Pages 127 to 129 of Social Security Document Submission
When I was seeing Dr. Palombo, I stated two grievances I had with him: (1) that he was in communication with my employer, and (2) that with some of his interpretations he was simply reinventing the wheel. (By the latter comment I was referring to my feeling that he was applying his general body of knowledge (normative competence) to certain issues, but that other investigators might have already done specific and precise research on the issue. In such instances, Dr. Palombo’s interpretations were not incorrect but they were generalized; his interpretations would have been more useful if they had relied on specific research that had already been done. For example, let us say that a psychiatrist is treating someone suffering from anorexia nervosa. The patient might be correctly diagnosed as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. Yet precise and specific research has been done on the issue of the psychopathology of anorexia. The psychiatrist’s interpretations would not be wrong, but he might be missing many important details in the patient’s presentation if he were not familiar with the psychiatric literature on the specific disorder, anorexia nervosa. That’s what I meant by “reinventing the wheel.”)
The two themes of “reinventing the wheel” and communications with my employer seem to have nothing to do with each other. Yet I have created an parable that blends these two seemingly unrelated issues and looks at the issues from two different perspectives. In the parable, these two issues lose their distinctiveness, suggesting that they are related. The parable also relates to the issue of projection.
The king of an Arab state in the middle east decides that he wants his country to become a nuclear power; he wants to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal. He hires a team of scientists to develop a bomb. The work proceeds slowly. The king is dissatisfied with the progress of the work. He rails against the scientists, telling them that he is paying them a large sum of money for their work and that they are not producing any useful results. The team of scientists do a creditable job, but one vital element in the design eludes them. Finally, the king, totally dissatisfied with the research being done by his team of scientists, and despairing that they will ever develop a workable nuclear device, decides that he will rely on espionage to achieve his goal. He will employ a team of agents to obtain by stealth from a nuclear power (hopefully the U.S. Defense Department, if he can gain access to it) the classified data that he needs to develop a bomb. The king will hand the data over to engineers who will develop a workable device. As far as the original team of nuclear physicists is concerned, the king tells them that they are all nothing but worthless failures since they never succeeded in accomplishing the task that they had taken on.
Years earlier, before he had ascended the throne, the king--then a prince--was a student at an American university. He had plans to apply to medical school. In his senior year in college, the prince took a course in physics. Because he was planning to apply to medical school, it was important that he get top grades--especially in science courses. As a project for his physics course, he chose to develop and submit to his professor a design for a nuclear weapon.
He discusses his plans with the professor. The professor had reservations about such a project, but permitted the prince to proceed. The professor was aware that such work had obviously been done already, since nuclear weapons were already in existence. But the professor reasoned that despite the fact that the student would simply be “re-inventing the wheel,” the project would be a useful task since the designs for such a devise were classified. A successful design would be a valid indicator of the student’s abilities since the student would have no access to the vital, classified work that had already been done by others. As far as the student was concerned, the professor reasoned, the work would be “original” research. The prince completed the project and submitted it to the professor. The professor read the project and assessed the designs. The professor had two concerns. While reading through the paper, he realized for the first time that the project posed a grave national security threat. Second, since the design of a nuclear bomb is classified, he is not really sure himself whether the student’s design is at all workable. The professor contacts the Defense Department, which, in turn, contacts a group of nuclear physicists. Doth Defense Department officials and a team of nuclear physicists assess the students’ paper. The physicists note that the submitted design contains at least one significant error that would render the design unworkable. But they are amazed that the student was able to go as far as he did. From a purely scientific point of view, the physicists conclude that the student did a creditable job, and that if the prince were their student they would assign him a very high grade for his efforts. Defense Department officials have other concerns, however. Despite the flaw in the work, the student’s project indeed poses a grave security threat. A Defense Department official consults with the student’s professor and officials from the student’s university. The Defense Department official instructs the professor and the university that the student is not to be assigned a grade for the course. Also, the professor is advised not to discuss the grade or the paper in any manner with the student. When the student is advised that he will not receive a grade for the course, he is distraught. First, he will not be able to graduate at the time he expected. Second, an “incomplete” grade on his transcript might very well jeopardize his chances for acceptable at one of the finer private medical schools.
Thus, a key aspect of the student’s identity -- whether he is an outstanding physics student or a mere bungler -- is withheld because of others’ concerns regarding security.
(This is like calling a person paranoid and withholding from him the very evidence that confirms that he is not paranoid because to divulge the information would threaten the accuser’s own position. It’s a variation on the “Dreyfus problem.”)
[This is a disgrace. And the FBI thinks there's nothing to investigate here? The Social Security Administration is not a latter day Works Progress Administration. SSDI is not meant to support aspiring writers, poets, playwrights and portrait painters. The program is meant to assist disabled workers.
But then, three psychiatrists have diagnosed me with paranoid schizophrenia!]