I listened to a podcast from BBC Witness on dissidents declared mad in the Soviet Union.
Apparently, dissidents were routinely diagnosed with sluggish schizophrenia and placed in mental hospitals. The main symptoms? Criticism of the government and interest in political reforms.
What may seem most shocking is that the majority of Soviet psychiatrists apparently believed sluggish schizophrenia to be a real mental illness.
It shows how easy it is to accept the majority view. As a fish in water, we may not even notice it. (It’s always seemed unlikely to me that fish don’t notice the water, but that’s another topic.)
How do we – and I – do the same? Where do we take commonly accepted beliefs on board, sometimes with equally (apparently) severe consequences?
One place we tend to do it is with the most basic beliefs in the stories of I, me, objects and a world. On a more social/political level, we have obvious beliefs around being separate from/superior to/more important than the rest of the Earth. And currently in the western world, we use Muslims as shadow projection objects and scapegoats. There is no lack of people aware of and pointing out these beliefs, so they are not really solid blind spots at a collective level – although many of us have not investigated them thoroughly for ourselves, myself included.
soviet psychiatrists, sluggish schizophrenia, symptoms – critical to the government, interested in reform
accepted by the vast majority of psychiatrists, not questioned
shows how easy it is to accept the majority view, as a fish in water – not noticing the water
how do we (and I) do the same?
whenever take a commonly accepted belief on board, do the same – sometimes with equally severe consequences (including the very basic beliefs of I, me, objects, a world etc.)