Philosophy without psychology is simply guessing.