A very good, insightful and readable post from Ken at Popehat.

The part dealing with depression, and to a lesser extent mental illness generally, is an important contribution to a discussion that more people should be having.  So many tragedies cry out for an understanding of mental illness.  It may be that we have a limited capacity to understand.  But we won’t even approach that limited capacity unless and until we begin a serious discussion of the subject.

This is just my view, of course, but it is one of the markers of our descent into neo-paganism and barbarism that we so often mock the suffering of others.  This in turn fuels the shame that strangles candid and meaningful discussion in the crib.  So it seems to me we could start there:  attach suitable cultural opprobrium to mockery of others’ suffering or misfortune.

To be more specific, a few examples of commonly heard wrongful mockery:

– joking about men being raped in prison

– referring to people struggling with mental illness as “nut-jobs” or “crazy”

– openly rejoicing or gloating at a criminal defendant being convicted and sentenced, even though the conviction and sentence may be warranted.

– jokes about wanton killing of the enemy in a war.

Now with respect to the last on my list here, this kind of black humor is prevalent in the military and is perhaps more forgiveable – not excusable and certainly not right – but forgiveable in the sense that it’s a psychological survival mechanism if you grant that military preparedness is a necessary evil.  But still it should be discouraged and ultimately subject to rebuke, and the officer corps in particular should be vigilant not to let callousness of that kind take hold.  The consequences of that can be really catastrophic.

Readers with other examples are encouraged to contribute.



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9 responses to “Poignant

  1. Heather

    Yes, if only this subject could be dealt with and spoken about more freely instead of being brushed under the carpet, people would be more empathetic and understanding, and not so quick to judge others, such as wanting people dead without a thought for what that person had endured. People need educating, that’s the problem.


  2. “…..if someone suffers from depression, you can’t infer things from their reactions the way you can from someone who doesn’t suffer. It’s very difficult, if you haven’t experienced it, to imagine what it feels like, and even more difficult to imagine how it distorts your reaction to stress.”
    In this extract the word depression could have been substituted by psychosis, domestic abuse, low self-esteem, panic attacks, bi-polar disorder……. Especially in the field of criminal prosecution it is not only the understanding of mental illness that is lacking but the willingness to comprehend how mental illness plays a part in so much crime. It seems that psychiatry and psychology are inconvenient fields that interfere with the main aim of the state in criminal cases – to get “Guilty” verdicts, get people out of the way and win kudos with a hate-filled public. Psychosis in particular, whether chronic or acute, is something that no-one wants to hear about when it results in the most heinous and horrifying crimes. It is regarded as an “excuse”, and people contort their “common sense” into all kinds of odd, illogical theories about the motivations of certain criminals to account for the inexplicability of their acts, citing medieval notions of “evil”, as if psychosis were less feasible an explanation than a little hooved and fork-tailed man toying with one’s conscience.
    Comments like “he/she planned it”, “he/she knew exactly what they were doing” and they “planned” that they would “claim insanity” defy the very “common sense” to which people are supposedly so beholden: when someone plans and commits an act of terror then doesn’t appear to have thought about or even care about how they would get away with it; when someone allegedly kills in a pre-planned, brutal fashion, then hours later in the realization of what they have done, makes a hysterical phone call to confide what they should, logically, be pretending not to know…..doesn’t “common sense” suggest that the person’s “sense” is decidedly and severely uncommon, therefore merits profound investigation?
    Mental illness is conceded to people – as long as they don’t do anything awful. Most people who have mental health issues do not perpetrate acts of violence, but the fact is that given the combination of certain kinds of psychopathology with certain stressors and environmental reinforcers, some deeply disturbed individuals will commit abhorrent acts that given the same stressors and environmental reinforcers without the psychopathology would not have resulted on those acts.
    But that’s all just a little too complicated, requiring a psychological, intellectual and ethical stretch of the mind that the descent into barbarism that you refer to just doesn’t have time or mental capacity for. People are more interested in quenching their blood-lust than in dispassionate exploration, understanding and finding solutions so that other potentially so-predisposed individuals do not repeat the horror. The mocking is a way of persuading oneself that one is so much more evolved than the defendant – it implies that the person is a ridiculous specimen who does not even count as human. Very dangerous. Most of us are just further back on the continuum – not on a different continuum.
    Speaking of mockery from the crib, the issue of what messages the media is sending parents and in turn their children is discussed in Raising America: a Disturbing “Look at the News the Way Parents Do” http://babelbooth.com/2013/03/07/raising-america-a-disturbing-look-at-the-news-the-way-parents-do/


    • Speaking of having an intelligent, adult conversation about mental illness, especially as it often comes up in a criminal justice forum, I would recommend your blog to anyone who is at least at the point where they have tired of the likes of Nancy Grace.

      Thanks for reading over here.


  3. Thanks, John. I referred to your blog somewhere on Pitchforks recently when I was responding to a commenter. I might just post my comment above as a post on Pitchforks and cross-reference it with yours here.


  4. Pingback: Plea to the Insanity of Tomato Tossers | Pitchforks

  5. Heather

    I really enjoy reading your intelligent posts, thank you so much! I’ve tried saying to the haters to read what you say, but I might as well talk to the wall..
    The latest is that Jodi’s finger is double jointed, not broken at all.. where oh where do these ‘people’ come from? Its beyond scary, and to think they’re allowed to have children? A scary thought indeed.


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