I'm as Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Going to Take This Anymore!

sociopath

This now famous line from "Network" was uttered by Howard Beale, the embittered newscaster. It also seems to have been in the background of people's explanations for the choices made in this past election. Or perhaps, it was only a variation like, I'm as mad as hell at you, and I'm not going to take you anymore! It's much, much easier to take out one's frustration in these troubled times on somebody than to spend the time to locate where the "this" in Beale's cry really lies. It's never quite clear in the movie whether Beale's use of "mad" refers to anger at something or to his mental state. He had threatened to commit suicide on the air.

Beale's phrase came upon me as I was reading an article from Orion, one of my favorite magazines. The article, "World Gone Mad," by Derrick Jensen, is the converse of Network. It's the world that has gone mad, not the commentator. Jensen, expressing his disappointment about the shallowness of most everything claiming to be green, asks why no one concerned about the state of the world ever "mentions psychopathology."

Why is this important? Because those in power destroy sustainable communities?—?and not just sustainable indigenous communities. If people develop new ways to live on their land more sustainably, and those in power decide that land is needed for roads and shopping malls and parking lots, those in power will seize that land. This is how the dominant culture works. Everything and everyone must be sacrificed to economic production, to economic growth, to the continuation of this culture.
Jensen calls on the "official" definition of mental disease, section F60.2 of The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, published by the World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992, similar to the US psychiatric standard, DSM-IV. Here are the key characteristics of sociopaths:
a. callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
b. gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations.
c. incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
d. very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
e. incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
f. marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behaviour.

The article is not for the squeamish. Jensen is indeed angry and provides ample examples of each of these behavioral characteristics. I'll only quote his comments after the first item in the list, callous unconcern.

Where to start? Have members of this culture shown any concern for the feelings of the indigenous as they’ve stolen their land? How about the feelings of nonhumans being driven from their homes, or those being driven out of existence? Further, doesn’t the mainstream scientific community demand that emotion be removed from all scientific study? Aren’t we also told that emotions must not interfere with business decisions and economic policy? Do chickens in battery cages have feelings? What about dogs in vivisection labs? What about trees? Rain? Stones? The culture goes beyond “callous unconcern” for the feelings of these others to deny that their feelings even exist.

He finishes the article with a rather mild call for action saying we "need to step up and call out the larger culture for the way it behaves." I do not think being mild is the right response. These days I feel more like Howard Beale. I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore! I'm not at all sure where this will take me, but somewhere beyond merely writing down my thoughts and hoping people will be stirred to do something. I would be delighted to hear suggestions from you who have been following my blogging.

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2 Comments

Tiago Cruz said:

I have been getting to the same conclusion, just only if we get our hands into the dirt we can achieve something. Otherway, there's no way out (even if there is). Power as taken us and maybe is at it should be. Is not our evolution based uppon the selfish gene, that does not consider species safe-guard but family succession. Power is at some point the same link. If only we could block this normative web.

Nonetheless is by organizing ourselfs under different groups and umbrellas - preferably not dependent of this upper constraints - that may force the system into other position, where other forms of organization is preferred, instead of the one we get now.

I am just a junior researcher/consultant (I know the word scares) but I have been getting disappointed as I grow in information (and somewhat - or hopefully in knowledge about the environment linkages). More I know about methods, models and procedures more I know that without sensible and based on commom sense (equalitarian?) behaviours, we will get nowhere and get more disappointed and unhappier. I think scientific groups should force themselfs more into business and to be responsible for the supporting that they provide. Politicians will always tend to escape responsabilities, but not if a powerful civic/knowledgable opposition is encountered.

We should provide ensembling and communication and fearless responsability.

Owen said:

This is similar to what I said at the New Economics Institute event on Saturday, but it seems appropriate here:

As another person who's feeling ready to act, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts (and your readers' thoughts) about where we should be directing our energy to make deep change happen. It's clear that there are many interconnected issues in play, and that a lot of positive actions need to happen simultaneously. But since we're thinking in systems, there must be some key leverage points - the first dominoes that should fall, if you will - in order to make the rest of the transition run more smoothly. What do you think those are?

Gus Speth (Vermont Law School), Neva Goodwin (Tufts), and Stewart Wallis (New Economics Foundation) offered the following list of examples on Saturday:

-Finance (directing investments, including pensions, toward more sustainable activities)
-Food (sustainable agriculture, food as a right)
-Energy (clean energy revolution)
-Politics (campaign finance reform in the interest of separating corporate interests from the state and building a more accountable/representative democracy, reforming procedural stalling tactics such as the filibuster)

Are there others that you'd add? Following that, I'd love to hear about some practical ways in which individuals can get involved in the above. For one thing, it seems like there should be a much more robust movement around the Fair Elections Now Act (http://fairelectionsnow.org/). Seems to me like this is the kind of thing that could really cut across party lines and tap into the intense dissatisfaction that so many Americans are feeling re: our government these days.