Schizophrenia Anecdote

Yesterday I published an article on dissidents. I meant to put this anecdote in there somewhere as a comparison, but forgot. Even if i had, though, I think it would be too much of a digression. Basically, at one point in the article I mention how dissidents can’t get along with each other that well. Derbyshire points this out as well:

At root this tendency is antisocial. Indeed, if you mix with dissidents much, you notice how fissiparous they are, how they can never agree among themselves about anything for very long. The dissident scene is full of petty animosities and slanders. I find dissidents to be individually admirable and attractive, but collectively hopeless. I’m glad to know they are there, though — that I’m not the only member of what my mother called “the awkward squad.”

What I didn’t mention so much is that it is true even when they mostly agree on the big picture. They are just generally disagreeable at all times, even about nonsense. At least some of them are. It is a spectrum, though, so your mileage may vary. This might be surprising, because you would think that if they mostly agreed they would get along. Personality can’t be turned off, however, and the minor crap is enough, sometimes, to push them apart. Though, to be fair, I have seen a lot of inter-personal drama between cliques of normies as well so I might be over-associating this tendency with dissidents compared to the general public. The difference is dissidents more often disagree about ideas whereas normies disagree about how improper it was to have sex with whom. Although, in the modern era, almost everyone has the latter problem.

Anyway, the fact that dissidents can’t get along despite agreeing with each other reminds me of a class on genetic causes of mental illness I took in college. (disclaimer: disagreeing with the consensus is not, in and of itself, a mental illness in any way) At one point we had to team up and choose a mental illness to investigate and do a report on it. Part of the research required meeting these people and talking to them. Being both curious and fearless, I thought meeting some real life schizophrenics might be interesting. A cultural experience if you will. When I suggested to the very petite Korean girl I was partnered with that we should do schizophrenia for our project, I was quite surprised she did not object. As I suspected, she was just ignorant (sheltered?) on how truly nutty (and potentially physically intimidating to a small girl) they would be. I made sure not to explain that beforehand. I really wanted to meet a schizophrenic after all and her safety wasn’t that much of a concern; mainly because I knew I could remove them if that became a problem. That and the fact I wouldn’t be legally blamed if I failed in ensuring her safety. As long as I gave it my utmost there would be no guilt on my part.

We went to a center filled with schizophrenics on the lower level, not even the hospitalized ones so they were more tame. I won’t go too deep into the details, but most people with mental illness are male. My book, Smart and SeXy, explains how the X chromosome is mostly responsible for that, but the mechanism isn’t too relevant for this post. The point is that a schizophrenia center is mostly guys who are so crazy they couldn’t get laid to save their lives even though like all guys they want to, and are so crazy they don’t respect social norms of conduct with women. She wasn’t physically touched as far as I am aware, but an unhealthy amount of interest in her was shown, plus a lot of weird ass gurgling and other weird sounds that only a nut would make.  If chaperones such as myself hadn’t been around to make sure nothing untoward happened who knows. 20 minutes of this was enough for her to cut involvement with interview part of the project and I had to finish it by myself. You don’t meet many highly motivated Koreans who won’t OCD complete their work, but I managed the right situation. To be fair, she pulled her weight quite reasonably on the other aspects of the project. But dealing directly with deranged, aggressive psychopaths is clearly the man’s job. That is just a fact of life and I have no complaints about it. A woman might be able to better sympathize or some other pyschobabble, but she better not go without two swole male orderlies to help her in the tight spots.

Anyway, during the interviews I noticed a lot of the schizophrenics did not get along with each other. Like at all. They easily put the dissidents to shame for anti-sociability. (Some of them made the most amazing artwork, however.) If you don’t really think about it, you might lazily conclude that putting all the crazy people together in the same place should be great for them. Lunatics are all lunatics, so their delusions should all fit in together comfortably. Not true. Crazy people are crazy for all sorts of different reasons. Things that makes one person crazy may be completely aggravating to another person who is crazy for completely different reasons.

