Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"THE FAR PAVILIONS": a Very Long Journey

Ben Cross and Amy Irving

By chance Netflix delivered the two-disc form of “The Far Pavilions” (book in 1978, film in 1984) just as I was trying to get sense out of the concepts of “narcissism”, co-dependence in persons attached to grandiose narcissists to help support their accomplishments, and — inevitably — anti-dependence in “recovering co-dependents” who have converted all the way past relationship.  (This last idea has neither been defined nor explored by anyone I’ve found so far.)  This film (I haven’t read the book) also addresses the tension between personal desire and political obligation, and rather flirts with same-sex attachment versus traditional (obsessional) “true love.”  Also, familial love and intimacy versus Others.  It’s a lot to think about.

That’s not even considering the echo of this book with “The Raj Quartet” (AKA “The Jewel in the Crown”, 1965-75, film in 1984) which was written by Mary Margaret Kaye’s literary agent, Paul Scott (1920-1978), who became so obsessed with his own huge masterwork that he more or less disappeared into it.  All this writing is set in the northwest corner of India, abutting Afghanistan where wars go to grow old and die.  There’s a lot about Kabul.  (Rossano Brazzi plays The Rana of Bhithor, a corrupt old caliph, clearly the Donald Trump part.  Don’t confuse Brazzi with Rossano Rubicondi, who married Ivana Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He was her third husband, twenty years younger.  The marriage ended but Ivana does not end relationships.)

The hero of “The Far Pavilions” is played by Ben Cross, a far more honorable man, in fact a family man whose genetic family has been replaced by the British army.  An orphan English boy saved by pretending to be native, his first love is the people of India who raise him.  They include a “sister” who is half-caste.  (Half-Russian from the intimacy of a previous Afghan war.)  

After being sent to England to become a “sahib,” he returns to fall in love with a blonde Brit female, a narcissist who chooses an older rich man.  Then he becomes extremely close to a young blonde beauty of a fellow soldier, who remains faithful even into mortal battle.  The half-caste girl returns to the story, in her turn obsessively devoted to a shallow and needy “sister”, a classic narcissist.  No one in this long complex tale ever achieves recovery from either narcissism or co-dependence, but in the end the two lovers ride off up the slopes of the Himalayas described as the “Far Pavilions.”  This is, of course, fantasy.

But for both Scott and Kaye, their epic romances of India fulfill the fantasy of writing a best-seller that will secure them economically and make them famous, justifying all hardships and reinforcing the British middle-class  notion of success-by-publication, which is almost as good as marrying landed gentry, Jane Austen style.  “The Far Pavilion” looks to be a lot like a book store.  Between author and agent, it’s hard to tell which is the narcissist and which is the co-dependent.  Very hard on ordinary human intimacy.

I consider myself an anti-co-dependent who learned from being co-dependent (an enabler) to an artist and later to a vocation (ministry), both of which used and tried to own me, the way the caliph owned women and catamites.  (This is over-stated to make the point.)  But here I am, obsessed with writing a blog, like a frog in a bog, barely saved by a sense of humor and a house full of comedic cats.  Is this post-dependent?

Sending me money or treating me like hired help will trigger reflex actions I cannot control, old and deep defences that will prevent me from ever being published in conventional terms.  I take notice that another of M.M. Kaye’s books, “Shadow of the Moon,” was nearly destroyed by cutting out all romance so as to emphasize war.  (Later she recovered and restored the book.)  I only know one other author who has the same sort of revulsions and panic attacks as I do, and we even trigger the responses in each other.  As I say, it interferes with intimacy.

But it frees us to go places most people never go, indeed, don’t know exist.  “Far Pavilions” indeed, and not idyllic.  In spite of the romantic pretensions of the immature, the historic world of the Plains Indian is a rawhide drumhead, as Ivan Doig said before he turned away to pinafore stories about school teachers and bar tenders.  The prairie is a ground of winnowing where the lightweight are blown away, a kind of dry sea where ships meet hurricanes of wind.

Liberals have been preaching in streams of thought going back earlier than we can trace because writing hadn’t been invented yet, especially in novels which didn’t form until the middle class formed, claiming that people can change their identities, fall madly in love without losing themselves.  Or not.  We think it’s some kind of key when Flaubert says, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.”  But we go into a rage if someone says, “Tonto, c’est moi.”

