How I dislike the phrase “mental health”. In its benign form it has a pastel, slightly perfumed air about it — something and nothing, as we say. Add the word “problem” and it becomes a spitting mass of contradictions and false positives.
Thanks to new American proposals, “psychosis” is set to become the badge of choice for mental health problems and perceived deviations from “normal” behaviour.
I once wrote an article on the mystical experiences of a few famed saints of the Church. “Hmm,” said an expert, “it’s probably bi-polar disorder.”
Nothing is allowed to exist beyond the current orthodoxy.
Descartes’s I think, therefore I am is a genuine symptom of psychosis because it locks us into random processes of brain activity. This extreme narrowing of experience is a prison cell for the mind, a place where the rest of existence is “other” and therefore threatening. It is characteristic of bullies, dictators, and authoritarians (who think they are always right) and scientism, which restricts all experience to pathways defined by blind intellect.
Only the narrow-minded could classify most human behaviour as illness.
We British should stop listening to American and European narrowlogues and revisit our famed tolerance of quirk, difference and benign oddity. That’s what made our predecessors such good inventors — and among the freest people on earth.
Apart from Boris, where have all the English eccentrics gone?
History teaching is rightly back in the educational spotlight under the new Coalition Government. Schools’ chief Michael Gove is determined to bring back rigorous teaching standards, including a detailed treatment of narrative history.
Pupils need to be able to position themselves in time and space. History gives them temporal awareness of their place in the scheme of things. Labour neglected the subject, appearing to believe that historical accuracy would turn students into Tories. They were probably right.
In my school, I was regarded as a whizz on the French Revolution. I was able to field questions that even the history master couldn’t answer in detail. What was my secret?
I hadn’t then read Edmund Burke’s famous work on the subject, nor yet Carlyle’s. Even Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities was a pleasure for the future.
The source of my devilish knowledge were the novels of Dennis Wheatley, who also wrote extensively on occultism. Anyone who has read the swashbuckling tales of one Roger Brooke, a fictional Englishman who spent the entire period in revolutionary France, will have a sound grasp of that important slice of French, and British, history.
I was lucky to live close to one of the last of the private libraries. It kept every book it had ever possessed, so was a treasure store of old fiction. I lapped it up in huge gulps.
My main point is that fiction can be an effective way of introducing youngsters to historical narrative. I happen to know that Michael Gove is a fan of Dennis Wheatley — who incidentally worked with Winston Churchill during the war.
Might we soon see the old boy back in favour in English classrooms?
Ever since I set up this website, Syntagma, along with Syntagma Media in 2005, I’ve regretted having to use syntagmamedia.com instead of a plain syntagma domain.
All things come to him who waits. The new .co domain suffix, which arrived on July 20, presents a clean sheet for those of us with impure business domain names.
As well as nabbing johnevans.co (a triumph, I assure you), I’ve managed to secure syntagma.co. The “co” signifies “company”, so is a dignified top-level alternative to .com, and is not local like .co.uk.
The present Syntagma site will remain on syntagmamedia.com for familiarity’s sake.
That vanity of vanities, a website in one’s own name, in this case John Evans (dot co) now exists: John Evans’s personal website.
I may yet regret this.
Annoyment of the Week
I haven’t really been annoyed by anything this week. A Conservative Government, albeit a tad diluted, is a serene experience for most of us.
Even Dave’s brutalist approach to diplomacy gives a front-foot feel to the new politics.
Does it get any better than this? When a chap can’t get steamed up about politics, might he be tired of life?
Now I’m starting to talk myself into artificial annoyments. I shall desist and bid you all peace and goodwill.
Germanic sense is beginning to overcome French pursuit of glory.
Wilhelm Nolling, one of five German professors challenging the legality of the European Union’s response to the financial and economic crises, is predicting social unrest.
“A transfer union [money flowing from rich countries to poorer ones] will destroy the social peace in Europe”, he said. “We need to form a new heart of the euro: France, Germany, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands. All the other states should be given their freedom back. That would give them a real opportunity to increase their competitiveness through currency devaluations.”
Just two years ago such sentiments were unthinkable. Now they are commonplace.
The shine has come off the EU and the eurozone. How soon before this absurd political confection is holed beneath the waterline?
Pics of the Week
The pictures show the Cathedral Green in Exeter 10 days apart. The first was shot on the 12th of July, the other on the 22nd.
What a difference a splash of rain makes.
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