Worse than Asperger’s / Other things that limit my life

I hate to fly. I really, really hate to fly. The last time I used an airplane for travel, was to return from a visit to my very ill mother. A thunderstorm struck; there was severe turbulence and the heat in the cabin failed. I hid under a blanket (too small) that only covered my head. A sixteen year-old boy in the seat next to me (and some gin) had to talk me through the flight. Combo: severe emotional stress (family) plus lightning, thunder and unstable airplane = Never fly again.

In fact, the only flight I ever enjoyed was a return trip from a business meeting in LA: the client took us to every Hell hole in Hollywood. Too much food, booze and bizarre behavior. I was so hung over that I didn’t care if the plane crashed and we all died.

People who fly all the time may not think about it, but much of modern life is unattainable if one doesn’t fly.

The childhood corollary to this handicap was a fear of heights, in particular roller coasters, Ferris wheels and amusement rides. This pretty much eliminated summer  entertainment. I stood around holding everyone’s food, drinks and jackets and purses. People made fun of me and tried to trick or shame me into “not being a party pooper” Being an Asperger child, none of this manipulation had any effect on me. I learned to take a camera with me – it was a convenient excuse to wander off by myself and avoid being harassed. And I eventually turned into a photographer, an activity that has enriched my life, whereas the lack of amusement park rides has not affected me at all.

Fortunately, I love trains and driving, although trains just aren’t what they used to be. I drove all over the U.S., but once I moved to Wyoming, I’ve stayed put. I guess all that time I spent traveling around, I was just looking for Wyoming.

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When you finally realize “you’ve been had”

I remember exactly the moment when I realized that “I’d been had” – meaning, that the “story” I’d been told all my life about who I was and where I fit in the human universe was a lie.

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A young man I was dating had driven us to a resort in the mountains and we were having lunch outside on a deck overlooking a stream; we were in the “getting to know you” stage and he was easy to talk to. Very bright – a medical student – open, warm and chatty (and extremely OCD I later discovered.) He came from a medical family and seemed to be happy following his father into medicine. I was undiagnosed (Asperger) at the time (mid-twenties) and very much enjoying my life (I thought).

As he revealed his “story” I began to think out loud about my family, my school experiences, and my relationships. The official story went like this:

My grades at school were great; teachers liked me, my parents were happy, and I got all kinds of special treatment. But, — and the truth was suddenly apparent.

The special treatment I supposedly got was actually punishment: I was not allowed to participate at my intellectual level in class and I was excluded from extracurricular activities: my social awkwardness was used to hold participation hostage until I somehow “reformed” myself. I was effectively “benched” for being ahead of the class; not allowed to answer questions in class, to talk about anything, really. I sat with my books and papers open to exercises that we wouldn’t get to for weeks, filling in answers and erasing them, just for something to do. I gradually drifted off to my own, far more interesting world.

Of course the other kids saw this “reward-punishment” charade as special attention, and as kids do, followed the example set for them and piled on the hostility, which I didn’t even recognize as bullying. 

At home a different dynamic played out, but effectively with the same result. My brother was six years older, my mother’s “baby” and he was allowed to avoid anything he didn’t want to do by “being ill.” He needed help and attention; I didn’t. The excuse for “abandoning” me became a broken record in my mother’s mouth: “You have everything; you’re smart and pretty and life is so easy for you. My childhood was horrible: you don’t know what suffering is. You’re strong – you don’t need anything from other people, especially me. Don’t be a greedy cry-baby.”

“Go away” was the message, year in and year out. So, I did. I didn’t start out strong, but I became strong, because it was necessary. Being strong has its own perils. So does being pretty – I was excluded from social circles and events because the other girls wanted the boys to themselves.

On that lovely summer day in the mountains, I finally “got it.” My mother and brother and teachers and bosses, and even a few friends, had tricked my honest and trusting   Asperger brain by offering compliments that were meant to be express criticism and rejection. I was naïve and stupid in social terms, and had no clue that this was “how the human universe works.”

You’re wonderful; we hate you.

I wonder how many Asperger females identify with this experience?

On the other hand, this hurtful realization was utterly necessary to creating a life outside the prison of social expectations. It wasn’t easy to say “no” to the established status quo, especially for a young woman seeking meaningful work and an independent life and being criticized constantly for outlandish “unladylike” ambition.

It’s not women’s’ lack of abilities that keeps us down; a social agenda remains today that undermines intellect, by defining femininity itself as being a hyper-sexualized little girl; dumb, vulnerable and forever infantile. It’s very sad to see adult women, who are 30, 40, 50 years old, spending precious time and scarce money on diets, phony rejuvenation products, fashion fads, hideous make up, false hair, false breasts, false butts, and childish obsessions with novel “social media trends” while competing with their own daughters, like pitiful clowns hoping for a scrap of attention.

Anti-female policies are built into the social system at all levels. It’s time for women to understand that “You’ve been had.”

How America Lost Its Mind / Atlantic Magazine – Rant by a Neurotypical Person

Sept. 2017 Kurt Anderson

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/how-america-lost-its-mind/534231/

When did America become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.”

A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Whoa, yes, I thought: exactly. America had changed since I was young, when truthiness and reality-based community wouldn’t have made any sense as jokes. For all the fun, and all the many salutary effects of the 1960s—the main decade of my childhood—I saw that those years had also been the big-bang moment for truthiness. And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it. The 1960s were Hell for an Asperger: I was constantly berated and attacked for being a “Fact Nazi” by people who were truly manifesting a “neoteny psychosis”. 

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational.

OMG! This guy is nuts; guilty of the neurotypical nonsense he’s complaining about! Can we PLEASE stop using “spectrum” to “mush together” mental processes (and everything else) into an undifferentiated wad of goo that somehow spans the gulf between imaginary “polarized, black and white” neurotypical stupidity?  

We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. OMG! What an idiotic neurotypical “interpretation” of “Enlightened” intellectual freedom. 

From the start, our ultra-individualism (this did not exist in foundational colonies, which were the opposite: conformist to narrow religious dogma to the extreme) was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. (OMG! What a garbled string of “factoids” strung together as nonsense. America was founded by “magical thinkers” – highly religious crackpots drummed out of Europe by people fed up with their insane hatred of happiness as a worthy experience. The “rational” element was always a finite minority of self-interested “gentleman” who wanted the riches and rights reserved for the Aristocracy to be available to THEIR CLASS.  

Much more than the other billion or so people in the developed world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and the miraculous, in Satan on Earth, in reports of recent trips to and from heaven, and in a story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.

If the 1960s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

We believe that the government and its co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous and shocking truths from us, concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of aids, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more. And this was all true before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality. We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

How widespread is this promiscuous devotion to the untrue? How many Americans now inhabit alternate realities? Any given survey of beliefs is only a sketch of what people in general really think. But reams of survey research from the past 20 years reveal a rough, useful census of American credulity and delusion. By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half. Wildly optimistic; and PLEASE don’t include yourself in the reality-based minority. LOL)

Only a third of us, for instance, don’t believe that the tale of creation in Genesis is the word of God. Only a third strongly disbelieve in telepathy and ghosts. Two-thirds of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world.” More than half say they’re absolutely certain heaven exists, and just as many are sure of the existence of a personal God—not a vague force or universal spirit or higher power, but some guy. A third of us believe not only that global warming is no big deal but that it’s a hoax perpetrated by scientists, the government, and journalists. A third believe that our earliest ancestors were humans just like us; that the government has, in league with the pharmaceutical industry, hidden evidence of natural cancer cures; that extraterrestrials have visited or are visiting Earth. Almost a quarter believe that vaccines cause autism, and that Donald Trump won the popular vote in 2016. A quarter believe that our previous president maybe or definitely was (or is?) the anti-Christ. According to a survey by Public Policy Polling, 15 percent believe that the “media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals,” and another 15 percent think that’s possible. A quarter of Americans believe in witches. Remarkably, the same fraction, or maybe less, believes that the Bible consists mainly of legends and fables—the same proportion that believes U.S. officials were complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

When I say that a third believe X and a quarter believe Y, it’s important to understand that those are different thirds and quarters of the population. Of course, various fantasy constituencies overlap and feed one another—for instance, belief in extraterrestrial visitation and abduction can lead to belief in vast government cover-ups, which can lead to belief in still more wide-ranging plots and cabals, which can jibe with a belief in an impending Armageddon.

