Tag Archives: psychology

Is Being Honest a Form of Brain Damage?

Recently I watched an interview between Katie Hopkins, controversial columnist and journalist from the UK talk about her book ‘Rude’, with interviewers Paul Ross and Carole Malone of Talk Radio. In the interview, Hopkins was asked very little about her book, other than to comment that it was, in fact, ‘rude’, as far as Ross was concerned. Then, as usual, the two began the dogmatic drudgery of common media interview technique, to zone in on this point, asking why Hopkins is so rude all the time, all the while giving her less than no time to respond before cutting into her reply. ‘Read the book!’, she says, and she’s right, it exists to address the ‘why’ of that question so commonly raised in debates. And Hopkins makes as much of the milliseconds she gets to reply to make this point. A testament to her ability to cut through the bullshit and make herself heard. If you aren’t given the platform you thought, find the shortest way to make your point, a skill that Hopkins has mastered completely.

If the manner of the interview technique wasn’t enough to wind you up (even Hopkins was showing signs of irritation with Ross), the pair, primarily Malone, sidled into talking about Hopkins’ frank discussion about her past experiences with seizures and brain surgery. This was handled with all the delicacy of a lobotomy and none of the delicacy of the modern brain surgeon, something TalkRadio, the BBC and other left-leaning media outlets could do with ruminating on, not that someone as resilient and rambunctious as Hopkins was affected mind you. With an alarmingly quick preamble through Hopkins’ experiences, Malone launches into a question which is interesting and deserves a deeper discussion: ‘do you think that tumour, in some way contributed to your outspokenness?’, she asks Hopkins, which Ross interjects to clarify, assuming she means as a result of the struggle which Hopkins faced every day to go to work while suffering seizures. Malone replies ‘not even that’, wondering instead if the tumour ‘physically’ had ‘some kind of impact’ on Hopkins’ brain. Essentially, Malone is suggesting that Katie Hopkins is loud, brave, honest and empowered because a tumour ate away at the parts of her brain which should make her meek, gentle, kind and passive. She effectively asks the question ‘does brain damage maketh-the woman?’.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen news of the pathology of the right-wing. Several articles and videos have been calling for Donald Trump to step down over beliefs that his mental health is unsound. On the website ‘Real Clear Politics’ (already a worrying overemphasis of transparency by title), an article with a video of an interview with Psychiatrist Dr John Gartner suggests that Trump exhibits ‘malignant narcissism’, consisting of ‘narcissism’, ‘paranoia’, playing the ‘victim’ and ‘demonization of the opposition’.

One might think to themselves that nearly any successful politician (or indeed successful anybody) falls under these personality traits. Narcissism drives success, especially in the public eye. Being able to make use of the oppositions faults and find ways to deflect blame are tantamount to good business acumen. A healthy dose of paranoia keeps someone on their toes against threats to one’s position, such as a political coup from inside your own party, or character assassinations from without. It’s a spectrum, and when you’re just a little narcissistic, it’s not always a bad thing. Vital nuance that Gartner fails to factor into the discussion.

The left has, for a long time now, taken a protectionist stance on mental health. If you’re unwell, mentally, you should have treatment, with respect and dignity, and with the belief that you should have a happy, functional life. And yet, if you’re on the right and suspected of mental illness, how are you treated? As if a scourge to erase. Protectionist only so far as it suits personal political interests it seems. Over and above all of this, Gartner expresses a lack of professionalism as he equates those with pathological narcissism (a real psychiatric disorder) to ‘the essence of evil’. Should we be listening to the advice of Psychiatrists who are prepared to ascribe moral values to the people they treat?

So let’s think about this as a whole. If brain trauma can make us better speakers, less inhibited and more honest, and the vast majority of people gravitate towards people who speak frankly and with gravitas, then what does that say about ‘normal’ people? If the people who have normal brain function agree with Hopkins, but would never admit it themselves, what does this say about the normal human brain? Is a ‘healthy’ brain a lying brain? Now, before we explore that point, let me put a few things straight. First, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ brain. Second, I am not for one minute suggesting that people with brain damage are ‘superior beings’ with a paranormal propensity for parcelling truth. This is an exploration of what Malone’s statement says about her views and also what a view like that might mean for our society. What does it mean for people with brazen views? What does it mean for people who disagree with Hopkins’ methods? And above all, why is a core virtue such as truth now on the verge of being (in the eyes of some) a pathological, even medical disease?

