The huge increase in diagnosed psychiatric illnesses since WW2, but especially during the last 30-40 years, has been one of defining characteristics of our era. The “conventional wisdom” of “experts” attributes this increase in diagnosed mental illness to advances in the field of psychiatry, better access to medical care and advances in drug therapy of mental illnesses.
But is that really the case? What if the very nature and structure of contemporary societies is not quite right? What if the rules, expectations and mores of societies and the institutions within them are bizarre, sociopathic and irrational?
Let me start by talking about one of the more sensational categories of “crime” in our era- spree or mass shootings. We can certainly pretend that such crimes are the result of evil and mentally sick people having ‘assault’ rifles and ‘semi-auto’ handguns. Many morons seem to think that guns (especially the ‘scary’ looking ones) have powers similar to the one ring of Sauron in LOTR. But if that were the case why didn’t we see spree shootings in previous eras? How many of the returning and war-scarred veterans of WW1, WW2, Korea or even Vietnam went about shooting up movie theaters or 1st grade classes? How many went to a university and killed over 30 people with handguns alone? So what changed? Why didn’t any of them go Holmes, Lanza or Cho? what about going Breivik?
How do smart men from very middle-class backgrounds with no worthwhile criminal record end up killing with more enthusiasm, planning, skill and ruthlessness than trained killers?
The conventional explanation by “experts” is that all of these spree shooters were mentally ill. They blame everything from adolescence-onset schizophrenia to autism and major depressive illnesses to ‘explain’ these occurrences. What is a few more epicycles between fellow Ptolemians? But why didn’t we have such events in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s or even the early 1980s? Those decades had more young adults as well as much higher rates of ‘crime’ and murder. Surely there must have been equivalents of Homes, Lanza, Cho and Breivik in those years.. but for some odd reason spree shootings of the type that occur nowadays were almost unheard of? So what changed? What are spree shooters mad about anyway? Isn’t it odd that they kill people based on the symbolism and social connections rather than personal grudges?
We have also seen a huge rise in the number of children, especially boys, diagnosed with various mental illnesses and behavioral conditions such as ADHD. But is that increase based on any real change in human biology within 30 years? How much of this increase in diagnosed mental illnesses and conditions in children driven by profit and changing artificial definitions of “normal” behavior. What is ‘normal’ behavior anyway? How much of what was once considered ‘normal’ childhood behavior has been deemed “un-normal” by committees of ‘experts’, administrators, legislators and ‘concerned citizens’? and to what end? Does it help those displaying “un-normal” behavior or improve their lives? Does society at large benefit from the ‘treatment’ of “un-normal” behavior? If neither the “affected” persons or general society benefit from ‘classification’ and ‘treatment’- who does?
The rise in the rates of diagnosed depressive illnesses is another intriguing part of our era. While the diagnosed rates of other major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, mania or bipolar disorders have also increased over the last 60-70 years, the increase in diagnosis for depression has been nothing short of phenomenal. While the availability of reasonably safe (but not that efficacious) drugs has made treating depression very profitable, there is more to the story than a simple profit motive. What makes so many people, especially women, seek medical attention for depression? There is more to this increase than profit, fashion or attention-seeking behavior. Most people who end up taking anti-depressants don’t just go out and get them to party.
So what is happening? Is there something increasingly wrong with human mind? Or is contemporary ‘society’ mentally ill?
I tend to favor the later explanation as there is considerable historical evidence that human ‘societies’ are more likely to be weird, unhinged and deranged. Societies through the ages have encouraged its members to believe in all sorts of crap from omnipresent anthropomorphic gods and divine revelations to the infallibility of the marketplace. We have religions based on the stated beliefs of people who claim to have heard the word of ‘gods’ and ‘angels’ or felt their presence. Societies encourage and support religious rituals which look awfully similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders. Belief in witchcraft, black magic, spells and curses has been rather universal throughout human cultures. Societies have fought long and vicious wars, enslaved or killed millions of other people or repeatedly shot themselves in the foot because of beliefs that are indistinguishable from the manifestations of serious mental illness.
Maybe the problem with contemporary society and its institutions is that they are almost totally divorced from what human beings really are and what we truly desire. While our standards of material living are better than any other time in human history, the same cannot be said about the rules, expectations and mores of societies and the institutions within them. They enforce scarcity of resources and opportunities even though technology has ushered in an era of plenty. They try hard to degrade, humiliate and screw over an ever-increasing number and percentage of people- even though there is no rational reason to do so. They try to destroy and cripple the personal lives and relationships of those who would have otherwise supported the system- once again, for reasons that are not rational. They try to destroy the lives of an ever-increasing number of people over utterly trivial and farcical reasons- even though they don’t stand to gain from such actions.
The funny thing is that, after doing all of the above, contemporary society and its institutions expect people to happily and willingly go along with the increasingly bizarre and irrational demands placed upon them by sociopathic morons. They believe that the choice and information matrix of people today is the same as it was 30-40 years ago. They seem to believe in their ability to keep on dishing ever-increasing amounts of the same shit forever and without consequences.
Maybe it is contemporary society and its ‘trusted’ institutions, not individuals, that are mentally ill.
What do you think? Comments?