None of this “listing of crazy beliefs” cancels out (by the neurotypical “matter-antimatter” principle of magic word opposition) or precludes ACTUAL conspiracies, predation, cover ups or exploitation by corporations and lobbyists, government agencies, special interests, the “Religion Industry” and political parties for misuse of power.

Why are we like this?

The short answer is because we’re Americans—because being American means we can believe anything we want; that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. The credible becomes incredible and the incredible credible. Typical neurotypical defeatism when faced with a tough question, because “word magic” is the only option for problem-solving, and word magic fails when confronting fact. 

The word mainstream has recently become a pejorative, shorthand for bias, lies, oppression by the elites. Yet the institutions and forces that once kept us from indulging the flagrantly untrue or absurd—media, academia, government, corporate America, professional associations, respectable opinion in the aggregate—have enabled and encouraged every species of fantasy over the past few decades. How naive! It was these very institutions that “lied about reality” (everything is perfect; trust us) while specializing in unethical and immoral behavior at all levels of power, within American government, and in foreign policy.   

A senior physician at one of America’s most prestigious university hospitals promotes “miracle cures” on his daily TV show. (The medical industry has always done this) Cable channels air documentaries treating mermaids, monsters, ghosts, and angels as real. When a political-science professor attacks the idea “that there is some ‘public’ that shares a notion of reality, a concept of reason, and a set of criteria by which claims to reason and rationality are judged,” colleagues just nod and grant tenure. The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. This is the normal neurotypical condition, and has been, for thousands of years. 

Our whole social environment and each of its overlapping parts (the delusion of “parts” again, instead of integrated systems of activity)cultural, religious, political, intellectual, psychological—have become conducive to spectacular fallacy and truthiness and make-believe. There are many slippery slopes, leading in various directions to other exciting nonsense. During the past several decades, those naturally slippery slopes have been turned into a colossal and permanent complex of interconnected, crisscrossing bobsled tracks, which Donald Trump slid down right into the White House. Oh please! How naïve: this is what passes for analysis? Americans traditionally resort to the knee-jerk superstition that “evil” is an eruption  of “chaos” into a perfectly organized neurotypical universe, the existence of which is a fantastical irrational construction; a pathetic denial of insanity within.   

American moxie has always come in two types. We have our wilder, faster, looser side: We’re overexcited gamblers with a weakness for stories too good to be true. But we also have the virtues embodied by the Puritans and their secular descendants: steadiness, hard work, frugality, sobriety, and common sense. (And an arrogant, ugly do-gooder, busybody, know-it-all obsession with abusing other humans.)  A propensity to dream impossible dreams is like other powerful tendencies—okay when kept in check. For most of our history, the impulses existed in a rough balance, a dynamic equilibrium between fantasy and reality, mania and moderation, credulity and skepticism. Total fantasy: and note the continuing limitation of neurotypical addiction to polarized thinking: Either / or behavior; a tug of war between the devil and angel in your soul; black or white; one extreme or the other; yatta yatta! It’s just plain infantile… 

The great unbalancing and descent into full Fantasyland was the product of two momentous changes. The first was a profound shift in thinking that swelled up in the ’60s; since then, Americans have had a new rule written into their mental operating systems: Do your own thing, find your own reality, it’s all relative. A blossoming of   neoteny in Americans.

The second change was the onset of the new era of information. Digital technology empowers real-seeming fictions of the ideological and religious and scientific kinds. Among the web’s 1 billion sites, believers in anything and everything can find thousands of fellow fantasists, with collages of facts and “facts” to support them. Before the internet, crackpots were mostly isolated, and surely had a harder time remaining convinced of their alternate realities. (Single crackpots are rarely effective; it’s those who gather together in the thousands – or millions – who are dangerous). Opinions are all over the airwaves and the web, just like actual news. Now all of the fantasies look real.

Our shocking Trump moment is just the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional for its entire history. Hmmm… magical thinking; attributing an election outcome to some “disturbance in the ether” caused by “ghostly persons” that reach out from the past to “f— things up”. It couldn’t be that elections are simply a mirage? A fool’s drama of people casting meaningless ballots in a charade of democracy, which is in real terms, a “slug fest” for power and control by opposing elites? 

Today, each of us is freer than ever to custom-make reality, to believe whatever and pretend to be whoever we wish. (From what external entity does this mysterious permission arise?) Which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur and disappear more easily. Truth in general becomes flexible, personal, subjective. And we like this new ultra-freedom, insist on it, even as we fear and loathe the ways so many of our wrongheaded fellow Americans use it. Us and them duality again; I’m right-headed, you are wrong-headed.

Treating real life as fantasy and vice versa, and taking preposterous ideas seriously, is not unique to Americans. But we are the global crucible and epicenter. (Rather arrogant assumption. We always have to be the Best!) We invented the fantasy-industrial complex; almost nowhere outside poor or otherwise miserable countries are flamboyant supernatural beliefs so central to the identities of so many people. This is American exceptionalism in the 21st century. The country has always been a one-of-a-kind place. But our singularity is different now. We’re still rich and free, still more influential and powerful than any other nation, practically a synonym for developed country. But our drift toward credulity, toward doing our own thing, toward denying facts and having an altogether uncertain grip on reality, has overwhelmed our other exceptional national traits and turned us into a less developed country. (Neurotypical Blah, blah, blah! This guy is certainly in love with meaningless verbiage!) 

People see our shocking Trump moment—this post-truth, “alternative facts” moment—as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon. (No, only deluded control freaks, who think that their version of how reality “ought to be” matches the supernatural template of “absolute best version” of reality, that they thoroughly believe exists, but has never existed, except in their imagination, would think this way.) But what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional for its entire history.

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. (What an idiotic string of nonsense) The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

The 1960s and the Beginning of the End of Reason

I don’t regret or disapprove of many of the ways the ’60s permanently reordered American society and culture. It’s just that along with the familiar benefits, there have been unreckoned costs.

In 1962, people started referring to “hippies,” the Beatles had their first hit, Ken Kesey published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the Harvard psychology lecturer Timothy Leary was handing out psilocybin and LSD to grad students. And three hours south of San Francisco, on the heavenly stretch of coastal cliffs known as Big Sur, a pair of young Stanford psychology graduates founded a school and think tank they named after a small American Indian tribe that had lived on the grounds long before. “In 1968,” one of its founding figures recalled four decades later,

“Esalen was the center of the cyclone of the youth rebellion. It was one of the central places, like Mecca for the Islamic culture. (YIKES! How typically arrogant!) Esalen was a pilgrimage center for hundreds and thousands of youth interested in some sense of transcendence, breakthrough consciousness, LSD, the sexual revolution, encounter, being sensitive, finding your body, yoga—all of these things were at first filtered into the culture through Esalen. By 1966, ’67, and ’68, Esalen was making a world impact.”

This is not overstatement. Essentially everything that became known as New Age was invented, developed, or popularized at the Esalen Institute. Esalen is a mother church of a new American religion for people who think they don’t like churches or religions but who still want to believe in the supernatural. The institute wholly reinvented psychology, medicine, and philosophy, driven by a suspicion of science and reason and an embrace of magical thinking (also: massage, hot baths, sex, and sex in hot baths). It was a headquarters for a new religion of no religion, and for “science” containing next to no science. The idea was to be radically tolerant of therapeutic approaches and understandings of reality, especially if they came from Asian traditions or from American Indian or other shamanistic traditions. Invisible energies, past lives, astral projection, whatever—the more exotic and wondrous and unfalsifiable, the better. REALLY? 

