Abnormal psychology, colloquially referred to as mental illness, may conjure up images of a behaviorally disturbed individual such as Christian Bale’s character out of American Psycho. But while this type of person is certifiably insane by exhibitions of homicidal tendencies (killing random homeless people), we should not find it difficult to assert that collectives of individuals, as those found in nations, may exhibit precisely the same symptoms of mental illness as a single man or woman.
The philosopher Plato once wrote that “States are as men” for they “grow out of human characters”, and inasmuch that this is true, we may apply the criteria of what constitutes a mental illness to the activities of a society.
The author of the collegiate textbook Abnormal Psychology, Ronald Comer, relates to the reader the notion that mental illness is difficult to define, but nevertheless there are criteria for classifying as ill the behavioral characteristics of an individual.
These are the criteria:
- The exhibited behavior must be deviant – this is to say the actions and thoughts of the individual conflict with social norms
- The exhibited behavior is dangerous, to self and others
- The exhibited behavior causes significant distress, i.e. difficulty coping with anxiety associated with the behavior
- The exhibited behavior is “dysfunctional”
Using the above criteria, we may reasonably conclude that the American society (and one might infer other nations as well), exhibit behaviors that meet the mental illness criteria. To illustrate the validity of this conclusion, take the instance in August of 1945 when our nation atom-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaaki.
This action was deviant. No other nation had used such weapons of mass destruction prior.
This action was dangerous. Hundreds of thousands were annihilated, civilian and military alike.
This action caused significant distress. Many of the world’s citizens were indirectly victimized with the anxiety educed from the destruction the U.S. caused.
The action was “dysfunctional”. The decision to drop the bombs was premised on the paradoxical belief that peace could be drawn out by an act of war.
Given the inference that other nations exhibit behaviors matching the mental illness criteria, we can indeed state with confidence that “All the World is Mad”.
Take care all.