After this experience I went and talked to the neuroscience professor about this. Given our knowledge of genius and insanity and the correlated heretability of both, it is no surprise (in hindsight) that this quite accomplished professor had a completely insane aunt that needed to be committed to an institution. In their family’s dealings with this aunt, they were initially surprised to learn she quite hated being locked up with a bunch of other insane people. (This shows that even the highly intelligent can be in error when their premises are faulty).  Her own insanity was not enough to stop her from noticing that the lunatics around her were also lunatics you didn’t want to deal with. When you think about it, it is quite apparently no surprise that no one wants to be around the insane, including the insane. But for some reason it was very easy, even for the highly intelligent and logical person like the professor, to figure they would just all get along. Similarity should make them get along. And that is the problem. From the outside, conflation of traits is easy. Especially if you don’t have the right terminology to distinguish the quite subtle differences of type, which we don’t. If you don’t take the time to understand that being a lunatic actually encompasses so many different types that there is radical differences in this sub-community, then it is easy to make the (in hindsight) quite easy logical error of classing them all together when in fact they are all drastically different. Or at least so problematic they can’t get along. The similarity we so easily and wrongly see is obviously an error, in retrospect. When you think about it.

Though I don’t think the dissident is insane,* I think we may be making the same sort of error we would easily and automatically make with the insane. The class of “dissident” may be such a diverse group that in fact they are not really a group at all. The dissidents themselves may be making this error themselves when they form an association. It seems to be an error the smart and logical are unaccountably susceptible to as much as anyone. Errors of the intelligent are always nice to know. I am contradicting what I said in the second paragraph of this essay here, just to make sure you notice. I am not saying this is more true than what I previously said, but I at least think it is a possibility. It may be that dissidents don’t get along for very fundamental reasons which have little or nothing to do with agreeableness. Mainly that each one is in fact unique. Their intrinsic uniqueness may make it so they are part of no group, even when they personally think they are. In which case the assumption of disagreeableness for the sake of disagreeableness may be in error. It might not be disagreeableness per se that is the problem, but an inherent uniqueness which prevents them from seeing eye to eye even with other unique individuals. Especially since there is no way to separate uniquenesses one from another without the proper language. It defies the definition of the word.

This seems plausible to me. If it can be true for the bottom end of the spectrum, why shouldn’t it be true for top end?

*I think most dissidents are autistic in some way. Specifically they had a lot of testosterone exposure in utero. I spend a lot of time in my book, “Smart and SeXy”, talking about this and how it comes about for biological reasons, but suffice it to say there is small difference between an engineer who invents the next greatest gadget and the autist who memorizes all the dialogue, complete scripts, from every cartoon since 1960. Yes, I know personally an autist who is that able at cartoon dialogue. He is certainly not sane by normal standards, but he knows way more than any of us in his domain. Autistic is definitely not schizophrenic, which is a completely different medical disorder; with completely different symptoms. However, autists can lead the “well socialized” to hold hostile a view of them through their, well, unsociability. Autism is a spectrum, and the best and brightest humans that have ever existed were on the high end of it. There are far more who didn’t reach those heights. But the contributions of the ones that reached the greatest heights are responsible for the relative pleasantness of our lives today, for good or ill.

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John Derbyshire’s “Dissidents and Doom”

Recently there has been some hand-wringing in neoreaction about the tendency for non-mainstream thinkers (i.e. neoreactionaries, among others) to be contrarian and anti-social. Well, that is true. It kind of goes along with the territory. Going against a well-established and popular consensus (right or wrong) by yourself in the face of possible harm (financial and/or physical) takes a very special type of personality.

First, Warg Franklin penned a piece on the parable of the raft. Then, Nick B Steves had a follow up piece which was also pretty good. In summary, both articles at once acknowledged both the virtues and the flaws of the dissident personality. It has both, of course. Not to mention that neoreaction wouldn’t exist without it. We are nothing if not dissidents from a well established and alarmingly overbearing Cathedral.

The obvious problem with the dissident personality is that they tend to be very hard to get alone with. And then if they do form groups, many or most of the people in the group have the tendency not to get along with each other because they don’t get along with anyone; least of all other people who are hard to get along with. The moment the group starts doing something they don’t like, they wont hesitate to go it alone so they can have their way completely. Clearly that isn’t a very good trait for a society that requires social cohesion. Though the enabling of the cathedral from mass acquiescence of a generally conforming populace is really bad, having a population full of people with the dissident personality that could short-circuit the cathedral would probably be just as bad, but for different reasons. (Well, maybe not AS bad, but it would have problems). Fortunately, we don’t need that many. A firm unshakable belief in 10% of the population is enough to change a consensus.

There is always the possibility that the dissident is completely wrong and the consensus is right. In which case their contrarian determination can only cause trouble. Still, there are definitely times where the dissident is right and everyone else is wrong; in which case they suddenly become quite valuable if they can convince everyone else.