Let’s play devil’s advocate here, humouring Malone’s position for a toasty minute. So what are the implications for Hopkins’ successes being down to nothing more than the excision of a part of her brain? Well, for one, it erases a life of experience which really adds up to show us plainly why Hopkins does what she does. Living with seizures, finding out that a tumour is eating away at your brain. Being told that you have a life expectancy of two years if you don’t have risky brain surgery. Having to wake up every day in pain, knowing, inevitably, that the force of your bodies spasms will almost certainly dislocate your shoulders each night. These are the experiences that make a person strong through pain, and direct, because life really might be over sooner rather than later. And who knows about this? Virtually nobody unless they read her book (who reads books these days anyway?) because she doesn’t talk about it. The left is obsessed with providing a platform for victims and here an individual, having lived a harder life than most, has never overtly spoken about personal hardship in the public sphere. When you know it, everything makes sense. This is someone who values the truth because life is too short to lie, a bitter pill in itself, but one we all need to hear.

Real, human experience aside, where’s the consistency in an argument like this? Here we’re implying that somehow, having a mental illness or brain damage makes you less trustworthy, less able to convey an opinion of clout than someone who doesn’t have these things. But again, we see from the left, a malaise of mashed principles. Is it not ableist to suggest people with mental illness or brain damage cannot be taken seriously? The kind of implicated thinking behind Malone’s question seems to smack of hypocrisy. Furthermore, if we discredit a person’s opinion, their voice, based on the fact that they have a neurological disorder or mental illness (or both), what do we leave them with? It’s anti-feminist, racist, classist, ableist and sexist because it takes away the right of a person’s voice by discrediting it on the basis of something they cannot change. It is a perfect contradiction in terms and the left wing make it unabashedly.

And why is it that we now live in a culture that is on the verge of using appeals to insanity or brain damage in order to discredit people who are honest about what they believe? Is telling the truth a disorder? Is the lie natural and normal in human interaction? Perhaps it is, for now. But should it be? There is a sense that people like to hear the truth, even if they’re not prepared to say it themselves, and perhaps its time for as many of us as possible to bridge the gap between what we think and what we say. As for me, if it means that telling the truth is about the same as having a brain tumour, or brain trauma, then take me to the hospital. I’ll be honest Doc, all the way to the operating room.

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The Age of Trickster: How Trolls are Saving the Internet

The internet troll, a harbinger of jibes, trickery and absurdity, has long been characterised as a perverse blockage, obstruction or intrusion on the normal flow of debate on the internet. But what if the troll was not a troll at all, but a voice of absolute necessity in times when internet discussions proliferate with censorship, vicious commentary backlash, and even harassment from the radical left and the suffocating clingfilm presence of political correctness?

Now let me be clear, when I use the term troll, I am only referring to the internet presence that will roll over and duck under the comments of opposition, the magicians who raise the diametrically opposed opinion from the grave, play devil’s advocate, obfuscate, deflect and reverse public discourse online. We’re not talking about the harmful and evil presences on the internet who will hurt people, find where they live and ruin their personal lives. These people are destroyers. They are not trolls, they are actively malicious, disturbed and dangerous people who quite honestly should be held accountable for their behaviour.

No, the internet troll is a trickster, a devil and a God, a master of reversal, everyone’s fool and everyone’s master. We’ve all been talking about serious topics online and then someone comes into the fray and blows a ridiculous, silly hole in the discussion and everyone is losing their minds ‘you must be a troll, nobody can be that stupid’ they say. The conversation is very often political and sensitive to many. Feminism, racial tensions, transgender pronouns to name a few hot topics. Then, out of nowhere, when all prevailing discussion is comforting, safe and settled, BANG! ‘Men deserve maternity leave, the woman should get back to her job after having the baby’, or ‘I don’t know why transgender rights are an issue, I’ve been called worse things than the incorrect pronoun for my gender’. The troll has dropped a payload that has wrecked serenity, bastardised the unwritten rules of civility and defiled decency of discourse.

Naturally, people react with contempt, with loathing and hatred, some with dissolution, some with confusion, but some will see it for what it is, disruption. And ok, most of the time, people don’t get it, they reject trolls as if they are merely flies to be swatted and disposed of, but is a fly so easy to kill? Famously we have all seen the fly in a movie or cartoon that totally destroys the set up. Take for example Looney Tune’s Bugs Bunny conducting a symphony orchestra in one of many episodes from the franchise, a grand and serious affair. One fly flits and buzzes about, so insignificantly, yet, so crucially. Bugs loses it and proceeds to smash cymbals, puncture drums and feverously swat at the tiny thing until the entire ensemble is in ruins and the show, completely derailed.