Not long before Esalen was founded, one of its co-founders, Dick Price, had suffered a mental breakdown and been involuntarily committed to a private psychiatric hospital for a year. His new institute embraced the radical notion that psychosis and other mental illnesses were labels imposed by the straight world on eccentrics and visionaries, that they were primarily tools of coercion and control. This was the big idea behind One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, of course. And within the psychiatric profession itself this idea had two influential proponents, who each published unorthodox manifestos at the beginning of the decade—R. D. Laing (The Divided Self) and Thomas Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness). “Madness,” Laing wrote when Esalen was new, “is potentially liberation and renewal.” Esalen’s founders were big Laing fans, and the institute became a hotbed for the idea that insanity was just an alternative way of perceiving reality. Again, this notion of “listing” fragmental factoids as a way of “canceling out by magic word” any possibility of fact, truth, significant connection, importance, results, consequences, or understandable outcomes in human affairs, which might follow logical paths or patterns, demonstrates the neurotypical inability to “think” beyond infantile polar opposition of good and evil as presented in Sunday School lessons. 

These influential critiques helped make popular and respectable the idea that much of science is a sinister scheme concocted by a despotic conspiracy to oppress people. Mental illness, both Szasz and Laing said, is “a theory not a fact.” This is now the universal bottom-line argument for anyone—from creationists to climate-change deniers to anti-vaccine hysterics—who prefers to disregard science in favor of his own beliefs. How infantile: how Sunday School! Judgements that other people are “mistaken” without any acknowledgement that “my illusions and delusions” are contributing to “the mess”, or that I can possibly be the object of my irrational “superiority”. 

You know how young people always think the universe revolves around them, as if they’re the only ones who really get it? And how before their frontal lobes, the neural seat of reason and rationality, are fully wired, they can be especially prone to fantasy? (Dumb inaccurate pop-science clichés) In the ’60s, the universe cooperated: It did seem to revolve around young people, affirming their adolescent self-regard, making their fantasies of importance feel real and their fantasies of instant transformation and revolution feel plausible. Practically overnight, America turned its full attention to the young and everything they believed and imagined and wished.

If 1962 was when the decade really got going, 1969 was the year the new doctrines and their gravity were definitively cataloged by the grown-ups. Reason and rationality were over. The countercultural effusions were freaking out the old guard, including religious people who couldn’t quite see that yet another Great Awakening was under way in America, heaving up a new religion of believers who “have no option but to follow the road until they reach the Holy City … that lies beyond the technocracy … the New Jerusalem.” That line is from The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition, published three weeks after Woodstock, in the summer of 1969. Its author was Theodore Roszak, age 35, a Bay Area professor who thereby coined the word counterculture. Roszak spends 270 pages glorying in the younger generation’s “brave” rejection of expertise and “all that our culture values as ‘reason’ and ‘reality.’ ” (Note the scare quotes.) So-called experts, after all, are “on the payroll of the state and/or corporate structure.” A chapter called “The Myth of Objective Consciousness” argues that science is really just a state religion. To create “a new culture in which the non-intellective capacities … become the arbiters of the good [and] the true,” he writes, “nothing less is required than the subversion of the scientific world view, with its entrenched commitment to an egocentric and cerebral mode of consciousness.” He welcomes the “radical rejection of science and technological values.” Note the belief in the POWER OF WORDS to form, change and dictate “reality”. This irrational delusion is due to a neurotypical dependence on the principles of magic.) 

As 1969 turned to 1970, a 41-year-old Yale Law School professor was finishing his book about the new youth counterculture. Charles Reich was a former Supreme Court clerk now tenured at one of ultra-rationalism’s American headquarters. But hanging with the young people had led him to a midlife epiphany and apostasy. In 1966, he had started teaching an undergraduate seminar called “The Individual in America,” for which he assigned fiction by Kesey and Norman Mailer. He decided to spend the next summer, the Summer of Love, in Berkeley. On the road back to New Haven, he had his Pauline conversion to the kids’ values. His class at Yale became hugely popular; at its peak, 600 students were enrolled. In 1970, The Greening of America became The New York Times’ best-selling book (as well as a much-read 70-page New Yorker excerpt), and remained on the list for most of a year.

Previous two paragraphs and actually, the rest of the article:

Social blah, blah, blah which never interested the average American, but was epidemic in upper and upper middle class Americans, fixated on their pretentions to superior intellectual and social status. There was widespread denigration of “blue collar” working Americans by these classes at the time; it continues today.  

Thoughts on Ancient Males / Life in the flesh

In the ancient world a common greeting among travelers was, “Which gods do you worship?” Deities were compared, traded, and adopted in recognition that strangers had something of value to offer. Along with the accretion of ancestor gods into extensive pantheons, an exchange of earthly ideas and useful articles took place. Pantheons were insurance providers who covered women, children, tradesman, sailors and warriors – no matter how dangerous or risky their occupations; no matter how lowly. Multiple gods meant that everyone had a sympathetic listener, one that might increase a person’s chances for a favorable outcome to life’s ventures, large and small. 

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A curious female type: The goddess Athena is incomprehensible to modern humans. Here she models the Trojan horse for the Greeks.

A curious female: The goddess Athena is incomprehensible to modern humans; and yet for the ancient Greeks, she was the cornerstone of civilization. Here she models the Trojan horse for the “clever” takedown of Troy.

 

 

 

 In The Iliad

…the gods are manifestations of physical states; the rush of adrenalin, sexual arousal, and rage. For the Homeric male, these are the gods that must be obeyed. There is no power by which a man can override the impulse-to-action of these god forces. The gifts of the notorious killer Achilles originate in the divine sphere, but he is human like his comrades; consumed by self pity and emotionally erratic.

In Ancient Greek culture, consequences accompanied individual gifts. Achilles must choose an average life (adulthood) and obscurity, or death at Troy and an immortal name. Achilles sulks like a boy, but we know that he will submit to his fate, because fate is the body, and no matter how extraordinary that body is, the body must die. Immortality for Homeric Greeks did not mean supernatural avoidance of death. To live forever meant that one’s name and deeds were preserved by the attention and skill of the poet. In Ancient Greek culture it was the artist who had the power to confer immortality.

There was no apology for violence in Homeric time. The work of men was grim adventure. Raids on neighbors and distant places for slave women, for horses and gold, for anything of value, was a man’s occupation. The Iliad is packed with unrelenting gore, and yet we continue to this day to be mesmerized by men who hack each other to death. Mundane questions arise: were these Bronze Age individuals afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder? How could women and children, as well as warriors not be traumatized by a life of episodic brutality? If they were severely damaged mentally and emotionally, how did they create a legacy of poetry, art, science and philosophy? Did these human beings inhabit a mind space that deflected trauma as if it were a rain shower? Was their literal perception of reality a type of protection?

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Women will forever be drawn to the essential physicality of Homeric man. He is the original sexual male; the man whose qualities can be witnessed in the flesh. His body was a true product of nature and habit. Disfiguring scars proved his value in battle. Robust genes may have been his only participation in fatherhood.

Time and culture have produced another type of man, a supernatural creature with no marked talent, one who can offer general, but not specific, loyalty. Domestic man, propertied man, unbearably dull man, emotionally-retarded man. In his company a woman shrivels to her aptitude for patience and endurance, for heating dinner in the microwave and folding laundry. Her fate is a life of starvation.

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Noble Penelope reduced to a neurotypical nag.

A Winter of Life Message / Who is Eckart Tolle?

