Heloise and Abelard

Justice, Media, The Life of the Mind, War and Politics

Partly because he was a good sport in the comments, but mostly because I can’t turn down an opportunity to take potshots at psychology, I want to say a few things about Joseph Isenberg’s comment on my recent Bradley Manning post. Post here. Comment here.

1. Trans. Ishun?

I never did drag, but one year I went to the Oberlin College Drag Ball as Hegemonica Preshun. Get it? Anyway, what? Oh. I’m going to use the masculine pronoun to refer to Manning. That’s probably wrong, but I want this to be easy to read. Apologies in advance.

It does indeed seem clear enough that Manning was troubled when he began to believe that he was transgender. A lot of his interlocutors, both supporters and oppressors, read into this some sort of grievous psychic trauma and mental break. “Troubled” is the euphemism either way.

But if we’re honest with ourselves in our own personal recollections, we recall that we experienced all sorts of developments in our persons and personalities as agonizing and troubling and traumatic, especially in our adolescence, which Manning was barely out of, if out of at all. Adolescence and young adulthood are a ceaseless, battering storm of psychic catastrophe . . . to adolescencents and young adults.

In fact, what’s remarkable about Manning is how swiftly he moved from the sense of world-ending dread in his realization to mature acceptance, from gloom to planning the surgeries and picking a new name. This occurred over a period of months while deployed in a war zone, while engaging, allegedly, in a massive act of heroic disobedience. What this suggests is not a “troubled,” depressed, immature, confused, ravaged young man, but rather a young man of extraordinary poise and self-possession–a person who over the course of just a few months in the most trying of conditions could come to a reasoned conclusion about altering one of the two or three characteristics that the broader society considers the most fundamental and unchangeable of your character and your being.

None of this is to say that Manning didn’t experience doubt, anxiety, fear, frustration, depression, and dread. He did, and he says so candidly. But we all experience doubt, anxiety, fear, frustration, depression, and dread. We experience them all in much less trying circumstances. We’re just worried that the boss might check up on our progress on that sales report, or whatever, or that our boyfriends are spending a little too much time on grindr “just to laugh at the profiles.”

What distinguishes Manning is not his self-doubt, but his self-possession.

2. ASL? Into?; or, The Anonymizing Influence of the Barcelona Chair

Because I grew up in the great flowering era of the chatroom and cut my fag teeth on mIRC back when AOL M4M was as distant as Skynet, I can’t understand the astonished commentary that springs up around the fact that Manning made a “tortured confession” to some dude on AIM, or whatever. I am sure I made many tortured confessions to any number of fat weirdos and priests and pic collectors posing as cuteboi81. If Manning had made his confession to some shrink he’d never met before, would that be so weird? Why? What about the transactional nature of that relationship makes the act of confession less absurd? They’re based on the same principle: it’s often easier to talk to a stranger, to confess through the lattice to the robed and hooded man.

And anyway, Lamo wasn’t a stranger. You’re buying into a pretense! You’re falling for the same con that ultimately snagged Bradley Manning. Forget your anachronistic feelings that These Kids Today and Their Instragrams do not have real friendships. Online relationships are real. They’re just epistolary. Manning considered Lamo a friend. Forget all that “I can’t believe I’m telling this to a stranger” shit. You just don’t understand how young gay dudes flirt and interact online. They’d chatted, flirted, got acquainted, talked about all sorts of things. It wasn’t anonymous at all.

Except that Lamo was a liar and a con man. If Manning were just some dude and a talented con man had insinuated himself into his life in order to rip him off, would you blame Manning for trusting someone anonymous? Of course you wouldn’t. You might suggest that he’d have to learn some hard lessons about trust, but you’d blame Lamo, the perpetrator of the deception, and you certainly wouldn’t read some kind of psychopathology into the nice, trusting young kid who got taken in by the scammer.

3. Yeah, But His History of Depression, Dude

When I hear the word depression, I reach for the nearest beverage in order to do a spit take. Was Manning depressed? Probably. But the DSM is next to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the US Code in its titanic indifference to that which is actually human.

If every human behavior is the end outcome of some diagnosable disorder, then we are automatons. Do depressed people lack moral agency? Does “gender dysporhia” attack conscience along with cock and cunt?

As soon as some supposed mental illness enters the picture, sentience gives way to subroutine, and suddenly the great mystery of the human mind becomes a flawed decision tree diagram. People’s straightforward actions are imbued with a weird moral laxness; their convictions are suddenly “complicated”; their simple story suddenly not the “whole story,” and their motives suddenly in question.

25 thoughts on “Heloise and Abelard

    1. “oppositional defiant disorder,”

      Sweet baby Jésus. Being anti-authoritarian is not just a symptom of a disorder, it’s one itself. I hope that’s not actually in the recently released DSM-5.

      1. (sorry if this is duplication Jacob, I think my first post may have vaporized)

        That vile piece of work hasn’t been published yet, May is the current expected date of DSM-5 publication ( http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx ).

