Essay

The Animal Model of Inescapable Shock

by Anne Boyer

This piece also appeared online in The New Inquiry and in Boyer's collection Garments Against Women, published by Ahsahta Press

If an animal has previously suffered escapable shock, and then she suffers inescapable shock, she will be happier than if she has previously not suffered escapable shock — for if she hasn’t, she will only know about being shocked inescapably.

But if she has been inescapably shocked before, and she is put in the conditions where she was inescapably shocked before, she will behave as if being shocked, mostly. Her misery doesn’t require acts. Her misery requires conditions.

If an animal is inescapably shocked once, and then the second time she is dragged across the electrified grid to some non-shocking space, she will be happier than if she isn’t dragged across the electrified grid. The next time she is shocked, she will be happier because she will know there is a place that isn’t an electrified grid. She will be happier because rather than just being dragged onto an electrified grid by a human who then hurts her, the human can then drag her off of it.

If an animal is shocked, escapably or inescapably, she will manifest deep reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her. If she has manifested deep reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her, she will manifest deeper reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her and then dragged her off the electrified grid. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for electrified grids. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for what is not the electrified grid. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for dragging. She may also develop deep feelings of attachment for science, laboratories, experimentation, electricity, and informative forms of torture.

If an animal is shocked, she will manufacture an analgesic response. These will be incredible levels of endogenous opioids. This will be better than anything. Then later, there will be no opioids, and she will go back to the human who has shocked her looking for more opioids. She will go to the shocking condition — called “science” — and there in the condition she will flood with endogenous opioids, along with cortisol and other things which feel arousing.

Eventually all arousal will feel like shock. She will not be steady, though, in her self-supply of analgesic. She will not always be able to dwell in science, as much as she now believes she loves it.

That humans are animals means it is possible that the animal model of inescapable shock explains why humans go to movies, lovers stay with those who don’t love them, the poor serve the rich, the soldiers continue to fight, and other confused, arousing things. Also, how is capitalism not an infinite laboratory called “conditions”? And where is the edge of the electrified grid?

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