It is at times like this, when news comes of the murder of 20 children and 7 adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that I miss my dear friend and intellectual soul-mate Tom Szasz, RIP, more than ever.
One of the last emails he wrote to me—he was a constant in my life for years—was dated Fri 6/29/2012 5:52 PM. It was a response to one of mine. I had complained (kvetched, as we older Jews would say) about the loss of “wisdom, shophia.” He wrote back using the beautiful Greek concept I had invoked.
“As you know I have done that (and so have you). But this is what passes for wisdom now.
So be it.
Like all brilliant men, Tom was pessimistic. Reality warranted a pessimism of the deepest kind, something we shared. Tom was alluding to the dominant narrative in the Zeitgesit about evil, and the attendant error of medicalizing misconduct.
That ritual has begun. Once again, the true “Mad Hatters”—the self-serving tele-experts, twits of psychology and psychiatry—have gone into high gear.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the exculpation industry has taken its perennial position. And it is that of placing wicked behavior beyond the strictures of traditional morality, making it amenable to their “therapeutic” interventions.
To listen to the nation’s psychiatric gurus is to come to believe that crimes are caused, not committed. Perpetrators don’t do the crime, but are driven to their dirty deeds by a confluence of uncontrollable factors, victims of societal forces or organic brain disease. The Drew Pinskys of the world conjure so-called mental diseases either to control contrarians or to exculpate criminals.
The paradox at the heart of this root-causes fraud is that causal theoretical explanations are invoked only after bad deeds have been committed. Good deeds have no need of mitigating circumstances. These liberals (including most conservatives, who are now liberals in all but name) acknowledge human agency if—and only if—adaptive actions are involved.
As the psychiatric shaman has it, a killer is not evil, but ill. The modern-day witch doctor’s potions can thus exorcise evil, as evil is merely a manifestation of organic disease. Just like cancer.
UPDATE II: GUNS: THERE THEY GO AGAIN. Displays of evil invariably elicit calls to ban or restrict certain firearms, as these are seen as part of causality. If you’re going to look for root causes, look for the right root causes. I’d look in the direction of permissive, child-centered, progressive parenting, which is conducive to the creation of narcissistic personalities. Progressive, indulgent, child-obsessed parenting is practiced by “conservatives” and liberals alike.
An acrimonious divorce, where the young man was alienated from a father by the Courts, by the mother or by the father himself, or by all the above: these could go toward the making of a monster. However, anti-gun, progressive interests dominate the media, and so one is less likely to hear a rational debate about the role of permissive parenting—where the child is encouraged to think that the universe does and should orbit around him—and the breakdown of the traditional family, in the creation of these monsters.
“The prototype aggressor,” explains Bowman, “is a man whose self-appraisal is unrealistically positive.” Like all efforts to drum up ignorance, this one can be dangerous.
“…every kind of social problem is analyzed as the outgrowth of low self esteem,” and while “treatment programs to teach people how to love themselves are put forward as the means of raising self-esteem,” not only is “the relationship between emotion and well being not robust, causal or meaningful,” but, on the contrary, there is a dark side to self-esteem.