One of the ways to study brain function -- in fact, for a long time the ONLY way -- is if something had killed the neurons in a certain area, maybe from trauma or from a stroke. The damage is called a “lesion.” The crippled function then offers clues to what the missing cells had been doing. As a nation we are currently embarked on an experiment with economic “lesions” called sequesters and furloughs and other missing funding. In the long run this may raise our consciousness about the importance of these functions/funds, but in the short run it’s crippling. And we know it. (I write this the day after agreement was reached on re-starting the government that was in a coma. The amount of damage, as in the aftermath of any stroke, remains to be seen.)
Change metaphors: when a pack of wolves is after a hoofed animal, they try to cripple it by severing the tendons of the legs, particularly the back legs. Once the animal is crippled, they can bring it down over a period of time. If they are really impatient, they can tear open the belly and begin to feed before the animal is dead. In the mammalian actuality, our empathy is almost always with the prey but maybe we should take another look at the wolves. The economic ones. The ones using pencils and computer programs instead of teeth to tear open the bellies of the vulnerable, bloodlessly but with great suffering. They are too much “gray shadows.” Maybe they are really hyenas.
A complex of socially sequestered subjects is intertwined crime, murder and espionage. The statistics are hidden or skewed, the real goals are never admitted, and the costs are high. The result is a curiosity that fuels many media stories -- plus the international hacking revelations from renegades with access -- even the tales that purport to be true and those that are frankly fiction but hint at the truth. None of us knows what more there is out there to know, but we have a growing conviction that there are great invisible powers -- probably disguised as international corporations if not somehow embedded in the military -- that are the real sources of crime, if that is defined as stealing property and destroying lives.
Another sequestered subject is sex work, defined as physical access without emotional intimacy or commitment. Sometimes it’s paid directly and sometimes indentured to a third party. Because it is illegal and therefore covert, it becomes a vector for other covert illegal events: drugs, untreated psychosis, disease, border-crossing defiance, secret networks of power, and swamps where the throw-outs and runaways of dysfunctional families can find a niche. Criminalizing something is an indirect way of protecting it by driving it underground where it can form structure and persist even after the criminal laws are removed. Prohibition is the familiar example. It also provides cover for nutcases because investigation sends the public into a frenzy -- everyone becomes a nutcase.
When a whole category is defined and confined by stigma, an internal society forms -- “emerges” as happens with humans as part of their hard-wired nature -- and a culture all its own, though colored by the part of the world it is in. Writers for the media know this and often cruise the edges, as they would an Indian reservation which is a kind of sequester, picking up plot ideas and vocabulary. Some will actually enter that “reservation” and become a part of it, while others come back out and pretend they did, claiming that their reporting and novels are more authentic than anyone else’s. Then the naive read it, exclaiming with mock shock how awful it is. And how they just couldn’t put the book down. Riskless exotic danger -- everyone loves it. It sells.
Anyway, how are they going to “fact check”? Send some young woman with a clipboard to interview people who live by creating fantasy facades? In prison, or on the rez, or in a nice office front for crime, or in a motel room? If she comes back with inconvenient information, it will be easy to either suppress or get rid of her, because she, too, belongs to a sequestered population of economic victims. How can she possibly have the background that would allow her to see through the disguises? We need Clark Kent - ta dah! -- for that. His magic phone will be the key. No booth necessary. The editor reduces his cape to conformity. (Suits don’t like tights, either.)
In terms of brain function, the researcher is the ear, the skin surface, the nose. The reporter is the assigned nexus of sorting and integrating that is specific to the particular sense in question, and the editor is the main dashboard of the whole brain, using the unconscious (economic demands) to shape the information, probably denying or discrediting most of it. The great value of a sequester is that even that editor -- or in this case Congress -- has to see the consequences of the nonfunctioning elements. Society has had a stroke.
Using the trope of medical damage, esp. disease, is very dangerous BECAUSE too many categories of people are already defined as germs or bugs. (The cavalry general said, “Nits make lice,” meaning Native American people. The Hutu said, “Tutsi are cockroaches.”) It’s dehumanizing, invites genocide, kills empathy. It IS an infection to treat social categories as infections. ("Kill the faggots.")
Medically, the idea that disease is the result of nasty invaders is now losing effectiveness in favor of a systems understanding of the body and much more detailed research on ever-smaller elements of the cells of the body. (The problem may be mitochondrial code glitches due to an old mutation.) It turns out that the body carries zillions of microbial and viral hitch-hikers that are not just along for a free ride, but actually participating in digestion, mood, and good function. Immigrants! We’re so into this idea that now the doctors prescribe pills containing someone else’s fecal microbes. This becomes necessary because of scorched earth policy in the war against “disease.” But there has always been a school of thought believing the best defense was simply robust and healthy bodies. This suggests that our country has become weak, lacking effective antibodies. Right.
Or maybe we just haven’t evolved quickly enough -- as is the essence of evolution -- or maybe there are a lot of various forces out there but no principle that is centrally effective has taken hold yet, so the environment is too various and unstable for any adaptation to be possible. We aren’t even far enough along to imagine which changes will work. One has got to be about sex; another has to be about economics; and obviously one has to be about governmental structures, esp. transnational structures. When China has to call on the US to be sane, we’re in trouble.
Been there -- got the t-shirt?