Timmy The Psychopath?

“It’s easier to prove you are crazy than to prove you are sane.”

I finished reading Jon Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test”, an entertaining journalistic introduction to the world of psychopaths and psychology. Subsequently, I immediately ordered a copy of the DSM IV manual for mental disorders (which, at 964 pages of dry descriptions, I’m sure won’t be such an entertaining read, but interesting reference material nonetheless). The DSM is a list of supposed mental disorders that was compiled by a group of American psychologists in an attempt to categorise any deviation from “normal behaviour”. Without a clear definition of what is normal, how can we go about labelling the abnormal? There is a sort of confession in the book from one of the authors of the DSM III manual, who said they were basically asking all the psychologists to come up with as many mental disorders as they could, argue in favour of them, and then include or exclude them based on a majority vote. It seems so… arbitrary… that the loudest voice gets to make the new entry. If that voice would also happen to have ties with a pharmaceutical company that happens to sell antidepressives or mood-altering drugs, then so be it, all for the greater good of making sure more and more people are considered abnormal. New mental disorders mean more opportunities for companies to sell their drugs.

The above quote comes from a man who faked being mentally ill to avoid getting out of a jail sentence. To his surprise, he was categorised as a psychopath, locked up in a mental facility for 14 years, and no matter what he did to prove his sanity, everything he undertook was seen as yet another example of his insanity. Is he friendly? He must be using Item 5 on the Hare PCL-R checklist for psychopathy: manipulative behaviour and Item 1: superficial charm. Is he being aloof/reclusive? Clearly an example of Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth and Item 8: Callous/lack of empathy.

Of course the journalist rightly wonders whether or not this man saying he’s not insane is maybe also just part of his manipulative nature, him being a diagnosed psychopath and all.

While I do not doubt the existence of psychopathy (since amygdala responses clearly differ), I’m sceptical about the general overclassification and the labelling obsession of having to call every type of action a mental disorder. Take frotteurism for instance, the disorder in which the “patient” rubs up his/her genitalia against a non-consenting person, usually in public spaces – now, I am no rocket scientist (which wouldn’t be helpful here anyway), but it seems like this “disorder” may have been invented by a psychiatrist who may have “suffered” from this himself and needed a good excuse to defend himself in court. My Dutch dialect has a better, almost onomatopoeic word for such a person, and it’s no disorder at all: “FRUSTRO!” (I don’t think this requires translation)

According to Bob Hare, the inventor of the infamous PCL-R psychopathy checklist, my resistance against these labels is based on my being a “very liberal, very left-wing intellectual”. Which I guess also shows the political kind of intellectual he is.

It also made me think about how lucky that guy I met in Australia was. He had been receiving government support for a number of years because he was deemed “mentally unfit” and had to reappear in front of a commission each year to be assessed. He told me he just faked some stories about hearing voices in his head and the money would keep on coming (Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle, Item 6: Lack of remorse, Item 4: Pathological lying, Item 5: Cunning/manipulative…..… Damn, maybe he WAS insane!)

For all I know, it being pre-Facebook and all, he finally got his comeuppance and is now having to prove his sanity in a mental institution – morally, I couldn’t agree with this way of system cheating; maybe I’d be less categorical now, me and my loose morals!

I am not a psychopath (because I like cats and not dogs, because psychopaths prefer dogs, because they are slaves!), even though I may have some traits…

Timmy takes the PCL-R Psychopathy Test!

Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm? Hmmm… I like to think my charm isn’t superficial, but that one’s hard to judge for yourself, really.

Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth? “Grandiose” may not be how I would describe it.

Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom? Don’t we ALL have that?

Item 4: Pathological lying? Nah, I don’t think my lying is pathological. Or maybe that’s a pathological lie? Or maybe this is? AHHHHH!

Item 5: Cunning/manipulative? Don’t we all try to shape our world so that it suits us just slightly better?

Item 6: Lack of remorse or guilt? That’s a tough one, because as someone who doesn’t like dwelling on the past and rather looks ahead with a positive spirit, I do feel remorse/guilt aren’t very useful emotions. I guess I have them though.

Item 7: Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)? Nah, I have long emotions, long and hard ones!

Item 8: Callous/lack of empathy? Not true in general, though I guess it depends on whether or not the victim was worth showing empathy for (again a trait we may all possess sometimes)

Item 9: Parasitic lifestyle? Definitely not, I have never ever found myself living inside another person’s body to survive. Sure, penetrative, but that’s only… what would you call it, mister Hare?…. “short-lived and egocentric”?

Item 10: Poor behavioural control? No, I hold my joystick pretty well.

Item 11: Promiscuous sexual behaviour? Of course not! May da Good Lord strike me down if I’m lyin’ pathologically here!

Item 12: Lack of realistic long-term goals? Oops… well, actually no, because I do consider my long-term goal of becoming Emperor of Europe realistic! GHA!

Item 13: Early behaviour problems? No, I don’t get up until noon, so you really won’t see any behavioural problems with me early in the day.

Item 14: Impulsivity? That’s not always a bad thing though, is it? I’m generally not that impulsive, but if I’d have to save a kitty from dying under a falling washing machine, I’d make an impulsive decision to think about whether or not it would be worth doing and calculate as to how attainable the rescue would really be. *SPLAT!*

Item 15: Irresponsibility? No, only when the big fiery ball returns to us and I have yet to seek my way into my bed, inebriated but content.

Item 16: Failure to accept responsibility for own actions? Yes! No! Maybe! I don’t know! I blame someone else for not knowing!

Item 17: Many short-term marital relationships? I don’t think so.

Item 18: Juvenile delinquency? Hahahahaha, look at me as a “juvenile” and you have your answer!

Item 19: Revocation of conditional release? I said NO! What part of NO don’t you understand, mister Hare? I have a good mind to pick up the nearest blunt object and come mutilate you to death (and the nearest blunt object is…. *rumbling*…. a pillow!)

Item 20: Criminal versatility? Absolutely. I could say I have been a fraudster, I have been arrested for alleged theft (untrue) and drunkenness (also untrue! Not a pathological lie, how dare you!?). And occasionally, I drive a bit over the speed limit.

So Mr. Hare, did Timmy do well?


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Droog geen tranen zonder handschoenen… (“Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar…”)

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Ik zag een heel mooie Zweedse versie van Angels in America. De tranen in mijn ogen waren niet zozeer door het meeleven met de halffictieve personages die werden gepresenteerd. Ja, natuurlijk maakte het er deel van uit. Zo’n mooie jongens die veel te jong de wereld verlieten, dat mag niet en daarom mag men tranen.

Maar ik besefte iets… Was ik twintig jaar eerder geboren, had ik waarschijnlijk een vergelijkbaar kort leven gehad zoals de “pioniers”, niet alleen de New Yorkse, maar zelfs de preutse Zweedse en Belgische, want toen ik hun leeftijd had, was ik ook minder beroerd om ziektes en zou ik misschien even bereid zijn geweest om het ‘onveilig’ te doen, zeker voor een ziekte die niet eens bestond. 

Onveroorloofd.

Slechte seksuele opvoeding.

Moet je besluiten.

Mijn HIV-awareness is er pas gekomen toen het al veel te laat zou kunnen zijn geweest, zeker als ik mijn eigen experimentatiefase beschouw.

En dan hebben we het niet over de Zweedjes in de jaren ’80 die het écht niet konden weten. Nee, misschien behoorde ik wel tot de laatste generatie die het echt niet kon weten (pré-internet).

Nu adverteren jonge jongens op obscure plaatsen dat ze je “gratis en voor niks” kunnen besmetten. Dan denk ik: ‘Jongen, sluit je ogen en klim op het eeuwige vuur dat ons bindt. Er is niets anders dan dat. Laat mij voor jou tranen laten zodat je zelf kan zweven naar de troposfeer en we niets anders kunnen horen behalve het zachte gezang waarmee je ons zou kunnen verblijden.

Het is niet je verleden dat je bepaalt, het is je toekomst.

Maar nu moet je verdwijnen in de dampkring, opgaan in het eeuwige niets, wetende dat we allemaal van je houden, tenzij je het eens bent dat je niemand meer ziek wilt maken… Pas dan hebben een ander verhaal.’

Het is uiteindelijk maar twee keer gebeurd (2001 en 2004) dat ik echt onveilig was, maar eens het verstand het gebeurde achterhaalt, maak je je zorgen over hoe dom je ooit geweest bent en hoe dom je misschien ooit zal zijn.

Eens een idioot, altijd een idioot? Nee, dat denk ik niet.

In België hebben we ongetwijfeld iets vergelijkbaars gehad in de jaren  ’80 zoals in Stockholm. Een ‘homocirkel’ in een centraal station, een verdoken ‘casa rosa’,  geen idee. En het feit dat ik daar geen idee over heb, is misschien ook wel een beetje erg, want misschien zou ik het moeten weten… 

Waar zou de liefde van mijn leven, NIMFJE!, waar zou jij zijn beland in die rare jaren ‘80? 

In ‘Angels in America’ heb je Prior en Louis….

In ‘Droog nooit traantjes zonder handschoenen’ heb je Rasmus en Benjamin.

De eerste wordt ziek, de tweede niet.

Zo zouden wij zijn, ik de zieke, jij niet; Denk ik, al kan dat in zo’n tijd van onwetendheid ook omgekeerd zijn.

Ik denk aan de elektroshocks die mijn tante heeft moeten ondergaan omdat ze zei dat ze lesbisch was.

Elektroshocks? 

De jaren ’80 in België zijn eigenlijk voor ons vergelijkbaar met die van de Zweedjes, ook al is mijn oom zo gekant tegen hun bestaan. (de Zweedjes, niet de jaren 80 :-)).  

