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Don't answer too quickly.  It is a trick question, or is it?  Let's look at some of the tricks.  First of all, can you tell me how "normal" you are?  Please be careful here.  Normal relative to what?  Normal in the loony bin is not so good. What did it mean to be normal in Hitler's Germany?  What does it mean to be normal in the republican party today?  OK but then are you a normal democrat?  Do you narrow that to being a normal progressive democrat?  If you have not yet seen where this is going read on below the break.  You may be in trouble.

Start out by listing your beliefs.  Then go through them and see which ones you really live up to.  Make it easy on yourself.  Try to assess the degree to which you really have choice in these matters.  That is a trap as well you realize.  Choice is also a loaded word. Choice can be a very sticky idea, especially in a complex society like ours.

Let us cut to the quick.  How much do you really care about future generations?  Think before you answer.  "Care" is another loaded word.  It can be used with varying degrees of commitment to the object(s) of that care.

Let me give an example of something in my life that was an object of my caring since my freshman Midshipman cruise in 1954.  It is water.  Aboard ship water was scarce.  But personal cleanliness was important.  This was resolved for us by teaching us the "Navy" shower.  Wet yourself and turnoff the water.  Soap up.  Rinse.  Not too profound is it?  So ever since 1954 I have showered that way.  Any estimate to the number of gallons of water I saved?  I use this example because it is a "normal" part of my way of life and I almost never make it an issue.

Yet a simple Earth Day Ecological Footprint Quiz  says that if everyone lived liked I do we would need 5 to 6 planet Earths to sustain us.  Now there  is a context for caring isn't it?  I clearly care very little about future generations.

Oh but wait!  I am active politically.  I do so much and give so much.  Is there a problem here?  I suspect so.

There are the myths about the country I live in.  I've voted and worked for political candidates and protested in the streets and committed Civil disobedience, etc. etc believing that I could make a difference.  I study and I write and I try to understand.  So why is the situation deteriorating?  Why is he climate changing faster and faster?  Why are the oligarchs and plutocrats getting more and more powerful?  What have I missed?

I read so much here and so many seem to believe it is going to get better if we work harder and give more money and.....what?

There was a mass shooting in a school and the only significant result seems to be a rush on sales of weapons.  This scenario seems to be anything but sane.  Yet we all participate and to some degree are "normal".  Please tell me what I am missing.  For, from where I sit, we are all nuts!


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 05:45:13 PM PST

  •  Day by day in every way (7+ / 0-)

    a) we get better and better

    b) we learn to listen and obey

    c) we're advancing on batshit crazy

    All I'm sure of is . . . not "a" . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 05:59:18 PM PST

  •  Not, the world but our peculiar country (4+ / 0-)

    Is where there is madness. We love killing people; that's why this country was created, to exterminate the native peoples and for slavery. That "life liberty and pursuit of happiness" line was a big fat lie to get people to fight. IMO

    •  There was no such thing as an American (3+ / 0-)

      ...or an American Culture, before the invention of the gun.

      Everything we own, everything we are today -- came from the threat of bullets hitting flesh. Weapons are how we make a living today, how we control the world's resources, a big part of our GDP. Americans have never been secure without guns -- and they have absolutely no history on earth before guns.

      Without judgement, this is the "genetic" signature of the American Culture.

      It's what it is. But it is not madness. It's adaptation.

      Denial is a drug.

      by Pluto on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:34:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Life, liberty for ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      White men who owned property.  Yep that's a heck of a start.  But consider where they cam from.  The European societies of the time were life and liberty for those born in high places ... For the rest not so much.  So it was a leap forward but hardly achieved the lofty ideals.

      Is our culture insane you ask?  No, it is quite sane in the sense of being understandable but not healthy for the majority of people.  The reason is that it works in a highly unequal manner for a privileged few at the top.  Is goals is the accumulation of capital and not the well being of its citizens.

      "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

      by noofsh on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:42:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I assume you're kidding or just blowing off steam (3+ / 0-)

      After the Civil War, the Union Army realized it had to begin developing deliberate training regimens to (although they did not use this word at that time) program soldiers to kill in battle because humans are so rotten at killing, except when killing bar buddies, sex rivals, mates, and especially our children (the vast majority of human violence worldwide is committed by parents against their children).

      War by war, our soldiers have become incrementally better at killing in battle because of this kind of training, in conjunction with weapons and tactics development.

      And research continues to this day, done by the finest minds at great expense of taxpayer $$$$.

      Remember what rebel armies in developing countries do to young conscripts to dehumanize them, break them down with starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings, drugs, the shame and dissociation of being forced to kill or rape family members, brainwash them cult-style, then train them to commit acts of horrendous cruelty.

      I love the idea that we are innately very bad at war (however awful we are at home), and I think we should take every care to nurture that lack of skill.


      by raincrow on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:19:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's a lot of insanity (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky

      elsewhere in the world too.

