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America's psychosis
May 13, 2003 5:24 AM   Subscribe

America's psychosis
From The Daily Times of Pakistan:
It is hard to explain to the rest of the world what is happening in the American mind right now because the people in the US are being ruled by their mental health system. Their consciences do not operate according to moral standards, or religious beliefs. They do things because of the diagnoses they have received from their psychiatrists.

Americans think that they already know everything there is to know, and the rest of the world wants to destroy them with their own knowledge. So they hide in their houses, in front of the TV sets, taking pills at scheduled times. Their psychiatrists say that they are doing the right thing, and life is so serious, they’d better not ask any questions.
posted by putzface_dickman (66 comments total)

 
America is so lucky to have wise and articulate journalists like Catherine Mayo to explain us and our problems to the rest of the world!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:32 AM on May 13, 2003


Is there a point to this post?I'm wondering because thecolumn is a fucking stupid rant about psychiatry and the American mental state written by someone who does not seem to be living in America righ now with no statistical information or citations to back up her uninformed views. Depite what she sees when she hangs out with her neurotic friends, most Americans are not on medication.
posted by monkeyman at 5:36 AM on May 13, 2003


This story is preportedly by an American living in Pakistan. I think that seems unlikely, but I feel that the author has almost certainly spent some time in the United States.
I think it would be a mistake for us to dismiss this out of hand. It is a sort of dystopian view of America that science fiction has embraced for decades.
Since de Tocqueville, and more recently Sayyid Qutb, people have come to the US and found something to say about the American experience, creatings a wide variety of opinions on this unusual nation.

Which caricature of America do you embrace?
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:38 AM on May 13, 2003


> Which caricature of America do you embrace?

This one, I think.


> Their consciences do not operate according to moral
> standards, or religious beliefs.

Try expressing a moral standard or a religious belief right here on mefi and see what it gets you.
posted by jfuller at 5:42 AM on May 13, 2003


I for one would love to see a cage match featuring America, the Neo-Colonial Aggressor vs. America, Champion of Liberty.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:45 AM on May 13, 2003


"It is hard to explain to the rest of the world what is happening in the Arab mind right now because the people in the middle east are being ruled by their mentally deranged religious leaders. Their consciences do not operate according to logic or rational thought. They do things because of the brainwashing they have received from their mullahs."

nobody would give a bit of credence to a broad brush condemnation of 'arabs' like this, and nobody should give any credence to this broad brush condemnation of 'americans'. now shut up and pass the prozak.
posted by quonsar at 5:50 AM on May 13, 2003


I'd like to see Cathy Mayo's medical degree. Barring that, I'd like to know where she learned journalism, because rule one is research your topic, and one quick Google search gave me a figure of fewer than 5% of Americans taking antidepressants (I recognize that there are other classes of psychopharms, but Mayo seems to be talking about that particular type of med) and even if that doubled following 9/11 (and hasn't receeded somewhat i the intervening months) it's not enough to suggest that we're all Prozac-doped zombies who are paralyzed in a drug-induced, doctor-sanctioned mindfreeze. What Mayo suggests isn't just painting with too broad a brush, that's pouring all the paint out onto the floor and splashing it around everywhere while blissfully unaware of the unholy mess its creating.
posted by Dreama at 5:50 AM on May 13, 2003


people have come to the US and found something to say about the American experience, creatings a wide variety of opinions on this unusual nation.