In the end of this film, “Ashton,” who becomes “Ashar" in order to survive, and then is addressed as “Ash” to his intimates, is advised by his surrogate father to resolve the rending problem of his two identities, native or Empire soldier, by creating a third identity that reconciles them.  (The obsessed-with-love half-caste woman is evidently to solve her own problem by devoting herself to Ash.)  This idea of this kind of solution persists, though it is often pretty hard to perform and can cause a girl to be killed if she flubs up.  The formality of Suttee is not necessary.  Domestic violence is just as good an argument against unwary co-dependence.

It’s a little dubious to inflate the structure of families to the dynamics of domestic politics, but there is a sort of fractal relationship.  (Fractals being the idea that big patterns are made up from the reiteration of little patterns.)  Political parties also interact on the basis of identity and economies.  At the moment we seem ready for a third party solution, though some yearn for “far pavilions,” this time as warm climate islands tall enough not to be submerged by climate change and sophisticated enough to be tax havens.

Once sex was set free from the constraints of Queen Victoria’s world, we found the dynamic replaced by money.  (Death and disease have always trumped both, but let’s leave them out.)  Now it is war that complexifies both sex (esp. in terms of families) and money (war machines).  I suspect that we will see internal violence for quite a while and possibly lose cities to atomic bombs.  

("The Far Pavilions" is streamed by YouTube.)

Monday, January 30, 2017


TRUMP, undisguised.

Dealing with Trump is at least giving us a lot to work with while considering mental health, a subject desperately in need of review for a number of reasons:  the rising tide of Alzheimer’s, recreational use of deranging drugs, interference of cultural concepts with more formal scientific concepts, competing claims about cures, and the enormous new knowledge about neurology.  Then there is the persisting phenomenon of people who protect those who think they are chickens because the protectors need the eggs.  This is sometimes called enabling, or co-dependence.

Lately the new term has been “reverse narcissism” which is feeding the narcissist a steady stream of praise and reassurance.  Characteristically, the narcissist is the one with the power, prestige, and charisma, and then the “tender” tries to appear humble or even secret, traditionally “the power behind the throne.”  In our culture they are gender-role assigned, women meant to be the co-dependent because in the past only men could earn a living — a gender assignment going back to hunting mastodons — or provide protection likewise prehistoric.  In modern times we sometimes see “folie å deux” where symbiotic, interdependent relationships share a delusion that is hard to assign to one or the other.  Which is the primary narcissist between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor?

I’ll come back to this.  First it has become clear that Trump has Alzheimers at a fairly advanced stage.  The average length of time from first diagnosis to death by brain dysfunction is about eight years.  One of the most obvious signs is disconnection and fabulizing to cover up failure to comprehend or remember.  Watching vids of Trump, even edited, shows these signs.  If you are interested in this aspect, use Google, but probably if you are interested it’s because you know someone with it or worry about yourself.  Both scientific and narrative material abounds.  Alzheimers is the 8th most prevalent cause of death in the US.

Second, what Alzheimer’s does by its destruction of the ability to reflect is remove what’s called “executive function.”  Wikipedia is handy.  Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control.”  In short, the stuff the Executive Branch of the US government (the President) is supposed to do.  By now it’s clear that Trump is simply unable to do these things.  It’s not a matter of temperament or strategy:  he can NOT be presidential, he can NOT perform presidential duties.  He is being stage-managed into an illusion.

In addition, his baseline personality is released from restraint by the Alzheimers.  Persons with benign and friendly personalities remain that way.  This is where the narcissism diagnosis comes in.  Narcissism is a personality syndrome badly named, since it is NOT about being in love with oneself because one is beautiful.  It is rather being totally absorbed in oneself but needing constant reassurance from outside oneself, completely unaware of the reality of others.  The result is lashing out, vindictive revenge, rewards and punishments meant to control, and other refusals to face reality.  This is not cruelty, enjoying the pain of others, but rather amorality, inability to realize that others can be in pain and mocking them when they are.  (Sorry, Sen. Schumer.  If you can’t cry for the debasement of America at this point, what CAN a person cry for?)

So, psychotic, amoral, sociopathic — who approves?  Bannon.  Does he have Alzheimer’s?  No sign that he does except that he’s a slob.  He declares himself to be Leninist, a revolutionary who wants to smash government, which is conceived as like the dictatorship of the Russian Tsar.  Lenin (which is an alias) was from a gifted, privileged, educated family that became revolutionary because of resisting Tsarist control.  This has to do with the struggle of an emerging middle class or proletariat.  I don’t know what Bannon’s personal story is.  In this relationship with Trump he stands somewhere between co-dependent and manipulator.  There’s enough evidence to describe him as a sociopath (one who doesn’t care for society) but also a psychopath (one who injures himself or others without regard for the consequences because of delusion).

