Psycho-historian Chris Millard has described the clinical invention of ‘self-harm’ as a category so narrow that most cases actually treated (eg. overdoses of non-’recreational’ drugs) don’t count.** The term ‘self-harm’ becomes shorthand for young white women damaging their skin, which they do for standardized personal reasons. Impersonal reasons and anomalous personal ones are sidelined in the diagnostic process, along with atypical patients and nine tenths of the ways of physically assaulting the abstract self.
So much for the exact words.
But figurative speech serves social policing in strange ways. If the literal meaning has leaked out of self-harm over the last four decades, it has sunk deep into ordinary social management in the meantime.
Millard shows how the narrow ‘self-harm’ diagnosis reduces the patient to a package of emotional pathology whose therapists know her better than she knows herself. And in 2015 (or 2005, 1995 and counting backwards…) nothing is less narrowly applied than that sort of diagnosis. Management of Bad Choices and Negative Behaviour through Incentives (mostly threats) is a workload that doctors and therapists share with their colleagues in police courts, dole offices, private sector Human Resources departments and charities. (We see the person, not the homelessness, crows one of the latter!) Sub-optimal, auto-destructive social behaviour is a luxury We*** can’t afford in the age of Human Capital and the Skills Gap. Lack of self-possession is selfishness. (Nervousness = immorality, cackled the voices in Judge Schreber’s head.) All such behaviour must be modified until the patient (in the broad sense, as opposed to agent) is raised – like it or not – to rude competitive health. Reluctance to be Helped is pathological in a person or downright delinquent if it catches on collectively.
So ‘self’ and ‘harm’ are meant more generically below than in Millard’s work, not because the narrow sense doesn’t matter but because the enforcers of economic self-care and psychic hygiene want those things for everyone.
[*Initially written for Sidsel Meiniche-Hansen’s This is not a Symptom series, South London Gallery, March 2015.]
[**See in particular Making the Cut (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/237060847_Making_the_cut).
Millard also took part in This is not a Symptom, for which Making the Cut was made available along with Reinventing Intention (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/232087480_Reinventing_intention_’Self-harm’_and_the_’cry_for_help’_in_postwar_Britain).]
[***Also called ‘society’, or the Nation’s share of capital. There never was such a thing, but the superstition still does its dirty work.]
Thirteen Prostheses on Carelessness of the Self
Nether neither ether either*
According to the California Task Force for the Promotion of Self-Esteem and Personal Responsibility, we need to make self-esteem and responsibility training a part of the State’s penal and criminal justice systems. Accepting repsonsibility for the consequences of one’s own decisions and behaviour is an integral part of healthy self-esteem. Esteem for the self means consent to the conditions that compose it.
Social self-harm is compulsory in most jurisdictions. Mere surrender to the ruined life supplied is not enough: in the attached form, please propose your active contribution.
Out of work claimants must accept a claimant commitment. If a claimant refuses to accept their [sic] claimant commitment, they will not be entitled to Universal Credit. If the claimant doesn’t do what he or she has committed to do, they [he AND she?] will experience tougher penalties than at present, such as their benefit being reduced or withdrawn for up to three years.
But at the same time personal self-ownership is more compulsory than ever. ‘Own’ as in own up to: ‘admit liability’ or ‘answer for’. ‘Ownership’ as in custody on behalf of a higher proprietor. Antisocial self-harm incurs penalties (henceforth: Help) when the asset is disfigured, soiled or otherwise cheapened.
What used to be called a cry for Help is now flagged as failure to seek it, triggering urgent intervention to impose it.
Responsible person saves labour
for broad sense police. Don’t make me tell you once
to gamble conscientiously.
They’re hiding to avoid playing tribute
reluctant to die of a structured hug
Another name for (2.) and (3.) above is competitiveness. Care of the self = self-punishment = basic training in peer-to-peer prizefighting. Blood spilled here, says the OECD, fuels the bigger body (Company, Country) for gladiatorial sport against rivals its own size.
Self-care means signing up as keeper of your ‘own’ bloody body.
Westminster Council solves its ‘obesity crisis’ in a flash of inspiration: JUST STOP FEEDING THEM! Payments withdrawn from ‘overweight or unhealthy’ welfare claimants who refuse to take part in ‘prescribed leisure activities’, i.e. compulsory sports and gym classes with attendance monitored by ‘smart’ card. That money went on fatty, salty shelter as well as roach-ridden food. The wages of self-endangerment is death.
