Monthly Archives: January 2013

Harm OCD Versus Other Conditions: Differential Diagnosis

A very frequent complaint in OCD patients is thoughts of harm, either harming oneself or others. The general rule is that the person never acts on the thoughts, although this is somewhat controversial. Some say there have been a few cases of OCD sufferers acting on their harm obsessions. It’s just that I have personally never heard of a case.

In addition, as a counselor, I have worked with countless OCD sufferers who have this particular theme over the past eight years as they come to me for help. I haven’t met one person yet who acted on the thoughts nor have I heard of anyone who has, and I have known people who have had this theme for more than 25 years.

However, sometimes sufferers start to commit the act, but they stop before they are able to carry it out.

In one case, a man had an obsession about turning his bicycle either in parked cars and pedestrians. Sometimes he would just start to act on the obsession and turn his bicycle towards the people or cars, but every time he did this, he simply crashed his bike. No one was hurt other than himself.

Generally, people read my articles and simply self-diagnose as OCD with whatever theme they have going. 100% of the people coming to me self-diagnosing as Harm OCD were in fact suffering from that very condition.

What to look for:

Resistance: I would look first and foremost for resistance. Look at how hard the person fights the thought. The harder the person fights the thought, the more likely it is to be an obsession. In fact, I would say that thoughts that are ferociously resisted are always or almost always obsessions.

Resistance to thoughts is not commonly seen in other conditions if it is seen at all. Most persons without OCD simply do not ever try to stop or fight off their thoughts. If you ask them, they will say things like, “I only think things I want to think,” and “I don’t have unwanted thoughts.” So resistance to thoughts in people who do not have OCD is probably not common.

Although it is often said that resistance is a bad sign in OCD as it makes OCD worse, I don’t mind seeing resistance. The reason is that if a person is ferociously resisting and doing so successfully, then first of all, I am quite sure I have a case of OCD so the diagnostic conundrum is over and also I know that the the OCD is simply not that bad yet.

As OCD gets worse and worse, resistance gets harder and harder. I have talked to a number of people who have gotten to the point where the thoughts have simply taken over the person’s mind and are going all the time. They can’t resist them anymore, if they ever could. Inability to resist thoughts or thoughts that have completely taken over is a sign of a more serious case.

Ego-dystonic: The person hates the thoughts, or at least it seems as if a large part of the person hates the thoughts. The new theory is that the entire self hates the thoughts and that no part of a person wants an obsession, but this is a bit controversial. Nevertheless, this is what I believe. One  hears OCD sufferers say things like, “I hate this with every fiber of my being.” That’s a good sign when they can think like that. As the condition worsens, the person gets more and more confused about whether they like the thoughts or not or want to get rid of them or not.

In an advanced case of Harm OCD, the person will feel evil and it will seem as if they like the thoughts and do not want to get rid of them. This can cause diagnostic confusion. Feeling evil, feeling like they like the thoughts and feeling like they don’t want them to go away are all aspects of advanced Harm OCD. The key here is ego-dystonicity. These feelings cause alarm and profound anxiety in the person as they feel that they are turning evil against their will or that they are becoming something that is in opposition to their true self.

Ego-alien: The person is often confused as to why they are even thinking these thoughts. One  hears such things as, “I have thought a million times, why the Hell would I even think of this stuff even one time, ever?…I love my mother/father/husband/wife, etc. so why am I thinking about killing them?” If you ask the Harm OCD sufferer if they feel angry, they will usually say that they don’t. The person is often frankly mystified why they are even having these feelings in the first place.

Another part of the ego-alien aspect is that the person feels that the thoughts are not even really their own. They know that the thoughts are just thoughts and they know that the thoughts are coming only from themselves and not from an outside entity, but nevertheless the thoughts are so alien to the person’s identity that they often seem like they are not the person’s own thoughts.

The person’s inner voice can become split into a “sane voice” and an “OCD voice.” The OCD voice can sometimes sound like it is someone’s else’s voice other than the person’s own inner voice. Really it is just the person’s inner voice morphing into a new form. This experience is so alarming that the person often fears that they are going psychotic.

Thoughts go against the person’s morals: This is the reason for all of the distress, resistance, anxiety and alarm. The thought of hurting or killing random others or loved ones or certainly people one is not angry at all with seems profoundly wrong on at least some level to the Harm OCD sufferer because typically deep down inside the person with this theme is paradoxically enough, an extremely moral person.

And oddly enough, they are often remarkably passive and non-violent. This clashing of one’s morals is what engenders the strong resistance, discomfort, anxiety, worry, and alarm.

Differential diagnosis: There are apparently quite a few people with ego-syntonic fantasies of hurting and killing other people. Sometimes it is someone they hate, and sometimes it is anyone in general, women in general, or some particular ethnicity, race or religion in general. The major problem with thoughts of harming others is that the people who are never going to do it are often the main or only ones who show up clinically.

That is, often the only people showing up inn therapy are the Harm OCD sufferers or in other words, the only people who show up for therapy are the people who are never going to commit these acts.

The people who are really thinking seriously about hurting or killing other people or who like to think about such things it and are not bothered by these thoughts, feelings, urges or plans, and they simply do not seek help. This is a real problem: truly violent people generally simply do not show up clinically asking for help to try to stop acting on their violent urges. It would be nice if they did, but they just do not.

These people are variable. Some go through life choosing to think these violent thoughts, and sometimes it is just a phase that they give up at some point. This is often seen in an  adolescent male. In some cases of course, they act on the thoughts of harming others, and these are the people you read about in the papers.

But in many other cases, they never act on the thoughts and can go years, decades or a lifetime with frequent thoughts of harming others that are never acted on even once. For every one person running around being a serial killer, there are probably 100 more  who dream of such things but due to various controls or fears, they are able to avoid acting on their fantasies. People have more control than we think. Nobody has to do anything.

Sociopathy: This is not OCD. Sociopathy develops in childhood and adolescence and is generally a long-standing problem. A non-sociopathic person simply cannot turn into a sociopath in adulthood de novo; it’s not possible. If you’re not a sociopath by age 18, you will never be one.

An informal survey of sociopaths on an Internet forum for sociopaths revealed that most to all sociopaths said that they enjoyed thinking about harming others. A typical comment was: “Thinking about hurting or killing people is one of the few things that I actually enjoy thinking about.”

So we see that most sociopaths take great pleasure in thinking about hurting or killing people. They think about it whenever they want to. If they want to think about it, they do, and if they don’t want to think about it, they don’t. The harm thoughts are ego-syntonic. They don’t feel bad about having these sorts of thoughts. Thinking about these things is simply their idea of a good time.

Unfortunately, most sociopaths never show up in a clinician’s office. Just thinking about something is fortunately not grounds for hospitalizing someone. Anyone can fantasize about being any kind of criminal that they want to be. As long at they don’t do anything, there’s nothing that the law or psychiatry can do.

Lack of guilt: You will sometimes run across people who have violent fantasies about people they hate. This is not OCD. They will often tell you that they are not going to act on the thoughts, but the fantasies sounds like a good idea since they hate the person so much. They do not feel guilty about these thoughts; instead they enjoy them. The thoughts are not resisted. A famous psychiatrist said, “A homicidal fantasy a day keeps the psychiatrist away.”

In more florid cases such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder, the person is making overt threats and seems to be capable of carrying them out. They generally don’t act on the threat, at least not homicidally, although they often commit minor acts of impersonal violence, damage property, and are generally menacing. Obviously in some cases they do commit acts of serious violence thought. But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of homicidal threats are simply empty threats.

Nevertheless, if presented clinically, this is cause for alarm, and in the US, under the Tarsakoff Rule, persons making homicidal threats can be hospitalized for making specific threats towards a specific person. In other words, in the US, if a person says, “I feel like killing people,” there is no grounds for commitment. There’s nothing to act on.

But in the US, if a person is making a specific threat towards a certain known individual that seems to be a credible threat, clinicians have to notify the person being threatened, and the person making the threats may be legally involuntarily hospitalized, although in many cases, they are not committed, or if they are, it is only for the 1-3 day minimum.

Note that it is very hard if not impossible to determine in a clinical setting exactly who is dangerous and who is not.

Potential serial killer stopped: A recent case history along these lines in a journal is instructive. A man had Bipolar Disorder. At some point in the disorder, he developed elaborate fantasies of being a serial killer. He had assembled a very fancy murder kit, including all the implements he might need. He also had a list of ~20 people he was going to kill. He had been following and observing them for some time and had taken precise notes on many aspects of their locations, travels, and behavior. He had notebooks with elaborate plans on how he planned to kill these people.

It’s not known how or why he revealed this in therapy, but he did. The threat was considered credible enough to be actionable. He was hospitalized for 1.5 years in an institution in which he underwent intensive therapy and was given medication. At the end of the period, his fantasies and desires to be a serial killer had been completely eliminated.

