Can learning mental math help you survive being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp? Yes, ten years ago, I read a book entitled, The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics, by Jakow Trachtenberg. I can not remember the system but I remember the author’s biography. Jakow Trachtenberg was a Jewish engineer who was sent to a concentration camp. He enjoyed mathematics but could not practice his hobby since he lacked paper. To keep himself mentally stimulated he developed a method to mentally calculate. He later accredited his survival of the concentration camp to the mental math system he developed. How did creating a mental math system help Jakow Trachtenberg survive a concentration camp?

Solitary confinement in most the majority of prisoners causes severe mental trauma. The stress created from this form of confinement can shrink parts of the brain including the hippocampus which is responsible for spatial memory, orientation, and emotional control. Yet some prisoners emerge from long periods of solitary confinement unscathed. What did they do differently compared to the other prisoners? Some of these prisoners recommended finding out what you can control within your small cell and controlling. For example, deciding when you would eat your meal and exactly how you would eat it. Other prisoners resorted to mental imagery, mentally bouncing a ball in their heads. Some prisoners would just imagine themselves sitting on a bench in a park. The key is since they were able to control something in their environment, even if it was insignificant, prevented the feeling of helplessness. What causes the feeling of helplessness?

How to teach helplessness?

Learned Helplessness - The term learned helplessness was coined by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven Maier in 1967 to describe the behavior of dogs who, after experiencing inescapable electric shocks behaved as if they were helpless. As with many terms in psychology, learned helplessness is both descriptive and explanatory. Learned helplessness describes a constellation of maladaptive passive behaviors that animals (dogs, rats, cats, fish, mice, and humans) frequently exhibit following exposure to uncontrollable events. Learned helplessness is also a cognitive, expectancy-based explanation; after repeated, inescapable, aversive helplessness, animals expect to be helpless and do not attempt to change the situation—they have learned that their actions are ineffective. Learned Helplessness - International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences

Psychologists conducted psychological experiments on animals with electric shocks. In the first group, there would be a way for the animal to avoid the electric shock. In the second group, the animal would be unable to avoid the electric shock.

In the first group, the animal’s cage would be divided into two areas, for each portion the floor of the cage could be electrified. The animal would be on one side of the cage, the animal would receive painful electric shocked but learned if they jumped to the other side of the cage they could avoid the electric shocks. Despite receiving this type of abused, the researchers discovered the animal remained relatively healthy psychologically.

With the second group, the entire floor of the animal’s cage was electrified. Initially, when the floor was electrified, the animal would attempt to avoid the electric shocks. After a while, the animal learned he could not avoid the electric shocks. When the floor was electrified, the animal just huddled on the floor, it did not make any attempt to avoid the shocks. The animal then became lethargic and depressed.

What is surprising the actual electric shocks did not cause the animal to become depressed. The animal became depressed only when he was unable to avoid the electric shocks. This then explains how prisoners in solitary confinement were able to avoid depression by mental exercises for example. The prisoner still had some control over his circumstances. Before we go further, let’s take a detour into intelligence.

How important is intelligence?

People often comment that I am an intelligent man. I usually sarcastically reply, for an intelligent man, I seem to do a lot of stupid things. Being intelligent means I can read lots of books and I can do a lot of keyboard mashing. I also can do stuff like provide what appears to be a logical argument for actions that are actually pretty stupid. It also means I am better at Lying to the person in the mirror, I did many stupid things but at the time I was able to rationalize they were intelligent. When people ask about my time in the military, I reply like this.

In the military, I spent most of my time having my ass carried by my comrades. They are often shocked to find out I served in the infantry, ground pounders or as Americans like to call them, grunts. They assume I served in Intelligence or something with computers. The next question is, why did I need my ass carried? Sometimes I am pretty stupid. There are forms of intelligence IQ tests can not measure. Possibly these forms of tests can be developed. My comrades saw I tried hard, but some things I was just stupid, so they had to help me out. I, on the other hand, helped them out by filling out useless forms explaining why we had lost military equipment or supplies.

