Sunday, October 15, 2017

i like animals, except for people

I used to go through all sorts of mental health literature, trying to understand what was wrong with me.  After a while, coming to disdain that entire approach, clustering symptoms with only loose hypotheticals, as far as what causes a given disorder.

I realize that it's complex and difficult, but without cause, these symptoms could be anything.  People placed into the same category, with entirely different disorders, responding to entirely different treatments.  Seems to me this defeats the purpose of categorization.  Might as well just stick to dealing with symptoms individually, until a more comprehensive understanding of the situation can be reached.

It's been a while since I've looked up any of it.  I'm only peripherally aware of recent developments.  Maybe I dismiss it too hastily in my frustration.  Found myself reading about Schizoid Personality Disorder again. I'd come back to that one many times, but it always felt fundamentally wrong.  Ok, so I'm not sure what it feels like to be happy, per se, but I take pleasure in all sorts of things.  I feel all sorts of things. Sorta.

This time though, I imagined a psychiatrist checking symptoms off of a list, upon getting to know me.  I can see how they might even check every single symptom, despite my personal feeling that half of them don't apply.  Communication can be misleading, and it is in part, a communication disorder.  On the other hand, psychologists will often dismiss personality disorder as almost irrelevant and treat all symptoms as depression and anxiety.

The reality is that these diagnosis don't mean a whole lot, in that they neither prove anything, nor have treatment implications.  It can also further threaten the sense of self, to think this explains everything, when it couldn't possibly.  We're still individuals, with all sorts of other variables mucking up our lives.  Still, it could help me understand why I struggle to relate to people.

In reading about it, I've often come across the sentiment that if you're "struggling to relate to people," you can't be schizoid, because a schizoid does not care.  Comments to that effect.  It's sometimes true.  Schizoid types are less likely to care or feel loneliness, but it's a spectrum, and there are other variables involved.

I've also discovered that the very officious psychiatric people have retired the diagnosis, to combine with schizotypal and move the remainder over to avoidant.  This is incredibly stupid.  It's almost inverse to schizotypal, and avoidant should really be a subset of social anxiety disorder.  Schizoid personality is distinct in their social disinterest, blunted affect and limited emotional range.

YouTube has lots of videos on the subject, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance.  Most people telling you what their version of schizoid looks like, and this is heavily skewed towards the type of schizoid person who'd be inclined to make YouTube videos of themselves.

This one was particularly amusing.  I don't know anything about her, but what she describes is familiar.  Maybe a bit more extreme in my case.  Like the schizoid I seem to be, that's not to say I watched any of her other videos.  I don't care that much.

Monday, October 2, 2017

good morning, america

I don't care that much about the gun control issue.  I woke up horrified this morning, but the whole debate is this convoluted swamp of insanity.  Of course, guns should be banned.  All of them.  Better yet, let's ban all weapons.  Anything that's designed to kill people, how about just outlawing, with any grey area litigated in court like anything else.  I don't really care enough to argue the point, or get into specifics, but that's roughly my stance.  A stance I'm too cynical to care about.

It's not just that we're nowhere near it.  They won't even talk about it. They've given so much ground to the right, that they bicker over whether or not there should be limits on magazine sizes.  In this case, sure, that could have saved a lot of lives, but this isn't the norm.  This is like terrorism, in that it's especially triggering, it speaks to us emotionally, in a way that the everyday violence does not.

Fifty eight people died to gun violence today.  Not counting all the other firearm suicides, homicides, and police shootings that happened today, as they do every day.   I think it adds up to at least that many. every single day in America.. and no, they can't even get limits on magazine sizes.

Anyhow, 3D printed guns are still a thing, and they keep getting better, the materials cheaper.  Their creators more creative.  It's a pathologically uphill pointless battle, in a world that's falling apart around us.  Have I mentioned that I've been kind of depressed, lately?

Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History
"There have been a total of 273 mass shootings in the United States since 2017 began 273 days ago, according to the Gun Violence Archive."

Saturday, September 30, 2017

worth articulating

There are many ways to define worth, but I like to start at the root of it, the evolutionary adaptation somehow wired into us, for tribalism, working together, an inherent need to be some sort of value.  I always feel like I need to reiterate, like all sorts of things, this would still show significant variation within a normal population.  An instinct likely more active in some than others, maybe having other dimensions to it as well.  Even at the biological root of it.

In life, we then learn to value different things.  What matters, because that's what makes sense, given what we know of the world.  What matters because that's what matters to those around us, family, friends, peers.  Those that matter to us.  To varying degrees, in different people.  All of it just factoring into the psychological equation.  What am I doing to contribute, from a work ethic to fighting with the tribe's opposition.  What value do I bring to the tribe, which for some might mean family, while for others, the entire human race, or anywhere in between.

