Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Holocaust--Just another Postmodern Invention?

Is the Holocaust just another postmodern figment of the West's imagination? Apparently, this is what some prominent Muslim leaders think:

Up until now, it was unnecessary in the West, outside of Germany and Austria, to pay serious attention to those who disputed the historicity of the Holocaust: they constituted a tiny fringe group, and dismissing their views had little political risks or consequences. They could simply be shrugged off as quacks, at best, and crypto-Nazis, at worst. But this recent wave of Holocaust denial is not coming from a statistically insignificant potion of the West; it is coming from Muslim leaders with popular followings, and what is even more troublesome, it is not being challenged by others in the Muslim community. As the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said, "The problem is that so far in the Arab world, very few leaders are willing to tell their own people that they have to understand that the Holocaust did take placeā€ -- a statement that is putting it very mildly, indeed.

Are we dealing here with simply two different but equally legitimate points of view of what happened to the Jews under Nazi Germany; or are we dealing with a new ideological virus, and one that is on the verge of spreading like an epidemic?

We in the West have already rewritten a great deal of history in the name of cultural tolerance and diversity. But are we prepared to deny the truth of the Holocaust in the name of the same principles?

Have you noticed that as time goes on and people start to forget the horror of tragedy that the mind tends to rewrite the past? Perhaps this is human--for example, a family member dies and we rewrite their life to fit into our own scheme of how we feel about our own lives. If Dad was a fairly pleasant guy, we might overstate how cruel he was to keep ourselves from grieving. But on the other hand, if Dad was downright cruel and abusive, we might rewrite history in our minds to make him out to be a good guy. Either way of thinking puts our mind at ease and gives us the opportunity to feel virtuous about ourselves. In the case of these Muslim leaders with dementia times two, we have a case where they use the denial of the Holocaust as a tool for provoking sympathy from the West and anger in their followers in the Mideast. What better way to further their cause. But can we really allow them to use the bodies of six million corpses to make a political point?

Update: Ed Driscoll has more thoughts--be sure and read the information on political science Professor Sindi who has taught in the past at UC Irvine and Cal State Pomona--and who believes in the Holocaust Denial and is teaching American students.

Friday, January 06, 2006


A sound philosophy of life, I think, may be the most valuable asset for a psychiatrist to have when he is treating a patient. -- Victor Frankl

Did you ever have a mentor--either a personal or professional one who guided you through the intricacies of life and work? I had a terrific mentor when I was in my early twenties who not only helped me learn to do my job well but taught me how to live my life well. His name was Dr. Fred Wisner and his office was on Central Park West next to the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot. Every week when I would go to see Dr.Wisner for our weekly supervision sessions, I would pass by the area where Lennon was killed and think about the reasons that a madman like Mark Chapman would kill Lennon in the first place.

It was Dr. Wisner who helped me understand the human mind and to delve into my patient's psyche without being afraid of the darkness that was there. He took me inside the minds of Nazi War criminals like Rudolph Hess through his interpretations of the Rorschach cards and taught me that Nazis had no special skills or insight. They were simply average in intelligence and had no empathy for their fellow man. He taught me that degrees meant little except as an entry into a profession and that one's life work in psychology had more to do with being human and connecting with others than it did with being intellectual and right.

He told me stories about himself being a psychologist in training and wondering if he would be good at this work. He watched his own supervisor, a psychiatrist, pick up a depressed crying male patient and hold him gently on his lap and rock him back and forth until he was soothed. This gentleness helped him to understand how fragile the human psyche can be and yet how strong one must be in his masculinity to soothe a child like this. Dr. Wisner realized that this work was important and that he could help his patients. Today, perhaps his mentor would be afraid to hold a child for fear of a lawsuit--too bad, because the boy and I would have missed out on the usefulness of this story.

Dr. Wisner also taught me that being a therapist was like being an actor because actors took on the personality and personna of those they portray--I learned to get inside my patient's skins in a way that helped me sort out their pain and suffering as well as my own. After exploring the recesses of my own mind, I learned that there was nothing to fear in the torment of others. Dr. Wisner taught me to have self-confidence in my skills and in myself. He taught me that I was brave even when I felt low and down--he would point out all the positive things I had done with my life where I saw only darkness.

When I would leave his office, I felt light and buoyant--like I had chosen the best line of work that life had to offer. But what I did not realize at the time was that it was not just the job decisions that he had helped me with, it was understanding how to deal with my inner life and the world around me. I cannot think of a better gift I could have been given.

So, wherever you are Dr. Wisner, all I can say is thank you.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Positive Psychology

Many of my readers have commented on the focus of unhappiness or psychopathology in psychology. Martin Seligman is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who founded Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on one's strengths rather than weaknesses, and asserts that happiness is not the result of genes or good luck. In his book, Authentic Happiness : Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment,Seligman teaches readers that happiness can be cultivated by identifying and using many of the strengths they already possess. If you would like to see what your signature strengths are, you can take the Signature Strength Survey at There is even a test designed to test the signature strengths in children coming soon.