The team said this was a very unusual case of successful intervention. They noted that he was not a sociopath, and this was probably the only reason that he volunteered his plans in therapy and was able to renounce and be alleviated of his desires, and return to society as a healthy member. The man had some ambivalence about his plans, and this was due to his not being a sociopath.

This was not a case of OCD.

He enjoyed his elaborate plans, had been planning them for some time, had assembled kits and stalked potential victims and had elaborate, pleasurable, long-standing and ego-syntonic fantasies about homicide which were not resisted.

A person with Harm OCD will never assemble a murder kit, write down elaborate plans for how they are going to kill people, stalk potential victims or even carry weapons. The overwhelming emotion in Harm OCD is fear, and the tremendous fear will prevent them from doing any of those things.

Harm OCD sufferers often go to great lengths to keep from acting on their thoughts. Some “disarmed” themselves before they went to see another person. They would remove all “potential weapons” from their person so they could not use them to attack the person they were with. They would also   “disarm their vehicle” when another person was getting into it. They would take all potential weapons and hide them under the seat of the car so they would not use them to attack the person.

Sexual sadism: Sexual sadism is a paraphilia that almost always develops in its strong form in childhood or adolescence. The person’s preferred means of arousal involves hurting, humiliating, degrading, insulting and abusing an other person. These are people who like to hurt other people. They get off on it sexually.

A very large number of serial killers are sexual sadists. They kill in order to get off sexually. Their masturbatory fantasies since childhood or adolescence have typically involved sadism, torture or even homicide.

It is very common for serial killers to have a history of kinky sex with their wives or lovers. The kinky sex usually involved bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

In addition, the severe sexual sadist may have an erotic arousal to images of women who are either dead or appear to be dead. These people, typically men, collect photos of dead bodies or women who appear to be dead.

Unfortunately, sexual sadism tends to escalate over time. There have been cases of serial killers or murderers who could only orgasm if they were pretending to strangle their wives.

A rather typical case might look like this:

A gay man with sexual sadism presents for therapy. Sadism is extremely common in the gay community. His sadistic activities have been slowly escalating over time. The last time he had sex, he burned a man with cigarettes. He got so excited that he wanted to kill the man, and he had to restrain himself from doing that. He presented to therapy thinking he was out of control. He was afraid he would kill the next man he had sex with.

This is not OCD. Fantasies in paraphilias such as sexual sadism are typically very pleasurable. The thoughts, images, feelings and urges are either seldom or never resisted. So what we look for her is an ego-syntonic syndrome with a lack of resistance. In addition, we are looking for strong sadistic sexual fantasies, typically dating from an early age, that are powerfully arousing. Such fantasies will be absent in Harm OCD.

The potentially confusing aspect of paraphilias and OCD is that while the paraphilia gives the person a great deal of sexual pleasure, and they often spend a lot of time masturbating to the paraphilic fantasies, it is rather common for them to feel strong guilt after they have an orgasm and the excitement fades. Alternately they can feel a lot of guilt about the paraphilia itself as in the case of exhibitionism, voyeurism or body part fetishes.

What is going on here is something like an addiction. Paraphilias look like addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling or pornography. The paraphilic “addict” loves his paraphilic “high” and often feels out of control with wild pleasure almost like a roller coaster ride when they are caught up in the high of the addiction. They often describe themselves as feeling out of control in this phase.

When the drug run is over or the addict wakes up with a hangover or an empty wallet at the casino or drug party, there is a crash in which the addict feels terrible that they are so powerless over their addiction. They also feel guilty and pained that they are suffering the aftereffects of the addiction. Feelings of self-loathing are common in this phase.

However, in some very bad cases of Harm OCD, violent and sadistic thoughts about torture, murder, cannibalism etc. intrude quite often during masturbation or possibly sex. This is not sexual sadism; it is OCD. This is relatively common in Harm OCD, and the sufferers often describe it as being  extremely unpleasant. The difference here is the intrusive nature of the thoughts which are generally not present in sexual sadism, where instead of being intrusive and resisted, the thoughts are pleasant and welcomed.

On occasion, a sociopath or potential serial killer will present to someone or other, more often law enforcement than a clinician. Usually they present only once and then go away. Possibly years later, they may begin killing. In one case, one of the prime suspects for the possible Smiley Face Killer Gang presented to a police station about powerful urges to drown young men. He was afraid he was out of control, and he was going to act on them. The police could do nothing to retain him.

This is not a case of OCD.

This is a sociopathic person who simply feels out of control.

In a case in the UK, a serial killer gave a warning years before killing that he felt he was out of control and was afraid he was going to kill someone.

Once again, this is not OCD.

It’s another sociopath who fears they are losing control. This person will be having strong, long-standing ego-syntonic fantasies of homicide which are not resisted. They are pleasurable to the person, but they do not want to act on them, probably due to fear of going to prison. Over time, homicidal fantasies may become stronger so that the capacity to resist putting them into action becomes more difficult. This is what happens when these people fear they are losing control.

In short, a diagnosis of Harm OCD is relatively straightforward and should prevent few problems.

What we are looking at here is the difference between problems of fear and problems of desire. OCD is a problem of fear. These other problems are problems of desire.

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Filed under Anxiety Disorders, Borderline, Crime, Mental Illness, Mood Disorders, OCD, Personality Disorders, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychotherapy, Serial Killers, Sex, Sociopathy

Answering the Libertarians and Their Lies

Repost from the old site.

I decided to make a post about libertarians, radical free market fundamentalist religionists, and Far Right economics in general.

On Libertarianism, I think it is very important to answer some of the nonsense that is being parroted nowadays by the free market fundamentalists – libertarians – right wing extremists – amongst us. As the center of the US Right has gotten more and more extreme since the 1970’s, their arguments and policies have gotten more and more insane, irrational and ideological.

With the Right nowadays we are dealing with a nation of robotic ideologues – they no longer care anything for fact, theory, or science. Rightwing doctrine, more and more, resembles a kind of religion for its ideological adherents, and in that way it is similar to the leftwing orthodoxy that continued to enrapture some the Left in recent decades, even as it developed serious problems before their very eyes.

Into the 21st Century, the Right is bolder and wilder than ever. Formerly, the more honest ones at least used to acknowledge that socialism was better at providing for basic needs, health care, education and social support than capitalism. No more. Now total libertarian free market capitalism has become some sort of miracle nostrum that will cure all ills.

Poor health figures, health system doesn’t meet the needs of the people? No problem, just totally privatize the health system and all the problems go away. Problems with distribution of water, electricity, sewage, roads, parks, day care? Not a problem. Just get the state out of the way, deregulate, and let the corporations run it all.

The debacle of electricity deregulation in California is simply the typical result of privatization and deregulation of electricity the world over, for decades now, since the 1930’s.

We have case study after case study, with predictable results each time the “new experiment” is tried. The California experiment saw service plummet and investors get screwed, precisely the failures that led to the creation of public utilities in the 1930’s.

Utility companies maliciously rigged markets, cut off supplies to the starving state, formed monopolies and engaged in gleeful price-gouging of helpless consumers.

Deregulation of the financial industry and stock market is likely to cause financial panics, stock crashes and both economic recessions and depressions. It has in the past, it will in the future.

Deregulation of telecommunications in the US put the public system into the hands of a fewer and fewer people and sent cable prices through the roof.

It has facilitated a wild crime spree by major telecom firms, as these firms engaged in an orgy of out-and-out robbery of consumers, blatantly deceptive and unintelligible calling plans, deliberate over-billing, bumping consumers into other calling plans without telling them, and other outrages.

Privatization of water in Bolivia was a catastrophe – prices shot up, service was terrible, and many lost access to water.

Airline deregulation saw massive concentration in airlines, many cities lose air coverage and service go into the gutter. The price structure of airline flights became seriously disturbed to where a flight to a city 350 miles away might cost far more than a trip all the way across the country to a major hub.

Deregulation of trucking saw prices climb, service suffer, safety regs get tossed out the window, the accident rate go up, roads get destroyed by overloaded trucks and thousands of small firms get wiped out while a few super-firms took their place.

The last effect caused the peonization of the US independent trucker, a cultural icon. Self-regulation of any industry has meant no regulation, and consumers, workers and society are harmed every single time it’s done. Every time, every place, no exceptions. Got it?

The much-maligned OSHA regulations save 10,000’s of lives every year and we can prove it. Pollution regs do the same and clean up the planet besides, and we have the darn statistics to prove it.

Reducing environmental regulations dealing with water, air and toxics means lots of injuries and deaths, time after time, in place after place, in society after society. We are talking about effects so predictable here that if we were scientists, we could almost describe them as natural laws.

The latest insanity is the line that the way to solve health care problems is to totally privatize the health care system, because, as we all know, “socialism fails”.

