Thursday, July 26, 2007

Multiple Personality, Phone Masts and Madeleine

Much disease, mental or physical, expresses itself in the symptoms made available at the time. This was one of the great insights of Ian Hacking's superb book Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory. Multiple personality disorder was virtually unknown for most of the nineteenth century, then a few cases were discovered and more began to appear. But, even by 1972, it was said, fewer than a dozen cases had appeared in the previous fifty years in the US. In 1973 the book of Sybil appeared and, in 1976, it became a film. By 1992, every town in America had MPD cases, often hundreds. It is easy to say this was just hysteria, but Hacking's point is that these people are genuinely sick. MPD is simply the language they seize upon to express their sickness. 
In recent years, people have been complaining of an allergy to phone masts. But now a fairly definitive study has concluded there is no direct physical connection between signals from the masts and the symptoms. 'Belief,' says the leader of the study, 'is a powerful thing.' The people suffering the symptoms were ill and fixed on mobile phone masts as the cause. 
Madeleine McCann's father has been to America to meet the Attorney General to discuss child abduction. This makes no practical sense and is best seen as a symptom of a kind of madness brought on by grief. Ever since the abduction, the McCanns have expressed this madness in the symptoms made available by our age - they have pursued fame and publicity in the name of their cause and they have exhibited a manic desire to be seen 'doing something', even though much of what is done is of no relevance to the attempt to find their daughter.
Human disease is endlessly creative.


  1. One of the things that the EU could do reasonably well is make it more difficult for anyone to remove/abduct children from one area to another. There was no concept by the police in Portugal that anyone would take a child. And therefore did not fly into action on a nationwide and following on to transnational basis. The Iberian is pretty much an island and as such can be closed down with relative ease. While measures such as these will not prevent such crime, but would make it vastly more difficult. In the states, since Lindbergh, kidnap is a federal issue.

  2. Interesting. With mental disorder, one assumes that in the past doctors just lumped everyone in as 'mad' and then science gradually teases apart the distinctions. But the human brain is a very strange thing.

    Phobias are also influenced by the age. In the 19th Century everyone had that Poe-like fear of being buried alive. Nobody has that now, perhaps because we all get cremated instead. These days I suppose the equivalent would be "fear of living your whole life without becoming famous". Anonyphobia?

  3. One could argue that the coldness with which you describe the McCanns response to personal tragedy is a symptom of human disease being ebdlessly creative.

  4. That's silly, Anonymous. You can sympathise with them and their grief, while also pointing out the strangeness of the behaviour caused by the grief.

  5. That's right, Brit, it IS silly the way one is expected to emote to order these days, as if common human sympathy is so scarce it can no longer be taken for granted.

  6. don't you be so sure, Brit - I'm having a smoke alarm fitted to my coffin!

    I think you're being unfair on the McCanns. Who wouldn't want to do the same in their circumstances?

  7. it is strange & unsettling how people don't seem to feel fully real unless their actions are reported, represented by images - as if only actors are real, the audience ghosts. This frenzy to be always doing, acting, is maybe more a frenzy to be seen to be doing, to be acting in the theatrical sense.

    It's as if depth perception has been lost and everything is just surface, appearance; so if one doesn't Garrick-like clutch one's breast and wail something for The Sun's front page, one doesn't feel anything? How disturbing. Not enough solitude, that's the problem.

  8. "Do something disorder", or DSD is not limited to those who have suffered a tragic loss. It is expected nowadays of everyone from Miss America contestants to college applicants. It is also known as "Make a Difference" disorder, or MAD. Unfortunately it affects far more than the actual sufferer him/herself, it impacts the millions of unfortunates who are the beneficiaries of the difference made. Hardest hit has been Africa.

    Here is an extreme example of MAD.

  9. Then there's us, the regular commenters on a blog. We have the "Say Something" disorder.

  10. Illness and grief may become habits, like anything else.

    I heard of a patient whose long-standing and totally debilitating Parkinson's disease was almost completely reversed by a thalamotomy, just in time for Christmas.

    She made Christmas dinner for her family - the first time she had been able to in a decade - and then hanged herself in the garage.

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  14. Sorry for double entry, having trouble with logging on,
    Mary in Van

  15. DSD: Do Something Disorder, is ususally associated with NSD: No Sense Disorder which follows the ensuing set of activties people who display this personality set into motion, after they have either caused or been someway connected to a tragedy or trauma in their life.

    Call it MPD: Multiple Personality Disorder, call it the psyche's survial modality to creatively justify grevious inability to effectively be effecient in rectifying a situation they may have caused.

    In the case of the McCann's missing daughter, the ego: Gerry's overactive demonstrative ID is out there in the world justifying himself and Kate as being 'within the guidelines of responsible parents',and he has the 'backing' of association to make him feel better.

    Whatever is the cause of little Madeleine's disappearance it is primarily the sad state of affairs leading back to at least poor judgement of the parent's and their friends to leave their most precious childrens unattended in their room from 8pm to 10pm.

    News now of the friends returning to Praia da Lux to interview Robert Murat where they remember seeing him looking in the window of the apartment of the sleeping children.????????????NOW, they are questioning this man about his part in this?????????????Why didn't they do it then??????????Why didn't they go to the parents in the tapas bar and alert them of a peeping tom, a stranger peering in on the children???????????did they mention it to Kate and Gerry?????????if so, why would Kate and Gerry continue dining if their friends saw someone lurking at the window. This is just another fact that does not make sense, another inconsistancy in their story.

    Something happened to Madeleine McCann and that is a tragedy.

    But what is happening in the questioning, observing Benefit of Doubt Arena given by all those piecing this sorid story together is watching a travesty.

    No one would be missing if parentingship was championed.

    Maybe we are here to become hyperaware of our roles as custodians of the most precious gift life can offer...our children, and especially when TRUST is thought to be a given.