Waar zouden wij beland zijn? Twintig jaar eerder? Samen? Ik kan het alleen maar hopen, denken, verlangen en bedromen…..

Misschien zou er niets gebeurd zijn, zouden we gewoon samengeleefd hebben, omdat we dat net zo goed kunnen.

Zonder verantwoording. 

Een Zweedse tv-serie die me eraan herinnert hoeveel ik hou van mijn eigen lief.

Ik wou de traantjes voor jou bewaren.

 

Xx
 

 

On time travelling to the present and future…

Timmy The Hero majestically sat down today (in his sofa, no less!) to watch a film (Angry Shadows) in which its protagonist had slept for 200 years and when waking up, gave us the tired old clichés of being amazed at the wonders of the day. 
At this point, you may already guess that I was yawning, though I will admit I may have burped a bit as well, a bodily exclamation for which I had nobody to whom I could apologise in my vicinity, which was probably a good thing.
Let’s say I was a caveman being frozen in a glacier (just my luck, with my pants down on my ankles! – or wait? Would I even be wearing pants? hmmm…), I’m not convinced my reactions after being unfrozen would be as stereotypical as they always show. Well, I’d probably destroy a TV set too and call it witchcraft, but that’s what I’d be doing now anyway if I wouldn’t have to pay for the damage caused.

Timmy The Caveman slowly felt life returning to his body. The ice around him was melting rapidly, with the earth’s heat soaring and all glaciers retreating out of fear. For the first time in thousands of years, Timmy felt a tingling sensation making its way from his head to his toes, Sleeping Beauty awaiting from her sleep, only with less breasts, vaginas and with more muscle, body hair and forehead. The last layer of ice disappeared and Timmy was now freed from his seemingly ceaseless night.
He quickly thought of his tribe and how she should find them. But where to look? He didn’t even know how long the Ice Monster had held him in its grip (probably the last goat he sacrificed to the Ice Monster was no virgin as the gods prescribe – Timmy immediately suspected Brutus The Goatfudger of deceitful behaviour)…

Hmm… I haven’t even gotten around to meeting the first human or seeing a car and, actually, I think I *would* respond the same as those clichés, now that I envisioned waking up after thousands of years after having been frozen because a neighbour raped the goat I sacrificed to the ice monster… My mistake! 

Still, if we were to get frozen now and wake up in a few thousand years, we probably wouldn’t be able to experience the sense of wonderment (and fear) those olden day time travellers had. I think we’re actually more likely to get disappointed by what we’re *not* seeing in the future. While it is extremely likely that we’d wake up in a complete wasteland (‘Oh yeah, that’s right, we fucked everything up in our time!’), suppose it’s not and we wouldn’t see flying cars, intelligent robots with the capacity to feel love (robotic sex dolls, basically – though I’m sure many people would be disappointed, not including myself of course!), eating pancakes on the moon, etcetera… In that sense, I am thinking it would be better to awaken in a post-apolcalyptic mess than in a not-so-special future. At least it would justify the err… smugness with which us environmentalists have been proclaiming how the world would end if we continue our ways. 

I’m not volunteering to be frozen, by the way, I really don’t want to upset the Ice Monster again…

 

What goes up…

‘How to chisel your way into history?’ is a question each and everyone of us may have asked themselves at some point in our lives.
An Austrian named Felix flew up to space with his giant weather balloon (I think the iphone beat him to it, though? http://youtu.be/wtXquYhY7wo ), thus erasing yet another option from the ever growing list of achievements I won’t be able to attain. Not that I would have ever thought of forcing my way into history by going up and subsequently going down. The cynic in me would say it’s slightly futile (entertaining, sure, but most entertaining things are futile, like other YouTube videos of cats bumping into walls) and doesn’t really prove anything, except for the fact that gravity can get really angry if you try to escape it. It’ll yank you through the sound barrier if it has to!
Perhaps accomplishing something basically anyone could do, is not ideal. Well, I did fail to try and become the world’s fastest man by beating Usain Bolt at the 100-metre dash with a time of 4:11 seconds (after which I would probably be stripped of my title after they find the huge amount of EPO, steroids, speed and amfetamines I took to get to that record time – still, history is history, who cares if history considers you a good one or a bad one? Just ask Lance Armstrong, though I think you may not get a reply from him).
Still, to force yourself into history with something for which you require a certain talent is no walk in the park either. I don’t see myself finding a cure for cancer (‘it’s always in the last place you look!’) or come up with a recipe for an experimental tomato soup.
In light of the universe, it doesn’t really matter of course. In the end, we all end up like John Keats epitaph ‘Here Lies One Whose Name was Writ in Water’. Like urinating your name in the snow, only more elegantly.
Still, I think the most realistic option for me to crowbar my way into History is by becoming Emperor and Enlightened Leader of Europe. At least for that, I have a concrete plan already!