Of course, given Steves’ and Warg’s purposes of herding the cats of neoreaction it is no wonder that this problem is often on their mind. They deal with it a lot. I have to admit that I myself am guilty of giving in a little too much to my own dissident temperament…

Given that, though, I think they came down a little hard on the dissident personality type because of their experience. I don’t blame them, but I think a defense of the dissident personality and why it is so important is needed so that perspective isn’t lost. Fortunately one already exists. It was written years ago by John Derbyshire and to this day it is still one of my favorite articles produced by the alternative-right (before the modern incarnation changed the meaning of that term a bit). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steves’ use of the word “dissident” in this context and connotation didn’t originate in Derbyshire’s article/speech. (If you don’t remember the exact title, it can be hard to locate.)

The article was actually a speech given to the providence college republicans titled “Dissidents and Doom” and is related to his book “We are doomed: reclaiming conservative pessimism.”

Personally, I prefer the written transcript. In it he outlines why dissidents are important and the critical role they serve when a culture goes completely off the rails. I recommend the whole thing, but I will provide a few choice quotes. I don’t think I can top what he has already done, and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel anyway, so I will let him explain. First, what is the dissident personality?

The dissident temperament has been present in all times and places, though only ever among a small minority of citizens. Its characteristic, speaking broadly, is a cast of mind that, presented with a proposition about the world, has little interest in where that proposition originated, or how popular it is, or how many powerful and credentialed persons have assented to it, or what might be lost in the way of property, status, or even life, in denying it. To the dissident, the only thing worth pondering about the proposition is, is it true? If it is, then no king’s command can falsify it; and if it is not, then not even the assent of a hundred million will make it true.

I see in these dissidents a lot of the personality characteristics that my loved ones complain about in me: a stubborn cussedness, a disdain for cant and wishful thinking, a lack of interest in what I am supposed to believe and supposed to say. “Who doesn’t want to be a good citizen?” I don’t, not if it involves saying things I know to be preposterous.

Derbyshire definitely agrees that the dissident can be hard to get along with, but he is more inclined to see the glass is half full:

At root this tendency is antisocial. Indeed, if you mix with dissidents much, you notice how fissiparous they are, how they can never agree among themselves about anything for very long. The dissident scene is full of petty animosities and slanders. I find dissidents to be individually admirable and attractive, but collectively hopeless. I’m glad to know they are there, though — that I’m not the only member of what my mother called “the awkward squad.”

And even gives it to totalitarians that a society full of contrarians wouldn’t be great:

And in fact, though it’s an awful thing to say, and I’m going to smother it with qualification, in fact the totalitarians have a sort of a point. A society can’t be stable without widespread unthinking conformism. That’s why dissidents are unpopular. I have spoken to quite liberal and well-educated people in China about high-profile dissidents like Wei Jingsheng. They are not very respectful of dissidence. Mostly they just think dissidents are a bit wrong in the head. Sometimes, and you especially hear this from women, you’ll hear: “He can do what he likes on his own account, but think of the harm he’s doing to his family.” Along with the association with madness, there is an association with social chaos — in the case of Chinese people, fear that too much independence of mind could bring back the terrible chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

Just as the association with chaos has some justification, at least in societies traditionally or recently disorderly, so has the association with craziness. The totalitarians who put dissidents into mental hospitals are of course doing a wicked thing, but again, there’s a little grain of truth in the wickedness. Dissidents are poorly socialized. As Eugene said: “Who doesn’t want to be a good citizen?” And the poorly socialized are seen by the better socialized as a bit nutty.

On how a dissdent should exercise restraint:

The sensible dissident should in fact practice a lot of self-restraint. He should in particular show a proper respect for the idols of the tribe. When I was a teenager back in England it was the custom at movie theaters that when the movie program ended, the National Anthem would be played. Everyone was supposed to stand up and be still for the duration. Well, of course, by the age of sixteen I had seen through all that stupid monarchy stuff — a bunch of rich people living in palaces and doing no useful work. Stand up for them? Not me! So I and some like-minded coevals would bravely sit through the anthem. This generated a lot of disapproval from other patrons, leading once or twice almost to fist-fights. We’d made our dissident point, though.

Now I know that the point was not worth making. Harmless tribal rituals are not to be objected to. They are part of the glue that holds a nation together. That’s a fundamental conservative insight. If you’re going to dissent, dissent about something that matters.

What matters? Truth.