Strange and uninformed opinions of every nation on earth are reported back to every other nation on earth at one time or another.
posted by Summer at 5:50 AM on May 13, 2003


God, I didn't mean to say we should believe her, but I think a "Hey kids, guess what they think of us in Pakistan!" is in order.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:54 AM on May 13, 2003


Everybody hates America. I thought you guys knew that already!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:59 AM on May 13, 2003


Wow, they all get free drugs? Damn hippies.
posted by walrus at 6:04 AM on May 13, 2003


Putzface, the author is just wrong on so many levels. First of all, she is confusing the intellectual and artistic elites who take medication and go see psychiatrists with the people who are actually in charge. Does she think Ashcroft and Bush are too medicated and unemotional? Also the simple fact is that the majority of Americans are not on medication, thus negating her central point that Americans are slaves to the mental health care system and too sedated to get off the couch. Which brings me to the next incredibly wrong statement which is that poor people can get mental health care. One of the major reasons cited for homelessness is that there are large numbers of mentally ill people who cannot get the care they need, so they end up on the streets. Public mental health care is underfunded and inadequate for the number of people who need treatment. Alzheimer's is a physical disease, not a mental one. I honestly don't think there is a single well-made point or correct assertion in hers entire column.
posted by monkeyman at 6:06 AM on May 13, 2003


This article is basically a really bullshit explanation of psychiatry, America and 9/11, and it doesn't get any of them right. But what pisses me off most is that it is even written poorly, too.

Just one example (since I should be finishing a paper due today):

"In the past ten years, an epidemic has broken out in the US. It is a disease called manic depression, a mental illness, sometimes called bipolar. Its definition is: an unnatural condition of the brain which causes a person to have sudden mood swings. Because psychiatry is so serious, no one realises how funny this is."

Epidemic disease? Perhaps she thinks it's contageous. Funny? Bipolar is a serious condition that sometimes can push people to suicide, so I don't see how it could be funny. It is not "mood swings," and its certainly not a normal part of living -- hence its definition as a "disorder."

Ultimately, her point is an attempt to show how psychiatry, as a science of emotions, has created a society of victims, stuck in a scientific, cause-and-effect mentality - which might even have been an interesting idea if she had bothered to seperate it from her biased, slanderous misrepresentations of psychiatry. Misunderstanding psychiatry just hurts people, by helping to mythologize psychiatry and providing justification of stigma for those with disorders.
posted by chl at 6:10 AM on May 13, 2003


ah well, the google ads are amusing.
posted by quonsar at 6:13 AM on May 13, 2003


quonsar, I believe you have actually described the Taliban's Afghanistan, Nigeria, Chechenya and many other Muslim shitholes extremely poor countries fairly accurately with your broad brush.

Dreama, An estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 5 adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 1998 U.S. Census residential population estimate, this figure translates to 44.3 million people. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health "...the burden of psychiatric conditions has been heavily underestimated...".

I don't think Miss Mayo here is right on the money, but she is not that wacky either. I said it before and I'll say it again: when 51% of the population of the "freest and most advanced nation in the world" chooses to believe a 9-11 related lie (that Saddam had something to do with it) which lacks a single shred of evidence to back it up, something is awfully wrong in the resulting picture - and maybe it turns our that Americans are indeed fucking nuts.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, BTW. Remember, it is only the real crazy people the ones who insist that they are not crazy.
posted by magullo at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2003


Psychotherapy in the United States is based on the notion that human intelligence has evolved as far as it can go.

This sentence and the odd paragraph that follows reminded me more of Scientology than Islam.
posted by profwhat at 6:20 AM on May 13, 2003


Does she think Ashcroft and Bush are too medicated

unlike JFK and tricky dicky of course.....
posted by johnnyboy at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2003


monkeyman: "...the intellectual and artistic elites who take medication and go see psychiatrists..."

Huh? It's the "elites" who see psychiatrists and take medication? I thought it was people who are unhappy, or mentally ill, and who have access to health coverage.
posted by eyebeam at 6:22 AM on May 13, 2003


and daddy bush too.
posted by amberglow at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2003


An estimated 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 5 adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

And the point is what? A "diagnosable" disorder does not mean they went to a psychiatrist or recieved medication.
posted by monkeyman at 6:25 AM on May 13, 2003


My proofreading just sucks today.
posted by monkeyman at 6:26 AM on May 13, 2003


Insurance systems were set up, so even the poorest could get mental health care without worrying about paying for it.