We have assigned roles to deal with such people: psychiatrists, who are medical doctors authorized to prescribe meds, and psychologists, who use the research in the field of psychology.  There are also psychoanalysts, who try to understand a person’s thinking in order to find mistaken ideas, unhelpful beliefs, and the like.  (They might be either psychiatrists or psychologists.  The first would treat Alzheimer’s patients.  The second might more likely support and comfort the families of the patients.)  Over the years these functions have become rather gender-assigned in the same way that doctors and nurses are.  MD psychiatrists tend to be men and clinical psychologists are often women.

A curious criteria for psychosis that I ran across was that the client must be in distress himself.  Trump doesn’t seem to be suffering overtly, though many feel he is insecure and grasping at straws.

Because there was an attempt to impeach or otherwise remove Goldwater from the presidential race an ethical rule was devised.  (From ever-useful Wikipedia.) “The Goldwater rule is the informal name given to of Section 7.3 in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) code of ethics[1] which states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person and obtained consent from to discuss their mental health in public statements.[2] It is named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.[3]

“The issue arose in 1964 when Fact published the article "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater."[3][4] The magazine polled psychiatrists about American Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president.[5][6] In Goldwater v. Ginzburg Goldwater filed a libel suit in response to the article, and he won $75,000 in damages.”

This is what is putting the brakes on the 25th Amendment, which was also a 1964 response to a problem, specifically the death, resignation, impeachment, or otherwise removal of a president.  In a society of laws, it’s ambiguous but useful.  In a sub-society of lawyers (the US Congress) it is a recipe for paralysis.  I don’t know what $75,000 would be in equivalent 2017 dollars.

When one googles these issues, it gradually becomes clear that the medical doctors are more willing to say that Trump is demented and unable to perform his duties.  Partly they are helped by video evidence which demonstrates his behavior.  Partly they are helped by our consciousness of genetics, and the fact that his father had Alzheimers.  But they have to consider their code, though many doctors these days brush codes aside; for instance, when they help torture.

But the clinical psychologists, who tend to be women whose practices are consoling, supporting, and guiding people in distress, trying to understand how they see the world, seem to want to believe that Trump is “crazy like a fox,” merely pretending to be Mortimer Snerd in order to cover his real motives and abilities.  Of course, if one is conscious of his close relationship with Bannon, this is not reassuring because those motives might not be benign.  Bannon has said he is out to destroy the standing order (he seems to ee the small percentage of rich folks controlling the world at the expense of the middle class as a modern version of the Tsar) and it appears that Trump is his instrument, lacking both conscience and awareness.

One suspects that the American subconscious so involved in “Game of Thrones” is particularly susceptible to all this melodrama, especially if they think it is aimed out outsiders.  It may be approaching spring, but winter is coming in the minds of many.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Bannon and Trump

In the 1950’s when as a child I first began to wonder about mental health, being crazy was roughly equivalent to being criminal, a failure to conform that had moral weight.  Thus, being hospitalized in a mental institution was equivalent to being incarcerated.  And yet the times were sympathetic to drunkenness or family violence, and for women there was no escape from child-bearing nor way of reliably making enough money to support them. We drafted young men.  Life was double-binds and punishments.  I got the idea that one should not have defenses, that one should stand alone and take the punishment.  It doesn’t work.

The upshot of that WWII aftermath was child-rearing practices that centered on force, deprivation, and secrecy.  They were control-based.  They created narcissists.  I suggest that narcissism is at core a pattern of self-defense against attack, a sort of castle/fortress.  Freud and others defined it while responding to their times by attaching “selfishness” to a Greek myth that doesn’t fit.  Trying to survive in a world where everyone wants to control the pretty boy is not the same as the pretty boy admiring himself beyond limits.  Nor does it claim the pretty boy wants control.

Below, the first of three, is a relatively light-hearted video exploration of pretty boy (website marketing) narcissism which leads to two vids by hard-core narcissism expert, Sam Vaknin.  The last time I ran across Sam Vaknin (maybe 2001) there was no YouTube.  I was interested to see him, so as to pick up a visual impression.  So far, I’ve watched these three vids and find that I pretty much agree with Vaknin.

