When I screw something up most spectacularly, my inclination is to feel that I should be punished, often disproportionately, and in any case not constructively. I have been led to understand that this relates to a common traumatic reaction: once persecuted, an individual becomes fixed in that role (typically in childhood) seeking out a new persecutor, and/or adopting the role of persecutor themselves in order to (re-en)act-out the same pattern again and again.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it’s a screwed up behaviour in a case like this, but it leads me to thinking about the impulse to punish in a broader sense: Where does revenge come from? What does homo erectus stand to gain by hurting those who he perceives as having hurt him? It’s easy to rationalise that punishment is all about providing a deterrent, or about negative reinforcement and conditioning, but is that really what motivates us?
In the case of an animal, the obvious reason for seeking revenge is the prevention of further harm, i.e. that snake has killed one of my young, therefore I will kill it to prevent it from killing any more of my young. This is a good clear example, but it makes less sense in most cases: Unless the snake that ate your young seems likely to return, why seek vengeance on it specifically? Surely a better chance for survival is to be had in running away, or defending the remaining young against that and other potential snakes. If your aim is to eliminate the threat, why pick on that particular snake and not on its entire species?
I have seen cats take revenge, quite unmistakably. You wash the cat, then a little while later the perfectly house-trained cat soils your bedroom. You put the cat outside and refuse to let it back in, so the cat shreds (unerringly) your favourite plant.
The cat gains nothing from these behaviours, yet I strongly doubt that the cat is systematically eliminating the ongoing human threat to the dry fur and freedoms of all felines, either. Clearly, the cat is punishing us. Why?
I’ve got a SourceForge project of my very own! Woohaa!
Warning: very very painstakingly geeky things beyond the link:
(Really, even if you’re mad keen, if you’re not a sysadmin, follow the link, admire the clumsy CSS, then back slowly away or risk anneurysm. Something Geeky This Way Comes.)
Several people who I have paid to make such observations have told me at different times that I suffer from varying degrees of depression, sometimes. This often makes sense to me: Sometimes I am clearly irrational about life, and react with unwarranted negativity to perfectly reasonable, unremarkable situations. It also makes sense to me that this kind of feeling can be remedied by the right kind of therapy: There are drugs to simply lift the brain chemistry a bit. There is psychological therapy to dig up and understand the roots of these feelings, buried or denied so deeply that the connection between cause and effect is invisible to us without a patient helper to shed some light on it.
Then there’s my old companion: Seasonal Affective Disorder, a syndrome with the perfect acronym. I can minimise it with a light on a timer switch to fake the dawn every day, but never wholly eradicate it.
Susan Ivanova: It’s just that I’ve always had trouble waking up when it is dark outside.
Commander Jeffrey David Sinclair: Commander, we’re on a space station. It is always dark outside.
Susan Ivanova: [forlornly] I know… I know…
Someone once remarked to me that the crises in people’s lives always seem to strike in one of three places:
- At the start of Winter, when the horrible realization sets in, that one is going to be cooped up with negligible natural light for the next three months, wearing heavy clothes and waiting for the next cold virus to come along.
- At the end of Winter when the horrible revelation strikes, that one has been cooped up with negligible natural light for the last three months, wearing heavy clothes and waiting for the next cold virus to come along.
- At Christmas, when it starts getting too hot to sleep at night, and light well into prime-time.
The thing that troubles me today though is: how do I tell when the problem is ‘real’? Talk to enough psychologists for long enough and it becomes clear that everyone is in denial about something. We’re all hiding from one truth or another, even if it’s just acknowledging the need to trim your toenails. That being the case, who am I to say “I’m miserable for no reason”? How can I really know? Sure, sometimes discontent is obvious: if your dog just died, it is probably premature to diagnose ‘chronic depression’. If the answer isn’t obvious though, how can you be sure you’re not just hiding it from yourself?
Then again, inventing reasons to fear the unknown and unknowable is also referred to as ‘paranoia’. Very few people living in this brave new millenium need any more of that in their lives…
I don’t know the works of Frank Miller first-hand. Never seen any. I know Sin City though, and now I know 300.
I have to admit, I am in awe. I can’t speak for the film as an adaptation of Frank Miller’s work, but to me the film reads like this:
You take a simple story idea, namely the story of a heroic battle. You take a director who, as near as I can see, has mastered the art of making simple stories even simpler, yet more compelling.
You give him a very large tub of red paint (or CG equivalent) and a bunch of the buffest bearded men you can find.
The result is incredibly graphic. I can keenly recall the furore over Kill Bill (vol 1) and it’s ‘graphic beheading’. Graphic beheading? It is to laugh. 300 is not for the weak of stomach. If you think you’re not as desensitized as most of the people you know, 300 is not for you.
If you’re Greek, and at all patriotic (like the guy over the partition from me at work) then 300 is made for you. Enjoy!
I can’t recall if anyone who went to Linux Conf Australia 2007 told me this; I would be suprised though, I’d expect something like this to stick in my mind:
Linux Conf Australia 2008 is to return (finally!) to Melbourne!
This calls for something special. Maybe I will do a paper this year… 🙂
Be bidden, bodies beckoned by baleful begetter’s blatant blog: browse! but before balking and belligerently bailing, behold bizarre, blinkered bias, bluntly beatifying basic ‘B’.
A sports-car is something which a lot of people aspire to, but which most people would never buy; spending that kind of money on something which is at least 50% image, and which one would never really use to its full potential (unless one were a racing driver with access to a suitable track) just seems like an extraordinary folly.
But!… says the pleading inner voice, but they’re soooo pretty, and this one goes so fast it boggles the mind! It makes these fabulous sounds, and it imparts such a sense of power…
For those of us who lust less after fast cars, however, there is a precisely equivalent nemesis: Apple. Always they seem to be the coolest, the fastest, the prettiest, and, unfortunately, the most expensive. Even now… *sigh*.