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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cultural Insanity - Part I - The Diagnosis

I’ve been quiet for a week and as you might know by now that means I’ve been working on something big Here is the First of a two part essay-

In a recent post on his own blog Richard Landes printed a letter he had received from someone who had heard him interviewed on the radio. The letter cited numerous “facts” that were obviously false and claimed to point to evidence that was clearly “cooked” and kneaded into a pungent soufflĂ© of anti-Israel canards.

Landes, never one to miss a challenging “teaching moment”, wrote a lengthy reply. In the course of his reply, he addressed the superficial reasonableness of the letter writer’s arguments. He wrote:

“The important point here is not that your position isn’t “reasonable” — and as supported by evidence as mine. It’s a legitimate one. And under normal circumstances, we could agree to differ, just as Ptolomean and Copernican astronomers could differ without grave consequences in the 16th century. But don’t try to send a space ship beyond the solar system using Ptolomean calculations.”



It might seem that Landes goes a little too far in his charitable concession that his interlocutor’s point of view was “reasonable” and “just as supported by evidence” as his own, but Landes is following an honored and sadly neglected academic method, one that is designed not to merely support a point of view in a contest but rather to test it against alternatives and see which one is more successful at describing reality. So without looking any further than the narrow frame of reference in which the letter writer framed his point of view, they seemed just to present competing and equally valid ways of looking at the situation.

Landes’ then proceeded to widen the frame around the argument to show that, like the Ptolomean system, the narrow view taken by the radio listener does not work once you expand the frame to a wider and more comprehensive view of reality. The Copernican system is, of course, much more useful in space travel because it more closely approximates the real positions, relationships and movement of the heavenly bodies; and Landes’ view is much more robust and able to account for the reality of the conflict between Western Civilization and those who wish to rule the world with collectivist systems.

That point, elegantly stated, traces the stark fault line between the strangest sets of bedfellows the world has ever seen and the most successful civilization in history. The fatally conjoined, murderously quarrelsome twins of the Sunni and Shia Caliphate Cults and the liberal/socialist/communist/collectivist bastard children of The West (fascists all !) all have this in common, that they simply lack the ability to see the cultural frame of world events in any but the narrowest perspective. This is more than a willful blindness and it is not a product of stupidity of ignorance either. As I observe the smug, suicidal behavior of the progressive/socialist/liberal left and compare it with the belligerent, intolerance of the Caliphate Muslims seem to me to be in the grip of a similar kind of mental illness. They are all “collectivists” and there is something about people who believe in giving up one’s rights and prerogatives to a group of any kind that renders them unable to behave in a broader self-interest- even while they believe that they are doing the righteous thing. One way to explain this apparently inexplicable behavior is that it represents a cultural analog of a mental illness known as Borderline Personality Disorder.

I am not in favor of criminalizing or dehumanizing people because of their ideas and I believe that calling anyone that disagrees with you “insane” is an intolerant and unproductive tactic. I also Acknowledge that, just as it is dangerous and inexact to apply models of animal behavior to human beings, and that it is perhaps even more tricky to project individual psychology onto social and cultural groups Nevertheless, the parallels here are striking and, I believe, very instructive.

Wikipedia defines Borderline Personality Disorder this way:




Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is defined as a mental illness primarily characterized by emotional dysregulation, extreme "black and white" thinking, or "splitting", and chaotic relationships. The general profile of the disorder also typically includes a pervasive instability in (1) mood, (2) interpersonal relationships, (3) self-image, (4) identity, and (5) behavior, as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation.[1]


Dissociation is the key. The leftist and the Islamist (infact collectivists of any stripe) are dissociated from their own very natures. They deny basic human truths in a defensive but doomed effort not to have to deal with issues that cause them tremendous anxiety.

Wikepedia continues:


“The disturbances suffered by those with borderline personality disorder have a wide-ranging and pervasive negative impact on many or all of the psychosocial facets of life, including employability and relationships in work, home, and social settings. Comorbidity is common; borderline personality disorder frequently occurring with substance use disorders and affective disorders. Suicidality and completed suicide are possible outcomes without proper care and effective therapy.”

