Writing Phobias

Most people are familiar with the idea of phobias – the term refers to intense and persistent fears of things, to the point that a person with a phobia will take extraordinary measures to avoid triggering it. Although most people have mild, subclinical phobias of some things and manage okay, for others a phobia can cause immense disruption to everyday life. This article looks at how to believably write characters who suffer from phobias.

The degree of fear caused by a phobia is enough to cause chaos in a person’s life. Instead of merely feeling alarm, a person presented with the object of their fear (or even the threat of it), will often break out in sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness and shaking. They will go to great lengths to avoid being exposed to the triggering stimulus, even if doing so has a heavy impact on their day-to-day social functioning.

Generally speaking, there are three major kinds of phobia.

The first kind of phobia is called a specific phobia – it’s a phobia of something specific, such as spiders, heights or dogs. This sort of phobia is usually a reaction to situations that occurred frequently in the biological past. For this reason, there’s nothing really unnatural about them – it’s just that the fear has been exaggerated to a point where it causes more harm through disrupting a person’s life than it helps avoid harm from danger.

Many phobias begin with an incident in which the object of the phobia caused intense fear in a person. For instance, a person walking through a field and being stopped in their path by an angry dog might develop a phobia of dogs. A phobia of spiders might develop from a childhood in an unclean house that was full of spiderwebs.

Readers who have never experienced living with a phobia could well be interested in reading about the sort of thoughts that go through the head of a character with one, or how they behave (or feel themselves forced to behave) on account of having the phobia. Few who have never had a phobia can imagine how intrusive the fear can be, and how greatly it can impact the ability of a person to live a normal life.

Social phobia is different to a specific phobia in the sense that the phobia reflects a general fear that follows the person with it. Social phobia relates to an intense fear of being judged. In particular, it tends to revolve around a fear of being humiliated in public by means of some judgment being levelled. People with it tend to feel very uncomfortable around authority figures, and would never raise their hand in class to answer a question from the professor.

Most people have a degree of self-consciousness that modifies their actions, but for a person with social phobia this will be exaggerated well beyond mere shyness. For instance, someone with social phobia may be unable to get a driver’s licence on account of being unwilling to sit with the traffic control officer and risk being judged as unfit to drive a motor vehicle.

A character with social phobia might be more interesting if their phobia was ultimately grounded in narcissism. It might be that they were only afraid of being judged on account of having an enormous ego that could not handle even the faintest criticism. This might lead them to becoming vicious in defence of that ego, or to adopting an exaggerated ‘cool’ affectation intended to mask their extreme fragility in the face of judgment.

The third major kind of phobia is agoraphobia. This relates particularly to a fear of finding oneself in an environment that offers no easy means for escape. These environments are common ones such as trains, elevators or open spaces, which naturally leads to a significant impact on ordinary life function. Being caught in such a space with no easy avenue of escape can easily cause a panic attack in an agoraphobic.

Much like social phobia, a character that has agoraphobia might live a particularly lonely and unhappy life. Having agoraphobia makes it much harder for a person to get out of their house, because their house becomes a kind of safe zone from the horrors of society. Stressful and traumatic events can trigger agoraphobia, and central to it is the fear of loss of control. Going outside comes to feel like stepping into the maelstrom.

Generally speaking, it’s easy to include a character with a phobia in your story because almost all of your readers will understand fear, and so they will be able to relate to that character. Having a character with a phobia might be an easy way to create a strong sense of fear and dread in your reader, especially if the phobia is a common one.

Phobias are not generally believed to arise as a result of a moral failing or of any personal weakness. It will therefore be easy to write a character with a phobia who comes across sympathetically to the reader. Portraying a character who struggles valiantly to live a normal life despite a crippling phobia might read as heroic, but if emphasis is put in the wrong places the character might come across as a milksop.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Anorexia Nervosa

A person with anorexia nervosa can see themselves as hideously fat even while dangerously underweight

Anorexia nervosa (usually just called anorexia) is an eating disorder characterised by an overpowering fear of being fat or of gaining weight. This fear is so all-consuming that it can lead to illness from self-starvation. This article looks at how to write engaging and believable characters with the condition.

The basis of the psychopathology of anorexia is believed to be valuing of thinness. People with anorexia feel that being thin is extremely important, to the extent of it being an obsession. For this reason, anorexia is much more common among women compared to men, and more common among women exposed to fashion media or who have an interest in sport and fitness compared to other women.

More specifically, thinness is considered important because it’s where a person’s sense of self-worth derives from. Thinness is seen as a virtue by anorexics, which is why the condition is so hard to understand for people who don’t have it.

