W.C. Fields used to say “you can’t cheat an honest man.” I always took this for an alibi: an attempt by the con artist to deflect blame. Indeed, a clear case of blaming the victim.
But I have recently heard the same thing from a more reliable source; I think Jordan Peterson. Con artists count on the mark consenting to the con. The mark wants to believe something; the con man just gives them what they want. Anyone with a commitment to reality would have seen through the con, and the mark probably does too. Drink this, and all your troubles will go away. Take this gamble, and you can win a million dollars. Rub this on your head, and your hair will grow back. They are buying a pleasant fantasy, if for a few hours or a few years.
The words of Dr. Martin Luther King also come to mind: that nobody can oppress you without your consent. That sounds harsh, but maybe it is true. Con black men into the notion that they are incapable of doing things for themselves, and need to be taken care of. That requires consent. George Orwell saw a large number of black men taking orders from a white overseer in colonial Africa, and wondered in print, “How are they being fooled? How long are these people going to accept this?” But it appeals to indolence. Don’t we all more or less wish we could be taken care of, like a child?
This is not to underestimate the great difficulty for any individual to buck an oppressive system. It never pays to be an “uppity nigger.” But the greatest resistance is likely to come from the fellow oppressed. A black man trying to get ahead is liable to be accused of “acting white.” He’s a sellout.
Or their fellows will turn kapo. It was his fellow black slaves who beat Uncle Tom to death in the famous novel, at the slavemaster’s bidding. (Yet, and tellingly, it is “Uncle Tom” who is remembered as a supposed sellout. Precisely because he wasn’t.)
The truth is, the black man we does right and works hard is making his neighbours look bad. They want their oppression. It absolves them from effort and from moral responsibility.
The same dynamic is at work among the aboriginals/”First Nations.”
Now apply this to mental illness. Because it is all most obvious, and most extreme, here. Early on, Freud realized that mental illness was the result of childhood abuse. However, he, and every analyst before or after who has realized this, found that the patients themselves would resist. They might not deny it, they might agree, they might even point it out, but they would stop coming to analysis. Not a paying proposition. Freud invented the “Oedipus complex” as a more marketable con. The patients did not want reality, and they did not want cure. Freud grew, on these grounds, to feel contempt for his patients. A con man must harden his heart.
Mental illness is in most cases the result of abuse by a narcissistic parent. But the critical form of abuse is not sexual, or physical, but moral. It is being conned into a false sense of reality and morality. The narcissist, by nature, sees themselves as their own god. By extension, they will set themselves up as their children’s god. They will con their children into embracing various falsehoods and immoralities, as con artists do. This is what gods are supposed to be able to do. This asserts their godhood. The children become accomplices, and idolaters.
If anyone tries to break out of this, they become the scapegoat of the others. Being accomplices in their own abuse, all in the family fear the cold light of the real. They cling to the fantasy—to the point of violence or self-harm if necessary.
Fairy tales are our best source on “mental illness”; they were created to advise children on life. Consider Snow White. She is the victim of abuse by a malicious parent. She escapes with her life. The dwarfs, her spiritual guides, warn her not to commune with “strangers.” Three times her abusive mother, “in disguise,” is able to abuse her again, by appealing to her vanity and her sense of being special. By conning her. This models the actions of an abusive parent; and the tendency of the abused child to keep returning to be abused again. Like a misguided moth, drawn back in to the initial fantasy, imagining the parent has “changed.”
Cinderella doesn’t immediately seem to be complicit in her abuse. But read carefully. When she goes to the prince’s ball, dressed to the nines, her sisters do not recognize her. Yet she does not reveal herself to them. Later, at home, she pretends she was not at the ball. Why? What is she hiding, and who is she protecting?
She is protecting the family fantasy, and her own abuse. She must remain Cinderwench, and they are the better daughters. She is more comfortable in this delusion, and so complicit in it. Only later does she gather the courage to reveal herself.
In Rapunzel, her state of abuse is symbolized by being locked in a tower. Yet she could actually leave at any time. The witch, and then the handsome prince, come and go by climbing her tresses. Why could she not escape herself, by cutting her hair, tying it to the windowsill, and climbing down? This is indeed just what the witch does later.
She is complicit in her own captivity, because to give it up she would have to give up the sesnse, cultivated by the witch, her narcissistic parent, that she is special.
Here we see both the cause of, and the cure for, “mental illness.” It must be a wholehearted embrace of objective truth and objective morality. This will require, as Alcoholics Anonymous rightly point out, an examination of conscience and a Frank confrontation with our own guilt.
Mental illness is ultimately a moral issue.
Psychiatry cannot help, because psychiatry rejects morality.