Truth is one of the central features of the dissident personality and it is no wonder neoreaction attracts people with that personality type given its similar disregard for feelings and sociability for the sack of truth. As a group we all care more about truth than we care about keeping our heads down or sparing feelings. And it is this concern for unmitigated truth which implies that when a dissident speaks (or writes), you should at least hear him out. His main value which leads to him being a dissident in the first place is his sole concern with the truth; especially with respect to social pressure and conformity. This concern leads the dissident to find methods of sifting truth from fiction. Methods the average person never bothers to learn for themselves. Chances are that he is much more likely to speak the truth (or at least his honest perception thereof) as a result. Derbyshire describes the thinking of the average person in comparison to the unmitigated pursuit of truth:

The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list …

When the magical (I wish this to be so: therefore it is so!) and the religious (We are all one! Brotherhood of man! The universe loves us!) and the social (This is what all good citizens believe! If you believe otherwise you are a bad person!) and the personal (That bastard didn’t show me the respect I’m entitled to!) all come together, the mighty psychic forces unleashed can be irresistible. Ask Larry Summers or James Watson.

Derbyshire also goes on for a while about “soft-totalitarianism,” what we would call the cathedral. One of the examples he uses is on black/white IQ differences, but there are other examples:

At the beginning of lecture 25, “Intelligence, Genes, and Environment,” [Princeton neuroscientist Sam Wang] promised a discussion of group differences, but all we got was some bland stuff about males vs. females. In one of the lectures on learning he skated as close as he dared to the dread topic, but then opened an escape hatch and dropped through it. The name of the escape hatch is “Eyferth,” a great favorite with those on the nurture side of the nature-nurture issue. Klaus Eyferth was a German researcher who in 1961 published a study on the children of black and white U.S. servicemen born to German women. The study showed no overall difference in average IQ between black and white children. There are all sorts of open questions about the study: we don’t for example know the IQs of the fathers. The really big question, though, is this: Since the Eyferth study has been such a huge hit, and gets mentioned by every politically correct commentator on the human sciences, how is it that in fifty years — fifty years! — nobody has been able to replicate the findings?

The 2003 Turkheimer study that claimed to show heritability of IQ is lower in low-income families is another one of these nurturist darlings. David Brooks cites it uncritically in his new book, which I reviewed in the last but one issue of National Review. Sam Wang refers to it too, also uncritically. Neither of them seems aware that at least three attempts to replicate Turkheimer’s findings came up with results that were either null or else the opposite of what Turkheimer claimed to have found. The omission is pardonable in Brooks’ case — the guy’s just a journalist, after all — but not in Prof. Wang’s.

This is the environment of soft totalitarianism I am speaking about. Quite well-established facts about human nature may not be mentioned, even in a lecture by a professor at a prestigious university — a lecture I paid good money for. (Do I have a case in law here?) Where facts are not well-established, but suggest more than one possibility, only possibilities agreeable to ruling political orthodoxies may be discussed.

It is when pervasive lies and/or denials like that of racial differences, gender differences, socialism, immigration or other parts of the mainstream consensus are both extremely harmful to society and become unmentionable that the dissident personality becomes absolutely critical and indispensable. Only the dissident can withstand the pressure of conformity and tell everyone to pull their heads out of their rears. Society needs them for those inevitable times when Lysenkoism takes over. They are the release valve that can slowly drag the society back to sanity. With the dissident comes the chance to escape collapse. Without them, collapse is inevitable. So when considering whether or not a dissident should be ostracized great care should be taken. Dissidents provide a valuable service and whether or not they are right should always take precedence over whether or not they are disagreeable. That is true in general, but doubly true for neoreaction. It is true that you should protect your community from the sorts who will destabilize it, but at the same time moderation should be shown in such judgements. Not every contrarian is a trolling entryist.

For the non-dissident personality types, as well as for my fellow neoreactionaries, I leave you with Derbyshire’s request in relation to the dissident personality. One I wholeheartedly agree with:

Give the dissident temperament a little respect. When dissidents are obnoxious or nutty, which we often are, cut them some slack. Bring your own critical faculties to bear on the things they talk about, and always check the source materials. Try to learn to spot an urban legend or a convenient truth, especially one you hear a lot from not-very-well-informed people. If, when passing through a public square, you see that they’re burning a heretic at the stake, at the very least don’t join in the applause.

Also, this poem at the end was pretty good:

Here, in this little Bay
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world’s course will not fail;
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.

(Note: Unsurprisingly, in an example of possible lysenkoism, firefox doesn’t recognize “lysenkosim” as a word).

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