“How Narcissists Took Over the World”  Is funny and not Trump friendly.

“Trump, Clinton - Narcissists? "Experts" Spew NONSENSE!” is useful in sorting the political evidence.

“How to Manipulate the Narcissist”  How to be co-dependent by feeding the needs of a narcissist.

When Vaknin was only in print rather than vids, he was much more confessional and reported the damage he had done as a narcissist.  (He served jail time.)  He was not a nice guy, but I’m not sure how he gave up his viciousness -- maybe it was by accepting the diagnosis.  In these vids he seems like the usual Viennese shrink full of pronouncements.  Nevertheless, he makes good points.

I like the distinction he makes between “cold” narcissists and “warm” narcissists, which is mainly a separation from someone who can figure out your inner dynamics and use them (which I identify as Theory of Mind) and someone who really can “feel” another person, sharing their interior worldview to some extent.  One can pass moral judgement, saying that cold is bad and manipulative, but warm is nurturing and reassuring.  I would bypass all that morality.

Theory of Mind is a category that is a little mechanistic, but useful.  Empathy isn’t always that embracing, endorsing thing.  It can be terrifying to be shared too thoroughly by someone else.  What might they do with the information?  Some people become determined to squeeze themselves into your private world.  Isn’t that what reading is about?  Still, attempts at empathy are less dangerous than Theory of Mind when the latter is wrong and one’s motivation is misinterpreted.  Both empathies become Procrustean when they are categories with labels.

Beyond that, empathy appears to be organically based, maybe housed in the entorhinal part of the brain.  Mirror cells are only the beginning of the discoveries as well as the understanding of how they work.  Vaknin doesn’t leave the psychoanalytic world, though he splits his attention between behaviorism and analytical systems.  The actual empathic comprehension of others may be simply missing from some people’s brains for one reason or another — maybe hereditary, maybe environmental, maybe a matter of the epigenome, and finally perhaps because the empath can’t bear the realities of other persons.  And some people simply don’t believe that anyone is not just like themselves.

If you google for the neurology of narcissism, there is evidence — but not very comprehensive — about actual brain tissue differences.  No doubt they exist, but they are probably on a continuum and maybe very subtle, cell by cell.

My original education, once when I got to high school and then intensively at undergrad college, was theatre-based, notoriously narcissistic but also intensely empathetic.  It’s a double-dimensioned approach to humans, one from inside and one from outside.  “Warm” inhabitance of a character was taking on the role in one’s own being (the Method); but just over the boundary it co-existed with “cold” analysis of the effectiveness of one’s performance.  Both were necessary to create the pattern of the production, the artistic design.  

In seminary I found the same thing expressed as “inside the believer’s circle” and “outside the believer’s circle.”  Inside is the commitment to the reality of the faith system; outside is the analysis (usually logical but including empathic knowledge) of the same system.  One learns to step from inside to outside, though some feel that doing that will break the value of the illusion, make you “lose faith” and therefore confidence.  This is a concept in both religious studies and anthropological work, esp. that which is about small protected societies in remote places.  It may require the scholar to develop a larger understanding than his own culture.

More painfully, stepping away from intense (hot) emotional sharing with a narcissist to cooler reflective adding-up of objective events and dynamics, can evoke both grief and rage on both sides.  Or not.  I appreciate Vaknin’s measured judgement that not all narcissism is some kind of malignant attack.  As I said in the beginning, it might just be a defense mechanism that should not be taken away without providing some compensating safety.  Who can provide that in a culture where safety is a purchased commodity?  Those who know how to sell it will get rich.

The relationship of all this to actual brain function — which can break apart into hallucinations, rage, paralysis, sleeplessness, violence, and addiction (the symptoms of PTSD)— is only now beginning to develop for understanding individuals.  But I think there is a parallel in social life, politics, and art.  A suggestion grows that there is no reality out there, merely a consensus that lets the world turn, but — we fear — a consensus that could be broken by invasion from “outer space” until the world is so dystopian that survival is not possible.  Not even for Trump or Bannon.

The real truth of survival is always in the ecosystem, the pattern of relationships governed by resources and fittingness, finding a niche that fits.  Since the world is dynamic and everything is always changing, the individual must adapt — that’s the definition of living, the capacity to adapt in some ingenious way or other.  

