Was introduced over the weekend to the vivid epidemiological term “John Henryism”—recognized among African-American populations not as the obscure medical condition of being born with a hammer in one’s hand, but as a preoccupation with success coupled with a lack of resources to achieve same, resulting in subjects essentially working themselves to death, Lord Lord—with which I was somehow previously unfamiliar.
And I started wondering (as you knew I would): What other previously unidentified conditions might be found within the bars of our folk and pop songs?
Stagger Leeism: A subcultural trait developed in response to economic pressures and racism, manifesting as a tendency toward exaggeratedly aggressive behaviors. This hypermasculinity finds form in promiscuous sexuality and indiscriminate violence. An unhealthy weight given to matters of honor, “face,’ and personal property, leading to a cultural tendency towards disproportionate responses to relatively minor offenses, such as murder in retribution for the theft of a Stetson hat.
Father McKenzie Disorder: A condition of vocational alienation, found especially in institutional occupations (e.., clergy, medicine, military). The subject, feeling increasingly estranged both from the people among whom he works and from the core values undergirding his profession, overcompensates by concentrating on superficial rituals of performance and uniform—obsessing over “keeping up appearances” of his office, while continuing to lose interest in the deeper meaning behind his functions, or indeed with improving his performance outcomes. (Identified by Lennon & McCartney in “Loneliness—Its Origins and Outcomes: Two Case Studies,” 1966)
Barb’ra Allen’s Delusion: A coping mechanism for feelings of low self-esteem; the subject, seeking out or engineering emotional distress within her social circle, assumes disproportionate responsibility for the misfortunes of others within that circle. Can be life-threatening, both for the subject and her proxy; subjects often consciously or unconsciously seek out as proxies borderline personality types, in whom they encourage maladaptive behaviors (including self-harm) through withdrawal of motional support. Full-blown delusion in its end stages is characterized by inflated self-importance, intense feelings of guilt and remorse, lassitude, and physical wasting.
Ida Mae Syndrome: A morbid tendency to sabotage social relationships, as by blowing one’s nose on old cornbread and calling it chicken pie.