In the famous '
Long before Bickle was even flicker in Scorsese's eye, the radical Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing lashed out at blind conformity and the psycho-social regimen that coerced individuals into moral assimilation, even at great cost to their psychic integrity. Said Laing in The Politics of Experience(1967),
Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last 50 years.
Conformity can provide safety and certainty, but by necessarily submitting to authority it contains a strong potential for evil.
Bickle and Laing came to mind as I was reading
The delusion raised questions about the interplay between mental illness and our environment, and larger questions about the relationship of mind to culture.
Ian Gold adds that he believes such Truman-like "delusions have to do with our relationships with other people, and the new media creates a larger community with more threats and opportunities." One thing that our increasing online activity results in, the Golds imply, is a deterioration of our boundaries with others. We become more interactive, with internet activity, texting, emailing, and cell phone chatter. Maybe this is what CEOs Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google mean when they argue that we can no longer have the expectation of privacy.
Suspicious Minds is not only about the Truman Show Delusion, although that is certainly a fascinating development. The book explores delusions in general. The brothers underscore just how fragile and suggestible the human mind is, which is both a blessing and a curse. Humans have wild and freely associative imaginations that allow for dynamic, alternative-minded reality, but such freedom can be a maze that is difficult to navigate, and there is the constant danger that the clew we hold may have been planted by a structuralist minotaur with a hidden agenda. Ecce Algo.
The authors hook the reader with the Truman Show Delusion, which then disappears for a hundred pages or so before re-appearing. Meanwhile, they provide a rather standard history of mental illness, from roughly the start of the Enlightenment to the present. This is interspersed with absorbing case studies of delusional patients. Foucault it is not. Although an abnormal psychology student would find the most value in Suspicious Minds, it is also a worthwhile read for the layperson, too.
Another surprisingly readable and interesting psychology title I came across is
the days when paranoia could be written off as a meaningless sign of insanity are long gone. In this book we put paranoia centre stage. It's only right, because paranoia is centre stage in our culture and in our individual lives.
These books remind me of the themes I found in
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