Vaknin, diagnosed as narcissistic by early court-ordered evaluations, has made a living from the category. "In 2009, he was the subject of an Australian documentary film, 'I, Psychopath,' directed by Ian Walker. In the film, Vaknin underwent a psychological evaluation in which he met the criteria for psychopathy according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, but did not meet the criteria for narcissism."  I guess he didn't need the defense mechanism anymore.  So now he's just a psychopath.

WIKIPEDIA NOTES ON VAKNIN.  (No way to know who wrote them.)

Vaknin has a prolific online presence, writing on narcissism and psychopathy.[14] His views have been solicited by the media.[3][15]

In his view, narcissists have lost their "true self", the core of their personality, which has been replaced by delusions of grandeur, a "false self". Therefore, he believes, they cannot be healed, because they do not exist as real persons, only as reflections: "The False Self replaces the narcissist's True Self and is intended to shield him from hurt and narcissistic injury by self-imputing omnipotence ... The narcissist pretends that his False Self is real and demands that others affirm this confabulation,"[16] meanwhile keeping his real-life imperfect true self under wraps.[17] 

Vaknin extends the concept of narcissistic supply, and introduces concepts such as primary and secondary narcissistic supply.[18] He distinguishes between cerebral and somatic narcissists; the former generate their narcissistic supply by applying their minds, the latter their bodies. He considers himself a cerebral narcissist.[19] He calls narcissistic co-dependents "inverted narcissists."[20] "[They] provide the narcissist with an obsequious, unthreatening audience...the perfect backdrop."[21] He believes that disproportionate numbers of pathological narcissists are at work in the most influential reaches of society, such as medicine, finance and politics.[5]



This is a confused and scary time.  I mean, more than usual.  There are many theories flying around out there.  Following are the things I think about, often statements by various experts and pundits.

Trump IS the Third Party we keep trying to start.  He only used the Republican machinery as a platform, but doesn’t fit into either of our binary political philosophies because he represents a true paradigm shift, one that happened without us realizing, but which is entrenched and strong.  It is advertising/marketing based.  He simply sold us himself.  Now we have buyer’s remorse.  Especially the Republicans.

We have left the Enlightenment and entered the Marketing world.  

Trump is not a rich man.  His wealth is a fantasy based on selling his name, which is a major source of his income.  His investments depend upon wealth and leisure (casinos, luxury hotels, and golf courses) and admiration of their prestige, which somehow persists in spite of the failures of his individual businesses.  As he sinks deeper into his dementia, his name becomes more valueless.  Now we hear stories about people taking the name off buildings to avoid stigma and possibly physical attack as people become literally dis-illusioned.  He will die impoverished, because his wealth is all moonbeams.  Investigators who have penetrated his secrecy confirm this.

The core of the shift to Trumpish values is also the core of the middle class: shop-owners, importers, inventors, and manufacturers who managed to break the tyranny of those who “own” land and those who are employed to do the work of it, which is the feudal system.  Trump’s idea of how rich people live is laughably nouveau riche, unsophisticated, crass and ugly.  Victorian, African potentate, a child’s idea of palaces.

War is bad for trade.  War is avoided by making written rules, treaties, agreements, and so on.  This gives enormous importance to writing, which leads to lawyers and judges because so much writing is clumsy, impenetrable, or outmoded.  That includes our founding documents, which grew out of the founding documents of the British Empire.  Which came in part from the great importance attributed to the Holy Bible, as though it were written by a deity.  In fact, the Bible is a collection of ancient fragments, the "New" part of it curated in 325 AD by the Council of Nicaea, a committee of old men invested in institutions.  This means it is a masterpiece of ambiguity which can be used to suit the purposes of institutions.

One could say that the church led the way into mercantilism when it began to sell indulgences and flatter kings in order to acquire land.  The law preventing marriage was not about sex — it was to prevent clergy from using their power to create dynasties of descendants.  (Just as Trump is trying to do.)  The feudal system IMHO is biological, land-based, and rooted in human fertility.  (Which connects to the feverish protection of human embryos — not infants.)  It's a default.

So, to review, by moving to the middle class that thrives between national-dimension privileged power and persisting abject wage-slave peonage, we use writing to evade war because war is bad for business.  This means a lot of people need to learn to read and write, and then the majority of people need to honor documents.  (We are not meeting these needs.) When business becomes paralyzed by the kudzu of venture capitalism (interest rates, borrowing as the norm, criminalization of debts, stock market derivatives) then war of some kind becomes inevitable as a way of clearing the deck.  