Who is Eckhart Tolle? Eckhart Tolle is a German-born resident of Canada best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose. In 2008, a New York Times writer called Tolle “the most popular spiritual author in the United States”.   Wikipedia

I don’t know of this person: He sounds a bit “New Age-y” Lots of pithy quotes all over the internet. He’s just about my age, so that may explain why this statement  “resonates” at this point in my life, when the body we count on is well on its way to  breaking down and lurching toward the inevitable. I think the quote is wasted on young people. An act of surrender and bravery is necessary to embrace it, an act that takes a lifetime to acknowledge.

He could have said this one thing and nothing else. It really sums up what life is about. The stupid defiance of “what is” – a constant uphill trudge, battle, struggle to “become” someone -a viable, admirable sprig of life-force that makes its mark – whatever that is. In nature, all this seems automatic: mathematical, chemical, electrical life becoming, evolving – terrible in its ruthless paring down of species into improbably successful and beautiful forms – temporary, all of them. And then there is “us”.

Hell bent on defying nature: swimming upstream, spewing toxins, garbage, waste from our pretty technically savvy vehicles. Congratulating ourselves on having peanut butter in jars, mechanical eyelash curlers, fake fur garments, a gluttonous desire for pizza, remote controls for refrigerators, garage doors and the ability to spy on our children, our dogs, cats, parakeets and snakes; on our front porch deliveries, on road conditions in Zanzibar or the price of sandals in Morocco. And we’re promised / warned that there’s much more of this to come… It’s lovely and cute in a way… giving the finger to nature.

So, resistance is futile, says Mr. Tolle. But without forces to resist, would humans be human? No. But in old age it’s okay to recognize futility; to embrace the lessening need to resist anything.

This is absolutely true if you live in Wyoming…

 

 

 

 

Incantations, Spells and Adjurations / Jewish Sources

Some traditional Jewish sources indicate belief in the efficacy of spells.

By Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/incantations-spells-adjurations/

Reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia of Jewish Magic, Myth, and Mysticism (LlewellynWorldwide).

An incantation or spell is a spoken word, phrase, or formula of power, often recited as part of a larger ritual, which is recited in order to effect a magical result. Most cultures have some idea about words having supernatural constructive powers, but nowhere is this belief stronger than in Judaism.

Both the Bible and Jewish mysticism emphasize that God created the universe by means of a series of “speech acts.” Humanity is the only one of God’s mortal creations with the power of speech, implying that our words can, under certain conditions, have the same constructive (and destructive) power.

Underlying Beliefs

Jewish belief in the efficacy of spells, or “constructive language,” is premised on three assumptions:

1) There is special power inherent in the names of God.

2) There is special power in the words and phrases that God speaks, i.e., the words of the Torah and the Hebrew Bible.

3) The Hebrew alphabet itself is supernatural in origin, which means that using Hebrew letters in certain combinations is a source of special power, even when it has no semantic value to the adept.

Kinds of Spells

Spells may be either “theurgic” or “magical” in character. Usually, the belief underlying the use of theurgic spells is that God has in some way delegated that power/authority to the adept.

Truly magical incantations, by comparison, are “autonomous”; they do not involve spiritual entities at all. Often a magical spell or incantation is simply addressed to the object to be influenced. Thus, a truly magical incantation most closely parallels the word power of God Himself.

Incantation phrases are also a form of “heightened speech,” not unlike poetry. As such, there are a number of distinctive stylistic features present in incantations. These can include: repetition, rhythm, reversals, nonsense words, foreign words, and divine names of power.

Repetition, usually done three or seven times, or by another number symbolically relevant to the issue at hand, is the premier aspect of constructive words of power (Shabbat 66b, in the Talmud). Thus we find a teaching in the Talmud, for example, that reciting a verse containing the phrase “Voice of the Lord” seven times thwarts evil spirits at night.

Backwards Reduction

An incantation meant to undo the effects of a given event or phenomenon will often include elements of reversal, reciting a word or phrase backwards in some fashion. An example would be this one for dislodging a bone in the esophagus: ”One by one, go down, swallow/swallow, go down, one by one.”

In Pesahim 112b (in the Talmud), we read that one afflicted with an ocular disease should recite the word shabriri (blindness) repeatedly in the phrase “My mother has cautioned me against shabriri. With each repetition, the speaker should reduce one letter from the word: shabriri, shabrir, shabri, shabr,shab, sha… The magical ritual of reducing the word is intended to yield a parallel reduction in the severity of the illness.

Speaking “Nonsense”

Spells can include rhymed or nonsense phrases that have minimal or no semantic value (vocesmysticae). Rather, rhythmic meaningless arrangements of words and phrases (sounds like typical neurotypical speech LOL) are used for the illocutionary or mantra-like effect, or for a sympathetic result, or because these words are understood to be meaningful to heavenly powers, if not the adept.

For example, to fend off an evil water spirit, the Talmud recommends intoning this: “Lulshafan anigeron anirdafon, I dwell among the stars, I walk among thin and fat people (Pesahim 112a).” While the second clause of this spell is strange enough, the first clause of the spell is neither Hebrew nor Aramaic; by all indications it is just gibberish. This feature, common to Greco-Roman magic, emerges in Jewish circles in late antiquity.

Akin to nonsense phrases, incantations often include nomina barbara, the use of foreign words and phrases. This feature of Jewish spells goes back to the Babylonian tradition of using archaic Sumerian words in their incantations, and becomes characteristic of Jewish incantations by the Greco-Roman period. With the later decline of Hebrew and Aramaic as a spoken language, these languages themselves become lingua magica for many spell-casters, both Jewish and gentile. Rashi (medieval French commentator) explains that an integral part of spell-casting involves reciting words that maybe incomprehensible to the enchanter (commentary to Sotah 22a).

What’s In A Name?

The use of names of power is a pervasive aspect of all Hebrew/Jewish spells. The names of God, angels, the righteous dead, even one’s mother, are considered critical to giving an incantation efficacy (Shabbat 66b). Often the names are encrypted in atbash form (an ancient letter substitution code, ”mirroring” the Hebrew alphabet) or in other occult methods.

Spells from late antiquity are often promiscuous in the powers they invoke, freely mixing Jewish and pagan entities. One Greco-Egyptian spell calls upon ”First angel of (the god), of Zeus, Iao, and you Michael, who rule heaven’s realm, I call, and you, archangel Gabriel. Down from Olympus, Abrasax, delighting in dawns, come gracious who view sunset from the dawn.”

Rabbinic Views

Magical incantations that appear in the Talmud (and are therefore presumably sanctioned by at least some sages) mostly serve the functions of healing and protection. In Tractate Shabbat 67a-b, one sage gives explicit sanction to the use of magic if it is done solely for the purposes of healing. Outside the talmudic/midrashic tradition proper, there are spells for summoning angels, love spells, and ”binding” spells intended to curse or thwart a rival in love, business, or other personal matters.

While rabbinic authorities have never endorsed the latter forms of incantations, they are more tolerant of spells that enhance goals the sages endorse, such as healing, or spells meant to enhance the learning of Torah. These latter two types are perhaps the most common in Jewish literature.

Tolerance for the use of spells can also be regional. The Babylonian Talmud preserves several examples of spells (see especially tractates Pesahim, Shabbat, and Berakhot), while the Palestinian Talmud has virtually none. We know that at least some Jews in Palestine engaged in spell-casting, because we have magical texts from that region and period.

Evidently, the difference between the two Talmuds reflects something of the respective ”official” attitude among the sages of those regions toward spell-craft.

Spells in Medieval Judaism

The types of incantations recorded continue to expand in number and variety of purpose throughout the Middle Ages. In theurgic manuals like the Book of the Responding Entity, there appear an increasing number of spells based on astrological power (what Renaissance adepts would dub “natural magic”).

