Monday, April 18, 2011

A diagnostic scheme for the psychopathology of civilization

Civilization—domestication more generally—is a pathological condition closely akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder in terms of need for control, recurrent attempts to reduce anxiety through compulsive behavior that paradoxically increases long-term anxiety, and resistance to treatment.   Despite this, modern mental health practitioners have yet to devise an appropriate diagnostic classification scheme.

I suggest that the extent to which modern human victims of civilization have been successfully metabolized into the system can be considered diagnostic of a group of pervasive syndromes: let’s call it Civilization Dependence Disorder (CDD).   CDD is a spectrum disorder.   A spectrum disorder is a cluster of psychiatric syndromes that have overlapping or related symptoms.  The subgroups of a spectrum disorder are frequently arrayed along a continuum—a spectrum—in order of severity.  

CDD has a prevalence rate quickly approaching 100%. It has an insidious onset, with the first symptoms emerging in early childhood.  In its most severe form, CDD victims are completely unaware that they have any problem—this despite pervading feelings of anomie, angst, and alienation (the “three As of CDD”), chronically unfulfilling and unhappy lives, and patterns of highly compulsive and blatantly self-destructive behavior. 

Diagnostic subcategories:
City-dwellers who have grown up in an urban environment and display the most severe symptoms of CDD meet the criteria for CDD Type I: domesticated human-tame.

Persons raised in more rural settings or city dwellers who for whatever reasons have had sufficient exposure to the natural world to understand that it operates by subtle principles that are distinct from those under which corporate consumer society functions meet the criteria for CDD Type II, domesticated human –cultivation incomplete.    

Persons who display either covert or overt animosity to the accoutrements of civilization while remaining more or less entirely embedded meet the criterion for CDD type III, domesticated human –feral tendencies.

Persons who actively reject civilization and participate only as a result of physical or psychological coercion represent a transition to the less-severe end of the CDD spectrum: Feral Human Type I.

Persons who not only reject civilization, but who also refuse to be coerced into direct participation (e.g., persons serving exaggerated prison terms for refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of power or persons embedded in alternative life-ways such as communal permaculture), meet the criteria for Feral Human Type II.  It is questionable whether the latter qualifies as an actual disorder category since many of the psychological symptoms are vicarious, consisting primarily of empathetic responses to the results of civilization’s pathological effects on other people and the natural environment.

The final category, Wild Human, is applicable to an increasingly limited number of indigenous human beings living in traditional gatherer-hunter communities.  Note: Wild Human is not technically a diagnostic category, as it is associated with no symptomology.

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