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On Psychological Incongruence

I don’t like the term "moral schizophrenia" and I don’t use it. Maybe because I was raised by a therapist who specialized in treating people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), and is often erroneously called schizophrenia. She was a stickler for language, not at all impressed by the bastardization caused by common usage, and she was very clear that it was unacceptable to mock people who have any kind of disability or other affliction or challenge. And if you ever want to insult someone, may the word "retard" never cross your lips.

Various people–even right here on Animal Person–have defended the term "moral schizophrenia," but for me it not only doesn’t work, but it has the added bonus of being tres impolite to the wrong party (i.e., those who really do suffer from schizophrenia).

Dr. Belisa Vranich to the rescue with "Psychologically Incongruent: The Compassionate Abuser."

Whether you consider yourself an "animal person" or not, the real story behind former Mets minor leaguer Joseph Petchka’s killing of his girlfriend’s tabby is that you can’t profess to be a compassionate boyfriend (or father) and slaughter domestic animals.

I was the newly, self-anointed president of the Dr. Belisa Vranich fan club until I hit the word "domestic." So close, yet so far . . . .

Still, I can salvage the term because it’s accurate and won’t cause large groups of people to mount protests (as happened with "retard").

Vranich continues:

Can you be a good citizen and neighbor, teach compassion to your child and enjoy watching two animals fight to the death? Can you love your girlfriend — and her idiosyncrasies, friends and family — but hate her cat, to the point that you strangle it?

Let me guess: you’re focusing on the word "it." I did too.

Vranich ends with the "repercussions on the safety —
emotional or physical — of people around the aggressor," which is no
surprise. She writes: "It’s not just a cat, or just a dog. It’s a
symptom of something very, very wrong in the aggressor." Yes, but I
don’t know how dissimilar that "something" is from what is wrong with
people who pay others to do the abuse and killing for them. The two
aren’t identical, for sure, but they do have one thing in common for
the people who claim to care: psychological incongruence!

This discussion is occurring in a popular mainstream/Left
publication (The Huffington Post), and until now their only voice for
animals has been Kathy Freston, who popped onto the scene and became
its star overnight, and who posted "Help Stop Cruelty to Animals" yesterday (although it’s fair to say Vranich is more of a voice for humans, there is a whisper for animals). Freston writes:

We can all bring about positive changes by not buying products
that harm animals, by eating a more plant based diet. We can reject
cruelty simply by eating veggie dogs rather than hot dogs, or
substituting tempeh, or Fakin’ Bacon, for bacon.

I’m glad she doesn’t suggest humanely raised and slaughtered animal products, which would then give them unwarranted legitimacy. She does, however, endorse Proposition 2, which is a controversial move to some.

It’s frustrating that the average person doesn’t appear to think
through the ideas of compassion or justice to their conclusions. And
it’s more frustrating that they think they do.

When the student is ready the teacher appears, and that teacher just
might be Kathy Freston for some people (like Oprah, although her vegan
"cleanse" lasted only 21 days). Or the Skinny Bitches (case in point: Ellen
Degeneres and flocks of college students). Or Peter Singer (who helped convert yours truly over 20 years ago). Or Gandhi. Or Steve Best. Or Gary Francione. Or Pam Anderson. The teacher that appears may be the student’s own mother, father or child.

I just want people to stop using animals, as soon as possible. As I get older, I get less and less concerned with how it happens.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nick #

    I also prefer the term psychological incongruence, although I hadn't thought about it until now. Good thinking.

    As for Kathy Freston and and the "skinny bitches," however, I think they only hurt our cause.

    September 21, 2008
  2. I don't like the term "moral schizophrenia" either. I met a few people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I have come to the conclusion that the term should be abandoned by anyone who isn't labeled schizophrenic. There is too much misunderstanding, fear, and hate.

    September 21, 2008
  3. Bea Elliott #

    There's a movie called "Married Life".
    The film glosses over a dog murder… I'm certain 99% of the viewers didn't think a thing about "it" either.

    I too want people to stop using animals "now". I'm often sad because I know I will leave this world with a bitter and disappointed heart… Man could be so much more enlightened (and kind) than what this time in history shows him to be.