This slander, this canard, against socialist health care, that it fails to meet the basic needs of human beings, needs to be answered forcefully, for the Libertarian Big Lie continues, ranting louder and louder, despite figures all over the world that conclusively show “socialized medicine” outperforming more private systems time after time and place after place.

In Nicaragua, after the Sandinistas took power in 1979, the health figures showed great improvement (along with education and literacy figures). When the Sandinistas were thrown out of power in an election cheered by liberals across America, the first thing the liberals’ hero, the ultrareactionary Chamorro, did, was wipe out government health care and free education.

At $30 a year, many parents could not afford to send their kids to school, so the kids dropped out. The health figures started going down right away. “Socialized medicine” fails again.

Cuba’s health figures have long been tops in Latin America and in 2002, for the first time, Cuban infant mortality figures actually beat US figures, where income is 20 times higher. The Latin state that often comes closest to Cuba is Costa Rica in health, education and housing figures, and as such, Costa Rica is bandied about by enemies of the Cuban Revolution.

But Costa Rica’s figures are due to the fact that Costa Rica has the most highly-developed social democracy in all Latin America, which it seems to have retained, despite frantic, bullying efforts, starting with Reagan’s orders to Arias in the 80’s, by the US to force Costa Rica to dismantle its social programs. “Socialized medicine” fails again.

In India, the state of Kerala, run by Communists off and on for the last 30 years, has developed a good state health system compared to the rest of India. When comparing Kerala to the rest of India as a whole, Kerala’s health figures are much superior. “Socialized medicine” fails again.

The social democracies in Europe have the best health figures on Earth, due to their evil, failed, inferior “socialized medicine”. “Socialized medicine” fails again.

Japan’s high health figures are accounted for by the fact that Japan has long had a virtual social democracy, with a lifetime employment system and generous benefits, including health care, taken for granted by Japanese corporations. “Socialized medicine” fails again.

And on and on and on and on.

The fact is, capitalism is bad for your health, period, exclamation point. It’s a rule of nature, like gravity or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

What would a libertarian health care system look like? Simple. Like the health care system we had in most of the past few centuries on much of the planet, where only the well-off could afford to go to the doctor or buy medicine and the poor were left to beg for succor or sicken and die, which they did, by the hundreds of millions.

Want some examples, close to home? I know a number of folks who are disabled and therefore simply cannot work at any real job in the real world (they could maybe get by on a severely pampered part-time job with friends or family, but that’s not real life). Their disability check every month is the only thing that enables them to survive at all.

Without that check, they would need to depend on the kindness of friends or family, or, lacking that, they would go homeless, live on the streets, lack for food, shelter, medical care, etc.

I have known many poor workers who lacked for health insurance and had such a low income that they felt they could not afford to go to the doctor. So, they ignored health problems until they got worse and worse, and now they have chronic health problems.

One of them was thrown off Medicaid when he and his wife (both workers) earned just over the limits. Consequently, he stopped going to the doctor for months and felt he could not afford to buy his prescriptions. He lacked his meds, including a blood pressure drug and a blood thinner needed for a blood clot, for 5 months.

Another railed against “socialized medicine” but felt she could not afford insurance so she never went to the doctor or dentist. Now she has severe chronic knee problems and serious teeth problems.

She may need to have all her teeth pulled since she never went to the dentist because she felt she could not afford it. The knee problem may also have been exacerbated by lack of medical care. The reality is that this is what will happen to many people if we do away “state health care”.

This is what happens all over the world. I have friends in the Third World who tell me stories about their countries. It’s clear that people are dying in these places all the time because they cannot afford doctors or medicines. Their stories are true; I hear them with my very own ears.

What would a radical free market system do for education? Prices would go through the ceiling and quality would go down in many cases. Every teacher I know who taught at both private and public schools told me the quality of the program was much worse at private schools, where the owners scrimped on everything and shafted the teachers while flying around on their private jets.

I suppose the radical free-marketeers would like to get rid of public roads too. Let me tell you a story about roads. Up here in the mountains, we have private and public roads. Every single private road is utterly terrible and many are outright dangerous.

They are full of potholes, if they are paved at all. Why? Because in order to fix the road, each homeowner on the road would have to pitch in to fix it. No one wants to pay, so the road never gets fixed. Never, ever.

If you want to know what the libertarian vision looks like, just go to the Third World, where the state doesn’t pay for anything and the public sphere is decrepit, abused, nonfunctional, dangerous, inadequate, nonexistent or for the rich only.

Look at America pre-1900, where schools, doctors, hospitals, roads, electricity, sewage, and old-age supports did not exist or were luxuries for the moneyed only. The elderly, sick, poor and jobless simply sickened or died, in huge numbers. Tens of millions of Americans never went to school.

That’s the libertarian dream, or nightmare. We know what it looks like because it’s been tried in the past for centuries, the world over, in culture after culture. We can see its devastation in the 3rd World as we speak.

There need be no illusions at all about what radical free market fundamentalism will really bring, and we need to shout down the free-market ideologues and religionists with every lie they shower us with. Loud. Often. In their face. And never stop until we turn their dishonest roar into a whisper in the background.

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Filed under Americas, Asia, California, Capitalism, Capitalists, Caribbean, Central America, Conservatism, Costa Rica, Cuba, Economics, Education, Government, Health, India, Japan, Latin America, Libertarianism, Local, Medicine, NE Asia, Nicaragua, Political Science, Regional, Reposts From The Old Site, Scum, Socialism, South Asia, USA

Do Cell Phones Fry Your Brain?

Repost from the old site.

Rense, that delightful and disturbing combination of the wonderful, the useful, the deranged and the evil, reports on a disturbing lab experiment.

Way off in the Radiological and Nuclear Safety Authority (RNSA) in Finland (Isn’t “nuclear safety” an oxymoron?) scientists are actually engaged in productive activity, instead of living out bad sci-fi movies like Weissman and his creepy ilk.

Scientists at RNSA have been studying cell phones and human health for two years and the findings are quite disturbing. Appears that cell phone use of as little as one hour at a time causes radiation-induced disruption of the blood-brain barrier in the human brain. This disruption could lead to drain bamage, I mean brain damage, over time. Sorry for typo, but my cell phone just rang.

This finding replicates a previous finding in lab rats. By lab rats I mean actual rodents, not the CE crazies like Weissman in my Humanzeees post.

A recent study in Norway and Sweden found that frequent cell phone users suffer from headaches and tiredness and are frequently assaulted by moviegoers when their phones ring in movie theaters. Actually, the movie theater part is not true; I just made that up.

China is debating whether to force cell phone manufacturers to reduce the radiation levels of these annoying devices. Duh, good idea! The British government issued its usual corporate whitewash, saying, “Further study was needed”. Needed to find out what? That radiation is bad for you? Doh!

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (there’s that “nuclear safety” joke again) also decided that there was no need to issue health warnings about radiation waves shooting into your brain. Who pays these guys?

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Filed under Government, Health, Neuroscience, Reposts From The Old Site, Science

Guest Author: Stephen Soldz “The Psychodynamics of Occupation and the Abuse at Abu Ghraib: An Interpretation After One Year of Occupation”

Repost from the old site.

This blog is very honored to post a fine piece by a guest author, Stephen Soldz, The Psychodynamics of Occupation and the Abuse at Abu Ghraib: An Interpretation After One Year of Occupation.

Stephen, a Leftist psychoanalyst from Boston, is the founder of several antiwar and anti-imperialist organizations. He is a principled Leftist who doesn’t mince words, keeps a very consistent and honorable line, doesn’t compromise his ideals much, and usually has some measured, thoughtful and wise insight and advice to offer.

Stephen has given me valuable advice on my writing which I continue to employ. He seems to have also done some very interesting psychological research, though I haven’t looked into it much yet.

In an era when the Left is beset with sell-outs, compromise at any cost types, defeatism, muddled thinking, contradictory positions, confusion and hypocrisy, Stephen lights the way for an ideological position that lights a path between ridiculous ultra-pacifism and the mindless flailing rage of some anti-imperialist resistance movements. On to the piece!

There are various explanations for what went on at Abu Ghraib. The official US position is that a “few bad apples” among the reservist military police (MPs) there went out of control, violating orders to treat the prisoners humanely — “Animal House on the night shift,” as former defense secretary James Schlesinger described it.(1)

The MP defendants claim that they were following orders to soften up the prisoners as a prelude to interrogation. Investigative journalists have documented in detail the chain of memos, orders, and “advice” that led from the top reaches of the US administration to the actions of those MPs. To write about the psychological aspects of the Abu Ghraib horrors, one must have a theory of what actually happened.

