Watching Danish-Swedish collaboration The Bridge from the middle part of last decade, one is struck by perhaps the most persistent metaphor used in the show: that of trauma as similar to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy:
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability.
MSBP interests those who are studying the death of civilizations because it represents a potent metaphor for the double stroke of human behavior:
Monkey-see, monkey-do. This becomes more complicated when people do things for social reasons, because now you have the self, the social group, and whatever objective in reality they have. For MSBP, it looks like this:
I apologize for the ungrammatical use of the comma there, but it serves to clarify the cause-effect relationship. Imagine an arrow in its place if you will. In this case, people see a social reaction and manipulate reality to achieve it undeservedly.
Much of human bad behavior falls into the “attention signaling” category like this. Stolen valor, or pretending to be a veteran when one is not, seems to arise just about anywhere, as does buying expensive things in order to con others into thinking that you are wealthy.
In an MSBP behavior profile, the afflicted person makes their children (or other dependents) ill with external means in order to attract social attention. Generation X may recognize a variant of this, using your children as a signal of success or happiness, that was endemic to our parent group.
That behavior came about once society became diverse and consequently, lost sight of culture, which rewards certain behaviors like not getting divorced and having two working parents in a broken home. At that point, we were all equal, which meant we all drowned in obscurity and isolation.
People could quickly break through that by being victims, since both social groups and democracy shift their attention to whoever needs attention, therefore reward misfortune, failure, and self-destruction. Democracy is the age of the anti-hero for this reason.
In democracy, we need some way to signal importance, so we choose victims. The poor, minorities, homosexuals, women, retards, the insane, the stupid, the diseased, the lost. Like any MSBP personalities, this makes us harm them for our own benefit.
This in turn harms us, because we become dependent upon them. Much like Generation X, who were latchkey kids stored in bedrooms with gadgets to keep from noticing how their divorced and broken families did not function, the victims are both necessary and despised.
If you wondered why the terms we use in politics have become less sane over the past few generations, look to this process. We keep using up victim groups and moving on to others, advancing ourselves but losing our souls, and there is never enough attention to go around in our “equal” society.
Tags: attention whoring, munchausen by proxy, social status signaling