Tag Archive: ignorance


The film Valhalla Rising was released in 2011 directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Refn and Roy Jacobsen, and starring Mads Mikkelsen. It is a dark adventure drama set in pagan Scotland during the dark ages. The main character played by Mikkelson is a mute warrior named One Eye. He is enslaved by a pagan chieftain for the purpose of gambling on fights as he appears to have a supernatural ability to defeat all opponents.

One day while bathing in a mountain stream he discovers an arrowhead which he conceals. He later uses it to cut his bonds and then kill his masters. As he wanders off he discovers that he is being followed by the young boy who was tasked with feeding him while he was caged. The boy has decided that sticking with One Eye is probably the safest option in a dangerous world.

They eventually come across a group of Christian mercenaries who have just massacred a community of pagans and forced their women and young girls to disrobe. They are seen huddling in terror and from the cold. The “missionaries” ask who he is and where he comes from. The boy answers for him and tells them that he was born from hell. They offer One Eye and the boy a place on their ship as they are heading for the “holy” lands to do the same to Muslims and need good warriors.

Unfortunately, due to some abberation of both weather and trans-Atlantic current, the voyagers become lost at sea, surrounded by mist with no wind to fill the sails. As they edge closer to desperation and madness they eventually find that they have arrived at a new land. The leader claims this land in the name of God and declares it to be the new holy land though others think it is hell. The survivors of an attack by native Americans and some intergroup conflict decide the safest option is to set off after the warrior from hell who seems indestructable. This wasn’t the wisest choice as, one by one they are picked off by the natives. In the end One Eye offers himself in sacrifice, without fight, in order to save the life of the young boy.

For me the movie is a comment on society’s psuedo-ethics. The one adult character who showed any moral character was judged to be amoral, from hell, by every other character as a result of being forced to fight to the death to stay alive. The other characters saw themselves as morally and spiritually superior to him thanks to their religious psuedo-ethics, both pagan and Christian. Patriotism is another very similar psuedo-ethic, though not mentioned in this film. They rely on individuals believing themselves superior to others via their strength of belief in or attachment to some “thing”, whether it be a hobgoblin or a piece of dirt.

The film highlights the “Dunning Kruger effect” as it pertains to moral reasoning.

“The Dunning-Kruger effect, named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University, occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words it’s “people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”.”

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

 In this case the characters, inexperienced as they are with the concepts of empathy and genuine moral reasoning skills based around genuine moral principles such as justice, beneficence and respect for autonomy, mistake their religiousness for morality…as so many people still do today. In the end One Eye, the social pariah, is shown to be the only character with any sense of strong moral principle or empathy by protecting the child and then sacrificing himself to save the child.

There is a lot of ignorance, assumptions and discrimination surrounding depression that results in a lot of unnecessary, additional harm to those suffering the disorder. For instance the myth that people with depression are self-absorbed. Research has shown the exact opposite. Those with depression have a greater degree of empathy for others. This is possibly due to the amount of pain that we have experienced in our lives. We become highly sensitive to the pain or potential pain in others and tend to be more prosocial in our behaviour toward others than neurotypicals.

Another great misunderstanding about depression is that it is just a state of being ‘sad’. Sadness is a natural emotional reaction to losses or temporary unfortunate events in a persons life and the experience is short lived. Depression on the other hand is often, but not always, the result of severe trauma, years of relentless abuse, bullying, neglect, and/ or social isolation that ingrains a negative pattern of thinking that is very hard to remove without help from a competent Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. Along with this cognitive aspect, physiological changes take place inside the brains of its victims. The exact mechanisms are complex and not fully understood as yet but they centre around a dramatic decrease in the brains ability to produce enough of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sustained child abuse has also been shown through scans to cause damage to neurological structures themselves. This all makes the experience of depression very different to the occasional sadness that most people experience. The experience of depression is one of severe emotional pain that feels as real as any physical pain. This emotional pain can become so extreme that it results in suicide to escape this relentless experience of pain (to sink the boot in, those who attwmpt or commit suicide are labelled “cowards”).