The Limousine Liberals I talked about in my previous post, How Limousine Liberals perverted the Left fail to realize the skills needed to perform many trades. This is because they have never done real manual work, worse yet, they denigrate manual work. Point I am making, a man with a low IQ can become a better woodworker, metal worker, welder etc by practice and learning. The Limousine Liberal claims he endorses equality but when the working man expresses his views, he, of course, is ignorant.

The reason why I took a detour into a discussion about intelligence is because of books like Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Limousine Liberals state the book is racist because it points out that certain ethnic groups like Blacks and Hispanics have a lower than average IQ. Another factor they ignore is the effect of culture, before colonization, Malaysians and Filipinos have similar origins. Modern Malaysia is far more successful then the Philippines, the difference being, the first was colonized by the British versus the second the Spanish. Instead of addressing the real issues, they deflect with arguments like is low IQ caused by environment or genetics etc. These are pointless arguments which do not provide immediate solutions.

Ford Motor Company in Detroit was one of the first major companies to hire blacks. To compete with Ford, other factories in Detroit started to hire black workers. Lower supply of black workers means that black wages will rise. The black/white wage gap, despite racism, was closing naturally. After blacks started to earn more money, they were able to start things like Motown and other business. You would think, blacks making more money, being productive, not ending up in prison would make Limousine Liberals happy. On the contrary, they state there was inequality. The where more whites with office jobs while blacks were doing dirty jobs like working in the paint shop. The grim reality is, the black man probably had a lower IQ than his white counterparts, this meant he could not perform an office job as well as his white counterparts. But him working in the paint shop meant he could feed his children and provide them with a better start. Also from 1900 to 1950, the number of blacks doing clean jobs increased which showed this problem was fixing itself.

So how did Limousine Liberals manage to subvert things?

Accepting responsibility for your actions

I had lots of fun during one of my drinking sprees in the military, so much fun that I ended up getting detained by the military police. I possibly was facing charges but fortunately, a nice doctor visited me. He then asked me a bunch of questions concerning my drinking, I didn’t see any reason to lie, so I told him the truth. After he finished questioning me, he said, I think you are an alcoholic and winked. You can not control your drinking. He seemed like a genuinely helpful doctor, so I told him, I agreed I am an alcoholic. He replied, no problem, I will tell your superiors this. Little did I know, I was facing possible charges but by saying I was an alcoholic, it avoided this problem.

The nice doctor talked to my superiors and recommended instead of charging me, they send me to an alcohol treatment center. Suspecting I faced possible charges, I agreed. The treatment center was based on Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12 step program. The program has been attacked for its cultist behavior, an outdated theory of addiction and accusations that it victim blames. The first two allegations are correct. The one redeeming factor was avoiding a sense of helplessness or becoming accountable for one’s actions.

Most of the treatment consisted of group therapy or written exercises. One of the components of the exercises is that your feelings are not real, they are a result of how you choose to react to certain circumstances. Someone in the group would share an experience where they got angry and had an argument with their boss at work. After work, they went to the bar, got drunk, got into a fight then ended up in jail. The counselor would ask the person, what could they have done differently so they didn’t end up in jail. If the person attempted to rationalize or shift the blame to someone else, the counselor would ask:

Where are you at fault in this problem?

The person might say, well maybe I shouldn’t have escalated the situation by swearing at my boss. Maybe instead of going to the bar, he could have gone straight home. The point of the exercise is that the person had a multitude of options. In regular 12 step programs, usually, it would be other group members who would call you on your BS. Knowing about helplessness, we can see why this was effective and actually empowered the person. They learned from their mistakes, next time the person would be able to deal with the situation better.

This was always coupled with don’t beat yourself up. Which meant one can not change the past, we can only learn from it to change the future. The one area where 12 step programs fail, is they fail to take into the brains neuroplasticity. We now know what causes the addiction can be changed. If this form of therapy was effective, the question arises, where did don’t blame the victim originate from?

Don’t blame the victim

Don’t blame the victim implies that the victim is helpless, they can not change their fate. What is interesting, the phrase originated with the modern black civil rights movement and feminism.