        Here’s one fairly recent critique ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/how-many-billions-a-year-will-the-dsm-5-cost-.html ). Keeping in mind that that the author was the chairman of the task force that produced the most likely horrid itself, DSM-IV, who knows what he even missed critiquing (like the made for DC, Sly Con Valley, Hollowwood, etcetera declassifying of Narcissistic Personality Disorder while tasering in on sadness and grief, and worrying over one’s dire health conditions (such as cancer) as Treatable Mental Illine$$$ ). About that Bloomberg link, ….yeah, always disgustingly interesting that some of the most detailed and up to date news is generally only to be found on the financial pages – if it can’t be commoditized, those running the world (into the ground) and their wanna be lackeys, could give a rats ass:

        Heres one focus on the Big Pharma aspect (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/antidepressants-to-treat-grief-psychiatry-panelists-with-ties-to-drug-industry-say-yes/2012/12/26/ca09cde6-3d60-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_print.html ). Too bad, but a feature to be expected, that WAPO didn’t editorialize about it until half a year after a final DSM-V public commentary period ended.

      2. It’s real, as in wholly invented to classify childhood as deviant. In discussing my eleven year old’s wholly appropriate rebellion against doing the dishes so mom and dad can power down from having to sell our labor, a physician in my wife’s practice gummied up the air with exactly that phrase.

        Here are some of the symptoms, according to the feds:

        Actively does not follow adults’ requests

        Angry and resentful of others

        Argues with adults

        Blames others for own mistakes

        Has few or no friends or has lost friends

        Is in constant trouble in school

        Loses temper

        Spiteful or seeks revenge

        Touchy or easily annoyed

  1. Gibney-Alex sed:
    “I think he was alienated; he was in agony personally over a number of issues. He was lonely and very needy. And I think he had an identity crisis.”

    That identity crisis would be part and parcel of why he was in the unConstitutional Corpse-Creation Corps in the first place. It’s called “What am I gonna do with my life?” and leads many confused young mens and womynz to sign on to something so horrid, even if they are filled with doubt as to whether the actions undertaken at the behest of their future employer are morally defensible. A society that breeds this possibility is so much more at issue here than any confusing complex of sexual identity, I think.

    That bled, if Bradley Manning’s “defense team” were to be able to free him on the grounds of Gay Sex Confusion, I would consider it a net positive. Sure, it might set a precedent/be a slippery slope upon which teh gays cannot be trusted with the right to the privilege of murder, but the way I see it, the less people who have entitlement to that institution, the better.

    Also, Dude, hooded man is not the preferred nomenclature. Uncut, please.

  2. yeah male pronouns seem to me more appropriate, considering, yknow, he was outed involuntarily and all

    (for what its worth I’m dealing with the same stuff he was at the moment. well, without the whole imprisoned-without-trial-and-having-my-personal-shit-picked-apart-by-clueless-filmmakers thing, but yeah)

    also it might be worth pointing out that “discussing heavy shit with friends you’ve never met in person” isn’t strictly an lgbtwhatever thing, i mean– isn’t that basically why they invented the internet? 😛

  3. “Adolescence and young adulthood are a ceaseless, battering storm of psychic catastrophe . . . to adolescencents and young adults.”

    I’m 40 & I still find life in delusional capitalist land to be a ceaseless, battering storm of psychic catastrophe.

    1. lucid, if you look back , what made you remove the year ? / yes a battering storm .., jacob is just very mature (an older father maybe, administer .. ) , that is why i teased that he was a more sedate / heavy set gay man in his fifties when i first landed in io z ,

  4. Another huge elephant in the room of those being labeled mentally ill, are those poverty ridden families and middle aged, declared unhireable (as they are experienced enough to know lethal creeps when they sense them) forced unto SSI and SDI as “mentally ill” ….in order not to sleep on cement and beg PRICKS for coin enough to numb away the arctic chill emanating .from all corners now..

    So nice to know that the STATE has all its most punished …lined up like wooden ducks in a row, … on a FEDERAL list! .. of being Mentally Ill, …when so many of them are likely more sane, forgiving and loving than the self serving sheep who unquestioningly serve a vulgar monster.

  5. wait, no one mentioned intermittent explosive disorder (it’s a thing! well, not really, but it’s a real label they came up with!)

  6. I don’t know why I should be surprised that thoroughly traumatized, rust belt and such, twenty some vets are being taught snipering techniques by UZ$ snipering divas in order to ‘heal’ them …but I’m guessing I just do not want to face how maleficence increasingly and blatantly parades itself as virtue …..

    Looks like one student ‘was healed,’ … learning how to sniper even before that ‘healing’ lesson was over.

    1. unfortunately, that young straight a student …was not informed that he should not fully understand what he was being taught, …as it would surely bring him even far more trauma …than he ever thought possible.

      my humbled heart out to him …

      1. a clarification, that thoroughly traumatized, innocently young, sniper student was: A Straight A Student.

      2. to further clarify: … a Straight “A” …student, … in that he knew (and was thoroughly traumatized to know) what it actually meant, to be a true sniper.

  7. bleakly humorous ..(have I spelled that correctly?) …. corcovids (have I spelled that correctly?) …. versus gold miners …. for …some …today …it is far more important than ……… their own neighbors ……………….. ;0( …..

    1. indeed I did do a blatant mispell, …as I was actually meaning to refer to corvidae> …then again, perhaps I was quite accidentally close to the truth…

  8. Thank you for not disclosing my last two posts, Jacob. As true as they were, I was very glad to not see them posted here, as I was thoroughly plastered and despondent when I made those comments, and therefore not real mindful that the comments might cause undue pain to someone who may have been quite innocent in the scenario of what I described.

    All data does need to be ‘universally’ shared and imposed upon others who are already unbearably overwhelmed, and you made a decision I’m very, very thankful for.

    1. oh ugh, I left out a crucial word, “not,” …as in:

      All data does not need to be ‘universally’ shared and imposed upon others …

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