Reading Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault (strangely reminiscent of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents), where he documents the place of madness in human society, with particular comparison between the present day and the Middle Ages. Fascinating read so far, as are all of Foucault’s works.
In any case, it’s interesting to note how madness has come to be the leprosy of our age. Like prisoners, the mentally ill person is removed from society and exists in a space that is still controlled by it, but in a state of exception where they feel the brunt of the law as expressed through the orderlies. Foucault talks about how in the 1600s, hospitals for the mad are beginning to be built and the asylum becomes a societal institution where mentally ill persons can be placed (strangely around the time when the nation-state was in its infancy and political power was beginning to centralize and evolve into its modern form). Now, to a certain extent, those who cannot live in a community without physically injuring anyone should be removed to this space such as psychopaths, as well as those who are not in control of their own existence, such as in extreme cases of suicidal depression and schizophrenia. However, it is interesting to note those 1970s psychology studies that drew up a list of symptoms for the mentally ill and diagnosed the population, only to find that everyone seemed to qualify.
Like Freud says, we do have a lizard brain that apparently has violent erotic appetites, which are suppressed by societal norms and our faculty of reason. Everyone has their moments of insanity, but it is generally accepted that the dominance of reason in society is perhaps what is best for it (although modern society appears to have compromised and catered to the lizard brain “desires” for the sake of consumerism over the lizard brain “aggression”). However, my own thoughts discern that true madness is a permanent imbalance that subverts reason and modularity entirely and does not strike that usual balance of our appetites, emotions, and reason. Therefore, I dare distinguish between the psychopath and the mentally imbalance. Is the latter something to be feared? Should we remove such persons by force from society? I wonder sometimes if they are removed because we fear the madness within ourselves, like a disease that will spread if everyone is allowed to let their lizard brain takeover. After all, we have come so far.
As for myself, I am not willing to relinquish my distinction from animal life just yet. There is a certain amount of satisfaction to be found in revelling in the intellectual capacities, if one is willing to carry the heavy burden of truth and stare its depressing facts full in the face. For truth may be harsh, but there is still beauty to be found within it and the truth of madness is that we must steel ourselves against those facts of life which utterly baffle and unman us.