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According to Ethan Watters, PTSD is like Hysteria, or "the vapours". It's not so much a clearly-defined condition as a set of symptoms and behaviours that fashion and social enforcement have clustered together in a name. Many people have a Gordion Knot in some way inside them, and PTSD is one of many interpretations of how to get a handle on it, to objectify something that is intimately subjective. Metaphysics and yoga tells me that this manipulation of the subjective is in itself an enforcing mechanism, and self-perpetuates as it is expressed. So this bias of mine leads me to believe that some PTSD is a style or flavour of internal unease, and is given shape by repeated reinforcement.

Watters' theory implies that there are epidemics of types of mental illness given clearer shape by social normalization: bulimia, multiple personality disorder, ADHD, possibly "autistic spectrum disorder", and that they are socially defined and enforced.

But I want to be very clear: this by no means says that they are invented or don't exist, only that our concepts and behaviours for dealing with them are to a large degree malleable and that the power of socialization is actually very strong, and where we feel sharply defined and affected by a condition in such a way that it is a trap or an unmitigatable state, we should not assume that the same biological conditions are expressed the same way in a different culture. Indeed, he goes on to describe the social normalization of types of schizophrenia in a particular African culture. It shows a window on what the value of society is, and the great degree that socialization can create safe spaces for nearly any range of aberrant behaviour.

In the science-biased society my body lives in, there is a normalization towards liberalization (allowing market forces to dominate society) and legalism (the permutation of the social contract through all aspects of society). Both normalizations are pseudo-scientific, which is to say they are extensions of common-sense notions about the world extrapolated and codified in language if not logic. We go so far as to reject religions without admitting that our trust in technology is equally irrational as trust in a great beard in the sky. Somehow "the market will decide" and "we can come to a mutually-beneficial agreement on nearly anything" are underpinnings of the modern dominant culture. The Internet, and, more to the point, LiveJournal largely reflects this dominant culture.

So it's not surprising that dealing with daemons is something that we rationalize and try to normalize through agreement and the market. I never saw the word "triggery" until I came online. I simply thought it was "well, if you have suffered a trauma, you will find this subject 'triggery' in that it will remind you of that trauma, and may have internal psychological effects that the author did not intend." There is also a politeness, an etiquette implicit. Just as a post should be marked "NSFW", it should also list "triggers" that may be tripped by reading/viewing the content. To which I say "bollocks". But it's a qualified "bollocks", so bear with me.

The rational objection is that I can't predict what your work or your trauma is like. But here's the second part: nobody has a pre-existing right to require normalization on another person's part to their expectations of behaviour. If you want me to respect your boundaries, you need to tell me what they are, and I'll tell you mine, and we can discuss. If we can't agree on boundaries, we should part company or refer to our peers and let them decide. There. All properly rational, liberalized, and legalistic.

But really, I don't think this is sufficient, or well thought out, because markets, in which case I include the entire agora, are not stable or normative in fact. It's a fallacy, and evidence does not bear it out. Markets are prone to periods of deep instability which lead to collapse, usually when one factor gets out of hand, like the trading of default swaps. So every community has its drama, and every community has its lynch-mob events, which in LJ, we tend to call (.*)Fail. It's a stupid way of running things, because it means that, as a community, we increasingly run a knife-edge of "bukake shitstorm", and there is nobody so pure or heinous out there that they deserve to either be on the receiving or giving end of that. No, really.

And second, boundaries shift. Laws are overturned, rescinded, nullified. Revolutions happen. Parole gets granted. The leopard has to be able to change its spots or it will not survive. The more rigid your laws, the more severe the enforcement, the more suseptible your legal system is to self-destruction. That's the paradox of legalism, which many an emperor of China has learned to their defeat. The more you squeeze, Lord Vader, the more systems will slip through your fingers. A man with no power has nothing to lose, and a man you have condemned to death has every right to try to kill you. When you make up all these rules to follow, you tempt a counter-reaction which is nearly always ugly and usually hurts both parties.