Which HMO does she have?
posted by gramcracker at 6:36 AM on May 13, 2003


monkeyman, the point is that according to the specialists, between one quarter and one fifth of the American population is mentally ill (and not 5% as was dropped earlier). Then again, if you are informed about the current standards of mental health diagnosis and prognosis, you'll stop worrying and understand where Miss Mayo gets her ideas from. And I, for one, cannot blame her ... nor condone her piece, BTW.
posted by magullo at 6:37 AM on May 13, 2003


I don't know what question this article is intended to answer, but I think it's worth noting that, for at least some in Pakistan, this is a credible answer.
Is the question, "Why do Americans support actions we can clearly see is immoral and insane?" Is is, "Why do Americans see everything in absolutes?' "Why are Americans defensive, xenophobic, agressive, greedy..."

Again, I don't know what the question is, but people want some damn answers. Please? Anyone? So here's someone having a go at it.

And we should keep in mind that this is a variation on the "The American people have been duped into supporting an elite in a relentless pursuit of power" trope that at least goes back to Orwell, even if he was English.

Cage match 2: America, the drug-controlled dystopia vs. America, cradle of innovation
posted by putzface_dickman at 6:46 AM on May 13, 2003


Guys, you're taking this person far too seriously. This is another Time Cube, an eccentric with a wacky idea. That's all. It can't be refuted. It doesn't need to be refuted. It's just wackiness.

For another view of Cathy Mayo, both sweet and sad, and why she's in Pakistan, read this. It's Love on the Net Week at MeFi.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2003


"most Americans are not on medication."

Ummm...... I don't know where you live, but all the Americans I know are on medication. Well, maybe not all. But at least 90%.

I think *someone* is in a bit of denial.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:59 AM on May 13, 2003


timecube again? mefi is sending him far too much traffic. i propose we switch our default wacko reference link to call me zorknapp. there are so many deserving wackos out there.
posted by quonsar at 7:06 AM on May 13, 2003


"Cathy Mayo is an American journalist based in Pakistan"

Cathy Mayo is on crack.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:21 AM on May 13, 2003


quonsar (rhetorically): "'It is hard to explain to the rest of the world what is happening in the Arab mind right now because the people in the middle east are being ruled by their mentally deranged religious leaders. Their consciences do not operate according to logic or rational thought. They do things because of the brainwashing they have received from their mullahs.'"
magullo: quonsar, I believe you have actually described the Taliban's Afghanistan, Nigeria, Chechenya and many other Muslim extremely poor countries fairly accurately with your broad brush.
Not one of which is Arabic however. Nigeria is 40-50% Christian and Chechnya's people are more nationalist than religious.

On Ms. Mayo: wow, how simplistic can one get.
Slithy_Tove: how does her personal life relate to anything?
posted by talos at 7:37 AM on May 13, 2003


God. More annoying than the thrust of the article, which I find to be inaccurate and horribly biased against those with mental illness, is the fact that this woman is getting paid to write. She's terrible! She can't articulate her (bad) ideas, or even phrase them prettily! Meanwhile, I cannot afford to pay my rent here, or find a paying gig for writing which, if not the most elegant, is at least relatively sane. Apparently, all I need to do is come up with some sort of unfounded theory about a) what is Wrong With America or b) what to do about The Arab Problem, and I'll be set.
posted by hilatron at 7:42 AM on May 13, 2003


A lot of mental health problems come from lack of nutrition. The USA food supply has become increasingly denatured since the turn of the 20th C due to a number of factors including the industrialization and corporatization of the food system, a decline in top soil and pollution. The problem exists around the world but the USA is in very bad shape health wise. We give the appearance of being outwardly healthy but the stats on health problems make it clean we are a physically ill culture and that carries over into mental health as well since mental and physcial health are inter-related.
posted by stbalbach at 7:50 AM on May 13, 2003


Their psychiatrists say that they are doing the right thing, and life is so serious, they’d better not ask any questions.