James Farmer, civil rights leader and honorary vice chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America, noted, “By laying the primary blame for present-day inequalities on the pathological condition of the Negro family and community, Moynihan has provided a massive academic cop-out for the white conscience and clearly implied that Negroes in this nation will never secure a substantial measure of freedom until we learn to behave ourselves and stop buying Cadillac’s instead of bread.” 30 In 1987, Hortense Spillers, a Black feminist academic, criticized the Moynihan Report on semantic grounds for its use of “matriarchy” and “patriarchy” when describing the African-American family. She argues that the “terminology used to define White families cannot be used to define African-American families because of the way slavery has affected the African-American family.”31
Psychologist William Ryan, in his 1971 book, Blaming the Victim, also criticized the Moynihan report. He said it was an “attempt to divert responsibility for poverty from social structural factors to the behaviors and cultural patterns of the poor.”32 Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps

Despite racism, Jim Crow Laws, Lynchings etc. The wage gap, education gap etc between whites and blacks was naturally closing. What is interesting is that Booker T. Washington and other early black leaders warned about blacks who would be using victimhood for profit.

One of American’s greatest pioneers, a former slave, educator, entrepreneur, advisor to Presidents and the founder of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington, spoke of this class in his 1911, “My Larger Education.” He referred to them as “Problem Profiteers.” The definition of which has remained consistent into our new millennium.
“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs.” Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps

By the 1980s, it started to become evident that modern civil rights movements had actually caused blacks to regress. If you are conspiracy-minded, you would get the idea blacks were test subjects in a social engineering experiment. The idea of don’t blame the victim then started to be used to attack other organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 step programs. It has now become accepted mainstream when it comes to many social issues.

Coupled closely with don’t blame the victim is the modern idea that feelings are reality. Modern Liberalism arbitrarily picks which feelings are valid, people who have feelings which are invalid should be shamed. After Trump was elected President, I saw many posting on social media, including one by a psychiatrist and her patients, they where having nightmares about being raped. On the other hand, men who complain about being victims of divorce rape and female abuse are angry and told to man up. If you talk about these things or other social issues, you will probably be told:

There is nothing you can do about it.

This is the modern standard response to almost all complaints. There is nothing you can do about it, negative thoughts like that will make you unhappy. I often respond, well I am doing something about it right now. They go, what do you mean? I reply, I am educating you about the problem. Possibly they might respond with, I don’t need that type of negativity in my life. I reply, then you are part of the problem, how do you expect things to get better? In some cases, the person visibly flinches. I then might point out that accepting reality doesn’t mean one has to become unhappy.

If you examine the above conversation, it is an example of learned helplessness. There is a problem, instead of discussing it, choose to do nothing, sit in the corner of your cage, and just accept the electric shocks. This type of thinking is not even questioned anymore.

Popular media makes people think that grandiose gestures are needed. Willingly choosing to do nothing is an option. Finding ways to legally exploit the system is an option, they key word is legally. Choosing not to buy the latest electronic gadget is an option. By making do with your cell phone or tablet for another year, that means you will have greater economic independence, this, in turn, gives you more options.

From my observations, people who claim you are being negative or bitter and accuse you of being unhappy are usually unhappy themselves. They want to hide from reality. The other possibility is they are the ones who actually profit from the current system. Obviously, they are concerned since they see their livelihood under attack.

Further directions

Learn helplessness or helplessness is when it appears you have no choice. There are always choices but often they are not obvious. My post Finding better solutions by thinking inside the box was a theoretical post on finding new solutions using the materials you have on hand. In the military, my Sergent ordered me to do something. I then asked him, do I have to do what you ordered? He replied, Yes I do. I asked, what happens if I decide not to? He said, I will be charged, I will then go to military prison. I pointed out, that I have a choice, either do what he ordered or go to military prison. He told me to shut up and do what I am told, stop wasting time. I replied, yes Sergent, I choose to obey you order instead of going to military prison. He got a good laugh from it.

The point is, there are always choices, and if you look at things from different angles you can see more possibilities.

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