In expressly magical texts, like Sefer Raziel, there appear incantations to ”receive all desire.” These spells often completely parallel gentile magic, involving magical materials, fire and water, invoking the names of governing angels, and throwing something of value with magical names and phrases inscribed on it into the proper element (fire, seas, etc.). Treasure-locating spells also appear in medieval magical manuals.

What status many of these spells had in “normative” Jewish circles is hard to judge. Again, spells recorded in the works of later religious authorities tend to be limited to the same areas tolerated by talmudic authorities: incantations for better memorizing Torah, invoking an angel or ibbur (a usually beneficent spiritual possession of a living body), and for protection against medical or supernatural misadventure.

Shabbat

Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Talmud

Pronounced: TALL-mud, Origin: Hebrew, the set of teachings and commentaries on the Torah that form the basis for Jewish law. Comprised of the Mishnah and the Gemara, it contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis from different periods in Jewish history.

Back to Basics / Positive and Negative Liberty

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 

I’m highlighting and commenting as I read this, based on my experiences as an American citizen for 50+ (conscious) years, and from the POV of a lifelong, born as, Asperger human. 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative/

First published Thu Feb 27, 2003; substantive revision Tue Aug 2, 2016

Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints. One has negative liberty to the extent that actions are available to one in this negative sense. Positive liberty is the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes. While negative liberty is usually attributed to individual agents, positive liberty is sometimes attributed to collectivities, or to individuals considered primarily as members of given collectivities.

The idea of distinguishing between a negative and a positive sense of the term ‘liberty’ goes back at least to Kant, and was examined and defended in depth by Isaiah Berlin in the 1950s and ’60s. Discussions about positive and negative liberty normally take place within the context of political and social philosophy. They are distinct from, though sometimes related to, philosophical discussions about free will. (In my opinion,  a dead dodo term with only superstition and western illusion to support it) Work on the nature of positive liberty often overlaps, however, with work on the nature of autonomy.

As Berlin showed, negative and positive liberty are not merely two distinct kinds of liberty; they can be seen as rival, incompatible interpretations of a single political ideal. (Why not as mutually informative in a discussion about freedom?) Since few people claim to be against liberty, the way this term is interpreted and defined can have important political implications. Political liberalism tends to presuppose a negative definition of liberty: liberals generally claim that if one favors individual liberty one should place strong limitations on the activities of the state. Critics of liberalism often contest this implication by contesting the negative definition of liberty: they argue that the pursuit of liberty understood as self-realization or as self-determination (whether of the individual or of the collectivity) can require state intervention of a kind not normally allowed by liberals. (Hmmm…. in the U.S., these two would appear to be reversed, with Republicans (conservatives) going for strong limitations on the state, and Democrats (liberals) favoring strong limitations on human behavior by the state. Perhaps this reversal exists because liberals in the U.S. are the present day perpetrators of Puritanism? 

Many authors prefer to talk of positive and negative freedom. This is only a difference of style, and the terms ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ are normally used interchangeably by political and social philosophers. Although some attempts have been made to distinguish between liberty and freedom (Pitkin 1988; Williams 2001; Dworkin 2011), generally speaking these have not caught on. Neither can they be translated into other European languages, which contain only the one term, of either Latin or Germanic origin (e.g. liberté, Freiheit), where English contains both.

1. Two Concepts of Liberty

Imagine you are driving a car through town, and you come to a fork in the road. You turn left, but no one was forcing you to go one way or the other. Next you come to a crossroads. You turn right, but no one was preventing you from going left or straight on. There is no traffic to speak of and there are no diversions or police roadblocks. So you seem, as a driver, to be completely free. But this picture of your situation might change quite dramatically if we consider that the reason you went left and then right is that you’re addicted to cigarettes and you’re desperate to get to the tobacconists before it closes. Rather than driving, you feel you are being driven, as your urge to smoke leads you uncontrollably to turn the wheel first to the left and then to the right. Moreover, you’re perfectly aware that your turning right at the crossroads means you’ll probably miss a train that was to take you to an appointment you care about very much. You long to be free of this irrational desire that is not only threatening your longevity but is also stopping you right now from doing what you think you ought to be doing. (Nice concise description of the human condition in Western culture. This problem can only exist in cultures which acknowledge the individual.) 

This story gives us two contrasting ways of thinking of liberty. On the one hand, one can think of liberty as the absence of obstacles external to the agent. You are free if no one is stopping you from doing whatever you might want to do. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be free. On the other hand, one can think of liberty as the presence of control on the part of the agent. To be free, you must be self-determined, which is to say that you must be able to control your own destiny in your own interests. In the above story you appear, in this sense, to be unfree: you are not in control of your own destiny, as you are failing to control a passion that you yourself would rather be rid of and which is preventing you from realizing what you recognize to be your true interests. One might say that while on the first view liberty is simply about how many doors are open to the agent, on the second view it is more about going through the right doors for the right reasons. (I don’t see these as being exclusive to each other at all:  the one must take sides position is neurotypical, not Asperger. An Asperger can be aware of a proposed distinction, without having to jump on one horse and ride it into the swamp of social typical insanity. These concepts are useful tools with which to analyze a situation, a pattern or a system. They are not universals, absolutes or ideas that demand loyalty.)

In a famous essay first published in 1958, Isaiah Berlin called these two concepts of liberty negative and positive respectively (Berlin 1969).[1] The reason for using these labels is that in the first case liberty seems to be a mere absence of something (i.e. of obstacles, barriers, constraints or interference from others), whereas in the second case it seems to require the presence of something (i.e. of control, self-mastery, self-determination or self-realization). In Berlin’s words, we use the negative concept of liberty in attempting to answer the question “What is the area within which the subject — a person or group of persons — is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons?”, whereas we use the positive concept in attempting to answer the question “What, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than that?” (1969, pp. 121–22). (These are not actionable ideas, because they propose an unachievable separation of “thought” from real environments. These are “oughts and shoulds” that deny the facts of human social existence. Social systems control human behavior. That is, the answers to these questions were decided long ago by DEAD PEOPLE; not people living today. Without this realization, social structures appear to neurotypicals to be part of the fabric of space-time, not scientific space-time, but supernatural space-time!)  

It is useful to think of the difference between the two concepts in terms of the difference between factors that are external and factors that are internal to the agent. (Yes, this is a useful tool, but in action, these internal and external factors are not exclusive) While theorists of negative freedom are primarily interested in the degree to which individuals or groups suffer interference from external bodies, theorists of positive freedom are more attentive to the internal factors affecting the degree to which individuals or groups act autonomously. Given this difference, one might be tempted to think that a political philosopher should concentrate exclusively on negative freedom, a concern with positive freedom being more relevant to psychology or individual morality than to political and social institutions. (Here we go; the neurotypical universe of “chopped salad”) This, however, would be premature, for among the most hotly debated issues in political philosophy are the following: Is the positive concept of freedom a political concept? Can individuals or groups achieve positive freedom through political action? Is it possible for the state to promote the positive freedom of citizens on their behalf? And if so, is it desirable for the state to do so? The classic texts in the history of western political thought are divided over how these questions should be answered: theorists in the classical liberal tradition, like Constant, Humboldt, Spencer and Mill, are typically classed as answering ‘no’ and therefore as defending a negative concept of political freedom; theorists that are critical of this tradition, like Rousseau, Hegel, Marx and T.H. Green, are typically classed as answering ‘yes’ and as defending a positive concept of political freedom.

Above we have a concise description of the “values” situation in traditional Asperger temperament vs. social repression of one’s native or instinctive concept of What it means to be human. This goes far deeper than retraining Asperger children to mimic social “niceties” in order not to be rejected from the group. 

