Tuesday, March 24, 2015

California Dreamin' — Censoring What You Say About It (24 May 2013)

          It was several small masscres ago — about the time when I started thinking seriously about moving to California — and the General Assembly of the Golden State reacted to the demand to DO SOMETHING!!! about gun violence by adding another requirement for shrinks to report to police authorities on their, the shrinks', conversations with their clients.

          "Well," I thought, "if I ever have to talk to a professional in California about mental issues, I'll stick to a lawyer or priest."

         Professional conversations with lawyers and priests are still privileged, even in California, and I sincerely hope Church authorities have kept up, or will soon return to, the old custom of burning at the stake priests who violate the seal of confession. And you can add to the pyre lawyers who tattle on their clients.

         Or, if that seems extreme, perhaps just defrocking priests and disbarring lawyers and banishing them from respectable society.

         You see, I probably should never talk to a California shrink, possibly to no one in the mental health biz, because I say things like my hoping for burning at the stake priests — or lawyers or shrinks — who finque on their clients.

         I sometimes write with violent imagery and sometimes "image" (briefly) baroquely unpleasant outcomes for people who annoy me.

         Although I may not do this as often as most people.

         I declined to see Zero Dark Thirty (2013) because of its torture scene(s), and I've never seen a a Texas Chainsaw remake. (For professional reasons, I had to watch the original Chainsaw and the original Saw and that will do me for that series.) Indeed, I felt compelled to caution one younger colleague when we compared notes on having courses micromanaged by a council of busybodies at our university: he talked about fantasizing walking into one of their meetings with a flamethrower, and I chided him for lacking in his imaginings the personal touch. "A Sarah-Connor-style pump-action shotgun," I said. "You get satisfying imagined splatter while respecting individuality."

         Long before that, a colleague my own age asked me how I could sit through Student Affairs Council meetings smiling beatifically amidst the droning bullshit. I said the secret was using one's imagination. "I play 'Damn the Dean' and picture something out of Dante, just updated."

         She was a respectable woman, the product of a good Catholic upbringing, but one light on the Dante-esque.

         So I bought her a Fantasy Aid: a miniature sound-effects device that you could point at someone and listen to the quiet sounds of machine-gun fire, rockets, and a couple other appropriately nasty noises (crossbow-bolt thuds?). She accepted the present and the advice and went on to finish her term of office — or sentence, perhaps — on Council.

         John of Patmos — John, anyway, of The Book of Revelations — was not the first guy to picture horrible ends for his enemies, and Dante was very far from the last. (And these guys were Christians!) Indeed, women, from time to time, have not been totally immune: one wife in a long-term marriage was asked if she had ever contemplated divorce. "Divorce?" she said. "Never! Now murder (pause) — frequently."

         Would the long-married and probably totally-harmless lady be wise to say that line to a shrink in California? Would the shrink be obligated to follow-up with questions to be sure she had not become a threat?

         Perhaps more interestingly, if Dante Aligheri were to discuss his visions with a clinical psychologist in California would he be reported to police authorities for threats to, say, a Pope or two?

         For sure he could get into trouble talking to a counsellor in some school districts.

         The drugs psychiatrists can offer can be effective, perhaps especially effective when combined with some talk. If the talk is potentially dangerous to a client, however — if it could get "shared" with police authorities or others — then there is an interesting balancing of risks and benefits here.

         Perhaps one would do best to come up with a story for a shrink that might get one healing drugs, but wouldn't get one into trouble. For serious talk, though, at least in California, one might do best to see a priest or lawyer; they're allowed to keep secrets.

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