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The Importance Of Empathy

The Importance Of Empathy

When it comes to crime, many have prejudice where they should have understanding. The consequence of this is a social stigma against 'deviant' individuals that is very hard to erase. We often demonise the individual who commits the act, rather than the act itself. As a result the potential for reformation is significantly diminished. For example, if someone steals something of value, they will forever be cast the label of 'Thief' and the fact that they are indeed still a human being will often be overlooked due to that one mistake. The persistence of the 'Once a criminal, always a criminal' mind-set is still evident, and many today still lean towards 'Nature' in the Nature Vs. Nurture debate, seeing deviance as something that is ascribed rather than something that is achieved.

It is important to realise that just because someone was a criminal at one point in time, or even several points, that doesn't mean that they are beyond repair. After all, if criminality is something learnt, can it not be unlearnt? This is why I disagree entirely with Capital Punishment. It is evident from its utilisation in the past in Britain (The Bloody Code established in the 17th century) and in its continued use in the USA today that it doesn't work. The fact is that Capital Punishment only really exists as a form of legitimised revenge. Revenge may be briefly satisfying, however ultimately it condones violence as a fair solution and effectively makes us murderers too.

I personally believe that one of the biggest causes of re-offending is an inappropriate social environment. If someone who commits a crime continues on release to face unrelenting demonisation from society despite the fact that they consider themselves reformed as a person, then chances are they will offend again. A vicious cycle of re-offending is often fuelled only by continued public hatred. With understanding and empathy we negate the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and resultant re-offending that is commonplace today.

Mental Disorders Since Ancient Civilisation

Mental Disorders Since Ancient Civilisation

In our minds life exists in a glass house we build for ourselves because as humans, we try to understand the world and our surroundings. That glass house is reality. Mental disorders have existed ever since mankind has been on Earth. This series of articles is going to explore the human mind’s perception on reality, how it reacts to the world around us, and how our mind interpret life’s challenges. I will look at how we as a society define insanity, how we react towards and cope with it. Who has the power to define a universal reality? What triggers mental instability? What is a normal mind? For that matter does insanity or mental illness really even exist? Can it not just be that one's reality is carved and moulded around a personal outlook on life, therefore no two minds are alike? We all cut out the bits we don’t like and keep those that comfort us, gel with our personality, and conform to our view of morality. This series delves into the history of mental disorders, gazing back at the earliest recorded signs of mental depreciation. How society reacted towards people, friends, and their relatives who suffered from disorders. On the other hand I shall also look at the treatments from the very beginning and how our scientific understanding and medical procedures have evolved over time and into the present. I will also share my thoughts and ideas on rationality coupled with what I would define as illogical mental behaviour.

Many definitions have been put forth and after time through advancements in understanding and studying methods those definitions have become obsolete. The most famous definition of insanity is “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” Although the quote’s origins are fragmented, it is attributed to many different people. But one of the many different definitions from the Oxford dictionary website explains “In a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill”.

The earliest accounts of study of the mentally ill, have been recorded in ancient civilisations such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, China and Christian Western Europe. As I am sure you can imagine, in these premature comprehensive times towards mental disorders the cause of such states were awarded to the lack of spiritualism in the unfortunate person’s mind. Therefore the remedies were preposterous by today’s standards. Ancient Egypt, many believe to be at the time the most advanced off all nations with regards to the medical understanding of human anatomy, had trouble identifying the source of mental health problems. Ebers Papyrus. At the time the Egyptians were able to set broken bones, heal wounds, and triumph in surgical operations. Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, not every solution to a health issue would have permitted a shaman to be called to perform some kind of exorcism on the unfortunate individual. Medical studies were taking place in Ancient Egypt about abnormal behaviour, the Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest medical papers analysing such disorders as Dementia and depression that were present among the Egyptian population at the time of 1550 BC. However the treatment for many different mental illnesses were what sound like a combination of experimental herbal medicinals mixed with magical spells and recitation of holy scripture. The belief at the time as so many other ancient civilisations, was mental illness is caused by demonic possession, or an angry deity. Ancient Greece spawned many great intellectuals, playwrights, philosophers, astronomists, scientists etc. Some of whom delved into the understanding of the human psyche. Playwrights such as Aeschylus and Sophocles of Classical Athens then Homer and Euripides of the Hellenistic Age all who are well known tragedians; claimed that madness is caused by the Gods taking away the person’s mind. They also used characters that were “madmen” in their tragic plays.

Great effort was put into understanding the mind in Ancient Greece, among the most noted for their studies is Socrates (470 BC – 399 BC) who blended a philosophical approach to mental disorders with human understanding. Socrates believed that madness was a divine gift from the God’s, nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore he did not offer any treatment but rather suggested envy of the mentally ill. Which I have to say, I personally do not believe in divine spirits but the encouragement to look at mental disorder enviously is quite curious and refreshing. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) was well ahead of his time in terms of medical applications to the human psyche. He dismissed ideas of supernatural forces being the cause for mental disorders and instead encouraged and practised treatments such as blood letting, exercise, dietetics, and tranquility by surrounding oneself in a quiet environment. He advocated the belief that mental illness was due to natural causes, genetics, head trauma, brain pathology and stress. Hippocrates was first to classify such illnesses as, paranoia, epilepsy, and mania. Ancient Rome approached mental disorders just as thoroughly as the Greeks, whereby a clinical understanding was adopted resulting in psychotherapy treatment.