Some might be surprised to hear that anorexia is one of the most deadly of all psychiatric conditions, up there with schizophrenia and major depressive disorder. An unusually low body weight is linked to a wide range of physical ailments, as many elementary bodily functions cannot operate past a certain level of starvation. Even without intending to, it’s common for anorexics to become sick and die as a consequence of lengthy periods of starvation.

If you are writing about a protagonist that suffers from anorexia, their internal dialogue might have a lot of anxiety based around a need to be in control of their body weight. Sometimes such a person will have a ruthless, almost sadistic approach towards their own body. This explains why there is a high degree of comorbidity with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A person with anorexia often becomes extremely particular and fussy about their food and their calorie intake.

Then again, the approach might be more feminine. Instead of a desire to control, having a meal might conjure feelings of fear, almost panic. The sight or smell of food might trigger a reaction similar to that of a person with a phobia encountering their object of fear. It might be enough to also trigger powerful feelings of self-loathing.

Much like psychosis, anorexia tends to come and go in ’bouts’. An episode of anorexia is often triggered by a traumatic life event. It may be that sudden high levels of stress and anxiety result in a desire to compensate for a perceived loss of control.

Anorexia is not a psychotic disorder. A person with it will generally know that they have something amiss about them – but therein lies the difficulty. This reasonable part of the mind struggles incessantly against the part of the mind that commands that one must be thinner no matter what. It might be that the part of the mind that desires thinness above everything is somehow stronger, or more able to assert itself.

The effect that this might have on a protagonist of your story is therefore similar, in many ways, to that of one with depression. Constant feelings of having undermined oneself lead to guilt, personal recrimination, and a loss of confidence in one’s own intelligence, one’s competence or even one’s will to live. As is true of most of the conditions in this book, anorexics tend to have damaged self-esteem.

Like many of the other conditions in this book, it’s believed that anorexia nervosa frequently has an origin in childhood abuse. It might be that this is the reason for why it goes in bouts: dysregulated stress responsivity arising from the trauma leads to extremes of anxiety, and when one of those extremes is reached, a sudden desire for extreme control appears.

The experience of other characters who have a friend or family member suffering from anorexia is usually a difficult one. In many ways, watching someone waste away through anorexia is similar to watching them waste away through a heroin addiction.

This often brings with it a range of feelings that might profoundly affect that character, in particular frustration at not being able to get through to the anorexic about how dangerous their condition is, and guilt about not being able to “do more” for them. Although it’s true that it’s hard to reason with people who have mental illnesses – by definition – it’s still very common for friends and family of people with them to feel guilt about not being able to do more to get them to live a healthy, normal life.

A more distant character who encountered someone with anorexia might get the feeling that the anorexic is uptight and rigid. Anorexia is often associated with a sensitivity to insults and disrespect, as as perfectionism, and a character that demonstrated any of these traits could plausibly develop anorexia or have a past history of it.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Our Mental Health System Shouldn’t Run on WINZ Logic

A lot of people complain about the way WINZ treats its clients, but their logic makes a certain sense. By verbally and psychologically abusing many of the people who come to them for help, WINZ staff sharply reduce demand for WINZ services and thereby save taxpayer money. This is called WINZ logic, and our mental health system runs by the same principles.

WINZ logic seems to appeal to the vast majority of New Zealanders. We like to consider ourselves a people who have “hardened up”, and who don’t need faggy things like welfare. Moreover, the high levels of diversity in our society mean that those at the top are unwilling to pay taxes for the greater good, because those taxes won’t be helping people like them. So we make sure that WINZ runs an extremely tight ship, where there is absolutely no wastage.

Somewhere along the way, someone working at WINZ realised that many of their clients could easily be discouraged from seeking WINZ services. Many people who need WINZ services are socially outcast or psychologically damaged, and so they are easily disheartened by abuse. If these people were spoken to like thieving, bludging, malingering scum, instead of being treated like fellow humans who need help, they were less likely to come back and ask for more money.

Ultimately, the essence of WINZ logic is this: the more unpleasant the experience of being a WINZ client can be made, the fewer resources WINZ clients will collectively consume.

With ever-tightening social welfare budgets under nine years of a National-led Government, treating the clients badly became the default way to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor. If someone really needed a benefit, WINZ logic claimed, they’d keep coming back despite the mistreatment. So treating the clients badly achieves the twin goals of saving money while still helping the needy.

Unfortunately, our mental health system works on the same logic. In order to save money, patients are systematically verbally and emotionally abused by support workers. They don’t admit to this, and nowhere is it written that this is official policy, but it’s apparent from collating the experiences of many users of the mental health services that this is the case.

The logic appears to be that it’s better for a hundred schizophrenics to starve in the street than it is for one person to perhaps get a benefit that they didn’t 100% need. After all, a severely mentally ill young person who is unlikely to work again is liable to cost the country up to half a million dollars in benefit payments alone over the course of their lives. If people like this could be convinced to commit suicide instead, the potential savings could run into the hundreds of millions.