    Someday I'm sure that humans will rise to their potential capabilities of enlightment. "Someday" there will be compassion and justice for all living beings. Unfortunately my earthly experience will have been to live in the time of "psychological incongruence".

    September 22, 2008
  4. Fredrik Fälth #

    I beg to differ. Psychological Incongruence may be technically correct, but it lacks the punch of Moral Schizophrenia. I imagine people will start yawning before we even have finished saying the two words Psychological Incongru*yawn*ence. PI sounds like a phrase used by psychology professors at conferences, and not like a catchphrase to point out inconsistencies in someone's ethics. I do understand the problems with Moral Schizophrenia, but the problem is only limited to the second word, so why not use the phrase "Moral Incongruence" as a compromise? I imagine people will react a lot more if you question their morals, rather than their psychology (whatever that means).

    September 22, 2008
  5. Bea Elliott #

    "Hypocrisy" works nicely too… or is that too blunt?

    September 22, 2008
  6. I agree with Frederik. Adding the word moral to the word schizophrenia makes it harmless to people who suffer from this psychological disturbance. It's merely an allusion to the condition. We use psychology-derived words metaphorically in many other instances, such as 'insane' or 'paranoid' so I can't see a problem with schizophrenia, which has become part of everyday parlance anyway.

    September 22, 2008
  7. Dan #

    I obviously beg to differ also, and I wrote a blog essay last month explaining why. I agree with Fredrick that psychological incongruence is a very easy word to ignore (or as he said, to yawn at). It doesn’t even sound like there’s any problem. I have psychological incongruence about going to work on Monday after a fun weekend. So what?

    Moral schizophrenia does have a *very slight* hint of political incorrectness, but nothing even in the same ballpark as “Holocaust on a plate”. I also don’t think moral schizophrenia is any worse than the following:

    Crazy (PC: mentally ill)
    Criminal (PC: behaviorally challenged)
    Failure (PC: deferred success)
    Garbage man (PC: sanitation engineer)
    Ugly (PC: visually challenging)

    Because of the above and what I said in my blog essay, I’ll continue to ignore the PC police and use moral schizophrenia as often as ever.

    September 22, 2008
  8. kim #

    Schizophrenia has nothing to do with "incongruence", which is why "moral schizophrenia" is not only inappropriate, but blatantly innacurate.

    Francione himself describes his term as meaning something along the lines of "society saying one thing and doing another", which is the classic, incorrect definition of the disease perpetuated by most uninformed people – that schizophrenia somehow has a component involving "split personalities", which it doesn't.

    Last I checked, none of the terms on Dan's list are recognized mental illnesses, affecting a specific segment of the population. Apples and oranges.

    And if the term packs "a punch" it's doing so by utilizing a common and complete lack of understanding of the illness. That's not about being "PC", that's about being flat out wrong – and harmful to those suffering from the disease, and such misperceptions about it.

    I prefer "moral inconsistencies" to describe the phenomenon – if such a thing truly exists. It may not be as "catchy", but at least it's accurate.

    September 23, 2008
  9. Dan #

    Kim continues to ignore context and insist that schizophrenia is “a Special Word” of the English language that can only mean what it means in the clinical context and that any violations of “the Special Use” – even while changing context – are punishable by a PC police scolding (a scolding I recommend duly ignoring).

    I’ve explained the legitimacy of using the word in a different context in the following essay if anyone is interested:

    It never ceases to amaze me how words like “humane”, “compassionate”, and “animal rights” can be bastardized beyond all recognition *without changing context* with very few human hairs standing up, but when it comes to using a word like schizophrenia *while entirely changing context* (by including the qualifier “moral” and an explanatory paragraph), the PC police go nuts. If I didn’t think I knew better, I’d swear I was witnessing blatant speciesism.

    Let's stop the use of the term moral schizophrenia by putting an end to its prevalence.

    September 23, 2008
  10. kim #

    What never ceases to amaze me is the lengths some people will go to to defend a poorly thought-out and innaccurate expression. I don't know a SINGLE vegan activist who isn't upset by the misuse of the words you've listed. So how can you justify doing the same thing with "schizophrenia"? Because others bastardize terms you feel validated?

