Friday, September 26, 2008

Synderesis Identified As Cause of Wrecked Brain Syndrome

"Future soldiers may operate in encapsulated, climate-controlled, powered fighting suits, laced with sensors, and boasting chameleonlike “active” camouflage. “Skin patch” pharmaceuticals help regulate fears, focus concentration and enhance endurance and strength."
Rebuilding America's Defences, P.N.A.C. Report, Sept. 2000

A friend of the Gazette, called to say that he thought he had discovered the cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an identified mental illness affecting more and more soldiers returning from their multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The symptoms of PTSD can range from subjective psychological disorders like fidgetiness, insomnia, distraction, and alcoholism to more paranoid behaviours such as suspicion, hostility, and bad tempers to outright anti-social conduct like rape and murder. As one Army psychologist put it simply but cogently, "basically your mind is broken."

Most of the psychological studies on PTSD have focused on its symptoms -- which ends up being a fancy way of saying that much of the studying has spent time and effort cataloging the many ways in which a mind can be broken. Since the mind is an incredibly versatile faculty, it is hardly surprising that it can be broken in hundred of ways that range from "a little out synch" to "exploding into a hundred pieces."

Neurological studies have identified various bio-chemical changes "associated" with PTSD behavioural symptoms, such as lower cortisoid levels, hippocampus shrinkage and so on. But in the end, these too, while they may lead to new generations of useful psychotropic drugs, are simply physiological symptoms. The only known cause, is some kind of traumatic stress.

But life is full of stress, some of which is no less shocking, pulse-raising, stomach-tensing or grief-inducing than conditions on the field of battle. This has led people, especially people in the military, to doubt the existence of war-related PTSD. Besides, it hardly helped recruitment efforts to admit that your healthy proud son who marched off to war would come back with a brain turned into swiss cheese.

During the Great War, people spoke of "shell shock" -- a more of less physical state of exhaustion and trembling paralysis. Considered to be a variant of "fatigue," the military had no great objections to recognizing the symptoms seeing as they weren't anything that weren't curable by a swig of brandy, a day's pass, and maybe a good sleep-in followed by a hot shower.

During the World War, perhaps due to absence of trench warfare, shell-shock was less of a phenomena in the public mind. It was replaced by "the gitteries" made famous by General Patton's famous slap. And it is fair to say that most people felt Patton had been right to "put a little backbone" into someone who couldn't "get ahold of himself" and control natural fears that were felt by everyone. If World War veterans felt bad about what they had seen or done, they tended not to talk about it.

"Oh tell us Mr. Winslow, tell us, did you kill any Nazis? C'mon tell us," we boys squealed delighted to find out that our history teacher had been a real life Sergeant in the war. "C'mon..tell us."

"I never saw anyone fall from any shot I fired," came the terse and disappointing reply.
The Vietnam War was different. Returning veterans did not keep things tersely inside. Still, the official reaction at first was that the Baby Boom generation was just a bunch of babies who didn't have the discipline and fortitude of their fathers. Although the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration ultimately recognized PTSD as a real battle-related casualty, it was still treated much in the vein of syphillis or a foot fungus. The Government's efforts went into (1) not making a very public deal about it and (2) commissioning studies to identify symptoms (i.e. symptom levels), to establish "early identification procedures," "preventative" (ie. ameliorative) measures, counselling resources, "stress management" programs and so on. Soldiers with syphillis got the better deal. By and large, veterans with wrecked brains were criminalized or left to sink or swim on their own.

By the end of the first year of the Iraq/Afghanistan war, though, Wrecked Brain Syndrome loomed as an immense dark cloud on the horizon. Although the Neocon Administration which had engineered the war was hopeful the compliant press would down-play any story, the Pentagon's own statistics began to paint a frightening picture. Two years into the war, and the cat was out of the bag. Soldiers returning from Iraq and soldiers being sent back to Iraq for second and even third tours of duty were showing elevated symptoms of Wrecked Brain Syndrome.

