Yes, I am a psychiatrist and I call what is happening ‘insanity’, not because I like the term, as I find it is often misused and contributes to stigmatization of and discrimination against those who suffer from mental disorders. Rather, I use it to draw attention to what I believe is evidenced by what is happening: a widespread 'social disorder’ that has deep psychological roots, and to how these roots are linked to the rearing and educational environments in which many Muslims develop today. This social disorder strongly interacts in an obviously pathological manner with the political, cultural and economic conditions experienced by the people, but these conditions are not able on their own to produce such pathology without interacting with this underlying social disorder.
I could not find a word to capture what is happening that better expresses what I feel towards it all.
When the term used to be officially used in our field, it usually referred to psychotic disorders, a group of disorders where the mind's connection to objective facts and its ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy weaken. Disorders in which some, most or all 'others' are often classified as enemies conspiring to harm the person, even if their apparent behaviour suggested goodwill. Frequently in these disorders a person may hear or see what others do not, and these perceptions may be interpreted in a manner that supports delusions of persecution by the world. Often, individuals suffering from such disorders use a binary classification of others ("you are either with me or my enemy”) and lack flexibility of thought.
Take a look at our reality: Not one of us lacks, somewhere deep within us, the knowledge that we are the real cause of our problems, and that if others benefited from this situation it is not because the ‘Other’ is the source of evil. However, some are not aware of this knowledge and bury it in their unconscious mind. It is natural, after all, that such awareness brings anxiety, depression and guilt, and we would all like to avoid these feelings. But this avoidance seems to have reached delusional proportions at a collective, community level. Our society has made such feelings a threat to our identity and emotional stability to such an extent that many choose, without conscious awareness or insight, to be selectively blind to this reality. Our society has made acknowledgement of fault shameful and sinful. And has made what is shameful and sinful an exclusive characteristic of the Other, with no exception. It then directed all its anger toward the Other to settle internal conflicts, a fair and just confrontation of which would have led self-flagellation or a loss of the identity that we prevented from having any peccability that would have indicated its humanity. We made ‘conspiracy theory’ God’s law in the universe. Thus, we have achieved two results: First, we are angels and second, we are victims of demons.
We added to that a lack of intellectual flexibility and a fossilized adherence to a single template for our identity, of which we excluded anyone who is different or has disagreed with us and we assigned them membership of the category ‘Other’, and excommunication (takfeer) is but one example of this. Consequently, the Other has become an enemy. When this combines with the conspiracy theory, it becomes easy to feel the right to "defend ourselves" by killing the other.
Indiscriminate killings are taking place, and a kind of brutality and ferociousness is happening that has never been attributed to tigers, lions, wolves or birds of prey. Bondage of women and enslavement of the Other; deportation, stalking and expulsion; looting, theft and deliberately instilling terror; all of this is happening now, and it is met by a degree listlessness that approaches numbness. It is met by an astonishment by those who watch these tragedies on television while reclining on comfortable pillows. But do their hearts bleed? Do their eyes shed any tears? Do their limbs agitate to move in order to fix what could be repaired or to remedy this community before it collides with the bottom of the abyss, into which it has been free-falling for decades?
This languidness, this non-agitated tolerance, and this patience with what is instinctively abhorred and undoubtedly regarded by any neutral objective observer as being an existential threat because history has been ruthless with any nation that has behaved this way... This passive reception, albeit astonished and denunciatory, corresponds to increased and excessive attention to, and prayers (from atop pulpits) for the demise of the Other. Therefore, this reclining viewer has become part of the problem, and afflicted with the same disorder, even if they have not actively contributed to the behaviours they watch on the screen. For it is the listlessness with which the scene was received that allows future scenes to take place, and permits the community to continue its free-fall into the abyss.
Has the viewer lost the ability to connect the scene with reality? Have their conviction in the delusion of persecution and conspiracy prevented them from seeing any role for them not only in the genesis of the problem but also in its solution?
Does the viewer see and hear what anyone with a shred of compassion in their heart sees and hears? Does the viewer have enough flexibility of thought to see that to classify people and things into black or white is to ignore the spectrum of grey, in which falls 99% of people and things?
Is it possible to tolerate rejecting behaviour, rejecting discourse, rejectionist laws, rejectionist politics and the rejectionist media narratives only to then accuse the Other of causing our brutality?
How do you treat this insanity? In psychiatry, we treat psychotic disorders diagnosed in individuals. Our definitions of pathology do not include social phenomena among the conditions that can be treated medically. I do not disagree with that, and I do not think of what is happening a disease, disorder or syndrome meeting the medical definitions of these terms. But I have no doubt that the culture of rejecting the Other starts with rejecting our children; with affection that is conditional on behaviour that we accept, which introduces in them the social template that requires the other to comply or else be rejected; with the aggressive chastening of our children that permits them to use violence as a means to remedy issues; with the prejudice that we rear them to have and the belief in our fantasized uniqueness that we instil in them, and then they witness how humans are of different kinds, classes and categories, even in our institutions, our policies and our salary scales; with privileging ends over means whether tacitly or openly; and most important of all, with our failure to share in our children’s emotions, so we either exaggerate our neglect or exaggerate our protectiveness of their emotions or totally lack ability to be aware of their feelings because we have not experienced that in our own childhoods with our parents. Lack of empathy does not allow us to fully realize the humanity of the Other. And when we dehumanize the Other, we also do not fully realize our own humanity, and our self-worth is deficient as we devalue the Other.
Perhaps the solution begins herein, starting at these roots, and those mechanisms associated with psychological development that so easily pervade our society as wildfire spreads in dry woods.