Galen (AD 129 – c.200) whose parents were Greek, was a Roman physician who supported the thesis that mental disorder is not caused by supernatural forces rather chemical imbalance in the brain caused abnormal behaviour. He evaluated the theory of the four humors (bodily fluids) phlegm representing the brain, blood as for the heart, yellow bile the liver and black bile representing the spleen. Imbalance of any of those could lead to what Galen called Dyscrasia, believed to be the cause of all diseases. An imbalance of these humors invoked temperaments that describe a personality trait therefore changing the mental state of the affected.The temperaments were categorised in four personality types.Those being sanguin, someone who is cheerful and optimistic. Melancholic, someone who is an introvert and can be affected by the tragedy of the world and have depression as a character trait. And Phlegmatic categorising someone who is calm, together, quiet and content with themselves.

Socialism, Communism Lite, The Beginning, My Stance

Socialism, Communism Lite, The Beginning, My Stance

The encouragement of exploration into natural science bestowed upon the new arrivals is among the few good happenings at New Harmony. Discovery about the wildlife encompassing the small village and the involvement of children right from a young age to expand their minds and understanding of the world was a fantastic position took by Owen. Other good qualities of Owen was his rather advanced belief in shunning Marriage and Religion because they were holding back society with their ritual customs and boorish outdated concept. I would go far as to say they are the invisible tethers made by mankind's very own fibres of mind control that keep us from emotionally evolving. I for one do not believe in the need for marriage and I detest the concept of traditional religion. In that regard I hold Owen’s thinking in those areas in high esteem and vastly ahead of his contemporaries at the time. However the warrant of asking for your fair share of food and other goods, right down to clothes at the watering hole that was the central store, is like volunteering to put yourself in a cage and sifting your hands through the bars at a faceless tall overbearing master begging for the necessities of life and living. Oh sure everyone gets a fair share whether or not they went out and worked for it, because everything is everybodies. But if you want anything your mind desires rest assured it will be waiting here for you when you want it, all you have to do is ask was the philosophy Owen took at New Harmony. An oh so common and recognisable trait, of a smiling down upon you big brother/nanny state.

Of course towards the end of the experiment, the work in the land and village was simply not being done. When Robert Owen was on leave, he left his two sons in charge, but to the population of New Harmony this meant there was no authority figure to tell them what to do, and how to do it. Eventually arguing erupted and over time flourished across the land. One can only imagine the turmoil, chiming to the rhythm of “ you do it ” “ no you ” “ its your turn ” “ I don’t see why I should have to…” etc etc. Laziness and a superiority complex was present among the diverse populace, so I can see how the unwillingness to live together sharing responsibilities did play a role in the failure. But these feelings were somehow induced over time, the experiment lasted around 4 years, so something must of snapped towards the end.

The New Harmony experiment has made me ponder in great silence with my eyebrows clinched and tucked down towards my eyes. It all seemed to make sense, the idea had so much going for it. Though the idea of self governance gives the people more control over their living standards, this also comes into direct conflict with the need to be individual and separate from everyone else. In Owen’s reclusive and isolated village, food had to be given out at one's beck and call, no direct access to a necessity that keeps you alive and healthy. Having to rely on the store to give you food almost feels like the queuing order of world war public rationing. The early ideal of socialism also forbodes the ownership of private land, but this also make me feel imprisoned. I cannot have my own little corner, a place for myself to go and close myself off from the world. Take for example our homes today, we all have our furniture, kitchens, and our bedrooms modelled to our own taste, something that is “me”. New Harmony terminated that idea turning every living quarter into a cattle barn. Yes some ideas were fantastic and superiorly ahead of their time, early education for all, equal rights for men and women, abolishment of traditional religion and marriage, all good good things. But the harmonial nature of togetherness and sharing had to be enforced by the socialist doctrine. So in a sense even the ideal needs to be governed and implemented by all members of the society, therefore the people are too busy watching each other and not watching the puppet masters who have enclosed them in the sheep pen. The system of self-governance and a collective moral society experimented in New Harmony collapsed because I think individualism was thought of as selfish and even one might say at the time thought of as leading to the road of oppression and inequality. Thus striving to give up one's personality was not a choice. As Owen said a man’s character cannot be made by him but rather for him or words to that effect. I think thats wrong, yes your surroundings do affect your initial outlook on life, e.g. education, a stable home life, access to plentiful supplies of food and water, technology and science etc. But it crushes ambition and inquisitive questioning of the world. Let someone take in the world with increased knowledge of their surroundings and leave them free to express themselves. If anything the experiment at New Harmony turned out to be the very first human robot farm, encouraging mindless squalor. Eventually self preservation and individual needs could not be suppressed and contained.

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