In its political form, positive freedom has often been thought of as necessarily achieved through a collectivity. Perhaps the clearest case is that of Rousseau’s theory of freedom, according to which individual freedom is achieved through participation in the process whereby one’s community exercises collective control over its own affairs in accordance with the ‘general will’. Put in the simplest terms, one might say that a democratic society is a free society because it is a self-determined society, and that a member of that society is free to the extent that he or she participates in its democratic process. (One might say this, but social typicals are full of blah, blah, blah that is “pie in the sky” – blind to reality) But there are also individualist applications of the concept of positive freedom. For example, it is sometimes said that a government should aim actively to create the conditions necessary for individuals to be self-sufficient or to achieve self-realization. The welfare state has sometimes been defended on this basis, as has the idea of a universal basic income. (I have nothing against a support system for providing decent distribution of resources to those who cannot “fend for themselves” – but the welfare system – in the U.S., at least – is not this: it is a system for controlling who gets access to the upper levels of the social pyramid, and who remains trapped at the bottom.) The negative concept of freedom, on the other hand, is most commonly assumed in liberal defences of the constitutional liberties typical of liberal-democratic societies, such as freedom of movement, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and in arguments against paternalist or moralist state intervention. (More supernatural blah, blah, blah that has nothing to do with the reality of a severe social inequality disguised as democracy. I’m sure that the neglected and persecuted minorities “voted for” their own oppression!) It is also often invoked in defences of the right to private property. This said, some philosophers have contested the claim that private property necessarily enhances negative liberty (Cohen 1991, 1995), and still others have tried to show that negative liberty can ground a form of egalitarianism (Steiner 1994). (Neurotypical – either-or, black and white, non-negotiable “supernatural” absolutism. Pick a side…)

After Berlin, the most widely cited and best developed analyses of the negative concept of liberty include Hayek (1960), Day (1971), Oppenheim (1981), Miller (1983) and Steiner (1994). Among the most prominent contemporary analyses of the positive concept of liberty are Milne (1968), Gibbs (1976), C. Taylor (1979) and Christman (1991, 2005).

2. The Paradox of Positive Liberty

Many liberals, including Berlin, have suggested that the positive concept of liberty carries with it a danger of authoritarianism. Consider the fate of a permanent and oppressed minority. Because the members of this minority participate in a democratic process characterized by majority rule, they might be said to be free on the grounds that they are members of a society exercising self-control over its own affairs. But they are oppressed, and so are surely unfree. (Democracy as a sham) Moreover, it is not necessary to see a society as democratic in order to see it as self-controlled; one might instead adopt an organic conception of society, according to which the collectivity is to be thought of as a living organism, and one might believe that this organism will only act rationally, will only be in control of itself, when its various parts are brought into line with some rational plan devised by its wise governors (who, to extend the metaphor, might be thought of as the organism’s brain). In this case, even the majority might be oppressed in the name of liberty. (The preposterous notion that all humans can be forced to be “perfect” someday apply psychological diagnosis and treatment, social engineering, pharmacology, genetic fixes –  Until then, despots must rule, by default.)  

Such justifications of oppression in the name of liberty are no mere products of the liberal imagination, for there are notorious historical examples of their endorsement by authoritarian political leaders. (This continuing “charade” of Liberals believe this, Conservatives believe that! ALL leaders are authoritarian; their goal is control of the social pyramid.) Berlin, himself a liberal and writing during the cold war, was clearly moved by the way in which the apparently noble ideal of freedom as self-mastery or self-realization had been twisted and distorted by the totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century — most notably those of the Soviet Union — so as to claim that they, rather than the liberal West, were the true champions of freedom. The slippery slope towards this paradoxical conclusion begins, according to Berlin, with the idea of a divided self. To illustrate: the smoker in our story provides a clear example of a divided self, for she is both a self that desires to get to an appointment and a self that desires to get to the tobacconists, and these two desires are in conflict. We can now enrich this story in a plausible way by adding that one of these selves — the keeper of appointments — is superior to the other: the self that is a keeper of appointments is thus a ‘higher’ self, and the self that is a smoker is a ‘lower’ self. The higher self is the rational, reflecting self, the self that is capable of moral action and of taking responsibility for what she does. This is the true self, for rational reflection and moral responsibility are the features of humans that mark them off from other animals. (This “higher self” is the socially-invented imaginary “western” human, who is not rational or moral at all, but entirely self-serving; a person who is indoctrinated with the concept that obedience to social prescriptions is a rational decision, but which  is actually an archaic irrational religious mandate: the myth of “higher self vs. lower self” is merely a continuation of Old Testament original sin (our animal nature) vs. “obedient, conforming, self-hating humans” who are slaves to a social hierarchy: this propaganda works for any system, whatever we choose to label it. Note: The Reformation did not change this: Henry VIII, the “father” of a rebellious protestant regime was a serial rapist and murderer beyond the aspirations of misogynist criminal heroes of Biblical fame) The lower self, on the other hand, is the self of the passions, of unreflecting desires and irrational impulses. One is free, then, when one’s higher, rational self is in control and one is not a slave to one’s passions or to one’s merely empirical self. The next step down the slippery slope consists in pointing out that some individuals are more rational than others, and can therefore know best what is in their and others’ rational interests. (Western psychology feeds on this myth) This allows them to say that by forcing people less rational than themselves to do the rational thing and thus to realize their true selves, they are in fact liberating them from their merely empirical desires. Occasionally, Berlin says, the defender of positive freedom will take an additional step that consists in conceiving of the self as wider than the individual and as represented by an organic social whole — “a tribe, a race, a church, a state, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn”. The true interests of the individual are to be identified with the interests of this whole, and individuals can and should be coerced into fulfilling these interests, for they would not resist coercion if they were as rational and wise as their coercers. “Once I take this view”, Berlin says, “I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture in the name, and on behalf, of their ‘real’ selves, in the secure knowledge that whatever is the true goal of man … must be identical with his freedom” (Berlin 1969, pp. 132–33).

The contention that there is a rational or moral distinction between a “pure and democratic United States” and any nation, political system, or culture that WE designate as inferior to us, is outrageous. The U.S. acts on purely supernatural and predatory religious prejudice, acted on (in the Puritan way) as “he who has the most money has God’s approval to be the Chosen Tyrant”. 

Those in the negative camp try to cut off this line of reasoning at the first step, by denying that there is any necessary relation between one’s freedom and one’s desires. Since one is free to the extent that one is externally unprevented from doing things, they say, one can be free to do what one does not desire to do. If being free meant being unprevented from realizing one’s desires, then one could, again paradoxically, reduce one’s unfreedom by coming to desire fewer of the things one is unfree to do. One could become free simply by contenting oneself with one’s situation. (This is a viable option, which millions of people act on, whether by necessity or preference for simplicity) A perfectly contented slave is perfectly free to realize all of her desires. (Wow! Nonsense) Nevertheless, we tend to think of slavery as the opposite of freedom. More generally, freedom is not to be confused with happiness, for in logical terms there is nothing to stop a free person from being unhappy or an unfree person from being happy. The happy person might feel free, but whether they are free is another matter (Day, 1970). Negative theorists of freedom therefore tend to say not that having freedom means being unprevented from doing as one desires, but that it means being unprevented from doing whatever one might desire to do (Steiner 1994. Cf. Van Parijs 1995; Sugden 2006). (More neurotypical nonsense, since no definition of an actual state of freedom exists; no possible state labeled freedom has been proven to exist, except as an “abstract feeling”)

Some theorists of positive freedom bite the bullet and say that the contented slave is indeed free — that in order to be free the individual must learn, not so much to dominate certain merely empirical desires, but to rid herself of them. She must, in other words, remove as many of her desires as possible. As Berlin puts it, if I have a wounded leg ‘there are two methods of freeing myself from pain. One is to heal the wound. But if the cure is too difficult or uncertain, there is another method. I can get rid of the wound by cutting off my leg’ (1969, pp. 135–36). This is the strategy of liberation adopted by ascetics, stoics and Buddhist sages. It involves a ‘retreat into an inner citadel’ — a soul or a purely noumenal self — in which the individual is immune to any outside forces. (I think this is a western misinterpretation of a response to these unavoidable forces, which does not claim immunity!) But this state, even if it can be achieved, is not one that liberals would want to call one of freedom, for it again risks masking important forms of oppression. It is, after all, often in coming to terms with excessive external limitations in society that individuals retreat into themselves, pretending to themselves that they do not really desire the worldly goods or pleasures they have been denied. Moreover, the removal of desires may also be an effect of outside forces, such as brainwashing, which we should hardly want to call a realization of freedom.

