Today the topic of our car discussion was on madness and normalcy. When we call someone else as mad we are assuming that they do not fit into what we decide/define as the normal. So we brand those who do not belong to our idea of normalcy as mad. Just like these days the leading news channels have branded a lot of Indians as anti-nationals because they did not toe the line of the dominant ideology of the nation. We do it every day of our life. We define and categorize people based on the categories we create. When we are in a decision making position our categorization becomes a generalized category and in groups and out groups gets formed. The out groups are generally called by different names and one of them is mad.
The Sociologist Michael Foucault in his book Madness and Civilization critique the concept of madness and normal. He says it is a historically created concept and defined and perpetuated by the ruling class. During the time of Renaissance the mad people were those who possessed a kind of wisdom beyond the human comprehension. During the age of reason this group of people were isolated, made outcasts and incarcerated into prisons or mental asylums. They engaged in a meticulous form of punishment and reward to get them into reason. During the modern period we created separate correction homes or asylums away from homes in order to cure them of their illnesses. We created a science around this normal/mad, reason/unreason aspect of our life.
Am I therefore a normal person? When thinking in my solitude and reflect on the dark side of my being I feel I am an abnormal person who is trying to showcase in front of the world as a normal person. I am putting on a facade. I am acting a role that I am not comfortable. I am doing all these because the society around me expects me to behave in a particular manner. I am being a conformist. The moment I resist being a conformist they brand me as abnormal. The other day someone told me that I am sounding like an anti Indian. During a question answer session Shashi Tharoor told me I am irrational because I believe in left ideology at the age of 40.
Thus what is normal and abnormal or madness and sanity are state of mind defined by certain standards. Outside those definitions these terminologies do not hold. Was John Nash the great mathematician mad? Was Archimedes mad? Was Immanuel Kant mad?
So are you mad?