The covert Third Party of the United States and most of the other European countries is simply Business.  What doesn’t sell, doesn’t matter.  All this scolding about tariffs is an attempt to restore what ecologies once provided: limits, boundaries, things that can be bought for little money in one place and then sold for a lot of money elsewhere.  All this sounds rational and sensible to most people.  If the leadership stays within the assumption, they can rule.  But demand shifts and so does supply.

The trouble with the Third Party of Mercantilism is that it is not facing the Malthusian fact that there are simply too many people.  Not just too many people in one country rather than another, which causes people to migrate, but a population beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.  It becomes a little more clear all the time that this explosion of humans is going to lead to devastation when pollution, infection, and famine of various kinds end fertility.  (It’s not just a matter of amounts of food but also foods that are loaded with molecules like sugar.)  Proportions within populations also matter.  The mass elimination of females in China means there are unmarried soldiers leaning against the wall, waiting for something to happen.  Becoming more willing to MAKE something happen.  This is not intentional but it is probably inevitable, a consequence almost mechanical.

When Steve Bannnon, Trump’s covert self, says he wants to destroy the standing order, he is saying he is willing to bring on the apocalypse because think of the spending!  Think of the money in rebuilding!  (A major part of the USA’s gross national product is always responding to catastrophes like New Orleans.)  Think of the chance to get on the Security Council and learn all the nation's vital secrets!

“Lenin,” he [Bannon] answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”  Sounds like Osama bin Laden to me.  Or maybe Sampson pulling down the temple.  No one pays attention.  Picture Bannon leaning on the counter by the light of neon advertising while the bartender considers whether he ought to cut him off.  It’s not hard.  We all know morose old men who feel passed by, who wear jeans to the Oval Office and don’t bother to shave — as though they were still in college.  

Most don’t find a power puppet to market.  Narcissism becomes relevant.  It’s only a concept, of course, and has somewhat drifted from the original Freudian/Greek myth of the beautiful boy who loves his water-reflected image so much that he falls in and drowns.  (That’s the state of the Democrats these days.)  When I was working on the concept in the early 2000’s, it was much simpler than it is now.  Building on the original idea of being self-centered, we’ve expanded to “grandiose narcissism”, “toxic narcissism,” “malevolent narcissism.”  I haven’t heard much about “benign narcissism”.  But there is now talk about “inverted narcissism” which is about people obsessed with having been damaged by narcissists.  Everyone is building sub-categories out of the original category named for one pretty boy.

But that’s another post.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017


“Predatory Gangstalking is an umbrella term describing a series of techniques utilized by organized crime and corrupt networks to instill mental instability within a victim with the intent to discredit, sabotage, harass, extort and even drive a victim to suicide.”

This description is from Reddit, which is unedited, uninformed, and sensational, but the point is clear.  It’s just inflated past the usual.  A group of people can target one or (I suppose) a few people because of some motive of their own or because they sense vulnerability, and then enjoy driving them over the edge of their mental, emotional, and possibly physical resources.  Maybe for the fun of it.  Evidently they don’t have anything better to do, like school and jobs.

When I was a primary school crybaby (1945-48), I was often the victim, which makes me try not to join in such activities today.  It’s easy to get drawn in by gossip.  It wasn’t just me.  At the time, all of Germany gangstalked the Jewish people and ended as murderers.

When I tried to return to teaching a few years ago, the high school kids were active in this way but not to this degree, except when they triggered suicides.  With pocket iphones, it’s easy — almost inevitable — to gather a group and, of course, a group needs a goal.  Picking an outsider, someone stigmatized, is ever so easy.  Often the adults have no idea it is happening.  But we have discovered that immature adults can even join, acting through their own children or by pretending to be children.  At this high school the smart kids had formed a little defensive group because the biggest offense was “thinking you’re better.”

In unguarded moments I find myself attacking the high school for being so destructive.  Am I a stalker after a gang?  I didn’t take names, except for the administrators.  They’re gone now.

I suppose the difference between plain old mobs and a gang that stalks is a matter of strategy and goals.  In today’s world gangs are often structured because they are financed through drug deals and dispensing.  Where there’s profit, there’s organization.   Someone has a plan.  Endless plots for movie writers and novelists.  That’s probably my best excuse.