This might sound implausible to some, but it’s a natural consequence of neoliberal reasoning. Human life has a dollar value. If mentally ill people can’t contribute to the tax farm, and if we can’t just kill them directly, we have to encourage them to kill themselves. This reasoning was introduced to New Zealand by Ruth Richardson in the 1991 Budget and it’s now an indelible part of our culture. After all, we already have “by far the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world”.

If this wasn’t true, then the experience of being a user of the mental health services would be entirely different. One would be treated much like a person ill with a physical illness – as a fellow human being who had had something unfortunate happen to them and required care in order to recover to normal function. Doctors would answer your questions honestly. Consultations would work towards improving your mental health rather than merely assessing your work readiness.

Further evidence for this comes from the refusal to acknowledge cannabis medicine. Despite the fact that there was enough evidence for the medicinal value of cannabis for California to make it legal already in 1996, New Zealand politicians and doctors still have their heads up their arses. Now even Zimbabwe has legal medicinal cannabis.

What this approach to cannabis tells the mentally ill in New Zealand is that the mental health system isn’t really interested in helping them. It’s just: “Take these sedatives and get back to picking cotton.” It wouldn’t matter if 100,000 people all lined up to tell doctors that cannabis had helped them sleep or had helped with anxiety, depression or suicidal ideation. No-one’s listening, no-one cares.

Our mental health system shouldn’t run on the WINZ logic of withholding aid to as many people as possible. It should be recognised that an investment in a person’s mental health now will have excellent returns in both their future productivity and future unwillingness to use mental health services. The emphasis should be on treating them well so that they can get better and we can save money over their lifetime, not treating them like shit to save money this month.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Frequent handwashing can be a sign of a person who is struggling with OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterised by the compulsive and repetitive performing of ritualistic behaviours intended to reduce anxiety. It’s a relatively common condition, and may not be as distressing as some of the others in this book, but a character with it will still be a striking one. This article looks at how to write believable and engaging characters with this condition.

An obsession is a pattern of thoughts that persists despite a conscious effort to get rid of it. These obsessions frequently cause anxiety, especially when they relate to lurid sexual or violent content, as they often do. Some other obsessions can border on the schizophrenic. God and the Devil are frequent subjects for obsessions, especially as pertains to future punishment for some misdeed.

These sort of thoughts can become highly intrusive and maddening in their persistence and the degree they distract from a normal life. If your protagonist has OCD, they might have a distressing interior monologue where anxiety and thoughts of decay and contamination are commonplace. Intrusive thoughts can be just as unpleasant as physical intrusions, especially when they come into the head when you’re trying to sleep or relax.

Compulsions are similar, only they relate to behaviours instead of thoughts. The classic example is compulsive hand washing. Others are compulsively checking that a door is locked, or that a stove is turned off. The person with OCD tends to worry about whether or not something is in correct order and this anxiety increases until that thing can be checked.

A person with OCD will usually be aware that they have a problem. This makes them different to psychotics, narcissists and psychopaths. A character with OCD might not necessarily be an outcast (or at least, not a true outcast), in contrast to the vast majority of characters inspired by this book.

Psychologists talk about a four-factor theory for understanding people with OCD. Essentially this is based on four groups of behaviours. There is a “symmetry” factor, a “forbidden thoughts” factor, a “cleaning” factor and a “hoarding” factor. If the protagonist of your story is or encounters a character with OCD, they will quickly notice one of these groups of behaviours.

The symmetry factor relates to an anxiety-driven compulsion to make everything balance in terms of symmetry. For instance, they might make sure that they take exactly the same number of steps to cross each segment of a repeating pattern of cobblestones. They might also be very fussy about books on a shelf or paintings on the wall lining up perfectly. Every left needs a right and vice-versa.

The forbidden thoughts factor relates to compulsively thinking about things only because one knows one isn’t supposed to. A character with OCD might start having frequently, intrusive, obsessive thoughts about a particular sexual fetish or situation, despite not finding it arousing (more the contrary). Thoughts of incest, pedophilia and homosexuality are all very common here.

Cleaning is probably the best-known of the common symptoms of OCD. The cleaning factor refers to how people with OCD are prone to quickly decide that something is contaminated and needs to be cleaned. For instance, just touching the ground might cause immense anxiety until the OCD sufferer washes their hands. Because there are thousands of potential contamination vectors, people with OCD often end up washing their hands dozens of times a day.

Hoarding is common but not often understood to be a symptom of OCD. Underlying this is often an anxiety about information being lost, and so the hoarder might hoard, for instance, a daily newspaper. The really clinical OCD comes into play when that person doesn’t want to get rid of what they’ve hoarded, even when it becomes a hygiene or fire risk.

