I normally don’t post mainstream stories because Earthpages is an alternative news source. We can switch on CNN and see the most visible stories any time of the day. But today I want to talk about something that has been nagging me for a while. And looking through the headlines, I thought I would say a few words about the concept of mental illness vs. that of terrorism.
“He wasn’t a terrorist, he was mentally ill” we’re now hearing. So… people belonging to terrorist organizations are not mentally ill?
What’s the difference between these two concepts?
The difference is that mental illness, the concept of mental illness that is, almost always targets the individual. The discussion on terrorism and heinous regimes like Nazism or Stalinism usually focuses on the group.
So what? you might say.
The point, as I see it, is that the idea of mental illness almost always overlooks the larger social and spiritual issues that contribute to someone behaving as if they have some particular medical illness.
To take a hypothetical example, consider organized crime wives who sit in church all day with a visible frown on their faces. Maybe they also see a psychiatrist and take antidepressants. Are these individuals mentally ill? Or does the fact that they’re all wrapped up in a system of violence, lies and, let’s not forget, cheating decent, qualified people out of work—might this not contribute to their angst?
Sure, these people can give to the charities of their choice to make themselves feel a bit better. But this is only a band-aid solution. They’re still complicit in swindling good, honest people out of their livelihoods (what has been called a white martyrdom). Not to mention killing anyone else who stands in the way (what has been called a red martyrdom).
As long as these people maintain a good cover and manage their connections to skirt the justice system, they’re not seen as mentally ill. In fact, some of these people are regarded as societal exemplars and treated accordingly. And let’s face it, organized crime isn’t just about the Hell’s Angels. White collar and clerical organized crime and corruption is just as prevalent. But we don’t hear about it so much because of what I’ve said in first line of this paragraph. So basically we have elements of the so-called upper classes bullying aspects of the so-called lower classes.
However, the lone individual who deviates from current social norms, even if she or he harms no one, is quickly given a label and viewed as mentally – that is, medically – ill. And all the “friends” of the so-called mentally person ill group together in organizations to support one another. In essence, society trumps the individual.
As one of my student friends once said, true individuals are often persecuted, and I would add, while groups can get away with murder.
The picture is far more complicated than what is outlined here. And it should be stressed that I’m not judging. But I think it’s time we peeled back the glossy veneer and started seeing our world as it really is. Ignorance is not always bliss. More often than not, it’s just ignorance. And that can do real harm.