Sociology Of Mental Illness

insane immigrants

Recently, the Party Planning Committee at Chumley Fortesque Memorial Community College invited me to deliver my bread and butter lecture, “Why You So Messed Up, Man?” I accepted.

A bright-eyed assemblage of students still clutching desperately onto the concept of upward mobility, and several inebriated janitors ducking responsibilities, filled the dingy lunchroom, which had been hastily rearranged to serve as an auditorium. I gave it my best.

When I was through, an eager audience member asked the now-familiar question which seems to hound me wherever I go, as if I had just escaped from Leavenworth.

“Mr. McHarg,” he ventured, “why are there so many mentally ill people in the United States? Where do they come from?”

By now, I am accustomed to this question, although still appalled by what its mere existence says about our educational system. And so, in measured tones masking my impatience and disappointment, I began what has become the canned response.

“America,” I gazed beyond the tops of my reading glasses for effect, fairly oozing disingenuous gravitas, “is a nation built on immigration. We are all familiar with how, fleeing starvation brought about by the potato famine, destitute Irish families landed on our rugged shores in search of work.

“Our forefathers themselves fled religious persecution and sarcastic remarks. Soon the Italians arrived because it became obvious that there needed to be a pizza parlor on every corner; the fledgling nation was being unified by a love of freedom, ambition, and a hearty appetite for pepperoni.

“Then came the great Whackadoomian Emigration of double-ought, where mentally ill individuals throughout the world packed their meager belongings into imaginary suitcases and swam toward Lady Liberty’s beacon – treading water during the day when the beacon was unlit. In America they hoped to find the chance to be unhinged in a way that was marketable, which led ultimately to reality TV. Quietly, in small communities throughout the land, they built pockets of whackadoomiousness, and flourished.

From Knothead, Maine to Improbability, Tennessee, and Not All There, Wyoming, mentally ill Americans worked, fell in love, formed families, prospered and polished up the hood ornament on the American dream just like the rest of us. Today, they are in our midst, virtually everywhere, woven deep within the warp and woof of the American flag; indeed, as you watch the stars and stripes wave you can almost hear the sound of barking.

How To Manage Bullies

Inside Every Bully Is A Coward

Concern about bullies is trendy today, so much so that Hollywood, (where having an original idea can actually destroy your career), has jumped on the bandwagon with its incredibly annoying “It Gets Better” Campaign. (You and I know that in fact it doesn’t get better, indeed, it doesn’t change at all. What happens is that you either get used to it or you learn how to master it.)

Bullies are a time-honored personality type. (To be honest, we are all bullies to some degree, or at least, capable of being bullies.) Bullies are instinctively drawn to the weak and defenseless; mentally ill folk always make the list. Left unchecked; bullies morph into monsters, I know. Philly, my home town, is among the nation’s deadliest cities, thug violence is commonplace. Indeed, I was once beaten unconscious with lead pipes and left for dead in a snowbank.

Back when I was cab driving, a hard-bitten veteran told me, “There is only one way to deal with a gang of “punks” coming for you. You don’t run, you don’t talk, and you don’t make deals. You figure out which one is the leader and you stick a knife in his face.” My own mother, a reasonable and patient individual, once tried to run my father over with a 1956 Pontiac Chieftan (a very large car) simply because she could not endure being bullied any longer.

“Inside every bully is a coward; dread the weak, not the mighty.” Taz Mopula

The confrontation approach may win short-term but always fails long-term for the simple reason that it plays to the bully’s area of strength; violent brutality. To defeat the bully you must understand, and eliminate, your fear of him. When he realizes you will accept a beat-down if you must, the power he holds over you slips in between his fingers. When he looks into your eyes and sees you looking back, the mean, sadistic thrill he craves is gone. At that point he will seek out a more timid individual.

That is the joyful power and freedom that come from going toe-to-toe, and not flinching. If that is not enough for you, if you are full of hate and resentment, if you dream of reducing this wretched excuse for a human being to a quivering, pathetic blob of sopping flotsam; then it is time to remove the ruthless sword of humor from its sheath.

When you make it obvious you find the bully pathetic and laughable, he is vanquished. And it’s a very reasonable assessment because bullies are the very antithesis of what they appear to be. Coming across mean and rough is merely their way of masking cowardice and self-loathing.

Nothing ever just gets better; what happens is; if you’re lucky, you get better.