This isn't to justify feelings of worthlessness, but to show the link between what we value, and feelings of isolation, alienation.  Something else Google will tell us, has been trending in the US.  This messes with one's sense of self worth.  It makes us vote for ridiculous leaders, and yell about our rights being violated.  Sometimes our rights really are being violated.  It would seem, sometimes it just turns us into xenophobic loones. I'd suggest that critically lacking sense of self worth even potentiates political and religious radicalization.  This is not something you want rampant in society.

The need to be of value, an imperative that exists for reasons, but when it doesn't succeed as a motivator, it just sucks.  It all just seems to play into an overarching scheme, a trajectory, not so easy to change.

Friday, September 29, 2017

the memes of america

I've been seeing lots of references to the myth of American meritocracy, lately.  The first of this recent spike being when I wrote it a few days ago, but most recently in Glamour Magazine, of all places.  Reading Glamour because a #BLM activist that I follow wrote an article for them and linked to it.

This suggests that it was a trend my unconscious mind picked up on, prior to consciously realizing it.  My own blog entry being evidence of that.  I suppose maybe that's why I'm a little skeptical, but it does seem to be something people are talking about more, lately.

As I wrote the above, it occurred to me, I can actually look that up.  According to Google Trends, there has been a recent uptick in usage of the term.  They even map it by state, where it lines up with left leaning regions showing the most.  I must have noticed before I really noticed.

I find this sort of group think phenomenon interesting.  It plays out all over social media, ideas and viewpoints catching on organically, repeated, reiterated, and built upon, often by people with no idea where it started.  This even includes me, impacted by social trends, without even realizing it.

Guess I'm not the only American to feel like an abject failure.  Turns out, a whole lot of us didn't really get a fair shot.  Least that seems to be a common sentiment, these days.  Maybe I've been depressed because my life sucks.  How am I supposed to just pretend everything is fine day after day, as I live a life that would make almost anyone miserable?

Maybe I'm just really sensitive to the mounting cultural depression that comes with decades of economic decline.  Sure, it's not quite as plausible, but it gives me something else to focus on.  A team to cheer for.  We try to look on the bright side.  Progressives might win the day, yet.  We've been told progressives have had all sorts of success before.. but wait, turns out we've been lied to about goddamn everything, and to be honest, the odds are not looking that good.  Or is that just the cognitive bias that comes with feeling that way about my own life?

I almost don't even want my injections anymore.  I feel like giving up.  Like most Americans, I thought I'd be living a life of more merit than this, and I'm kind of upset about it, but that's not really the worst of it.  It's aggravated by the loneliness of isolation, the angst of economic insecurity.  My mental health issues would just be personality quirks if not for this toxic dynamic that's consumed my whole life.  I'm just another worthless lonely poor person.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

all or nothing

Someone with a Cyrillic name liked one of my tweets earlier.  I noticed his little bio was in Russian - and that I could read it.  It was only two and a half words, but still.  That was kind of cool.  "Всё или ничего!"  I'm more of a "little bit's fine too" sort of person.  Some things just work so much better that way.  I don't know why people are such absolutists about everything.

I think if I were to be tested on my Russian, I would fail.  Before I gave up on school, I got lots of failing grades.  I wasn't engaged, I was miserable, I didn't give a fuck.  If I'd have been able to concentrate better, that might have helped.  In short, I don't seem to be очень хорошо студента.  Or something like that.  Duolingo constantly dings me for getting details wrong, but I just pretend it's congratulating me on being close enough.

The point is to keep doing it, right?  I can delve into that whole other quagmire of why I'm doing it, but that's not really the point, either.  I always think back on that MIT campus, visiting someone there, my backpack full of clothes, imagining that they were books.  I wish I'd had the chance to at least try.  I couldn't even get through high school. 

I can blame the system, or my parents, I can blame myself.  It doesn't really matter.  It's all the same thing.  Circumstances.  Sometimes I still just wish I'd perservered though.  I wish I'd understood how to do that and why it mattered.  Doing well isn't nearly as important as doing it anyhow.  The main reason I failed out of school had something to do with how I'd stopped going to all my classes.

Now, I don't know what the hell to do with myself.  Try learning a random language?  Yeah, that'll make a huge difference in my life, but whatever.

Monday, September 25, 2017

collateral damage

I keep reading about how hard it is to change minds, but I've changed my mind about all sorts of things over the years. Usually due to learning new facts and details that lead to a whole other conclusion. One thing I've changed my position on is collateral damage and it's relative ethics in relation to terrorism. I won't go into the weeds of defining terrorism, here I'm only concerned with the distinction of intentionally killing civilians, as opposed to collateral damage, defined as unintentionally killing civilians.

