The Road to Recovery

I concluded the last essay with the assertion or suggestion that Washington is very much “disturbed” or “unsettled” at its very core for a number of reasons, and I used a passage from Adam Smith to reinforce this point. Moreover, one of the physical or psychological manifestations of this disturbed or unsettled state as of late is the phenomenon known as the “Havana Syndrome.” After doing away with the conspiracy theory that the “Havana Syndrome” stemmed from a “sonic weapon” in Russia and so forth, many reasonable people came to the realization that the actual cause or causes of the “Havana Syndrome” are “unexplained.” Bill Burns, who is now the CIA director, argued as recently as this past February that a simplistic answer does not suffice:

“The intelligence community assesses now that there’s not a single cause that — it would explain the more than 1,000 incidents that have been reported since Havana in 2016. We’ve also not yet been able to link a foreign state actor or an external device or mechanism to any of those cases.”

Moreover, mental illness as a prominent feature of Washington precedes or predates the emergence of the ‘Havana Syndrome.’ A trip to George Washington University Hospital’s Psychiatry Unit can be easily characterized by the inundation of its phone lines and reception desk with phone calls from Washingtonian outpatients who are suffering from a nervous breakdown. ‘The Washington Post’ wrote as early as the year 1979 that ‘Foreign Service Officers’ (FSOs) visit psychiatrists more than any other employee of the federal government. Coincidentally, my master’s degree program was a professional program designed to prepare entry into the U.S. Foreign Service. I came across a number of opportunities to climb the Washington “ladder.” But a manifestation of the Washington curse would coincide with every opportunity, either from a mental health standpoint or from a physical and social standpoint.

In turn, the mental health crisis of Washington is essentially a crisis of the soul or spirit. Freud wrote that “a psychiatry which aspires to scientific depth is not possible without a real knowledge of the deeper unconscious processes in the psychic life.” But on a more positive note, neurosis is the harbinger of a journey towards healing and self-cure if one is wise enough to embark on it. As Carl Jung wrote: “Neurosis is really an attempt at self-cure…It is an attempt of the self-regulating psychic system to restore the balance, in no way different from the function of dreams — only rather more forceful and drastic.”

Moreover, healing and self-cure should be a visceral response to the ubiquity of neurosis in Washington, which one must add stems from the unexplainable perpetuation of war. In turn, the perpetuation of war not only prompts the psychological consequences mentioned above, but it also prompts political and social consequences which are now beginning to manifest in American society. As James Madison wrote:

“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded…In war…the discretionary power of the executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people…No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare…War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

In sum, Washington introduced what is now the theme of the 21st century into the global public sphere, namely, the combination of material comfort and excess with incomprehensible brutality and cruelty. Consider the Pentagon’s sponsoring of violent video games for instance. And as the Prophet Muhammad argued, one of the key characteristics or features of the postmodern epoch will be that “a killer will not know why he kills and the one who is killed will not know why they are killed.” Thus, healing and self-cure from a state of perpetual war which cannot be justified whatsoever not only addresses personal and public health, but it also pertains to the issue of reversing a curse through a long and arduous process that has no shortcuts or cheat codes.  

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