In the late 1960s and early 70s, American psychologist Martin Seligman and his colleagues subjected dogs to inescapable electric shocks. Later, when the same animals were placed in a situation where the shocks were avoidable, they didn’t attempt to get away. If you can stomach the cruelty, the concept of learned helplessness derived from this research is a useful way of thinking about depression and – although I don’t recall ever seeing it referenced this way – the experience of a baby left to cry. Right now, British politics makes me feel like a dog given uncontrollable electric shocks and I can’t help thinking it’s a fascist plot to demoralise the Left.
Locked in a dark room somewhere in Mogadishu, Peter Maguire has ample time to consider the legacy of his three decades on this earth. A journalist with a CV full of danger zones, he has a girlfriend in Paris who enjoys weekends in the Loire Valley and a five-year-old son in Monrovia she doesn’t know about and he’s never seen. He’s been estranged from his mother, also formerly a journalist in West Africa, since she told him his biological father is not the gentle Irishman he’s called Dad all his life, but an American photographer with whom she had an affair in Liberia. If life weren’t complicated enough, his friend and local driver was shot dead when Peter was kidnapped, and he’s about to be sold on to the brutal Al-Shabaab. He finds a glimmer of hope and humanity in the Somali teenager who brings his food, but can Abdi really rescue him from captivity?
finding truth through fiction
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of two novels.
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