Let us trace the trajectory of the lives of two brothers, Fezzy and Frigate, both of whom are from Chow Chow Jungle. This is a tropical location, from which Fezzy is quickly adopted. His adopted parents take him to America. Both possess an allele of the DRD4 gene known as the “7R” allele. This gene is important in the study of reward anticipation, impulsivity and addiction. The particular allele is correlated with ADHD behaviors and food craving.
Those who possess the gene that Frigate tend to be more likely to be better-nourished and to have a more impressive standing in the community, particularly among the hunter and warrior caste. Where Fezzy lives, however, having the 7R allele makes one more likely to end up in prison for trolling-related offenses.
In addition to those, both brothers have the short allele of the serotonin transporter genotype 5TTLPR; an allele exhbiting differential susceptibility. In other words, individuals with this allele are more malleable relative to environmental influences. Those with the allele who are exposed to negative circumstances will exhibit unusually negative psychopathology, and those exposed to positive circumstances will be healthier than the average person in general. In both cases, the individual is more readily molded.
Both, furthermore, possess MAOA-L variants; a set of variants of a specific X chromosome gene which produces monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). In this case, those with the MAOA-L variant are more likely to exhibit violent criminality when they are exposed to negative circumstances. Thus, the diathesis-stress model seems applicable in this case. MAOA is an extremely important chemical, affecting important neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.
So Fezzy and Frigate both possess MAOA-L, the short allele of 5TTLPR and the 7R allele of DRD4 gene. It should become immediately obvious that both the direct and indirect behavioral effects of these genes exist in a highly complicated relation to their environment. Fezzy lives in a capitalist place rather than a hunter/gatherer one. his brother, Frigate, lives in Farbish Jungle. Frigate is nomadic, whereas Fezzy lives in a modern, industrial-capitalist city. Frigate becomes one of the leading members of the tribes, where he is celebrated as a skilled hunter and a fearsome warrior. Fezzy, on the other hand, ends up in a federal prison doing 20 years for felony trolling.
Let us begin to look at how the bio-psycho-social circumstances which led to these radically distinct fates and the different levels of analysis, and hierarchies of causation, in terms of which they can be traced.
Fezzy exhibits the tendencies to which those with DRD4/7R tend to be predisposed. He is adventurous, mischievous, thrill-seeking, and as such, finds it hard to sit in a classroom for several hours on end. Because of this, he is saddled with the signifier of “ADHD,” and punished. In addition to having already been punished from the outset, this punishment, is precisely the sort of negative feedback which reaches the threshold at which MAOA-L begins to have its negative effects. Or does it? Perhaps the threshold of the short alleles of 5TTLPR is more easily triggered by negative circumstances.
Suppose, instead of the MAOA-L threshold having been activated, that of the 5TTLPR alleles has been activated, causing Fezzy to become very anxious and irritable. “Why are you looking anxious, Fezzy?”, the teacher says. Fezzy, in a highly irritable state of anxiety due to feeling unjustifiably punished, lashes out and calls the teacher a doodoo head. This results in further punishment which finally triggers the threshold at which MAOA-L begins to exert its own negative effects. Now Fezzy has both low MAOA and low serotonin. Suppose this results in a kind of synergistic effect that is greater than the of the effects of MAOA-L and the short allele of 5TTLPR.
Suppose that both brothers are genetically predisposed to be sugar-sensitive. Such individuals, scientists believe, tend to naturally have lower serotonin levels, which compounds Frigate’s and Fezzy’s impulse control levels that is already low due to their DRD4/7R. Both are prone to restlessness, but Frigate gets a lot of exercise because he is continually being trained as a warrior and hunter, which also provides him with the social support that functions as such an important protector against addiction and depression. Fezzy does not have exercise or social support, and worse yet, he is continually fed sugar-rich foods, which he tends to crave since sugar temporarily raises the brain’s serotonin levels. The brain crashes, eventually, however, and the individual comes to feel suicidal, crave even more sweets, have a low attention span (only further problematizing Fezzy’s difficulty staying focused in class), impulsivity (further problematizing his pre-existing predisposition to impulsivity), depression, and so on (all of these things are further magnified when he is subjected to social disapproval).
Already, we see, on a very small scale, how incredibly complicated a relationship genes exist in relation to the environment. More than that, we see a relationship between genes and their environment (A gene only produces a certain trait if a certain relationship to its environment obtains), the relation of genes to one another (it should come as no surprise that these genes may have very different effects, since 5TTLPR affects serotonin distribution and MAOA-L affects monoamine oxidase distribution, and it is precisely the function of monoamine oxidase to remove neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin) and the relation of the effects of environment on individual genes, plus the relation of precisely this relation to the combined effects of important thresholds being triggered in each of the genes. Thus, there are relations, and the relations of these other relations upon other relations, the synergistic or qualitatively new effects which certain simultaneous reactions might cause in all their dizzying and inexhaustible complexity.
