Personal Development

Armored Against Intimacy

In life, we inevitably get hurt. Maybe the hurts are big, or maybe they’re small. But anything from a small social slight to violence inflicted upon us hurts. And so naturally, as much as we can, we’ll try to protect ourselves. Put on some armor so we can’t get hurt that way again.

And armor can do us a great deal of good. In the worst possible situations, there really is no better course for you to follow than armoring up. It’s the obvious way to cope. And even where you have a better ability to cope — where you’re not in mortal danger but at risk of a bruised ego — you’ll still probably get meaningful benefit from some armor.

So this kind of psychological armor is hugely beneficial in the short term. It keeps us safe, it protects us, and may by extension protect others. If your way of dealing with your anger at someone used to be physical violence, an armoring device where you instead just shut down or flee is an unquestionable improvement.

But armor blocks intimacy. And makes it hard for us to reach our full potential as self-aware, useful, complete, and kind human beings. When you head out to the world in a suit of chainmail, the closest you’ll ever get to those you’re helping is “not very.”

For a long time, my armor was a steadfast silence. For fear of being judged, or gossiped about, or seen as weak or dumb, I’d just not say anything. Ever. To anyone. About anything.

I’m exaggerating a bit, but I rarely divulged more than the bare minimum about me to anyone. So people who tried found me quite frustrating to talk to. But it worked, in a matter of seeing it. That coping strategy did protect me from some gossip that might have happened. But it also blocked a lot of relationships in my life from ever reaching past the most superficial level. Or existing at all.

Armor’s a useful thing. But it’s also isolating. The knight inside all his layers of metal is rather safe, but he’s not going to be known, loved, or more than superficially cared for by anyone that way. So when you can, you must learn to drop the armor. Or to let it aside, even just a little, so that so that a deeper relationship becomes possible. It’s not easy, but it’s the way you grow.

Armor keeps you safe, but it also keeps you small. Just as those plates and chainmail keep the world out, they keep you from growing in size and strength. They keep you constrained, and afraid. They’ve got a time and place, but they lock you off from the real depth of life and relationships. So as much as you can, when you can, let them go.

fiction, politics, world

‘China executes ex-food and drug chief’

Zheng Xiaoyu was killed today for accepting bribes to certify fraudulent and dangerous drugs while head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration. The Chinese government hopes that this execution will showcase their commitment to food safety.

A fuller version of this story can be found here. But I found this story so interesting, and odd, that I gave it some thought. It struck me that there are two rather disparate possible realities on this issue, neither of which is likely the exact truth. Neither of these versions are completely factual, but both are possible ways to read the reported facts.

These two different versions of the story follow, retold in short form with help of the original article (which has since changed a bit). My fictional addition to the article are italicized, I didn’t track what I cut out of it.

Zheng Xiaoyu responsible for at least a dozen death’s, state takes necessary action

BEIJING – China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog on Tuesday for approving untested medicine in exchange for cash. During Zheng Xiaoyu’s tenure from 1998 to 2005, the State Food and Drug Administration approved six medicines that turned out to be fake. One such antibiotic, approved by Zheng, caused the deaths of at least 10 people.

“The few corrupt officials of the SFDA are the shame of the whole system and their scandals have revealed some very serious problem at the head of the old SFDA,” agency spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said at a news conference held to highlight efforts to improve China’s fight against its few corrupt officials.

Yan was asked to comment on Zheng’s sentence and that of his subordinate, Cao Wenzhuang, a former director of SFDA’s drug registration department who was last week sentenced to death for accepting bribes and dereliction of duty.

Yan told reporters that the men had failed to do their civic duties as SFDA heads, and hence have deserved the punishments to which they had been sentenced.

Zheng, 63, was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 when he was in charge of the State Food and Drug Administration.

Last year, dozens of people died in Panama after taking medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol imported from China. It was passed off as harmless glycerin, showing Zheng’s failing as SFDA head.

Scandals over contaminated Chinese food exports have underscored isolated problems with adulterated ingredients and fake products in the domestic supply, raising questions of how well China could have guaranteed the purity of food for the Olympics without this execution.

The other story is behind the break. Continue reading