Shawn the “emotherapist”

“F—-n rugriders,” as Shawn expresses it, “‘offensive to Islam’ so blow it up, that’s their solution to everything.”

“Isn’t there something,” Maxine gently recalls, “about if the Buddha’s in your way on the path to enlightenment it’s OK to kill him?”

“Sure, if you’re a Buddhist. These are Wahhabists. They’re pretending it’s spiritual, but it’s political, like they can’t deal with having any competition around.”

“Shawn, I’m sorry. But aren’t you supposed to be above this?”

“Whoa, overattached me. Think about it—all it takes is, like, a idle thumb on a space bar to turn ‘Islam’ into ‘I slam.’”

“Thought-provoking, Shawn.”

Bleeding Edge, Chapter 4, page 23 [e-book], 31 [standard book]

Shawn, Maxine’s therapist, or “emotherapist,” as he is labeled earlier in the paragraph, expresses his disdain for radical Islam and, as he bluntly states, their unorthodox methods of handling situations which make them uncomfortable. This passage, which opens chapter four, gives insight into the mind of her therapist, who, despite his profession’s stipulations, seems to be more lackadaisical and less professional toward his patients, though, I suppose an air of familiarity between a psychiatrist and a patient would be comforting in a therapy session. His background is even more interesting: hailing from California, he dropped out of high school, which is never a good sign to see in a “professional,” and to make matters worse, through his surfing hobby, has sustained numerous head-related injuries. This being said, he at least tries to appear professional to those who he would like to impress, as his closet has twelve matching Armani suits.

His background does not seem to match his somewhat off-kilter intellect in this passage, however. He refers to the Middle Eastern peoples as “rugriders,” and while this is a clear blow to them, he is keeping in the correct area of the globe, as the flying carpet originated from the Iranian/Afghanistan area, not from India, as many might think. This is a trival fact, however, and it could just be a colloquialism he picked up from others. The more “real” intelligence comes from his immediate recognition of what is about the smallest sect of a single branch of Islam, the Wahhabi. He has obviously done his research. Though he sounds like a stereotypical “stoner” when talking, akin to Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, he makes an insightful point in saying that their motives in terrorism are political while assuming a facade of spirituality to cover their misdoings. The last point, also akin to a stoner-esque thought, is that it takes only a single tap of the space bar to turn the word “Islam” to “I slam.” I interpreted this two slightly different ways, the first being that there is a fine line between stating your opinion and “slamming,” or blatantly insulting a group; the second ties into his first sentence: the Muslim terrorists need only very little to interpret something as an insult.

One reason I found this passage particularly striking was the eerie proximity between its setting in the book and the inevitable events of 9/11 a few months later. It is almost poetic, in a morbid sense, how the city in which this character lives and in which this character complains about these very same terrorists will become a site of death and destruction at the hands of those “rugriders.”

One last short item of discussion, and getting away from the topic of radical Islam, a parallel can be made between Shawn and a passage from Delezue’s Postscript on Control Societies. Shawn was introduced as an emotherapist, which I interpreted as a type of occupational therapist. His job as an occupational therapist involves his clients paying him inordinate amounts of money to teach them ways to improve on doing their jobs and improve their personal lives. Delezue writes a section found on page 178 and 179, from which the parallel can be summarized in its final sentence: “It’s the surest way of turning an education into a business.”

How I picture Shawn
The above image is the “stoner” kind I mentioned, and how I pictured him upon first reading that passage. This is the “[10] guy” meme, or the “really high guy” meme.

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3 Responses to Shawn the “emotherapist”

  1. tomhaverford says:

    I was uncomfortable reading this passage as well, which is why I guess I remembered this scene. When reading this passage I had got the feeling that Pynchon had been purposefully making Shawn sound severely under-informed, so I don’t quite agree that just because he refers to the Wahhabi it makes him knowledgeable on the subject. It seemed more to me that Shawn was one of those people that regurgitate everything they hear on the TV.


  2. soc19 says:

    I was rather skeptical of Shawn when I first read this scene– I couldn’t really understand why Maxine would choose to see him as a therapist, since he seems to have such an unconventional background and, well, altogether not very therapist-like behavior. In the passage above, even, Maxine’s comments make her seem more like a therapist instead of him. I wonder if he’s simply providing a brief moment of strange humor/commenting on Afghanistan issues, or if he’ll play a more distinct role later in the novel.


  3. This is indeed an uncomfortable scene, and I believe tomhaverford is correct in suggesting that Pynchon is presenting Shawn in a rather unflattering light. Indeed, he is portraying Shawn as an ill-informed racist, and as such I might be a bit more careful here in your discussion of these issues, esp. in a passage that has such obvious significance. In other words, I would be considerably wary of over-generalization here.


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