Take the test when you have a few minutes although they have a shortened version. Just for the record, my top signature strengths are bravery and valor defined as "you do not shrink from threat, challenge, pain or difficulty. Valor is more than bravery under fire, when one's physical well-being is threatened. It refers as well to intellectual or emotional stances that are unpopular, difficult, or dangerous." (This sounds like many of the bloggers I read).

Okay, that looks pretty accurate for me. I have always prized people who are brave and I despise cowardliness in people--and especially in myself. Anyway, take a look at the website if you would like to learn what strengths you have and if you feel like sharing--post a comment about it--or about your thoughts on positive psychology in general.

Even the "Poor" have a Computer

If you have ever thought that the "poor" in this country still live a fairly comfortable lifestyle, here is an interesting article confirming this:

The Census report also compares, from 1992 through 1998, people's perceptions of whether basic needs were being met. More than 92% of Americans below the poverty line said they had enough food, as of 1998. Some 86% said they had no unmet need for a doctor, 89% had no roof leaks, and 87% said they had no unpaid rent or mortgage.

I wonder about the Census report for the lower middle class--would this many respondents say they had no unmet needs for a doctor and no unpaid rent?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Mental Health Blogging

Dr. Sanity rounds up some of the mental health blogging for the week.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Inverse Authoritarian Personality

I recently wrote a post stating that I ordered the book, Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the Left. Well, it finally came and I have spent some interesting hours reading about studies done with Jewish and Christian leftist radicals in the 1970's and 80's. Please bear the age of these studies in mind when I talk about some of the information I gleaned from the book. Yes, this is old stuff but I think in discussing some of the traits of radicals on the left, much of it still holds true. I do not believe these traits are necessarily pathological--but they are descriptive in helping to understand those who follow extreme left-leaning thought.

The book discusses the classic authoritarian who adopts conservative ideas to defend himself against his underlying conflicts and insecurity--of course the authoritarian personality was first formulated by scholars who were quintessential outsiders: "leftist, internationalist, deracinated Jewish academics who were refugees from resurgent German nationalism, political reaction and virulent anti-Semitism." To read more about the authoritarian personality, read Theodor Adorno's work on the topic--it is beyond the scope of this post.

The authors of the book, Stanley Rothman & S. Robert Lichter spend chapters discussing how the same conflicts that underlie the authoritarian can be turned inside out. "The traditional authoritarian deflects his hidden hostilities onto outsiders and outgroups. The inverse (my italics) authoritarian unleashes his anger directly against the powers that be while taking the side of the world's 'victims' and 'outcasts.'" The authors ask an important question about the inverse authoritarian: "Was it not possible that the 'liberated generation' was bound to potentially dangerous unconscious personality dynamics no less than its forebears?"

The authors set about to study the new left in the 1970's with a variety of psychological tests and clinical interviews. I am certainly simplifying their work for the sake of space, but they found through testing that the inverse authoritarian rejects social authority out of hand and aligns himself with militant opponents of the established order. "These identifications give moral legitimacy to his desire to act out aggressive impulses by preaching or practicing 'revolutionary' confrontation and violence. Thus he identifies potency with force and militancy, projecting fantasized power and vitality onto society's outcasts and outsiders. At the same time, he scorns his own bourgeois intellectual background as impotent, a projection of the weakness he fears in himself."

Without going into too much detail, here are a few other things they found. Conservatives--particularly Jewish Conservatives--were found to be lowest on the need to feel powerful, followed by liberals but the need to feel powerful rose sharply among the New Left radical group--it was especially high in the Jewish radicals. Jewish conservatives, liberals, and radicals were all more affiliative (defined as a concern to establish, maintain and restore positive emotional relationships) than their non-Jewish counterparts.

What I carried away from the book is that there is no difference in the rigidity between fighting against outsiders or outgroups and fighting against the establishment---both are a form of rebellion that is based not on what is right, but on how one chooses to rebel. Basing politics and policy on how they fullfill our need for power, affiliation or hostility cannot be the best way of deciding what is right for our country.

Update: And, sometimes, being angry and stupid is not enough.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Check out the Carnival for Homeschooling. Check out the advice on homeschooling for fathers--there are some good tips.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Canadian Female Criminals are Just Big Kids

If you are are female and want to get away with murder, just head to Canada. Kala Homolka was freed from prison recently after just twelve years for the killing of three women--one of them her fifteen year old sister,Tammy Lynn. Karla even took part in raping her sister. Naturally, she blamed her husband, Paul Bernardo, for the whole thing and was given a lighter sentence for agreeing to testify against him. Despite video tapes showing Karla to have participated in these crimes, she was seen as a victim, especially because she was fair-haired and beautiful, kind of like an innocent child. If you want to read more about Karla Homolka's case and the politics and psychology of female killers, I highly recommend When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get Away With Murder.

Apparently, in Canada, if you just say you are sorry, you may not serve any jail time at all, and if you are female, all bets are off for what type of reduced sentence you can finagle out of the court system:

Female criminals have it even easier. Just over 15 per cent of women convicted of a crime will ever see the inside of a cell. The average stay, for those unlucky few who have to serve time, is just over 90 days for single crime, just under six months for multiple crimes. The average length of probation was about 15 months for "single-conviction" cases, about 19 months for multiple-conviction criminals.

And if you cannot stick to lower level types of crime, you can murder without having to lose too much time at work:

Consider the sentence of Teresa Layne Senner, of Vanderhoof, B.C. She killed Norman Wicks in November 2002 with a single knife stab to the groin after Wicks informed her he would not leave his wife to marry her, and after she learned he was having affairs with at least three other women besides her.

When Senner confronted Wicks in his home, she testified "stuff just started flying," including the knife that just happened to end up in her hand and then in his crotch.

The judge claimed not to buy her excuse that she was merely trying to get the knife out of the way of their quarrel, and safeguard Wicks, when the blade accidentally ended up in his nether regions.

The trial judge admitted most of Senner's testimony did not stand up to close examination. Nonetheless, because she "had no criminal record and had been a contributing member of society," he handed her a conditional sentence of two years less a day. She may live in her home and continue working. The only conditions are that she seek counselling and obey an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

Wow, a slap on the wrist, being sent to your room and having to talk to a counselor. In Canada, women can revel in being treated like children. My only question is, with this patriarchal system of justice in Canada, should women really be allowed to vote? Or is this just Canada's tradition of niceness being carried to ridiculous extremes?

Update: Thanks to Lex's blog for pointing out these crime stats which show that Canada has more attempted crime and crime per 100,000 people than the US. Perhaps the US may not be such a den of iniquity afterall.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Carnival of the Insanities

The Carnival of the Insanities is up over at Dr. Sanity's blog. My favorite is #7 which is a post on bizzare politically correct college courses.

Happy New Year!

I have said before that I do not make New Year's resolutions but I have decided there are a few things I am willing to try for 2006. I may not succeed but the following can serve as a general guide to improving my life (or others') in the coming year:

1) Try to be less grumpy--I tend to have the disposition of a grumpy old man--at least that is what people tell me. I feel happy this way but if it is raining on other people's parade, maybe I can try to put on a fake smile or laugh once in a while. Of course, then people get mad because I look like I am faking being happy. Maybe my resolution should be that I cannot please everyone.

2) Quit reading the Star and National Enquirer for all my entertainment needs--Hollywood Stars really do not deserve our hard earned money to keep themselves in the limelight. There is satellite radio, alternative artists and documentaries to keep me entertained at a higher level of intellectual engagement than the tabloids, although I love them dearly. To tell you the truth, I find the tabloids sometimes report news more accurately than the MSM or provide information that I normally would not see much of in the MSM. Case in point. I was reading The National Enquirer this week and found that Karla Homolka, a three time killer, is being released from prison in Quebec with no restrictions after serving only 12 years (she helped cops put away her husband for life, although he reports that one of the killings was done by Karla alone). I would not have seen this if it was not for The National Enquirer. Where are all the celebrities in an outrage over Karla getting out without supervision to roam the streets? Oh, well, another good reason to quit supporting tabloids that give press to celebrities and their pitiful causes.

3) Quit reading women's magazines. Okay, they are just plain depressing and downright dumb. I was treated to a copy of More magazine while getting my hair cut the other day and here are just a few tidbits I read before figuring out that staring at the salon ceiling and humming to myself presented a more tranquil and relaxing afternoon than thumbing through this trash. One of the articles contained the First Annual Media awards for women over 40 in the media. I know you will be shocked to hear that Cindy Sheehan made the list as "the woman we want on our team" and Maureen Dowd was chosen as "the needle of hope in the haystack of despair" award for her book, Are Men Necessary? If Maureen Dowd is your idea of hope for women in the media, I say, how low have we sunk?

Another enlightening article was on Mary Mapes starting over after she, Dan Rather, and CBS became the unfair targets of partisian bloggers! The only saving grace in this heroine-turned-victim saga is that her estranged father called a conservative radio talk show to claim she had always been a liberal and worse yet, a "radical feminist." Sometimes, father does know best.

4) Finally, read more blogs in 2006! There are so many blogs out there that I really enjoy. Just a few of my favorites are Ann Althouse, Asymmetrical Information, and David Bernstein and Dave Kopel at the Volokh Conspiracy. The blog I admired most in 2005 is Tas's blog who, despite being a liberal blogger, had the guts to stand up to the authoritarian lefty bloggers and tell it like it is.

So that is my list, I hope I can live up to it!

Update: Finally, someone likes me just the way I am!