Saturday, May 28, 2011


Insanophobia: the nagging doubt that everyone is sane.

I think I may have coined a new and I hope maybe useful word, a possible addition to our already rather garbled psychological and psychiatric terminology. What I have in mind could also probably be described as “Are they in their right mind syndrome.” Once you fall prey to this malady you may never completely recover.

Perhaps the best recent example of this condition, or problem, or syndrome, or whatever you choose to call it, is the “birther” phenomenon. Apparently large numbers of people, mostly Republicans, did not or do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he was. To believe he was really born in Kenya and the announcement of his birth in Hawaii was part of some kind of plot decades before he was to become President, and all the rest of the birther nonsense, a secret Muslim infiltrating the U.S. to convert us, a socialist planted by the Soviets, or whatever other cock and bull stories different people tried out from time to time, you would, I fear, have to be out of your mind, thus the nagging doubt that these believers are actually sane.

Suffering from insanophobia can sometimes have genuine effects on your behavior. Say, for example, someone brings false charges against you, you know they are false, and you also know the person has no evidence, therefore you assume the charges will be dropped, no prosecuting attorney in his/her right mind would pursue them. But there is that lingering, nagging doubt that perhaps the prosecuting attorney is not completely sane. You wait helplessly on pins and needles until finally some decision is forthcoming and the charges are (hopefully) dismissed. During this time you cannot sleep, have difficulty focusing on your work, lose your appetite and so on. You are in the grip of insanophobia.

Insanophobia, as the above example indicates, is clearly is not something that happens only in politics, but at the moment the best examples come from that mysterious realm. Take the case of tax breaks for the wealthiest two (2) percent of the U.S. population and the most profitable corporations in the history of the world. The country is deeply in debt, trying desperately to dig its way out of a recession and avoid an actual depression, there is an obvious and pressing need for more revenue, taxes on the wealthy are at an all time low and huge corporations are getting unnecessary tax breaks as well. An obvious solution that would greatly help alleviate the deficit would be to increase taxes on the wealthy and do away with unnecessary tax breaks for corporations. Republicans, however, refuse to accept either of these solutions and, indeed, are holding out for even lower taxes. Surely they cannot be serious about this, no one in their right mind would do such a thing, and boom! There it is again, that nagging doubt that everyone is sane.

Health care is another perfect example of potential insanophobia. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation on earth that does not provide universal health care for its citizens. Our private insurance system is far more expensive than, say, Medicare for all. Not only that, it does not provide coverage for all, and also makes its profits off the sick and dying because the insurance companies will not provide insurance for those who need it, and basically insure only those who do not need it. Furthermore, there is no logical or necessary reason for insurance companies to have anything to do with health care, they bring nothing to it but paperwork and decisions about your health services provided by bureaucrats who are not physicians and are interested only in maximizing profits for their companies, and certainly do not have your best health interests in mind. Now you might think anyone in their right mind could understand this and would eagerly seek a more efficient and far less costly system. But again, Republicans do not accept this and insist the private insurance racket is the only way to go. You see, there it is again, insanophobia, the nagging doubt these people are sane.

I could go on, there is no lack of examples, both in politics and everyday life. The belief the world is a mere 6000 years old, dinosaurs and people existed at the same time, we did not put a man on the moon, St. Ronnie ended the cold war, etc., etc., etc. Of course it is not as simple a problem as it may appear. While you may believe someone cannot be sane because of their seemingly irrational, even nonsensical positions, it could be they actually are sane, and merely dishonest, greedy and evil. If, for example, you are dependent upon some pharmaceutical or oil company to finance your continuing career in politics, and perhaps your more luxurious life style as well, you might no doubt cling to the most outrageously obvious falsehoods: global warming is a myth, socialized medicine is the worst health system invented by the devil, nuclear energy is as safe or perhaps even more safe than deep-water oil drilling (which is not at all safe), 90% of Planned Parenthood is for abortions, people desperately need guns in churches, bars, and University classrooms, you cannot tax the wealthy because they are the ones that provide jobs when their money trickles down, even though oil companies are making record profits they still need subsidies so they can drill more, we need to spend even more than all the rest of the world combined for national defense, and on and on and on, just more potential insanity to worry about all the time.

When you become a full-blown insanophobe like me, it can turn on you. If you continue to suspect that not everyone is sane, people come to suspect that of you. Oh, well, it’s all in a day’s work, it’s all just in my head, it, too, will pass, just take two aspirin and call in the morning, these are just minor differences in opinion, there’s no cause for alarm.

No comments: