Sunday, June 04, 2006

Freud and Durkheim: Together at Last in Concert

We came home from the hospital yesterday. Robert seems to be doing OK. The cast seems to stress him out, but when I talk to him about the fact that it's temporary, that only seems to upset him. He's still on a narcotic painkiller and occasionally taking some Valium for anxiety, so he's not really himself. The biggest challenge for the next few days will be pain management--basically for the rest of the week. Then it will be watching out for pressure sores and keeping him occupied.

Then I get to go to residency and have something of a vacation, if residency really constitutes a vacation, of which I am not sure. In this particular case, it may.

I ordered an American Red Cross FR400 emergency crank radio today from Amazon after seeing them advertised in Newsweek. It also gets audio from TV stations. And it will charge a cell phone.

This is after the Ontario arrests that I have developed these new concerns.

And speaking of terrorism--I was wondering if there were any thoughts floating about in print somewhere about the relationship of Islamist terrorism to Emile Durkheim's theories of societal mass hysteria. I took one sociology class in college--my freshman year, I think--and now don't understand why I didn't take more courses in sociology. Of all the college courses I took, this one sociology course on Marx, Weber, and Durkheim has stayed with me longest. Not really the Marx part--I think Marxism is really a dead theory--but Weber and Durkheim's theories about capitalism and social hysteria, respectively. In Suicide, Durkheim writes about the way irrational behavior can literally 'infect' a population, leading a significant percentage of people to behave in irrational, self-destructive ways.

This, to me, seems to be at the root of Islamist terrorism--a cultural/social hysteria that has infected an otherwise rational population. The phenomena seems to have little to do with rational political or military goals. Frankly, Hitler's political/military goals were more rational than a stated desire to restore a medieval caliphate. And Hitler (damn his black, evil soul for all eternity) actually made more significant military and political progress toward his own goals in the course of 5-6 years than Islamist terrorists have in 30 years.

While Hitler and Osama bin Laden might share the same psychopathology profile, bin Laden's quest seems to me to be more purely egomaniacal: that seems to be the sole purpose of staging elaborately explosive and destructive single acts of violence--look at me Dad! I can blow things up! When you consider that Osama bin Laden is one of several dozen children of a man with multiple wives, you can see where the kernel of the psychotic need to be noticed comes from. I don't mean that in such a way that anyone should feel any sort of liberal sympathy for such a piece of shit. I honestly don't believe in trying terrorists for whom there is adequate evidence, including the fact that they admit to their crimes.

In my writing journal not long ago, I noted that bin Laden's relationship to God is like the relationship of a stray cat to a human being--the stray cat keeps leaving gruesome offerings of dead and dismembered mice and snakes on your doorstep, attempting in some bizarre way to please you while simply appalling you. It is as though bin Laden and his ilk think that leaving little piles of dismembered human beings on God's doorstep is somehow going to psych him up. That doesn't appear to be the case. And at the root of Osama's psychopathology is that God is the ultimate Father figure.

And our President operates under a similar psychopathology, as do any number of our President's egomaniacal followers. Are people who can't please Daddy more dangerous than people who can't please Mommy? I think, in the latter, they just try to murder the mommy figure--so these people become misogynistic serial killers. But people who can't please Daddy end up being psychotic dictators or mass murderers. So, I suppose Freud and Durkheim intersect here?

The thing is, I can't find Durkheim's book, so I can't remember how he theorizes that such societal phenomena are resolved or should be resolved.

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