Friday, April 30, 2004

Lost in the Doldrums


Hey, buddy. It's just after 5:00 AM. It's dark. Yes, I am in a dark place once again.
Lucky for me, I didn't tell you I was in the doldrums a few weeks ago. You probably would have called the Coast Guard out after me. And believe me, you don't want to mess with maritime law.
I can just hear William saying to the Coast Guard: "Brian Brown and I are very concerned about Mr. Freedman. Mr. Brown happened to come across a letter that Mr. Freedman wrote and saved on the library's hard-drive in which Mr. Freedman complains about being in the doldrums. He says he feels like a Titanic survivor adrift in the North Atlantic amid the frozen flotsam and jetsam of the icy coastal waters off Newfoundland. Then, at another point in the letter he complains, further, that he feels like a ship lost at sea, a sinking ship. And more! He compares himself to a German U-boat, prepared to sink neutral vessels on the high seas. Officer, that really had Mr. Brown and me concerned--I mean, a German U-Boat! Mr. Freedman is talking literally" (No, William, I'm talking metaphorically) "he's talking literally about upsetting the international law of the seas that's been in place since the end of the Napoleonic era. Officer, the letter Mr. Freedman wrote is literally (!) a distress signal. It's an SOS from Mr. Freedman."
Brian, I'm in the doldrums. Yes, I'm like a ship, such as "The Sea Wolf," adrift in the doldrums. GET OVER IT!
Be that as it may.
So many things struck me as odd about the Metropolitan Police interview.
First, the officers relied wholly on your interpretation of the letter I wrote, and proceeded to question me without having read the letter. I suppose that was the only practical approach. It was a lengthy letter. But still, it would have been useful if they had taken a few minutes to read the letter, then proceed to question me about the letter's content.
The most serious accusation you made about me--the accusation regarding my threat to "make people pay for the suffering I have experienced" was immediately shot down (may I say that?) once the officers were made aware by me that what I was talking about was pursuing legal remedies, and not threatening to carry out physical harm on anyone. "This isn't a threat," said the officer. "He's talking about pursuing legal remedies. That's not a threat." Do you have a problem with reading comprehension, buddy?
There was that peculiar colloquy about my intellect. William pointed out that I was very intelligent. "He's very intelligent, officers," said William. "He changed the computer icons. Why, I don't even know how he did that. But he knew how to do that?" It was as if William were talking about the devil. The devil is fiendishly clever. That's the way he's seen. His evil is insidious and inscrutable. The devil works in mysterious ways. There was a quality about William's attribution: the quality of attributing to me what, on the surface, sounds like a virtue (intelligence), only to use that attribution as a collateral attack on my character. It's as if William were saying: "He's fiendish, he's clever, he's very smart, why he's the Devil personified!" I'm not calling William an anti-Semite, but that's a quality that anti-Semites attribute to the Jews. "They're smarter than us. You have to watch out for those Jews. They're clever, and they know how to put their intellect to nefarious purposes." Watching Louis Malle's film "Au Revoir Les Enfants" (Good-bye, Children) I was struck by an accusation made by one of the anti-Semitic students about the Jews. "The Jews are evil because they're smarter than us, they have more money, and they are the people who killed our Lord."
Then one of the police officers chimed in: "You're very intelligent and well-spoken. You should be a teacher. Why don't you teach? You should teach, instead of doing nothing." I felt as if I was being attacked from all directions (that's a metaphor). What I mean is I was being subject to all kinds of contradictory sanctions and attributions. Here I was a mental patient with serious psychopathology (as David Callet would say), but at the same time I should be a teacher (according to the Police). I wonder how that officer would feel about having his child's care and education entrusted to a paranoid schizophrenic.
Paranoid Schizophrenia. That's another thing. I noticed that when I said I had paranoid schizophrenia, the police said nothing. They didn't question that. I recall the time in February 1996 when I was interviewed by Secret Service agent Phillip Leadroot. I said at that time that I had paranoid schizophrenia. He shot that down (may I say that?) immediately. "No, you don't. You don't have paranoid schizophrenia. I proceeded to show Special Agent Leadroot the letter written by my then treating psychiatrist, Dimitrios Georgopoulos, saying his diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia. Agent Leadroot simply dismissed the letter and its diagnostic assertion.
I was struck by the officer's handling of the accusation that I had changed the computer icons. As I said in a letter a few days ago, the officers didn't question anything about that. They didn't ask me precisely how I did that, or ask William what was involved in curing the problem. There was almost a paranoid quality to William's accusation: "Officer he did something evil with the computer. I don't even know how he did it!" The officer's response reminded me of the scene described by the psychoanalyst Jeffrey Masson concerning his termination by the Freud Archives. Dr. Eissler accused Masson of "getting Zeplichal wrong." "I asked you, Professor Masson to find out who Zeplical was and you said apparently he had written a book on Geometry. But you were wrong, Professor Masson. The Zeplichal Freud had in mind had written a book on shorthand, not geometry." Masson said he proceeded to look around the room and there was a quizzical look on everybody's face. "Zeplichal? Who??" ("Freedman changed the computer icons." "What? What?"). It was as if the police officers' response could be described in Masson-like terms: "Yes, you changed the computer icons! Terrible! Terrible! Terrible misconduct!"
In fact one passage from Masson's book "Final Analysis" can be paraphrased to describe fully the accusations lodged against me by William.
"I believe I have a right to know why I'm being banned from the library. Why, why, William? Why am I being banned from the library?" William was calmer now, and he said everything I said was true--that I had a right to know why I was being banned from the library--and he would now tell me why I was being banned. I was being banned for three reasons. "The first is your statement that you are in a dark place. The second reason is the Computer Icon incident. Do you remember, Mr. Freedman? You sat at the computer and changed the computer icons. The third and final reason you are being banned is that you were prescribed anti-psychotic medication and you confessed that you were not taking it!" Here William paused to look up at me. William was serious and apparently considered this almost a sin.