Is this something I'd need to have a couch to understand?
posted by jpburns at 7:51 AM on May 13, 2003


Meanwhile, I cannot afford to pay my rent here, or find a paying gig for writing which, if not the most elegant, is at least relatively sane.

then again, she's living in pakistan. i'd say you got the better deal.
posted by quonsar at 7:57 AM on May 13, 2003


Y6y6y6: Do you really believe that most, as in more than 50%, of Americans are on psychiatric medication? We have one credible figure that states 5% of Americans are on antidepressants, so the total for all psychiatric meds is probably around 10%. Of course, this figure probably seems high to people in countries with good mental health care and well-adjusted citizens like Pakistan.
posted by monkeyman at 8:01 AM on May 13, 2003


Man, what a hoot! I liked this bon mot the best:

A person without mood swings is — plain and simply — dead.

What insight! What the hell....?
posted by tommyspoon at 8:04 AM on May 13, 2003


On the other hand... In the midst of her misdiagnosis of America's mental health, it's worth noting the one fact she did get right: Americans are continually regurgitating the events of September 11th, if not every day at least on a regular periodic basis, as propogated by the Rove White House. It's no accident that the Republicans have scheduled their 2004 convention in New York in September - they know full well that the negative space in the skyline downtown will provide all the backdrop they need to ensure that Rove and Cheney are reelected...
posted by JollyWanker at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2003


I'd say that about 50% of USians are totally mental...
posted by i_cola at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2003


Psychiatry in the United States is never fun, it is always serious.

Maybe. That still doesn't explain why my shrink insists on the physical examination. I don't care how good a psychiatrist he is, it's difficult to tell him about my dreams when he's checking my scrotum for "crazy-bumps."
posted by UncleFes at 8:20 AM on May 13, 2003


Talos Very good point on the Arab part. Nigeria might be 40-50% Christian, but a Sharia court in that country has just *upheld* the stoning to death of a young mother. Compassionate as they are, I believe they are willing to wait after her nursing period to carry out the sentence. All this speaks loudly of the country's relationship with religion and education.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2587039.stm

As for Chechnya - let me just ask you one question: who is bankrolling their war against Russia?
posted by magullo at 8:23 AM on May 13, 2003


As for Chechnya - let me just ask you one question: who is bankrolling their war against Russia?

Saudi Arabia. They still hold the traditional position of radical Islam's bank. And I personally wish we'd stop propping them up. I'm sure that they are very nice people are all, but they are a HUGE liability to our foreign policy. 9-11 and bin Laden's attacks on the US are motivated primarily by American troop presence in Saudi Arabia, the 9-11 hijackers were primarily Saudi, and a LOT of Al-Qaeda's funding comes from Saudi sources.

what 400 lb. gorilla??
posted by UncleFes at 8:33 AM on May 13, 2003


Fitter, happier, more productive, comfortable, not drinking too much
Regular exercise at the gym, 3 days a week
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries at ease
Eating well, no more microwave dinners and saturated fats
A patient better driver, a safer car, baby smiling in back seat
Sleeping well, no bad dreams, no paranoia
Careful to all animals, never washing spiders down the plughole
Keep in contact with old friends, enjoy a drink now and then
Will frequently check credit at moral bank, hole in wall
Favors for favors, fond but not in love
Charity standing orders on sundays ring road supermarket
No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants
Car wash, also on sundays, no longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows
Nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate nothing so childish
At a better pace, slower and more calculated, no chance of escape
Now self-employed, concerned, but powerless
An empowered and informed member of society, pragmatism not idealism
Will not cry in public, less chance of illness, tires that grip in the wet
Shot of baby strapped in back seat, a good memory still cries at a good film
Still kisses with saliva, no longer empty and frantic like a cat tied to a stick
That's driven into frozen winter shit, the ability to laugh at weakness
Calm fitter, healthier and more productive a pig in a cage on antibiotics

posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2003


Magullo - the points you make above say nothing about how the ordinary people of both those countries think. I believe that you have to live in a country for several years before you're qualified to comment on its culture and people, and even then you've probably got it all wrong. This woman, although a native, is clearly telling the Pakistani people what they want to hear.
posted by Summer at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2003


The USA food supply has become increasingly denatured since the turn of the 20th C

It must be the recent Dr. Strangelove thread, but this statement made me think of General Jack T. Ripper.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:50 AM on May 13, 2003


Summer, I do think that the law of the land is an expression of the beliefs of its people (beliefs on which education has a huge impact, of course). But I guess I could be wrong.