Whether it is the abrupt and violent suicide culture of such diverse groups as al Qeada, Hamas and Hezbollah or the slow cultural/intellectual suicide of multiculturalism, it is compellingly apparent that the definition applies in both cases. Caliphate Islamism and Leftist liberalism both predispose their adherents to lose the ability to see the wider moral and ethical frame of the world around them.

This explains why, even though their idiosyncratic and xenophobic ideological systems are mutually contradictory, they don’t find it important to argue with each other. That’s because at the moment the contradictions amongst them are orthogonal - that is to say, in the presence of the dominant Western and American cultural and political influence, they really don’t interfere with each other. Their common disease makes them natural allies against that larger, more psychologically stable power structure that seems to them to humiliate and mock them by its very existence.

Of course, that alliance would evaporate the instant one of them ever got into a position of power. As soon as Islamists take over in an area, whether in Iraq, Waziristan or (most recently) in Gaza, they immediately behead, shoot, disembowel and torture anyone that represents moderation or reasonableness. The left, given the opportunity, in the USSR, China, Korea and Cambodia has always done the same. But while Western civilization is the common enemy, an Islamic Caliphateist who believes that women are inferior to men can accept (or at least ignore) the ranting of an anti-Israel socialist woman who believes that no human being is any more deserving than any other because she, as he does, finds it so much more important to deny the reality and moral superiority of Israel- a country whose founding principals are not orthogonal to but directly opposed to his. Indeed, the very existence of Israel is a challenge to his most basic beliefs and desires. She, on the other hand, remains blind to the plight of Muslim women and the lack of even the most rudimentary freedom of expression in the Muslim Caliphate because she has dissociated those things- split them off from her reality because they are intolerable for her and her illness has so weakened her that she cannot contemplate them.

Wikipedia provides this a list of diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). The presence of five out of nine of these is considered diagnostic of borderline personality.

Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment…
A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, promiscuous sex, eating disorders, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). [Again, not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]
Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
Chronic feelings of emptiness.
Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

I’ll admit at the outset that my definition of the progressive/socialist/liberal left is pretty broad and fuzzy around the edges. To try to define it down would be to miss the point. My point is that beyond a fairly narrow band close to the center of the political spectrum, the left has so swallowed the failed progressive agenda that they all suffer from the same cultural malaise. Here are the symptoms I see for the left:

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment…
a. Objections to the Israeli Security fence and the Mexican border fence.
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
a. The idealized view of Caliphate Islam as “freedom fighters” and “non-materialistic religious devotees while at the same time devaluing them with the “racism of lowered expectations” by not holding them to the same high standard in human rights, public discourse, child welfare and civil governance as expected of other people.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
a. Self-hatred:
i. Concentration on the “human rights record of Israel” while the Arab/Islamic, Chinese, Korean, Zimbabwean and Rssian records are orders of magnitude worse
ii. Public displays of disgust with America even though it is the greatest country and most finest democratic experiment in the history of mankind
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, promiscuous sex, eating disorders, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). [Again, not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]
a. Advocacy of sex-education that emphasizes techniques and birth control and derides abstinence and relationship counseling.
b. The introduction of legislation to control the content of food beyond basic safety standards. The move to outlaw trans-fats in some locals is symptomatic of food-faddism and group eating disorders.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
a. Multiculturalism leads to the inability to discriminate between right and wrong and to protect the culture from death-cult attacks
b. Persistent belief that “War is Not the Answer” even when an enemy has sworn to destroy and rule over you.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
a. Conspiracy Theories (9/11 truth movement, Bushitler stole the election)
Well, there’s six, a diagnosis plus one. I’m sure there are a lot more- suggestions and additions are welcome …

Here’s my take on the symptoms of The Caliphate:

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment…
a. Objections to the Israeli Security fence
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
a. Humiliation and rage over everything The West is and does stems from the dissociation of the knowledge that their culture is actually inferior.
b. Honor killings
c. Rampant child and sexual abuse
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, promiscuous sex, eating disorders, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). [Again, not including suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5]
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
a. Suicide martyrdom raised to a cultural ideal
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
a. The “Arab Street” in general
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
a. The two Intifadas
b. The Cartoon-ifada
c. The Pope-ifada
d. The Paris street riots

9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
a. Jew Hatred
b. Dhimmi laws
c. Conspiracy theories (9/11 was an Israeli plot, etc)
There’s six there too. It’s only six because of time restraints- suggestions and additions welcome here too.