So let me make explicit my view of what happened, derived from reading hundreds of newspaper and other accounts of abuse throughout the developing network of US detention centers in Iraq and elsewhere. After 9/11, decisions were made at the upper reaches of the US administration that detainees in America’s “War on Terror” did not deserve traditional protections.(2, 3)

Justified by the needs of developing intelligence, brutal methods of treatment of detainees — “tantamount to torture” as the International Committee of the Red Cross calls it(2, 4) — became routine.(1, 2, 5-18) The decision was made to adopt brutal techniques in order to “break” the detainees.

As one e-mail in August 2003 from a Military Intelligence officer put it: “The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, Col Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken. Casualties are mounting and we need to start gathering info to help protect our fellow soldiers from any further attacks. I thank you for your hard work and your dedication.”(19)

The prison was put under the control of military intelligence.(2, 20) As recommended by Guantánamo commander Major General Geoffrey Miller, techniques of total control and torture in use at Guantánamo (4, 12, 19, 21, 22) were imported as Abu Ghraib was “Gitmoized.”(1)

As a former Army intelligence officer described Miller’s recommendation: “It means treat the detainees like shit until they will sell their mother for a blanket, some food without bugs in it and some sleep.”(23)

Waterboarding was imported and dogs were frequently used to instill fear in the detainees.(17) Pressure was put on the MPs guarding prisoners to “set the conditions” for interrogations, and to “manipulate an internee’s emotions and weaknesses.”(20) Typical of large bureaucratic organizations, the MPs were given no clear instructions, allowing for “plausible deniability.”

Thus, the official story of a “few bad apples” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as abuse was typical of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and at the myriad (over 20) other detention facilities in Iraq, as well as those in Cuba and Afghanistan.

Further, it is not plausible to believe that these MPs, unschooled in interrogation techniques, rediscovered so many of the CIA’s standard torture techniques, designed to humiliate and “break” detainees, as well as special forms of sexual humiliation that would be especially humiliating and degrading to Arab males.(2)

However, the official story isn’t totally false, either. While it is hard to be certain, testimony at the trials of the Abu Ghraib MPs designated as the “fall guys” suggests that they did their share of freelancing.

A number of these MPs were having quite a good time abusing the prisoners. As Pvt. Jeremy Sivits testified at the court martial of Spc. Charles Graner, “The soldiers were laughing, seeming to be having a good time” and Pvt. Ivan Frederick II testified, “everybody was smiling and carrying on.”(24)

While I have no doubt that torture was policy, we still are faced with the questions of why MPs not trained in interrogation and torture proved so willing to adopt these techniques, and enjoyed themselves along the way, and why soldiers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan engaged in repeated acts of torture and abuse.

What I want to focus on here are a few relatively underemphasized aspects of the war and occupation that contributed to the pervasiveness of abuse.

Like all wars, the 2003 Iraq invasion was preceded by a propaganda barrage. Fantasies of weapons of mass destruction were propagated repeatedly by the Administration, politicians of both parties, and the corporate media, despite serious doubts having been raised as to the existence of these weapons by numerous knowledgeable critics.(25-27)

Unstated, but understood by all, was that this war was to be revenge for 9/11; revenge for the death, but even more, revenge for the humiliation.(28, 29) When Saddam’s statue was toppled in Firdos Square in April 2003, the US troops draped it with an American flag. The desire for revenge, while unstated, suggested that anything visited upon the Iraqis was acceptable, as revenge creates its own logic.

Stated, rather, was the avowed aim to “liberate” Iraqis from an oppressive regime. Iraqis would greet the invading troops with flowers and open arms, it was claimed. Despite cute propaganda exercises like the stage-managed toppling of Saddam’s statue, the flowers and open arms never materialized. Iraqis were decidedly ambivalent about being invaded and occupied by a foreign power.

Within weeks American troops were firing into crowds of Iraqis, killing a number,(30, 31) and lying about the events. Deaths of civilians at roadblocks were a constant.(32-35) And the insurgency grew and grew, its supporters coming to number perhaps 200,000, as estimated by the head of the Iraqi Interim government’s intelligence service.(36)

So what do occupation soldiers do when the stated reason for their occupation of another country is to liberate the populace, but many of that populace regard them as invaders and either respond sullenly to their presence, or actively resist occupation? One coping strategy is to try and distinguish between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

As Staff Sgt. Riley Flaherty expressed it: “What’s really hard is the fine line between the bad guys and the good guys…. Because if you piss off the wrong good guys, you’re really in trouble. So you’ve really got to watch what you do and how you treat the people.”(37)

That is, the occupied population is split into its good and bad elements, with evil projected onto the bad, and the good construed as largely childlike and in need of protection, but also prone to turn bad at a moment’s notice.

However, the task of an occupation army is one of control of the populace. As Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Aldrich, from the same unit as Sgt. Flaherty, put it: “I’ve got 200,000 Iraqis I’ve got to control with 18 people… so I’ve got to command respect. And unfortunately, all that hearts and minds stuff, I can’t even think about that.”

He goes on to explain, “There are things I have to do out here that I can’t explain to my chain of command, and that the American people would never understand.”(37)

Given this requirement, the definition of a good Iraqi becomes one who aids the occupiers in their lonesome task, and there are precious few of them. As Sgt. Aldrich explains: “Because you aren’t helping me catch the bad guys, and if you’re not helping me, you are the bad guy.”(37) Given this definition, the distinction between good and bad easily breaks down and nearly the entire occupied populace can become bad.

Another characteristic of occupation is the difficulty the occupation troops have in viewing the occupied as adults, as individuals with wishes, dreams, and intentions of their own. Rather, they are essentially childlike, deserving protection when good, and a spanking when bad. The same Sgt. Flaherty, on a frustrating day, explained: “These people don’t understand nice… You’ve got to be a hard-ass.”(37)

The entire populace becomes the enemy, as expressed by Sgt. Aldrich: “The one thing you learn over here is that there are no innocent civilians, except the kids. And even them — the ones that are all, ‘Hey mister, mister, chocolate?’ — I’ll be killing them someday.”(37) Note, the absence of any pretense that the occupation is intended to help the occupied. Such illusions are left for the media and PR flacks.

War, including war of occupation, of course involves fear, a pervasive fear and an awareness that death is possible at any moment.

That fear, and that awareness, we are reminded by Terror Management Theory,(38) leads to a defense of one’s worldview, which in most cases means an increased attachment to the cultural norms of one’s society, and a rejection and punitive attitude towards those that threaten that worldview.

For the occupier, it is the natives, the occupied and their culture, which are rejected. Another aspect of war is its overwhelmingly masculine quality; war is an assertion of dominance over the other, perceived as weak, as cowardly, as a wimp.(39) Thus, the repeated description of the 9/11 attackers as “cowardly,” probably the characteristic least accurately descriptive of them.

As President Bush said that day: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward,”(40) attempting to remove the shame by describing the attackers with the most denigrating description.

By this means the attacker is made both morally depraved and weak, not really masculine. Yet, the rhetoric simultaneously betrays the fear that underlies it. For today’s women in combat, proving that they are “one of the guys” can be the key to survival.(41)

As the occupied are rejected and become the repository of all that which is rejected by the occupiers, it is but a step to portraying the enemy, those unwilling to meekly submit to occupation, as absolute evil, as was expressed by Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Brandl on the eve of the November, 2004 assault on Falluja: “The enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we’re going to destroy him.”(42)

Is it any wonder that Falluja was almost totally destroyed, with virtually no buildings left undamaged? Or that Fallujans who return to their city are treated as if they are concentration camp inmates?(43, 44)

Or that this new concentration camp was described as the “safest city in Iraq” by Marine Cpl. Daniel Ferrari,(45) while an anonymous soldier left a memento on a random household’s mirror: “Fuck Iraq and every Iraqi in it!”(44)

Now return to Abu Ghraib. A small contingent of ill-trained reservist MPs was in charge of guarding thousands of unruly prisoners who were enraged at being imprisoned, largely unjustly, and enraged at the squalid conditions in which they were kept, perhaps best symbolized by the bugs infesting their rancid food.(46)

The MPs didn’t speak the language of the prisoners, and had few translators; communication difficulties were so great that the guards evidently did not know that a prison riot was a response to the food situation. These guards were of low status in the military, being reservists, and were assigned to the undesirable task of guarding prisoners.

They lived in constant fear, as nightly attacks on the prison were complemented by riots and attacks from the prisoners. Their military comrades-in-arms were dying in large numbers from the growing insurgency.

The effort to generate intelligence out of the prisoners was especially difficult as, according to military intelligence sources, perhaps 70%-90% of them were innocent of any involvement with the insurgents,(19, 53) and just happened to be present at a checkpoint, or in their home, when one of the brutal “cordon and capture” raids occurred.(19)

Nonetheless, the response of top military leaders to their innocence was callous at best.

Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski is quoted as telling Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, the officer in charge of Iraqi prisons: “I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000 innocent civilians! We’re winning the war!”

The officer in charge of US forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, retorted: “Why are we detaining these people – we should be killing them.”(54) The nature of prisons is such that prisoners are usually presumed guilty by the guards.

If they didn’t commit the offense for which they were arrested, they must have done something wrong; why else would they be in prison? Under interrogation, those prisoners who refuse to divulge important information must be withholding, providing further evidence of their perfidy.

These dynamics must have been even stronger in the Abu Ghraib situation, where the MP guards felt in constant danger and under pressure to demonstrate their worth through breaking the prisoners.

To accept that many of the prisoners being kept in such abominable conditions were innocent could only be rationalized by dehumanizing them, by making them the embodiment of all that was unacceptable to the guards. If they weren’t guilty of serious offenses, they were, after all, only “hajis”(29) who, outside the prison, were kept in line with metal “haji-be-good sticks.”(37)

The very fact that these inferior hajis objected to their unfair imprisonment demonstrated that they were dangerous, and cried out for control. How could such dangerous inferior beings expect to be treated better once they were found guilty by reason of imprisonment? Surely the lowly MPs could demonstrate their worth by providing the punishment these unruly natives, the ungrateful occupied, deserved.

To do less was not to do one’s duty. As these guards did their work keeping the evil recalcitrant hajis in line, which, after all is a rather dirty task, it was not surprising that they tried to make the job interesting, even fun. How many of us can carry out an unpleasant job for months on end without finding ways to enjoy the work? Why should we expect that these poor prison guards in an alien land would do less?

The pressure built to generate actionable intelligence from the prisoners, so that the anti-occupation insurgency could be broken. General Miller visited and recommended that the prison be dedicated to the gathering of intelligence, and that the brutal torture techniques developed at Guantánamo(4, 12, 21, 47-51) be utilized. MPs were to “set the conditions” for interrogation(20) by abusing and terrorizing prisoners.

Military intelligence was placed in control of the prison by the head of US forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.(20) Many arcane torture techniques, such as waterboarding and forced homosexual sex, developed by the CIA over decades, were put into general use.(3, 19, 52)

The message was communicated that senior officials, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, were very interested in the intelligence being generated at Abu Ghraib, that the work of these lowly reservists was truly important.(19)

Thus we see that the logic of war, the logic of occupation, the logic of imprisonment, and the post 9/11 logic of revenge all came together in an Iraqi torture center in 2003. The fact that similar actions have been reported in numerous other Iraqi prisons, as well as those in Afghanistan demonstrates that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were emblematic of the new American empire, indeed of empire itself.

Also emblematic of empire, is the denial with which this torture was met. The officials responsible ignored and denied numerous reports of prisoner abuse in newspapers and from non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross.(55-59)

Within days of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, I, a single concerned citizen with no special resources, had no difficulty detailing this long record of abuse claims.(14) The publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs and all subsequent revelations about the widespread nature of detainee abuse and torture were met with official denials that anything more than a “few bad apples” were to blame.(60)

Furthermore, denial, in the psychological sense of unconsciously ignoring the importance of a fact or event, has characterized the American public reaction. While the majority of Americans told pollsters that the torture was wrong and that the US government was lying about it, and also that those who wrote the legal opinions justifying torture bore some blame,(61, 62) there was no major public outcry over the issue.

It was hardly mentioned during the American elections by either major party candidate, or at either party’s convention. Those in charge when the torture happened were reelected, and many of those who developed and justified the policy of torture were promoted,(63-65) with little public outcry.

Torture is now out of the closet, it has become an accepted, however distasteful, aspect of American life. As Mark Danner puts it: “We are all torturers now.”(66) I’d like to close with words from Chris Hedges’ haunting meditation on war:

“Each generation responds to war as innocents. Each generation discovers its own disillusionment — often after a terrible price. The myth of war and the drug of war wait to be tasted…. Those who can tell us the truth are silenced or prefer to forget. The state needs the myth, as much as it needs its soldiers and its machines of war to survive.” (67, p. 173)

And we might add, it needs its torturers.

References

1. Carter, P. (2004) The Road to Abu Ghraib (Washington Monthly).

2. Barry, J., Hirsh, & Isikoff, M. (2004) The Roots of Torture: The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war (Newsweek).

3. Hersh, S. M. (2004) Chain of command: The road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (New York, Harper Collins).

4. Lewis, N. A. (2004) Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo (New York Times).

5. (2004) US Navy Seals Torturing Iraqis(ancapistan.typepad.com).

6. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Federal Government Turns Over Thousands of Torture Documents to ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

7. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Records Released in Response to Torture FOIA Request (American Civil Liberties Union).

8. Croke, L. A. (2004) Abuse, Torture and Rape Reported at Unlisted U.S.-run Prisons in Iraq (New Standard).

9. Croke, L. A. (2004) Iraq Torture Investigators Reveal Scores of New Cases (New Standard).

10. Croke, L. A. (2004) FBI Glossed Over Abu Ghraib Abuses (The New Standard).

11. Gat, Y. (2005) The Year in Torture (CounterPunch).

12. Lewis, N. A. (2005) Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo (New York Times).

13. Smith, R. J. & Eggen, D. (2004) New Papers Suggest Detainee Abuse Was Widespread (Washington Post).

14. Soldz, S. (2004) Abuse at Abu Ghraib, the psychodynamics of occupation, and the responsibility of us all (ZNet).

15. American Civil Liberties Union (2004) Torture FOIA (American Civil Liberties Union).

16. White, J. (2004) U.S. Generals in Iraq Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds (Washington Post).

17. White, J. & Higham, S. (2004) Use of Dogs to Scare Prisoners Was Authorized: Military Intelligence Personnel Were Involved, Handlers Say (Washington Post).

18. Zernike, K. & Rohde, D. (2004) Forced Nudity of Iraqi Prisoners Is Seen as a Pervasive Pattern, Not Isolated Incidents (New York Times).

19. Danner, M. (2004) Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story (New York Review of Books).

20. Borger, J. (2004) US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse: Leaked memo reveals control of prison passed to military intelligence to ‘manipulate detainees’ (Guardian).

21. Cawthorne, A. (2004) Guantanamo men allege abuse (Reuters).

22. Lewis, N. A. (2004) Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba (New York Times).

23. Davidson, O. G. (2004) The Secret File of Abu Ghraib (Rolling Stone).

24. Serrano, R. A. (2005) Guard Enjoyed Beating Iraqis, Three Testify (Los Angeles Times).

25. Rangwala, G. (2003) Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons (MiddleEastReference.org.uk).

26. Rangwala, G. (2003) Review of Hussein Kamel’s interview with UNSCOM of 22 August 1995 (MiddleEastReference.org.uk).

27. Ritter, S. (2003) Scott Ritter in His Own Words (Time Online).

28. Wood, P. (2005) Iraq war: two years on (BBC).

29. Rockwell, P. (2005) Army reservist witnesses war crimes: New revelations about racism in the military (Online Journal).

30. Reeves, P. (2003) At least 10 dead as US soldiers fire on school protest (Independent).

31. Wilson, S. (2003) U.S. Forces Kill Two During Iraqi Demonstration (Washington Post).

32. Burns, J. F. (2005) Checkpoint dangers too familiar for Iraqis (International Herald Tribune).

33. Faramarzi, S. (2003) Jittery U.S. Soldiers Kill 6 Iraqis (Associated Press).

34. Huggler, J. (2003) Family shot dead by panicking US troops (Independent).

35. Ciezadlo, A. (2005) What Iraq’s checkpoints are like (Christian Science Monitor).

36. Reynolds, P. (2005) Blistering attacks threaten Iraq election (BBC).

37. Dilanian, K. (2005) Soldiers sometimes rough despite risk of antagonizing friendly Iraqis (Kansas City Star).

38. Pyszczynski, T. A., Greenberg, J. & Solomon, S. (2003) In the wake of 9/11: the psychology of terror (Washington, DC, American Psychological Association).

39. Ducat, S. (2004) The wimp factor: Gender gaps, holy wars, and the politics of anxious masculinity (Boston, Beacon Press).

40. Bush, G. W. (2001) Remarks by President Bush from Barksdale Air Force Base , (American Rhetoric).

41. Grasso, G. (2000) Review of Hornet’s Nest: The Experiences of One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots by Missy Cummings (Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military).

42. Harkavy, W. (2004) Running Out of Patients: In our glorious crusade for democracy, we level a Falluja hospital (Village Voice).