It will be easy, if desired, to write sympathetically about a character with OCD. Usually people with the condition are regarded as eccentric rather than malicious. People with OCD don’t tend to take their suffering out on other people, although they can do if those other people prevent them from acting out their compulsions. Hoarding can, of course, lead to malicious behaviour, especially if the space in which the hoarding occurs is contested.

OCD can certainly feel malicious to a person with it, however, especially if the impulsive thoughts don’t give the person any peace. It’s common for impulsive thoughts to come at times that feel especially intrusive, like when trying to sleep or when making love. When this happens for long enough it’s possible to consider that a malevolent demon or entity might be causing them, although this is uncommon.

In contrast to most of the conditions in this book, OCD is not believed to be caused by trauma. The most generally accepted belief is that people with OCD have likely inherited an unusually high genetic propensity towards certain behaviours that were associated with survival in the past, such as checking for dangers and being meticulous about hygiene. A person with OCD is, by this reckoning, usually just hyper-vigilant.

For this reason, a character with OCD is likely to be doing considerably better than the a character with most other conditions described in the book. They might even be in a form of gainful employment where an extremely unusual level of meticulousness and cleanliness were advantages, such as surgeon. Certainly it is more likely that they will have a circle of compassionate friends than people with most other psychiatric conditions.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Moral Outrage is a Crude Thrill But an Addictive One

It’s evident from the body language of virtue signallers that they exult in the feelings of moral superiority provided by their aggression

It’s possible to become addicted to a wide range of different thrills. Adrenaline, oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine and a slew of other neurotransmitters all create a very specific kind of pleasurable buzz that a person can easily become hooked on. This essay examines the most fashionable addiction in current year: the addiction to moral outrage.

Moral outrage belongs to the class of ego thrills. Within this class are all actions that lead to pleasure on account of letting you think, even if only for a short moment, that you’re better than other people. Belonging to this class are a large number of activities relating to competition and domination.

Alchemically speaking, there are three ways that one person can dominate another person, and these correspond to the three orientations of bravery. One can dominate physically, one can dominate mentally, or one can dominate morally.

Dominating physically is generally looked down upon as an activity befitting children and thugs. Dominating mentally is the obsession of the young adult learning to be a man of silver, and incredible amounts of energy are expended to this end at universities, but most people soon grow out of that.

Dominating morally is where the real self-aggrandisement comes into play, because if this can be achieved then the other forms can be dismissed as less worthy or meaningful. It doesn’t matter if someone dominates you physically or mentally, because you can claim that the act of domination is itself immoral by virtue of being aggressive, and that therefore you, in fact, dominated them where it counts – morally!

As it happens, the modern world gives us plenty of opportunity to get a kick out of moral outrage. So much so that some people may have become clinically addicted to the thrill. Much like smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine, working oneself into a towering moral fury has a near-immediately gratifying payoff and is therefore more likely to become habitual.

Signs of addiction can be seen in the compulsive bleating of “Racist!” whenever someone criticises a group of people that contains some black or brown individuals. Here, the person getting a buzz off moral outrage doesn’t bother to wait to make sure that the person they’re attacking really is a racist, because that might mean that they don’t get to accuse anyone and so don’t get the buzz.

Other signs include getting outraged at things that are entirely natural, such as the gender pay gap. Taking something that’s clearly the result of female choice and spinning it to make out like there’s a massive anti-female conspiracy to drive down wages is the kind of thing that could get someone a diagnosis of paranoia in other contexts, but when politics are involved no pile of bullshit is too high.

In truth, moral outrage is a form of bullying. It’s a way of running another person down because of their perceived lack of virtue, and this moral shaming is little different to shaming someone for being fat, poor or slovenly. The main distinction is that it is more passive-aggressive than physical bullying.

The driving force behind moral outrage is a combination of slave morality and mob mentality. The slave morality is always a feature because people susceptible to moral outrage have inevitably been told what their morals are, and usually told early enough in life that, by adulthood, they’re convinced their behaviour is natural. The mob mentality, likewise, is always a feature because people need to whip each other up into a frenzy to generate the self-righteousness necessary for a truly gratifying state of moral outrage.

The question then arises: should crude expressions of moral outrage be banned, or at least socially discouraged? It’s possible to combat them by making the virtue signaller look bad themselves.

For instance, virtue signallers shrieking “Racist!” when they hear criticism of Islam could be discouraged by being told how stupid they are for not being able to see the difference between dislike of a religion and dislike of a race. After all, the two concepts are radically different – the first is a meme complex, the second is a gene complex. It could fairly be pointed out that someone unable to tell the difference is pretty thick.