One Army study found that after one, two and three tours, 12%, 18% and 27% of soldiers showed PTSD symptoms. A Rand study conducted earlier this year found that nearly one fifth of US military personnel who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan had suffered some symptom of PTSD. "Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it," said one general.

Our friend said he had been reading reports about these cases and was struck by how the authorities claimed not to be able to "identify" any singular cause. The studies hopped around from personal issues such as "difficulties readjusting" to military issues such as "diminished mission effectiveness." They mixed up symptoms, talking in the same breath about "signs of depression or PTSD;" and, of course, they talked about the effect of "multiple tours" and "insufficient" recovery time, as if it were all simply a question of over-training. It seemed, he said, as if they wanted the cause to remain fuzzy and tentative.

So I asked my friend to explain what he thought was causing this battle-related PTSD, and he replied that he thought it was caused by soldiers encased in the latest high-tech killing armor being called upon to repeatedly blast away at and kill a supposed "enemy" who was indistinguishable from ordinary men, women and children and who at best was so poorly armed as to be practically defenseless.

It was quite odd my friend should have brought this up, because just the other day I had occasion to check up on Thomas Aquinas's definition of "conscience." Most people think of "conscience" as the little birdie on your shoulder that tells you what's wrong and what you really, really must do. However, the matter may not be quite as simple.

In Latin, the word con-science is comprised of "cum+scienter" -- that is, "with knowledge of..." In St. Thomas' view, conscience has two parts: the passive part which has knowledge of something and the active part which brings that knowledge to bear on conduct in practical situations. The key question is: knoweldge of what? Synderesis.

The best way to understand idea of synderesis is to put morality aside for a moment and turn to geometry. Everyone will remember that all geometry is based on certain very fundamental axioms, such as "Two things each equal to a third thing are equal to each other." In Thomas' view, such axioms were more primary and root-level than even our most basic "concepts" or "principles". Such axioms were actually part of the mind's (the soul's) structure. A person simply cannot think at all if he thinks against these axioms. The mind simply won't work.

"I see where you're going," my friend said.

Yes. St. Thomas was of the view that in addition to these purely "logical" or "mathematical" axioms, the soul (or the mind) also had built-in moral axioms. An example would be our innate sense that it is unfair to punish a person twice for the same one offense. It is impossible to explain why that is wrong, we simply cannot think that it is right to do otherwise. These innate moral axioms he called synderesis.

Conscience begins by becoming aware of, "opening up to," and having knowledge of these axioms. Once we are infused with knowledge of such an axiom, we cannot but act accordingly.

"Did I ever tell you about my friend Larry...?" my friend asked.

Larry P. had been a Navy pilot in the Phillipines in the 1960's, a time in which the U.S. was waging an undeclared and unpublished war against the Huks and Moros, primitive native rebels. Larry P flew aerial missions against these savages and on one such mission he caught a Huk in his site. The rebel looked up and began to run for dear life through the waving brush of the field toward the cover of the thick dense jungle. But Larry P's AD-6 with its mounted 50 calibre machine guns was gaining on him and the Huk knew he wouldn't make it. He turned around, and in his loin cloth and bare chest, drew an arrow into his bow and fired up at the plane. At the same time, Larry P. pressed a button and let loose a barrage of ballistics that pulverized the rebel fighter in a ball of fire, as his arrow fell hopelessly short of its target.

Larry P, flew back to the base, got out of the plane and tendered his resignation. "You can't do that!" "Court martial me, do what you want. I'm not doing this anymore." There was nothing at all to bargain.

Well of course; that was it. Larry P. had acquired conscience of a moral axiom; an axiom that soldiers have known about for centuries; an axiom even boys know. A fight between equals is fair; a fight between unequals is not.

Kill the poys and the luggage! 'tis expressly
against the law of arms: 'tis as arrant a piece of
knavery, mark you now, as can be offer't; in your
conscience, now, is it not?
Fluellen, Henry V.

