The Stigmata


Collectivist cultures, like the Mexican culture, broadly stigmatize the notion of mental illness. Mental illness, as a thing in itself, is not recognized as a legitimate label to apply to an individuals differences in thought and behavioral patterns. This is not to say they particularly stigmatize the "mentally ill," as western whites put it, but rather they see this as an unnecessary distinction for otherwise acceptable variations in individuals personalities.

Western whites, particularly in the U.S., believe themselves to be uniquely free as individuals; unconstrained, persons or peoples are able to pursue the interests that suit the best within some commonly agreeable constraints imposed by a minimized state. Early American history is rife with experiments in lobotomies and castration of the "mentally ill" or "unfit," under the pretext that these individuals required violent corrections or removals from society as they could not meaningfully contribute or cope in the market-based society we lived in.

The ultimate backlash to America's persecution of the "ill" came at the hands of the anti-market, anti-corporate left. The belief among some intellectuals was that the mental health system was a means of social control, medicating and defanging those who could not conform to the norms imposed by market society. The movement that was hostile to the 'mental health system', the system of involuntary institutionalization without judiciary oversight, and enmeshed this with a view of Capitalist society as a system of constraints and control over the mentality of its subjects. To fight the mental health system was to undermine one means the state makers and capital owners swept aside the unusables, and to reintroduce them into a society that must be forced to cope with them as a means to bend capitalism closer to its breaking point.

Capitalism has not died. The state has not, by necessity of protecting capitalism from itself, inflated to control all of society all-the-while destroying itself and the separations of all modern institutions. The prospect of human emancipation has faded into background as we continue to pay the price of previous generations ambitions. And the 'deviant' personalities that were once considered "repressed" by misguided doctors and social experimenters continue to struggle to adapt to pressures of the labor market. They struggle with self-worth, inherently tied up in the progression of careers in a hyper-competitive global market place, in which "employ-ability" and other forms of social conformance are required to survive. The attempt by the sympathetic left threw the impulsives, the alcoholics, the sex abusers onto the streets with hopes that a new horizon of economic and social inclusivity would be ushered in ultimately benefit them. But capitalist America never arrived at what the less scientific cultures already had, a fundamental acceptance of others mental states with a disdain for medication and external controls.

Like all social and political conflicts, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of the extremes. Young American children now adopt the diagnoses given to them as identifying marks; every child has their own collection of ADHD, depression, etc. They have inverted the model set out by western mental health organizations, in that illness continues to be separating distinction of an individual from the common, but this is now seen by many as part of what makes us unique. While Latino cultures disliked the categorization of mental states, they accepted them more fluidly. Classifying psychological outliers became a process of elimination to the earlier psychs, but now has become a process of graduation for the high school grads.

We take our medicine, and we take it together. We conform and normalize the expectations imposed on us by faceless corporations who offer money in exchange for hours of our lives, and we do so willingly understanding that refusing treatment is to refuse better outcomes in this market. The myth of the market society that embraces all individuals is a naked lie: and we lay with it every night.