Empty Days

Monday, July 19, 2004



Happiness and suffering.

I've been wondering about autism - and especially people who tend to diagnose themselves with a "mild form of autism" - by which they usually mean severe emotional/communication problems and such. I also find it strange that both Spinoza and Wittgenstein were "diagnosed" with an Asperger's syndrom. I don't see the point of this - except to "prove scientifically" how people with exceptional abilities are so different from the vast bulk of regular humanity - but we knew that already, no? There are unpleasant consequences to genius because being a genius is frankly abnormal - whether biologically determined or not, it's still pretty uncomfortable.

This whole tendency to "diagnose" uncommon people with biochemical disorders springs from this same idea of universal human happiness. Applied biologically it means: normality = happiness, and vice-versa. What is understood by happiness then? Absence of suffering, comfortable existence. All human sciences are based on this principle. It's a lame stupid principle, folks. Life is full of suffering. Not to mention death. It's part of life and maybe its best and worst part - what do we know...
Autism is a complex pervasive developmental disorder that involves the functioning of the brain. It is a neurological disorder and not simply a psychiatric disorder, even though typical characteristics include problems with social relationships and emotional communication, as well as stereotyped patterns of interests, activities and behaviors. It also involves problems with sensory integration. Typically, it appears during the first three years of life. It is estimated that it occurs in approximately 2 to 6 in 1,000 individuals, and is 4 times more prevalent in males than females (source: The Autism Society of America [1] ). It is most prevalent in Caucasian males.

***

Increase in diagnoses of autism

There has been an explosion worldwide in reported cases of autism over the last ten years. There has been considerable speculation as to why this might be, with no conclusive proof emerging around any theory. However, studies have ruled out the speculation that the rise is [entirely] attributable to an improvement in diagnostic methods.

In the last decade, the population of the United States has increased by 13%. There has been an increase in non-autism-related disabilities of 16%. The increase in autism is 173%.

In 2001, Wired Magazine published an interesting speculative article The Geek Syndrome exploring the surge in apparent autism in Silicon Valley. This is only one example of the media's application of mental disease labels to what is actually variant normal behavior. Shyness, lack of athletic ability or social skills, and intellectual interests, even when they seem unusual to others, are not in themselves signs of autism or Asperger's syndrome.
Well, autism or not, some fucks are now commercializing Paxil (!) as an anti-shyness drug. Fuck them, I say. Universal happiness and universal normality do not exist - it's a mirage, a bad dream. Stop whining for happiness already, stop crawling on your stomachs for a piece of good life... Jesus.

***

So what was wrong with the Unabomber? Was he a paranoid schizo, an autist, a psychopath - or maybe just a pretty disturbed guy, who decided to fuck the order of the world because it really got to him? Either crazy or criminal - and maybe it's the same thing seen from a certain popular perspective.

I still wonder however: Unabomber killed people out of intense hatred of human society by sending bombs; gang-members routinely kill and maim both rivals and innocents - and yet these killers are understood as "rational", because while you can be amoral you still need a good reason for your actions. Why do gang-members kill? For power and money. And that's rational, as opposed to crimes of passion and crimes of hatred. Very interesting distinction - actually it doesn't make sense but it's an accepted view that it does.

***

I was also wondering about what causes cancer and why it's such a prevailing disease in our world. Basically there is no answer:
Carcinogenesis (lit.: creation of cancer) is the process of derangement of the rate of cell division.

Cancer is, ultimately, a disease of genes. Typically, a series of several mutations is required before a cell becomes a cancer cell. The process involves both oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Oncogenes promote cancer when "switched on" by a mutation, whereas tumor suppressor genes prevent cancer unless "switched off" by a mutation. Chromosomal translocation, such as the Philadelphia chromosome, is special type of mutation and may involve oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes.

Mutations can have various causes: tobacco smoking, radiation, chemicals called carcinogens, viral or bacterial infection, DNA damage by free radicals, inherited predisposition, chronic inflammation from any cause.
Viruses play a role in about 15% of all cancers. Tumor viruses usually carry some oncogene or tumor suppressor inactivating gene in their genome.

It is impossible to tell the initial cause for most of the cancers.






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