One environment has an effect on the effects of one gene, this gene affects the environment in one way, this results in the environment producing feedback to the gene in such a way that triggers a reaction in another distinct gene, and this reaction itself produces a reaction to the environment that has unpredictable consequences. Thus, relations not only obtain between other causes, monadically considered, but between other relations in a mutually reciprocating manner. Ultimately, Fezzy becomes so angry that he plays Rainbow Six online where he takes his anger out on his teammates, deliberately trolling them in such a way that causes his team to lose the game, resulting in being indicted for serious trolling charges.
Let us take a look at Frigate. Keep in mind that he possesses the same genes as Fezzy (they are identical twins). In particular, he exhibits the same sort of impulsivity, chronic reward-seeking, and tendency to become distracted as Fezzy, since both possess DRD4/7R. However, this leads to him taking the risk of chasing down a feral Chow Chow; one of the jungles most dangerous animals. He is rewarded in this potentially fatal encounter when he bests the Chow Chow, using a habanero-tipped arrow to stun it, leading to its capture.
But the Feral Chow Chow is an elusive creature. How did Frigate notice it? Well, DRD4/7R codes proteins in such a way that tends to produce a tendency to be “distracted.” It is at this point that it becomes quite evident that “distracted” is a highly politicized word. The word finds its first usage inMiddle English, from Latin distractus, past participle of distrahere, literally, to draw apart, from dis- + trahere to draw.
Thus, it implies a kind of deviation from a goal culturally-mediated. In Fezzy’s case, the goal from which he is being “drawn” is the assignment in a class. “Distract” has its political meaning within the context of a culturally-mediated “classroom” setting; a classroom whose purpose is to produce a certain kind of person for certain kinds of goals. In America’s education system, beginning early in the 20th century, it became obvious that the purpose of the classroom was not primarily to teach or educate, but to socialize an individual into a particular, socio-economically mediated style of life. Dale Carnegie, working in the early 20th century, hailed the call of the burgeoning corporate America, with the emergence of Sears Roebuck, Woolworth and J.C. Penney. The average middle-class American has indoor plumbing instead of outhouses. America has entered its transition from what Warren Susman referred to as a shift from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Very few Americans lived in cities in the 1840s. By the 1920s, about 1/3rd of Americans lived in cities. Where earlier self-help books had used words like “reputation,” “work,” “duty,” “citizenship,” “morals,” manners,” “integrity,” the sort of personality traits which would allow an extrovert to excel on the industrial capitalist sales floor were manifested in the sorts of words described in the self-help manual vocabulary of the time: “Stunning,” “Attractive,” “Glowing,” “Magnetic,” “Fascinating,” “Vibrant,” “Energetic,” and so on. Society had progressed from a kind of Aristotelian virtue ethics to a Social Darwinist battlefield. While in Northeast Asian cultures, shy children are more likely to be regarded as dignified, deep and serious, an American text warns American males that if they are introverted, women will think they are gay.
It is quite well-known that America’s education system was primarily a means of socializing individuals into extroverted personalities capable of exerting the sort of magnetic draw on others which it takes to popularize a product of theirs. As such a narcissistic paranoia about how the individual is perceived begins to pervade the American consciousness. Americans ditch a Culture of Character and are consumed by a Culture of Personality. They are obsessed with appearing in a certain way others rather than actually being a certain kind of person. A 1922 ad for Woodbury’s soap warns its potential customers that everyone is silently judging them and so they must use the best kind of soap. Williams Shaving Cream company emphasizes that critical eyes are assessing its potential customers, so they had better get the best shave. These examples are drawn from Susan Cain’s book on the rise of an extroverted culture in America, whose links can be found below.
To be sure, Fezzy is extroverted. He is not an introvert at all. In fact, he is quite outgoing, and, as is the case with many extroverts, he exhibits unusually low anxiety. Like his twin brother, the way DRD4/7H codes proteins, such that the brain’s dopamine is distributed in such and such a manner, causes him to be fearless, sensation-seeking, easily bored or restless when forced to sit in one place for several hours, and so on. Fezzy is extroverted, as Dale Carnegie would want him to be, but he is not easily socialized. He would be more comfortable hunting Feral Chow Chows with his brother Frigate. It would certainly be a mistake to say that other one is a psychopath, but it cannot be denied that they are genetically predisposed toward tendencies which may border on the antisocial, if they are not socialized property, particularly in light of the differential susceptibility imposed upon them by the short alleles of their serotonin transporter genes, and the low monoamine oxidase caused by MAOA-L variants. Fezzy is particularly unfortunate in this respect. He wants to navigate potentially risky situations, skin knees, maybe break a few toys. Due to these inchoate antisocial tendencies, he refuses to internalize social norms not in keeping with his natural tendencies. And if it aggravates a few parents or teachers, so be it.