    If you want to contribute to the societal misperception of a disease by changing the meaning of it, Dan, go right ahead. You're the one who will look ignorant and uniformed. And I'm not sure that's compatible with your objective.

    Hey Mary, how about starting a discussion about whether there truly is a "moral inconsistency" with the way humans treat some animals. That might be interesting.

    September 24, 2008
  11. Dan #

    Really? You don’t know any vegan activists who aren’t upset at the misuse of “compassionate”, “humane”, and “animal rights”? I’m assuming, then, that you don’t know any vegan activists who supported, for example, the letter from Singer to Whole Foods and endorsed by PETA, “Vegan” Outreach, and several other so-called “animal rights” organizations celebrating their misleading “animal compassionate” marketing label. I’m assuming that you don’t know any vegan activists from PETA who support PETA’s (a so-called “animal rights” organization) marketing partnership with KFC-Canada.

    There are plenty of “vegan activists” who fully participate in the bastardization of the words “humane”, “compassionate”, and “animal rights”. In fact, most “vegan activists” do exactly that, especially when they’re involved with the industry-welfarist partnership that makes up 90% of the so-called “animal rights” movement. I live for the day when there are no vegan activists who don’t contribute to the industry-welfarist partnership. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt I’ll ever see that day.

    As to the term “moral schizophrenia”, I remain completely indifferent to the criticism of it for the reasons I’ve already stated (both here and in my blog). I see no reason to continue any discussion on the issue.

    September 24, 2008
  12. Dan #

    BTW, I meant to say in my last comment: “I live for the day when there are no vegan activists contributing to the industry-welfarist partnership.” (because they’ve all decide to focus solely on vegan education and not contribute to the bastardization of words like “humane”, “compassionate” and “animal rights”)

    September 24, 2008
  13. kim #

    And your opinion of what other vegan activists believe to be doing when they support welfare reforms has what to do again with your bastardization of the meaning of the disease schziophrenia? Because you equate support for welfare reforms with acceptance among vegans of the misuse of "compassionate", "humane" and "animal rights" that again validates your misuse? Lots of vegan activists I know see the difference between supporting certain reforms WHILE denouncing animal use and the industries profiting from the misuse of those terms.

    I've heard all the arguments against welfare reform from the anti-welfare camp. How about sticking to the issue of you using "schizophrenia" incorrectly here?

    September 25, 2008
  14. Dan #

    Welfare reforms and especially the campaigns for welfare reforms put on by so-called “animal rights” organizations and many vegans contribute to and encourage the misuse of the words “humane”, “compassionate” and “animal rights.”

    My point in bringing those misuses up is to compare real misuse (i.e. compassionate, humane, and AR to describe animal slaughter) with pseudo-misuse (using the term “moral schizophrenia” to describe our society’s “split mind” and general delusion and lack of touch with the reality of the lives of exploited animals while loving, e.g. the family dog – see my blog essay linked above for more elaboration). My other point is to address the speciesism inherent in making much ado about moral schizophrenia because it is the sacred human demi-gods who might (or might not) be offended by the term while ignoring a much more serious abuse of terms like “compassionate” and “humane” because the victims, after all, are merely brutes, who in the minds of most people, and sadly many vegans, are still little more than resources to exploit.

    At this point, we are merely repeating ourselves and bringing no new arguments to the table and I’m therefore finished. With the combination of what I’ve said in my blog and what I’ve said here, I’ve made my case and it’s up to the reader to decide what his or her opinion is after reading and thinking about it I don’t care if you don’t approve. I will continue to use the term whether you think it’s wrong or not.

    September 25, 2008
  15. Dan #

    One more thing to add that is new to the discussion:

    Perhaps “schizophrenia”, since it *does* break down into literally “split mind” is a misnomer of the clinical disease. Perhaps the mental health professionals are the ones inadvertently perpetuating the myth of schizophrenia meaning a “split personality disorder” because of the etymology of the word and they need to seriously consider re-naming the specific clinical condition to which they are referring. I would recommend a Latinism etymologically referring perhaps to the chemical imbalance present in so-called “schizophrenics”.

    Changing such official terms because they are literal misnomers has some precedent. I’m sure if we google “antiquated medical terms” we could find at least a few former misnomers that have better current names.

    September 25, 2008

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