Let me make it clear, I’m not a psychiatrist or psychotherapist so I don’t know what the prognosis is for individuals with this disorder or what price their family members and neighbors pay for their proximity to them. I do have a degree in anthropology, however, and I am able to see into the cultural scale of the problem. It is not hopeless but is is frightening.

Loren Eiseley who was a great anthropologist and paleontologist of the old school, knew the pathology of culture well. In his great essay The Star Thrower he wrote, “Man would kill for shadowy ideas more ferociously than other creatures kill for food, then, in a generation or less, forget what bloody dream had so oppressed him.” That is culture on a rampage. My next post will focus on the hope for recovery and reconciliation.

10 comments:

Solomon said...

"Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is defined as a mental illness primarily characterized by emotional dysregulation, extreme "black and white" thinking, or "splitting", and chaotic relationships. The general profile of the disorder also typically includes a pervasive instability in (1) mood, (2) interpersonal relationships, (3) self-image, (4) identity, and (5) behavior, as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation.[1]"

Is there a pill I can take?

Interesting piece.

Jimmy J. said...

Very interesting work. I hope some of the psych-bloggers read and comment.

As for the left and their symptoms, consider #8 - "Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger."

Whenever I see the comments section of the Daily Kos or see left slanted comments on conservative blogs, it always amazes me at how angry these people seem to be. This anger seems very inappropriate for expressing differences of opinion or ideas. On the other hand they do not get angry about the outrageous atrocities committed by the terrorists. That also seems quite inappropriate in my book. My opinion is that this is another symptom of a possible collective borderline personality.

Jewish Odysseus said...

Yaacov, that people who willingly adhere to these two quite obviously deranged ideologies are themselves insane is an assumption so self-evident, but so frightening, that very few people ever acknowledge it. But, as Goldwater said, "In our hearts, we know they're homicidal maniacs."

So what to do?

Ironically, I think we can learn a lesson from the late unlamented Evil Empire itself. You may recall that in its "mature, stable," post-Stalinist phase, when it took pains to present a less savage image to the world, the USSR developed a technique of handling those dedicated peaceful dissidents who criticized daily life inside the Workers' Paradise, people like Vladimir Bukovsky and Pietro Grigorenko: "psikhushka," commitment to a mental hospital where their delusional ravings could be properly squelched, uhhhh, treated.

To us in the civilized world this treatment was in some way more horrifying than the Gulag, cloaking the primitive despot's cruelty in the healing garb of the modern doctor. But from a propaganda perspective, it was enormously valuable to the regime: "Look, they could easily just shoot those troublemakers...but they send them to a hospital, they really care about them!" Truly diabolical genius.

But a good idea can be perverted by bad people, and I have advocated for several years that the Allies should adopt such an approach. I would convert the Abu Ghraib Prison into the Ayatollah Khoei Memorial Hospital for the Criminally Insane (named after the pro-Western Shia cleric who was murdered by al-Sadr in 2003). I would pick out a select few of the jihadis captured, not just in Iraq, but around the world, and have them interrogated by dedicated shrinks from all countries, incl Islamic ones, both to gain intelligence and to find clues for rehabilitation.

Then, just like Clockwork Orange, these jihadis would be relentlessly de/re-programmed, continuing the full battery of options such as medications, isolation, shock, etc., so that as the months and year ticked by, they would see the horror of their past activities, and become nauseous from it, to the point that they would become little Islamic Gandhis by the time they graduated.

Each graduate would of course become a national celebrity in Iraq, going on TV, radio and college campuses to expose the savage cynicism that exploited them in the past, and warn their brethren away from it in the future.

