March 8th, 2001

red panda eating bamboo

Musings of an apathetic pinko libertarian

I tend to think that any *concept* -- including "mental illness" -- exists mainly in the mind of the society that created it and teaches it to its members. From that point of view, I can see a society that says that mental illness doesn't exist.

What can't be gotten away from, whether one believes in the concept of mental illness or not, is that there are a lot of suffering people in the world. Some of those people are suffering because their mental/emotional workings make it very difficult for them to succeed in their society. Sure, one might put it another way: their society is terribly narrowminded and only allows a narrow range of behaviors to lead to success -- far narrower than the full range of human behavior.

An ultimate solution would be to create a society that is able to fulfill the needs and wants of all people without any people being mistreated.

But I think to approach the ultimate solution is going to take decades, if not centuries, and is going to take the talents of some very particular kinds of people. Not everyone in this society is capable of being a culture-changer, a revolutionary, or even a political educator of the kind that will be needed to achieve that society.

In the meantime, there are people suffering. Sometimes they need to choose to reduce their suffering. Sometimes those choices end up not challenging the exploitative classes/industries, or even helping them.

I don't think individuals should be negatively judged by others for making such choices.

I do prefer it when people are educated on the potential negative results of their choices. That means I make an effort to express my opinions about such results sometimes, and I like it when people are willing to listen to and think about such opinions.

I also prefer it when people are willing to take into account the potential negative increase in societal ills when they make their choices. But I don't think those negatives should be the *only* criteria they use.

(Slight tangent) I'm not Jewish but I have always been interested in interpretations ofJewish law and how some Jewish law incorporates exceptions for unusual situations. For example, my understanding is that the law says that you shouldn't work on the Sabbath, but if your cow falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, it's OK to drag it out even though normally that would be considered work. Also, someone once told me that the law says you shouldn't eat or drink on Yom Kippur, but it also says that if fasting makes you very sick, you *should* eat or drink. (Not just that you can, but that you are obligated, as part of the law, to avoid fasting if it makes you very sick.)

That's got something to do with how, intellectually, I approach the issue of individual choices that end up contributing to overall societal oppression, corporate profit, and so on. Avoid it if you can, but you also have an obligation to your own wholeness.

Emotionally, I am sometimes upset when I hear about certain individual choices. For example, I am upset when I hear about women getting cosmetic surgery. I know that in some careers having a surgically altered body is all but a requirement, but it bothers me. I know that some people would rather risk a lifetime of ill health than be fat and they get their stomachs stapled. I am upset about that too.

I'm personally not terribly upset by people who take antidepressants or seek other institutional help because they feel very unhappy with life. But I can see how that might upset some people for the same sorts of reasons I'm upset by body alterations for the sake of conforming.

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