      We have our own particular brand of the crazy, but we don't have a monopoly on it.

  •  The short answer to your question is yes. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, Odysseus, a2nite

    Most societies exhibit aberations to some degree, but when they become truly neurotic, and then go over wherever the 'edge' is, they generally melt down, or blow up. Our current mess is not yet 'terminal', I fervently hope.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:29:25 PM PST

  •  Yes, cultures go crazy all the time. (11+ / 0-)

    Ancient peoples practiced human sacrifice to ensure good harvests.   The inquisition tortured and killed random people to save their souls.  Honor killings go on today punishing victims of crimes instead of the perpetrator.  Hell, put religion into any culture and it seems like you get atrocities.  Even something as peaceful as Buddhism can get militants (see Sri Lanka, late 20th century)

    Spartans separated the sexes at birth and raised them communally.  Conflict was glorified, and the women contributed (childbirth was seen as a form of combat, and all women had a knife to mark their husband if he tried to mistreat her.  The idea was to scar the face so everyone knows he's a jerk)

    Romans conquered the known world largely with "defensive" wars.  What drove their leaders was a kind of competition for glory that eventually lead to a series of civil wars so horrible that they transformed their society into an empire just for stability.  But the emperor had to keep the trappings of the former republic, because the idea of a king was too abhorrent to the culture to just come out and say that is what they'd become.

    Feudal society treated peasants as resources, so while wars did damage to wherever an army was, the idea of "ethnic cleansing" type exterminations was a nonstarter.  Mongols didn't value peasants, and used them as expendable resources to win wars (herded them into cities about to undergo seige, used them as living shields against enemy fire, etc).

    Then there is the usual 20th century litany (WWI, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Cultural Revolution, Rawandan Genocide, Bosnia/Serbia/Kosovo)  Plus of course the USA randomly invading Iraq in response to a terrorist act done elsewhere.

    Societies ALWAYS have some crazy in them.  It is only relatively recently that it was possible to do any kind of objective measure of outcomes (with scientific method and peer review, plus mass literacy and many more records available than any time in history after various societies either collapse or voluntarily share their data).

    The discovery that morality really is culturally dependent is something that only came out in the last 50-60 years or so, and most of the people in the world refuse to believe it (THEIR morality is always right.  Everyone ELSE is crazy).

    The privilege discussions are an attempt to try to see the crazy in our own society, even within our own tribe (we can see the Republican crazy easily here.  But liberal white men often say crazy things that women, LGBT, or can see are obviously wrong...etc)

  •  Of course! Everyone can be completely insane and (5+ / 0-)

    that would then be completely normal.

  •  I'll rise to your challenge (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, don mikulecky, blueoasis

    Sanity is the ability to function successfully in the real world including tailoring actions to their foreseeable consequences.

    Even if your entire country agrees on it, it is still insane to start a land war in Asia. Agreeing with it would be "normal" but not sane.

    An entire culture can be insane. They tend not to last, though. You mentioned one national movement in particular that tried invading the Soviet Union. They were replaced.

    There's more than one culture in the USA and varying degrees of sanity. We've generally become more sane about race but remain insane about sexuality and drugs. The exceptions matter because the exceptions can grow in number.

  •  America today is not "the world today." (5+ / 0-)

    The American psychosis is pretty much confined to America.  In travel outside the US I don't see real signs of it.  I do see an outside world that observes very closely what goes on here.  As a French friend told me recently, America is becoming a danger to itself and to the world, as an explanation why Franch withdrew its forces from ISAF.

    "Democracy is a life; and involves continual struggle." ---'Fighting Bob' LaFollette

    by leftreborn on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:13:54 PM PST

  •  I never understand this viewpoint (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    if you truly feel we are insane, then why even continue being part of the society?

    If we are beyond all hope then what's the point?

    I think there are literally a myriad number of ways life is better today than 100 years ago, 50 years ago, both in this country and around the world.

    Does that mean we are good? Nope, still a whole lotta bad things, evil, etc, but if we are talking about "insane" versus "sane" then by definition we are talking comparisons, and I am hard pressed to show how things were better for most people 150 years ago than they are now, or even the same.

  •  There is more than one way to classify (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    social characteristics that are destructive to society.

    A culture can be insane.  Nazi Germany, and some of today's conservatives with Obama derangement syndrome, fit that.

    People might not understand their actions are destructive, because they do not have the knowledge or the intellectual habits to understand a complex situation.  I think that is the case for the sustainability problem.  It takes action by all of society to do something about it, but many people just don't think in such terms, they only know their gas was cheaper in the past and don't understand why it has to be more expensive.

    Incentives, in the game theory sense, lead people to do things that are in their interest even if it is against the long term interest of society.  Pollution is an example.  If there is no regulation, many potential pollution emitters are better off not controlling their pollution, no matter what other people are doing.  Again, only action by society as a whole can change these incentives.

