Insanity Makes An Entrance
Posted on January 11, 2011It was Charles Manson who said: "Years ago, it meant something to be crazy. Now everyone's crazy.”
It sure seems that way. You just have to take a look at what is on the TV for a few minutes to confirm for yourself what Manson has asserted. From reality shows to the 48 Hours Mysteries to Glenn Beck and Keith Olberman, it seems that as a society we have all gone a little cuckoo.
Friedrich Nietzsche put it this way: "In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." These days, both in individuals and in groups, nations and epochs, it has become the rule.
Insanity has made an entrance again on the national stage, as a disturbed young man tried to kill a popular Congresswoman and succeed in killing many more. Conservatives believe that this was an isolated case of a crazy person. Liberals believe that this crazy person was born of a movement of crazy people that they call the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Seneca said: “There is no great genius without some touch of madness,” while Erasmus said: “I doubt if a single individual could be found from the whole of mankind free from some form of insanity. The only difference is one of degree. A man who sees a gourd and takes it for his wife is called insane because this happens to very few people.”
Is it genius or are we all insane in one form or another?
Those who study insanity make distinctions between the kinds of crazy people.
Sociopaths (although the term has gone out of style) have little regard for the feelings of others and manipulate others in order to get what they desire. People who have this disorder often have no sense of right or wrong and many only receive treatment when forced to by the judicial system, an employer or family member. Adolph Hitler was probably a sociopath, as was Joseph Stalin.
People who are psychotic have lost contact with reality. When you see someone who hallucinates, hears voices, has delusions, or in other ways has severe thought disorders, they are probably psychotic.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of the process of thinking and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.
Of course, as Ray Bradbury once pointed out: "Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage."
And that goes to the very heart of efforts to come up with standards of who defines whom as crazy.
I would be in favor of banning crazy people from getting access to guns. But the question remains which crazy people?
Is the Tea Party member crazy because he wants to go back on the Gold Standard? Is the Mormon survivalist crazy because he believes he should have the ability to have more than one wife? Is the Marxist crazy because he believes that the only way to achieve fairness in society is through class struggle and violent revolution?
That has special resonance when it comes to religion. Don’t all religions require a leap of faith, which to those who don’t want to make that leap seems a bit crazy? Sure, to the Southern Baptist, the Mormon faith is insane, but to the Muslim, the Southern Baptist is an infidel. Who decides whose religion is best, other than God?
Don’t all religions have an element of craziness to them to the unbeliever?
And don’t think that politicians don’t have their bouts of insanity. It takes a certain amount of madness to subject yourself to the flagellation that comes along with the modern political campaign.
What normal person would ever want to be President? You have to have a screw loose to subject yourself to that kind of torture.
Having delusions of grandeur is a common ailment that hits politicians, especially in the Senate, where they all believe that one day they will be President.
But as Marcel Proust once said: “Everything great in the world is done by neurotics; they alone founded our religions and created our masterpieces.”
We may all be crazy to one degree or another. But that doesn’t mean that we pick up guns and start shooting people. There is a clear difference between psychotics and the rest of us.
Billy Currington’s hit last year pretty much sums it up for me: God is Great, Beer is Good and People are Crazy. Nothing else needs to be said.