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Rampages and the Pitfalls of Moralism by David Boos

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Rampages and the Pitfalls of Moralism

"Saturno devorando a su hijo" (Saturn devours his son) (1820-1823), a 146 × 83 cm oil on canvas by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828).

With the increase of terrorist attacks in Europe since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015, the thinking has often been that this problem might be primarily a political one, that could be solved with proper checks and balances of migrants that entered Europe illegally. In recent times, however, more and more perpetrators are diagnosed as mentally ill, which may be an excuse to cover up political motives sometimes, but may also be an increasing indicator that something deeper is amiss in the way our society deals with these problems. A liberal approach to dealing with severe mental illness—treating this population as a minority class who are underprivileged due to social stigmas that need to be overcome—often leads to situations in which patients are not given proper care. Even doctors fear being perceived as authoritarian or infringing on the rights of their patients. It is symptomatic of a moralism that has gotten out of control, the source of which might have deeply rooted psychological reasons in itself.

Between June 8th and June 10th, in a timespan of just over 48 hours, three separate rampages shook the people in Germany. Last month, a man in Berlin drove a car into crowds not once, but twice in Berlin before crashing into a shop window; two days later, a man in Esslingen entered a primary school and stabbed a girl and a counsellor. He turned himself in to the police later. That same day, another man entered a university in Hamm and stabbed several people before being overwhelmed by students.

These attacks cost the lives of at least two people and left many more injured. In all three of these cases, the perpetrators were diagnosed as being mentally ill, two of whom were known to have issues already before running amok. One of them even checked himself into a psychiatric clinic after a suicide attempt, only to discharge himself from hospital hours before running amok. The tragedies that occurred this past weekend, in Denmark on the 3rd and the U.S. on the 4th, tell similar stories: both the Copenhagen and Chicago shooters were known by mental health professionals and had been registered in the mental health system prior to their violent acts.

The fact that these attacks were neither politically nor religiously motivated (explanations we’ve grown accustomed to hearing over the past years), but were caused by severely ill people in need of clinical treatment, came as a surprise to many, especially conservatives. But the fact that conservatives might have falsely assumed political motives behind these attacks is no reason for liberals to gloat. 

What they highlight should be our focus: the absence of security in the public sphere, now massively threatened by both political enemies of Western society and mentally ill people who have become an unpredictable x-factor.

Our politicians have had ample opportunity to practice appearing emotionally shaken in the wake of such tragic incidents over the last years. Whether perpetrators were radicalised islamists, or simply crazy people, is of minor importance. Most public mourning rituals are flexible and universal enough to be used regardless of context.

Take, for example, the reaction of the green mayor of Esslingen, Yalcin Bayraktar, who said in an interview that such acts could ultimately never be completely prevented, and that it was now time to “face the debate and think before implementing blanket bans.” In practice, this usually boils down to a televised ecumenical service, including a 15-second minute of silence, and a few intercessions for Ukraine thrown into the mix. A few weeks later a member of the ruling party might also receive funding to engage in things like “social space analysis.” The problem might neither be understood, nor solved, but who knows, maybe we can at least get a fancy PowerPoint presentation out of it.

Meanwhile, politicians and journalists used the opportunity to try and advance some of their own pet projects, like in the case of Berlin where, following the attack, some politicians suggested 30 km/h speed limits, rebuilding entire cities to be as hostile to cars as possible, and even calling for satellite controlled automatic speed limiters. In short: the usual barrage of left-wing abolitionism that ignores the root of the problem and instead aims to achieve a safe utopia by gradually depriving normal people of their personal freedoms.

However, there are also different voices, such as those of the German psychologist Pauline Schwarz, who, in view of the increasing number of incidents caused by mentally ill people over the last few years, calls out the left-wing anti-psychiatry policy. She sees the fault in terms of basic bigotry: the Left’s aversion to classical authority in education comes from the same anti-authoritarian instinct rooted in the repugnant ways mental illness was treated in days long past, a bias that ultimately inhibits the reliable treatment of severely ill and dangerous people. Preconceived notions that “you cannot simply lock away these people” persist, not only in the overly moralising public opinion, but also among psychology students and professionals.

Schwarz confirms what anybody with common sense would have concluded, that “kind words and caresses” don’t get you very far with these kinds of illnesses. Instead, she stressed that psychiatry has developed remarkably in recent decades, allowing patients to make real progress with appropriate medication. However, this kind of progress requires constant supervision.

She concludes that as a result of decades of liberalism infiltrating every last corner of society, even doctors—who should know better—are not immune to making decisions about whether or not to apply certain treatments based on feelings rather than on clinical experience. The uncomfortable truth is that even modern antipsychotic medication still has severe side-effects that aren’t pretty to witness. Patients become tired, listless, and their personality is suppressed. That leads to situations in which doctors, even when a court order exists, avoid giving patients their medication. In doing so, they risk the well-being of not only their patients, but also of countless innocents, all out of a sense of pity, which leads them to choose short term moral comfort over long term prospects of controlling the illness and the safety of patients and their surroundings alike.