Image result for bugs bunny orchestra

‘Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II’ A single fly brings a pompous event to its knees.

It’s the trickster troll’s resilience, evasiveness and ability to wreak inadvertent catastrophe with nothing but a whisper (or a buzz) which deserves our respect and attention. And we should look back to where the trickster came from to find out why he does the things he does. Carl Jung, a pupil of the most famous Psychologist in history, Freud, came up with the archetypes, including the archetypal trickster. He states, using the example of ‘Mercurius’ (The Roman God Mercury) that the roman God embodies most strongly the trickster in ‘his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and last but not least – his approximation to the figure of saviour’[1]. The motif is prevalent and recurrent. Apollo the messenger was also trickster, the Native American Coyote, and the figure of the shaman who deals in dark arts have all come to signify the archetype.

Trickster permeates popular culture too. For example, Dr Facilier from Disney’s ‘Princess and the Frog’ is a trickster figure who manipulates spirits but ultimately ends up at their mercy when he fails to fulfil the contract he agrees to gain their command. Daenerys Targaryen from the phenomenally successful Game of Thrones series makes a deal with a female witch doctor, Mirri Maz Duur, her child’s life for her husband’s (Drogo) restoration from a fatal wound. The female witch doctor tricks Daenerys and she ends up with a shade, a dribbling fool and a baron womb. Mirri Maz Duur dupes Daenerys but ends up being burned by fire just before we witness an even greater miracle of birth, the three dragons, thought to be long extinct. In this way, though the trickster plays tricks, the new trick deployed always backfires and trickster becomes the one in the firing line.

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Mirri Maz Duur tricks Daenerys into paying for Drogo’s life with her unborn child.

The trickster, Jung suggests, is also exemplified by the ‘’monkey tricks’’, the ‘state of affairs in which everything goes wrong and nothing intelligent happens except by mistake at the last moment’, the preface leading into a connection of trickster with the workings of politics[2]. Again, we have all witnessed our own disbelief at the sheer absurdity, pettiness and childishness of our political representatives, yet the world has not fallen apart and changes for the better still come into being despite the incredible nature of some of the debates we sometimes end up audience to on the internet or from our television screens.

So why does this figure recur and enter so many doors into the human consciousness? Jung argues the trickster is our primitive ‘shadow’, the antithesis of civilisation, a primal entity which antagonises against order[3]. And, it is this shadow that we must never forget though our want of civilisation paradoxically wills us to try.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the rise of political correctness across the west, a direct result of our loss of sight of our equalising shadow, the trickster. Remarkably Jung foretold this also in his discussion of the role of trickster in society:

‘The disastrous idea that everything comes to the human psyche from the outside a ‘tabula rasa’ (blank slate) is responsible for the erroneous belief that under normal circumstances the individual is in perfect order. He then looks to the state for salvation, and makes society pay for his inefficiency. He thinks the meaning of existence would be discovered if food and clothing were delivered to him gratis on his own doorstep or if everybody possessed an automobile. Such are the puerilities that rise up in place of an unconscious shadow and keep it unconscious’[4].

So the trickster comes to serve as a reminder of our core subconscious shadow, a force of chaos and instability which is a part of all of us, but that our consciousness will suppress and resist in the pursuit of civilisation.

But, given this necessity of push and pull, the shadow against the light, the light isn’t always good. In fact, when the light shines everywhere and the shadow disappears, we are left blind to our ugly side, but not enlightened or excised of it. As Jung predicts, we look out at a world lit up, anticipating that the shadows lurk outside and can be found, but we forget that the shadow is in us, and we cannot find him always without, but always within.

So, we hate our trickster trolls for their obfuscation, their trickery and ugliness. An era of political correctness asks us to excise the entities which will act against civility by censor and seizure of rights to speak for fear of offence, but if that is the state then why has the internet troll become a mythology of the internet, inextricably tied to it, enshrined forever? The further we punish trickster into hiding, the greater our need is for his presence. The internet troll no better embodies an age of civilisation gone too far. We need trolls more than we have ever needed them, but perhaps if we recognise how trickster impedes us from within, we will not continue to push him into hiding, only to make him stronger.

 

Bibliography

Jung, C. G. n.d. The Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious. 255 – 267

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