Oh, Deer!

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The Vanishing Black Father

I’m not even talking about the frightening statistics; I’m talking about the media ignoring black fathers:

“The War on Drugs Is What Makes Thugs,” John McWhorter, Daily Beast, 8/21/14:

And right or left, anyone who has ever been a parent—or even been a child, which I presume we all have—knows that the solution to the problem is not simply that black mothers need to tell their boys not to be thugs. Who thinks they don’t do that already?

“Is CNN ignoring the fact that Michael Brown has a father?” Twitchy, 8/25/14:

CNN keeps mentioning the mother grieving, but forget that he has a father, too.

Fatherless black children are apparently the new norm. Now tell me again how deeply the Left cares about blacks.

When the Black Dog gets long in the tooth

Depression is a funny thing–not ha-ha funny, but odd. A few random thoughts follow.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, much electronic ink as it were has been spilled on the topic. Some of the commentary has shed light, but all too much of it puts one in mind of the proverb about the blind men and the elephant.

One of the common themes afoot is that people suffering from depression, particularly suicidal depression, should seek help. Fine advice as far as it goes, but not without its own hazards (such as being involuntarily placed in the temporary custody of the state if one carelessly says exactly what is on ones mind–which, for most people, tends not to improve ones state of mind or quality of life).

And for those who are veritable check-lists of risk factors for suicidal depression, it’s all very well and good to hear rah-rah encouragement, but depressives are the ones who have to live in their own heads, not the folks offering advice who may or may not have any first-hand knowledge of depression. If that sounds like ingratitude, it’s not meant to; it is simply a statement of fact.

One thing is certain: Depression does not manifest itself in the same way in all people. Sometimes it’s flat affect (a lack of emotional ideation and/or expressiveness), sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it is amenable to temporary distraction, sometimes it’s not. Depression is not one thing to all people. Not by a long-shot.

Having said that, it follows that anything I say about depression will likely to focus on certain elements, and not on others. My comments are not intended to imply that the way I describe depression is what depression is. I know better.

As I noted on this blog in the immediate aftermath of Williams’ suicide, here is a fine description of (at least one kind of) depression, in an experiential sense, from Michael Potemra at National Review (emphasis added):

…One of the things I have heard in the wake of his death, apparently by suicide owing to depression, is, How could he have despaired to the point of killing himself, when he was so wealthy, successful, and beloved? And it made me reflect on what depression is, and the damage it can do. The analogy I have found in my own experience — in reading our own blog here, and others — is negative comboxers [website commenters]. I no longer regularly read the comboxes, especially on my own posts, but when I used to, the impression I got was of a hateful anonymous force that seeks to make the writer despair. But the difference between a hateful comboxer and depression is that the hateful comboxer — an anonymous nobody, after all — doesn’t really know what he’s doing. (Many a time, when I would read anonymous combox abuse, I would think, Golly, I suppose this chap is trying to hurt my feelings, but the fellow doesn’t know quite how, the poor dear.) Now picture an equally malevolent, anonymous force, trying to break someone’s spirit — only he actually lives inside that person, has the person’s own intelligence, and therefore knows that person’s faults with infinite specificity and can use them to destroy him. That is depression, an inner hateful comboxer — and that is what lived inside Robin Williams and destroyed him. What’s remarkable is that not that he eventually collapsed, but that he managed to live to the age of 63.

This is a pathology that especially inheres in people who love comedy. The quest for laughter — one’s own, and others’ – is a treatment for the heartbreak at the center of life.

Mr. Potemra’s central argument is for an embrace of religious faith, which leaves those not so inclined in a bit of a pickle, but the description is still accurate–far more accurate than most of what has been written in the aftermath of Williams’s suicide.

Another view, which I think dovetails with Potemra’s, comes from another National Review contributor, Jim Geraghty. (I apologize for excerpting such a large chunk of the article, but it’s important here.)

Our ability to take just about any event and turn it into an online argument is one of our modern society’s mentally unhealthy habits. In fact, if we wanted to build a culture that deliberately cultivated feelings of depression, isolation, anger, and despair, how different would it look from the one we have now?

The first key aspect of this perfect depressive dystopia would be to get as many people as possible interacting with screens, instead of with flesh-and-blood human beings, as often as possible. (Pause for the irony that you’re almost certainly reading this on a screen.) Prevalent aspects of human contact from the dawn of human civilization — eye contact, tone of voice, volume of voice, sarcasm and inflection, posture, body language — would be removed from the increasingly common forms of communication, and everyone would spend as much time as possible interpreting the true meaning of hieroglyphics that are supposed to resemble human faces. Miscommunications, perceived insults, and fights would grow apace.

This depressive world would remove the tactile sensation of human touch, expressed in a romantic and sexual sense but also in the gestures of a handshake, a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a pat on the back. Entire friendships would begin and end online, with the individuals never interacting in person.

The constantly online life would undoubtedly come at the expense of the offline life. People would interact with their neighbors less. There would be fewer shared social experiences — the social phenomenon of Bowling Alone on steroids. The offline world would seem more full of strangers, more suspicious, more potentially dangerous, full of vivid, widely covered stories of violence and wrongdoing reminding us to not trust each other.

The constant online presence would lead to a world of nonstop instant reaction, where everyone could immediately transmit the first thought that popped into his head in response to news. Everyone’s first reaction would become his defining reaction, particularly if it’s dumb or knee-jerk. If it was racist, sexist, hateful, or obnoxious, even better. Those horrified would then share and retweet it to their friends and followers, spreading the perception that the world was overpopulated with hateful idiots, and that average Americans — or average human beings! – were rather nasty, ignorant creatures unworthy of respect or affection. Many people would quickly and easily forget that the people who comment on Internet websites represent a small slice of the population, a fraction predisposed to getting pleasure from posting shocking, obnoxious, or hateful material.

The widespread perception that almost everyone else was a moron — why, just look at the things people post and say on the Internet! – would facilitate a certain philosophy of narcissism; we would have people walking around convinced they’re much smarter, and much more sophisticated and enlightened, than everyone else.

Marinating in the perception that most people are stupid, hateful, sick, and needlessly cruel would undoubtedly alter people’s aspirations and ambitions in life. Why strive to create a new invention, miracle cure, remarkable technology, or wondrous innovation to help the masses? It would be pearls before swine, a gift to a thoroughly undeserving population that had earned its miserable circumstances. The hopeless ignorance and hateful philosophies of the great unwashed might, however, spur quiet calls for the restoration of a properly thinking aristocracy to help steer society in the correct direction.

 If we wanted to build a society designed to promote depression, we would want to make children seem like a burden. Children are a smaller, slightly altered version of ourselves; Christopher Hitchens described parenthood as “realizing that your heart is running around in somebody else’s body.” To hate life, you have to hate children. If they are a form of immortality — half of our genetic code and half of our habits, good and ill, walking around a generation later — then a depressive society would condition its members to hate the possibilities of their future.

If we wanted to build a society designed to promote depression, we would want to make old age seem to be a horrible fate. (It is the only alternative to death!) Our depressive society would want to not merely celebrate youth, but we would want to constantly reinforce the sense that one is approaching mental and physical obsolescence. A celebrity who appeared much younger than her years would be celebrated and everyone would openly demand to know her secret. The unspoken expectation would be that anyone could achieve the same result if she simply tried hard enough. We would exclaim, “Man, he’s getting old!” in response to those who didn’t look the same as when we first saw them.

We would want to make sure that appearances not merely counted, but that attractiveness is preeminent. That anonymous and yet public realm of the Internet would ensure that anyone in the world could safely mock the appearance of others to a public audience and then return to picking Cheetos out of his chest hair.

If all of this sounds depressing . . . then let’s all do a little something to negate all of these depressive forces, shall we?

Geraghty covers a lot of important ground in that.

——–

So imagine these elements in the biographical cuisinart:

A philosophical inclination to hold oneself responsible for ones problems, and to reject the medical model of anything other than flat-affect depression, combined with the hateful inner voice that Potemra describes.

A longstanding but fluctuating tendency to socially isolate, combined with a over-reliance on social media to distract from that isolation.

Chemical addictions.

Unmarried and unattached (although not for lack of effort).

No family, or what is left of ones family is scattered and out of touch.

Health issues, but no healthcare insurance.

Unemployment, combined with the tendency of employers to avoid hiring older workers and/or the long-term unemployed, combined with the aforementioned hateful inner voice that says it’s pointless to even try.

Money problems, of course. Oh yes, the money problems.

A history of on-again, off-again depression. Mental illness in the family, etc.

What is euphemistically called “middle age”–or as a friend put it, too young to die, too old to be naked.

Guilt for having to rely on friends for financial assistance.

Old hurts and rejections that never fully heal.

And so on. But of course, this is all hypothetical. But if you ever wonder why some people don’t jump on the “get help” bandwagon, perhaps this will make that fact a bit less mysterious than it was before you started reading. And it also might give you a bit of an idea how incoherent and circular and painfully debilitating the experience of depression is. But again, it’s all hypothetical, if you catch my drift.

Is it a disease per se? I have no idea. Is it a twisted type of (negative) narcissism? Probably.

Churchill didn’t call it the Black Dog for nothing.

Oh, and the link to comedy? Yep.

#BillClintonCigars

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Say the Secret Woid, Win a Hunred Dollar

A graphic to flesh out this tweet…

…which was based on this tweet:

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Perfect Symmetry On Twitter

WhereinMyPointIsProved

Bill Kristol, Revisited

Remember this gem from Bill Kristol in 2011?

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish [a] democratic end [in Egypt]. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

One could cite any number of instances in which Kristol’s mockery has been proven to be as wrong as wrong can be, but here is a particularly glaring example, from the neo-Stalinists at In These Times:

In response to the recent war between Israel and Gaza, the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions has issued a call urging American labor unions “to condemn the Israeli aggression and to boycott Israel through various means.” In the Bay Area, that condemnation has emerged in the form of “Block the Boat,” a campaign to stop the unloading of an Israeli-owned Zim Integrated Shipping Services vessel in the Bay’s Port of Oakland. This weekend, thousands of protesters massed in Oakland to prevent members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 from emptying the ship, uniting the community in support of the international Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel campaign, known as BDS. As of Monday evening, the boat had still not managed to successfully deposit its cargo.

Who’s marginalized now, Bill?

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