And that, in a nutshell is why (being one myself, mark you), I am so ABSOLUTELY FRICKING FED UP WITH HAND WRINGING "LIBERALS" AND THEIR GODDAMN SPECIALNESS. While YOU LIBERALS were debating these points on livejournal and all over the 'net, you were letting your political enemies take over. Because you are too special to make compromises. Because your reaction to anything you disagree with is to run away and refuse to talk. You're like a bunch of spoilt children sulking in their rooms, sending eggregious text messages to each other about how unfair life is. Well, GROW THE FUCK UP. Do you know why idiots of the caliber of George W. and Sarah Palin, and JMLePen, and David Cameron, and Stephen Harper, and all the other monkey-club aren't thoroughly discredited and laughed off the political stage? It's because they are willing to talk to the ignorant, to the wrong-headed, to the closet rapists and the crackers, the gun-toters, and the Caananite-murderers. Because they treat them like human beings instead of something to scrape off their boots (even when the policies they advocate do exactly the opposite, impoverish the poor, blind the ignorant, and encourage the violent).

In short: if you can't treat another person with decency, don't expect a decent society to be delivered to you on a plate. Because all you're going to get is an EULA for your own life and means of making a living, and by reading it you will be expected to agree by it. That's real privilege, sons and daughters of stardust and billion-year old carbon. It's time to leave the garden and go out into the land of nod. And smile. And disagree politely. And yes, I'm talking to a mirror, here, because I'm one of the worst of these special cases.

Here's the non-Jeremiad version, which I like a lot better:

And to think this post started out as a run-down of the original "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" film, and how my tendency is to seek out triggers, because that's how I deal with my own Gordion Knot, and how the film is really a superhero story, where a girl with magical hacking powers turns tables on all the sexually deviant baddies. Just like the Hustle team does the same on a grifter level. And all of it with the need to suspend disbelief so wide that you can drive a paradox right through it. Magic Robin Hood stuff.

But a well-crafted triggery superhero film, nonetheless. Should have been titled "Runs Toward Triggers", though. A strategy I recommend, but don't follow often enough.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
Much to mull over there. Yes, I'm one, too; a liberal, that is.

I've felt for a long time that many a net/LJ war is being fought between people who, if only they sat round a (real) table or even phoned each other, would find that they agreed more than they disagreed. There's something about electronic communication in general and social media in particular that all-too-often amplifies differences (of opinion) into something much worse. And as you say, it's often the case that the real enemies lie elsewhere and are gleefully subjugating us while we focus inwards. (I'd add Romney to your list of our real foes.)

Which is not to say that all Internet battles are pointless. A few years ago, I got involved in the "Sandersgate" affair. That didn't seem pointless, not one bit.

In summary, I think we need more dialogue and fewer dogpiles.

Aug. 25th, 2012 01:32 pm (UTC)
Wow. I had to look that one up. What a revealing letter THAT was.

For me, I'm glad RaceFail happened, myself, because it got a discussion going that I think has been ultimately a good thing, and many people handled the situation well, and got credit for doing so.

Same thing with the one I'm obviously reacting to, which is that Akin pillock. It's good to get these ideas out in the open. But it's not just the wisdom, but the vitriol of crowds that the Internet amplifies, and we could have done with far less of THAT.

In re-reading, I realize a lot of this is a thinly-veiled rehash of an old horse of mine I keep beating the bones thereof: that the left wing in America was scared off of economic disparity issues because 1) Galbraith did such a good job, 2) wanting to avoid being lumped in with Godless Communism 3) The unions were corrupt and subverted by organized crime.

So, we liberals turned to gender and race inequalities in the hopes of addressing the economic ones as a part of the parcel.

But we seriously, as political beings, we left-wingers need to tackle the economic ones again, because we are SO FAR BEHIND, and we haven't been taking on the system like we should have been doing. We're just waiting for the storm to pass.
Aug. 25th, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'm UK-based, so Cameron (and his chancellor, Osborne) are my particular hate figures.

