Friday, May 18, 2018


The Facebook Cambridge Analytica personality test is about culturally defined qualities which are reduced to five dimensions: see “THE FIVE NODE PERSONALITY GIZMO”, posted on 4-2-18, on this blog.  The claim is that these are not only basic but also universal, rooted in the genome which is the buzz claim of the moment.  There are more than one of these little lists with different sources but they’re pretty much what your mother told you — if you were a sort of “middle American.”  Their version of success is often in a corporation context, our peak of success.

What they fail to point out is that cultures differ over place and time.  What might make you fit right in at one place can get you beat up in another.  Some cultures will punish non-conformity with death.  Ours only puts you in prison for the rest of your life for something trivial like marijuana use — unless you’re white.

The same devolution into some simple quiz suitable for magazines applies to all the professions but perhaps none more than any other to the mental health field, poorly understood and monitored because it is new, developing, informed by new technical research, and vulnerable to globalization — that is, a Chinese person in China will have a kind of mental health different from that of an American, and in fact, Americans themselves can differ from each other in radical ways.  Some have suggested that our ecologies are so different that we should be administered separately by regions.  States already do that to some degree.

The categories that are “diagnostic” are mostly based on “ways these people are not what we authorities want them to be.”  An astute article is at this website:  The subject is getting rid of the diagnostic category called “borderline personality” which — since I had it applied to me — I’ve done a good bit of reading about.  I conclude it really means “neither here nor there” which I consider a good thing.

Quotes:  “It’s all about where we locate the problem: within the individual or within society.  . . . we believe that it is largely caused by trauma, and by the dysfunctional society we live in.  It’s another way of saying we see capitalism as a powerful contributing factor as the cause of mental distress.”

“One prominent group, Recovery in the Bin, say they are “fed up with the way co-opted ‘recovery’ is being used to discipline and control those who are trying to deal with their mental distress.

Those who fight this constant pressure to conform might be defined as harboring ODD — Obstructive Defiance Disorder.  This cannot be easily separated from someone with something organic keeping them from making good decisions, like a pre-frontal-lobe executive disorder of the brain, or someone trapped in a situation they can’t escape, like a person whose nature doesn’t fit the culture where the individual is stranded.  Maybe a gay person in a hetero monogamous marriage but can’t bear to hurt their partner or maybe a thoughtful person in a job that won’t let them have time or space to think.  Or in solitary confinement.

“Borderline personality” is often called a junk category, meaning that it can’t be defined, but authorities don’t like vagueness.  “The decontexualization of any form of mental illness is always a political act” say some experts, but if they say you’re crazy, it doesn’t simply mean that if you were in the right culture, you’d be sane.  You might need a tighter grip on reality.  Some say mental states should never be diagnosed, but that overlooks the need to have some way to code in order to qualify for insurance or disability.

An organization called the Mental Health Resistance Network offered many quotes, including this one:  “More and more, we are seeing conformity and compliance to a particular way of life, one that furthers the political agenda of free market, as being the goal of mental health treatment.  This must be challenged.  We don’t exist to serve an ideologically driven economy.  Our politics and economy should exist to serve us.

A computer driven economy tempts people to confide many things to the glass screen than are indiscreet.  Sometimes this is necessary, like sending online for meds for something stigmatized or pointing to vulnerability.  Other times details betray personality traits or culture confinements that are no one’s business, but that same push to share is a valuable way of understanding and relieving the pressure.

Decades ago I was defined as having a “borderline personality,” so I’ve been alert to thought about the category.  (In one counselling circle for ministers, both of the two professional PhD level leaders had been defined as “border personalities.)  Cambridge Analytica (Bannon thought up the name which he thought sounded impressive) has a category in their quiz called “neuroticism.”  Educated people who have their scores explained to them always object to this word.  They want to be “well-adjusted,” attuned to the culture of their education which endorses stability, predictability — as though that indicated sanity.  What makes me fall into the borderline category is simply that I have a mix of characteristics that comes from a wide range of experiences, some working class and others professional.  I AM on the border, but it’s between alternatives, not between in and out.  Luckily, since I have a fairly solid history of success and praise, I can ignore the judgment. 

I’ve become a fan of Christopher Wylie, the guy with pink hair and a nose ring, who explained how Cambridge Analytics spoofed Steve Bannon, knowing that he’s an affronted white man with a self-image asserting that he’s educated.  CA had a fake office and if Bannon were around they brought in university types to endorse the illusion.  Nx, the owner/inventor of CA, also fancied himself an intellectual.

This vid is Wylie testifying.

One of Bannon’s ideas was that politics is essentially war and should be pursued in that way.  He proposed that to get hold of politics, one must change the people and the culture, which is done by breaking it, killing what exists by fragmenting it, which is easy in a big various country.

I have another advantage that also qualifies me as having a “borderline personality.”  My core method is theatre, the analysis of a portrayed specific culture, by acting out a certain type of person who is shaped by that culture and also helps to make the culture what it is.  I take religious “performance” on Sunday mornings to be the same thing as opera on Saturday night, a category of theatre.  “Borderline” means being able to look at both sides now.

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