The Nature of Victory

Conan achieved victory over his foes, crushing them mightily. But what does victory really mean? Is it ever complete? Ought it be?

Men bicker,

Battles fought,

And histories written about them.

By common consent the victors

Pen these bloody tomes,

Confident in their paragraphs,

That their compatriots’ exploits,


Were worthy of posterity,

Worthy of the cost.

Counted in coin

In men

In time.

A problem emerges,

One of definition.

How does one assign victory?

Did Sparta dismantle Athens;

Or gain imperial doom?

Did Rome subjugate the Greeks;

Or sow declining seeds?

Did the North federate the South;

Or submit to cotton politics?

How often do the Victors

Find themselves enmeshed, subsumed,

Consumed even

By those they suppose to have conquered?

Spartan culture collapsed entirely

In the face of empire and dominion.

Roman culture fled in the face

Of Greek vitality.

And what of the North?

 Too close to home, perhaps,

So who can say…

Or of wars betwixt not nations, armies, generals,

But of majority against minority,

Of, say, sane against insane?

What do we think of Victors,

In the war against the Mad?

Patients are confined,



And maligned.

And great books are written

Detailing the grotesque

Their oddities, disorders,

Sicknesses, and perversions;

Are catalogued, collated,

And assigned treatment,

All planned out in advance.

What of these triumphant psychiatrists?

What have they really won?

The mad-consigned,

They gaze,

Thru bleary eyes,

At these medical men

Stripped bare

White coats with nothing


The mad are imprisoned,

The sane…

Are prisoners of the



They go thru the motions,



Utterly unaware,

As perhaps the mad are,

Of the tragedy of it all

And the grim humor,

That they walk in circles

Circumferenced by Victor’s reality.

The sane are guards on the prison walls,

But prisoners too,

Confined all the same,

The seeds of their doom sown

With the first steps of psychology,

Like Rome at Cynoscephalae.

Let us hope the mad

Infect their caretakers

As Rome

Was encultured by Greece.

6 thoughts on “The Nature of Victory”

  1. As always thought provoking. As you say definitions matter. As Harry Stack Sullivan said,’…but it is extremely difficult to get any two people to mean just the same thing when they talk about what they have supposedly learned…’
    So victory. This implies battle, winner ergo loser. Not sure about geopolitics (though I do remember someone with a t-shirt stating something about war never solved anything except…). Perhaps war/conflict is pointless. Or perhaps at the time it had a point but humans are not given to see the future and points dull with time.
    As to psychiatry. Now I worry that you have developed too pessimistic a view of this. Today I saw 5 people. One wanted drugs (Xanax) early to which my limiting ‘not till 10/6’ was dispiriting. One cried out the loss of her fiancee to suicide last November and left having been told that it is time to put him in a box and put the box in the attic; that endless therapy was counter productive and that she should not go to the suicide ‘support’ group any longer. I told her that I was always right but that my opinions were generally unpopular. She agreed—with both assertions and will give it thought. A third had endlessly chronic pain from two car wrecks neither his fault, refusing pain meds but getting excessively irritable with family after years of disrupted sleep. I offered small comfort but thoughtful medicine interventions with limiting expectations and a focus on ataractic treatment. He and his wife left with some hope and reasonable belief in future improvement. One patient reported small improvement from one month ago when she wondered whether she should inpatient and I said no. She may really be an undiagnosed bipolar. One was a mentally retarded person living in a family home and wrecking the place. No records, no med list. Aid was texting during the ‘interview’. I declined to do anything pending my receiving some information as to what has been tried saying only ‘you may have to place her elsewhere’ (and forgo the money the state is giving you).
    My point. Mostly influential though I claim 0/5 victories. My role is to inform, provoke, agitate, create novel perspectives but not really to win. So I’m not sure you should lump psychiatry in with History. Though I do understand I am an unusual psychiatrist, I believe I am an effective one!

    1. It seems the goal of many psychiatrists is not to inform, it is to win. There is a right way and a wrong way to live life; I as the doctor know the healthiest way to do so, so you need to heed what I say. Once you are within the confines of my universe, any disagreement is seen as part of your unhealth. Such domination is always done for the good of the patient or of society. Psychiatrists are meddlers, and generally poor ones at that. This goes for most bureaucrats, most philosophers, most people. We generally think we can do a better job than anyone else in a wide variety of situations. Obviously I would be a better dad than Jason M. I wouldn’t have allowed my kids to fall into drug use. Obviously I would involve myself with less drama than Kelly Z. Only a moron would have the cops called on them so frequently!

      You are a good doctor because you inform the patient, treat them (generally) with their consent, and refrain from dominating them with unwarranted labels, diagnoses, or treatments. You are in the minority of psychiatrists because you would rather see people be pretty much anywhere than in your office or your ward. You meddle with care, and rarely at that. But you advise often, and are not offended, as I think so many are, when your advice goes unheeded or altered in some fundamental (to you) way.

      1. Well now that was a very nice comment. You undoubtedly know that doctor comes from Latin ‘to teach or cause to know’. I learned this factoid at the beginning of my career. I took it to heart and have always tried to teach my patients. But how to teach. You will have some ideas here (and really you must find a way to teach. I still marvel at the economy, accuracy and completeness of your description to me on a Windgate Walk of Christianity). But I still like Plato and caves. Teaching, education involves the painful changing of one’s perspective. I am like the people in front of the fire projecting shadows on the wall. To see a different perspective a person/student/patient(?) needs to screw neck and body around (while chained if I recall) in a painful process to see substance and not just shadow. I think Freud was getting at this process as well. You do this too as when that patient thanked you for see her tragedy from a different angle. Can your writing invite questions and learning?

        1. I suspect the very best writing invites questions without bludgeoning the reader over the head. Grapes of Wrath walked a fine line there. It was all kinds of preachy, but somehow I did not feel like I was being browbeaten with the Steinbeck’s thematic intent. Voltaire might fit the same category, although it’s been a while since I read Candide. Heinlein at his best does this well, and at his worst sacrifices balanced characters and story for philosophy–that’s OK, but I think often teaching via the “direct approach” invites the defenses of the student to bristle. Show, don’t tell would seem to be the best way to teach; perhaps we could coin a new turn of phrase: teach, don’t preach. The problem with preaching is that people don’t listen, or privately hold different opinions and only half listen, or follow you so blindly as to be unthinkingly correct (which is worse than being intelligently in error, methinks). Teaching seems to differ in that the best teachers dialogue with their students. The students watch the teacher wrestle with the same issues as they are. Through his example they learn how to be conscientious, attentive, and critical, to being reasonably open-minded.

          Religion keeps inviting unkind comparisons; nevertheless, teachers requires students, and students teachers. We have no need for preachers and their congregations. Similarly with psychiatric doctors. Let them dialogue, let them teach; please God don’t let them preach. Again, at least the priest has the excuse of divine revelation. What excuse does the psychiatrist have, save his own hubris?

          I have little recollection of my description of Christianity. How do I say all these things and not remember them? What kind of life have I ACTUALLY led? Blargh!

          1. Nicely put. Your Christianity dissertation was brilliant in my recollection because it hit all high points yet was so economical. So far I would say you have led a careful and thoughtful life. Actually a life of preparation. For what are you preparing? Unclear I am sure but recall with Hamlet that ‘the readiness is all’. You are well prepared, now follow the opportunities when and where they arise.

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