Thursday, 13 September 2007

Diogenes with a first aid kit?

We are told Diogenes' name has been used to best describe elderly men who can no longer care for themselves and need to be taken into care.

Also of course his customary conduct would likely attract an Anti Social Behaviour Order these days, or a sectioning under the Mental Health Acts, or a kindly policeman taking him to a place of safety or perhaps even being investigated by the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre of our Metropolitan Police force.

Worse Diogenes might be provoked into using his big stick for more than to disperse a few dogs competing with him for scraps. Maybe there were hit squads of the time he had to be wary of?

It has always been likely that a Diogenarian might start getting some form of "treatment" but historically this has always been proportional to the threat he presents to himself or others.

I have just contacted a person battling against the system to point out that as she begins to get "the treatment" (legal battles, financial ruin, reputational attacks and medical aspersions) she should realise this is in direct proportion to the "threat" she represents. The treatment meted out to people who threaten the status quo is not necessarily medical. It can be dismissive and punitive instead. I wish this were not so.

A few decades ago the "mental hygiene" movement was started in the USA. It has an interesting history, bordering on the secret state work of Edward Bernays who was tasked by the American Government after World War Two to try to do something about hte robustness of civilians when exposed to military tasks and discipline. A large proportion of soldiers had been unreliable in battle. Subsequently it has been concluded that only 5% of a population are really suited to combat, the rest are better led in other directions. Edward Bernays was tasked with finding a palliative for the rest of us.

Then we had the psychotherapeutic movement (Edward Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud) which I would like to dismiss with this sentence. Suffice it to say hot on the heels of that little industry we have had the introduction of the pharmaceutical industry which is finding ever more conditions and cases worthy of its ministrations. And behaviour modification drugs are being found for patients who are getting younger and younger, and, according to English comical actor Stephen Fry, children who only present a likelyhood of inheriting a condition.

Diogenes would have been appalled. But he in fact would have been a prime candidate for intervention. Taking into accounts of his reputation.

I have just been reading a book about American heroes and entrepreneurs claiming most of them have a condition affecting perhaps 5% of any given population. The author, John D Gartner, claims that the population in the USA is even more prone to this condition by virtue of the history of immigration to America. He argues risk taking and acting outside the box (everyone else stays within) is endemic of refugees and emigrants who have seen fit to flee other cultures.

The title is "The Hypomanic Edge: the link between a little craziness and success in America". Here are a few of the symptoms he cites for hypomania that might well apply to Diogenes:

He is flooded with ideas.
He is driven.
He becomes easily irritated by minor obstacles.
He is a risk taker.
He is unconcerned with money per se.
He acts out sexually.
He is witty.
He can be charismatic and persuasive.
He may well make enemies.

Gartner (2005) applies this label (as best he can prove) to many American leaders and success stories , starting with Christopher Columbus. Yet his case stands up to a first cursory reading.

My guess is that Diogenes was probably hypomanic, but in the spirit of good science I would reserve judgement untill the classification of mental illnesses is itself more robust. At the moment it is only a typology a hundred years old and we are dealing with Diogenes, for heaven's sake, who can no longer add his ascerbic view to the appellation. ( Not that, as a hypomanic, he could be trusted, of course).

It may be that today with medical interventions the marketplace will be cleared of anyone who challenges the status quo , but the danger is that the marketplace for ideas will be stripped bare in the process. And then all we will have will be normal conventional people who are not prepared to take risks to achieve their goals, or make a point, or invent something we didn't know we needed. Diogenes at least made his mark on the world and is remembered for it.

Gartners principal "patients" who might never have done what they did are the following: Christopher Columbus, American founders Winthrop, Williams and Penn, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, The Selznicks, The Mayers and Craig Venter.
OK this is an American book but these characters are seminal in the birth and dominance of a nation. Not a few others are spotted along the way, and word is that there is plenty of material for another book.

Sadly, Diogenes has left too little a paper trail to satisfy sceptics he was truly hypomanic. I am not trying to deconstruct him. I am trying to recover something of what he might have been. And there is a lesson here.

Let me offer another example of reconstructing someone living on the edge which you may discover for yourself as it is superbly documented on the web. Just type in fjl in the google search engine. You will be able to read the case of fjl and her battle on the web and through the courts which is central to free speech, ethics, punishment of a wrong and the pursuit of truth. Type in fjl and npd and you will see the immense difficulty of getting a handle on this case despite almost every utterance having been in public and recorded for anyone with the time to ponder it on the web.

An immense difficulty obtains when trying to decypher what is really going on. People may act anonymously, people may pretend to be someone else, people (police officers at times) may revel in being cruel and people may take sides based on appearances, instinct or partial knowledge. Also from what I can see the medical explanation, even if it is accurate, is not helping any and no-one wants to entertain it it seems in any case

One principle for me in the past few years has been to make sure I ask the question, What if?

What if the underdog is right?: What if the system is closing ranks on someone? What if neither party can see what is really going on and get locked into a spiral of negativity. What if it is a simple matter like a diagnosis has never been made and people are acting out a blueprint that should never have been theirs? And why, why why are people so reluctant to say "What if I am wrong".

In a cruel world sometimes the underdog should be protected, not persecuted. Prosecution can bring some satisfaction, but it is a hollow victory if there is no restitution. My personal solution usually when confrionted by the system is to withdraw from the fray, lick ones wounds and try and avoid the pack that likes to hunt in numbers. And always ask the question," What if..." After all, if you do not then you may not choose to live like Diogenes.

I reiterate my point earlier, people who act outside the box will get "the treatment" in direct proportion to how much of a "threat" they present to others and only last themselves. Diogenes was careful perhaps to be a threat to no-one. Mainly by being "no-one".

I will wind up this diatribe by saying that according to "Wikipedia" hypomania often is noticeable for four behaviours, :-
(1) having little social inhibition, (2) talking to strangers easily (3) offering solutions to strangers problems and (4) finding pleasure in small activities. These are seen as symptoms.

At the risk of admitting that I am the "nutter" on the bus, those four behaviours are such as I enjoy and use every working day. Where do I work? In a library for nearly the last 30 years.

I think it would be a great pity if we were to legislate or medicate people who are not a danger to themselves or others.

The difficulty is, who has the power to decide where the boundaries are, and that on the other hand, behaviour that is abnormal is never abnormal to the person expressing it.

Few hypomanics ever feel they need treatment, indeed they may well be successful in their chosen field. But very likely in more serious conditions (NPD?) a cycle of deceit, damage and a wasted life slowly and surely obtains.

The greatest good we can do for others is not to share our riches but to reveal theirs. If people have a dark side look for the light in them? And seek intervention with only that in mind.

Whilst I often wonder what happened to Diogenes, we can at least try to pull others out from a downward spiral of negativity
when they are up against the system. If not, they might have to live with the dogs as they will garner little support otherwise.

Diogenes with a first aid kit.


Enigma said...

"You will be able to read the case of fjl and her battle on the web and through the courts which is central to free speech, ethics, punishment of a wrong and the pursuit of truth."

Free speech : this is the same Felicity Lowde who doesn't allow commenting on her own blog but rather makes up her own supportive comments?

Ethics : the same FJL who went on the run when convicted for stalking? The same Lowde who broke the law by publishing the name of a rape victim in the UK ? The same Lowde who has spent years setting up blogs claiming everything from abuse to paedophilia by the people she has targeted ?

punishment of wrong : what wrong is that then ? She seemed to get a very fair trial then avoided the consequences

pursuit of a truth : no sorry she just lies - even her so called research is just bunkum

beachhutman said...

Thank you "Enigma" for your comment saying what I tried not to.

In fact the words "punishment of a wrong" referred in my mind to the alleged (and proved in court) "cyber-stalking" by fjl, but now subject to an appeal.

You seem to have assumed I was talking of the "reverse stalking" that achieved the arrest of fjl.
I was trying to be discreet and yet cover the story as reported elsewhere where at least on some websites legal action is underway against their owners by at least one team of lawyers now engaged by fjl.

I have no wish to add to the allegations in either direction. My purpose was to use the fjl case as an example of the dangers of "armchair detective work"

I did take this argument further as a comment on another site with commonalities to our own, please see:
I hope this will suffice to explain where I am coming from.

It would not be fair to burden any other site but your own ( if you have one) if litigation is likely.
I appreciate that every thesis needs an antithesis to arrive at some sort of synthesis and in the spirit of free speech I do thank you again for your contribution. I had been discreet deliberately for a reason.

It has been pointed out to me that commentators should retreat into their shells (like a hermit crab?) in view of the writs that are possible. Also it complicates any court proceedings.

The "stories from the diogenes club" blog is I am told seeking more a gentlemanly club-type existence on the web. Possibly because this is such a tricky area.

So I think I should apologise to everyone concerned and ask that the fjl commentary is suspended at least whilst it is still sub judice.

I hope to keep an eye on this story in the hope the truth will eventually prevail without any unecessary further trouble for anyone.

Enigma said...

Thanks for the reply and clarification regarding your original post.

The rule of sub judice expires on conviction not sentencing, and as she has been convicted there can be no contempt of court unless specific reporting restrictions have been put in place by the trial judge.

Whilst I may understand your hesitancy to cover this in any depth for the cursory reader who arrives here it's important to portray the situation accurately.

Also, Lowde herself has written about the matter on her own blog at length since her release.

Meercat said...

Lowde may have ocupied herself puffing and blowing about 'legal action': it is an empty threat. She is bankrupt, has no lawyers save the legal aid team who have been appointed to represent her at her appeal against her conviction, and there is no need to fear commenting on the matter. She is a busted flush, and her threats to all and sundry that they are 'being downloaded by lawyers' should be taken with a pinch of salt, as should her claim that she is descended from Hotatio Hornblower. An expensive and ill-advised civil action against bloggers is as likely as her research ever being published and positively peer reviewed.

Meercat said...

Why do you call it 'alleged stalking'? The case was proved in court. It is nothing to do with freedom of speech on the internet either - is sending hate mail or dog faeces through the postal system a matter of freedom of speech?

The FJL case was about harassing someone by sending dozens of foul personal emails, making threats, and backed up with a determined attempt to defame the personal and professional reputation of a blameless individual whom FJL had never even met. The case involved one main victim, who managed to gain proection for 16 other innocent people who had also been targeted by FJL.

AQnyone can appeal a conviction and sentence from the Magistrates court: that serial harasser FJL, who has lost 2 Crown Court appeal sin the last 8 years for exactly the same offence of harassment - should try predictably to put her victim through giving evidence yet again is no surprise. Please don' think this there is any doubt as to FJL's guilt: there is none.

Why this should be about 'free speech' beats me: owning a letter box does not give licence for any stranger to post filth or threats through one's front door. Having a home address on the electoral roll does not give any stranger the right to go about the local neighbourhood putting up posters that allege that the named and pictured person who lives at said address is a pervert, paedophile, rapist, liar, criminal or abuser.

Anyone who sent hatemail to strangers in the post or who put up flyers alleging vile and untruthful things about them could be arrested for harassment and rightly so.

So why should hate-mailing FJL/ hate-publishing FJL be treated any differently to a malevolent, harassing, neighbourhood menace?

You do not need to 'get at the truth' as an armchair detective: ther police got there forst and so did several District Judges and a prison Governor. Or do you know better than them?

No, I thought not.