Incidentally, my experience-tested theory says that getting to know countries is like learning languages. Your second language is generally much harder to learn that the 7th. But again, I could be wrong.

BTW, Pakistan is officially an U.S.A. friend and ally - what gives?
posted by magullo at 8:52 AM on May 13, 2003


just for the record, toqueville wasn't about clichés....
posted by Sijeka at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2003


If I was an expatriate with a grudge, I'd at least have the sense to go someplace fun where they hate America.
posted by vraxoin at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2003


Ok, how interesting that everyone has concentrated on either denying or arguing that americans are under psychiatric care and under the influence of medications, but no one has bothered to argue that psychiatry and (in the proper context) medications are positive tools.

Psychiatry has an important role to play in the mental health of a country, and instead of saying we're all mind-numbed and drugged up, perhaps its more accurate to say we're a nation that is willing to submit to some level of self-inspection in order to fix our problems, rather than lashing out at the outside world and searching for scapegoats.

In fact, I would argue that forcing our leaders to have psychiatric counseling and to go on medications would actually help reduce the problems of aggressiveness and neo-colonialism that the rest of the world seems to think we harbor.
posted by PigAlien at 9:31 AM on May 13, 2003


The problem isn't that too many of us are drugged-up or in counseling -- its that not enough of us are, particularly our wonderful leaders.
posted by PigAlien at 9:33 AM on May 13, 2003


BTW, Pakistan is officially an U.S.A. friend and ally - what gives?

There you go confusing the actions of governments with the opinions of the populace again.
posted by Summer at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2003


I think Ms. Mayo is right. Americans take things too seriously. Her column, for instance. For heaven's sake, the woman's just riffing. She's not constructing a rhetorically cogent argument. She's just tossing ideas off the top of her head. None of it is supposed to be specifically accurate from a factual standpoint. She creating an impression. A thought picture. She's not particularly good at it. But there's something there for us to think about. In any case, it's not a nasty column, by any means.
posted by Faze at 10:32 AM on May 13, 2003


The only thing that I thought was vaguely interesting (ie. not entirely tendentious) was the idea that America's proclivity for psychoanalysis made September 11 emotions extremely difficult for ordinary Americans to deal with.

I can see flaws in this - plenty of people cried on that day without recourse to psychiatry - but maybe the need to rationalize denied Americans the release that a purely instinctive emotional response might have provided. Catharsis denied. If so, what consequences?

That has nothing really to do with what she said but an article titled '9/11 and pyschiatry' that looked at that would be a bit more interesting.
posted by pots at 10:54 AM on May 13, 2003


y6y6y6, Well, maybe not all. But at least 90%.

Made the same mistake, medication for mental reasons, not allergies nor a cold or sex...

Wonder how she feels about our pets being on prozac?
posted by thomcatspike at 11:23 AM on May 13, 2003


this must be what it feels like to be a Muslim and hear Bill O'Reilly confidently expound on your culture's problems.
posted by condour75 at 11:42 AM on May 13, 2003


Pigalien: great post. Though I disagree that our current leadership needs psychiatric intervention (though I wouldn't mind seeing them voted out), I think American's do take a fundementally different view of the world, and hence psychiatry, than other peoples.

For instense, the situation in Iraq. Whether or not you agree with the war and occupation, you must admit that the Bush administration choose a proactive course (agressively confronting Saddam) to alter Iraqi behavior, and, it is hoped, change regional governmental customs and behavoir. I'm not advocating this view right now, just placing it alongside the "continental" European solution to the problem, which was, do nothing. The world is a bad place, doing anything proactive in the middle east will only make it worse.

