Scientists from two European universities have postulated that the human brain can’t get any cleverer without driving its owner nuts. Too much grey matter in the skull, they say, overloads the emotional circuits and produces a personality that veers between the obsessive and the diabolical. That’s why modern humans are no smarter, on average, than Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
This theory clearly has grains of truth. All the super-villains James Bond had to deal with were fiendishly intelligent and mad as hatters. Take Goldfinger, for example. He had 007 just where he wanted him, shackled to a worktop with his legs apart and a laser beam closing in on his groin. Everyone thought Bond’s testicles were toast, but Goldfinger spared him at the last minute and revealed the details of his insidious master-plan. He then allowed Bond to connive with his dolly-birds and turn the tables on him, to the point where he got sucked out of his own aircraft. The fat git was plainly bonkers.
When I mentioned this scientific conjecture to the manager of the safari camp, he made the following sceptical observation:
“If it’s really true, how come clever races like the Chinese don’t have an unusually high proportion of evil geniuses?”
He had a point, but not an unanswerable one.
“Obviously, there are cultural factors at play,” I said. “The Chinese are into feng shui and yoga, which bring about a natural balance between the yin and yang. If you discipline your mind with these oriental techniques, it’s not so easy to go off your rocker.”
“I don’t believe in all that stuff,” he replied. “The Chinese have their own unique brand of madness. Just look at Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. You don’t make noises and faces like that if you’re sound of mind.”
This inspired me to do my own research on the Mad Chinaman syndrome. The first case that caught my eye involves a man who does headstands on a metal spike. His name is Li Xin and he’s a former kung fu master who evidently got bored of giving people flying kicks. He then spent years perfecting his new stunt, which created an abominable hole at the top of his skull. His behaviour seems amazingly barmy on the face of it, but then I noticed that each headstand only lasts for ten seconds. This suggests it’s a party trick rather than a lifestyle choice, and he’s probably quite normal when he’s not upside down. Could there be health benefits too? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Then I came across a young fellow called Peter Chao, who lives in Vancouver and posts video clips of himself on You Tube. Chao is clearly very angry about a lot of things, but is he technically insane? I don’t think the ranting alone is sufficient evidence. However, he does have a habit of taking his shirt off for no reason, revealing the most hairless chest I’ve ever seen on a male primate. If that isn’t a sign of lunacy, I don’t know what is.
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