July 02, 2015

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In their prior state, living on the Malthusian edge, Aborigine and Eskimo FUPs quickly perished. In societies with more surplus, a small number of FUPs could be supported”€”Huck Finn’s Pap, for example. In lush modern welfare states like Australia and Denmark (proprietor of 1960s Greenland), fucked-upness carries very low penalties.

Fast transition from austerity to abundance may generate sudden floods of FUPs. Perhaps this explains the 1960s efflorescence of hippiedom”€”another high-FUP demographic.

Are FUPs more creative than average? Not likely. There have been some creative second-rank FUPs”€”Poe, for example”€”but I think this is a kind of occasional idiot-savant syndrome. Those in the very first rank of literary, musical, or scientific creativity”€”Shakespeare, Mozart, Newton”€”have been bourgeois as all get-out. Beethoven? Hmm…

Can you be a part-time FUP? Yes, you can. Case study: A man known to me married young to his sweetheart. A few weeks into the marriage she was killed in a car accident, he the driver.

He was never the same. I knew him through his daughter from a later marriage, who reports that throughout her childhood Dad was shouting drunk all weekend, Friday evening to Sunday night. As soon as she was old enough she stayed away on weekends.

Punchline: The man was a successful doctor, running a profitable medical practice until he died. Death was from an aneurysm, which of course he knew was there but did not want treated.


Is fucked-upness just a death wish? Perhaps. Somebody”€”Jung? I”€™ve forgotten”€”said that drug addicts and alcoholics are “€œtrying to get to a place called Death.”€

The death wish is a universal feature of the human psyche, though”€”Freud got that right, at least”€”and its strength seems not to correlate well with fucked-upness. Its most intense expressions in English poetry are those by Keats, Tennyson, and Dickinson, none of whom was fucked up. Keats died young, to be sure, but through no fault of his own. Tennyson lived to 81; Dickinson, 55.

Can FUPs be helped? Mostly not. For sure I have never succeeded in helping an FUP, although I”€™ve tried a few times. Alcoholics Anonymous, which works hard to rescue its one particular subset of FUPs, has a success rate below 10 percent.

Still, that’s not zero. A few FUPs can go straight. My impression is that the doctor’s words to Macbeth apply here: “€œTherein the patient must minister to himself.”€


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