    These situations are not mutually exclusive, more than one can be at work at the same time.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:43:01 PM PST

  •  we never got the names of Jill Biden's designers. (4+ / 0-)

    so in a word, yes.

    cheerleaders need not apply.

    by kravitz on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:53:15 PM PST

  •  Yin/Yang (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, don mikulecky

    Yes, we are crazy.

    No other animal goes so far to do things that are beyond its normal everyday needs. Imagine an elephant deciding to travel around the world just to do it and experience it.

    What other animal bonds so tightly with other animals not of its species like we do with cats, dogs and horses. Yet at the same time, we demonize groups of humans until we can torture, starve or kill them.

    We have great logic but we don't make decisions that way. We can kill thousands of people in a foreign country and yet one small group of children killed will make us change policy. Don't all the thousands of foreign children count?

    Rationalization - we lie, cheat, steal on an individual scale and on a national scale but we still need to pretend that we are "good" people. Nope, this war is not about stealing oil, it is about spreading democracy. Ahem.

    Most of us can't directly kill a person in cold blood, yet we can kill thousands by spreadsheet monetary decisions. At one point in time, we can love a person greatly and think that person is the greatest. A few years later, we can hate that same person and think the worst of that person. Really did the person change that much?

    Is emotion a disadvantage or an advantage?

    You might like reading the book "What makes your brain happy an why you should do the opposite" by David DiSalvo and/or "The hour between the dog and the wolf" by John Coates.

  •  I Still Think You Confuse Culture With Society/ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky


    Much, probably most of what is routinely labeled "culture" is a set of commercially fabricated experiences and information, commercially distributed through our commercially owned public square.

    Since actual culture is hundreds of millions of years old and extends far beyond our own species, whereas mass commerce is only a few moments old on an evolutionary time clock, it's almost certain that commercial behavior bears the burden of proof that it is not insane by the standards of long-proven-successful culture.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 08:56:58 PM PST

  •  A book you recommended makes a case (3+ / 0-)

    that all of western culture is what we could call insane. He describes a situation in which the left hemisphere of the brain has over time become dominant. This is a shift from a more healthy orientation of the relationship between the hemispheres where the right hemisphere, which sees a world of living relationships and whole systems, is in charge of bringing new experience to the left hemisphere where it is broken down into parts and used in a utilitarian way to human benefit. In the healthy dynamic the left hemisphere relinquishes control back to (does not exclude new information from the right hemisphere) to the right hemisphere which is rich in metaphor, music, depth and meaning. The left hemisphere working outside this dynamic right, left, right dynamic exhibits many of the symptoms we see in Schizophrenia. I find the case he presents to be very compelling so I agree, the western culture (taken over much of the world now since the industrial revolution) is insane.

    I ordered your book and am looking forward to reading it. Time is my main constraint (not quite finished with McGilchrist, kids, work...) but it is reassuring to see thinkers fleshing out what I already see but have trouble fully articulating.

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:59:23 PM PST

  •  US culture believes violence or aggression (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, don mikulecky

    is a solution to many types of problems that Canadians wouldn't never consider.

  •  This was addressed in 1936 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove, blueoasis, hannah, don mikulecky

    Wilhelm Reich, a practitioner of the new psychological treatment methodology and a contemporary of Freud and Jung, wrote a book in 1936, "The Psychopathology of Fascism."  

    This was probably the first time anyone looked at the prospect that an entire culture could develop a pathology.  

    This caused it to be necessary for him to emigrate to the US.  

    Interestingly, Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, realized that this was a great insight and that he could make money by using it.  So he moved to New York and set about convincing American leaders to adopt the new discipline he called Public Relations.  Madison Avenue was founded on this, and it became central to the conversion of the WWII economy into a consumer economy.  

    Mix in a lot of ruthless interests hoping to keep consumerism going full blast, trying to keep the public mind off of things like the dwindling worldwide oil supply and global climate change, and the confusion over what is or is not real this produces in people and it is no wonder people are losing their minds.  

    Media culture has some crazy making features.  Part of the culture is probably insane.  Which part?

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 10:28:26 PM PST

  •  Define insane, define entire culture, define (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    time period.

    Across the last 30,000 years, "normal" appears to me to have been the extremely broad suite of behaviors that keeps several million H sap sap alive long enough to "well enough" raise the next generation; successfully transfer stories, wealth, and technology to it; and have it care for us in our old age.

    If I'm right, our current "normal" will keep H sap sap alive through the environmental and social cataclysms of global warming "well enough," although our standard of living might be far more modest than today's.


    by raincrow on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:02:21 AM PST

  •  I don't think so. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    Sanity isn't an absolute thing, it's a deviation from the communally believed norm.

    We don't consider people who believe in an afterlife and an invisible, omnipotent creator insane...

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