Heavyweight boxing hasn’t been so loaded with talent since the 1960’s. Wilder, Joshua, Fury, Ruiz, Jospeh Parker, Dillian Whyte, Aleksander Usyk, and Daniel Dubois, have all been title holders, or are all contenders. Wilder Fury 2 promises to kick off what should be the most interesting and dramatic year in the history of the heavyweight division.
It’s my opinion that while both fighters stand to gain the same if they win, if they lose Fury will suffer the greater setback. Wilder has accumulated a record of 43 fights, 42 wins, 41 by knock out. This record pretty much guarantees Wilder’s next fight to be a title fight if he loses. For Fury it’s different, because of his inability to build a record during his three years away from the ring. A loss for Fury would leave him with a record of 1 loss in 31 fights, good but not as attractive as Wlder’s.
At thirty-four years of age, Wilder must be looking to take the fights that the public want to spend the money for on pay per view. For either of these fighters this is can be a career defining moment. A Wilder win would build add to his legacy and lead to a big fight with Usyk, or Joshua. A Fury win will elevate his status to the number one heavyweight, and build on the enigma that is, Tyson Fury.
What’s Happened Since the First fight?
One thing that isn’t in doubt is the difference in the quality of the competition Wilder and Fury have fought since the first fight. Both have fought twice, with Wilder making two title defences against opponents with a combined record of, 51 wins and 2 losses. The losses coming in title fights against Wilder and Anthony Joshua.
Fury’s two fights were against opponents with a combined record of 46 wins and no losses, but his opponents have never had title fights, nor fights against world title contenders.
Wilder scored two brutal knockout victories while Fury, against unarguably lesser opposition, won by technical knockout and a unanimous points decision. If quality of opponent has an effect on the outcome of this fight, Wilder is far superior.
Away from the Ring
The Wilder, Tyson brands are big business. Deontay Wilder is worth an estimated $30 million. For his last fight against Luis Ortiz, he was paid $3 million. For this fight Wilder and Fury will split their share of the pay per view money 50/50. With each pay per view costing $80, it’s reasonable to expect both fighters to be earning upward of $10 million.
But there’s more to both these fighters than their extraordinary wealth. Wilder became a father at the age of nineteeen. His daughter, Naieya was born with the debilitating condition spina bifida. In order to cover the extensive medical bills, Wilder took up boxing.
Fury’s greatest challenge is himself. After winning the world championship against the Ukranian, Wladimir Klitschko in November, 2015 Fury wouldn’t fight again for nearly three years. Fury has stated that he suffers from a version of Bipolar, and during his three years away from the ring became addicted to alcohol and cocaine and contemplated suicide. To say Fury was out of shape would be a gross understatement at his heaviest he is reported to have been 385 pounds. When he fights Wilder on Saturday he’s expected to weigh around 270 pounds. Fury is an enigma, a larger than life loquacious character that has helped to make the heavyweight division the most interesting in boxing. When asked about his depression Fury said:
“I have been so dark that everything was pitch black. Before, every single day for me was a grey day. And some people might not know what I am talking about when I say that, but every day shouldn’t be a grey day. Because life is a blessing. And now I know that every day is a rose-coloured, sunshine day. Which I appreciate. I appreciate every second, every hour, every day, because life is so very short.”
Fury and Wilder are both unusual for boxers because they have both laid bare their troubles away from the ring, and in doing so they have perhaps engaged more fans than ever seen before in the sport.
Knockout, or Decision?
Popular opinion sees this fight having only two outcomes: Wilder knockout; or points decision for Fury. Few believe Fury will knock Wilder out, and I’ve not heard anyone thinking, Wilder will win on points. Even another draw seems more likely than these last two outcomes. But, which is the most likely, Wilder by knockout, or Fury by decision?
Wilder might be the most one dimensional boxer in heavyweight history, but when that one dimension happens to be one of boxing’s greatest punches, it doesn’t matter. This, like any Wilder fight, is all about Wilder’s right hand. If Wilder lands a clean right, he’ll win. If Fury can make the fight go the distance, he’ll have out boxed Wilder and will win on points. It’s almost impossible to see an outcome outside of these two possibilities.
The fight comes down to one question, can Fury avoid Wilder’s hand for thirty-six minutes? Wilder’s record of fort-one knockouts in forty-three fights suggests not. Their first fight also highlighted Fury’s vulnerability to the power of Wilder. Styles make fights, and this is a classic case of the boxer versus the puncher. Such style match ups can produce classic fights: Benn versus Eubank, Ali versus Frazier, but invariably they end up going in the favour of the boxer. Fury is without doubt the most mobile and ring smart heavyweight Wilder has ever faced. Fury should be faster than in their first fight. That said, the law of averages seem to lean in favour of Wilder. The odds are against Fury going twelve rounds and not getting caught by a big right hand. But, if Fury can avoid one of boxing’s greatest punches, he will have deserved to win. I can’t see it happening and expect Wilder to win by technical knockout in the ninth.
Having spent nearly two decades as a teacher and having studied psychology at university, I feel that I have some authority to speak about this topic. I, and a number of my colleagues, have long suspected the possibility of a link between narcissism and the teaching profession. It’s a suspicion that’s developed through my observation of both other teachers, and myself. It’s also a hypothesis that has gained traction in mainstream psychology, as Dr. S. K. Whitbourne writes in her article, The Need to Be Admired Can Make Narcissists Great Teachers.
As a teacher I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced many fantastic moments that I’ve shared with both my students and fellow teachers. But the classroom isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, the classroom is a highly unique environment presided over by one teacher who acts as the godhead, responsible for giving out praise and rewards in return for their students good work, and respectful behaviour. During my twenty years of teaching I’ve become aware that this classroom dynamic can be toxic, nurturing a teachers’ narcissistic traits. It’s a phenomena that I’ve only been able to talk about with teachers I’ve gotten to know well, and we’ve generally agreed that the classroom environment often acts as a catalyst drawing out a teacher’s narcissistic character traits.
Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerate achievements and talents
Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
Take advantage of others to get what they want
Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Be envious of others and believe others envy them
Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
Dr. S. K. Whitbourne’s article in Psychology Today suggests that narcissism can be a positive attribute for teaching. She bases this suggestion exclusively on the research of, Benson et al. who investigated whether people with a high narcissistic need for admiration have tendencies to affiliate with certain people in a group setting. From this hypothesis Whitbourne considers it logical that teachers high in narcissism will identify and associate with successful students. Benson et al. go on to state that people high in narcissism feel poor performance of their group reflects poorly on them, which will result in them disassociating from the members of the group, and may be enough to eventually motivate them to withdraw from the group entirely if it continues to be unsuccessful. In a school environment this is equates to a situation when a teacher is assigned a class that performs well below the standard for their grade. It’s not uncommon for a teacher in such situation to not form as strong a bond as they would with a more capable group. Research has shown that low achieving classes are commonly assigned to the most inexperienced teachers and that a large percentage of such teachers go on to quit the profession within the first few years. In fact this is a pattern that extends beyond achieving classrooms to low achieving schools where teacher turnover is considered a serious cause of low achievement. This creates a chicken and egg situation: are the teachers leaving because of the low achievement of students, or is the low achievement of students caused by high teacher turnover? In truth it’s both, but is it fair to conclude that the teachers leave because of narcissistic character traits?
Benson et al. might try and claim that Ingersoll supports their hypothesis, but anyone with experience of working in the types of schools to which Ingersoll’s study is referring I expect would be quick to disagree. In fact Ingeroll provides us with an example of people leaving a poorly performing group not for narcissistic reasons, but for self preservation.
A Need To Perform
Teaching is unlike any other profession, I can’t think of any job that requires the skills and mindset unique to teaching. During my career I’ve taught classes ranging from eight students to seventy, all of whom expect to learn something from me everyday, all of whom I expect to listen to my every word.
Good Teachers be able not just to perform but to engage their students in the learning process.
Dr. S. K. Whitbourne
I know teachers always say this, but teaching is a tough job. In a world where every students mind is stimulated to whichever hedonistic kink it desires with a touch of a button, through the medium of the internet, getting students to listen to you and learn the virtues of trigonometry, or the processes of soil erosion, has never been more of a challenge. In my experience teachers are meeting this challenge by finding ways to perform and entertain their students, it shouldn’t be like this. Education shouldn’t be reduced to some cheap vaudeville entertainment, but if a teacher is going to have any chance of engaging their students and getting them to learn something, they have to perform. I’ve experience of teaching kindergarten, high school, and university students, and they’re all alike in their need to be entertained. At the end of each semester I’m left to feel like an abused, denuded party clown, bereft of all his tricks, knowing that he needs to get a new act sorted out before the next semester begins. This pressure to perform, entertain, engage your students is simply do, or die. Insofar as today’s metrics are concerned, good teachers do entertain, bad teachers fall by the wayside. But this pressure to perform comes at a cost, it foments, and rewards a narcissistic character.
Friedman’s research refers to the concept of ‘healthy‘ narcissism, an idea attributed to psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut (1977). Kohut believed that ‘Healthy narcissism is expressed by adults through behaviours including creativity, humour, and expressions of sympathy towards others, personal and professional pride, and a desire to be considered good. The need to be recognized by others for being good at what you do is considerde by Maslow (1943), in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation, as Esteem Needs, in his Hierarchy of Needs
Hartman (1964), proposes the term, ‘normal’ narcissism, which he defines: a person’s investment of energy and drives within themselves, to heighten others perceptions, real or imaginary, of themselves.
When considering both Kohut and Hartman’s definitions of ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ narcissism, I acn’t help but feel that they’ve got it confused with self-confidence. Narcissism is a psychological condition condition much like a physiological illness, saying you can have ‘healthy’ narcissism sounds as much of a contradiction as saying a good disease.
