Monday, July 19, 2010

Put some madness to the method

Different cultures provide different scripts or templates as acceptable ways for an individual to externalise an internal distress. There is no guarantee that one will feel any better after following the script, but at least it is amusing for onlookers. Thus we have a harum-scarum odds-bodkin bundle of amok, latah, disappearing penis syndrome, semen drainage, taijin kyofusho, moth madness, pibloktoq and good old-fashioned Wendigo psychosis*, all coming under the umbrella term** of Culture-Bound Syndromes.

According to the Whackyweedia, "A culture-specific syndrome is characterized by:
  1. categorization as a disease in the culture (i.e., not a voluntary behaviour or false claim);
  2. widespread familiarity in the culture;
  3. complete lack of familiarity of the condition to people in other cultures;
  4. no objectively demonstrable biochemical or tissue abnormalities (symptoms);
  5. the condition is usually recognized and treated by the folk medicine of the culture."
Speaking on behalf of the editors of Bernouli's Encyclopedia of Imaginary Diseases, it would be nice if the term also covered topics of interest such as Morgellons, chronic pain, multiple personality disorder, CFS or somatoform disorder. Sadly, I can only conclude that the definition "folk medicine" in criterion 5 does not include "pills bought from a pharmacy"; or else "the English-speaking world" does not count as a culture.

Opinions were divided at last night's editorial meeting. One faction favours including culture-bound syndromes in the Encyclopedia anyway. But this would open up a whole can of worms about how to handle all the other DSM-IV categories. The other moeity would have it that Bernouli's great project can safely be abandoned, because the Encyclopedia has infiltrated and merged with the broader world... an occupational hazard among encyclopediasts.

By this stage we'd already had two cans of worms, and a kettle of fish and a side-plate of red herrings, so no-one was particularly hungry any more. The Old Entomologist used to serve crisps and hot chips like any other pub but then the chef got ambitious.

* Must be real since it features in Thomas Pynchon's first story.

** "Umbrella term" is used here as an umbrella term to encompass those phrases like "under the rubric of", "within the ambit", "gamut", "under the aegis" and "encompass".


mikey said...

See, the problem, hinted at but not directly addressed, is that people outside one's culture tend not to be able to recognize the disease for what it is, and therefore tend to arrive at specious and less-than-useful conclusions like "psychosomatic" or "just looking for a free meal". This is tragic, and results in a common outcome of misdiagnoses and bloodletting.

As an example, one night I found myself sitting on a stool in the Washoe County Sheriffs Office, handcuffed to a chain through a metal loop in the floor, blood still oozing out my nose and ear.

"Why'd you break the window, kid" the Sheriffs Lieutenant asked again, his cigarette harsh in the small room.

"I - I honestly don't know" I told him. This was calculated, true, because I needed to buy time because I honestly had no idea why I'd thrown the stool through the casino window.

"C'mon kid" the Lieutenant demanded. "Stop fucking with me. Who were you trying to hit with the stool"?

"What?" I asked in surprise. "I don't know anybody here. I just needed to break something."

"What, are you crazy?" the Sheriff asked in surprise. He was pretty much classic, a big bellied man with broken veins in his nose, a bad temper and a sense that everybody was trying to steal his shit.

"Um, no sir, I don't think so" I told him. Of course, there were people who would at that point disagree with this conclusion, but I didn't see the need to bring them into the conversation.

At that point a man constructed of carbon steel and scrap metal in a spotless tan uniform came in. His sleeves were rolled up, and he had Airborne tats on both forearms. "You back from the nam?" he asked in a surprisingly soft voice.

"Yes Sergeant" I said without a thought. "Third of the First Cav. Garry Owen."

The Sergeant reached down and unlocked the cuffs. He said "I'll take charge of the prisoner, Leutenant. Good night, sir". And he took my upper arm and walked me out to the back parking lot. It was real late, and very quiet.

"Come on, son. Let's go for a drive."

So, you see, point is, sometimes expat from your culture comes along at the right time to understand that the disease is real, it's the doctors that can't see...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I do not see mention of O.R.B.S., Orb Related Barter Syndrome.

Sufferers feel themselves persecuted by Orbs that no one else can see. Symptoms include purchasing all one's goods on Ebay, so as to avoid going outside.

Smut Clyde said...

"Why'd you break the window, kid"

I suppose the average County Sheriff is too cynical to accept "Jesus told me to" as an acceptable answer.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

On a related note, here is a song written as a fundraiser to find cures for the disease.

Heartbreak of O.R.B.S.

P.S. What kind of world is it that we live in? This Root Boy song in not on Youtube?

merc said...

Overheard from a radio show today while walking by an open car window,
...(journalist? says; because often presumptions are made...
My head exploded because, you know, this is everything right there, and she told me via the airwaves and you know I heard her and well...OK, Mikey's story is better, but mine is more homely...what was the original post about again?

mikey said...

Smut, more than half the battle is knowing the right answer to the question. That one's a winner, but I was still a beginner in the game...

tigris said...

Moth Madness is totally real, I get it every spring. Goddamn Operophtera brumata.

fish said...

Multiple personality disorder is totally real.

No it isn't you stupid codfish.


Piss off you annoying pikers.

We were having a discussion here, stop interfering when it isn't any of your business.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, you really shouldn't lump MPD in with shrinking penis syndrome.

Then why do you keep asking me if your dick is getting smaller?


For now.


If you are going to shout, I'm leaving.


Now where were we?

You were worried that your penis was getting smaller.

NOT YOU TOO!!! I'm outta here!!!

Works every time...

tigris said...

Disappearing penis syndrome, and yes, it's absolutely real: mine is GONE.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Smut, you are misleading mikey.

Authorities are willing to accept the Jesus excuse for killing people half a world away, despoiling the environment, defrauding old ladies and the gullible, or oddball sexual predilections, but NEVER NEVER NEVER minor property crimes.

Or, for that matter, innocuous controlled substance use. Ask the Native Americans.

Substance McGravitas said...

Disappearing penis syndrome, and yes, it's absolutely real: mine is GONE.

Try putting beer in the fridge.

Kathleen said...

I recommend The Rest Cure

Smut Clyde said...

Try putting beer in the fridge.

Does that call them back from wherever they have wandered to?

merc said...

Beer herding, the ancient penis grower. (that should up yo count).

Smut Clyde said...

I recommend The Rest Cure

A while ago I was reading Elaine Showalter's book "Hystories" (interesting but flawed). In one chapter Showalter describes the bed-cure prescribed for women with hysteria (no work or mental activity or even reading for 6 weeks or so). However, men with the same symptoms -- Teddy Roosevelt for instance -- obviously had neurasthenia rather than hysteria (which was too closely linked with femininity), and were instead sent out to the wilds for a strenuous course of "rough riding".

"Perhaps the women could have done with some rough riding as well," sez Showalter... she can be humour-challenged at times. I would have worded it differently.

Kathleen said...

I think the proper prescription is rough riding followed by rest.