43. Barnard, A. (2004) Returning Fallujans will face clampdown (Boston Globe).

44. Fadhil, A. (2005) City of ghosts (Guardian).

45. Niedringhaus, A. (2005) Tanks, Officers Impose Order in Fallujah (Associated Press).

46. Phinney, D. (2004) “Contract Meals Disaster” for Iraqi Prisoners (CorpWatch).

47. Al Jazeera (2005) New Guantanamo abuse cases surface (Al Jazeera).

48. Azulay, J. (2005) Guantanamo Abuses Caught on Tape, Report Details (New Standard).

49. Leonnig, C. D. & Priest, D. (2005) Detainees Accuse Female Interrogators: Pentagon Inquiry Is Said to Confirm Muslims’ Accounts of Sexual Tactics at Guantanamo (Washington Post).

50. Mickum IV, G. B. (2005) Tortured, humiliated and crying out for some justice: Four Guantánamo Britons are coming home. Don’t forget those left behind (Guardian).

51. Reuters (2005) Lawyer: Guantanamo detainees sodomised (Aljazeera).

52. McCoy, A. W. (2004) The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America’s Road to Abu Ghraib (Tomdispatch.com).

53. Associated Press (2004) Red Cross: Iraq abuse “tantamount to torture” (MSNBC).

54. American Civil Liberties Union (2005) Newly Released Army Documents Point to Agreement Between Defense Department and CIA on “Ghost” Detainees, ACLU Says (American Civil Liberties Union).

55. International Committee of the Red Cross (2004) Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the treatment by the coalition forces of prisoners of war and other protected persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq during arrest, internment and interrogation (International Committee of the Red Cross).

56. Hanley, C. J. (2004) Early Iraq Abuse Accounts Met With Silence (Associated Press).

57. Beaumont, P. & Burke, J. (2004) Catastrophe (Guardian).

58. Miller, R. (2003) “Disappearing” Iraqis: Why Are So Many Citizens Arrested and Detained by the American Occupying Force? (River Cities’ Reader).

59. Riverbend (2004) Tales from Abu Ghraib. (Baghdad Burning).

60. USA Today (2004) How innocent Iraqis came to be abused as terrorists (USA Today).

61. Kull, S. (2004) Americans on Detention, Torture, and the War on Terrorism, (Program on International Policy Attitudes/Knowledge Networks).

62. Morris, D. & Langer, G. (2004) Terror Suspect Treatment: Most Americans Oppose Torture Techniques (ABC News).

63. Smith, R. J. & Eggen, D. (2005) Gonzales Helped Set the Course for Detainees (Washington Post).

64. Scheer, R. (2004) Tout Torture, Get Promoted (Los Angeles Times).

65. Anderson, J. R. (2005) Maj. Gen. Fast, former aide to Sanchez at Abu Ghraib, takes intelligence post (Stars and Stripes).

66. Danner, M. (2005) We Are All Torturers Now (New York Times).

67. Hedges, C. (2002) War is a force that gives us meaning (New York, Public Affairs).

Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst and a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice. He maintains the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page.

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Great Article on Asperger’s Syndrome

Here.

This sort of thing, along with other forms of autism, is currently epidemic in the US. No one quite knows why this is occurring. Part of the problem is assortative mating, in which AS persons who formally would not have married are now marrying and having children. This is because the tech field has found massive employment opportunities for these people. They come together to work in large corporations, and they meet up with each other under circumstances that would not have existed in the past.

There is a link at the bottom to a test to see if you have AS. The average person without AS scores 16. I scored a 12. I don’t have AS!

AS has become something of a fad diagnosis now. Anyone who appears strange, odd, shy or awkward in any way is given this diagnosis either by themselves of by others. I have talked to a couple of neurotics who told me that they thought they had it. One had anxiety and OCD issues and the other had Social Phobia. Neither of these people had AS! There are countless people who are socially shy or awkward or strange or odd who simply do not have AS. In fact, many neurotics appear strange or odd and often have serious issues in social situations.

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The Basque Independence Movement

Repost from the old site.

Although it is not a popular cause in the US, this blog strongly supports the armed struggle of ETA, the armed Basque nationalist Red front. The Basque cause is very poorly known in the US and probably in most of the rest of the world, hence, here is a bit of a primer.

The Basque people are probably the last remaining group of the original populations that inhabited Europe before the Indo-European (IE) invasion and conquest about 8000 years ago. The best theory indicates that the IE people probably came out of the southern Ukraine near the Black Sea.

Their first stop was Anatolia, and this is why the Hittite languages (ancient languages of Anatolia, or Turkey) are by far the most divergent languages in the IE language family.

In fact, I subscribe to a controversial theory that renames Indo-European as Indo-Hittite due to this deep split. For those who don’t know about the IE language family, IE, or proto-IE (PIE), was the mother tongue of most of the languages of Europe.

European languages in the IE family include English, German, French, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Romanian, Moldavian, Albanian, Slovenian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Lithuanian and Latvian and some lesser-known ones.

A few tongues in Europe are non-IE, such as Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Estonian and Basque. Outside of Europe, we have some other IE languages in some pretty distant places, including Kurdish, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Sanskrit and a variety of languages related to them that are not well known by Westerners.

Apparently a divergent group of PIE left the PIE homeland and moved into the area of India, Iran and Afghanistan thousands of years ago.

Before the IE people spread out over Europe 8000 years ago, Europe was home to a variety of peoples who are very poorly known. Almost nothing is known about their civilizations (such as they existed), who they were, what they did, how they lived, what they ate, much less what languages they spoke.

The original inhabitants of Europe at this time weren’t Cro-Magnons, but they weren’t exactly Manhattan metrosexuals with cell phones either. After the IE people spread out across Europe, they apparently displaced, intermarried with, or wiped out almost all of the indigenous people of Europe.

One group that held out for a while were the Etruscans, residents of Italy. We actually have some retained some scraps of the Etruscan language somehow, but it doesn’t seem obviously related to anything else. The only other group that held out was apparently the Basques.

The theory that the Basques are the last remaining original inhabitants of Europe has long been a popular theory based on the fact that the Basque language is unlike any other language in Europe, or, really, in the world. Formally, Basque is considered to be a language isolate – not related to any other language.

However, I believe, based on very controversial theories, that Basque is related to some languages of the Caucasus (such as Chechen), an obscure group of Siberian tongues known as the Ket Family, an obscure language in far northern Pakistan called Burushaski, and also to the vast Sino-Tibetan family, of which Chinese is the most famous member.

Basque seems to me to be closest to various Caucasian languages. The latest genetic research has shown that the Basques have a blood type frequency that is divergent from all other populations in Europe. Interestingly, the closest people with this blood frequency are in the Caucasus Mountains.

In their mountain hideaways, the rugged Basques fought off many intruders and managed to keep a lot of other conquerors out of their hair with a hands-off attitude. Although the Romans conquered the area, they basically left the Basques pretty much alone as too much hassle, a common attitude of many conquerors that came through the region.

The Basques converted to Christianity along with the rest of Europe, and are known for their passionate, conservative Catholicism. With the consolidation of the Spanish nation, the question of how to deal with the Basques came up. For centuries, most governments in Spain and France preferred to pretty much leave the Basques alone.

During the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39, the Basque Region was a hotbed of Communism, Socialism, Anarchism and all varieties of Leftism. It was a major Republican stronghold. The Spanish Anarchists even “ruled” parts of the Basque country for part of this time, probably the only time in history that any humans have ever lived under anarchist “rule”.

The Basques fought very hard against fascism. Picasso’s famous “Guernica” painting is a painting of the Franco-Nazi air raid on the city of Guernica in the Basque Country, a raid that killed 6,000 people and outraged the world. A Basque Communist female fighter named “La Passionara” became quite famous.

The flood of Nazi guns was too much for the Republicans. The Republicans lost the war and fascism, in the persona of Generalissimo Franco, came to Spain. During World War 2, many Basques fought for the resistance against the Nazis, especially in France. The Basque region was known as a major redoubt and rear base for the French resistance.

When Franco came to power, a new chapter of history opened for the Basque struggle. Franco tried to consolidate Spain as no ruler ever had before. He demanded that all regional minorities adopt a “Spanish” mindset, language and loyalty. He ferociously tried to wipe out all vestiges of the Basque, Catalan and Galician languages and cultures.

Catalans speak a Romance language in between Spanish and French and live along the southern coast of Spain by the French border in and around Barcelona. The Romance family is a subfamily of IE that is derived from Latin. Romance includes Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Catalan, Sardinian, Corsican, Romansh (an obscure language in Switzerland) and some lesser-known tongues.

Galicians speak a dialect of Portuguese, believe it or not, and live along the rocky northern coast of Spain by the border with Portugal. Many Galicians are fishermen.

The Basque people resisted Franco for a while, but he put many of them in prison and really hurt the Basque movement. In 1959, a faction broke away from the Basque Nationalist Movement, formed the ETA, and took up arms.

They planted several bombs in Spanish cities that year. In 1968 , the ETA officially adopted armed struggle. The insurgency has been going on for 46 years now, though it is not as strong as it used to be.

