- The Surgeon General has declared one out of five Americans
to be mentally ill. Reminiscent of the old Quaker saying that "everyone
is crazy but me and thee and sometimes I worry about thee," the Clinton
administration report followed on the heels of news that Joseph Heller
had died. Heller was one of the few mental health experts who understood
the relationship between societal and individual sanity. As he wrote in
- "Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had
to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would
have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and
sane if he didn't but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them
he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and
- The Surgeon General's report was also contemporaneous
with news from Harvard U. that it was, as the New York Times put it, "undertaking
a sweeping upgrade of its mental health services, in hopes of weaving a
better net to catch psychologically vulnerable students, whose numbers,
experts say, seem to be mounting at campuses around the country."
The Harvard report spoke of the "increasing fragility of students."
- Neither the Surgeon General nor Harvard hinted at a problem
so well outlined by Heller, namely that we are living in an insane world
whose character has been formed with the considerable aid of dysfunctional
institutions such as Harvard University and the US government.
- We live in a time our parents are too busy for their
kids, our schools treat them as inmates rather than seeds of hope, our
universities train them in narcissistic ambition, our television teaches
them post-apocalyptic guerilla tactics, our president normalizes psychopathic
behavior, and then our journalists and "experts" teach them that
if they rebel or are anxious about all this, it is their own fault and
they are "ill."
- The anthropologist Ruth Benedict once told the truth
from which Harvard and the Clinton administration flee:
- "In reality, society and the individual are not
antagonists. His culture provides the raw material of which the individual
makes his life. If it is meager, the individual suffers; if it is rich,
the individual has the chance to rise to his opportunity."
- And she added:
- "Tradition is as neurotic as any patient; its overgrown
fear of deviation from its fortuitous standards conforms to all the usual
definitions of the psychopathic."
- Joel Dyer, author of "Harvest of Rage," gave
a poignant example from America's mythical heart during an interview with
the Sun magazine:
- "Twenty-seven percent of all children in rural America
go to bed hungry every night -- more than in the inner city. These farmers
can't buy food; they can't make loan payments. Their stress level goes
up and they start having heat attacks. And some of them -- more than you'd
imagine -- kill themselves.
- "Five times as many farmers now die of suicide as
die from equipment accidents -- which, historically, have been the single
biggest cause of unnatural death on the farm. And that's not even counting
suicides made to look like accidents; if you're about to lose your farm
and have life insurance, you can crawl into your combine, and your family
might be able to keep the farm."
- Over half of those of those defined by the Clinton administration
as mentally ill suffer some form of anxiety disorder. We don't know how
many are like these farmers or, like Orr, are really sane but simply don't
want to fly any more missions on behalf of a decadent, corrupt, soulless
system. We don't know because nobody in power in this system wants to find
out. Heller is gone but Catch 22 lives happily on.
- SUN MAGAZINE http://www.thesunmagazine.org