Endless images for brains: shadowy figures; men sitting in cars smoking; silhouettes in windows, possibly with telescopes and cameras, a dark movement in the foliage.  In Westerns, someone on their belly high up on a butte, glassing a road that leads into a narrow pass.  If the mind decides to see these familiar images in snatches of glimpsed reality, it is only natural.  There are not very many ways, aside from a screenwriter, to find out what’s really going on.  But your brain can and will fabulize, creating significance.  No one likes being insignificant, except as a way of escaping observation.  But not getting attention can trigger stalking as retaliation.  These days stalking can escalate into shooting.

There is evidently enough interest in the subject for this website to give some advice:  http://bullyonline.org/index.php/health/135-organised-gang-stalking-and-mind-control  My advice would be not to read it at bedtime.  Or maybe just to resist reading it.

“If you believe you're the subject of a carefully coordinated campaign of bullying that takes the form of stalking, involving large numbers of people you interact with, including complete strangers, neighbours, public service employees, workmates and so on, whose actions take the form of making subtle gestures that you find offensive, uttering keywords or phrases to covertly just letting you know they’re stalking you, e.g. by watching you from a distance or covertly following you around, with the effect of manipulating you, subduing you, making you think you're insane and causing extreme distress, this page is for you and trusted members of your family and friends. Similarly, if you’re worried about the subject after finding information about it elsewhere, this may help.”

I’d be skeptical about that “helping”.  It’s a great way of raising money — to stir up fear and then offer a cure.  This is very much a recipe for paranoia.  The word breaks apart into “para” (not the mainstream reality) and “noia” which is knowing.  The boundary between reality and delusion can be muddled, not just for individuals but for whole nations.

Simply asking questions out of curiosity can be felt as stalking, invasion, being targeted.  And it is not pleasant to be accused of imagining things, which adds worry about sanity to the burden.  There are stories, films, about people who are different or pathological who end up being victims of stalking.  Peter Matthiessen spent a good part of his writing career researching and exploring a man named “Wilson” who exploited and killed his neighbors.  After accumulating years of stories and injuries, they finally went together and eliminated him.  They didn’t stalk him, they just killed him.  Why was Matthiessen so intrigued?  Maybe because he presented himself as a man of conscience but he actually was a spy.  How the two fit together is the puzzle.  Maybe the key puzzle of being human.

Probably we don’t think of Facebook as a gang stalker, but they are exactly that, accumulating your online data in the tiniest detail and then using what they learn, grouped into mass data algorithms to suppress or exaggerate the effect they want, like voting.  Trump’s missing voters, the illegal ones that no one can find, were actually data points in media surveys.  They weren’t individuals, but clustered data points with identities erased.  Too fancy for him to understand — or maybe they didn’t tell him — that they were data from specially filtered groups, not the American voters at large.  Not only were they filtered by their Facebook-like information, but also by their addresses which are important because the voting districts are so gerrymandered by now.  Birds of a feather roost together.  The Facebook-like construct was more accurate than any polls.

The most effective snooping is undetected.  In a highly technical world, this becomes far easier.  By definition, internet knowledge is “para” knowing.  I suppose there’s such a thing as “high intel” with skillful “spycraft” as opposed to “low” stalking and haunting.  The former are in Masterpiece Theatre productions (Alec Guinness coming in from the cold) and the latter are, well, your little brother looking for blackmail material.

I’m saying that stalking and spying are human impulses that are universal, but that they are normally shaped by standards of conduct, the law, and how much time there is — I mean, how long can a person sit in a car watching for the unknown?  Also, maturity on the part of the stalker (esp if they are cops) and something on the part of the stalkee.  What?

A good bullshit detector.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Tuxie, a formal cat with a soul patch.

Observing these nearly-grown kittens who bounce around me, I see that they are conscious, able to form a purpose and pursue it, even if I try to discourage them.  How many times did I have to throw Tuxie off my keyboard so far — I don’t mean how many occasions, I mean one after another after another.  25 in a row, so far.  But she has no interest in my opinion of her actions, just which ones might hurt her.  Or be good to eat.  Nor does she wonder why I don’t want her on my keyboard.  Or what a keyboard is anyway.  She does have a passing interest in the little cursor arrow, thinking it’s a bug, but no interest in the "mouse" whatsoever.  It’s just a lump to her.  She doesn't do metaphor.

