History of Madness

It is worth reiterating that almost all Americans agree that the United States is in the grip of some sort of mental health crisis. Aside from the effects of COVID as well as the effects of mainstream and social media, another contributing factor to this perceived but real mental health crisis which one should note is the fact that people do not read as much as they did in the past. There are perhaps less informed laymen now than there were in the past. An important public figure who recently brought up this point about the drop in reading is the Nobel laureate Dmitri Muratov. Upon receiving the Nobel Prize, Muratov said in an interview that the major social problems of our time stem from the fact that people do not read anymore. Browsing through Facebook posts and Tweets does not amount to quality reading.

And as Michel Foucault said, “madness is the absence of an oeuvre.” Moreover, people cannot read the way they are supposed to read because of the way Western society is organized by the elite class. Foucault wrote extensively about the organization of Western society and about the history of “madness” and mental health in the Western world. Foucault argued that at the core of societal organization is “confinement.” Both the mentally ill and the functioning labor force are in a state of “confinement” as a result of the way society is organized from the top. Confinement, according to Foucault, was necessary in the eyes of the Western elite because of the “imperative of labor.” Foucault added: “Our philanthropy prefers to recognize the signs of a benevolence toward sickness where there is only a condemnation of idleness.”

Thus, in Western societies, the public is expected by virtue of culture and conventional thinking to work and to serve the bourgeoisie and the elite. And if an individual refuses to work and refuses to serve the bourgeoisie and the elite, the individual is then subjected to what Foucault called “confinement” and is then deemed as insane and mentally ill. There is both a physical confinement which occurs in hospitals and psychiatric wards and a psychological confinement which stems from the social taboo of not “working” in the United States.

As a result, the greatest danger to the bourgeoisie and elite class is an individual or a group of individuals who stop to think and question the rationale behind the imposition of labor and work on the whole of society. There is a reason why CNN blocks my emails. Moreover, there is a fundamental difference between working for self-satisfaction on one hand, and working mechanistically to generate taxes in order to serve a bourgeoisie and elite class which wastes taxpayer money on “Flights of Fancy” to places like Afghanistan in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Zambia and billions of dollars annually to Israel.

Also, the breakdown of an American order both domestically and globally – which has long been imposed to serve a particular elite class or group of individuals – is largely the result of the complete loss of credibility and legitimacy on the part of the American elite over the course of the last two decades. This complete loss of credibility and legitimacy on the part of the American elite has occurred both at home and abroad. Thus, the mental health crisis coincides with the breakdown of the traditional American order.

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