“Attempts to confront or wake up patients during the events frequently lengthens the parasomnia episode and may induce resistance or violence from the patient.”
– WebMD’s emedicine entry on Somnambulism
In comments for the previous entry, Doctor Science points us to an insightful post from Kit Whitfield (aka Praline) that suggests a possible third explanation for the insane popularity of the Munich Analogy — an explanation other than the obvious ones of unbelievable stupidity or willful dishonesty.
To review, briefly, this analogy is employed to suggest that any response to hostile nations other than Kill All the Bad People is mere appeasement. This assertion is deeply confused and irreconcilable with the facts of any given case, with history and with any prospect for effectiveness. It claims that every enemy currently demanding our attention is ≥ Hitler and that therefore said enemy will respond only to the application of unrestrained lethal force (which is to say, they cannot be expected to respond, only to be exterminated in their unalterably non-responsive state). It claims that any approach other than such extermination is naive and ineffectual and thus the moral and practical equivalent of unconditional surrender. For proponents of the Munich Analogy, there is therefore one and only one possible response to hostility: extermination.
This is brutally, self-destructively stupid. The slightest thought or exploration exposes the idea as nonsense. It seems impossible that any sentient being could find the idea persuasive. The fact that someone is capable of speech, therefore, can be taken as proof that he is too smart to credibly believe what he is saying when he invokes the Munich Analogy.
In the previous post, I suggested there could be only one other possible option: that these people don’t believe what they are saying, i.e., that they are saying something they inescapably know is not true, i.e., that they are lying.
But of course there is another option. When someone says something that they are smart enough to know is insanely false they may be lying, or they may just be insane. They may, somehow, have come to believe that this insane thing is true. (If insane strikes you as too strong a term, substitute “deluded” or “delusional.” But keep in mind that we’re talking about a form of delusion that leads inexorably to an exterminationist “Kill All the Bad People” mentality — the same mentality that is universally described, in its aftermath from Sarjevo to Kigali, as “madness.”)
Where does such delusion come from? How does someone become convinced that this unreal madness makes any kind of sense at all?
Here is where I will turn to KW/Praline, writing about “Macho Sue“:
The essential story structure of a Macho Sue tends to revolve around untouchable pride. If love means never having to say you’re sorry, being Macho Sue means the whole of reality loves you. Typically, Macho Sue’s storyline follows a certain trajectory: he begins by acting egregiously, picking or provoking fights and causing problems. However much the ensuing difficulties can be laid at his door, Macho Sue is not about to apologize, in any way. So the problems continue — only to be salvaged by some immense reversals that give the impression that he was right all along. The man he insulted turns out, suddenly, to be a bad guy. The woman who dislikes him falls into his strong arms when he solves a problem that is not the same problem he caused for her. People change their personalities, storylines shift and flip like a mechanical maze popping up new paths and lowering old gates in order to keep Macho Sue from ever, ever having to backtrack. As John Wayne says, “Never say sorry — it’s a sign of weakness.”
Similarly, Macho Sue’s suspicion of the unfamiliar is inherently right, because he already embodies all that is good and right: if something were good, he would already be doing it. Hence, anything new to him is some sort of corruption of the proper way of doing things. Usually it’s assumed that Macho Sue has a code of honor that is at heart the right one, that if people disapprove of his behavior it’s only because they don’t understand him and his righteousness, that his code of honor is never found inadequate to a situation, and that he never falls below it. It’s not only apologizing that’s considered too emasculating for him to endure, it’s learning. For his character to be improved and matured by encountering new circumstances would be a humiliating admission that he wasn’t just as he should be from the beginning.
That passage is about a particular species of bad fiction, but it applies just as well to a particular species of bad person. The flaw in both cases is the same: characters incapable of change and growth. (I’m reminded of a saying from church: “God loves you just the way you are, but God loves you too much to let you stay that way.”)
Characters that cannot grow, that see no need to grow, cannot adjust to reality and so they force reality to adjust to them. Funny thing, though, about reality: It doesn’t care what you think. And it’s got a nasty habit of reasserting itself with a vengeance. How does that proverb go? “Untouchable pride goeth before destruction, and a Macho Sue before a fall.” Something like that.
I’m not sure that the self-deluded exterminationist is in an entirely separable category from the mere liar. The primary audience is different, but the act is the same. Yet where the liar is wholly willful, the self-deluded fool is only partly willful, and that “partly” may provide a toe-hold of hope (“There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead …”). Neither utter stupidity nor wholly willful duplicity can be engaged, but delusion suggests at least the possibility of a productive response.
Here is where I wish I could tell you how best to present such a response. Instead, annoyingly, this turns out to be one of those posts where I conclude by asking you to supply the conclusion. Is such delusion something that can be engaged? And if so, how? Anybody found an approach that works?