Monday, November 16, 2009
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
I know what you're all probably thinking. How does 13 Muluc manage to be so totally sane? LOL. Seriously though, don't we all think we're the sanest person on the planet, or at least in the top 10? The sad truth is that almost no one really is. I'm not. Nor are you. There are probably a few enlightened beings floating around who are. Maybe we could have been sane, if things had been different. As it is, the best we can hope for is to be moving in the right general direction. In practice, it is more useful to think of sanity as a continuum, rather than a category. At least then we can avoid the trap of prematurely congratulating ourselves.
The trouble is, insanity is contagious. If you are insane, your kids are nearly certainly going to be insane as well. Not only that, but their craziness is going to resemble or compliment your own. In this way, whole civilisations can go mad and hardly anyone notices.
It's a pickle because, if you live in an insane society, any progress towards sanity renders you maladaptive. It doesn't matter who is nuttier than who as far as quality of life is concerned. Most parents want their children to have a good and comfortable life. Naturally, they see it as their duty to drive their children insane in the socially approved manner. All kinds of help and encouragement are available to this end. The current form of collective madness has been growing and spreading for at least 3,000 years. It's means of transmission has been thoroughly developed and institutionalised. It now needs very little effort to maintain. All you have to do is keep your head down and follow the herd.
The system is effective but not perfect. Sometimes procedures are incorrectly followed and you end up with the wrong kind of crazy. This isn't really a problem for the system, since these unfortunates serve as cautionary tales for the majority. I know a few people like this. One is called Gerard. I knew him when he used to be fairly normal. In his mid thirties he became schizophrenic. Like most people, he believes things that can't possibly be true. The difference is that he can't get anyone to agree with him. I used to have coffee with him fairly often when I lived in the Davie Village area. He would always show me pieces of costume jewelery that he found in the trash. He always insisted that they were extremely valuable. I recall one ring in particular. According to Gerard, it was a ten carat diamond, set in platinum, and dating from ancient Egypt. There's no point in arguing about it. He claims to be an expert on such things. As an ironic aside, I recently met a well-known gold prospector from the Yukon. He mentioned in conversation that he had lost a solid gold nugget ring. He said that, if someone were to find it in a dumpster, they probably wouldn't know what it was worth. I hope Gerard finds it.
I know another man named Chucky. He is convinced that he is the illegitimate love child of Queen Elizabeth II. I told him that he was way too good-looking to be descended from those freaks, but his conviction is unshakable. Chucky is a really sweet guy, and remarkably lucid on most other topics. He could probably pass for normal if he'd lose the overflowing shopping cart and stop smiling so much. But he can't seem to help bringing up the subject of his parentage in any conversation lasting more than a few minutes.
Normal people usually avoid guys like Gerard and Chucky. They are seen as dangerous and unpredictable, possibly contagious. In reality, they're no less predictable than most people, on their own terms. Most schizophrenics aren't dangerous, far less so than sociopaths. Yet sociopaths make up the majority of world leaders and power brokers, and no one bats an eye. On closer inspection, fixed and irrational beliefs are the norm rather than the exception. How is it possible for people to believe in democracy, when we all know that governments are controlled by those with the most money? How can anyone believe the official story of 911, when there is such a mountain of evidence against it? Are these not examples of fixed and irrational beliefs? Are those who subscribe to them any more open to reason? The hell they are. The one and only difference is consensus. No wonder the schizophrenic is so feared and unpopular.
And then there's us, the ones who've figured out that we're living in an asylum and want out. We've learned to recognise one another without attracting too much unwanted attention from the other inmates. We've given up on the Doctors. They're not there to heal anyone. They just want to manage our symptoms so they can stay in charge. The exits have been locked and mislabelled. But we will find them. We will pick their locks or break them down. And one day soon, we will breathe the air of sanity and freedom. Oh yeah, and we're also going to leave the door open when we leave.