Yes, Sandersgate was quite something to be involved in. Helix published a story of mine not long before the letter got into the public domain. I'd heard whispers about Sanders' behaviour before I submitted the story. Oh, how I wish I'd listened to them. That taught me a salutary lesson. As a partial remedy, I reprinted my story at Transcriptase.org (sanders was not letting any more people remove stories from Helix by this time) and I donated my Helix payment to an anti-rascism charity. I've recently blacklisted another publication because of the editor's attitude to LGBT rights. Again, locking the door after the horse has bolted, but it had to be done.

Yes, I agree that RaceFail was necessary. Not quite sure that all "fails" are, but then I may not be best placed to judge that. I continue to maintain that, often as not, as a community (of sorts) we're dissipating our energies fighting needless battles. Part of the problem is that while diatribe is easy, dialogue is not. Just as it is much easier to accomplish the electronic equivalent of tarring and feathering than to find a way to change someone's view on an ethical matter.

Some of those ethical battles can become bitterly personal. I have LJ friends who are definitely not willing to talk to each other. I'm not choosing sides in their disputes, because their arguments are their own affair. In some cases, I'm perplexed that they are arguing at all. But they remain my friends.

Life's never simple.

Thanks again for your thought-provoking post.
Aug. 25th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting. Always good to see things from another perspective.
Aug. 25th, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
I don't know what a bukake shitstorm is, and maybe I don't want to?

My take on various LJ uproars is how much mutual backpatting and bandwagon jumping there is. (There's one popular poster/author who seems to have built a career out of "Look how brave I am to shout about these things!" to which yeye's followers assure one another, "Oh, how very brave yeye is!") But that's not LiveJournal, it's life.
Aug. 25th, 2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
No, a thing once learned cannot be unlearned. Don't go there.

Yes, and in real life, I can think of instances of manipulative, cold-hearted people that take advantage of the bullying aspect of -ist or anti-ist agendas to further their own careers and silence critics. Such is life, indeed.

I suppose we should always remember that ideas are tools, and like wheels, can carry ambulances and cannons both.
Aug. 25th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
Yup. And that groups can become crowds . . . and crowd dynamics can be volatile as thunderstorms.
Aug. 25th, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
And another thing we can remember is that the pattern of interaction, which can be so distressing, amounts to not much more than gossip: "Did you hear that X said Y on their blog? And then Z weighed in and then all of X's friends..." etc. Which is what people used to hang about whispering about in high school, as I recall. "Did you hear what Sandy said to Alyssa at Mark's party? And then Karen called her out on it, and now none of Sandy's friends are talking to Karen." The ideas being discussed may be more important (or not...) than the stuff Sandy, Alyssa, Mark, and Karen were talking about, but the mechanism and results are no different.
Aug. 25th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
That is very true.
Aug. 25th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's it! Social networking so often is a kind of legitimization of locker-room gossip through endless repetition of the behaviour-pattern. Even down to the point where people's audience is called their "friends".

Which is exactly where modern philosophy was at the time of Locke, Kant, and Hobbes. The coffee-bar as a hangout for the new intelligentsia, all of them hawking the world-views that became the foundation for republics and unions of our times.

That's actually kind of hopeful in a way, because when these locker-room chats grow up and become debating societies/salons, then universities, then social movements.... The world is going to look very different in bold and startling ways.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:15 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I'm not as optimistic as you are with regard to that particular path of development, but other paths give me hope. Stories of people making things and doing things.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, I can see that. But I still have hope in dialectic and discussion. The cultures that thrive are the ones that have balancing-power, so it was the locker-room gossip of the Parisian Salon, the Prussian coffee-house, and the Edinburgh pub that ultimately made modern democracy possible.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
A little optimism never hurts :-)
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
What's a Prussian coffee house. My ancestors are from Prussia so I wanna know about ze coffee !
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
The role of the coffee-house in the revolutions of the 18th century is pretty well established. The influence of Calvinism made protestant Germany/Prussia embrace coffee. But I think the most pleasurable history I've read of the phenomenon is in this book: http://books.google.ca/books/about/Tastes_of_paradise.html?id=Ka--zm27PogC&redir_esc=y , flawed as it may be.
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
That looks interesting. Think I'll have a cup. Dankeschön !
Aug. 25th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I get "blocked plug-in" for what I think is a video? Does this mean I need to update flash or something? Yes, I needed to update Flash. Okay, I see it now; will watch later.

