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.