Hardly any Americans realize the significant level of support for even the armed insurgency in the Basque country of Spain. As of a few years ago, there were regular street protests and even riots, as young nationalists run amok through the streets, smashing stuff and writing graffiti.

I have seen video footage in the past decade of very militant pro-ETA rallies in the Basqueland with large crowds of supporters milling around.

Many folks you would consider to be regular folks – middle-class people who dress well, drive nice cars and have good jobs – are strong supporters of even the armed Basque movement. It’s quite a shock to see dowdy-looking housewife types and middle-aged office workers with potbellies angrily waving banners supporting the ETA bombers.

Yet this is the reality of popular support for Basque nationalism, even the armed wing, in the Basque Country. Although Batasuna, the political wing of the ETA, was banned recently, another party took its place and garnered around 15-20% of the vote. Total support for complete independence in the Basque Country or Euskara, as they call it, is around 35-40%, or possibly higher, in my opinion.

Note: I just spoke to a German Communist friend of mine about the support level for the independence movement in Basqueland. Here is what he said: “Oh, I think almost all Basques support full independence. And even many Spanish migrants in Basqueland don’t really oppose the ETA or the independence movement.”

Note the presence of Spanish migrants who have moved into the Basque Country, mostly to take jobs. They are really the wild card in any poll about levels of independence support in Basqueland.

What is the struggle about, anyway? Well, a significant number of the Basque people (maybe almost 100% – see above) want independence from Spain.

Possibly a lesser number desire independence from France, but the struggle in French Basqueland is another matter and beyond the scope of this post. The Spanish government has always refused to hold a referendum on independence for Euskara, a key Basque demand.

The Czech Republic split from Slovakia, referendums have been held on independence in Scotland and Quebec, and yet Spain bucks the tide in the civilized world. The economy is surely a stickler. The Basque country holds much of Spain’s heavy industry, and how well Spain would fare economically after Basque succession is largely unknown. But it should at least be a subject of discussion, and Spain has put it out of limits.

As long as Spain refuses to provide a Basque referendum on independence, the Basque struggle, including probably the armed front, will go on. That’s all there is to it. Spain can end the insurgency tomorrow by opening peace talks with the ETA (Spain has never done this) and ultimately agreeing to hold a referendum on Basque independence.

An interesting sidelight to the Basque struggle is the role of women and feminism in the conflict. Some of the toughest ETA cadre have been women, often tougher than the men. And ETA male fighters, though nominally Marxist, have long been known to hold surprisingly conservative, Old World type views on the role of women in Basque society, opinions heavily tinged by conservative Catholicism.

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The 65-35 Theory of Male Sexual Orientation

I read a great book once by the legendary Australian sexologist Nathaniel McConaghy (referenced below). One chapter was on the sexual orientation of males. In his lab over the years, McConaghy had tested many males for sexual orientation. He kept track of the scores over the years and was eventually able to graph them out. It turns out that male sexual orientation looks something like a 0-100 scale:

100-0: Completely heterosexual. Maximal straight response, minimal gay response.
90-10: Mostly heterosexual. Maximal straight response, some incidental gay response.
80-20: Heavily heterosexual. Maximal straight response, more than incidental gay response.
70-30: Mostly straight bisexual. Maximal straight response, considerable but much lower gay response.
60-40: Bisexual leaning straight. Maximal straight response, extremely strong gay response, but not as strong as the straight response.
50-50: Fully bisexual. Maximal straight and gay response.
40-60: Bisexual leaning gay. Maximal gay response, extremely strong straight response, but not as strong as the gay response.
30-70: Mostly gay bisexual. Maximal gay response, considerable but much lower straight response.
20-80: Heavily homosexual. Maximal gay response, more than incidental straight response.
10-90: Mostly homosexual. Maximal gay response, some incidental straight response.
0-100: Completely homosexual. Maximal gay response, minimal straight response.

Well, as it turned out, ~65% of all males were 100-0’s, that is, they were more or less completely heterosexual. Another ~4-5% were 0-100’s or completely gay. The remaining 30% were somewhere on the 90-10 to 10-90 spectrum. I believe that most of them were on the high end of the straight spectrum. This gives the lie to the gay propaganda nonsense that says 10% of the population is gay. It’s more like 4%, and that’s males. But it’s possible that ~10-15% of males have a pretty considerable bisexual leaning.

One thing that is well-known in psychology is that many males who appear to be in the 100-0 category or thereabouts nevertheless have sex with men, sometimes considerable sex with men. A lot of the time this is situational homosexuality that is seen in militaries, on ships and in prisons or jails. But a lot of the rest of it is not.

A psychotherapist named Joe Kort, who is gay himself, has written a book and runs a blog called Straight Guise, which explores a lot of the reasons who straight men have sex with other men. He has various categories listing the reasons. Kort has had many men come to him as a therapist telling him that they have strong attraction to females and no attraction, romantic or sexual, to other males. Nevertheless, they are having sex with men for whatever odd reason.

I was talking to a friend the other day and he insisted that any guy having sex with another guy in a non-situational case could not possibly be a 100-0.

Commenters, do you have any feelings about this matter?

References

Nathaniel McConaghy. 1983. Sexual Behavior: Problems and Management (Applied Clinical Psychology). New York: Springer.

43 Comments

Filed under Gender Studies, Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, Man World, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Sex

Restitution Sought for Child Porn Victims

Here.

Very interesting article about girls who were used to make child porn suing the men who downloaded the movies about them. They are collecting a lot of money in at least two cases. They especially like to go after child porn collectors who have a lot of money under the deep pockets theory of litigation.

The article discusses a lot of the legal controversies this is stirring up. There are legal thinkers on both sides of the fence arguing either that the child porn downloaders did no harm to the girls and hence owe nothing or that they did in fact harm them and hence can be sued.

One interesting argument said that if say 1,000 men were guilty of downloading a girl’s porn movie and the damages were $1 million, each man could only be sued for 1/1,000 the damages, or $10,000. This goes directly against deep pockets theory.

Both girls were abused by relatives, one by her father and another by her uncle. One of the girls’ movies has become legendary in child porn circles for the girl’s performance.

Persons collecting child pornography are doing heavy time these days. They are getting sentences of 5-25 years in prison, long terms that are in themselves controversial and which some view as excessive.

17 Comments

Filed under Child Porn, Crime, Girls, Law, Lolitas, Pornography, Sex

How I Write Fiction: From a Recent Example

Using the recent flash fiction that I published on this blog, I will give you a brief treatise on how I write, what my values are as a writer, and what I hope to achieve. I will also supply a brief exegesis of some aspects of the story that may be confusing. Here is the piece, which runs to a mere 4 pages and 558 words. Flash fiction is generally under 1000 words:

For years the teenage girl had prayed, prayed for her Dream Man. She knew exactly what he looked like, what clothes he wore, how he combed his hair, what he liked to eat, what he was like in bed, his favorite romantic lines. In fact, she had his entire personality analyzed better than most analysts could.

She knew him from boyhood through wild teen years to stable manhood. Now he was 40, and he was finally a man. After all, all men are boys until age 40, she reasoned, perking her female wiles, fox ears in the air.

Through the years, Dream Man had never changed. He always looked the same, had the same voice and even had the same outfits. He liked the same books and the same movies.

He never changed; he only grew. He was like the best of us that way.

One night she sat on her bed, with a great book by a great writer in her hands. The silver prose sang right off the pages. Pages leaped and fluttered as she turned them giddily, leaves in the wind, dancing.

But her mind kept going back to Dream Man, just like it always did.

Behind everything, there was a surface and a deeper pool. And all art forms merged together in the end.

Behind the painting on the wall, a city of words.

Behind every prayer, a city of dreams.

It was raining outside, steady dribble and flow away there. The lights flickered now and again. The bright dimmed once again. She looked up.

A glimmering against the wall, and there he was, shining just like forever. Dream Man, in all of his resplendence, spanking new as yesterday.

She blinked her eyes.

“How did you get here?”

“I came down with the rain,” he answered.

She blinked again. Not only did I get a stud, but I got a poet as well. Dream Man indeed. Dream Man squared. Dream Man for the win.

“Why? You answered my prayers?”

“Special delivery,” he shone, flashing at the wall.

“Just for me?”

“For you only. For who else? Someone listens, you know.”

“So dreams really do come true then? A-and prayers? Prayers too?” A bit of water brimmed her eyes.

“Not really,” he riddled. “But maybe for a little bit, a dribble of hope, a tiny chance, a morsel, a peck, a taste.”

“And then?” She was blinking furiously.

“Then we pull away the curtain,” he revealed with stark finality.

“Close your eyes, then open them,” he charmed.

She did as she was told. Snake in a trance, how could she not?

When she opened her eyes, his hand was in the air, fading in and out, technicolor against the wall.