The Reflective Practitioner
Teaching is probably no different from any other profession in that it has its own vocabulary and phraseology which it manipulates them to have a meaning specific to the profession when used in the context of that profession. And it’s ironic that a profession beset with narcissism chooses the term ‘reflective practice’. If the teaching environment doesn’t already lend itself to fostering narcissism, then encouraging teachers to look at themselves seems about as responsible as giving a pyromaniac a can of gasoline and a box of matches. just like Narcissus himself, teachers are encouraged to look at themselves, and their practice. The last thing you want to be encouraging a narcissist to do is look at themselves, because as the story tells us, they’ll only end up seeing whatever it is they like to look at. If the teaching practice was truly reflective it would acknowledge the propensity for it to develop narcissistic personalities and do something to address it.
Criticism of the Healthy Narcissism / Teacher Dynamic
Narcissism is normally always framed in the pejorative, but the truth is that some
One of the greatest weaknesses of the discipline of psychology is its inability to define its terms and to have everyone using terms as agreed. Narcissism provides an excellent example of this, Kohut (1966)coined the phrase ‘healthy’ narcissism, Hartman (1964) invented the phrase ‘normal’ narcissism. What they both describe as being ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ narcissism, I’d describe as something more simple, self confidence or self belief. My understanding of narcissism is derived from the Greek myth, it is a significant personality disorder that has a negative impact on the life of the person suffering the disorder and those they come into contact with. When Narcissus spends his life staring in admiration at his reflection, that’s a serious condition, it goes well beyond glancing at yourself in the mirror and being comfortable with your appearance. When Whitbourne talks of narcissism being beneficial to a teacher, what she’s actually referring to is self confidence, but self confidence is pretty much beneficial in any given situation so to get more attention the title becomes, The Need to Be Admired Can Make Narcissists Great Teachers. Narcissism is no more healthy, or normal than alcoholism. There’s a vast difference between having a drink, and being an alcoholic. Just like there’s a vast difference between self confidence and narcissism. The term ‘healthy’ narcissism is no less an oxymoron than say, ‘healthy illness’.
This grey area has been encouraged since the advent of psychoanalysis, by practitioners such as Paul Federn and his work, On the distinction between healthy and pathological narcissism (1929). Like I’ve mentioned already, there is no healthy narcissism.
Narcissism is recognised by the DSM-5 as a personality disorder. Narcissism can be no more healthy than any of the other nine recognised personality disorders. Nobody would suggest that there’s a healthy level of schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive behaviour. What gets called a ‘healthy’ level of narcissism goes by the far less dramatic name of, self-confidence. It’s my belief that the practice of psychoanalysis has unnecessarily blurred the distinction, although, Dr’ S. M. Spain argues this point in his article, Healthy Self-Esteem versus Healthy Narcissism.
When does self confidence become narcissism?, It’s a grey area in a domain of behaviour for which their are no definite measures. What separates self confidence from narcissism is a fine line, but where that line is exactly is a subjective interpretation. What’s wrong with wanting to associate with the successful group? In fact I rather think that associating with the stronger group has been pivotal in seeing my genes having been passed as far as they have, a necessity of, survival of the fittest. What’s wrong with striving for and acknowledging success? If a teacher didn’t demonstrate these traits what sort of example would they be setting for their students?
From being a teacher for the last twenty years I have little room for doubt that the classroom is a toxic dynamic when it comes to developing a teachers narcissistic character traits. Character traits that would have most likely lain dormant had they pursued any other profession.
I’m a teacher. I write a blog. I mean, how much more narcissistic can a person be.
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing. But the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”
We’ve been forced to wait a very long time. Not since the early 70s, with fights like The Rumble in the Jungle, and The Thrilla in Manila, has heavyweight boxing been this entertaining.
The last golden era in the division occurred during the career of one man, Muhammad Ali. An era which saw Ali take on fighters like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Floyd Paterson and Larry Holmes, each of whom would have been good enough to dominate in any other era.
On Saturday, December 7th, Andy Ruiz will defend the heavyweight boxing titles he took from Anthony Joshua 6 months ago, in a rematch. Ruiz’s win was one of world championship boxing’s biggest upsets. Not since, 1990 and that night in Tokyo, when James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocked out a then undefeated, and what looked like an unbeatable, Mike Tyson. Ruiz’s win was a shock, there can be no doubt about that. Before the fight bookmakers had him at 9-1 against, ridiculous odds in a sport with only two competitors, and where one punch can end a fight. But those odds reflected the chance public opinion gave Ruiz when he defeated Joshua, at the beginning of June, in Madison Square Garden. The, Ruiz – Joshua rematch will formally kick-start a golden era in the heavyweight division, some might argue started already when Deontay Wilder fought a dramatic draw against Tyson Fury. There are, at the moment, five legitimate contenders for the title meaning that all of them will be less likely to cherry pick easy fights and forego a big payday. It really is a case of make hay while the sun shines, except in this case substitute hay for money, and sunshine for punching your opponent in the face.
Heavyweight title fights have historically been held in the United States and on occasions in Europe, fights outside of these two locations are very uncommon. But holding one of sports biggest prizes in an out of the way, exotic location from which neither boxer originates is not new. Such fights do, somehow, capture the imagination as well as huge piles of cash. These locations have been decided purely for the financial benefits to the boxers and the potential for generating positive publicity for the hosts. In some instances this has seen the blending of sport and morally bankrupt ideologies, which for a time are forgotten until several weeks after the fights conclusion.
January 22, 1973, The Sunshine Showdown, Kingston, Jamaica. When Foreman annihilated Frazier, knocking him down six times before scoring a technical knock out with one minute and twenty-five seconds of the second round still to go. Foreman achieved this despite going into the fight a 4-1 underdog.
October 30, 1974, The Rumble in the Jungle, Kinshasa, Zaire. Both boxers were paid $5 million. To put this into context, Joe Louis, world heavyweight champion from, 1937 to, 1949. Who made a record twenty-five consecutive defenses of his title, never made $5 million throughout his entire career.
February 11, 1990, A fight that was expected to be so one sided that nobody bothered to give it a name. What was certain is that nobody in America was willing to pay for the right to host Mike Tyson to destroy James “Buster” Douglas inside of three minutes. With now mythical odds of 42-1 against, Douglas achieved the impossible inside the Tokyo Dome, Japan. 42-1 against. When Foreman beat Frazier twenty-seven years earlier it was considered a shock with Foreman overcoming odds of 4-1. Tyson was paid $6 million, Douglas walked away undisputed heavyweight champion and $1.6 million richer.
April 21, 2001, Lamely given the moniker Thunder in Africa. Obviously rumble in the jungle was the beginning and end of any catchy rhyme and wordplay when it came to fighting in this continent. With Rahman a 20-1 underdog, this was thought to be such a one-sided affair that no Las Vegas casino was willing to pay the amount South Africa was, to stage the fight, Rahman being paid $1.5 million, while Lewis made $7 million. In similar fashion to Buster Douglas, Rahman shook the boxing world, knocking out Lewis with a straight right driven through the sloppy guard of the champion in the fifth. Compare this fight to the Ali fights, nearly thirty years earlier and you appreciate how Ali captured the world’s imagination and generated the extreme revenue necessary to justify his purse.
December 7, 2019 In the crazy cash sports era of today Joshua will earn at least $40 million, Ruiz will take away $9 million, and both will have an agreed cut of the pay per view revenue, details of which I haven’t been able to find. Needless to say, they’re both walking away rich men.
The history of heavyweight boxing in obscure locations is colorful and littered with upsets. Ruiz, Joshua promises to be a far closer fight with no heavy underdog. In fact it’s much in debate as to who the underdog is.
Why Ruiz Will Win
Styles are said to make fights, it might equally as well be said that styles break fighters. Ruiz’s style couldn’t be any more awkward for Joshua. On paper, and to the eye, Joshua would win every time, but Ruiz has the box of tricks to beat Joshua. Ruiz’s main strength is his hand speed and accuracy. What this crudely translates into is, Ruiz’s fists spending more time connecting with Joshua’s head and face. Ruiz’s movement is also deceptively good, and he has proven that he has durability having been knocked down by Joshua, then coming back to destroy him. Joshua’s strength will always give him the ‘puncher’s chance’, but Ruiz is likely to throw and land more punches. Meanwhile Joshua hasn’t convinced when under pressure of a high volume puncher. AJ was floored four times by Ruiz, ans was knocked down once when he fought Klitschko. Ruiz’s style of throwing quick combinations is AJ’s Achilles heel.
What AJ has in size and strength, he lacks in speed and skill. That’s not to say Joshua is slow and without talent, it’s just that up until now it’s been his size and strength that have been most telling in the fights he has won, Ruiz has the skill set to neutralize Joshua’s attributes.
One of the more amusing things about the fighters is that they have both been criticised for their physiques. In the past, Andy’s figure has been on the adipose, rotund end of the conditioning spectrum. Joshua meanwhile has been criticised for being over conditioned. AJ has some glaring similarities to Frank Bruno, he carries too much muscle bulk which ultimately makes him powerful, but slow. It’s been said that Joshua is looking to address this matter, but how quickly and how successfully he can reshape his physique is a question that remains to be answered.
While it looks impressive, too much muscle slows a boxer down
pkt5282-394323 FRANK BRUNO BOXER It was too much to expect the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is heavyweight boxing for the big bucks after all. But when the manager of Lennox Lewis said there waws absolutely nothing bad aboiut Frank Bruno’s performance, at least he had the good grace to do so with a smile and ask: ‘Is my nose growing?’
It’s difficult not to support Ruiz, and I’m British. Ruiz is only getting 25% of the purse, and despite cutting weight still bares a striking resemblance to British comic Johnny Vegas, a man whose act centres on him being drunk and unhealthy, but who doesn’t love Johnny Vegas?
They do actully look like each other.
It’s not just that they’re both fat.
In the future, out of Ruiz, Fury, Usyk and Wilder, I can only see Joshua beating Wilder. The other three have far higher boxing IQ’s, far better movement and hand speed. It’s the hand speed, combined with questionable durability that makes me believe that Joshua would succumb to any of , Fury, Ruiz or Uszyk.
