Thursday, October 21, 2010
Monsters, Madmen & Couch Potatoes
A picture of Brie babysitting one of the rabbits. She seems to be the sanest one in the family.
Monsters, Madmen, and Couch Potatoes
Universe, it seems, is putting enough examples of what I would I would lump together as “delusion” to prompt me to write a post about it. I mentioned in a comment recently how we attended a public debate between candidates for county commissioner. When asked to give himself a numerical placement, with “One being Barack Obama and Ten being Ronald Reagan (an inherently stupid question), one of the candidates gave himself a Ten. Then, he became overcome with emotion, thinking of Reagan's vision of American being a “shining city on a hill,” and teared up, explaining that “I just love this country so much...” Of course, the Murphinator's dropped jaw and steely gaze was an exception to the general reaction of sympathy in the room. Given that Ronald Reagan's accomplishments included closing the mental hospitals in California and throwing patients into the streets, thereby starting the “homeless” phenomena in this country; putting an end to the programs to conserve oil begun by President Carter when it became clear that domestic oil production had peaked; cutting taxes on the rich that has led to the outrageous disparity of wealth in this country between the rich and the poor; the systematic destruction of unions; the deregulation of the financial industry which is now destroying the wealth of the planet, well, I hope it is clear why we would consider his idealization of Reagan “delusional.”
To enlarge upon this theme, a movie that had been in our Netflix queue for awhile showed up. It was entitled “Shutter Island.” Directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Leonardo DeCaprio. I would rate it as one of Scorcese's best. It's a tight-knit psychological thriller set in the 1940's period just after the war. DeCaprio is a U.S. Marshal sent to the island to investigate possible wrong-doing at the creepy mental hospital. A female patient has apparently disappeared from the “escape-proof” island, similar to Alcatraz. Upon further investigation, it seems that the psychiatrists who run the hospital have ties to secret government programs, one of the shrinks in charge was a former Nazi, and lobotomies are performed in a part of the grounds that have been declared off limits.
I don't want to give away the whole story, but the movie has been haunting us for days and has prompted many discussions between murph and myself as to the nature and function of paranoia and delusion. Lets harken back to that roomful of confused Reaganites. Despite the facts that the U.S.A. Is woefully behind almost all the “developed” nations in life expectancy, birthrate mortality, math and science education, literacy, disparity between the rich and poor; the deterioration of our environment and lifestyles; and the horrendous health and dental care in this country, these people tell themselves and each other that “We're Number One.” We are the Best, the Bravest, the Luckiest, the Most Free, the Envy of the World. Sorta reminds one of the pitiful North Koreans making tearful homage to their “Dear Leader,” doesn't it?
Shutter Island ends with the question, “Given the choice between living as a monster or a madman, which would you choose?” Good question. We've been chewing on it for days. Negative interpretations of reality are labeled paranoia. Rosier-than-real perceptions can be labeled delusional. Can they both be coping mechanisms that shelter us from a reality that is worse than we can accept and live with?
The human mind is capable of incredible feats to protect itself against hideous abuse. The most extreme is “splitting the personality,” or dissociative disorder. The original innocent personality contrives alternate personalities that are more able to deal with circumstances that are beyond their control, and then “inhabits” them separately as a way to cope with an unacceptable reality that they are powerless to change. Insanity. We say that they have been driven mad.
Paranoid personalities create elaborate, imaginative, and oftentimes brilliant alternative explanations for what is going on. Dad is not simply an arrogant, self-centered, malicious prick, for instance. He's really a spy for the empire of Orgon, a planet in the Sirius star-system who is posing as a plumber and being mean to his kids while serving his nefarious off-planet overlords....
Where am I going with this? I'm wondering if insanity can drift from individuals to the greater culture. Hearkening back to that roomful of true believers, I recall other dramatic examples of ill-conceived, intense, some would say, “crazy” misadventures in history. The Crusades, the Salem witch trials, the Inquisition, the Stalinist and Maoist excesses, as well as lynchings, burning women at the stake, and the Holocaust come to mind. What brought on these atrocities? What were people telling themselves and others to justify such cruel actions? Were they crazy?
I can't help but wonder about these things as, more and more, I note that the population seems to have lost their senses. I read that an alarming number of us are taking psychotropic medication, and that much of it is proving to be permanently damaging to the brain. This, in addition to the manipulative brain-washing perpetrated by the mass media in their advertising, news, and social dramas meant to keep us compliant and BUYING THINGS. Or, am I just being paranoid?
Are the Wall Street investment bankers and their associates just flawed human beings much like the rest of us, who have succumbed to the temptations of greed and avarice in the face of enormously lucrative inducements? Or, are they minions of the Illuminati, spawn of the reptilian Annanaki, who are here to create suffering and servitude?
Monsters or madmen? The third choice in the movie, Shutter Island, was lobotomy. Go in through the eye socket, scoop out the painful memories, and leave one desensitized, diminished, but comfortable.
Go back to the television, Citizen. Nothing to see or think about here.