In the U.S., brainwashing takes the form of Consumer Capitalism, marketing and advertising and political impotence: any and all needs and desires that are natural and necessary to a proper, happy animal life, are denied and replaced by cheap novelties, infantile distractions and the purchase of status objects, over and above the acquisition of food, shelter and meaningful relationships. The result is an epidemic of pathology and self-destruction. 

Because the concept of negative freedom concentrates on the external sphere in which individuals interact, it seems to provide a better guarantee against the dangers of paternalism and authoritarianism perceived by Berlin. To promote negative freedom is to promote the existence of a sphere of action within which the individual is sovereign, and within which she can pursue her own projects subject only to the constraint that she respect the spheres of others. Humboldt and Mill, both advocates of negative freedom, compared the development of an individual to that of a plant: individuals, like plants, must be allowed to grow, in the sense of developing their own faculties to the full and according to their own inner logic. Personal growth is something that cannot be imposed from without, but must come from within the individual. (What crap! It is exactly these individual propensities that the social system is designed to quash without mercy)

3. Two Attempts to Create a Third Way

Critics, however, have objected that the ideal described by Humboldt and Mill looks much more like a positive concept of liberty than a negative one. Positive liberty consists, they say, in exactly this growth of the individual: the free individual is one that develops, determines and changes her own desires and interests autonomously and from within. This is not liberty as the mere absence of obstacles, but liberty as autonomy or self-realization. Why should the mere absence of state interference be thought to guarantee such growth? Is there not some third way between the extremes of totalitarianism and the minimal state of the classical liberals — some non-paternalist, non-authoritarian means by which positive liberty in the above sense can be actively promoted?

Blah, blah, blah! Neurotypicals pretend to “think” but in their addiction to “magic word concepts” they are blind to reality: this Asperger would say, that only by understanding the actual manifestations of social reality, (which are anti-individual, anti-liberty, anti-self-actualization, anti-moral, anti-ethical, anti-nature, anti-happiness) can the individual find a workable strategy to cope with the human landscape – and preserve some measure of integrity.

(Which one must accept as a rational being, may not be possible!)

Ouch! I’ve given myself a headache! Time for some R&R…. continued, next post.

Bipedal Animals Dance Competition / Birds Win

Love in nature… males dance for females.

Wonder if the dinosaur ancestors of birds danced, too?

Neoteny…forever pink & purple…

WOW! WOW! WOW! / Every Asperger Needs to Read this Paper!

Surprise, surprise! Research does exist that “supports” my claim that Asperger symptoms are the RESULT OF SOCIAL TERRORISM 

From: Depression Research and Treatment

Depress Res Treat. 2010; 2010: 501782. Published online 2010 Nov 4. doi:  10.1155/2010/501782 PMCID: PMC2989705

Full Article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2989705/

Testing a German Adaption of the Entrapment Scale and Assessing the Relation to Depression

Manuel Trachsel, 1 ,* Tobias Krieger, 2 Paul Gilbert, 3 and Martin Grosse Holtforth 2 :

Abstract

The construct of entrapment is used in evolutionary theory to explain the etiology of depression. The perception of entrapment can emerge when defeated individuals want to escape but are incapable. Studies have shown relationships of entrapment to depression, and suicidal tendencies. The aim of this study was a psychometric evaluation and validation of the Entrapment Scale in German (ES-D). 540 normal subjects completed the ES-D along with other measures of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and distress. Good reliability and validity of the ES-D was demonstrated. Further, whereas entrapment originally has been regarded as a two-dimensional construct, our analyses supported a single-factor model. Entrapment explained variance in depressive symptoms beyond that explained by stress and hopelessness supporting the relevance of the construct for depression research. These findings are discussed with regard to their theoretical implications as well as to the future use of the entrapment scale in clinical research and practice. (Being outnumbered by social humans, 99% to 1%, is de facto – defeat)

1. Introduction

Assuming a certain degree of adaptivity of behavior and emotion, evolutionary theorists have suggested various functions of moodiness and depression. Whereas adaptive mechanisms may become functionally maladaptive [1, 2], there have been many attempts to explain potentially adaptive functions of depression. For example, Price [3] suggested that depression evolved from the strategic importance of having a de-escalating or losing strategy. Social rank theory [4, 5] built on this and suggests that some aspects of depression, such as mood and drive variations, may have evolved as mechanisms for regulating behavior in contexts of conflicts and competition for resources and mates. Hence, subordinates are sensitive to down rank threats and are less confident than dominants, while those who are defeated will seek to avoid those who defeated them. Depression may also serve the function to help individuals disengage from unattainable goals and deal with losses [6]. 

Social rank theory (e.g., [4]) links defeat states to depression. Drawing on Dixon’s arrested defences model of mood variation [7, 8], this theory suggests that especially when stresses associated with social defeats and social threats arise, individuals are automatically orientated to fight, flight or both. Usually, either of those defensive behaviors will work. So, flight and escape remove the individual from the conditions in which stress is arising (e.g., threats from a dominant), or anger/aggression curtails the threat. These defensive behaviors typically work for nonhuman animals. However, for humans, such basic fight and flight strategies may be less effective facing the relatively novel problems of living in modern societies, perhaps explaining the prevalence of disorders such as depression [8]. Dixon suggested that in depression, defensive behaviors can be highly aroused but also blocked and arrested and in this situation depression ensues. Dixon et al. [8] called this arrested flight. For example, in lizards, being defeated but able to escape has proven to be less problematic than being defeated and being trapped. Those who are in caged conditions, where escape is impossible, are at risk of depression and even death [9]. Gilbert [4, 10] and Gilbert and Allan [5] noted that depressed individuals commonly verbalize strong escape wishes and that feelings of entrapment and desires to escape have also been strongly linked to suicide, according to O’Connor [11]. In addition they may also have strong feelings of anger or resentment that they find difficult to express or become frightening to them. (Or are NOT ALLOWED to express, without being punished) 

Gilbert [4] and Gilbert and Allan [5] proposed that a variety of situations (not just interpersonal conflicts) that produce feeling of defeat, or uncontrollable stress, which stimulate strong escape desires but also makes it impossible for an individual to escape, lead the individual to a perception of entrapment. They defined entrapment as a desire to escape from the current situation in combination with the perception that all possibilities to overcome a given situation are blocked. Thus, theoretically entrapment follows defeat if the individual is not able to escape. This inability may be due to a dominant subject who does not offer propitiatory gestures following antagonistic competition, or if the individual keeps being attacked. (Relentless social bullying) 

In contrast to individuals who feel helpless (cf. the concept of learned helplessness [12]), which focus on perceptions of control, the entrapped model focuses on the outputs of the threat system emanating from areas such as the amygdala [13]. In addition, depressed people are still highly motivated and would like to change their situation or mood state. It was also argued that, unlike helplessness, entrapment takes into account the social forces that lead to depressive symptoms, which is important for group-living species with dominance hierarchies such as human beings [14]. Empirical findings by Holden and Fekken [15] support this assumption. Gilbert [4] argued that the construct of entrapment may explain the etiology of depression better than learned helplessness, because according to the theory of learned helplessness, helpless individuals have already lost their flight motivation whereas entrapped individuals have not.