Even better, when someone is aggressively expressing their moral outrage at you, is to ask that person if they think they’re better than you on account of their beliefs. Of course they think they are, which is why they’re outraged in the first place – but if they admit that, they immediately lose their moral high ground on account of confessing to egotism.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Depersonalisation Disorder

Depersonalisation Disorder is a brutally surreal experience. Also known as Derealisation Disorder, this condition is characterised by feeling like an outside observer of one’s own body despite being in it, and feeling like one isn’t actually in control of that body’s actions. Also common are feelings about reality being vague, dream-like, or less real than usual. This article gives some hints for how writers can handle characters with Depersonalisation Disorder.

This condition is almost always the result of stress, but a distinction needs to be made between a person who is temporarily dissociating in the moment because of an intensely traumatic event that has just happened, a person who has an established pattern of dissociating when exposed to certain stimuli that should not themselves be distressing, and a person who has a tendency to dissociate under small amounts of stress owing to psychological damage from past trauma.

It has to be made clear that Depersonalisation Disorder is not the same thing as psychosis. A person in a dissociated state will be aware that their perceptions are altered (or, at the very least, that something is wrong). In other words, they will not have lost touch with reality, which is a necessary quality of a psychotic experience. They will just have dissociation.

Dissociation is when one starts to feel emotions and sensations that aren’t usually associated with the environment that one is in. For example, one might be in an extremely stressful situation but not actually feel any stress: one simply watches everything from the perspective of consciousness, as if floating outside the body. Things feel unreal, surreal, so that sometimes one feels as if one is watching a film with one’s life on it instead of actually living it.

This lack of connection with the body is the strangest and most difficult thing about the condition. A person with depersonalisation can look at their own hand and not feel like they’re looking at their own body, which is a highly disconcerting experience. It’s also disconcerting to look at yourself in the mirror and not really understand who it is or that it’s you, or to recall a past memory and feel as if it really happened to someone else.

If written from a first person perspective, and written well, the experience of a character with Depersonalisation Disorder might be terrifying to the reader. Dissociation is often terrifying to experience personally, especially for the first time, and may be difficult to distinguish from a panic attack. However, often it is more weird than frightening, especially when the alternative is genuine suffering.

If the dissociation is occurring in a character being observed by the protagonist, that character might seem distant, vacant and “spaced-out”. The protagonist might get emotionless, zombie-like responses from the character undergoing dissociation, which might be a problem if there is something that has to be done quickly. It’s very possible that the protagonist mistakes the person dissociating for being under the influence of a psychoactive substance.

Most readers don’t do a lot of drugs. If they do, they might find the experience amusing to read about. After all, dissociation is a common effect of many recreational drugs. For such an audience, a character’s bout of dissociation might come across as highly comical, and doubly so when paired with another character who is perfectly straight in all regards.

Like most psychiatric conditions, Depersonalisation Disorder is believed to have an origin in psychological trauma. It’s very possible that a character with the condition will have experienced repeated trauma in childhood (usually emotional) that was so relentless it caused the mind to dissociate with reality in order to protect itself. This could be abuse, or a witnessed tragedy, or even simply a realisation about the true nature of things.

The case of Depersonalisation Disorder might then be an ego protection response to extreme trauma so that the person suffering the trauma doesn’t become cruel as a consequence of the suffering. Essentially one goes mad, when under inhumane stresses, in preference to becoming evil. This might be a way of showing the inherent goodness of a character, or their inherent naivety, depending on one’s approach.

Writing about a character who has dissociation might not be very interesting if the story revolves around the dissociation itself. The story might be more interesting if your character is an otherwise mentally healthy person who becomes dissociated as a result of extreme circumstances. This might be a one-time event or it could be part of a pattern.

If it’s a one-time event, it might be a reaction to a grisly sight like a car accident or something seen on a battlefield. This need not, then, be the central role in the story, but might rather be something that befalls the protagonist at a particular juncture, possibly transforming them or causing them to grow.

If part of a pattern, it might play a more central role in the story. It may be that the sight of a certain thing triggers an episode of dissociation on account of being associated with what caused the initial trauma, or it could be that relatively small amounts of stress or uncertainty are enough to tip a character over the edge.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Truthophobia

A new mental illness has been observed in the modern world. It’s found among people who have irrational, fear-based responses to hearing true statements. Instead of responding to these statements like rational adults, and acknowledging their truth value, they tend to have abusive outbursts: they have truthophobia.

We can define truthophobia along the lines of other phobias, which are defined as: “exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fears of a particular object, class of objects, or situation”. In short, truthophobia is an exaggerated, inexplicable and illogical fear of statements of truth.

It may have a second meaning, along the lines of homophobia and Islamophobia, which is to say a political meaning alongside its linguistic meaning. In this sense, truthophobia refers to the act of denying the truth specifically because that truth is politically inconvenient.