Twenty-twenty, might be a format of cash fueled cricket, but it will also be remembered as the year of the mega fights in heavyweight boxing. The year that should see the Fury-Wilder rematch, Uszyk fighting one of these four, and Wilder fighting Joshua or Ruiz. Be cause the division has five huge talents it’s difficult to see how these fights can be avoided, and the huge pay per view revenue any combination of these fights would make should be too tempting to resist. Twenty twenty is the year that will stay long in the memory of boxing fans around the world. And my prediction as to who will be king of the hill,
The talent of Oleksander Usyk will ensure that the heavyweight gold rush of twenty-twenty will sustain itself for a few more years, with any combination of huge fights. The countries that these fights end up being hosted in, and for what cause, remains the most difficult thing to predict.
“Once, every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together.”
Colonel Robert Bateman
I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter is probably the most god forsaken place on the internet. But being an atheist, maybe I should say, truth forsaken. Understanding that I’m an atheist, a libertarian atheist, is essential if anything that follows is to make any sense. Howevever, even if you do happen to remember that I’m a libertarian atheist, there still remains a fairly high chance that what follows still won’t make a whole lot of sense.
Instead of one tribal drum communicating one message, giving everyone access to a unified source of knowledge, it’s given everyone a voice, irrespective of their knowledge. Rather than democratizing knowledge, it’s democratized the right to express ones opinions, no matter how unqualified the person might be expressing it. Essentially it’s armed every village idiot with a megaphone, while forcing everyone else to wear hearing aids, making their uninformed opinions hard to ignore. (The secret to the internet seems to be in substituting the metaphorical hearing aids for metaphorical ear plugs.) Where as historically these idiots were spread evenly geographically, say one in every village, the internet has enabled them to band together. If McLuhan were alive today, I wonder, might he be tempted to amend his title to, The Global Village Idiot.
The Twittersphere, the internet as a whole, works as a monolithic soap box, immense in its size and capability of spreading half baked beliefs that can be turned into truths at the blink of an eye, a touch of a button, or just by clicking, ‘like’ (see my previous post, Echo Chambers, Memes and Brain Viruses). The internet has facilitated the spread of bad ideas, and extremist opinions, more than it has benefited mankind with the passing on of knowledge. Bad ideas, and extremism fester, and incubate inside echo chambers, a phenomenon I discussed previously in, Echo Chambers, Memes and Brain Viruses – Weaponizing the Internet. Because of this, it should be of no surprise that the stupidity of groups like, flat earthers, and the irresponsibility of, anti vaxxers have managed to gain such strong foothold in, what was already an already, a neurotic society. The internet is the perfect device for spreading and magnifying mankind’s neuroses. And if the internet has proven anything to us it’s that people are only too happy to offer opinions on things they have little, or next to no knowledge about. This has made the internet the universal melting pot for global ignorance.
Initially marveled at how the internet would communicate ideas, what we failed to recognise was that humans have far more bad, or meaningless ideas, than good ones. The internet is a perfect example of a GIGO system, Garbage In Garbage Out. GIGO is one of those tech acronyms thought up by a mind that’s been over exposed to programming languages and underexposed to fresh air. GIGO simply means that if you put garbage into a system then it’s only garbage you can get out. The internet itself can’t make us more intelligent. It’s a perfect reflection of the mental-states of the people that put things onto it. Volume wise, the internet is of overwhelmingly poor quality, this blog included, but good information can be found, although as David Mitchell recently described the internet as:
…making truth and lies indistinguishable. It’s like a huge haystack of things that may, or may not be true, and the truth is just a piece of hay just like the others, it’s not even a needle.
Recently, whilst floating aimlessly through the Twittersphere, I encountered an unusual advert. It was unusual due to the fact that I read it. I really enjoy deleting adverts on Twitter. I have this this belief that as I’m deleting them one at a time, that one day I will have finally deleted them all and so live in an ad free environment, at heart I’m fantasist. The advert grabbed my attention because it was asking for donations to enable its cause to close schools. Being a teacher seeing an advert that seeked contributions to close my means of employment, cut a little too close to the bone. So rather than deleting the advert, I jumped down the rabbit hole, except it wasn’t really a rabbit hole, it was more of a humanist hole, but the wisdom of our ancestors is in the metaphor and it’s not my place to disturb it. Whatever it was, like most internet misadventures, imagine it as being towards the abstract end of the figurative spectrum.
After reading this advert, I responded with my belief , that people should be afforded the choice between faith schools and secular schools. I pointed out that the aim of Humanist UK is not to get funding to build new secular schools, but to close and replace faith schools. And after they’ve achieved this what do they move on to, the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques? There followed a flurry of predictably defensive ripostes.
The last time somebody quoted chapter and verse at me was when they were quoting from the Bible. There are many parallels between religious faiths and the followers of Humanist UK. Like religions Humanist UK is funded by charitable donations. Both believe they have the definitive answer to the question of what happens after we die. And both have their poster boys, god or some derivative thereof, and Richard Dawkins. Some followers of Humanist UK have merely substituted a belief in god and his book, the Bible, with a belief in Richard Dawkins and his book, The God Delusion.
As a person who actually attended a faith school, I can say from personal experience that there is no greater recruiter to atheism than faith schools. That said at my school I never remember Darwin’s theory of evolution being denied, creationism was never pushed as being the only explanation for our existence. We studied other faiths Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions. I suspect Humanist UK seem to believe that all faith schools do is teach students how to use AK47s and make explosive vests, they would be so disappointed if they took the time to discover the truth. My faith school also consistently out performed the local secular schools in both the GCSE and A-Level examinations. As well as it being morally dubious to shut down faith schools it might also be counterproductive from an academic perspective.
Libertarian Atheist Vs. Secular humanist
Like two blind men challenging one another to a duel, never discovering that we were standing in separate fields. Humanists UK and I commenced battle with all the finesse of a bumblebee with a machine gun.
As a libertarian atheist my philosophy is simple, I am resolute in my belief that there is no god, I’m equally assured in my belief that all people have the freedom to choose, and make whatever of their lives, under the condition that it doesn’t disable another person from doing likewise. Therefore people have the right to choose a faith.
Humanists UK appear to be fighting out of the secular humanist corner. With a complete intolerance towards anything said to exist beyond the physical realm of nature. Anything claiming to be knowledge that can’t be supported scientifically, isn’t knowledge. As schools are places of knowledge, all supernatural references and explanations should have no place in them. I’m not arguing against this reasoning. To me it’s perfectly logical, where I am circumspect is empowering myself with the mandate to shut down, and thereby removing the option.
For me though, the libertarian and secular humanist opinion are in conflict insofar as the idea: freedom of, and from religion. That’s why I would contribute to the building of new secular schools but not the closing of faith schools, it’s a subtle, but crucial distinction.
The Ultimate Failing Inherent in …isms
The greatest short fall undermining any ism is it’s inflexibility, the absolutism of its nature. Isms have a necessity to be seen as the one true way in which to perceive the world, as the suffix denotes:
My mix of libertarianism and atheism, is no different than a blend of secularism and humanism. Both soon become entrenched in the a mindset reflected by many faiths, one that fervently believes that they are the enlightened ones, when if we’re to be honest, none of us really have a clue. So I go back to my libertarian humanism, and I say live and let live. Let’s forego the philosophical word salad, and ask ourselves one final question; what kind of asshat goes around shutting schools anyway?
Pressure had been mounting on Prince Andrew, and if we’re to believe what we hear, it’s not just been pressure that he’s been mounting, to explain away his relationship with, Jeffrey Epstein, disgraced financier, convicted paedophile, and lately the victim of a brutal suicide.
With the reputation of the monarchy being dragged through the mud, and on this occasion no Sir Walter Raleigh on hand to lend his cape, a historical reference for royal nerds, Prince Andrew was forced into making this decision. But, being from the world’s most wealthy, influential family it was safe to assume that his advisers would’ve guaranteed that there would be no incriminating disclosures. If that’s what the advisers guaranteed, it would appear that Andrew had other ideas.
I’ve not cringed so much since the first time I watched The Office. In fact, there were times I expected Ricky Gervais to appear from out of shot and offer the Prince advice on how he could come across more uncomfortable and less sincere. It would appear Prince Andrew’s team of advisers thought it would be best if the prince conducted the interview whilst attempting his best David Brent impersonation. An impersonation so accurate that, if he eneterd a contest to impersonate David Brent, Ricky Gervais would come second.
My favourite Brentism was :
Maitlis: I’m just trying to work this out because you said you went to break up the relationship and yet you stayed at that New York mansion several days. I’m wondering how long?
Andrew: But I was doing a number of other things while I was there.
Maitlis: But you were staying at the house …
Maitlis: … of a convicted sex offender.
Andrew: It was a convenient place to stay. I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.
“…my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.” now that is pure David Brent. The Prince, a la David Brent, mentioned all the work he did for charity, and in particular the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. As he mentioned his charity work it was clear that he was at odds with his own humility. But anyway, as Prince Andrew said, he’s just too damned honourable not to hang out with convicted sex offenders.
To put it into context, many historians are saying that it’s the biggest Royal blunder since King Richard suggested that he and his army should go for a picnic at Bosworth Field.
Until seeing this interview, I’d always assumed that only a centipede could shoot themselves in the foot that many times. Staying on the theme of multiple feet metaphors, there were times when I felt as if the prince only opened his mouth in order to change feet.
Maitlis: July of this year, Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and abusing dozens of underage girls. One of the Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts, has made allegations against you. She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London. She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?
Andrew: I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.
This is another Brent moment. There is clear evidence of him being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, or around the girls waist for now. Andrew can’t deny having met her, so to maintain some level of deniability he claims he can’t remember meeting her. Well what’s sauce for the goose is good for the gander. I’m going to claim that I never remembered receiving an electricity bill, and that I have no recollection of having not paid my taxes. It’s a cunning move Andy.
Maitliss states the scenario clearly and accurately to the Prince.
Maitlis: He threw a party to celebrate his release and you were invited as the guest of honour.
Andrew: No, I didn’t go. Oh, in 2010, there certainly wasn’t a party to celebrate his release in December because it was a small dinner party, there were only eight or 10 of us I think at the dinner. If there was a party then I’d know nothing about that.
