Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

If I strongly believe that I am Christ or Napoleon, or that I am being spied on by aliens, or that I can broadcast my thoughts or receive other’s thoughts, then I am likely to be considered psychotic, ill and worthy of medication.

If I strongly believe that I have many personalities in one consciousness, I will be offered psychotherapy.

If I strongly believe that I am a woman born in a man’s body, I will be considered a person with gender dysphoria and offered surgery and hormones.

If I strongly believe that I am part of a superior race, then I will be treated as a social misfit.

If I strongly believe that property is theft and advocate communism, then I will be treated as a political misfit.

All of these cases are based on strong beliefs that do not concur with majority beliefs. Note that none of these cases involve actions beyond stating unacceptable beliefs.

How do we justify such varied responses to problems of belief.

Probably not, unless you act on it. If you stroll into the French Parliament and declare yourself Emperor, you are likely to be talking with some people in white clothes.

Not if you keep it to yourselves.

You might, but only if you let people know. In any case, nobody will force you to take them.

Yes, if you treat others as an inferior race, with inferior rights.

Not unless you act on it.

Pjen, I don’t know where you live, but in most places what you believe is your own business, only when your beliefs find expression in actions **which violate the rights of others **do they come to the attention of society. So what is being punished is not the beliefs, it is the actions.

Beliefs of a nut=no problem
Actions of a nut=big problem

Believe anything you want, as long as your actions do not affect your fellow man (and woman). You want to be a woman in a man’s body, fine. You want to not pay taxes because property is theft…now your viewpoint is affecting others, making us shoulder your tax burden, and that is a problem.

Yeah, troublemakers like John Hancock and Sam Adams started a long, costly war just because they wouldn’t stay home and pay their taxes like Parliament said to. Lots of people complained about them, too- good farmers who respected the King and minded their own business.

Thank you, alonicist, for taking this seriously. I had great hopes for this thread- maybe a discussion in detail about how deviant status is accorded and acted upon- but I guess I just misjudged the tone or content of the post. Never mind.

Well pjen maybe I’m not reading the tone of that response but it seemed OK to me. That is, in more simple terms, you are treated as a social/political/etc misfit because you are a social/political/etc misfit to believe those things.

Everyone else had played the happy moderate “Oh, you can believe whatever you want so long as you don’t act on it,” and alonicist was happy to point out that that is not necessarily the right way to go about.

In all seriousness.

That is, we address the problem of being a misfit through rebellion. Successful rebellion entails a lack of misfit-ness. The winners write the history books and all.

Oh, that’s just my gut reaction (as an eccentric and former {yeah, right!} nutcase whose own behavior has sometimes been quite disturbing to certain people) to the notion that we should all act “normal”. As Mammy Yokum said, “Goodness is better than evil because it’s nicer”. The grand concept of your thread is too complex for me to sink my teeth into. I don’t know where to start. Let’s try this: “belief”, in the first place, don’t cut much ice with me; it’s facts that matter. But, as Sturgeon pointed out in Godbody, what people believe about something is more important, in social terms, than the actual facts of the matter, which are not so well known, or easy to know. When the pertinent facts are widely known, beliefs will change accordingly.

To Aynrandlover- having reread my post, it could be read as cynical, but was actually meant seriously. I felt that Alonicist was the first poster to get to the meat of the subject and understand what I was originally getting at- the wide variety of responses to thoughts and behaviours depending on their social context.

Historical examples are useful and the Sam Adams and John Hancock are feted (rightly in by view) as heroes, but could have been seen as dangerous agitators. Conversely, Benedict Arnold could have been seen as a moderate, a loyal citizen.

People with unacceptable delusions are at risk of being detained and medicated (‘Psychotics’). People with acceptable but even more dangerous delusions are tolerated (Nazis, Racial supremicists). People with acceptable and valued delusions are well rewarded by society (TV Evangelists).

The assumption that beliefs go unpunished unless there is action associated is a great ideal, but even in the USA where it is guaranteed by the constitution, belief has continued to be punished even without any real accompanying action.

Well there is the interesting point that one person taking a view like that is dangerous but when it becomes one of the norms of society it is acceptable.

For example, Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, and that George Bernard Shaw all had views which would be considered extremely racist but were acceptable in their day.

Do we now say that since we are more enlightened that their works have less truth, validity or worthiness because of this ?

Sigmund Freud was a grade A nut (he even had names which he used when he talked with his kitchen utensils) but he is considered a genius.

Conversely Nikolai Tesla was also a genius but his eccentricity seemed to descend not into madness but beyond scientific logic which in turn led him to be ostracized by most scientists, yet every so often he would come up with a nugget of intellectual power.

The all time classic case of course is that of Galileo who was seen by the Roman Catholic church as a threat to its authority and was considered dangerous and mad by it.
In the minds of the church officials he must have seemed to be evil and bent on destroying society as they knew it.
Turned out that the RC church was wilful in its ignorance but it didn’t seem like it at the time.

Religious fundamentalists of many persuasions are quite convinced of their rightness to the extent that their followers will sacrifice themselves which to many folk appears to be a form of insanity, and yet when early Christian did just this it turned Rome from a bestial and brutal society to something else for the better.

Madness is many things to many people, and ‘normality’ can only be regarded as such in a certain context.

It depends if your beliefs are accepted by your community at the time you express them.

Someone with communist ideals in 1919 russia would be seen as normal while someone with them now would be seen as bizarre.

For all I know you could be Napoleon re-born BUT if the prevailing view is against it then you will be treated badly.

My advice - keep a low profile and appear to ‘fit in’.

One day I expect they will try lock up people who haven’t got a TV and don’t like big macs.

People who are comfortable are afraid of change. In the case of communism, the burgeois does not want the proletariat to know about revolutions and a government state. Radical ideas muist be supressed.

We have a very skeptical society. If you say you are the Arch-Priest of the Octagon Covenant on Xargon-7, many won’t believe you because you don’t have proof(outside of yur tin foil hat).

Unfortunately, there’s a fuzziness involved w/ belief in something, acting on that belief, and–most importantly, and where the trouble starts–a reasonable assumption that the person will, in the future, act on such a belief.

Thus, you medicate psychotics to prevent them from killing someone, arrest people who write death threats to the president to prevent them from following through on them, arrest communists b/c you’re worried about them overthrowing the system, etc. Whether these “reasonable assumptions” are, in fact, reasonable or not is related to people’s fears.

There’s really a very easy answer to this question. You have two classifications of belief here, those which are obviously identifiable as a mental illness with an underlying physical cause, and honest beliefs of healthy individuals.

First of all, though, your examples of mental illness are more likely to be found in Bugs Bunny cartoons than in real life. Multiple personality disorder, in particular, is generally regarded as not actually existing as an illness at all.

As for someone believing they are some famous historical person, the most likely case (in the real world, outside of Bugs Bunny cartoons) is that there would be other diagnosable symptoms. A competent physician could make a diagnosis, and appropriate medication and/or treatment possibly could correct the condition. (You might be surprised, but I have read of at least 2 SMDB posters who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Thanks to medication, they are able to make coherent and intelligible postings to these boards.)

Gender dysphoria is still considered a mental illness by some people. Consequently, you may not find that the reaction of giving hormones and surgery is universal.

As for the other beliefs you list, reactions will vary depending on the beliefs of the rest of the group. There are plenty of places where belief in communism would not earn someone the label of political misfit. Even among groups of like minded people, you will find individuals with specific differences of opinion. There is nothing unusual about that.

Short answer: Comparing beliefs brought on by mental illnesses, especially those which have verifiable physical causes, with the normal beliefs of healthy minds, is like comparing apples and oranges.