Characteristic of a truthophobe are theatrical displays of moral outrage intended to distract from good points made by truth-tellers. For example, they like to scream “Racist!” when statistics about the sexual assault rates of Muslim and African immigrants to Europe are brought up. They also like to scream “Racist!” whenever criticisms of Islam are made, even when those criticisms have nothing to do with any racial distinctions.

What’s telling here is that truthophobes don’t ask questions about these true statements in an effort to understand them, like an honest person would do. The truthophobe simply reacts, on the basis that the truth might harm a belief that they hold, and that this belief needs to be defended by any means necessary. They are dishonest as well as cowardly.

Any learned Buddhist could quickly determine what was wrong with the average truthophobe. Clinging to material phenomena causes suffering, and clinging to a particular interpretation of reality so tightly that expressions of any alternative interpretation are taken as threats is a fitting example of such. The more truthophobic a person, the harder they dig in; the harder they dig in, the more suffering they cause themselves and others.

Why do people become truthophobics? We can group them into three major groups.

The first are the simply dumb. Being dumb is not enough by itself to be a truthophobe, but it can be a major contributing factor, especially if the dumb person has already been brainwashed into believing something untrue. Dumb people mostly are truthophobic because of the cognitive dissonance arising from really thinking about things properly. Consequently they prefer comfortable lies to truths.

This first group are arguably the least malicious of the three, because they are the most likely to admit the truth once it is evident. Being dumb doesn’t necessarily preclude one from being honest, and dumb people are often capable of seeing the truth if they are given the time and space in which to do so. The other two groups lack the shame to admit the truth no matter how evident it is, but this first group will often change their mind if the truth is presented to them correctly.

The second group of truthophobes are the fanatics. This group believes fervently in a particular doctrine, usually political, and so much so that any statement contradicting it is aggressively attacked regardless of any truth value that statement may possess. This group is worse than the first, because not only do they refuse to accept the truth when it’s presented to them, but they actively talk a lot of shit and thereby obscure the truth from those honestly seeking it.

Fanatics are also dumb, because their fanaticism invariably creates more suffering than their ideology would prevent, even under the best possible circumstances. Fanatics degrade the quality of public discourse by being unreasonable and dishonest, which makes the truth harder to see. In this group can be found a large number of Marxists as well as the religious fanatics that they resemble.

The third group are evil. The unfortunate truth is that a particularly malicious strain of truthophobes exist – one who tell lies and deny the truth specifically because to do so brings suffering into the world. Many in this category spread confusion and fear because they directly profit from it. Invariably they don’t simply reject the truth but actively seek to destroy the reputations of anyone speaking it, so as to discourage them from trying to speak the truth again.

People in this third group are mostly afraid of the truth about themselves, because it’s this fundamental fear that motivates their evil. Their ultimate fear is that they are truthfully not worth very much themselves, and the key to defeating these people is to never let them suspect otherwise.

Anyone trying to speak the truth in today’s environment will certainly encounter all three of these types in short order.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Have You Realised Yet That We’re The Bad Guys Now?

In order for a person to be found guilty of a crime, the Police first have to be presented with enough evidence to justify an arrest, and then that person has to be tried in front of an impartial jury summoned to examine the evidence. In realpolitik however, as this essay will examine, such trivialities can be cast aside at the first sound of the war drums – provided you accept you’re the bad guys.

The leaders of the Anglo-French alliance just started a war without the approval of the representatives of their people. The US Congress, by law, has to give its approval before wars can be started. The precedent set by George W. Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, is that the American armed forces will do whatever the fuck they’re told to do. Donald Trump, in ordering airstrikes in co-operation with British and French forces, is simply following this precedent.

Supposedly the reason for the missile strikes was to respond to a chemical strike allegedly ordered by the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the civilian population of Douma. The difficulty comes from the fact that the leaders of the Anglo-French alliance did not wait for widely accepted proof of the chemical attack to be made public. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has yet to complete its fact-finding mission, meaning that there is no expert opinion yet on who was responsible.

Proof doesn’t matter for those leading the Anglo-French countries. Proof only matters to those who care about their reputation, and bad guys have no need to care about their reputation, long since lost. Worst of all, these countries have no credibility when it comes to claiming that the actions of a second party were heinous enough to justify military action – they’ve gone to war on utterly fictitious casus belli several times before.

New Zealand says it “accepts” what has happened, on the grounds that any attempt to go through the United Nations Security Council for approval would have been vetoed by Russia. This threat of veto is considered justification for ignoring the UN entirely. No questions are asked by the mainstream media. Neither do they mention where the New Zealand special forces are right now, or what they are doing there, or how long they have been there.

