Insanity is very badly understood in our society. We think we know it when we see it, despite the vague, wide ranging descriptions we haphazardly concocted to define the condition. According to Wikipedia, insanity is simply:
“…a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including a person becoming a danger to themselves or others, though not all such acts are considered insanity. In modern usage, insanity is most commonly encountered as an informal unscientific term denoting mental instability, or in the narrow legal context of the insanity defense. In the medical profession the term is now avoided in favor of diagnoses of specific mental disorders; the presence of delusions or hallucinations is broadly referred to as psychosis. When discussing mental illness in general terms, “psychopathology” is considered a preferred descriptor.”
Some authorities would describe insanity as the inability (or refusal) to distinguish reality from fantasy. Unfortunately, this definition is also much too general–almost every member of the human race has been guilty of this sin at some point in our lives, which makes it a highly impractical metric for weeding out the truly mentally unstable among us. On a sadder note, people in troubled or difficult circumstances may choose to deny reality in a bid for self preservation, which can actually be a counter-intuitive act of sanity and survival. The psychology of Stockholm Syndrome bears this out, since captives that are convincingly empathic and sympathetic to their captors have a higher chance of survival than those who openly resist.
Another probable indicator of insanity is the danger a person represents to others, as well as to themselves. Again, this proves problematic because of the lack of specificity and context. Should we equate choosing to regularly eat Cheetos and Twinkies on the same level of self harm as cutting oneself? Is constant speeding on the highway simply a reckless act, or a symptom of insanity since it technically compromises the safety of everyone on the road? As a signal of mental disorder, the danger principle could prove to be a promising idea when discussed within the context of a harm continuum or hierarchy. Unfortunately, continuums of any kind can be quite difficult to define and standardize by nature, which once again leaves us with banal generalities that simultaneously condemn and exonerate all suspects in one blow.
Regardless of what insanity actually is, one thing is absolutely certain–those that are deemed insane or crazy by society are effectively dismissed and neutralized for all intensive purposes. Relegated to living out their days as contemporary cautionary tales, these unfortunates continue to exist, if only for the benefit of those in need of a gentle reminder on the costs of nonconformity and disobedience.
Of course, this isn’t to say that mental illness isn’t real or doesn’t exist. The real problems lie not in its existence and prevalence, but in the institutions we created to deal with it. How we define mental pathology, who we grant the authority with which to define it, and what we do with the people we judge as crazy and mentally unstable are more than just important indicators of who we are as a society–it’s also a good measure of how much more we have to go in terms of our collective goals and values.
Redefining Insanity To Enforce Conformity Of Mind And Action
In today’s more enlightened times, it’s hard to believe that as recently as 1973, homosexuality was an officially recognized mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Despite the fact that psychiatry is considered a field of medicine, it’s all too apparent that it owes more of its development to the prevailing political and cultural ideology than it does to actual science. The newest “mental illness” to be discovered (i.e., invented) in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is officially termed as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). According to the APA, your child may have ODD if he or she:
- Often loses his or her temper
- Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
- Is often angry and resentful
- Often argues with adults or people in authority
- Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
- Often deliberately annoys people
- Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
- Is often spiteful or vindictive
- Has shown spiteful or vindictive behavior at least twice in the past six months
Given the overwhelming generality of these “symptoms”, one would be hard pressed to find a child that didn’t suffer from the occasional “ODD” moment (a telling acronym, to be sure).
Jonathan Benson of Natural News conveniently cuts to the chase and spells out the obvious: the APA is willfully colluding with our increasingly totalitarian government by officially declaring nonconformity as a treatable mental disorder. In pathologizing normal every day behavior, the average citizen is now at risk of being labeled insane for the crime of behaving in any way that could be construed as strange or uncommon:
“…virtually any uncommon behavior can be declared to be oppositional or defiant simply because it bucks the status quo. Famous minds of the past like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, for instance, whose unconventional ideas might have seemed crazy in their day, are the types of folks who today might be declared to have ODD or some other type of mental disease.” Jonathan Benson, Natural News
Legitimizing Abuse: Recognizing The Contributions Of American Psychologists In “Improving” Modern CIA Torture Techniques
In a damning report released by dissenting health professionals and human rights activists, the American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) is exposed as having actively collaborated with the Bush Administration and the CIA in the creation, justification, and promotion of the now infamous torture program. In response to the explosive findings, Rhea Farberman, spokeswoman for the A.P.A., issued a denial to the New York Times, claiming that:
“[There] has never been any coordination between A.P.A. and the Bush administration on how A.P.A. responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program.”
Unfortunately for Farberman, her dubious statement is directly contradicted by Dr. William Winkenwerder, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. In explaining the Pentagon’s preference for working with psychologists over psychiatrists, he recounts that:
“[The American Psychological Association] clearly supports the role of psychologists in a way our behavioral science consultants operate…The American Psychiatric Association, on the other hand, I think had a great deal of debate about that, and there were some who were less comfortable with that.”
Retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell actually participated in the torture program he developed, admitting that he waterboarded a few al Qaeda suspects–most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Mitchell’s co-developer of the torture program, former business partner and retired Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen, has remained tight lipped for the moment citing a nondisclosure agreement. However, Thruthout managed to obtain Jessen’s handwritten notes in 2011, which revealed the real motives behind the torture policy:
“…the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government’s top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence.
Rather, as Jessen’s notes explain, torture was used to “exploit” detainees, that is, to break them down physically and mentally, in order to get them to “collaborate” with government authorities.” Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout
Furthermore, Jessen’s notes explicitly outlines the sadistic goals the torture program was supposed to accomplish:
“From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer’s goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION. Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel ‘EVERYTHING’ is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind. [The detainee must] see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”
Have The Arbiters Of Sanity Lost Their Collective Minds?
Regrettably, all indications point to the affirmative. Rampant corruption has taken its toll on whatever legitimacy the field of psychiatry and psychology hope to claim, despite the efforts of an ethical few. Pathologizing the distrust and defiance of authority won’t restore lost trust and legitimacy, though it should succeed in achieving a fearful kind of compliance. As Americans continue to endure more financial and emotional demoralization, it becomes that much more difficult to resist and question authority, no matter how irrational or dangerous the edict. Only in our slow march to totalitarianism shall the truth finally become apparent to all: that the danger in collective madness lies not with the masses, but with the official gatekeepers of sanity who conspire with our government to exterminate the spirit of dissent.