I think that American society looks at psychiatry in kind of the same way. It is doing something. It is proactively saying "I have problems, and I think I might be able to fix them." I only notice this because I was dating a European woman for a long time who suffered from serious depression issues but refused to seek any sort of treatment here in the States (despite the fact that she had benefits that would have covered anything). Her argument was, hey, this is just the way I am, and doing something could make this worse. What was interesting was realizing, through extended conversations with her, her other European friends, and reading, that this attitude seemd pervasive in regards to mental health. As long as someone isn't completely nonfunctional (insane), hey, its your life, its just the way it is, why bother trying to fix it.

American's look at the world differently. I view our recourse to therapy as a positive thing...a demonstration that American's fundementally believe that most problems, even those locked away inside of our heads, can be solved with the right amount of work.
posted by pjgulliver at 12:14 PM on May 13, 2003


Magullo - re Amina Lawal: In actual fact, the 3 June date is only the first day of Ms Lawal's appearance at the first of potentially three appeal courts - her own state, Federal Sharia, and eventually the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

[/derail]

posted by dash_slot- at 12:28 PM on May 13, 2003


I think psychiatry is generally a good thing unlike the author of the column who appears to have a big axe to grind. My guess is that she was taking Prozac or something, didn't like it, and then had a bad experience with some kind of therapist. After all, how does she know what psychiatrists tell people unless one was telling her something she didn't like. Maybe her columns will be more thought out and reasonable and less emotional when she gets back on the couch.
posted by monkeyman at 1:03 PM on May 13, 2003


> according to the specialists, between one quarter and one
> fifth of the American population is mentally ill

According to plumbers, between fifty and eighty percent of all American plumbing needs expensive plumbing repairs. According to car salesmen, everybody needs a new car.
posted by jfuller at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2003


Zoloft for Everything
posted by BirdD0g at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2003


We all drug ourselves up with something, whether it be prozac, alcohol, TV, religion, gossip, fast-cars, loose-women...if the AA-lifestyle craze has taught us anything, it's that American's can use anything as a drug.
posted by nomisxid at 2:08 PM on May 13, 2003


Nigeria might be 40-50% Christian, but a Sharia court in that country has just *upheld* the stoning to death of a young mother.
I was just refuting the description of Nigeria as a Muslim country. Sharia doesn't hold in the South of the country.

About the Chechens funding. It isn't , it seems, only the Saudis (they're just financing the Wahabist faction, which isn't all of the Chechens, Mashkadov tried to outlaw them, unsuccessfully).
posted by talos at 2:19 PM on May 13, 2003


thanks, pjgulliver
posted by PigAlien at 2:35 PM on May 13, 2003


If you believe this crap and delay treatment(if you need it) you will wind up with a condition that is much worse and much harder to treat. In some cases clinical depression, if caught early enough, can be cured with a year or two of meds. Delay it and you are stuck on the treadmill.
posted by konolia at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2003


This link fits well with the www.poleshift2003.com link from inside the lunar eclipse thread. Some entertaining rants for a dull day. But now I'm depressed about the end of existance. (Where'd I put them damn pills?)
posted by HTuttle at 5:56 PM on May 13, 2003


This was, of course, not the first time America's sanity has been questioned. This was published nearly 50 years ago and thoughtfully questioned the mental well-being of all of Western Society.
posted by jaronson at 6:10 PM on May 13, 2003


The Daily Times of Lahore has an email address to receive letters to the editor. It may actually get published, too: a letter by this Harvard doctor criticizing a European boycott of Israeli academia got published, online at least, complete with an Old Testament quote and references to "homicide bombers".
posted by skoosh at 7:05 PM on May 13, 2003


hrm. Well, I'm totaly insane, and I'm not taking any meds...

Also, I wonder if this girl is a scientologies.t
posted by delmoi at 12:04 AM on May 14, 2003


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