I’m reading a book written in the mid-1980s. (All will become clear eventually.) The author notes the connection between social madness and personal mental illness. He cites the alarming rise of teen suicides. This was over three decades ago. Suicide rates have continued to climb, and this particular author got me to thinking about something that troubled me even as an undergrad. Although I went to college intending to be a minister, I ranged widely in the subjects I studied. (Being a religion major in those days allowed for quite a bit of flexibility.) I took enough courses in psychology to have minored in it, if I had declared it. Since my mind was set on church work I saw no reason to make said declaration. The thing that troubled me was I had also taken sociology classes.
Like most people who grew up in uneducated households, I suspect, sociology was something I’d never heard about. Asking what it was, in college, someone answered along the lines of “psychology of groups.” My own experience of it was that it involved math and graphs—it was a soft science, after all—and now I read sociologists who say that such numbers can be made to declare what the sociologist wishes. In other words, psychology. The point of all of this is that the book I’m reading suggests societies exhibiting illness cause individuals to be sick. Sociology leads to psychology. In times of national turmoil, individual mental illnesses rise. I had to pause and put the book down. The eighties weren’t a picnic, but the national madness of the Trump era bears no comparison. We are a nation gone mad, and when society can’t project health, the many who stand on the brink of individual mental illness simply get pushed over. That sure makes sense of what I’m seeing.
Looking back, I often think I should’ve probably declared that minor. Raised in a strong biblical environment, however, I wanted to learn as much about the Good Book as possible. I was teaching Greek by my last year in college and in seminary I specialized in the Hebrew Bible. It would’ve been a natural place to continue studying psychology. By that point I’d decided to go on to a doctorate, and psychology required medical training. For a guy as squeamish as me that wasn’t possible. Ancient languages, though, they were something I could handle. It’s rather frightening that those writing at that time already saw America (in the Reagan years, I might add) teetering towards national insanity. We’ve gone far beyond that now. And a society that doesn’t know it’s ill will sacrifice many individuals who realize that it is.