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The reduction of serotonin in the motivational and pleasure centres of the brain means that it is almost impossible to feel happy about anything, and results in great difficulty engaging in everyday activity, hence the myth that we’re lazy. In extreme cases a sufferer cannot even bring themselves to look after their own well-being on a day to day basis. Assuming that this is because the sufferer of depression is just lazy is like assuming that a sufferer of paraplegia doesn’t walk because they’re just lazy. Just because you can’t see the cause of disablement, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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Another assumption that people make comes as a result of Joe Pleb being unable to distinguish between a mood disorder and intellectual impairment. People seem to automatically treat those of us with depression as though depression makes us stupid. An unfair irony considering that they are the ignoramuses. Having an IQ of 170 I often feel like a I’m talking to monkeys who are hiding bananas behind their backs and thinking that they are much cleverer than I…even though I can plainly see the banana over their diminutive shoulders. But how do you explain that to a stupid monkey?

Then of course is the assumption that having a mental illness makes you dangerous. As they say, “You have to watch the quiet ones!” Being socially withdrawn and reserved as a result of feeling so much pain and no motivation to interact, obviously we are plotting the serial murder of everyone we know. In this case they are confusing what is referred to variously as psychopathy, sociopathy, or it’s proper psychiatric designation, anti-social personality disorder (APD). Soon you find yourself suspected of all the unsolved murders in the local area. Another unfair irony with this is that sociopaths are quite often charming and outgoing and the last person to be suspected of crime within a community. They are quite often considered pillars of the community in fact, and are very good at hiding their indiscretions.

I had the next assumption bluntly thrown in my face once from an acquaintance from my amateur ballet days. The individual in question was a principal dancer with the Queensland Ballet who had choreographed a pas de deux that I had performed in an amateur production. I was walking down the main street in West End in Brisbane and happened across he and his wife. He introduced me to her as, “Roger, the snob!” This is in fact a prime example of what is known in psychology as the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). A curse to anyone suffering, even temporarily, from mental dis-ease. Put simply, it is a phenomenon whereby a person’s behaviour is attributed to an internal trait as opposed to an external influence. So, to this principal dancer, the reason that I was quiet and withdrawn was not because I was suffering, as I have since childhood, major depression as a result of various abusive personalities and traumatic experiences. The reason, to his minds assumptions, was that I consciously chose not to be talkative and bubbly towards him because I saw myself as superior, ie a snob. Fundamental Attribution Error is essentially an act of cognitive laziness. It is a failure on the part of those who engage in it to reason more deeply as to the motivations and causes behind the behaviour of others. It is cognitively easier to attribute a behaviour as an internal, consistent trait of the individual rather than as a temporary state resulting from environmental circumstances. That would require the individual to use cognitive resources to conceive of possible environmental explanations.

One expects ignorant bigots, to have a complete deficit in empathy. The real hurter is family, and people you considered friends who show you absolutely no understanding or compassion. This lack of compassion causes so much extra unnecessary pain. That is why it is so important for sufferers to surround themselves with a social network that is understanding and supportive…if they can. I have to admit from personal experience, that understanding, empathic people are very hard to find, even among the clinical profession that is supposed to be there to help. Of course, having studied psychology and seen the plethora of privileged young people studying psychology who don’t appear to have any sense of suffering beyond missing an episode of their favourite tv program, I’m not surprised that they don’t show empathy with their clients. Don’t give up trying to find empathic people though, and don’t give up on seeking therapy either. A competent cognitive behaviour therapist will help you recover despite being a compassionless twit. It is the structured program of CBT that does the work. It would be nice to live in a world where those of us who suffer depression are not told, “Cheer up”,or even worse, “Harden Up”, as if that is the problem, it would make recovery from depression so much easier. The general attitude and lack of understanding of people towards those of us with depression however adds an extra layer of stress in our lives and a perceived need to keep our affliction to ourselves. We live in fear of the treatment we will receive from neurotypicals.

Addendum: I thought I should mention that I have finally found genuinely empathic therapists who have helped me immeasurably.

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