Mental Illness Chic
Brendan O'Neill has a point:
One of the great media myths of the 21st century is that there's a taboo against talking about mental illness. Please. Then how come I can't open a newspaper or flick through my TV channels or browse social media without seeing someone go into grisly depth, often replete with sad selfies, about his latest bout of mental darkness? Far from taboo, having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It's the latest must-have. You're no one unless you've had a mental episode. And I find this transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory far worse than the old treatment of it as a taboo (which was very bad).
...The problem here is that people are being told it's cool not to be able to cope, to embrace the identity of fragility. They are invited to think of themselves as incapable, to build their personality around being pathetic. That's terrible. The generous reading is that this ultimately expresses society's inability to provide people with a sense of purpose in their lives, with a moral framework for making sense of the world and our place within it, and this gives rise to a situation where people come to understand the problems they face not as social, political or economic, but as psychic. This is true, and it's a very worrying phenomenon. But at the same time, don't people also have choice and autonomy, however diminished these things might now be? Can't they refuse to adopt the mental-illness tag?
Note all those students claiming to be "triggered" by bits of Plato or "The Great Gatsby"? This is part of the whole trend of how it's cool to be mentally weak.
I blogged about this recently: "Suffering Chic: The Longing To Claim Membership In The Victim Class."
Professing victimhood as a way to get attention is a form of "covert narcissism" -- a term I once heard from a professor friend. It describes people who use "Oh, downtrodden me!" and awful things that have befallen them to get others to feel sorry for them, attend to their needs, and generally put the spotlight on them.
There's a whole lot of that going on on campus, with so many students claiming to be traumatized. This being America in 2017, with more comforts and ease for all than at any other time in human history, what is there to be traumatized by?
There are people -- of course -- who have suffered actual trauma. But for the rest, hurt feelz will have to do. This ends up causing students who feel in need of attention and something to be a part of to claim microaggressions and all other manner of bullshit to be injuring them. Deeply, deeply.
Unfortunately, a big taboo is telling these people to snap the fuck out of it.
Merely questioning them -- debating them in the slightest -- can bring down all sorts of hell (and especially, social media hell on a person or a professor). Professors without tenure are especially worried about saying the wrong thing -- which, really, is anything anyone says gives them a case of hurt feelz.
The most shocking example of this is a professor friend -- a white guy -- who greeted his white, Jewish dad, who'd stopped by his class, with "'sup?"
He was accused in a student's email of misappropriating AAVE -- "African American Vernacular English."
Luckily, this went no further.
He didn't feel he could debate this. I can't remember what the outcome was. I hope he didn't apologize.
P.S. Elmore Leonard built a career on "appropriating" "African American Vernacular English," like in the great character of ex-Panther Donnell Lewis. Made his books a fun read.