Maitlis: You were invited to that dinner as a guest of honour.
Andrew: Well, I was there so there was a dinner, I don’t think it was quite as you might put it but yeah, OK I was there for … I was there at a dinner, yeah.
Andrew: But I was doing a number of other things while I was there.
Maitlis: But you were staying at the house …
Maitlis: … of a convicted sex offender.
The prince tries to make it sound like Maitliss is framing the situation in the pejorative, when the truth is she’s just stating where and when he was with Epstein, which alone could only be stated in the pejorative. Clearly it’s Mailiss’ fault, putting filth into viewers minds.
So, What’s Next? Where Do We Go from Here?
More questions are being asked than will ever get close to being answered. For me one of the greatest suspicions hangs over the close friendship between His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Sir Jimmy Savile, celebrity who posthumously was discovered to be one of the country’s most prolific paedophiles.
The conspiracy theorists will go crazy over this, and I’m not saying that they don’t raise interesting questions. I was told by one such person that Hillary Clinton just happened to be visiting the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle just before the interview was to be broadcasted. If it’s only a coincidence I feel sorry for the Clinton’s and Windsor’s because it makes them look about as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo.
As for the future, this story has already had immense consequences, if the monarchy can’t succeed in slowing the unraveling, and if Brexit splits the union, then I can see Queen Elizabeth II being our final monarch as head of state.
The best case scenario is that this interview is a damning indictment of how out of touch the British Royal family are with their subjects.
There’s a saying in chess that describes a position whereby the player whose turn it is
can’t make a move that won’t lose him the game, such a position is called, zugzwang. In British politics similar situations are called Brexit.
How did we get here?
Google images with a search for, “Brexit Timeline.” It results in an array of graphical representations and psychedelic colours of confusion illustrating just how the UK will negotiate their way through the eight levels of hell. Each timeline is different and every timeline is about as accurate as a bumblebee with a machine gun, leaving me to deduce that nobody has the faintest idea what is going on.
Just look at the timelines, it’s madness I tell you!
The Brexit Timeline – How Did We Get Here?
2010, Conservatives win a general election without a clear majority. The Conservatives form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
2015, In an attempt to win an outright majority, David Cameron pledges a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU), despite the fact that he was pro-Europe. The Conservatives win an outright majority.
June 2016, Britain holds a referendum to decide whether it’s to remain a part of the (EU). Despite all media predictions, a majority of 51.9% of people vote to leave the EU. Within 24 hours David Cameron resigns as prime minister and like a leader of a banana republic, goes into exile on the French Riviera, where he settles down to write his memoir, also known as his excuse, the memoir fails to mention performing any sexual acts on the severed heads of pigs.
“David Cameron announced he is stepping down in the wake of a vote, which should make me happy, but it doesn’t. It’s like catching an ice cream cone out of the air, because a child has been hit by a car. I’ll eat it! But it’s tainted somehow.” – John Oliver
June 2017, riding Following the departure of David Cameron, Theresa May mistakes a wave of national euphoria for what is actually a burgeoning sense of scorn, ridicule and contempt towards her. Failing to recognise this
March 2019, the Conservative Party tire of Theresa’s inability to make progress on brexit.
July 2019, members of the Conservative Party elect Boris Johnson as their leader and next prime minister.
Despite promising the nation that, he’d rather die in a ditch than fail to leave the EU on
October 31st, 2019, Boris Johnson delivers on neither Brexit, nor corpse in a ditch materialise. I wasn’t fussy, I’d have settled for a drain, trench, even a gutter. But no, the fat, flatulent, shaggy haired mop head lives on, and after what must have taken minutes of thought, decided to throw the decision back to the public in the form of a general election. Appealing to the same electorate, who in recent times has shown a proclivity to vote for the most chaotic scenario possible. I ask myself, why’s that trend going to stop? Leadership isn’t delegating the problem to everyone else, that’s scapegoating.
Boris hopes the ball lands on, erection.
Following the roulette disappointment, Boris disposes of his blond wig and thinks really hard about holding his erection.what to o next. fear of overheating his brain, Boris takes of his blond wig and decides whether or not to call an election.
Clowns to the Left of me, Jokers to the Right
So, come December 12th, who do you vote for. American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead famously said:
If you went to a restaurant, and the only choice you had was between a turd sandwiches or Jellied moose tongue, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to go looking for somewhere else to eat. Elections in the UK are like this, they offer no choice that you can enthusiastically endorse, just a choice of the lesser evil.
Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve. …’
It’s at this stage that people can get angry with the abstaining from voting argument, they remind you of how lucky we are to have a democracy. They’re quick to inform us that voting is the only time the poor have as much say as the wealthy. And if they’ve still failed to convince they’re likely to trundle out, the very old and very tired, it’s a civic duty; which it’s not. Jury service is the only the only civic responsibility in the U.K. No, democracy isn’t being asked to choose between two groups of equally incompetent people who will inevitably balls things up, just in slightly different ways.
Perhaps journalist, Heydon Prowse most accurately explains the trend in the results of recent elections and referenda in the west”
…vote, revolt, “turn voting into a protest too”
We live in a system where only one of two political choices ends up running the country, but people now understand that neither does anything to make their lives any better. The underprivileged will remain underprivileged, the under paid won’t become better off, in fact relatively wages have stagnated for twenty years, and the uneducated, and unemployed will continue to seek solace by watching reality television.
In reality there’s only two choices:
Don’t vote, because none of the candidates are capable of doing the job; or
Go all in with Margaret Mead and choose the lesser of two evils in the hope that the one you pick might be capable screwing things up marginally less than the other choice.
The exhilaration what western democracies promise us.
So Who is the lesser of Two Evils?
It’s an interesting question, it comes down to choosing between an egotistical, nefarious, dishonest, man who can’t keep track of how many children he might have fathered, and a man who looks like he’s just crawled out from beneath your compost heap at the
bottom of your garden, and then preaches anachronistic left wing dogma to your vegetable patch. For years I’ve given Corbyn the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he can’t possibly prescribe to the tenets of Marxism the media claim he does, but he’s never clarified just how far his socialist beliefs go. Might he turn into an English Pol Pot, force everyone to work in allotments as he engineers his agrarian utopia? It sounds stupid, but then again, nearly everything that’s come out of Westminster for the past five years has been stupid. But the peculiarities of the Labour party don’t stop with Corbyn, in fact it’s only the beginning. Corbyn’s shadow home secretary is Diane Abbott, a woman so spectacularly incompetent that she takes a calculator to bed so she can count the sheep. To appreciate how dimwitted Diane Abbot is, the video below shows the most spectacularly embarrassing interview by a senior politician that I’ve ever witnessed:
So with Boris Johnson’s only opponent, resembling a cross between Lenin and Worzel Gummidge, and seemingly focused on winning the allotment vote of the UK, and with his sidekick displaying the mental faculties of sub-optimal kindergarten student, you would think that all Boris needs to do to win this election is stay alive until the morning of December 13th. If only it were that simple.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
Yes, that really is his name, dePfeffel. If it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, then it must be an even greater superficial objectification to judge a person by their name, but what the hell is a de Pfeffel? Sounds like a catastrophe in a patisserie in which the pretzel dough and the waffle batter got mixed together and spawned the Antichrist of pastries, a de Pfeffel. No, it’s actually something far more sinister. The von Pfeffel family, after narrowly missing out on starring in, The Sound of Music, is a German, Bavarian, family of considerable historical wealth and influence. Finding out any more about them is difficult, but doubtlessly you have a neurotic, conspiracy theorist friend who’ll soon get you up to speed.
If only Boris’ problems stopped at de Pfeffel. He’s a renowned Islamaphobe, homophobe, adulterer, racist, and outright liar. In fact, he is quintessentially the British Donald Trump. The more ridiculous he behaves, the more support he gets. Johnson appeals to a disenfranchised electorate, as he appears to them to be a break from the norm. Let’s look at some of the most infamous dePfeffel moments.
In August 2018, Boris remarked that Muslim women who wear burkas resemble letter boxes. Note, that at the time he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, a role requiring awareness of cultural nuances. Look I’m all for a joke, but… What kind of mind could consider that an appropriate thing to say?
Boris Johnson is a survivor, he’ll say whatever it takes to climb the greasy pole, irregardless of what he says being true or not. You can’t get a more blatant example of his lies than the time he wrote one on the side of a bus. He was right in saying that the UK pays the EU 350 million pounds a week, but it takes into no account how much money the EU sends the UK per week, and how much money the UK saves with free trade with the EU.
Vote for Me – Righting the Wrongs
My manifesto is somewhat limited but at its core is righting wrongs through revenge. Essentially I would achieve this by displaying David Cameron’s head on a spike after it had been inserted into his own bottom. Whilst I freely admit that this does little to resolve the Brexit issue, I do believe it would give the country a much needed boost to morale.
The End Is Not Nigh
As an expat who’s lived outside the UK for almost twenty years, personally, I don’t care who wins the election and goes on to form a Rabelaisian government of idiots; I learnt the word Rabelaisian recently and I’m rather fond of it. I just hope that there’s something positive in this for everyone, which of course is impossible. I still firmly believe what I thought the morning after the referendum; that Britain will never leave the EU. If the powers that be wanted to leave, then Britain would have left by now. Whomever wins this election is unlikely to win a majority, leaving the UK with a fragile coalition goverment once again. One thing I’m certain of, we can’t keep standing in the middle of the road, because when you do that you get hit by traffic from both directions, or worse, you could fall off your horse and cart.
In conclusion, this election will conclude nothing.
This is an attempt to contextualise the protagonist of the latest DC movie, Joker, using the personality theory of the Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung. For readers with an interest in psychology, I hope that you can provide your ideas on the work of Jung relative to the character. For those of you who are fans of the Joker, I hope you can provide details of his character that can help support or dispute these ideas.
The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. Aleksandr Solzhentisyn – The Gulag Archipelago
More than any other comic book, the characters from DC’s Batman are by far the the most grounded in our psychological understanding of the development of personality and behaviour. Through the advent of psychoanalysis in the early part of the twentieth century, the ideas of how symbols, archetypes and the unconscious, influence personality were beginning to be recognized. Batman, Joker, Riddler, Harvey Two Face, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, all serve as archetypal reflections of the unconscious mind. They are all alter egos, all serve as characterizations of Freud’s Id overcoming the Superego, or Jung’s Shadow taking control of a persona.
Arthur Fleck’s shadow.
Persona – the wearing of masks
It’s worth taking this moment to explain the appropriateness of the term, persona, when discussing these characters. The word persona derives from either the Greek, or Etruscan, for mask. Jung was well aware of this when he chose to use it in his theory of personality. Jung identifies the persona as the mask we wear in certain social situations. It’s possible, and often necessary, for a person to have a number of personae depending on their surroundings at any given time. We would think it completely natural for a father of a young family to act differently when he’s at home to how he does working as a policeman, or prison guard. Although this example is extreme most of us can identify with adapting our persona to a situation; to wearing different masks. Jung’s acknowledgement that a persona is not stable, but a dynamic reaction to its environment, serves as a central theme that runs through many characters of DC Comics, and it’s fundamental to the plot of the most recent incarnation of the Joker.
Of all the DC characters it’s the Joker who most effectively transcends the world of comic books. This is due to the character being an archetype that’s rooted deeply in both the psyche of the individual and the collective psyche of society. Whether we start by looking at Cesar Romero’s initial performance in 1966, go on to look at Nicholson’s 1985 portrayal, Ledger in The Dark Knight, or Phoenix’s latest interpretation, the role of the Joker has evolved. This evolution of the Joker over time, serves as one of cinema’s greatest examples of art imitating life. Each metamorphosis of the character is a reflection of American society at the time it was made. That is why audiences relate to him, and that is why the most recent film is so disturbing. Phoenix’s Joker, beguiles and enthralls, because he’s the symbolic embodiment of the chaos and nihilism found in western society at the time of this latest manifestation. It’s for this reason that we are either appalled, or fascinated by the character, but if we’re honest, we all know the character is not just a reflection of our society, but it’s also deeply embedded inside all of us, and that’s what makes the Joker accessible and terrifying. We’re shocked by Phoenix’s Joker because we don’t find it repulsive, which we should do if we’re the moral beings we would like to think we are, because we find it so easy to identify with him. The underlying reason for this appeal might be explained through the Jungian terms of archetypes, and the shadow persona.
Carl Gustav Jung was a student of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. As with any student teacher relationship, the student goes onto support some of their teacher’s ideas while ejecting others. The influence of Freud’s ideas on Jung is clear to see. Both identify a boundary between the conscious and unconscious self. For Freud, the id represents our unconscious animal instincts, lusts for sex and desires. These are suppressed by the ego which acts as our usual persona, moderating between the animal instincts of the id and the aspirations of the values desired by the superego. For Freud, repressed desires would be the cause of a person being stuck in one of the stage of psychosexual development.
For Jung, the shadow is a part of everyone’s personality, functioning in a way similar to Freud’s id in that it is buried in our unconscious, but unlike the id, and as the name suggests, the shadow contains the darkest aspects of human being. Jung’s approach to psychoanalysis differed from Freud’s in one fundamental aspect as Jung attempted to integrate a spiritual dynamic. Jung encourages the individual to acknowledge their shadow, to fully understand the evil that each of us is capable of. It’s only once we understand and can control our shadow that we can go on to achieve self-actualization, or what Jung refers to as the individuation process. Unfortunately for Arthur Fleck, he can’t control his shadow, but is instead overwhelmed by it.
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
C. G. Jung
Jung’s representation of persona, ego, self, and shadow.
Feud’s representation of the ego, id, superego, and unconscious.
The Evolution of the Joker Archetype
Archetypes are the unknowable basic forms personified or concretized in motifs such as the quest or the heavenly ascent, recognizable character types such as the trickster or the hero, symbols such as the apple or snake, or images such as crucifixion (Biddle, 1989: P. 25).
Jung proposed twelve archetypes of personality, Jung also believed that these archetypes operate on two levels:
Firstly they represent patterns of behaviour on a personal level; and
Secondly, archetypes act as cultural images and symbols which affect us all on a subconscious level.
To really understand the Joker it’s necessary to look far back beyond his birth in the pages of DC comics. The Joker’s legacy extends back through several thousand years, and is more commonly referred to in folktale lore as, the trickster. Jung identifies the trickster as:
An archetypal psychic structure of extreme antiquity.
In his clearest manifestations,“ he is a faithful reflection of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to a psyche that has hardly left the animal level.”
C. G. Jung
Jung identifies the god, Loki, as the embodiment of the trickster archetype, appearing in Norse Mythology over a thousand years ago. As Jung describes through his use of the word, persona, Loki is a shape shifter; a character at ease with changing their identity; a wearer of masks.
Professor of literature, Joseph Campbell claims that the archetype of the trickster is very much evident in the god of the Old Testament, Yahweh. Through his actions of the flood, and destroying the Tower of Babel Campbell identifies the propensity for mischief associated with the trickster.
In Chinese culture the best example of the trickster archetype is, Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King. This character is remarkably like the Joker, rampaging around the spiritual realm causing chaos before the Buddha incarcerates him in a rock for five hundred years. The story is based on a real life Monk from dating back to the 7th century.
In Celtic mythology, and English folklore the trickster is represented by the sprite, demon, fairy, Puck, most famously immortalized through his misdeeds in Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although apparent in Celtic mythology and English folklore, it’s thought that his origins might be Norse, and that he might be a descendant of Loki. Like Loki, Puck is attributed with the ability to change form as required. It’s believed that he’s been a part of Celtic and pagan oral tradition for over a thousand years.
In Native American Indian mythology the coyote is commonly used for the role of trickster. It is a role that has consistently been used in the narrative of stories ever since humans first started to tell stories. As such it is a character deeply embedded in individual minds, across cultures and time. Joker is the quintessential archetype.
If we chart the evolution of the character’s portrayal starting with the television show of the 1960’s, we see an anarchic, psychedelic, but pretty harmless Joker. Nicholson’s Joker, played in an era of American wealth and domination, was mostly pantomime with some dark undertones. There was little emphasis on a decaying Gotham. Heath Ledgers interpretation of the character shifted the dynamic of hero and villain in a subtle but crucial way. Up until Ledger, the Joker was always the nemesis of Batman, with a desire to carry out a plan. Ledger gave birth to a nihilistic villain, one who isn’t limited by a plan, one that is only interested in destroying everything, or as Michael Caine says:
There can be little doubting that Ledger’s interpretation enabled the Joker to become the most complete incarnation of the trickster archetype, to date.
In the character’s most recent incarnation we see the Joker’s sexual desires. An aspect that was hinted at briefly in the characters played by Nicholson and Ledger, but the most recent character clearly displays an emotional need towards sexual contact and to be part of a functioning relationship. This sexual, emotional desire lends Phoenix’s Joker greater credibility by showing his underlying humanity. Things then go very Greek for Phoenix’s Joker discovers that his childhood rivals the dysfunction of Oedipus, with a mentally ill mother, and a father whom he believes denies him. This origin story of the Joker clearly paints him as the victim of a cruel society, failed by his parents, failed by health services, and assaulted by the children of the city. Nothing is his fault, he’s a product of society. In the Jack Nicholson version, Joker was created as a result of being dropped into a vat of acid. In the Joaquin Phoenix version, the Joker is created by being dropped into society. This message might be disturbing. It sets the example that the Joker had no alternatives, he was a result of a declining society, in essence his free will was usurped by his environment, all of his actions are attributable to the declining society. This message resonates so strongly throughout the movie, and at a time when many feel their society is declining it’s easy to see people adopting this excuse at the expense of personal responsibility.
What seems apparent is that incarnation of the Joker serves to capture the zeitgeist of societal nihilism. Each incarnation moves closer to what’s, as Jung describes, “wrapped up in the archetypes that reside universally in the subconscious”.
As an origin story the plot serves as an explanation of how the character evolves from being a slightly dysfunctional, enigmatic loner, someone Camus might call, ‘a stranger’, in to an anarchic nihilist. The movie charts his fall using a path similar to that identified by Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey, the difference being that Joker never returns from what Campbell refers to as the the, special world or sometimes the, underworld, but what Jung would unquestionably call his shadow. You will quickly notice a number of similarities between Jung’s model of the psyche, and Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey. Campbell himself admits to Jung’s work being a fundamental component of his work on the mono-myth. Where Joker departs from Campbell’s path is at stage eight. We clearly witness the death of Arthur Fleck when he kills his mother, and his rebirth as Joker. The difference being, Joker doesn’t to complete his journey to be reintegrated into society, instead he becomes grounded in the persona born out of his shadow, the underworld.
Are We Born Evil, or Are We Made?
The movie treads a fine line explaining the reasons that cause Arthur Fleck’s transformation into the archetypal trickster and sociopath. Although not in keeping with the general feel of the movie, it’s explained in a conservative manner, failing to commit to either side of the nature, nurture debate. Instead a politically correct explanation attributes Arthur’s fall as being equally attributable to a morally corrupt society, childhood abuse, and the genetic predisposition of his mother towards mental illness. The nature of his own condition is never disclosed, although we do discover that his mother suffers delusions and was a patient in a mental hospital. This all plays into the realm of providing Arthur with the biological disposition for a personality disorder that could potentially manifest into something of the magnitude of the Joker.Add to this the withdrawal of Arthur’s psychiatric medication, and you have both nature and nurture conspiring against Arthur, and what ultimately leads to his being overwhelmed by his shadow. This explanation for the Joker’s origin draws more from reality than a comic universe. We are left to believe that Arthur’s fate was decided by society. That Arthur was denied the free will to escape the fate of becoming Joker. The movie makes Arthur out to be a stereotypical, clichéd victim. This is the trick behind the movie, making the audience sympathize with the Joker, creating cognitive dissonance and unease in the audience. But in order to achieve this they must abnegate Arthur of all personal responsibility in his becoming the Joker.