The feminine stereotype of self-harm is a harm reduction exercise for social managers: a multi-agency move to smother scandalous cost-benefit analysis. Unqualified women (or unmanned men) shall not be left to decide what’s worst for them. Best HR/Outpatients/Probation Practice: she doesn’t act, she acts out her attributes, an autobiography that only she can’t read.
The flesh wound, all the agencies agree,
is a late-stage marker on a trail of misery.
But they call the retroactive story SELF-harm, so
just one slasher was the cause of causes all along.
How hard can it be to take literally? My person is the vehicle through which all that I detest is wrought on me. I refuse it complicity. Can’t abide in, won‘t abide: the form of life on offer guarantees no deal. Stop feeding it! And while you’re at it starve the slander that this means death strikes my squat. Neither never either awe, just not the present death-affirming day. The skin’s insufferably smooth, so break it gently…
‘I’ constrains multitudes in all the above. Beat yourself fitter, crippled figure of speech.
Self-sabotage or disownership of I is not just not nihilistic, it’s the opposite of personal. With other-worldly patience, Sean Bonney explains that when Rimbaud says “I is an other”,
‘…he’s talking about the destruction of bourgeois subjectivity, yeh? That’s clear, yeh? … Obviously you could read that as a simple recipe for personal excess, but only from the perspective of police reality …
The “systematic derangement of the senses” is the social senses, ok, and the “I” becomes an “other” as in the transformation of the individual into the collective when it all kicks off. It’s only in the English speaking world, where none of us know anything except how to kill, that you have to point simple shit like that out. In the enemy language it is necessary to lie.‘
Reported sightings of a friendly language remain unconfirmed.
In August 2013 a California court rejected ‘do not resuscitate’ writs filed by State prisoners on hunger strike against their solitary confinement. The judge mandated violent force to prolong life on the grounds that an individual prisoner’s decision not to live under those conditions might be ‘gang-related’, i.e. collective.
A minute’s violence please for the Disasters of Peace.
*Epigraph: Nether neither… Alchemical formula by the poet and musical fury Cameron Bain (rage in peace).
*4. Dictionary definition: HELP. (1.) A gift from someone who kicks down your door to make sure you get it. http://www.wealthofnegations.org/
– On the quiet euthanasia of the ‘cry’, see Chris Millard (references above).
*5. ‘Gamble responsibly’ is a UK government warning displayed in betting shops (designated sites of antisocial self-harm) but inexplicably missing from the sales pitch for pension ‘products’.
– They are hiding… A Spanish priest in 16th century Potosí (present-day Bolivia), explaining the preference among ‘natives’ for flight and certain death over forced labour (and certain death) in the famous silver mine.
– Structured hug: the ‘restraint technique’ that killed 14-year-old Adam Rickwood at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre, an (all male) youth prison whose operator Serco reports that rampant self-harm threatens Good Order And Discipline (GOAD).
*6. The supply-side psychology driving public policy ‘promotes competitive behaviour’ by ‘incentivizing’ social self-harm (‘flexibility’, ‘aspiration’) and punishing the antisocial kind. Competitive behaviour within a workplace, a sector or a nation-state is Good For everyone because it boosts the competitive advantage of the larger entity. See again: http://www.wealthofnegations.org/. On the energetic OECD/EU campaign for this basic misunderstanding of ‘zero-sum’, see: Paul Cammack, The Politics of Global Competitiveness, e-space Open Access Repository, 2006.
*8. On the ‘the feminine stereotype of self-harm’, see Millard.
*10. Wallace Stevens: ‘The person has a mould. But not its animal’. (The Man with the Blue Guitar)
– Dylan Thomas had death strike ‘their house’, presumably because people often ‘had’ houses back then. (On a Wedding Anniversary)
– Neither never… see epigraph.
– ‘I’: Walt Whitman may or may not have meant to feed it to bursting. (Song of Myself)
*11. See: Sean Bonney, Happiness: Poems After Rimbaud, Unkant, London, 2011, (http://ammarxists.org/sean-bonney-happiness-poems-after-rimbaud/), and: http://abandonedbuildings.blogspot.co.uk/.
*12. For more of the near-same: Mme Tlank & Clinical Wasteman, Down with Childhood and Adulthood.