April 18, 2013

'Crazy' and Other Words (Pt 1)

I've been thinking about this for a little while, and in light of some heated discussions that have occurred in my line of sight, I thought I'd vomit out a few thoughts.

Some people use words like 'crazy', 'mad', 'insane' and many, many synonymous terms (seriously, there's like a bazillion of them, most of them food-based) to describe people with, let's say, erroneous opinions. Other people call out this use of language as slurring of the actually mentally ill, similar to other social slurs like 'Paki', 'tranny' or 'sand monkey'.

(Incidentally, the Public Shaming blog has made me aware of a whole range of bizarre racial epithets that I never knew existed. America's multi-culturalism has brought with is multi-cultural racism.)

Now, it's rare that I can say this, but I actually have a foot in the door with this discussion. I suffer from depression - not as badly as many, but the waves come and go and still cause me problems. Depression makes me crazy. See, craziness or insanity is a description of the disconnect between reality and one's mental interpretation of reality. JT Eberhard in his quite wonderful talk on his own mental illness reminded me that it was OK to consider myself crazy (at time), because that was accurate. When I'm in the good part of my depressive waves, I can look back to the troughs and realise, 'Shit, the way I saw things was completely wrong, I was so blinded by the fog of depression.'

My point in the above is to actually define what craziness is. There may be a clinical, chronic insanity, where you are near-permanently separated from reality and there may be bouts of insanity, which you can escape from. People with body dysmorphia (often including eating disorders), for example, are constantly fighting their own minds interpretation of their own bodies. It's crazy.

So, when people call another person's opinion crazy, it really tends to be a description of the difference between what they've said and what's real. For example, if someone told me the Earth was flat, I might call that crazy. Or insane. It is my opinion (thus far) that this a legitimate use of the word 'crazy'. Alternatively, you might call the person making the statement crazy: 'You think the Earth is flat? You're crazy!' Again (and this depends on each context), the suggestion of this phrase is really that the statement is crazy and not that the person is crazy, or mentally ill. But what if it didn't? What if the accuser was suggestion that there's was something problematic in the Flat-Earther's mind that made him unable to connect the facts and appreciate the reality of a round Earth? It's a euphemistic, metaphorical parallel to mental illness, I guess. Is this wrong?

This is where I start to get a bit hazy. And now we have to consider what calling someone crazy actually suggests about genuinely mentally ill people. From my perspective, I do not think calling someone crazy suggests that mentally ill people are bad. Calling someone a slut (pejoratively) does. Calling someone or their argument crazy tends to speak to the argument, statement or position they hold.

However, this is just from my perspective and I've barely had any societal push back for my particular mental problems, which is great for me. So, I've titled this blog post, "Pt 1" so that I can try an engage with other people of mental illness and see if this kind of language has affected them. Then I'll come back once I have a better idea.

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