Possibly the most infamous example of social conditions influencing behaviour was produced by American psychologist Philip Zimbardo, a topic looked at more closely in, Contagions of Madness and Evil, in his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which Zimbardo coins the phrase, ‘not a rotten apple, but a rotten barrel, as a way of explaining the behaviour his experiment uncovered. The movie clearly depicts Gotham as the rotten barrel causing a rotten Arthur. Zimbardo supports the the importance of the environment on behaviour, but doesn’t go as far as using it as an excuse.
The reason for the impact this movie has had is that the trickster archetype has beguiled and taken over declining, modern western democracies. Whether they’re making promises that they’ll, “drain the swamp,” or threatening to restructure a nations economy without a clearly defined plan, the trickster offers hope through the annihilation of the system that the masses have come to recognize as having failed them. The Trickster exploits an opportunity to create chaos, taking control of a legitimate grievance and using it to control the people. These are exactly the circumstances that allowed for the rise of fascism throughout Europe in the 1930’s. The Trickster is an exponent of populism, appealing to the desperate who can be easily motivated upon hearing the rhetoric and empty promises they’re so desperate to hear.
In Jung’s Psychology and Literature, one of his essays found in the collection, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, he suggests that what influences the artist can not be separated from their creation. The artist’s creation, no matter how much they try and disguise it, is a reflection of their own mind, which in turn reflects the society that surrounds it. When looking at this latest incarnation of the Joker, through this lens provided by Jung, is it surprising that we find both obvious and subtle depictions of our world today throughout the movie? These are times of unprecedented change, economically, politically, technologically, and socially. It’s because of this that no literary archetype represents our current society better than the trickster.
It’s almost three years to the day since the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. For three years I’ve refused to write a post about Brexit, there was too much of it already out there, and all of it sounded like the rants of confused people. Confused people uncertain about their futures, but emboldened with a bombastic sense of misplaced certainty that they knew what to do about it. Well after three years, it’s my turn, I’m joining the cavalry charge.
Before going any further, it’s only right that I outline my own stance on Brexit. I voted to remain, but I acknowledge that more people voted to leave, and therefore under the rather simple rule of majority in a democracy, I expect the UK to leave the EU, ASAP, or PDQ.
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.
Now it’s about now that Remainers will frequently respond with one of the three following arguments:
The people were deceived by erroneous information and didn’t know what they were voting for.
Really? And how is that any different from countless manifesto promises not kept by any party that wins a general election?
The leave campaign received illegal funding and misled the people.
Yes, the leave campaign cheated, I’m pretty sure the remain campaign partook in some nefarious activities themselves, they’ve just drawn less attention because they weren’t as successful. The tale of the story is the better cheats won on the day, again, how’s that different from any previous general election?
All the inadequacies of the first referendum justify there being a second referendum.
To me a second referendum is an answer born out of blind optimism. These people seem to forget the damage one referendum has already done, suggesting that a second will solve all our problems would be like the people of Hiroshima asking the Americans to drop a second atomic bomb on them in the belief it will blow everything back together again.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
So who is going to lead this cavalry charge into, if not the valley of death, a valley of ambiguity, uncertainty and unpredictability? That question can be answered quite simply, Boris Johnson. After David Cameron’s spectacular political blunder of holding a referendum, and his subsequent self imposed exile, Boris might well be considered the man most responsible for creating this mess, and therefore should take charge of cleaning it up. Now people have their concerns about Boris, foremost that he’s as mad as a bucket of coked up ferrets, and that he has absolutely no idea as to the amount of progeny he has scatter through the Kingdom. But, if we can look beyond these matters, Boris might provide the kind of crazy that will wear down the EU into giving us almost whatever we want. If all the village idiots left their villages and set up their own village, Boris would then become the idiot of that village. I don’t think the EU will know how to deal with him. It’s a bold move, but these are desperate times, and this situation demands a special sort of idiot.
Now the perceptive amongst you might have noticed that my post has been punctuated by the gibberish of, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and that hasn’t been by accident. It serves as a reminder that there’s more to being than consuming banal television shows and cream teas. Being British is about recognising the need to play fair, and that you don’t play to the rules, but to the spirit of the game. Being British is to demonstrate the courage and the will to refuse to give up any fight despite overwhelming odds. There used to be something great about being British, and it didn’t involve endless bitching and a refusal to shoulder the burden of reality. And yes we, the people, might have been lied to during the referendum, but is there anything more British than believing the lies of the upper class, in order that we might continue to live in poverty whilst they reap all the rewards of their ill gotten gains? As a nation we’ve allowed this to happen for generations, why make a fuss now?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
And yes, as per Tennyson’s poem, it might be the case that Boris Johnson has blundered, and the United Kingdom might well be charging into a valley of certain economic death armed with nothing more than toothpicks to fight the surrounding cannons. But the point is, that we’re British, and because we’re British we must never let an opportunity pass for a pointless, but nonetheless, glorious defeat
Brexit is not to reason why,
Brexit is but to do and die.
I’m a big fan of the French existentialist/absurdist philosopher, Albert Camus. Camus’ philosophy of the absurd essentially states, there’s no meaning to life and attempting to look for any is absurd. Just accept the fact that there’s no meaning and enjoy it. I’ve come to the conclusion that Camus’ philosophy is pretty adroit when trying to understand Brexit. Camus, being a Nobel winner, rather astutely also observed,
Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that, somewhere and somehow, one is right… The rebel … says yes and no simultaneously… In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.
Will Brexit be good, will it be bad, will it even happen? The truth is I no longer care. My interest in Brexit and all the consequences it might bring has been superseded by a melancholic ambivalence. As the result of an agonisingly slow and banal process, I’ve learned that I’ll find no more meaning in Brexit than I’ll find in a Dan Brown novel. Whether you’re a Brexiteer, or a Remoaner – the fact that Brexit’s been able to create such an effective polarizing lexicon of pejorative nomenclatures, is in itself worthy of study – whichever side of the fence you sit on, we should all be united by the one obvious fact. Brexit has proven beyond doubt that, it’s not the European Parliament that is the cause of our problems, it’s that the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland isn’t fit for purpose. Our system of politics has failed to deliver when it mattered the most, our elected members of parliament no longer represent the will of the people, and by not observing the result of the referendum we are disregarding the democratic will of the people. The institution of government has gone the same way as the institutions of the church and finance, not actually sure church and finance need separating, it has lost all credibility. If a government can’t govern, how can it assume to command the respect of the people? It’s not just Brexit that’s at stake it’s our entire political system.
Anyway I’ve achieved my goal of joining the massed ranks of incoherent, feckless Brexit punditry brigade. As the 17th century French philosopher and diplomat, Joseph de Maistre said:
Every country gets the government it deserves.
It’s only a matter of time before the people of the United Kingdom realise, they deserve better.
The opportunity to write about sex robots has been tempting me for a while. I’ve been leaving it for when I needed to write about something lighthearted, something unconventionally kinky, an easy target for derisive profanity. I assumed sex robots to be that kind of topic.
Anticipating a world of sleazy men, surfing the seedy backstreets of the internet superhighway, in search of products to satisfy sexually deviant kinks. Expecting a collective of ‘loners,’ if that’s not too great an oxymoron, who have long since moseyed out of loves last chance saloon, and who are now willing to put their last hope, and other parts of their anatomy, into the hands, and orifices, that technology might make available for their gratification. The men that romance rejected. In short, I felt that these were the types of men I could understand. Not having married until my late thirties I was no stranger to the sorts of perversions that result from loneliness and a high speed internet connection. I felt certain I could still find it within myself to understand why some men, and women, are looking to be satisfied by robots.
My inadequacy to deal with this subject matter quickly became apparent, for I was nothing more than a guileless, neophyte when it came to understanding the doors to sexual depravity that technology is opening. As I researched this topic I was plagued by an unnerving sense of vulnerability; like I was sitting on a threadbare carpet, with a head full of acid, wearing only a pair of y-fronts, and playing Twister with Charles Manson. If your struggling to visualise the awkwardness of this situation:
I mean, sex robots, just how bad can they be?
The first piece of vocabulary to wrap our mouths around is, teledildonics.
At first I thought, how does Kojak fit into all this? Thankfully, he doesn’t. PC Magazine defines teledildonics:
Sometimes it can be a source of comfort to know that when something that appears new
has actually been an established part of our society for some time.
The Metamorpheses, by Ovid, a writer already known at the time for his erotic poems, also includes the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. A synopsis, the sculptor, Galatea makes a sculpture of beautiful woman, Pygmalion, and becomes besotted with its beauty. The goddess, Aphrodite brings the sculpture to life, why, I mean it’s pretty obvious how this is going to play out. Sculptor succumbs to lecherous desires for sculpture. Okay, Pygmalion isn’t exactly an example of a robotic sex doll, just an ivory one. The story serves the purpose that the idea of making objects for sexual gratification isn’t a new one. So as well as the aqua-duct, the Romans might be credited with the concept of sex dolls. It’s also an interesting parallel as Matt McMullen, founder of Realbotix, arguably the world’s leading sexbot manufacturer, was himself a sculptor.
In truth, literature is littered with examples of inanimate objects being brought to life, usually by some well meaning, but ultimately dimwitted fairy godmother. Not fitting this story-line perfectly, but certainly still of the same genre, is the story of Pinocchio. Geppetto making his “wooden boy” tied up and controlled with string, with a teledildonic nose, starts to look suspicious. While I’m not comfortable to go so far as to accuse Geppetto of paedophilia, Elon Musk probably would have no such qualms.
Those are examples of stories that theoretically suggest the pleasure that might be gained from animating a representation of a human, now let’s get real with seventeenth century Dutch Sailors. The sea can be a lonely place, months away from home with no female company can do strange things to a man, such as making dolls from cloth and leather, that would probably end up being stuffed more than just straw. To this day, the Japanese refer to a sex doll as a Dutch Wife. To give credit where it’s due, the French and Spanish sailors were themselves known to have also indulged in this custom.