So that’s consciousness, but not self-consciousness.  She doesn’t ponder what sort of kitten she is or where she came from, she simply performs her life as she has evolved to do.  It happens to be quite a successful strategy for survival, since part of that evolution is to be cute, but that’s only as an individual cat.  Taken on the whole, cat mortality is high.  Their strategy for group survival is to make lots more kittens.

This is a town loaded with cats: pets, ferals (entirely wild but in town), satellites (come and go around households), mousers, field cats — all opportunists, just taking the path of least resistance.

The people in most places are pretty much like that as well, but they watch each other, and most wonder what the other guy is doing.  It can be competitive, or it can be meant to help.  They spend a lot of time trying to figure out what each other are doing and why and whether it will really work or not.  If results are good, they might try the same thing.  In terms of cats, today they discovered how to get on the roof by climbing a tree.

A cat tries to figure out what a mouse will do, both in the sense of hot pursuit and in the sense of lying in wait at likely places.  I watch them play and realize they take their toys into the bathroom because the room is small and there’s not much to hide behind.  When I move big pieces of furniture, there are often little caches of toys just beyond the reach of the cat, because cats don’t think of using a stick to knock it out of there.  A monkey would.  But they have a constant itch to go behind, to tip over, to knock stuff off heights, to pounce on any lump of cloth — like my slippers.  Also built in is the thing about the leopard dragging off a dead gazelle, except that it’s a washrag.

One of the early consciousness “raising” events decades ago was a male and female biology team that went out with clipboards to observe herds in Africa.  They watched and noted every small meme performed by the ungulates.  At the end of the day, the woman’s notes were all about protecting babies, nursing, calves getting lost, and other domestic acts.  The man’s notes were all about sparring, scanning the horizon, making bluff attacks on possible predators.  They weren’t ASSIGNED this difference in gender roles — it’s just what they noticed, what got into their consciousness.

I don’t know whether the team went back and consciously tried to note the actions of the animals that were opposite their own gender.  The tendency in experiments now is not to be so free-form, to set up events that will show what the animals are thinking as demonstrated by their behavior, and then to videotape them so they can be observed and analyzed repeatedly by different people with different interests.

A recent experiment showed the usual suspects (university undergrads) a little vid about eating.  Then they were asked to complete this word:  SO_P.  The students supplied:  “soup.”  Then they did the same thing but with a vid about showering. They asked SO_P and they got soap.  That’s sort of trivial but it shows how much context and mind-set control what we think.

When I first moved to Valier in 1999, one of my best Browning Blackfeet friends stopped by.  My neighbor immediately rushed over, using the pretext of bringing me some garden truck: two potatoes and a turnip.  She believed she was protecting me from a home invasion.  My visitor was Darrell Kipp, an internationally valued educator with a Harvard degree, a person I’d known since he was in high school in 1961.  He knew what my neighbor was thinking: she was demonstrating it.  She thought she knew what Darrell was thinking, but she had no idea.  She didn’t even have a concept of what a Harvard education was.

The theory of mind is the superficial noting of how an individual acts and how one interprets it.  A cat has a theory of mind about a mouse: it will run along a wall, it will dodge under spaces too small for a cat, double back, flatten out or narrow up to get through small apertures.  And the cat develops a repertoire of responses and predictions that help it catch that mouse.  Mammals and reptiles have brains that grasp a theory of mind.  It’s an open question whether bugs do, but they seem to know when and how to jump on prey.  Under a microscope one can see the microbes “eat” each other —the big ones just en-glob the little ones — but more than that it sure looks as though the big ones know how to chase and the little ones know how to evade, so is that mind?

Humans — at least SOME humans have the capacity to empathize.  This is not the same thing as sympathize, which means sharing the pathos of what has befallen others.  A little kid who sees you crying will come and put his arms around you, try to comfort you, but they probably won’t feel or even grasp what a grieving person knows and feels.  Even more dismaying, if a little kid is crying, people snap at them, “Stop crying!” instead of asking to be told all about it, enough to feel it in their own bodies, to share the burden of the feeling.

Many think that empathy is what makes humans able to work together, to share values, even to love each other.  This is a key to art and civilization.  But now, in a time when not so many people can even “feel” each other, some thinkers are trying to understand what is beyond empathy — a Spockian shared minds sort of thing, maybe.  Our insistence on rationality and logic may have gone as far as it can go.  Maybe it’s causing us to miss a lot of useful phenomena that would make life better for us all.  We need to throw aside a lot of old tired assumptions, like the idea that those who are different are a threat.  Maybe they’re a salvation.