Good Versus Evil; Society's Struggle
The understanding of basic reality is never something we achieve; it is only something that can be approached. The closer we approach it, the more we realize we do not understand it. But it is far better to have one glimmer of understanding than to flounder around in total darkness. M. Scott Peck (author and Psychiatrist)
The above quote is quite profound; read it a couple of times and it makes sense for almost everything we pursue as humans. Why learn anything? Why seek understanding? There is something innate that drives us forward, and also drives us to try and understand questions that have stumped great thinkers of centuries past.
When we begin to label things we don't understand as 'evil', we lose that constructive drive to study it, understand it, and possibly resolve it.
The problem with evil
I've always been a people watcher and I can guarantee I've made more than a few people who pass by me, uncomfortable. Yes, I'm curious, I look, I conduct my own observational studies, and I soak it all in. I'm just so fascinated by people that it overrides my concern about what others think of me when I stop, listen, and look at the world around me. Through all my formal and especially informal training in psychology, I've come across one question without an answer: What is evil? Much of what our society deems evil is actually mislabeled; mental illness, homosexuality, abuse, power hungry (Hitler), and heinous crimes.
The health, science, and psychology models only recognize health versus disease. Is disease evil? Because someone has cancer or diabetes, does not mean they are evil nor are their symptoms and we'd never consider it in that light. Yet someone who has schizophrenia may kill or talk with the voices in their head because of their psychosis, which is merely a symptom of their disease. Are they evil? I would have to say no!
There is inherent danger in labeling the mentally ill as evil because mental illness is far more treatable when diagnosed and acknowledged as such. I'm not talking about medicating someone every time they sneeze or have a bad week. What is the treatment plan for evil? You can't do it, impossible. If you went to the doctors and were diagnosed with 'something bad' (and that's all the doctor labeled it), that wouldn't give you a clue as to how to treat it. You can't treat bad or evil. Give mental illness a proper name, such as schizophrenia or bi-polar, and as much public awareness as obesity, then we can begin to treat it.
After the Tucson, Arizona shooting, Obama and others markedly referred to Jared Loughner (the shooter) as 'evil'. The man was mentally ill. Tragedies and massacres committed by human beings have long been labeled evil. Remember the other physical diseases I mentioned earlier; diabetes and cancer? If illness in the body is not considered evil, then why would illness of the mind be?
The label completely forfeits responsibility for the mental illness crisis in the U.S. From the religious point of view, evil exists- it states as much in the bible. But again, acts and sins considered evil, are often neurotic symptoms and simply praying for it or exploting the shock and awe of it, assists with continuing to ignore the real problem that plagues society.
Was Jared Loughner (Arizona shooter), and others like him, evil or mentally ill?
Evil is lurking
1 in 6 people have a severe mental illness- severe is defined as someone mentally deteriorated enough to commit truly 'evil' and astonishing acts like Jared Loughner. 40% of prison inmates have a mental illness. At least 25% that we know of homeless folks have a mental illness. You could state with confidence our society is plagued by evil OR we could acknowledge a real and tangible problem such as mental illness.
Presidential candidates, for years, have stated their concern for the mental health issues, but none do anything about it once they are elected. Mental illness is a major inconvenience, but imagine the living hell these people experience, then we dismiss their cries for help and sensationalize the tragic outcomes. Just about every social or poltical agenda near and dear to people's hearts, from crime and repeat offenders (overcrowded prisons) to animal cruelty to homelessness is all linked to the evil lurking among us, or more realistically, untreated mental illness.
The problem with good
The problem with good is it's as good as gone. Turn on the news; homicide, burglary, rape, and scandals. Picking up a common theme yet? Bad, bad, and worse. I've been in enough atheist versus religious discussions to pick up another common theme and that is 'why is there so much evil' or 'if God existed, why the evil'? What we fail to ask ourselves, 'how can so much good come from a society plagued by evil'? When an innocent child is severely abused as a child but later has their own children, treats them as good as they wish they'd been treated, and stops the legacy of abuse, this is a miracle- it's good prevailing and it goes unnoticed.
The reality is life itself, and most people, reside somewhere in the middle between good and evil. That means many of are one butcher knife away from psycho. Ok, not that drastic, but many psychologists note the bad become worse over time and the good become better further along their lives' path. When everyone noticed Jared Loughner, or any of these other people who've committed heinous crimes, doing and saying bad things, this usually will not improve itself and only gets worse. Don't let politicians or anyone simply label real and tangible psychosis as evil. There is treatment and no excuses.
Religiously speaking, the pure desire to practice free will that God grants us, tempts many to exercise that right and do bad. For example a child without parental supervision, experiences a sudden surge of freedom and will likely get in trouble. This is bad in its original form and we can see when things go horribly wrong in one's childhood, there is a chance for this pattern to continue. Many beliefs and religions will state bad (or evil) is necessary to take recognize good.
The struggle between good and evil
In general, the public is misinformed about many psychological diseases and terms. We even use them jokingly and that's fine, but it does encourage the misuse of science and to be able to discern between who is mentally ill or just a little troubled. Some judgment is necessary and if it is judgement for helping and healing rather than casting stones or satisfying the selfish ego, then we must employ it to assist with overcoming many of society's struggles.The world as we know it, and its entire inhabitants may forever me engaged in the struggle between good and evil. But let's call evil what it is, and not label issues in society that have treatable options.
- Crazy in the Family; Children of the Mentally Ill
Just as there's a wide range of mental illnesses, there are as many children and adult children of a mentally ill parent who have suffered without a voice. It may come as a surprise that many mentally ill people have "normal" lives on the outside; ch
- Starting Over; Tragedy and Life Changes
What's so good about starting over? Starting over is not the tragedy or the life change itself, it is what you make of either of those things; a tragic event is often scary, but even purely positive events that evoke change are scary