A wave, and gone.

What say then? What to do now? She was dizzy, and the room was pitching back and forth on its seas.

But a song was in the air. She lifted her chin upwards, and the words began to flutter in the air.

“We all had,” she sang. “A once upon a time.”

In a decrepit world, stumbling in tears and rags, starving and bleeding amidst the ruins, perfection is a mean hoax.

But as an antidote to the cruel pallor of life in praxis, kneeling against the wall, hands clasped, the city of dreams.

Now, first of all, I begin with what I think are simple yet stunning images in my head. Often they are word pictures, but they are also sometimes little sentences. I spend a good part of most days doing whatever and thinking what I think are striking images and powerful sentences. I am looking for an image that flashes, searing embedded in my mind, that resonates with power and beauty.

I don’t particularly care whether the image or the sentence contains much in the way of meaning – instead, I just wanted an arresting, shocking, stunning and especially perfectly beautiful image or sentence. This was rather what the surrealists were after – they renounced plot, structure, character development and dialogue – the whole nine yards, in favor the stunning blow of a frighteningly gorgeous image or string of words.

I started out this piece with a stunning sentence and image that appeared in my head. I got the image of a man who appears out of nowhere to a woman in the rain. She asks, “Where did you come from?” And he answers, “I came down with the rain.” Wow! I loved that image. A man floating down out of the rain to appear magically before a woman. I also liked the very sound of the sentence itself.

After I tossed that image around in my head awhile, I decided to construct a story around that very sentence. So the entire story really is fake, cardboard, paper-mache, an artifact, a container. The story is a flimsy structure artificially constructed to contain and hold a series of powerful images designed to freeze you with their glorious beauty.

So I came up with the idea of a woman in her room, and it is raining outside. At the other side of the room, the man appears. Hence the two sentences above can now be used. But why did this man come down out of the rain and end up in this woman’s room. It was then that I came up with the idea that he was a figment of her imagination. I then elaborated that with my idea that woman, more than men, hold onto an image of the perfect man for far too long into life. And of course the perfect man does not even exist, but to many teenage girls and young women he does, and their trifling and silly pursuit of him causes all manner of problems for young women who refuse to face reality.

At that point, I decided she either had to be a young woman or a teenage girl, since most sensible women have dropped the Dream Man thing by age 30 or so, hence the bitterness of women’s 30’s and beyond when the female is stricken with the dead weight of reality, cold and black as coal.

For some odd reason, I decided to make her into a teenage girl. Some readers have commented on this, suggesting that the story is all about a teenage girl or I must have a thing for teenage girls. I don’t care about teenage girls anymore except to reminisce. They are nice to look at sometimes, but so are women. So the choice of the heroine as a teenage girl was strictly an afterthought and has no particular meaning.

I then began to construct the outlines of a conversation between the girl and the man who I now called Dream Man, or the man of her dreams. This took a number of days to flesh out in whole.

At some point, another phrase or image exploded in my mind. It was, “city of words.” I didn’t really know what it meant, but it sounded totally arresting and striking in that surrealist way. It swam around in my head a bit and finally I had a sentence for it, “Behind every painting, a city of words.”

What this means is that all forms of art blur together. There’s a picture in every story and a thousand stories in every picture. In a novel, 1,000 or 10,000 paintings or a movie. In that painting on the wall, a poem, a short story, or a novel. Scratch the canvas and find, underneath, a city of words. See?

Next for some reason the phrase, “city of dreams,” popped into my head, obviously related to the first one. I then made a sentence out of this and wove it into the story: “Behind every prayer, a city of dreams.” That ought to be self-explanatory.

I wanted to weave this stuff into the story of the girl and her dream man, so I did so, albeit awkwardly.

“All men are boys until age 40,” – a 20 year old girl, a friend of mine a few years back, made this statement to me, and it’s stayed ever since. I liked it, so I wove it into the story.

“A wave, and gone.” – is a neat little sentence from some previous fiction that I wrote. I loved the sound of it, so I wove it into the story.

A line had been floating around in my head for a while. It was, “The silver prose sang right off the pages,” used to describe some great writing in a book. I loved the beauty of the phrase. So I found a way to work it rather artificially into the story.

After a while, at some point what I thought was a line from an old song came into my head. I thought it was, “We all had our once upon a time.” I loved the sound of it so much, and I thought I could weave it to the story. I decided to have the girl say that upon disappearance of Dream Man. “Oh well, at least we have our dreams,” she is saying. I Googled the sentence and variations on it and came up with nothing until I called a friend of mine and he told me it was from an Elton John song called, “Curtains.” At the end of the song, John sings,

And just like us
You must have had
A once upon a time

So I threw it in there anyway, modified in the way that I remembered it. Writers can rip off lines from songs, TV shows, speeches, commercials, movies, just about anything, you name it. It gets a bit fuzzy when you rip other writers, but this happens all the time too in one way or another. Often it’s simply an allusion or tribute. In worse cases, it is out and out plagiarism. It’s perfectly acceptable to riff off a popular song this way.

In a decrepit world, stumbling in tears and rags, starving and bleeding amidst the ruins, perfection is a mean hoax.

But as an antidote to the cruel pallor of life in praxis, kneeling against the wall, hands clasped, the city of dreams.

Those sentences close the piece. The world is decrepit simply because it lacks perfection,to say the least. That’s at the best of times. At worst, life is an unparalleled disaster of unimaginable magnitude. I think of some of my friends’ tribulations as I write this. Some Dream Man! Some Dream World! There is no such thing as either. Those who dream the world into such an illusion are being hoaxed or hoaxing themselves, cruelly enough as they will soon discover.

“Life in praxis” is just a fancy way or saying, “life as it actually is,” sort of like how they used to talk about “actually existing socialism.”

In the final sentence, we see that no matter how horrific life is, we still have our prayers, our dreams, our fantasies, our city of dreams. We can always dream. Fantasy, while non-adaptive when used as a guide for life, is an excellent defense against whatever monstrosities life visits upon us. No matter how bad it gets, we can always relapse into fantasy, the wonder and glory of which know no bounds. This is nice! We don’t have to suffer whatever unspeakable horror du jour is being dished up alone and without comfort. We always have the escape valve of fantasy to alleviate the pain or vanish altogether into a dream world where misery is lessened or vacant.

The story is rather simplistic in plot, the characters might not be fleshed out too well (though one commenter loved the girl) and who knows how well the dialogue goes. And the theme, the difference between reality and fantasy, is an old one (one commenter suggested it was trite and asinine).

But really all of those things – plot, characters, dialogue and theme – were more or less artificially constructed to surround what I felt were several stunning and arresting images and gorgeous little sentences.

One complaint was that the prose was purple. Purple prose is overwrought, overdone, adjective-laden, flowery writing. Supposedly it is bad prose, but it’s really a matter of taste. Some famous writers have been accused of writing purple prose.

It is interesting that there is no such thing as purple poetry. This is because it is not possible to be too purple, adjectival or flowery when one writes poetry, which is intriguing right there.

Now I feel that the best prose is always poetry anyway, and there are now genres that merge the two such as prose poetry and whatnot. Personally, I am fond of purple prose.

Those who hate it say it is the mark of horrible writing, but I am not so sure. As a terrible artist could not do a poor imitation of a Rembrandt, so a lousy writer cannot possibly write purple prose. You have to be pretty good to start with to even try to draw or write great stuff. Looking around the web, I see plenty of examples of writing that is anywhere from lousy to not particularly impressive (keep in mind I hate most other writers). One thing I certainly almost never see is a lousy writer trying and badly failing to write great prose. Would that they even tried in the first place.

As a friend told me, once you start trying to write great prose, things get awfully dicey.

“There’s a fine line between great literary writing and utterly pretentious, pompous garbage,” he said.

Well, sure. One man’s great writing, singing to the heavens, is another’s laughably pretentious purple-prose ridden dreck, bobbing in a murky, steaming sump.

3 Comments

Filed under Literary Excursions, Writing

“A Journey into the Mind of P.”

The greatest and in fact only documentary ever produced about Thomas Pynchon, who happens to be one of my favorite writers. Apparently made by a media company out of Europe, possibly Switzerland, at some point in the mid-1990’s, maybe around 1995 or so.

The title is a takeoff on a little read essay by Pynchon called, “A Journey into the Mind of Watts,” written in 1966. Nice essay, and it’s available on the web. You should look it up sometime.

I have not yet read:

Against the Day

Mason and Dixon

Inherent Vice

The three latest novels. Although I have read bits and pieces of all three of them. Unfortunately, Mason and Dixon is written in mid-18th Century English, which probably makes it a lot harder to understand than it ordinarily would be.

Against the Day and Mason and Dixon were widely praised, but Inherent Vice has not gotten nearly such good reviews.

3 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Literature, Novel