That the brain makes connections on its own is pretty obvious to anyone who’s aware of one’s dreams (some people aren’t). So, that might be a factor that should be referenced when one expounds on what one thinks, whether the thoughts are spontaneous or have been reflected upon and parsed before being shared.

I guess I’m particularly aware of the autonomous brain because when I woke yesterday morning I had the thought that a small bouquet of the rose in my yard with a few marsh heather stalks would look nice. That was obviously a consequence of the brain having put together two entities I’d observed with pleasure in my walk about the neighborhood. So, I went and collected both the heather and the rose.

My recent musings on the Vicar of Lucreville and “vicarious” are probably similarly connected. Except, in this case, the association is unpleasant. Recognizing the similarity between the Vicar of Lucreville (or Wall Street) and the so-called Vicar of Christ reveals something unpleasant about the latter, which is actually not news. I suppose one was supposed to derive a sense of identification, on the part of the Vicar, with the suffering of Christ. But, given the trappings of hierarchy and the doctrinaire attitude displayed by these religious potentates, the role of the Vicar seems more designed to enact, vicariously, the killing of Jesus of Nazareth over and over again. The pretense of self-sacrifice that’s being presented is actually rather bizarre. If the gospels are to be believed, the intent was to put an end to humans killing each other for ideological reasons. Repeating the murder vicariously has obviously not accomplished that.

Ah, but I said “murder,” when I should have said “sacrifice.” Because that’s the perspective being peddled — the role and nature of the victim, rather then the perpetrators of heinous acts. See, it’s right there. The universal strategy that gets perpetrators or agents off the hook. Looking at the lamb and watching it turn on the spit or writhe on the cross distracts us from the person wielding the knife or the spear. If we are then suffused with vicarious empathy for the lamb, the distraction and the denial of guilt are complete.

I hadn’t really given much thought to vicarious anything until I hit on the designation of Willard as the Vicar of Lucreville and was reminded of the Bushes’ new-found affinity for the Vicar of the Vatican, an authoritarian ruler who brooks no contradiction and, probably not co-incidentally, is also waging a war against women. For some reason, these modern day promoters of hierarchy perceive women as a threat.

Anyway, Wikipedia has an extensive list of vicarious associations. They range from “vicarious arousal” to a couple of contemporary songs with that title.

(The TOOL version has had over eight million views on Youtube) 

Vicarious rape, which is what my brain arrived at after contemplating legislative efforts to deprive rape victims of medical care and remediation, is not included in the list. However, most of the associations are either neutral or negative. Perhaps it’s only negative sensations that require a substitute for the real thing to disguise the pleasure derived from deprivation.

That deprivators deprive others of things they don’t even want for themselves, or already have (e.g. life), was a puzzlement, until it occurred to me that perhaps occasioning the suffering of others serves as some sort of perverse aphrodisiac. Using the law to effect deprivation inserts yet another layer of separation. So, for example, legislators acting on behalf of the rapist to preserve the evidence of his act, participate in the rape vicariously and retroactively. And with clean hands. No need to even do the Pontius Pilate routine. Although, Willard’s suggestion that the response to rape should be left to legislators in the several states comes close. Ryan, like Perry, does not feel the need to shrink from imposing deprivation, as long as he can do so vicariously by using the law as a tool.

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Editor's note: This story originally published at Hannah's Blog.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."