“Fake News”

Not long ago, my wife and I were watching a local news broadcast. It covered a meeting that was held locally, which my wife attended in person, concerning a topic many find to be relevant. When she watched the news coverage, she was angered that it did not reflect her experience with the meeting– only certain people were interviewed, and the report was very much presented from a particular and abbreviated point of view.

The news media communicates with what seems to be an “objective” voice. If a report or story is not called an “editorial”, then it is to be taken as truth.

Yet, increasingly, I wonder, what is truth? What is objective? Can we know and trust what we hear?

The schizophrenic is asked to throw doubt towards their impressions and hallucinations, in order to deduce what is healthy and true. Sadly, I feel that we find ourselves in a state as an entire society that we must do the same.

Paranoid, perhaps, of me, but I suspect that the main movements and tidings on a global scale have been largely shrouded in secrecy for decades. Few people know the “actual” truth– I feel that we are not meant to know, not trusted to, as citizens– sane or mentally ill. I write this, not really being into conspiracy theories, as I find most of them to be false.

The question remains– who makes a claim to an objective voice? Many have tried, many have made that claim. How many have achieved this with due sincerity?

Has The World Gone Crazy?

Looking around at the world today, events in the news, and so forth, a person might wonder, “Has the world gone crazy?”

Well, from my point of view, I would say there is good and bad. On a positive note, the world will never consider itself insane– the majority of people will always accept their own perspective(s) as being real and legitimate. I believe that mental illness will continue to be perceived as a peripheral phenomenon– that schizophrenics, for example, will be seen as sick or maladjusted, at least to some degree. Reality is somewhat democratic. It will be defined by what most people suggest, and therefore what most suggest will be construed as being healthy.

On the other hand, the bad– modernity, with its accelerating pace, frightening feedback loops and other phenomena, may indeed be stressful and challenging enough that it is causing “normal” people to increasingly have symptoms of mental illness. At this point, it seems that there are more people in therapy than out, and it is suggested that anti-depressants and related medications are so prevalent that they have started to pollute our drinking water. Stress is a killer, and few are exempt from it– those who are seem not to grasp things.

So, paradoxically, the world is not going crazy. But it seems like a lot of the people in it are beginning to act crazy themselves.

Time, Perspective, Madness

I once borrowed a friend’s copy of Habermas’ The Philosophical Discourse Of Modernity (1985)— a book of contemporary philosophy. I was a literature major, not philosophy, and I really struggled with the book. But there were a few ideas that resonated with me.

One was that of a modern reality of time. Habermas puts forward the notion of “Jetzeit”. The idea is that time moves in a particular manner, as experienced by people, in this modern world. We generally encounter a kind of “low” or “empty” time- filled with everyday commerce, interactions and events. On occasion, we come to experience a “sacred” or “holy” time– our profane lives are punctuated by these kinds of Messianic interventions.

A theory of mental illness might be, what if this experience with time is misinterpreted? What if a patient either applies the Messianic time to nearly all events, or refuses to apply it to any? That would result in the development of false ideas.

If you are sane, experiencing most of your life as this low time, and a mentally ill person tries to impress on you that every moment is extremely important, ardently sacred, that would seem strange to you, inaccurate, unreal– unhealthy.

A person who never has encounters with the sacred misunderstands peak events when they occur– again seeming unhealthy, missing important aspects of a whole existence.

Would it be possible for schizophrenics to learn of and accept Habermas’ model? I am sure it was his view that “Jetzeit” was reality, not just an opinion. It described our current modern mode. Therefore it would be helpful to be aware of this experience of time, and to try to share it with one another, and to accept it.

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick is a writer who is getting a lot of press lately. Among other things, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. There is a lot you could say about him, especially concerning certain ideas he put forward in his writings.

One major idea was that of subjectivity. PKD suggests that each person has their own point of view– which is legitimized by their unique experience(s). For example, in Maze Of Death (1970 Doubleday), he demonstrates that, in a small group of people, each person lives in their own reality, dictated by particular rules and traits.

A result of my own schizophrenia is that I am aware of this view, and often tempted to adopt it. The purer the subjectivity I accept, the more I can put forward my own perspective. Though it is said that I have a mental illness, a subjective view rather suggests that my reality is still my own and is therefore genuine, as much as anyone else’s.

What is the problem? There is such a thing as a social fabric. I can say that, for example, I am having an aural hallucination, or “hearing a voice”. If no one else can hear it, it would likely be dismissed as not being “real”. This preserves the social order. And, I am one to admit, as I work with the public, that listening to people talk to themselves, especially in any volume, can be quite disturbing. It’s all real to them, sure, but what about everyone else, and the things they have to do?

You might say that reality is democratic. If most people accept it, then it is seen as the case. I can claim subjectivity, but my view might be eclipsed by the majority, dismissed as being incorrect.

Some people I dialogue with suggest that we are moving towards an era where subjectivity will be the ultimate guideline. I am not so sure. If we are, I wonder if we can also keep peace and order.

The issue of subjectivity never really resolves for me, but can only be reduced to a dialectic, shifting between poles of value.

That being said, I think I can understand why PKD would think of things in a subjective way, and I do appreciate his many contributions to the world of thought, which are seemingly so relevant today– including his idea that the world itself, or environment, is like a character, and is subject to changing traits and qualities.

PhilipDick

Drone Music And Schizophrenia

Drone music is a genre that is an interest of mine. As the musical act, “mystified“, I composed literally thousands of pieces of drone music. The smooth, steady tones of this kind of music emerged with a purpose to bring on a state of calm– to soothe listeners, and perhaps even to induce trance states.

Pushed beyond a certain point, and drone can also resemble the “Flattening Of Affect” symptom– simulating cold, emotionless modes, even ushering them in.

Where to draw the line between a healthy sense of peace and an unhealthy lack of emotion?

Symptoms

I wanted to write a short post about 3 symptoms of schizophrenia. It interesting, because they sound oddly like coping skills.

“A Change In Sense Of Self”– the patient adopts a new and different view of him or herself, at the onset of the illness. True– and true, too, that we all tend to regard ourselves differently in different situations. In this life, we may define ourselves, as, say, a husband at home, and a technician at work. Further, to the degree that we allow others’ opinions of ourselves to dictate our identities, we might adapt all kinds of fragmented or inconsistent views of ourselves. Nowadays, our sense of self changes, it can be quite fluid, whether healthy or not.

“Racing Thoughts”– the patient expresses that his or her thought patterns move more quickly than they should, and perhaps sporadically. That being considered, life in this consumerist, technologically advanced reality can very easily bring on and even to some degree necessitate thoughts that “race”. I would even suggest that many people have racing thoughts– but that schizophrenics may find them harder to deal with.

“Flattening Of Affect”– the patient responds to stimuli in flattened and / or soft monotones. This symptom reminds me of trying to deal with crises in public, or any kind of escalating situation. Even healthy people have to step back, take a deep breath– and address things in level, calm ways.

Taken one way, these are symptoms of mental illness. In other ways, they are attributes of most peoples’ psyches in this changeable modern life.

Disjointed

Somewhat on a tangent, I would like to remark on the disjointed nature of modernity at large. Certain works of art, such as the film “Brazil” (Terry Gilliam, 1985), express this well– the sense (and reality) that things can change quickly, and that sudden and unexpected shifts often happen.

It is an experience of different worlds. There is the world of the city, of the suburb, of the country. Work has its own world, and home represents one, too. The presence of others changes how this feels, and this all can become very complex.

The city itself, actually, is a good metaphor– how, moving from one block to the next, we can see extreme differences in poverty level, crime, infrastructure, and so forth.

Modern life can be disjointed, like the lines of the figure in “Nude Descending A Staircase” (Marcel Duchamp, 1912).

20150719231100!Duchamp_-_Nude_Descending_a_Staircase

How does this reference schizophrenia? I would suggest that modernity propels many closer to mental illness than they would prefer. It can be a crazy world– just read the news. Further, I would attest that schizophrenia can made it harder to transition smoothly between these various worlds– it is that shock of travelling from home to work, or from one city to another, and so forth, that is so problematic.

In fact, with cell phones, the internet and other technologies, modern people can find themselves moving from world to another many times in a minute– often, doing so all day every day. The schizophrenic may find this to be especially challenging.