Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crazy



Morgan constantly flits from one thing to another, and has never been able to settle on a single path in life.

"That Morgan is crazy!" someone comments. Ha ha ha!

Morgan is bipolar, and has been suicidal in the past.

* * *

Leslie is schizophrenic.

Someone elaborates, "Or in the words of those in the industry, cuckoo!" while drawing circles in the air next to his ear. Ha ha ha!

* * *

As a listener in those conversations, I was shocked. I should not have been.
"Crazy" is one of the first words I reach for when I want to dismiss someone, when I can't be bothered to understand them (for example, Glenn Beck). I know that "crazy" is a joke. It's Homer Simpson in the Treehouse of Horror segment "The Shinning". "Crazy" is not to be taken seriously.

And the way we use "crazy" cannot be separated from the way we understand mental illness as a serious subject.

* * *

On his Monday show, Stephen Colbert addressed the shooting that occured in Tucson Arizona this past weekend, saying, "We may never know what motivated this clearly troubled individual". Earlier, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart had said that while Americans should work to improve their political discourse, it's impossible to say whether the current political climate was a contributing factor to the attack, commenting that no matter what the political climate is like, "crazy will always find a way."

While finger-pointing may not be the most helpful or productive reaction to the recent shooting, I don't believe that the Stewart/Colbert approach is much better. The fact is that we do know what motivated Jared Laughner. He shared his thoughts and concerns with the world via YouTube. While often incoherent, what he had to say was not incomprehensible. It is possible to understand where he is coming from. Saying that "we may never know what motivated" Laughner does a disservice to all people with mental illness. It puts them in the category of Those Who Cannot Be Understood, premptively dismissing everything they have to say. And one wonders, if people with mental illness cannot be understood, then how can they be helped? The comment that "crazy will always find a way" does the same thing. It casts mental illness as a wild, elemental force. But mental illness can be understood, mitigated, and controlled.

Calling someone "crazy" is a way to dismiss them without seriously considering their perspective. Really, it's a cop-out; it's intellectual laziness. Pointing out that Laughner is mentally unstable is likewise a cop out. It doesn't explain anything. There are many, many people living with serious mental illness who have not resorted to political violence. Jared Laughner is not just a crazy person. He is a person, with reasons for behaving the way he has.

* * *

We call people "crazy" when we don't want to try to understand them, because we don't think people with mental illness are worth trying to understand. The fact that someone is living with mental illness is enough reason to dismiss their perspective, because "crazy" is something that should be dismissed.

"Crazy" hurts people. It hurts the people that it is used against by implying that their inner lives are nonsensical and meaningless, by generalizing about the unique psychological burdens that they have to deal with, and by refusing to take them seriously as individuals. And it hurts those who wield it against others, by inhibiting empathy and limiting our understanding of our fellow human beings.

It's a word that I'm going to try very hard to stop using.

Image Source

7 comments:

  1. So, I have a conflicted position on this. On the one hand it's the usual Daily Show political correctness, just as the Rally to Restore Sanity, they don't want to bother the right too much and despite better knowledge act as if there were some "middle ground" to be found, when in reality one side of the discussion is clearly delusional and the other one is just annoyed. So I guess that's why they said it was impossible to know the truth, and thus the discussion should be ended, because it could only go on with discussing the crazy Tea Party antics, which they seem to want to avoid if it's not specifically targeting Glenn Beck or some other bigots. (Although they are not as unbiased there: Keith Olberman is clearly a bigot when it comes to the wikileaks stuff, but I don't remember hearing anything about that in the Daily Show. Then again that's just ridiculously tame compared to what the right wingers do)

    On the other hand: just because he presented some explanations in his YouTube videos, doesn't mean that's what could explain his actions. There's a long way to be covered from asking somebody "how do you know words have meaning?" to shooting her. And "crazy" is just the edgy synonym for "mentally ill", just calling him schizophrenic might not cover it, most schizophrenics don't spiral out of control that much, or maybe it's because we usually call bipolar people schizophrenic, so it's avoided, so people actually will take it more serious: when they think he was just a bit bipolar, they would dismiss it as a cause right away?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Calling someone "crazy" is a way to dismiss them without seriously considering their perspective. Really, it's a cop-out; it's intellectual laziness."

    Absolutely.

    ""Crazy" hurts people. It hurts the people that it is used against by implying that their inner lives are nonsensical and meaningless, by generalizing about the unique psychological burdens that they have to deal with, and by refusing to take them seriously as individuals."

    Agree.

    The only reason I can think of as to why people have been so quick to resort to "crazy" is their own lack of understanding, and the fear that seems to surround mental illness as this "thing" that "could happen to me." I watched my former partner disappear into a sudden onset of schizophrenia after dating for four years someone who had no signs or symptoms of any illness. Reading the descriptions of the shooter reminds me of his first symptoms and the utter failure of most people around us to offer help or resources. Most people actually ran as far from him as possible, as though his sudden change in personality was contagious instead of concerning.

    For the record, I don't believe my ex to be dangerous; just very tormented by painful thoughts that are very real to him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "It's a word that I'm going to try very hard to stop using."

    From someone hurt by that word, thank you. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "It's a word that I'm going to try very hard to stop using."

    hallelujah. as a person with bipolar disorder, who comes from an extremely right-wing family where being polite/sensitive to people's feelings= politically correct garbage= a fukken crime, it means a lot to know that at least *someone* out there is trying to change things. using terms that aren't offensive to people isn't about having a political agenda; it's about having respect for others.

    ReplyDelete
  5. what about the use of the word not directed at mentally ill or mental disordered persons but for ones that cross the socially expected guidelines. The creative person who does not follow the "norm" and whose behaviors are for those reasons alone disapproving. Calling someone who is nothing close to a the shooter "crazy" is used as an insult. if being 'crazy' or mentally ill then calling someone who is not as a way to control their behavior or to demean them is a powerful tool. It is like a weapon that is used to hurt and dismiss ANYONE. The word is used too much in my opinion with young people to describe their friends that are just too not this or not that..too much this ...too little that...crazy girl...always doing something original following their own path. what is so wrong with being brave enough to step out of the box and do something with no guaranteed outcome, taking a risk is not crazy in life it is what it is...someone else is life that should not be insulted if it does not suit someone else is expectations.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, Anonymous. Totally agree with you. Thanks for commenting!

    ReplyDelete
  7. XXX vids porn foryoupornx movie. Free porn movie freepornwatchhd videos. High porn videos loypornvid porn.

    ReplyDelete

Comments = rainbows, kittens and hugs.
No comments = sad bloggers.

Don't be an obvious troll!

I would prefer if you don't post as "Anonymous". You don't have to sign in to comment, so just pick a name and stick with it. Just so that I can have a better idea of who's commenting. Thanks!