I used to think this was clear cut, and that comparing first degree murder to manslaughter made for a good metaphor. Accidentally killing people isn't anywhere near as bad as doing it on purpose. How can anyone possibly argue otherwise? This often strikes people as outrageous apologetics for terrorism, and sometimes it is. To suggest that all death is the same to the survivors is patently absurd, but where my views have changed has nothing to do with any sort of defense of terrorism - rather, ratcheting up condemnation of collateral damage.

Sam Harris will often make the point that he's well aware that collateral damage is horrible, yet he fails to see how it is precisely the issue of intention that makes it potentially comparable to the worst sorts of terrorism.   He trusts our government institutions and their official stories as to what's going on, whereas I no longer do.  Intention does matter a whole lot, but I no longer believe that collateral damage is necessarily unintentional.  It varies from one situation to the next, but all too often it's more equivalent to depraved indifference than manslaughter.  That's not better than premeditated murder, and in some cases, can be even worse.

Knowing that civilians will die, and dropping bombs anyhow, means that their deaths were actually intentional.  They know their actions will result in casualties and take those actions anyhow.  It doesn't matter that it wasn't their primary motivation.  That's where you have to look at the details, how likely civilians deaths were, whether there were efforts to avoid it, and was hitting their target really worth murdering innocent people over.  Killing ten or twenty people just trying to buy bread, in order to get some bad guy can be pretty damn depraved.  Possibly even worse than anything said bad guy has ever done or will do.

Do we trust that our military is being careful, trying not to get innocent people killed?  Do we even trust that they have good reasons for thinking people are dangerous bad guys that need to be bombed?  Or do we figure they don't care all that much, they do things like this all the time, on purpose, without a whole lot of concern?  Do we question their motives, their reasons for bombing anyone at all?  When you dispense with the conventional assumptions, and realize that they're often more motivated by corporate greed, and indifferent to the death they cause, yes, the US military's actions become just as bad as terrorism.

Harris also makes the argument that intention matters, because it's our best indication of what people will keep trying to do.  If it's an accident, they'll try not to let it happen again.  If it's intentional, they'll keep doing it.  What are the chances more innocent people will die to our bombs in the very near future?  Again, again, and again.

Most people making these arguments have no idea.  The mainstream media doesn't tell us what our military is doing.  Certainly not how many people they've been killing, almost every day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

america's mythology of meritocracy

Obama is clearly a brilliant man.  Whatever criticisms I've had of him, none of it aims to question that, really.  He has also been extremely successful, at least by any measure which holds in high regard being elected and re-elected President of the US, but even that aside.  I'm sure his intelligence has helped.  Brilliant as he may be, I can see how he'd conclude that intelligence is more pivotal than it really is, likely believing it has been for him.

Of those who are less successful, then?  They don't know what they're talking about, right?  Leading them means trying to herd them in the right direction.  Not listen to them.  Certainly not let them get into power themselves.  It's cute when they try, that Bernie means well, but when it comes down to it, they need to be stopped.  Elites like himself would naturally believe that they're the ones that understand the situation, and so this is where they get their narrative.  From those they trust, not listening to those they don't, not even understanding their criticisms.

I can imagine that if I'd been more successful in life, I'd think my own merits were pretty damn important, too.  I'd end up spending more of my time with people in a similar situation.  It's not a big leap then, to conclude that if such merits are important for me and the people I know, they're important for everyone.  Ergo, those who don't succeed are, by definition, going to be lacking in the aggregate - this really only being a difference in perspective.  A measurement of variables, relative to other variables.

How much does being born into socio-economic advantage matter relative to how much ones own intelligence and other character attributes matter.  Both sides can acknowledge that it all matters.  The disagreement is in which matters so much as to almost entirely overshadow the rest.  It is a deepening striation between populists and centrists who believe that the status quo is in significant part, the product of meritocracy.  Good people succeed, bad people are weeded out, controlled, dealt with by soup kitchens and law enforcement.  These are implicit, when thinking about what's primarily involved in being successful in society.

The more successful people are, the more they're naturally motivated to believe it's been their own doing.  The more unsuccessful people there are in society, the more this is going to be questioned.  The more it's questioned, the more people realize that it's actually bullshit.  Sure, you can point to Obama as an example of how important intelligence is, but I can point to Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and of course Trump.  One in five would instead suggest that success sometimes happens in spite of intelligence.

Or put another way, other factors matter a whole lot more but those at the top have trouble understanding that.  That lack of perspective can even make brilliant people into incompetent assholes.

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