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Painted Brain | Build A Different Kind Of Wall
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • March 28, 2016

Build a Different Kind of Wall

I think the wall we need is against a certain mindset, one that blames other people for one’s own problems.  This is different than blaming systems, history, or particular policy decisions, since actually these things are often at fault.

A simple example of this is education.  It would not be difficult to make our public schools uniformly excellent here in America, it would just cost a great deal of money.  Since our government, as representatives of the people, do not choose to invest in this, the system creates a situation in which where you are born has a direct impact on your opportunities for education and advancement.  This is due to policy decisions.  A large portion of the tax money earmarked for public schools is locally-derived, therefore the most impoverished areas have the poorest schools.  I support the people who are angry about problems like this. In fact, I’m one of them.

The insanity and hysteria that have recently enveloped large segments of our society, quite frankly, terrify me.  There are aspects of human nature we should encourage and enhance, and those that should be acknowledged while kept in check.  Freud’s brilliance was to recognize that we as humans possess aggressive and repugnant impulses.  These aggressive thoughts and feelings often fill us with shame and are repressed in ways that create all kinds of problems.

Well, that’s how it was in the Victorian Era, anyway.  Repression doesn’t seem to be the problem these days.  One of the most challenging struggles we face as humans is what to do with these contemptible parts of ourselves.

One possible solution, and probably the worst choice, is simply to act upon them.  If one feels sexually-aroused or aggressive, just exhibit it to the world.  In choosing this route, one soon learns that the place in society one happens to inhabit has a huge impact on how this works out for you.  Basically, it all comes down to money.  If you have money and you act out on this part of your personality, you can go a hell of a lot farther in the world than a person without money.  Sociopathy, for example, is more likely to be diagnosed in the poor than the rich, primarily because the diagnosis refers to observable behaviors, specifically, exercising one’s need for power over others. An impoverished sociopath is far more likely to end up in jail than a wealthy sociopath.  Someone that has the financial means to act out on his or her sexual or violent needs without compunction may find ways, technically legal ways, to do so with ease.

Sound familiar?

Is it hypocritical to build a wall against the intolerant?

We Do Not Tolerate Intolerance Here!

That’s the wall we need.  We can argue and make art and play music and work on crazy projects inside of the wall, anything that doesn’t interfere with someone else.  We have limited space, equipment and supplies (for the moment) but in here, you can make anything you want and be anything you want, so long as it doesn’t mess with anyone else’s opportunity to do likewise.  We don’t tolerate anyone that interferes with others.  And, of course, this leads to all kinds of fascinating conflicts.  After all, freedom is (and needs to be) a messy business.

Here’s a wall we should get rid of: the wall between mental health and mental illness.  Mental illness remains something that most people only think about when they have to, yet we all navigate the sexual, aggressive, and fearful morass of our animal selves, and in our own ways.  One way to build a wall within ourselves is to turn our shame, self-doubt and aggression against someone external, or a whole class of others.  Racism, sexism, and homophobia all boil down to hatred, forms of externalized shame.  These are a kind of moral illness, far worse than any mental illness, yet it’s mental illness that gets all the bad press.  People identified as mentally ill are lumped in with psycho-killers, and yet these days, a single individual exerting a disproportionate amount of power based on nothing but personal wealth (only in the media so far, thankfully), someone who advocates violence and hatred, stirring up people’s baser passions at rallies unapologetically, this person is seen by millions as a viable choice for leading our country.

And you call us crazy?  What the hell, people?

A lot of “mentally healthy” people should probably have their heads examined.

Dave Leon is the founder/director of Painted Brain and a frequent contributor to Painted Brain News.

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