Friday, January 4, 2019

Mental Health: A Rant by Rashad the Cackler

Art by Alex Cherry
[The homeless old man, Rashad the Cackler has returned with another diatribe. Enjoy as he spills his guts to passersby on a big city street corner.]

How I relish the looks of derision on your faces, you calm and collected pedestrians! “Look at the homeless wreck of a man,” you’re thinking. “See how repulsive he is, with his long, matted hair and beard, his blotchy, wrinkled skin, his hunched back and bony arms! Hear as he spews his venom, how he’s nothing left to lose, not even his sanity!” The bitter madman, haranguing harmless middle class normies at the crossroads. What a cliché you’d make of me. But before you silence me with sedatives and a straightjacket, shall I disclose the secret of how you reward me with your sneers and scowls?

You sane ones, do you know what “sanity” means? Mental health is fitting in. The psychiatrists’ textbooks call this “social functionality.” You’re considered mentally unwell if you’re suffering from an inability to perform your social obligations. You have to want to fit into society and yet be mentally prevented from doing so to be the victim of a mental illness.

So congratulations, you joiners and normies, you who’ve adapted so well to social conventions! You’re esteemed as healthy because of your normality. But have you stopped to wonder what you’re fitting into? What are these functions you perform so efficiently? What’s the total effect of normal human effort? What do human functions as a whole accomplish?

Would it surprise you to learn that your health is supremely ironic? You belong to that which is most alien in the universe, not just to life but to a godlike species that rises above nature and the animal kingdom, surveys the vastness of space and time, and creates a contrary world of culture and technology. As you play your assigned roles as worker or family member, as friend or foe, bully or clown, you submerge yourself in that which most stands out. You’re part of a titanic monstrosity.

Let’s not pretend your happiness is innocent, you spinning cogs. You relax or rejoice in your success at fitting in, but you only outsource the horror and agony that any monster can be expected to inflict. You raise your living standard at the cost of perpetrating a holocaust against all other animal species, which you don’t think twice about enslaving, torturing, or exterminating. And the wealth of you middleclass busybodies depended on the drudgery of human slaves or of impoverished toilers languishing in Western-backed dictatorships—until the advent of the machine, whereupon you’ll be made obsolete and will inherit the pain.

So you bright and shining sane ones, my compliments! You’re one with the savage Anthropocene. You’ve thrown in your lot with the tyrannical overlord of savage evolution, threatening all life with extinction because of your hubris. You’ve sidled up to a starry-eyed little boy who carries an oversized shotgun in either hand and plays at being God; you submit to the whims of this child as he pretends he knows what he’s doing. And if you perform your functions so smoothly that you disappear as an individual, you fit right in with that vicious abomination, as those billions of duties and conventions add up to mammoth barbarity, to ironies so absurd they mustn’t even be whispered. To tell this secret is to be in danger of being locked up as a madman.

A curious title I wear: “madman.” For what have I to be mad about? Only my standing apart from the behemoth of humanity, from the bumbling pack of mini despots, as I’m condemned to witness the grotesque drama and to be ignored even as I hurl rotten tomatoes onto the stage. And what kind of man am I, abnormal and dysfunctional in my inability to hold down a job, own any property, or start a family? No, no madman am I—only one estranged subhuman beholding the antics of alien humanity from my perch on Mount Nowhere.

You immense hypocrites and buffoons, you proud and clueless Men and Women, Titans of the Biosphere: the more closely you bond to society, the more divorced you are from nature—and if you think human brutality can match nature’s in the great existential derby of destruction, let me relieve you of that perverse little vanity. You proud folks should spare a moment to ponder how so-called mental health—conformity—amounts to participating in a much greater insanity than any lone lunatic could manage from the bowels of an asylum. But don’t linger on the horror or you’ll lose your efficiency and thus your “sanity,” joining the ranks of losers that lie prostrate on the blasted earth while high overhead the overlord, Homo sapiens, ravages the planet. Stop chanting the mantra that you’re hale and contented and you’ll slip from your station in the Voltron-like colossus and maybe even end up preaching on a street corner like a “madman.”

How I treasure the abuse from the likes of you sheeple. Hurl your insults or just ignore me as though I were filth on your boot heel! You only demonstrate I’m not one of you. But if I’m abandoned by your ilk, I’ve no part in your modern savagery. Nowhere in the mass’s script will you find my name or job description. I’m a nomad, so I might as well be nameless. Despite my bouts of depression, anxiety, and resentment, you prove I’m capable of an outsider’s tranquility; a Cynic’s peace is mine even in the midst of the atrocities your mental health perpetrates.


  1. Brilliant piece. I was reminded of Nietzsche's phrase: "In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."

  2. Thought-provoking piece. Two quotes come to mind:"Sanity is a cozy lie" (Sontag) and "What is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance"(Roethke).

    1. Thanks. Not sure if all kinds of insanity are noble. The above rant follows up on some other articles I've written on mental health, such as "When Madness is Normal: Sanity in the Minds of Animals and the Rise of Divine Persons."