Frigate, on the other hand, is celebrated for his bravery in battle (as opposed to Fezzy’s “risk-taking behavior”), his fearlessness in the face of the enemy and refusal to back down (as opposed to “antisocial personality disorder”), his virility and straightforwardness in pursuing women whom he desires (as opposed to the sort of “promiscuity” which one would expect from individuals exhibiting the “dark triad” traits of “psychopathy,” “machiavellianism” and “narcissism”), his warriors pride (as opposed to Fezzy’s “grandiose narcissism”), and so on. Because Frigate does not receive the sort of negative feedback from his peers that Fezzy does, he not only does not end up in federal prison for felony trolling, but is elevated to one of the highest levels in the hierarchy of his tribal theocracy.
This difference has complicated social and cultural consequences. Fezzy is eventually diagnosed as a secondary psychopath. But why? Partially because he is already predisposed to certain traits which make an individual vulnerable to antisocial tendencies. For example, he is highly reward-seeking, callous, extroverted, low-anxiety, impulsive, and so on. But furthermore, he has been exposed to very damaging early life-experiences and conditions. He has been subjected to conditions which would not only traumatize anyone (being placed for several consecutive years in a hostile prison environment, with no contact with the outside world), but which cause the psychopathy-susceptible Fezzy to become especially dangerous. He is quickly drawn into a social world very different from that of Frigate.
In the hostile criminal world into which Fezzy is eventually drawn, nobody trusts anyone, betrayal is continually suspected of all of one’s friends, and quickly punished with violence. Fezzy is thus hyper-vigilant, paranoid, angry, prone to fits of explosive rage, and exposed to the dangers of substance abuse. This is particularly bad for Fezzy, since Finnish researchers have found a strong connection between violent behavior, possessing the MAOA-L variants, and intoxication with either alcohol or amphetamines. Suppose that Fezzy is exposed to both of these things, as so many criminals often are. The combination of his traumatic early circumstances and social ostracization leads him to ease his pain with these drugs, only wrecking further havoc on his vulnerable neurochemistry. Before long, he is a violent criminal who likes to troll gamers on the internet.
To be sure, Frigate can himself be quite violent. But he is never diagnosed with secondary psychopathy, nor does he exhibit many of the important traits that Fezzy does. But why? Because on the one hand, Fezzy’s genes, environment, circumstances, etc. have caused him to exhibit highly global psychopathic traits, such that he is a danger to virtually everyone, including himself. He succumbs to learned helplessness and begins to lash out at everyone, his threshold for frustration having reached rock bottom. He has also become further calloused to empathy than his brother Frigate, having had to destroy his already-vulnerable capacity to empathy in order to emotionally and physically survive his difficult circumstances. But what about Frigate’s violence? Frigate is violent in such a way that is constructed and approved of within a highly specific socialization process. Like Fezzy, he may be initially predisposed to disregard cultural norms in terms of his immediate behavior, due to his impulsivity.
He is quickly corrected in this manner, though, not by having these impulses stifled or condemned, but by having them praised and then channeled in a specific manner, such that he is highly rewarded provided he adjust his manner of expression just a little here and a little there. Since Frigate, like Fezzy, is very much a reward-seeker, he has no problem adjusting his habits enough to conform to his social norms, especially since he has already received approval for these traits from his peers. His traits are socially and culturally coded in such a way that he is able to internalize a healthy identity. He does not feel the need to continually defend himself from his peers. He internalizes signifiers such as “warrior,” “hunter,” “brave,” “powerful,” “manly,” rather than “antisocial,” “misbehaving,” etc. While he is less empathetic than his peers, he is nonetheless not required to utterly deaden his capacity for empathy with violence or drugs.
It should be immediately obvious on how many levels the trajectories of the lives of these two individuals can be examined: The evolutionary (as we might speculate on why these specific genes that they inherited might be more common among the inhabitants of Chow Chow Jungle, since “ADHD”-type traits of impulsivity, “distractibility” (read: vigilance) and so on, might be more selectively advantageous in the Jungle than in America, where they might not only not be advantageous, but may be positively disadvantageous), political (a study of the ramifications of the industrial revolution for certain personality types), environmental (differences in food consumption and exercise producing profoundly different individuals), and so on.