Can’t go along with you here.
Certainly we need to accept and embrace diversity, and there is a lot of what society calls “mental illness” that is simply diversity of such things as interest and attention span and interpretation. Agree there.
And there does seem to be something else as well.
I have lost two close friends to suicide, and have stayed beside another as they went through suicidal bouts where their subconscious brain was sending images and thoughts of their lack of value faster than they could generate counters.
At one point I spent 3 hours talking quietly and holding hands between her being able to generate successive words.
In my books, that sort of thing definitely qualifies as illness.
Anything that becomes so compulsive and demanding of attention or activity that it effectively prevents conscious control of action and as such is a threat to safety of self or others has to quality as mental illness. (Patriotism fits this definition. 😉 )
So while I agree that most things currently classified as mental illness are not, it does seem clear in my direct experience that there are categories of situations that definitely are illness.
In exactly analogous sense to having a population of virus or bacteria take over some significant fraction of your body’s capacity is illness – so too is some thought or behaviour over which you have no effective conscious control.
And this can lead into territory that many would find difficult, when one considers the concept of “faith” as an idea that prevents questioning of things that one would otherwise question and poses a risk to self or other as a result. We see it at its most extreme in those who murder in the name of some ideology (religious, political or secular); and it is a serious issue at lower levels also.
Agree, and to me it is much deeper.
Most of what most people accept as cultural norms occurs to me as the taking over of a mind by an idea that is resistant to questioning – like faith or patriotism or any variation of being “right” as distinct from being possible and supportive of life and liberty.
Much of American culture, occurs as such to me, where the founding ideas of a right to life and a right to freedom have morphed into a right to carry guns and kill people, all stemming out of extreme forms of patriotism that are indoctrinated from an early age to be willing to kill anyone who respects a different coloured flag, or reads from a different sort of book or uses a different form of economic or political organisation.
To me our whole global cultural and economic system is using a distorted set of values – based on market values (money) rather than human life and human liberty, and it is little wonder that so many are deeply disturbed by it.
To me, we need to be teaching people to trust their own judgement, and be giving them guidance in building such judgement (encouraging them to question and test everything, even what we tell them – teaching them tools of questioning and testing and the sorts of errors that are common).
Instead most of our education, legal, military and political systems train people to follow leaders, follow rules and procedures without question, and on pain of severe penalty if they actually use intelligence and break a rule that is inappropriate.
Our whole social system is seriously sick!!!