Interestingly enough, modern science has rather born out St. Thomas's idea of synderesis. Several years back, some animal behaviorists at Emory University conducted an experiment with capuchin monkeys, in which the monkeys were had to do some sort of work, at the end of which they each got paid a cucumber. Needless to say, in capuchin society a cucumber functions like money, at least in the sense of pay or reward for work. So the experiment went on for several weeks, the monkeys doing the work assignment (whatever it was) and getting paid a cucumber when it was over. One day, with no lead up or explanation, at the end of the work-day, the scientists only paid cucumbers to half the crew. The monkeys went nuts. All of them were quite upset and even the capuchins that had been paid refused to work.

I was quite excited when I read this, because it was evident that the monkeys were operating from some axiom of fairness that said: equal pay for equal work. What was exciting about this, was not that the simians had "achieved" some "human level" of consciousness, but rather that, as monkeys, they had this built into their monkey-minds. What this meant was that this axiom of justice was not a relative human construct. It was something that existed in the monkey soul millions of years before man ever existed himself.

Skeptics would perhaps argue that the only thing that had upset the monkeys was the breaking of a learned and habitual routine. But to me, that doubts too much.

And, it doubts too much even for the very evil people that are currently operating the U.S. Government; for in the depths of what passes for their souls they are aware that they are forcing our soldiers to engage in unnatural acts.

A recent article in Time magazine, “The Military’s Secret Weapon,” disclosed that “for the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that is only half the story. The real story is that such reports are just a step in the process of acculturating the country to accept having its young men turned into doped-up killers.

Why did the people who wrote the P.N.A.C. report for the "New American Century" write that our soldiers of the future would wear "“skin patch” pharmaceuticals" in the climate-controlled, powered fighting suits? Why such a vision? Because their policy of global "full specturm dominance" requires our military to engage in so-called constabulary missions in what the report calls "zones of democratic peace." Iraq is such a zone, and the mission is none other than to engage in continual "shaping of the security environment."

This "shaping" consists in intimidating, kicking in doors, randomly arresting, and generally brutalizing the civilian population. According to the P.N.A.C. report these "constabulary missions" are "likely" to "generate" violence. How so? Because it is expected that some people in the occupied zone of democratic peace will resent being abused in this fashion and will fight back with whatever inadequate means they have at their disposal... at which point they will simply be blasted away by some computer guided drone, sidewinder, or gross-calibre weapon.

It was entirely according to plan, that upon occupying Baghdad, U.S. soldiers started randomly rounding up young teenage males, parading them through the streets (naked) and giving them a "taste of detention". It was entirely according to plan, the the U.S. phosphorized "the enemy" civilian population in Falljuah. And it is entirely according to plan that U.S. drones are currently blasting away the "gooks" in Afghanistan, just as we practiced napalming and defoliating the Taliban networks in Vietnam.

Our neocon military understands that American soldiers will be asked to repeatedly kill an unequal opponent. They even have a word for it: "asymmetrical warfare." Thus when one prisoner in Guantanamo tried to commit suicide, the commanding general called it an act of asymmetrical war.

The listed authors of the P.N.A.C. report are a roll-call of neocons: Perle, Feith, Kagan, Kristol, Wolfowitz and yes Donald Rumsfeld. These morally cancerous malevolents understood full well that their work was "as arrant a piece of knavery, as can be offer't in your conscience"

They understood full well that such asymmetrical war would break eventually break the human mind because the mind would be called upon and forced to act against its most axiomatic structure... It is a evil-minded distraction to waste time cataloging the hundreds of ways it can break down, the fact is that it is broken and useless because it has been forced to act against its conscience.

The people who have taken over the U.S. Government are the devil's spawn. There is no other name for them. They understood that the only way to get human beings, young American men, to engage in these brutal "constabulary" wars of oppression against civilian populations would be to turn them into doped up, semi-human, semi-android killers. With or without drugs, their souls would be dead.

©WCG, 2008


No comments: