There are a series of crossways in the popular imaginary that quietly link a balanced combination of well-roundedness and specialization, entrepreneurial achievement, positivism, linear thinking, capitalist growth, efficiency, intellectual focus, and success. All of these things are conceived as more or less good--a category of judgement which allows no room for multitudes, obsessions, distractions, failures, doubts, fanaticisms, hybridities, sensitivities, inspirations, or any abundance of feeling. Abundance in general is negated in this scheme, which privileges and attributes value to all that is sharp like a knife and nothing that is fuzzy. The fuzzy is negligible. The fuzzy is wrong.
The fuzzy is aberrational in this scheme (which, if it is not obvious, is structured around capitalism). When French President François Hollande spoke this week on the recent spate of terroristic murders in Paris, he identified the African killers as "madmen, fanatics."In this way, fuzzy thinking is almost interchangeable in the popular imaginary with both criminality and difference (as well as darkness and unknowability, but that is for another essay). We see this in the case of every single high school shooting over the last fifteen years: the popular question always boils down to What went wrong at home and how did nobody see it? We do not ask the questions: Who else feels this way? or What other manifestations of this feeling are possible? or How could this feeling--the feeling (i.e., the knowledge) of being different--have been alternatively manifested?
It took a team of psychologists reporting in Psychology Today and elsewhere to determine that Christopher Dorner (the black ex-cop who declared war on the LAPD two years ago) is not, officially a psychopath. The focus was on his difference--his doubtful nature in regards to a racist patriarchy--as a perfect example of criminal fuzz. Feelings of difference such as this, and their violent manifestations, are not easily decoupled from what we call madness, and more legible professionals were thus deployed to help make sense of these violent acts stemming from confusion and sorrow in the professional and social realm.
And that coupling is powerfully leveraged to deny the very social forces that drove Dorner so crazy. If I never see another image of a lynching from the early 21st century, or another picture of Nazis marching through Germany with some sort of copy discussing the otherwise innocent white folk as people who had somehow become complicit in evil by putting aside their good sense of humanity and logic and delving into the darkness of madness.... White families who have picnics at lynchings aren't crazy, they're racist. They're dealing with white supremacist capitalist patriarchy--which may indeed encourage fuzzy thinking, or may exist side by side with fuzziness--but it is not their craziness that explains their violence. Being crazy is not necessarily the same thing as being violent. However, being racist (among other things) is.
But I want to return to this question: Who else feels this way? I recently found myself in an emergency intake for psychological counseling. I was/have been/might always be having a breakdown (again). If you've never done a psychological intake, consider yourself privileged: they are really uncomfortable, oddly reassuring, and yet simultaneously dissociating things. Anyway, they are a series of questions, which in the best environments are used to help you find a therapist, and in the worst cases are used to medicate, incarcerate, or commit you (or some combination of the three). During my intake, I was asked Have you ever thought of killing someone?
What a question!
To be honest, I don't know. I'm fairly sure I've never premeditated murder--and I can guarantee that, in this life anyway, I have never taken anyone's life knowingly. But have I ever considered it? I very well may have. How many times have I been scared by another person--really terrified? How many times have I been sexually or otherwise violently offended by another person? How many times have I been so angry at someone that I did not feel in possession of my own actions? How many times have I felt dispossessed?*
It is a sharp question that elicits only fuzzy answers. But fuzzy is aberrational, after all, and even in a building constructed to house and treat aberrations like me, I was scared to say any of this. This response--fear of my own difference--is very, very normal; of this I am positive.
So imagine the difficulty of normalizing the fuzz outside of such spaces. How do you tell someone you barely know, when they ask How have you been? that you have spent the last five months contemplating suicide? That you have felt so confused and so angry that you've premeditated killing not someone else, but yourself? That you sometimes lose your sense of who you are and where you are, and it makes you cry uncontrollably? How do you tell someone you've shared a drink or two with that you struggle in a deep way with depression, that you sometimes fantasize so intensely about disappearing that you hurt yourself in an attempt to deny your physical presence? And that this is why, I'm sorry, I didn't get to apply for that thing you nominated me for, or I didn't show up to your event, or I had to cancel our plans so many times. How do you apologize for the unspeakable? And how do you explain to someone that these feelings are chemical but also based on your heightened sensitivity to world horror? Why isn't that obvious?
Better yet, how do they receive the information once you tell them? How do they re-imagine you, police you, and negate you--or vice versa, celebrate this version of you to whom they've just become closer? The three overarching questions I suppose I have to ask are How do we safely come out about who we really are in relationship to madness and How do we support those around us coming out? And How can we reimagine ourselves as necessarily diverse, and thus cease using diversity as a metonym for criminality?
The thing about diversity is it demands community. Being a little or a lot fuzzy means the constructed world is not made for you, and the only way to survive it is with support. I know that right now I have so much to learn from those in the disability community who have been thinking about disability justice and the complexities of community for so long. (I am partially writing this blog to step my conversation and research game up, esp. with folk like TL Lewis, Allie Cannington, Theri A. Pickens, Micha Cardeñas, Moya Bailey, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and so many others who criss-cross fields to talk about safety, community, and self-actualization (because a part of my fuzziness has always been social phobia, but I am committed to growing stronger as a fuzzy person).)
I am really upset about what the French President said, and what silly statements like that do to neurodiverse people, crazy people, sensitive people--people like me living in the fuzz. It refuses our right to humanity. It encourages our desperate desire to perform passing behavior (and as we know, passing is always tied to violence). It denies our need for community--and thus denies the need we all share for mutual support. It makes things sharp, efficient, easily considered and disregarded; when, in reality, madness is anything but. Madness is not inherently criminal, and it is not negligible. Madness is fuzzy. Madness demands respect.
*Another way to think of this, one which I borrow from Fred Moten, is to understand the flip of this question: How many times have I been possessed? To be possessed can occur in unison with the forces of oppression and dispossesion, and denies one the right to their own self-possession. I could be talking about zombies here just as easily as I could be talking about colonized thinking.