While we should be glad that psychiatry has made such enormous leaps over the past decades—leading to psychiatric hospitals that no longer resemble mental asylums from a 50s horror novel—there are downsides. Security measures have relaxed, and patients have been legally entitled to some ‘fresh air,’ which in urban environments equates to letting them walk the streets hoping they will return. Under these conditions, patients who aren’t supposed to go out still escape regularly, leading to absurd situations in which patients, after having repeatedly escaped, are simply released, as their accommodation is then considered ‘unenforceable.’

Just like the man who discharged himself in Hamm and stabbed several people only hours later, countless other psychotics are allowed to roam the streets because legislators and doctors are afraid to infringe on their rights. What a remarkable contrast to the simultaneous infringement on overall freedom throughout the West. 

It seems that mentally ill people may consider themselves to be part of just another minority group worthy of protection by the state.

The recent slew of deaths is the price we pay as a society, for placing moral comfort over such unpleasant truths. Rather than criticising health-endangering lifestyles propagated by either the LGBTQ-movement (the recent wave of monkeypox cases comes to mind), or the body-positivity movement (that glorifies obesity as long as it comes with a proud message), we have to celebrate these “lifestyles” that are only the tip of the politically correct iceberg. But if we continue down this road, the legitimate desire to include mentally ill people into society might be perverted into just another celebration of dangerous proportions.

None of the three deadly events mentioned above may have been politically or religiously motivated, yet they all were expressions of the ‘new normal’ to which we have become accustomed. 

It is becoming abundantly clear that our society is willing to sacrifice the lives of innocents at the altar of political correctness, only to avoid facing the inconvenient truth that ‘hugs and prayers’ won’t solve practical problems. One may be right to expect evil intent on the part of politicians and activists in the cover-ups of migrant crime (plans for a ‘great replacement’ or tactics of ‘divide and conquer’ come to mind), but the seeming inability to deal responsibly with an increasing number of dangerous psychotics is a sign that the root of the problem may lie deeper. This inability to take responsibility and treat these patients not only with compassion, but also with the rigour they themselves need, is symptomatic for what’s rotten at the core of our society.

Our current culture’s inability, rather than unwillingness, to treat these destructive developments may be a sign of something far more sinister than simply a political agenda. What if what we’re witnessing is actually the irresistible instinctual death drive, the psychological flirtation with the destruction of all the cultural achievements that have made us docile, a state that we subconsciously despise? 

Freud had first described this concept on a psycho-analytical level, and Shafarevich demonstrated impressively how this drive towards all encompassing destruction (ultimately even of oneself) can be found as an underlying current of all socialist movements of the past 2000 years. While it is commonly understood that the destruction of existing structures of the enemy (whether it is the Catholic Church, the monarchy, the bourgeoisie, or the heteronormative white patriarchy), is an integral part of all socialist movements, few understand that the socialist ideal, especially the more ideologically charged it is, is one that ultimately leads to self-destruction. Once the shackles of all civilizational constraints imposed by non-socialist hierarchies are removed, the revolution will inevitably devour its own children.

The ideological need to destroy every semblance of societal structure and hierarchy is what drives a revolutionary. The movement is much more pure in its intentions than mere political opportunism, even if it attracts its fair share of opportunists. Like in a suicidal sect, those infatuated with the death drive of socialism are willing to sacrifice lives and even the foundations of society to feel like they’re getting a step closer towards their envisioned utopia.

Does it come as a surprise then, that such befuddling behaviour coincides with the renewed flourishing of socialist ideologies? Whether found in a blatant movement, such as ‘Extinction Rebellion,’ whose members appear as a cross between mediaeval flagellants and modern-day ravers on party drugs; the LGBT-movement, whose anti-natalist agenda promotes sterile hedonism over healthy procreation; or billionaire socialists and their fantasies of reducing the world’s population, preferably by a virus, famine, war, or simply by ‘efficient management:’ all these and many more movements have long become part of the mainstream and are expressions of a deeply rooted drive towards self-destruction that was allowed to go unchecked after we abolished the divine as a moral guideline.

While doctors working at psychiatric hospitals aren’t necessarily full fledged socialist revolutionaries, it is important to understand that this ideology has not only infiltrated ‘revolutionary circles,’ but has trickled down to large parts of our society, and especially to academia. Decades of subversive reeducation have created people that choose ideological moralism over professional common sense, even if it costs human life. This process is a betrayal of the divine gift, an inversion of desire whose source can be traced back to he-who-will-not-serve. 

When we know the origin of this mindset, the need for total opposition becomes obvious. These rampages won’t be stopped by political means alone, but only by a psychological realignment of society as a whole. It is the psychological attractiveness of socialist ideals that needs to be shattered if we are to garner any hope for change. Most likely though we will still have to decline a lot further before we awake from our slumber as a society.

David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.