Much seems to be said about contemporary madness and the various disorders which seem to afflict people at unprecedented rates throughout society (which nonetheless semi-mysteriously don’t appear outside the US). There are many treatments, but for every new treatment, a new illness emerges, while former illnesses tend to be retired, only to become behaviors seen to signal holiness.
Homosexuals, transvestites, and transsexuals most famously all went from being seen as insane to being venerated as holy people over the course of a few decades. The ability of the progressive social structure to raise and lower different behavioral groups is just a sign of its social power.
So, while in the 1950s and earlier, loose men and women were seen as kin to serial killers, just a decade or two afterward, they became objects of mass veneration and adoration — in a way that lasts to this day. Much of this can be traced to Freud and his critique of Christian morality.
Psychiatrists in the middle of the 20th century used to call promiscuity among both men and women a clear sign of ‘psychopathy.’ Following the convulsions of the late 1960s and 70s, children subjected to sexual education tend to learn that promiscuity is healthy at any age, and that possessiveness, romantic ‘obsession,’ and ‘slut-shaming’ are the real sins.
Today, you’re more likely to see people terms like ‘sociopath’ — to describe their boss, their father, their mercurial girlfriend, or some other figure in their personal lives whom they dislike and wish to cast moral aspersions against. They’d appear to be ridiculous were they to cast those aspersions in religious terms. If they use medical language, they can smart themselves up, like a real doctor.
These crazes tended to be reinforced by the mass press, which took the words of doctors seriously, but more often blew them out of proportion to the actual problem.
We see this today as new disorders fall into and out of fashion. Mothers want to ensure that their boys have the most fashionable diagnoses. Men and women categorize one another in terms of psychiatric diagnoses to warn one another away from madwomen and madmen. Many are happy to define themselves by diagnosis, as you routinely see on personal blogs like on Tumblr. Others self-diagnose using Dr. Google, much to the consternation of the professionals who bill by the hour.
What Thomas Szasz uncovered was that mental illnesses are better understood as metaphors for moral illness than as conventional illnesses like cancer and appendicitis. As progressives change the moral structure of society, the quasi-scientific notions of what is healthy and what is ill must also change.
The real physiological, emotional maladies manifested by patients can often be traced to fundamental moral errors.While this may or may not result in lesions or neurological imbalances, it’s mistaken to trace these factors entirely to genetics or to some injury or another.
For many years now, the West has tended to train its people into moral error, and those moral errors often manifest themselves in disastrous physical and mental symptoms.
Obesity resulting from sloth and gluttony would be the most obvious and objective result of bad moral and medical teaching. People tend to want to blame technology for their sins or for sinful developments in history, but it’d be better to bring back a strong conception of virtue and vice.
It’s easy to blame the birth control pill for your own sexual incontinence, but much harder to confess your own willful sins. The fat man is more likely to blame Nabisco for making Oreo creme cookies so delicious rather than to look into his own gluttony, sloth, and intemperance. Or he will blame his ‘genes,’ even if his grandfather was skinny as a beanstalk.
Similarly, the gangbanger who is shot by police after he fails to properly rob a liquor store is a ‘victim of society,’ which is to say the result of impersonal forces, who is not seen as a morally responsible agent. Condemning such a man for being evil seems out-dated, non-scientific, and just plain cruel besides.
Since the currency of the language around virtue and vice has exited circulation, while the impulses remain. They try to find linguistic and medical substitutes to ascribe personal moral failings to impersonal forces and objects. “The devil made me do it” at least has some poetic elegance to it.
From Social Pathologist’s clinical experience seeing over 140,000 patients in Australia, and Theodore Dalyrymple’s similar experience with patients in the United Kingdom, bad moral teaching about gender and sexuality tends to result in mass unhappiness and worse. [ED: Social Pathologist informs us that it was 140,000 visits, and not 140,000 separate patients. My mistake.]
What must be taken as odd is that what’s considered healthy romantic behavior now would have been considered ‘psychopathic’ in 1950. The family structure of 1950, which was already relatively feminine-centered, tends to be termed as ‘abusive’ today, in the same sort of slippery ways in which ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘rape’ have been flippantly, repeatedly redefined.
There’s a certain method to this madness — it’s to grasp for demons to blame for sin. The demons may be real, but someone has to invite them in through the door for them to get any of their work done.
Kilgore Reinhart (@Flatland_USA) says
Excellent! Relativism has flattened vertical differences between individuals. Moral decisions are today only reflective of “choices,” all of which stand on the same moral plane.
Bob Wallace says
I define things according to the Seven Deadly Vices and Virtues.
Kate Minter says
Morally ill. Huh. That about sums it up. I will begin using this phrase.
I started writing because of Dalyrmple, my aim was to back him up and also give voice to the things he was writing about. I sort of drifted though!
Btw, just a brief correction, by now I’ve probably had close to 140,000 consultations with patients, not 140,000 different patients.
Happy Easter Henry.
Happy Easter to you, as well. I’ve updated my post accordingly.
R. Wilbur says
I take it you’ve read through Triumph of the Therapeutic?
Not yet. It is sitting on my stack of books. Should be coming up soon.
R. Wilbur says
Ah, didn’t mean to jump ahead. Many of the same themes appear there. I’ll be looking forward to your take.
And now you have about a third of university students studying some variation on psychology or sociology. These snotty mid-wits think the “Holy DSM” is the work of godlike scientists and one day will announce that disagreeing with them on anything is a mental illness.
Western medicine is becoming such a sham. Most papers have non-reproducible results, like a soft science. I far prefer to see old doctors than young ones, which should trouble me far more than it does.
Soon, the grab-the-balls-and-cough ritual will be used to determine your true gender.
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!