Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thoughts on Madness and Healing

When I was a graduate student in clinical psychology, one of the more frequently recurring questions among the students, which you might hear in any class, was: "what makes a man snap?"

The question was understood to contain a thousand other and more urgent questions, such as: "how can you tell when a man is at or near that breaking point of sanity?" and "what are the signs that would show me when a man has passed from a slow burn and is now ready to explode?"

We didn't care about the Oedipus Complex or the anima or post-Freudian theories of self and other. We just wanted to know how to tell when a man might be moved to become a mass murderer, and how we could as psychologists prevent it from occurring.

Our questions were never answered, and they remain unanswered. And every war that is fought, every bomb dropped, every dollar spent on destruction rather than on understanding, takes us further and further away from an answer.

But perhaps you think I am pointlessly conflating a mass murder at a university with disconnected geopolitical events; perhaps you do not believe that these things—global war, tyranny at home, and the mass murdering of children—are in any way related.

Well, I would not dare to ask for belief, on this or any other point. Belief, as we have repeated quite often here, is largely responsible for where we are now as a nation, and for what our society has become: rootless, violent, insular, superficially grandiose, and hate-driven at the very highest levels of influence and power.

Today, we watched our news and saw a story of terrorism: an insane freak, no longer human, killing randomly until there was not a trace left of his former self. Then he was able to complete the annihilation by turning his own face into a pool of goo.

What revenge can be had, if we wanted it? Could we find out who he was, where he was from, and then go drop bombs and cruise missiles on his hometown? Could we round up anyone who looks like him, wears the same clothes, or belongs to the same club or organization in which he had membership, and put them all into a detainment camp without charge or trial, and then torture them?

Or could we respond in the only natural way possible, via the slow and agonizing process of healing? The choice is not up to our leaders or our media; it is up to us.


Tomorrow for Geek Wednesday, we're going to present a scenario that reveals exactly what would have to happen for all those thousands of Karl Rove emails to have truly disappeared. We'll be joined by a professional systems architect whose voice has been heard here before, and I think you'll find his discussion fascinating, both in itself and as a demonstration of why we have a geek column on a political weblog. Please be sure to check in for that tomorrow on Geek Wednesday.

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