Nobody in any of the countries whose armed forces just committed an act of war without Congressional or Parliamentary approval (i.e. legal approval) will take any action to hold the politicians who gave the orders to account. We don’t care that our countries are run by war criminals. We didn’t lift a finger to make either Bush or Tony Blair pay for Iraq, and we won’t lift one here either.

It’s time to chew on a bitter realisation: we are now the bad guys. The Anglo-French alliance is not fighting for freedom or liberty or human rights or anything like it. We’re not fighting to reduce the amount of human suffering in the world. Such considerations are inconsequential. What matters is silver and iron – i.e. money and strategic positioning.

We’re fighting for power, or what of it we can hold onto as the West slides into irrelevance from our own greed, hubris and crapulence. We’re not fighting for any higher moral value. Proof for this contention comes from simply reviewing the evidence.

The American soldiers who just fired cruise missiles into Syria don’t get paid in one decade what one of those missiles costs. Some American cities – Detroit the most notable – already look worse than Damascus, without having to get bombed. This decay of physical infrastructure simply reflects the decay in psychological infrastructure that is the root cause of our civilisational failure.

We know this because we can observe how poorly we treat our psychologically vulnerable. We don’t invest anything into healing them, and the collective psychological damage incurred by this negligence has grown to monstrous proportions. America regularly denies housing or benefit coverage to the veterans of its military adventures, and the thought of them getting proper mental health care for their PTSD is a bitter joke. There’s only money for defence contractors.

New Zealand is no better, spending $400,000,000 of its own citizens’ money every year (over $100 per adult) to persecute them for using medicinal cannabis, while thousands of its children go to school too hungry to concentrate on studies. In a double cruelty, many of those children going to school hungry are the same children of the parents imprisoned for medicinal cannabis growing. How could we possibly be the good guys?

This pattern of gross indifference to the suffering within their own borders is characteristic of the fading powers of the West and the cowardice of its population. The political class uses our tax money to build missiles to fire into Syria, and they use our votes to give themselves permission, and we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re too scared, too lazy, too weak – we’re the bad guys now.

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Why is it So Fashionable to Defend Islam?

It’s extremely fashionable right now, in some circles, to make a show of defending the virtues of Islam and of Muslims. Strangely, in those very same circles, it’s extremely unfashionable to defend the very same moral values supported and asserted by Islam and Muslims. This essay attempts to make sense of this curious contradiction.

Let’s be clear: Islam is an ideology of hate. Its holy scripture makes it very clear that Allah commands the subjugation of non-Muslims, women and homosexuals. There are numerous admonitions to violence in the Koran, and it is widely accepted – even by Muslims – that Mohammed, the Perfect Man, chopped the heads off 600 Jews on one particular day.

An extremely odd, but common, phenomenon nowadays is of people claiming to be enlightened humanists while defending Islamic ideology. In truth, defending Islam in the name of Enlightenment values is insanity. It doesn’t make any more sense than defending the same fundamentalist Abrahamism that the great thinkers of the Enlightenment valiantly struggled against for 300 years in its guise of Christianity.

This point can’t be overemphasised: the people defending Islam right now are attacking the same people who criticised fundamentalist Christianity for being supremacist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic! In other words, the defenders of Islam are attacking the same people who won us our freedoms from fundamentalist Abrahamism. Freedoms that took hundreds – in some cases, thousands – of years to establish.

So what if the Muslims take over and install a new patriarchy ten times worse than the old one, the gutmenschen cry, like they did in Lebanon and a hundred other places? At least no-one called us racists!

The question has to be asked: why is it suddenly so fashionable to make a big show out of defending such a disgusting ideology, one which would see women stripped of the right to vote and homosexuals thrown from rooftops? This phenomenon can be explained in four major ways: some sensible, some not.

Much of the sentiment behind shrieking “Nazi!” at people who criticise Islam appears to come from a desire to avoid another genocide. The logic appears to be that the white working classes, twisted with the malice and hate natural to people of that station, are only one excuse away from stuffing millions of Muslims into gas chambers. All that’s needed to light a spark to this powderkeg is hate speech from some Islamophobic demogogue.

If anyone is allowed to criticise Islam openly, the reasoning goes, the working class will inevitably chimp out and everyone will get carried away until we’re beating out the brains of Muslim children in the street Lord of the Flies-style. Obviously it’s mostly just middle-class wankers who think like this, but there are a fair number who defend Islam on this reasoning.

Part of it is also pure submission. As this column has pointed out previously, terrorism works, and many cowards have calculated that it’s better not to criticise Islam in case doing so paints a target on the back. The hope of many Westerners is, as the old phrase has it, that “the crocodile will eat them last”. No need to go out like Theo van Gogh, after all.

A third reason is more narcissistic. Some people believe that by accusing someone else of unvirtuous conduct they draw positive attention to themselves, as if by making the accusation they must automatically be innocent of the same. It’s a narcissistic sentiment because it holds that by casting other people down into shame, the accuser brings glory upon themselves.

