• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Learning Helplessness

The News: Progressive Magazine's Barbara Ehrenreich writes: "It is too soon to say what the results of this first-ever experiment on humans will be. Animals subject to "noncontingent" punishments and rewards‹i.e., those unconnected to any prior choices or behaviors‹tend to get a little psychotic. In a classic study undertaken by psychologist Martin Seligman, dogs subjected to unavoidable shocks for no reason at all developed a condition called "learned helplessness," and lost the ability to avoid future shocks even when avoidance was possible. Similarly with rats: After being subjected to undeserved torments, they simply give up and huddle in a corner of their cage.

And never doubt for a moment that our leaders are capable of conducting such experiments on humans. Jane Mayer revealed in the July 11 New Yorker that Seligman's results with tortured dogs have been of interest to the military and may have influenced the bizarre treatment of "enemy combatants" in various detention spots around the world. Not to mention the fact that being held indefinitely without charges is itself a supremely noncontingent punishment.

I'm not saying "we're all in Guantánamo now," or anything as melodramatic as that. Most of us, after all, enjoy infinitely more comfortable day-to-day living conditions than those offered to detainees. But we are all being subjected to the same sort of experiment‹and will be until we overcome our "learned helplessness" and get up on our hind legs again.

The Note: What kind of human scum, would "experiment " that way with a dog or a rat. If he's so damn curious why doesn't he have the decency to test it out on the brats of his loins? On the other hand, maybe he just takes after the Great Malevolence in the Sky. After all, Life itself seems to be a sequence of non-contingent punishments. I for one feel pretty helpless.

©WCG, 2005