Shared Delusions

This post is going to be a bit of a departure from the usual subjects I cover here but does have some relation so, bear with me if you can.

First some background that I’ve talked about a bit in the various online communities I participate in around the net but never really found the nerve to share in a more concrete form. It’s obviously much easier to be honest in the transient world of IRC and other domains of instant but fleeting methods of communication. I almost said electronic communication but really I’d have to include all forms of social contact with conversation as the key element.

As far back as I can remember I’ve had a much easier time dealing with machines and processes than I have with other human beings. As a child I would be more often found engrossed in a book, constructing things from Lego and later Meccano, drawing or dismantling something to find out what was inside. I always preferred solitary activities and never really felt comfortable with praise or criticism – engaging in social activities always left me feeling like an alien in a world that made no sense. If you’re a Douglas Adams fan it may help to know that the HitchHiker’s Guide character I most identify with is Wonko The Sane.

The path I’ve followed through life has mostly been influenced by a coping strategy which led me to mostly do and say what others seem to expect from me. Family members, Teachers, friends, community and the depiction of society at large in the world’s media have all influenced me to attempt to conform to an ideal that I could usually manage for some period of time until something caused me to look where I was heading and decide that actually, that’s a completely insane place to be going. Ultimately that path led through several countries, a few suicide attempts and eventually being sectioned under the mental health act after a psychotic break. There’s a long and convoluted story in there but the details aren’t that important – I might do some writing on those details in the future but dwelling on actual events and memories seems to lead to a place where I fear inducing psychosis again.

After many more encounters with the British healthcare system than I care to remember I was eventually diagnosed with Dysthymia which appears to be an illness where the primary state of being is clinical depression, punctuated by bouts of a further slide into the black depths of despair. Engaging with the “experts” has been, for me, an increasing source of frustration and anger which has basically just made me feel that I’m an experimental subject. The process appears to have been “let’s slap a label on here and treat the label then see what happens”.

Recently I started counselling which, although quite heavily subsidised, I’ve had to pay for out of my own pocket. Maybe that’s a good thing in a way since the desire to obtain as much value for that money as possible can be a powerful motivator. Some people might see that statement as a justification for the privatisation of the NHS but I think those people would be suffering from the current neo-liberal delusion that seems to be prevalent right now. I won’t expand on that opinion much right now though, there’s a point to this post that I’m trying to get to.

The current British government is attempting to reduce the welfare bill in this country through a process that has been subjected to increasing criticism. Anyone prepared to put in some research time will find that the evidence relating to their Work Capability Assessment points overwhelmingly to that process causing real quantifiable harm to people with mental health conditions who are subjected to it. They’ve just started that process on me and it’s already led to a quite noticeable deterioration in my mental health. If you’re a user of the devkitPro toolchains or a participant in the many online communities I belong to then you may have noticed a serious reduction in my activity. That’s symptomatic of another impending double depression triggered by stress.

The biggest problem for me is that, from where I’m sitting, society at large is deeply broken and populated by pockets of people operating under a group consensus of shared delusions. Most of them seem to be attempting to force other groups into accepting their particular delusion whatever label it might have and that activity is a blight on society. It’s like a cancer spreading across humanity and it’s destroying people.

Experiencing psychosis and being declared unfit for work gave me the opportunity to take stock and fill my time with unpaid voluntary activities that have brought value to society that no conventional employment could possibly have created. I’ve put endless hours into the research, programming work and project management that resulted in what devkitPro toolchains are right now. I’ve studied economics and psychology, helped people to learn how to program and gradually built up my own personal reality bubble where I honestly believe I’ve made a positive difference to tens of thousands of lives. What I really, really want to do is find a way to get paid for the “work” I do every single day and not have that “work” prevent me from spending time with people I love and respect. The very, very last thing that is likely to help me is to be placed in a sausage machine that seems designed to force people to either conform to a particular ideal of productivity or die.

In an article by the BBC, Professor Harrington was quoted as follows :-

While people had been let down by the system, he challenged campaigners who had called for it to be scrapped entirely to come up with an alternative.

“What are you going to put in its place? Tell me why, how you are going to make it better.”

Personally, I wouldn’t put anything in its place. What I would do is challenge what I see as delusions and try to imagine what a society that cared equally for all its citizens would look like. Such a society might be based around principles of education, opportunity and freedom.

But maybe I’m just crazy …

So anyway, just some food for thought. I’m sure you have your own opinions and ideas about society’s problems. Join the conversation on Twitter, write your own blog post, have your say in the comments here but be warned, ad hominem attacks will not be published.

P.S. This post has taken me most of the day and making the decision to click the publish button has felt like putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. I might have to go lie down for a while.

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