And yes, that's me, too, running and hiding in my room, and I know, I really know, that I must do better. And even more so, I want to do things in the world, for the world, and not just in the echo-chamber of LJ or other online sites.

Racefail and the later fails were primarily useful to me for showing me how the French Revolution produces the Reign of Terror, and how public self-examination, that tool of the Red Guards, among others, is still alive and well. But to its credit, Racefail and subsequent XX-fails did also have the intended positive consequence of getting me to shift and reconsider how I looked at all sorts of issues and questions, and that's good. <--but that's all personal moral purity stuff, and in the end, that doesn't even matter so much. I'd rather be impure like Alberto Cairo or Muhammad Yunus than win plaudits from LJ for avoiding X or Y or Z thing.

... As it stands, though, I'm not doing much of either, so ... plenty to work on, both for the good of the wider world and my own self-improvement.

Edited at 2012-08-25 04:54 pm (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm deeply suspicious of purity. Pure environments are dead environments, and I think that goes for the mind and soul equally. The pure that wants to be unsullied by life is the pure that is running away from life.

And I don't know quite what I'm saying, because my brain is drowning it out with this soundtrack. Must be a safety override.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
I'm deeply suspicious of purity.

ME TOO. Let me have hybrid, mongrel, bastard, admixed, adulterated, compromised, flawed life ANY DAY.

And yes, a pure environment is sterile, still, ungrowing.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
Whoa and that song. That song. That's one to hit you between the eyes.

(I've been too caught up in this song, which, for me, represents a knife edge between fruitful emotion/ambition and despair--though this one is more on our theme. "How many songs do you have on the Isaac-and-Abraham theme, now?" the ninja girl asks...)

Aug. 25th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
Powerful stuff, especially the "Young Man" one. But either of them wouldn't work without her Cyndi Lauper styled voice (and I mean that in a good way).

Did I ever show you the Isaac and Esau story I've been peddling around?
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
I don't thinks so--please send!
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:26 pm (UTC)
Cool. I'd like your opinion. Let me just finish canning this borscht!
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Which reminds me to ask. Have you ever heard Fumbling Towards Ecstacy? It's one of the great albums in my never humble opinion.
Aug. 25th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Updating Flash on a Macbook can be a nightmare. I had to dump it when Safari started crashing about every 10 minutes.
Aug. 25th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with much of this... on the other hand, it's a little bit harder to keep a level head and endeavour to treat the person you're facing like a proper human interlocutor when it's *you* they're insulting, and when they're implying that *you* are not worth more than dung on their boots. When someone declares that women who fight for reproductive rights are sluts and don't deserve to be treated like human beings, it's a bit hard to bite your tongue and tell them that you see their point but would like to expose your side of the story if they would be so kind as to listen. Especially when stuff like that happens on a regular basis.

Also, concerning rules of etiquette: I'd love to see many of them go, too, but then that can only happen in a perfect society, I believe. When nobody makes inappropriate rape jokes or blathers on about how rape victims really had it coming, for instance, then it won't be necessary for liberals to overcompensate and be extra-careful not to throw extra handfuls of stress at undeserving rape survivors, for instance.

You're absolutely right to say that just about anything can be triggery to someone on the planet; but then I don't believe there's an etiquette stating that you should include a disclaimer before posting kitten pictures in case someone out there recently lost a beloved relative who always e-mailed kitten pictures and it might trigger them. I've only seen trigger warning in specific cases, namely, when you know that the persons likely to be triggered are pestered on a daily basis by wilfully insensitive people. Take bigotry, victim blaming and the like away, and we can probably do without that kind of etiquette. But I believe that overcompensation is a necessary inconvenience when society has a few things going wrong on a deep level.
Aug. 25th, 2012 09:16 pm (UTC)
There is a problem between the individual and the group. We identify with groups, and identify others with groups, but in the one-on-one interaction, we do ourselves and the other by appealing to groups. So the man insulting you to your face for your group allegiance is not so much talking to you as projecting on the group they consider you to be. Unless it's totally personal, of course.

And I feel the same way about that kind of ettiquette: you are making assumptions about the other based on what you are grouping them. If you say "this is triggery" to "someone who has experience trauma because of ______", you aren't actually addressing the other. You are making assumptions.

Which is not to say you are not possibly right. Just as stereotypes exist for a reason, there is a lot of projection that does not fall short of the mark, but when it comes to etiquette, I don't think you owe the public a warning about triggeryness. If you have put together a statement that you know will likely be triggery for a specific person who you are specifically addressing, I think you do.

Which is not to say that a person should not express sympathy to a person they have unintentionally traumatized. I think that is also a part of proper etiquette and is decent behaviour, and when you do so, you should take care to specifically address that person. Who, in decency, if they find your material (story, poem, artistic expression of some kind) too triggery too often for them, the decent thing is to stop reading and part company amicably.

I think it's about removing the group-based filters and looking to the actual person. Which is more difficult, but I think more rewarding, and more polite in the long run.
Sep. 20th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Finally got to watch the Alain de Botton video. I'll say this: he's very funny! He made me laugh several times. His delivery reminds me of my brother-in-law. It was very thought provoking, but in talking about it with the ninja girl (sooo good to see these things with people, so you have the opportunity for discussion--LJ is good for this too), each of us found something to argue with him about. She pointed out that if you adopt these various techniques, you can end up being just as oppressive as religion. And me, I have several inchoate objections, but the one that's easiest to state is that he misses something else that you lose when you give up religion that I don't think you can replace without religion or something that essentially acts as religion (like an ideology): the notion that you, o man, do not know everything, and cannot, and that you must tremble and LISTEN. Don't you be assuming you can figure it all out better on your own.

I'm can't accept that and yet I think maybe it's true. I argue about it with myself and neither of me wins. But there's something about the process of submitting to something you're unwilling to submit to that maybe is instructive in some way, and you're not going to get that when it's 100 percent voluntary.

I'm not sure I like the path my thoughts take me on (in fact, I'm pretty sure I don't like it)--which is why I'm at war with myself.
Sep. 21st, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)
Ha! I hadn't thought about it that way. Clearly, I was thinking of his rant as being aimed at "the arrogant atheist", as in "here's how to be a bit more accepting without giving up your lack of faith."

But from the agnostic or spiritualist viewpoint, you have a good point. His argument starts from the assumption that we already know there is no unknown beyond this mortal veil.

For me, I see things evolutionarily, and religion as a trial-ground for ideas and methods of dealing with ourselves vis ourselves vis others and vis reality. Which is to say that there are tools out there in religions that need not be thrown away simply because the core theology is bunk and political manipulation. For example, koshering food is a very good set of practices to keep when you're nomadic and in an warm, humid area with poor rainfall like the southern Levant: get the blood out. Don't use pork or dog. Shellfish can build up toxins. Owls... well, I don't get the bit about owls, but I'm sure you see my drift.

I also find Buddhist philosophy to be a sane and rational approach to the difficulties of life. It can be practiced as a faithless religion, kind of a common-sense manual to thought and emotion. For an atheist, it has a great appeal in that way.

So I think I'd and he'd agree that it brings back a sense of numinous to the atheist outlook, but it's not so great if you already have that sense of wonder.
Sep. 21st, 2012 11:39 am (UTC)
Re: the arrogant atheist, I did laugh at his remark that "many of them live in north Oxford." Regarding maintaining a sense of the numinous, I always thought Carl Sagan was pretty good at that. He was clearly a 100 percent atheist but he definitely maintained his sense of reverence and awe, and his humility in the face of the rest of the universe.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )