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the lunatic infringement
a world gone mad
by mike julianelle

The crazies used to be so easily identifiable.

The guy walking down the street, gesticulating wildly, mumbling and yelling to himself? Not quite right.

The guy that can’t stop talking about Jesus and thinks he's doing God’s will by sacrificing bunches of people? Looney tunes.

The groups who obsess over fictional worlds, agonizing over minutiae and arguing about non-existent realities? Mentally unbalanced.

In simpler times it took about two seconds to figure out. Giving the guy that's talking to himself a nice wide berth was a good idea; declining the religious fanatic's kool-aid offer was good policy; and avoiding membership in any currently-Dungeons-and-Dragons-but-soon-to-be-Satan-worshipping clubs was a solid strategy.

Nowadays it's much more complicated. The line between unstable wackos and everyday joes has been blurred to the point of confusion.

That nutcase on the street talking to himself? He’s actually just talking to someone via one of those tiny earbud cellphones. The Jesus freak at the pulpit? That’s the Leader of the Free World. The group of pale-skinned clowns speculating excitedly about what’s gonna happen to their favorite characters? Merely harmless “Lost” fans.

Crazy is the new sane.

Thanks to advances in technology all of us have become just a little bit nuts. We are the people our parents warned us about. And so are our parents.

The internet allows people to form communities without ever seeing each other’s faces or hearing each other’s voices. Text messaging and email allows us all to avoid seeing the sun yet still interact with our friends from the comfortable isolation of our homes. Cell phones make sure we are always in contact with everyone we know just so we can be sure to avoid them at all costs.

I remember a time when computer nerds were mocked and humiliated on a daily basis. Now their expertise not only makes them rich, it makes them invaluable to the rest of us. We all have a computer nerd in our stable of acquaintances, someone to turn to to keep our own personal networks of technology operating so we can download the latest albums and tv shows and movies.

I remember when groups of people that obsessed over things like comic books, science fiction and fantasy were targets for spitballs and wedgies. Now movies based on superheroes and gay hobbits win awards and make millions at the box office. And science fiction TV shows are the hot water-cooler topics at work and cause even the resident sports junkie to speculate on whether Sun cheated on Jin and if Walt's psychic and if it’s all a dream or maybe a hallucination and do the writers have a plan and no they don't and that's why NOTHING EVER HAPPENS EVER EVER EVER EVER! ARGH!

The world has gone all topsy-turvy. It’s harder and harder to tell who’s crazy and who isn’t. As technology makes cultish and sometimes antisocial behavior a hell of a lot easier to do, those things become mainstream and subsequently more acceptable. The guy taking classes at home? Normal now. The kid who makes weird movies to post online? The next Speilberg. The group of guys who play Halo and Madden against some clown across the country? Half the college students in America. The pathetic bachelor who scores a girlfriend through a website before ever seeing her face to face? Me.

The strange paradox is that while craziness becomes harder and harder to differentiate from normalcy, the powers that be have become ever-more-vigilant about snuffing potential lunacy out before it explodes. The problem is, it’s just plain impossible to predict that stuff anymore. About the only guidepost that remains reliable is the whole "if you killed and tortured of animals as a kid, something’s fishy." But even that’s not infallible; I did that all the time and I turned out perfectly fine.

But in a post-9/11, post-Columbine world, the need to identify a psycho before he goes off is more pronounced than ever. And since the line is so blurred, such hysteria leads to the situation we have here today: instead of craziness becoming normal, normal people become crazy.

A few months ago some guy on a plane started yelling stuff and causing a ruckus, so the marshals shot him. Turned out he merely a manic depressive who was off his meds. But he could’ve been a terrorist.

A First Grader gets suspended for sexually harrassing a classmate. He could be a budding rapist. Or else maybe he's a totally normal kid who honestly had no idea there was a pubic hair on his Coke.

Kids keep getting in trouble at schools for coloring or spiking their hair and wearing frayed shirts. They are clearly gang members. And those pesky, black-wearing Goths? Obviously zombie-vampires! STAKE THEM NOW!

Back in the day, no one quite liked those mullet-headed heavy metal freaks or the goths or the computer nerds, but no one (except the jocks) treated them like enemies of the state.

We've entered a strange time where stuff that used to be abnormal has become just a part of everyone's everyday life, yet has simultaneously drawn the suspicion of an increasingly hysterical culture.

Everybody's crazy, and everybody's a suspect. At the rate this is going, there aren't gonna be any weirdos left to be afraid of. We'll all be in jail.


Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

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dan gonzalez
4.12.06 @ 12:44a

Good rip man, the only drawback is that you over-simplify some very significant concepts without ever going back and properly vetting them.

Life ain't even anywhere close to what you or I think it is.

I mean, you and I have both demonstrated that we're willing to play that game, but neither of us has ever said "here's why!".

robert melos
4.12.06 @ 3:36a

I admit I talk to myself. Yeah, sometimes there's a cell phone, and more often than not there isn't. And yes, everyone is a suspect.

Now as to why I "play the game?" I hate games. I don't like to play any type of game. And even though I think of suicide every day and have for years the reason I don't do it is because I know, no matter how bad today is, tomorrow is another day.

I will say that my faith as a Pagan, or Wiccan if you will, has a lot to do with my being centered enough to accept the fact that life is what it is. Today is bad, tomorrow might be equally as bad, but it also might be a different kind of bad or actually might be good.

So what if people are a little crazy? So what if it all falls apart? There's always something new, even in the devastation there is something to rebuild on, or grab on to, hold on to, so the alternative of Summerland or perhaps nothingness isn't as appealing as seeing what tomorrow will bring.

I'll still be talking to myself.

lisa r
4.12.06 @ 10:09a

I talk to myself on occasion. Heck, sometimes it's the only way to be sure I'm conversing with someone intelligent. But mostly it's just thinking out loud. Thoughts can be like a Shakespeare play--sometimes they're more comprehensible when you hear them than when you just think them.

tracey kelley
4.12.06 @ 10:59a

Precise observations on what's "normal" now...

...isn't this what we've been aiming for all along, or have we pushed the extreme envelope too far? I mean, when Furries start showing up at the wine festival, I don't know what I'll do.

russ carr
4.12.06 @ 11:12a

A corkscrew in the eye sounds like a good start.

mike julianelle
4.12.06 @ 12:40p

Life ain't even anywhere close to what you or I think it is.

Okay Morpheus.

fred goodridge
4.13.06 @ 9:52a

"Life is a long preparation for something that never happens."

William Butler Yeats

mike julianelle
4.13.06 @ 11:30a

That quote is both awesome and depressingly accurate.

robert melos
4.13.06 @ 9:12p

Personally I think that quote advises us to lower our expectations.

sandra thompson
4.22.06 @ 6:55p

This is just what Christopher Titus was talking about in "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding, and the "Titus" TV show. 63% of families are now officially dysfunctional. That means the WE are now the majority. I've always been one of the people your parents warned you about, but I don't talk to myself: I talk to my computer. Whether it's with me or not, that's who I am addressing. His name is Bradley and I'm convinced that he's alive and supervises all those elves which make everything work right. When I was on chemo and the steroids they put in the IV drip for nausea were making me completely jittery crazy and I was a complete motormouth I talked to the dawg and the cats. They don't respond to my brilliant rhetorical questions but they're good listeners.

Take this as a moral of all these stories: if ten randomly selected people are sent for psychiatric evaluations all ten will get a diagnosis. We're all crazy. At least a little. It might be very very boring if we weren't.

jael mchenry
4.24.06 @ 9:18a

I think overdiagnosis is a whole 'nother can of worms -- I'm all for removing the stigma of mental illness, and people with disorders should get treatment if they want it, but I just hate the idea that EVERYTHING is a disorder now.

tracey kelley
4.24.06 @ 3:42p

So you have Disorder Disorder?

jael mchenry
4.24.06 @ 5:35p

I have ADS, anti-disorder syndrome.

mike julianelle
4.25.06 @ 9:21a

This latest conversation is a bit off my topic, but let's see what I can do...

I also despise the whole Disorder Culture. Back in my day if a kid was a spaz you stopped giving him sugar, you didn't create a disorder that gave him license to act up. But these diagnoses are so rampant these days that it's more ABNORMAL to BE NORMAL. Our whole culture has become a mad house!

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