Friday, September 9, 2005

Choose yer poison

Well here's a turnup for the books. You may have woken this morning worrying about the preponderance of narcissism in the world (or malignant self-love if you prefer a more salacious sounding ailment) but here's a story that will warm the cockles of your black heart.

As it turns out, it's entirely possible that all the lunatics we increasingly encounter in modern society could just be misunderstood genii according to an article in Live Science called Fine Line Revealed Between Creativity and Insanity.

Whereas in the olden days you'd be either called an unemployable good-for-nothing (if you were poor), a witch (if you were female), gifted (if you were rich) and sensitive (if you were gay and rich) you can now define yourself as a "schizotype*" without having to be anything unusual at all. (*NB: Not to be confused with schizoid, schizophrenic or weiner schnitzel – though I really don't understand what's wrong with "having a personality disorder marked by extreme shyness, flat affect, reclusiveness, discomfort with others, and an inability to form close relationships." Doesn't everyone?)

Schizotypes, we are told, are "somewhere in the spectrum between normal and insane." Who'd have thought, eh?

The article reports on how they developed the theory:
In the first experiment, subjects were shown a variety of household objects and asked to come up with new functions for them.
For example, all three groups would be asked to come up with possible uses for a needle and thread. While the normal and schizophrenic controls came up with pretty typical responses like sewing or stitching, one schizotype said that if a person was poor but wanted to get engaged, he could use the thread to make a ring and use the needle to write "I Love You," in the sand.
Well yeah, there’s that. But why didn't they ask me? I'd have told them that you can also use the needle as a skewer for finger food (no germs, you see) and then double up as a baton to conduct the music when that satanic orchestra in your head starts playing those dreadful Strauss waltzes. See? It's easy when you try.

Mind you, having read all 472 words of this very important research very carefully, it has dawned on me that our politicians perhaps aren't quite the mad bastards I've been thinking they are for all this time. As it turns it, they may just be schizotypes straddling the creative:insane dichotomy. You just never know.

Consider this. Schizotypes typically
And if that hasn’t convinced you, how about: “Certain things may have special meaning for them” such as our self-declared 'cricket tragic' Prime Ministerwho mysteriously exhorts employers to show flexibility and encourage employees to watch the full test series of cricket by allowing Australians to start work later than usual.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m pretty damn impressed. This, from the same man who is attempting to provide us with the additional freedom to “negotiate” and collectively (or individually, at a pinch) bargain workplace fripperies like toilet breaks, meal breaks, sick leave, long service leave, holidays and so on! At this rate, we’ll be so emancipated we’ll need Bob Hawke to come back and tell us the one about child poverty again.

Still, science is science, and towards the end of the article I was starting to get quite worried about the validity of the claims. I mean, you really do need to be careful about what you read on the internet. So much of it is shallow puffery. Regurgitated swill. Unrepresentative hype. Perhaps I didn't quite qualify as a schizotype. Perhaps no-one did, and we were being taken for a ride.

But then I came upon a related article based on a study which found that our brain is “just like the internet” and "very few jumps are necessary to connect any two nodes". Mmm, donuts - now we’re talking!

I started to check off the list; shuts down unexpectedly... internal 404 screens... pornographic content... schoolyard humour... occasional course language... data disappears... slow download speeds... relentless spam... problems with memory... soundworms and wormholes... trivia...

Yep. Works for me. How about you?

(Thanks to Thomas Hawk for his beautiful picture of Alice).

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