According to Gilbert [4], the perception of entrapment can be triggered, increased, and maintained by external factors but also internal processes such as intrusive, unwanted thoughts and ruminations can play an important role (e.g., [16, 17]). For example, ruminating on the sense of defeat or inferiority may act as an internal signal of down-rank attack that makes an individual feel increasingly inferior and defeated. Such rumination may occur despite the fact that an individual successfully escaped from an entrapping external situation because of feelings of failure, which may cause a feeling of internal entrapment. For example, Sturman and Mongrain [18] found that internal entrapment increased following an athletic defeat. Moreover, thoughts and feelings like “internal dominants” in self-critics may exist that can also activate defensive behaviors.

For the empirical assessment of entrapment, Gilbert and Allan [5] developed the self-report Entrapment Scale (ES) and demonstrated its reliability. Using the ES, several studies have shown that the perception of entrapment is strongly related to low mood, anhedonia, and depression [5, 1921]. Sturman and Mongrain [22] found that entrapment was a significant predictor of recurrence of major depression. Further, Allan and Gilbert [23] found that entrapment relates to increased feelings of anger and to a lower expression of these feelings. In a study by Martin et al. [24], the perception of entrapment was associated with feelings of shame, but not with feelings of guilt. Investigating the temporal connection between depression and entrapment, Goldstein and Willner [25, 26] concluded that the relation between depression and entrapment is equivocal and might be bilateral; that is, entrapment may lead to depression and vice versa.

Entrapment was further used as a construct explaining suicidal tendency. In their cry-of pain-model, Williams and Pollock [27, 28] argued that suicidal behavior should be seen as a cry of pain rather than as a cry for help. Consistent with the concept of arrested flight, they proposed that suicidal behavior is reactive. In their model, the response (the cry) to a situation is supposed to have the following three components: defeat, no escape potential, and no rescue. O’Connor [11] provided empirical support in a case control study by comparing suicidal patients and matched hospital controls on measures of affect, stress, and posttraumatic stress. The authors hypothesized that the copresence of all three cry-of-pain variables primes an individual for suicidal behavior. The suicidal patients, with respect to a recent stressful event, reported significantly higher levels of defeat, lower levels of escape potential, and lower levels of rescue than the controls. Furthermore, Rasmussen et al. [21] showed that entrapment strongly mediated the relationship between defeat and suicidal ideation in a sample of first-time and repeated self-harming patients. Nevertheless, there has also been some criticism of the concept of entrapment as it is derived from animal literature [29].

To our knowledge so far, there is no data on the retest reliability or the temporal stability of the Entrapment Scale. Because entrapment is seen as a state-like rather than a trait-like construct, its stability is likely dependent on the stability of its causes. (Remove the social terrorism, or remove yourself) Therefore, if the causes of entrapment are stable (e.g., a long-lasting abusive relationship), then also entrapment will remain stable over time. In contrast, for the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), there are studies assessing temporal stability that have yielded stable trait-like components of hopelessness [30]. Young and coworkers [30] stated that the high stability of hopelessness is a crucial predictor of depressive relapses and suicidal attempts. For the Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ), there are studies examining retest reliability. The PSQ has shown high retest reliability over 13 days (r = .80) in a Spanish sample [31]. It is to be expected that with longer retest intervals as in the present study (3 months), the stability of perceived stress will be substantially lower. We, therefore, expect the stability of entrapment to be higher than that of perceived stress as a state-like construct, but lower than that of hopelessness, which has been shown to be more trait-like [32].

Previous research is equivocal regarding the dimensionality of the entrapment construct. Internal and external entrapment were originally conceived as two separate constructs (cf. [5]) and were widely assessed using two subscales measuring entrapment caused by situations and other people (e.g., “I feel trapped by other people”) or by one’s own limitations (e.g., “I want to get away from myself”). The scores of the two subscales were averaged to result in a total entrapment score in many studies. However as Taylor et al. [33] have shown, entrapment may be best conceptualized as a unidimensional construct. This reasoning is supported by the observation that some of the items of the ES cannot easily be classified either as internal or external entrapment and because the corresponding subscales lack face validity (e.g., “I am in a situation I feel trapped in” or “I can see no way out of my current situation”).

5. Discussion

The entrapment construct embeds depressiveness theoretically into an evolutionary context. The situation of arrested flight or blocked escape, in which a defeated individual is incapable of escaping despite a maintained motivation to escape, may lead to the perception of entrapment in affected individuals [8]. In this study, the Entrapment Scale (ES) was translated to German (ES-D), tested psychometrically, and validated by associations with other measures. This study provides evidence that the ES-D is a reliable self-report measure of entrapment demonstrating high internal consistency. The study also shows that the ES-D is a valid measure that relates to other similar constructs like hopelessness, depressive symptoms or perceived stress. Levels of entrapment as measured with the ES-D were associated with depressiveness, perceived stress, and hopelessness, showing moderate to high correlations. Results were consistent with those obtained by Gilbert and Allan [5]. Entrapment explained additional variance in depressiveness beyond that explained by stress and hopelessness. Taken together, the present data support the conception of entrapment as a relevant and distinct construct in the explanation of depression. (And much of Asperger behavior)

The results of our study confirm the findings of Taylor et al. [33], thereby showing that entrapment is only theoretically, but not empirically, separable into internal and external sources of entrapment. The authors even went further by showing that entrapment and defeat could represent a single construct. Although in this study the defeat scale [5] was not included, the results are in line with the assumption of Taylor et al. [33] and support other studies using entrapment a priori as a single construct. However, although this study supports the general idea that escape motivation affects both internal and external events and depression, clinically it can be very important to distinguish between them. For example, in studies of psychosis entrapment can be very focused on internal stimuli, particularly voices [47].

The state conceptualization of entrapment implies that the perception of entrapment may change over time. Therefore, we did not expect retest correlations as high as retest correlations for more trait-like constructs like hopelessness [32]. Since the correlation over time is generally a function of both the reliability of the measure and the stability of the construct, high reliability is a necessary condition for high stability [48]. In this study, we showed that the ES-D is a reliable scale, and we considered retest correlations as an indicator for stability. The intraclass correlation of .67 suggests that entrapment is more sensitive to change than hopelessness (r = .82). Furthermore, the state of entrapment seems to be more stable than perceived stress, which may be influenced to a greater extent by external factors. Given the confirmed reliability and validity of the ES-D in this study, we therefore cautiously conclude that entrapment lies between hopelessness and perceived stress regarding stability.

Whereas the high correlation between entrapment and depressive symptoms in this study may be interpreted as evidence of conceptual equivalence, an examination of the item wordings of two scales clearly suggest that these questionnaires assess distinct constructs. However, the causal direction of this bivariate relation is not clear. Theoretically, both directions are plausible. Entrapment may be a cause or a consequence of depressive symptoms, or even both. Unfortunately, studies examining the temporal precedence so far have yielded equivocal results and have methodological shortcomings (e.g., no clinical samples, only mild and transitory depression and entrapment scores with musical mood induction) in order to answer this question conclusively [25, 26]. It remains unclear whether entrapment only is depression specific. Entrapment might not only be associated with depression, but also with other psychological symptoms, or even psychopathology in general. This interpretation is supported by research showing a relation between distress arising from voices and entrapment in psychotic patients [49, 50]. Furthermore, other studies show the relation between entrapment and depressive symptoms [5153] and social anxiety and shame [54] in psychosis. The usefulness of entrapment as a construct for explaining psychopathologies in humans has been questioned [29]. Due to the present study, it is now possible to investigate entrapment in psychopathology in the German speaking area.

Modern social humans and the social hierarchy: Driving Asperger types crazy for thousands of years!

(And a lot of other human beings, also!)