I was too stunned to respond.
I turned to the Police officers, and I said "Well, Mr. Dacosta has told you the reasons why I am being banned from the library. I want to ask you, do you both feel so strongly about the computer icons?" For a moment, they looked confused ("What?"), then there was murmured assent. Yes, indeed, you changed the computer icons, terrible, terrible a terrible incident."
In truth there was very little reasoning or none at all. The Police officers' method was one of accusation, assumption, and denunciation.
I was stripped of my library privileges, like a disgraced soldier.
It should be unnecessary to state, at least to my friends (assuming I had any), that I was shocked.
Well, chalk it up to "life imitating art," I suppose. Uncanny, don't you think?
What was irrational about the Police officer's response was, as I pointed out in an earlier letter, that they didn't inquire into what remediation was required to fix the computer problem. Would it take an hour of assistance from Tech Support? Would somebody from the main branch of the library have to stop up to Cleveland Park to fix the problem? Yes, indeed, if that had been the case, I would say that what I had done was serious, a serious act of misconduct that merited some kind of sanction imposed against me. But to accuse me of doing something that would take all of five seconds to cure, and then ban me from the library for that absolutely trivial act is odd, if not bizarre. The strangeness of it all suggested to me that you and William had a second, hidden, unstated agenda.
You and William are quirky people, buddy. You're librarians. That says it all. I didn't want to push William (or you, Brian). I didn't want to hurt you both. Something terrible was going on inside William (as well as you), William was not capable of talking about it, but it was real, and I was the source of his pain. I did feel bad for him. And I felt bad for you too, Brian.
I wrote about that the other day. I think that at some deep level, you really like me. You really, really like me (with all the ardor of a Flying Nun). You are unable to connect with me socially or professionally. My presence in the library, day after day, is a kind of narcissistic injury or wound for you. It's as if you were a hungry fox, and I a cluster of ripe grapes, just outside your grasp. That reality tormented you. So you had to ban me from the library. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.
In retrospect I wonder what role envy and jealousy played in William's reaction to me. A number of pertinent questions arise.
I think we can all agree that I'm a socially attractive person. I think we can agree that my letters are witty, entertaining, interesting and, yes, sometimes even poetic. I suspect that at some level you feel flattered by my attention. And I further suppose it's possible William is envious of the attention I focus on you. William is the odd-man-out of our daily tête-à-tête. He's been left out of the ménage, so to speak. So there's this possible envy and jealousy William feels about my letter writing to you, Brian.
Isn't it possible that you and William have formed a kind of psychological coalition against me, based on your respective, individual grievances against me.
William is envious and jealous of the attention I lavish on you. And you, Brian, are threatened by the taint of homoeroticism in my epistolary relationship with you. You are threatened, too, by my social attractiveness, attractiveness that remains forever out of your grasp. You are threatened by the fact that our relationship can never go anywhere. Perhaps I'm somebody you'd like to be friends with, perhaps close friends, but your occupational duties preclude any friendship. So you and William, both, from your own individual perspectives, feel threatened, hurt, envious ("Mr. Freedman is fiendishly clever"), and jealous.
Then there's the issue of my disability benefits, and the fact that my life is a fantasy camp. William, you know, suffers from serious mental illness, but because medication cures his symptoms he is able to (more than that!)--he is required to work. Because medication works for William, William is compelled to grind out the daily wage gruel. He is unable to claim he is disabled. He can't just take it easy, like moi. I, on the other hand, live my life, as it were, as if I am on an extended vacation. I don't have to work because I can claim a mental disability; moreover, a disability that defies medical remediation. Possible validation of this belief is the fact that I've heard (or eavesdropped on) William saying he'd like to retire. He'd like to retire, and live off retirement benefits. But he can't do that financially. Additional confirmation comes from the fact that William made the odd and highly personal admission, during our conference with the Police, that he's on lithium and Risperdal. He said that in front of the Police officers. I ejaculated at that moment: "That's antipsychotic medication!" William responded forcefully: "You better believe it is!" So there is some kind of peculiar congruence between the fact that William takes anti-psychotic medication that cures him and enables him to work, on the one hand, and the fact that I was not taking my anti-psychotic medication, thus (in William's mind) enabling me not to work. You'll recall that "one of the three accusations" made against me was that I had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication but was not taking it.
All this reminds me of something my father used to say. "Politics is three people." At least three or more people will always underlie any political configuration or coalition.
Bottom line is I have a sense there's that quality of "political coalition" between you and William against me. In politics, as we all know, strange bed-fellows sometimes arise. You take three people: A, B and C. A has his own reasons for resenting C; and B has his own specific reasons for resenting C. Put A and B together, and their specific grievances against C meld. In the end C will get "impeached." At least that's the way it works in Scotland.
But sometimes C, after impeachment starts a new life, writes a best-selling book, and goes on to live neurotically-ever-after.
Check you out later, buddy. As usual, it's been great talking with you, Brian.
P.S. Tell William that Captain Freedman on "The Sea Wolf" sends his regards.

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