Liberals will of course criticize this as a mimic of the Soviet-style hospitals...But they will be easily rebutted: the Soviet system perverted psychiatry in order to crush the souls of decent people. This program exemplifies psychiatry at its best, attempting to salvage souls and lives from people who have surrendered them over to the most barbaric impulses found in Homo sapiens.

As I've argued before, both communism and Islam truly represent the Old World seeking to destroy the new. Collectivism is an ancient concept, as is investing The Chief with God's authority to order massacres, rapes, and plunder as God's will.

Communism derived its strength from its zeal for science, but collapsed precisely because it denied our divinely-given souls, and any God. Islam's strength lies in its appeal to our atavistic impulses to rape, murder and steal, which it blesses so long as they are committed against kaffirs. The khalifa will never return because it devalues science and the works of peace.

The New World will survive, but the Old World will devise some as-yet-unforeseen challenge for us. It always does.

Nancy Coppock said...

Another thought provoking post. Interesting that many of the behaviors noted are present in young children, especially since the Boomer Generation is rife with adult children. As youngsters they believed that they truly were the salvation of the nation. Now that they have achieved political power and are experiencing resistance they are unable to process that fact in a cogent manner.

The same for the Islamofascists, whom upon contemplating the success of the West, exalt the brief period of time of Islamic success. Rather than stretch their mental abilities to begin a new period of enlightenment, they instead become a world-wide school yard bully destroying any game but theirs.

rezzrovv said...

Just wanted to drop you a note and tell you of my profound respect for both your writing and your intellect. I just threw a fiver in the tip jar. Wished it could be more.

Thanks.

Scott Pierce
Asheville, NC

T. Kimble said...

I thought you may find this interesting Mr. Ben Moshe.
http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/07/recognition_for_the_silent_jew.html

Just out of curiousity, is Ben part of your last name or is it your middle name?

Yaacov Ben Moshe said...

Ben is the Hebrew word for "son" and is part of the ancient naming convention of the Jewish people. My Hebrew name is Yaacov my father's name is Moshe and his father was David thus I am Yaacov Ben Moshe - meaning Yaacov son of Moshe, my father is Moshe Ben David or Moshe son of David etc

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Hi Yaacov, thanks for stopping by my blog with the Solomonia link. I love this piece and will now include you among my short and prestigious "Cool Cats" links section. Go ahead and sue I'm broke;)

Anonymous said...

I remember reading monographs by Jon Jay Ray, a sociologist, and I think these monographs may help tie your observations together:

http://jonjayray.110mb.com/psychlef.html

http://tongue-tied2.blogspot.com/2006/09/this-is-part-2-of-my-monograph-on.html#1737

Jewish Odysseus said...

Yaacov, your title for this amazing essay really carries so much meaning in so few words. In some ways it totally captures our current struggle, and its predecessors.

Leninism was based on a notion of "dialectic," as propounded first by Hegel then by Marx--"petty bourgeois objective reality" didn't actually exist, it can be relentlessly re-defined and transmogrified by The Party and its Thinkers, so that simple shopkeepers become deadly "speculators," diligent farmers become hated "kulaks," and lifelong historians, poets and scholars become menacing "chauvinists and anti-socialist wreckers."

And the beauty of communism was that these "arguments" were backed by such iron-fisted brutality that no-one would dare stand up to confront their absurdity. "So "the reason" of the Party's argument...WINS BY DEFAULT.

It is similar w/Islam. Going back to its earliest days, the idea that "since all wisdom is contained in the Koran, therefore we don't need and mustn't allow anything that is NOT CONSISTENT with the Koran," led to many infamous campaigns of book-burnings, library-burnings (remember the famous ancient library of Alexandria), annihilation of kaffir relics, right up the the present day.

Such an idea is the precise opposite of our classical/modern concept of "reason."

Now both these baleful ideologies are uniting against us, the genuine civilization, in order to do to us what they did to the Alexandria Library, the kulaks of the Ukraine, and the statues at Bamyan. And when we are gone, then there will be no-one to argue that our defense of "reason" was far, FAAARRRRRR more persuasive...so THEIR definition will carry the day, the year, and the thousand years of darkness.

And these savages will then worry about how to annihilate each other.

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