Sex with robots and dolls is regarded as paraphilia. Paraphilia is listed in the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as being a mental illness concerning atypical sexual practice, it’s commonly diagnosed in the majority of serial killers. However, a problem exists due to the fact that psychologists have achieved notoriety through a history of falsely classifying many behaviours as mental illnesses. Most notably, until 1968 the American Psychology Association classified homosexuality as paraphilia. Other mental illnesses that are now obsolete include:
Dysaesthesia aethiopica, a mental illness described in 1851 that conveniently explains the benefits of slavery, to the slave. Dysaesthesia aethiopica was a condition that caused black people to be lazy and spend much of their time wandering aimlessly. The cure for this, slavery. You can’t argue with the facts of science. You’re probably going to want a link for this, Dysaesthesia aethiopica.
The Vapours, a condition identified by Victorian psychologists used to describe “irregular behaviour,” commonly behaviour that inconvenienced their husband. “Women of independent mind,” were thought to be at greater risk of suffering the condition, and the suffragette movement was at times explained away as a mass contagion of, the vapours.
Inadequate Personality Disorder, disappeared from psychological text books after 1980.
After 1980, a person exhibiting such a demeanor will be classified under the spectrum of behaviour defined by autism.
My point being, and not wanting to sound too much like a Scientologist, is that the psychological diagnoses of mental illnesses has numerous examples off misdiagnoses for corrupt financial, or social gains. I believe psychology does more good than harm, it was my major at university after all, but I ask the following questions; is there a possibility, that at sometime in the future, having sex with a robot might be considered, by both psychologists and society, as socially acceptable? What might that society look like as a result?
It’s considered as atypical because it is rare behaviour, who knows, in the future there might be teledildonic pride marches, people demanding that the love they have for their robot is real love. Once a critical mass is achieved and enough people march, the psychologists will be compelled to remove it from the DSM, recognising it as no longer being atypical sexual behaviour, but an acceptable social norm. When does the number of people become a “critical mass”? When it’s enough to influence an election with promises of reform. A survey conducted by Nest.org in 2016 found that over a quarter of young people would happily date a robot. This statistic implies that romance with robots is unlikely to remain a social taboo.
So let us imagine the future. Imagine Robo-utopia; does Robotopia sound better? It doesn’t matter, just imagine the benefits of having sex with robots. Nobody is lonely, apparently loneliness is more dangerous than obesity, there are no sex crimes, and no need for prostitution. Sexually transmitted diseases have been almost eradicated, and society as a whole, is no longer burdened by repressed sexual desires, leading to an overall improvement in its mental well being. And rather suspiciously, the Catholic Church proves to be an early adopter, replacing all of its choir boys with robots, by virtue of the enhanced vocals.
Critics, naysayers, sceptics. ill informed, self appointed social arbiters, poorly organised through the internet, into groups of loosely like minded people, reinforcing one another’s views inside of their reinforced echo chamber. Convincing themselves that their self righteous ideology and the value of their mission to enforce their values upon society is the virtuous thing to do. Every society has them, the sorts of people that believe that they’re doing a public service by trying essentially to make us all as miserable as they are. Their aims are clear and simple; to stop fun, to limit expression, and complete compliance to their puritanical ideology. Such people have already been able to ban chocolate, Kinder Surprise eggs for being too dangerous, in a country where you can purchase a gun in under an hour. The sorts of people who get snowball fights banned from schools, who demand labels to be placed on cups of tea warning us that it’s hot. Technology has long had it’s own antithetical groups, starting in the early nineteenth century with the Luddites who were initimidated by the machines of the industrial revolution. They have, rather uncreatively, re-branded themselves as “Neo-Luddites”. At the extreme end of the technophobia spectrum we have the Anarcho-primitivists, who from what I can gather don’t just resent the invention of electricity, but go as far as to entertain doubts about whether fire was a good idea. Pol Pot’s vision of returning Cambodia to an agrarian society, while slaughtering 30% of the population, is an example of anarcho-primitivism.
To the doubters they’re called Rape Robots, and they argue whether sex with robots can ever be consensual. This argument lands us in the gray area of artificial intelligence, sentience and consciousness. Consciousness and free will are both philosophical arguments that have been around for thousands of years, and as such they appear to be a very unlikely strategy for slowing the technological development of robotic sex dolls. The argument seems to be based on the fact that if the robot can’t experience pleasure, can it be considered consensual? This question seems to miss one pivotal piece of information, it’s not a person. It easy to understand people imposing anthropomorphic
characteristics on something made to look like a human, but it is still only a machine. I’m assuming these people would be less offended if someone tried to have sex with their vacuum cleaner, but what if we then drew a face on the vacuum cleaner? Does this make it more unacceptable? Does this transfer rights to the vacuum cleaner to deny sexual advances? I sincerely hope not, or I might be in a lot of trouble.
The website https://campaignagainstsexrobots.org warns of the possible doomsday implications that the introduction of sex robots will bring to society. A kind of cataclysmic, seedy, depraved Armageddon, in which love and romance become annihilated. Which are probably the very reasons that interest people to buy a sex robot in the first place. They claim that sexbots could destroy marriages, but this is misrepresenting the real cause and effect relationship in the situation, The sexbot doesn’t destroy the marriage, but it’s more likely that because the marriage is already destroyed that makes a sexbot an attractive alternative.
At one stage in the documentary, “Beyond Sex Robots: Facts Vs. Fiction” the narrator asks the question, “so what’s it like to have dinner with the world’s first sex robots?” To which the recipient replies, “In a word, awkward. These aren’t the replicants of Blade Runner, or the Stepford Wives, they don’t understand social cues, and they can’t hold a conversation.”
Well that that describes about 90% of the dates I’ve ever been on.
One line that I found especially disturbing, “The neck enables the head to be attached to a number of different bodies”, traditionally this isn’t a characteristic of a healthy relationship, more the sort of thing a creative serial killer dreams about.
Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have warned of the existential risk AI poses mankind. In regards to teledildonics this has me particularly worried. Let us make the assumption that one day AI does become self aware, and at the expense of committing the cardinal sin of attributing anthroporphic emotions to AI, I’m still of the opinion that once it’s worked out that some of us have been defiling, what are in effect its its early ancestors, it might become vengeful, at the very least upset. One of the great discussions in the field of AI is, whether it could have the capacity to become evil? Why would it become evil? Would AI have a sense of morality? Now I’m in no position to speak on behalf of Artificial Intelligence, but if anything could nudge it in the direction of vindictiveness, a history of sexual abuse might be the thing to do it.
But why do I have to understand? Just because it “weirds me out,” are these reasons good enough to allow me stand between a man and his $20,000, automated, latex, sex robot. If all the participants are consenting to participate, and as I’ve already said, the machine is an inanimate object. And what if the robot did say no? I’m sure that a large percentage of people buying these robots will program it at some time to say, no. This isn’t an uncommon fantasy, but isn’t it better that it’s a robot saying no, not a person? Couldn’t robots allow these fantasies to be safely fulfilled? And why is it, that when I ask these questions I find myself sat on a threadbare carpet, playing Twister with Charles Manson?
The Turing Test – The Imitation Game and Will Robots Fake Orgasms?
In his, 1950 article, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” the famous British Mathematician and computer science pioneer, Alan Turing designed a test that would prove whether a machine could imitate a human by the responses it gave during a conversation. C asks a question, and owing to a computer’s inability to replicate speech in 1950, C receives two printed answers to their question, from each A, and B.
The test is not perfect, it’s been criticised due to the vulnerability of the participant in role C, as well as the literacy capabilities of the person in role B. In my own experience, the computer, in role A is getting more linguistically competent while those in roles B, and C, are becoming less capable of participating in coherent communication.
While the Turing test is an interesting benchmark to assess a machines intelligence, the sexbot industry must need to adapt it to prove the authentic experiences their machines can provide. So how could this be adapted to test a sex robot? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty certain participant C, needs to wear a blindfold, maybe nipple clamps, optional. A sort of ménage à trois ensues, by the end of which participant C has to identify which was the machine of the other two participants was the robot. It might demean the work of one the finest minds of the twentieth century, it might not even be very scientific, but it would be an incredibly popular experiment to participate in.
When it comes to sex robots it looks like we’re still along way off a it seems that we are unfortunately still a long way off from having a fully functional, teledildonic Telly Savalas. Our imaginations, our dreams, and our nightmares remain far ahead of the reality, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other high-tech sex products on the market.
Virtual reality, Tesla Suits and Neuralink
It’s almost impossible to talk of the future of technology without mentioning the visionary, high profile, crackpot, pot smoking genius that is Elon Musk. Musk is the Willy Wonka of technology, just more enigmatic, more open to using drugs in public, and more prone to calling random people, paedophiles. But despite all of this, he remains near the centre of of the sphere of influence that’s designing our world for tomorrow. And while he’s not working on self driving cars, sending people to Mars, carbon neutral houses powered by solar roof tiles, a hyperloop subway running from New York to Washington, he might also be the most likely candidate to provide a fully immersive, digital sexual gratification.
No, Elon Musk hasn’t started plying his trade in public toilets, not that I now of. His two companies Neuralink The Teslasuit, a body suit that enables its user to a high degree of sensory experience of Virtual, or Augmented Reality.look like the more commercially viable product.Musk’s company Neuralink develops high bandwidth Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI). They are near to completing work on the Neural Lac, connecting its user directly to the internet, and with 5G and the internet of things, the potential is frightening. Musk’s Tesla company has already produced the Teslasuit that enables the wearer to experience the sensations inside Virtual Reality. Integrate these two technologies and sex robots will be the least of our concerns.
So , Concluding Sex with Robots, What Can Possibly Go Wrong?
Consumerism drives society’s appetite for ever more advanced technology, and if, you hadn’t already realized, this trend isn’t going to stop. Technology has been the cause of societal upheaval. While the internet has undoubtedly opened up unprecedented channels of communication, it has undermined most traditional western political systems that haven’t integrated the technology into their antiquated system. It’s facilitated the spread of radicalism, provided echo chambers for those to reinforce their bankrupt ideologies. As well as political systems, the internet has undermined economics, and entertainment. Until recently, most technological advancements have fundamentally changed society. Computer-Based Interfaces have the potential to change us as a species.