Leaving aside the obvious application of Haggard’s Law, this virtue signalling is the sign of a true dickhead. It can be observed every time that someone defends Islam by accusing its critic of making their criticism from a place of dumb hate or prejudice, as if Islam could not possibly be criticised on any other basis. It’s no less petty than ripping another person down for not being au fait with any other meaningless fashion.

The major explanation as for why people defend Islam, however, is simply our old favourite, human retardation. Many of these defenders have neither read the Koran nor studied Islamic history in any detail, and they simply aren’t aware of the amount of blood shed by people encouraged by these supposedly holy words. If they are aware, they blithely write it off as “no worse than Christianity”.

Some other retards have observed that most people who hate all other races also hate Muslims, and so, in the manner of retards, have reasoned themselves to the conclusion that anyone who dislikes Muslims must be a racist. Failing to realise that one can distinguish a racist from someone who doesn’t like Islam simply by asking a person their opinion of brown-skinned apostates, these retards tend to reflexively bleat about racism every time they hear a person express any misgiving whatsoever about the religion.

Unfortunately for lovers of peace and reason, it appears that defending Islam is currently fashionable for many reasons, which means it will continue to be defended for a long time yet, which means there will be many more terror attacks on Western soil before we wake up. Sit tight.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Why Right-Libertarianism Is Full Of Autists

Many have had the experience of being surrounded by right-libertarians and realising that they have absolutely no clue about how other people think, and that this lack of insight inevitably dooms their political philosophy. It’s now apparent to many that the right-libertarian movement is chock full of autists. This essay will argue that right-libertarianism and autism overlap so heavily because they are both highly masculine mindstates with a shared evolutionary genesis.

Right-libertarians often like to paint a picture of how excellently everything would work if there was no welfare. In their minds, the welfare system only incentivises failure. If it was removed, they claim, people would work harder and pull themselves out of poverty rather than “relying on the Government”. Human suffering would decrease as a consequence.

What’s perfectly clear, to the 99% of the population who aren’t right-libertarians, is that this approach completely fails to account for the reality of human behaviour. Pulling the rug out from under tens of millions of struggling people at once would lead to chaos and violence in short order, and the thought that private security could manage enemy odds of hundreds to one is laughable.

Human suffering would increase sharply – and quickly – if we got rid of the welfare system, and a person doesn’t have to be a Dickens scholar to know this. We can simply observe the widespread misery in all times and places that don’t have one. Therefore, no-one will ever get rid of the welfare system, any more than they’ll ever get rid of the law against theft, and for similar reasons. Why don’t right-libertarians understand this?

One approach has it that the major difference between male and female psychology is that the masculine mind is systemising, while the feminine mind is empathising. The logic here is that men and women evolved to fit different niches in the biological environment: the male to the hunting niche, and the female to the gathering and nurturing niche.

Another theory has it that the major difference is that the male brain is autistic while the female brain is psychotic. This is apparent in several ways – chiefly the fact that boys are diagnosed with autism at many times the rate of girls, but also by genetic studies that show that autists tend to inherit from their fathers a disproportionately high number of genetic markers relating to brain development.

Yet another theory points out that men tend to vote for right-wing parties more than women do (a theory supported by the research of our very own Dan McGlashan), and from this draws the conclusion that men are naturally more conservative or orderly than women are.

What all these theories have in common is a realisation that men are not particularly empathetic. After all, the male brain has not evolved to be empathetic. For a hunter, empathy is not useful – in fact, it could even be detrimental if it caused the hunter to hesitate before landing a killing blow. All that really matters is the systemising ability to figure out how to get into position to land the killing blow. That is what is rewarded.

The male adaptation to a hunter’s niche is probably the underlying cause behind both high male rates of autism and of supporting right-libertarian parties. Essentially it’s a matter of a large swathe of people, predominantly men, lacking the brain capacity to imagine what it’s like to be another creature, and thereby coming to support a political movement that simply discounts such experience as a non-factor.

Females, for their part, tend to be neither hunters, autists nor right-libertarians. Their niche required more empathy, because it fell to them to do the bulk of the child-rearing and attending to the sick or old. It’s therefore not easy for women to ignore the suffering endured by other conscious beings. Women (like psychotics) tend to find it stressful when another conscious being is suffering; men (like autists) do not.

In order for a person to become a right-libertarian, they have to be usually masculine, in the sense that they have to have an unusually low amount of empathy for the countless millions who would suffer under their political system. Moreover, they have to keep supporting this system despite the overwhelming opposition from sensible people. These qualities are very similar to the tenacity and stubbornness that autists are infamous for, and probably because of a shared origin in masculine brain structures.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).