Can We Overcome the Pathology of Normalcy?

It is normal, unfortunately, to see men and women sleeping on sidewalks in Sarasota. We have fallen prey to the same symptoms of civilization that have plagued our species for the last ten thousand years. In a pathology consumed with delusions of imaginary lines which form the disembodied entities of state, country, and capital, it is normal to ignore the obvious suffering of people and environment while continuing to propagate the delusion which causes the suffering.

erich-fromm-615685As Erich Fromm wrote in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, The ‘pathology of normalcy’ rarely deteriorates to graver forms of mental illness because society produces the antidote against such deterioration. When pathological processes become socially patterned, they lose their individual character. On the contrary, the sick individual finds himself at home with all other similarly sick individuals. The whole culture is geared to this kind of pathology and arranged the means to give satisfactions which fit the pathology. The result is that the average individual does not experience the separateness and isolation the fully schizophrenic person feels. He feels at ease among those who suffer from the same deformation, in fact, it is the fully sane person who feels isolated in the insane society – and he may suffer so much from the incapacity to communicate that it is he who may become psychotic.”

Many of the people who live on the streets of Sarasota, as it is with places all over the rest of the globe where the ‘pathology of normalcy’ has spread, merely can’t stomach our insanity of civilization. Many ‘housed’ people deride the unhoused for not wanting to get in step with the system, but I think there is an undying human compulsion to not fit into and conform to the rigidity of civilization, and the borders, hierarchies, dogmas, and governments it has invented. That is not to say that those who live on the streets are the most sane among us, but that we have accepted their existence as normal should give us much more concern over our collective pathology rather than their individual ones.

I find it admirable and hopeful that Sarasota has decided to move forward with plans to care for the mentally ill population that we dis-serviced by the federal government and ensuing states decades ago. Yet I hope we also look more closely at what has compelled us to create such a world in which people sleep on sidewalks below 3 million dollar condominiums. Which insanities do we really need to overcome?

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