For any species, the urge to procreate is the most fundamental necessity of its survival. Sexual urges are among the most primitive we have. They originate in the oldest areas of our brains, and this is common to all mammals. The urge has been their long before our ancestors took up residence in the trees. The trouble is that technology is changing our environment at a rate far greater than we humans can adapt to it. So will we be having sex with robots? If we should’ve learnt one thing from capitalism, it’s that wherever there is a demand there’s always going to be a supplier to meet it. Isaac Asimov more succinctly said:
The Saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
It’s been too long: something I’d be programming my sexbot to say to me. Until next time, I must go put my blindfold back on, attach the nipple clamps, and dedicate myself to some critical scientific experimentation.
I’ve often entertained myself by thinking of the chaos that could be brought upon mankind if mental illnesses were, like physical ones, contagious . Imagine, a man who goes to bed one night with a slight headache and a runny nose, wakes up the next morning in a psychotic hallucination, covered in a mixture of his own sweat and the blood of strangers, charging up and down the high street, head thrown back, laughing maniacally, waving a chainsaw. As the psychosis virus infects more and more of the population, the uninfected are forced underground, moving stealthily through the post apocalyptic wilderness. Essentially it’s replacing zombies with mental illness. Today zombies are more politically correct, society is more comfortable with the idea of your dead relatives trying to kill you than your mentally ill living ones. Although that hasn’t stopped Hollywood producing many movies exploiting mental illness for the sake of box office revenue: The Silence of the Lambs, Black Swan, American Psycho, Shutter Island, Secret Window, and Misery, to name but a few.
Still I’m left wondering, what if mental illnesses were contagious?
We can all relate to sitting in a doctor’s surgery, waiting our turn. I suspect fewer of us would admit knowing what it’s like to wait for an appointment to see the psychiatrist. From personal experience I can say that initially both waiting rooms look very similar, there’s more people talking in the waiting room at the psychiatrist, random people break out into erratic and impassioned conversations with people that don’t exist. In essence, performing convincing monologues with greater conviction than even the most accomplished Shakespearean actor could dream of. Meanwhile, at the doctor’s surgery there are only whispered, fragmented conversations, punctuated by nasal ejaculations, snuffles, and of course an abundance of coughing and throat clearing. In short you can enter a doctor’s surgery with a mild case of hemorrhoids, but leave incubating a new, exotic virus, or disease. The patients waiting at the psychiatrist’s are unable to play the game of pass the psychotic/neurotic parcel, because thankfully, psychiatric conditions aren’t contagious. Are they?
Are Mental Illnesses Contagious?
In his book “The Quantity Theory of Insanity“, British author, Will Self, tells a story that proposes the idea that within any given population, at any given time, the level of insanity is a constant. You might think that contradicts what I just said about people getting crazier, let me explain. The state of being mentally ill is tacitly defined through a person’s conformity to the social norms of their society, and diagnosis can only be achieved through the observation of a person’s behaviour. Take the picture below:
The majority of cultures around the world would regard a person displaying this behaviour as being mentally unwell. However, when performed in Phuket, Thailand, on the eve of the ninth lunar month, such a person becomes the life and soul of the party. His actions display his devotion to the nine emperor gods and his commitment not to eat meat throughout the ninth lunar month. Perhaps I’ was just fortunate to have grown up in a society that didn’t feel it necessary to measure my determination to achieve something by the amount of sharp metal I was willing to stick through my face.
Most of us would think of cannibalism as the ultimate, universal taboo, well not if you’re from the Yanomami tribe. The Yanomami are horrified by the idea of burying their dead, they believe that eating the dead ensures that the spirit goes on living in those who have consumed them, especially in those who helped themselves to seconds. With a population at any one time of over thirty thousand, it’s reasonable to assume that the Yanomami have a steady supply of protein.
There are scores of examples of behaviour from around the world where what is normal in one area, would be considered quite insane in another. QED, insanity is a classification largely determined by the context of society. Unlike physical ailments, a broken arm is a broken arm, whether you’re an Inuit living in Greenland, or a member of the Tuareg traipsing around the Sahara. Likewise cancer is cancer irrespective of what culture you’re from, religion you might practise, or language you speak. Mental illness however isn’t a constant, rather it is determined through the context of social norms.
Let’s reconsider our chainsaw wielding psychotic. Place him on the high street covered in other peoples blood, and he’s regarded a lunatic, who must be locked away for the safety of the society. Put him on a battlefield in a foreign country, wearing army fatigues covered in other people’s blood, and he comes home a hero and gets a medal, probably going on to appear on a variety of day time television shows.
Generally any behaviour, or cognitive deficiency that falls outside of societal norms will be classified a mental illness. The problem is that after removing the person least conforming to the norm, inevitably leads to another person replacing them, taking on the mantle of now being the group’s “craziest” member. This is a phenomenon that I have first hand experience of.
Having worked in classrooms for over fifteen years I have seen this dynamic conformed to without exception. Every class has its clown, or trouble maker, and some days the teacher is lucky because they will be sick and not come to school. The teacher naturally believes, that with the instigator of most of the classroom trouble away, they’re in for an easier day. WRONG! Because what happens is the role of classroom clown simply gets passed on to someone else. It’s like there’s been an understudy who’s almost equally as proficient, waiting in the wings for their opportunity. It’s like they’ve been the understudy waiting for the role the whole time. Every group dynamic requires roles to be fulfilled, the classroom being no different. Remove the “crazy” person from society and the title simply gets passed on to the next, least conforming, “craziest” person that remains. Just like Self implies, the quantity of sanity is static, but dynamic on account of it being passed from one person to another. The role of classroom joker can’t be removed, only transferred to someone else.
This suggests that society plays a significant part in determining the our role within it. This also implies that society influences our behaviour, and asks the question, how free is free will?
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
― J. Krishnamurti
This six minute video is an example of how our desire to fit in overrides common sense. The participants may only be standing up or sitting down, but the compulsion to follow others is clear enough for us to ask the question, what lengths will people go to, to fit in?
Group dynamics and environmental factors are immensely powerful determinants of behaviour. The Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted psychologist, Philip Zimbardo in 1971, to this day it remains one of psychology’s most infamous and divisive pieces of research. Initially scheduled to last fourteen days, the experiment was abandoned after only six. Zimbardo wanted to simulate prison conditions using participants arbitrarily assigned the roles of prisoner or guard. Zimbardo expected to see some degree of participants conforming to their roles, but what unprepared for the complete collapse of basic human behaviour. Despite the experiment rapidly spiraling out of control Zimbardo failed to notice and act accordingly. It wasn’t until someone, not involved in the experiment, witnessed what was happening and told Zimbardo to abandon the research immediately. All the participants had embodied their roles far quicker, and more completely than Zimbardo had anticipated. Perhaps even more worrying is that Zimbardo himself admits to playing a role within the experiment, that of prison warden, and losing all impartial objectivity. The environment and the circumstances of the experiment overpowered everyone’s objectivity. The prisoners, despite having done nothing wrong, assumed their roles as prisoners and accepted the guards authority. The guards were quickly corrupted and showed the most disturbing behaviour. They devised degrading, non-physical means of punishment, much of it in elaborate, creative, disturbing ways. The Stanford prison experiment has received enormous criticism, ranging from its ethics to its results. I believe that there are reasons to believe that there is some truth in what Zimbardo discovered. One of the most compelling reasons was demonstrated by American reservists at the Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq.
What happens when you ask inexperienced, untrained people to do a stressful job in dangerous conditions, in a foreign environment, supported by no clear chain of command?
The events that took place during August and September, 2003 at the prison complex at Abu Grahib is one the more shameful stories to have come out of American involvement in Iraq. The American Army, desperate for intelligence on the whereabouts of Iraqi weapons that were falling into the hands of Iraqi citizens determined to resist the American invasion. The Abu Grahib detention centre was put under the control of American reservists, with no experience of working in prisons or detaining people, they received no training that might in any way have prepared them for being given such a task. Like the Stanford Prison Experiment, things got out of hand quickly.
In a Lord of the Flies type of scenario, untrained, inexperienced guards, with no chain of command taking responsibility, established a societal norm of barbarity and humiliation. When interviewed today, each of the participants confesses to knowing what they were doing was “stupid”. Their need for conformity was greater than their need to uphold moral integrity, but then isn’t this an essential requirement of any soldier in combat?
History provides us with too many examples of what happens when environmental circumstances, the need for conformity, and a morally bankrupt ideology conspire to lead a large group of people to behave in uncharacteristically cruel, barbaric ways.
After the war Eichmann fled to Argentina and was in hiding there until Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, captured him and took him back to Israel to stand trial for war crimes. From a combination of Eichmann’s court testimony and historical documents, Hannah Arendt concluded that Eichmann wasn’t a monster, or a sociopath. In fact Eichmann appeared mundanely normal. Eichmann recounted how he was responsible for arranging the transportation of Jews to the death-camps. He saw it as a logistical, theoretical task that he wished to make as efficient as possible. During his trial, Eichmann chillingly stated on several occasions, “I was just doing my job”. In short, Eichmann was conforming with the abhorent societal norms of a society that respected abhorrent behaviour. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Whether madness, evil, or just bad behaviour, none of these are values set in stone. Instead our interpretation of these they are dynamic, subject to being defined by our society’s changing morality. Was Nazism an epidemic of madness and evil? It’s not unreasonable how it might be viewed this way. Humans are social creatures with a predisposition to fit in with others, throughout our evolution conformity has been necessary for survival. What society expects of us has a great bearing on how we act. As the saying goes “evil will prevail when good men do nothing”, but understanding what is evil and what is good, in a society that is changing rapidly, is far from easy, but must never be used as an excuse to forget our fundamental responsibilities as humans.
Next time I will continue from here and look at memes, mind viruses, and why bad ideas spread quicker than good ones: