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For such debilitating illnesses what form of society would be better: traditional, poor and rural or advanced and progressive?

I cryptically describe two scenarios:

Scenario one: The society is traditional, even ritualistic. There are not much visible signs of progress and no large modern monuments. These are villages as well as the slums of every big city in the world. There are insufficient drugs cures, knowledge, and the means to address those insufficiencies. And yet, empathy for the diseased and the disadvantaged are available in good measure. In late 1950s as a young kid I lived in a such society where physically and mentally diseased or deformed people were organic part of the society. We as kids were allowed to make some fun of such people but society saw to it that they came to no harm. Such people had as much, if not more, right for empathy and warmth as any one else in the society and were integral part of the society.

Scenario two: Modern societies where education, research and resources have produced serious insights in the nature of such diseases and have developed cure for some of them.
This is today’s urban society, able and progressive. And yet, today’s society attaches stigma to the aberrations and the deformities. People with such illnesses, most of who would not be as determined, as gifted or as lucky as Ms. Saks, generally die silently without empathy or love. They are never allowed to become organic part of the society; they never end up belonging.

Question is: Which would be better social arrangement and why?

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    Jun 29 2012: Good question Mukesh.

    I have often thought that modern society has been partly responsible for (and indeed the birthplace of) 'mental illness' - or at least the pathologising of conditions that were once considered 'normal'.

    The parameters of what is now considered 'normal' have become very much narrowed, and positioned in a location that is occupied and vastly dominated by economics, politics and the media.

    Elyn Saks proves that an open, empathic environment allows the flourishing of a great mind, despite the uneasy relationship she has with schizophrenia.

    Modern society sees the illness, and ignores the mind's potential. Traditional societies see the mind's potential first, and, I would suspect, regard the condition as being a minor inconvenience for the person (as opposed to an inconvenience to society).
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    Jul 6 2012: I cannot be more specific than to say a supportive and loving environment no matter where you are means people who love you.
  • Jul 3 2012: I think that we need empathy in this society, but our technology would help the people like Ms. Saks, who need to get out of their own heads. And, as Malik said, it seems you prefer the traditional society for it's empathy, which can also, with help and understanding, be brought into the modern society, which also helps severely psychotic individuals get the treatment they need.
  • Jul 2 2012: I feel that you prefere the traditional society because you say it has more empathy.
    I don't really agree. For example in traditional Europe and Africa, people with this debilitating illness could be seen as witchcraft and then they were burned or buried alived. If by chance they had some control on their illness, they could be seen as "medium with the unknown" and in the absence of a strong church they could be respected and helpfull to the traditional society.

    This been said, I don't think modern society is better and I agree with you that Ms. Saks is appealing for more empathy for this society. As she says, many of them are jailed, abandoned and only a few lucky one like in the traditional societies can find a place in the modern society where to fit in.

    So in the end what ever the society what we need is love ;o)
  • Jul 1 2012: Probably a middle ground between the two. I don't want to live in an overly developed society nor one where the quality of life is full of hardship. I still debate about schizophrenia being a social manifestation. Yes, the symptoms are real but there must be more to it than how random it is. The genetic roots of schizophrenia are also debatable.
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    Jul 1 2012: What kind of society?
    A more enlightened society.
    What would be more enlightened?
    A nonjudgmental society.
    See: http://nchoa.net for remedy.
    A society in contact with their inner comforter, that is, a spiritual society.
    Christians that realized that Gee-He's-Us is in all of us.
    Muslims that realized that they all are the 12’Th In-Man.
    Jews that realized they are the entire Messiah to bring peace, not war.
    Buddhist that realized they are Zen Masters.
    Traumatized people that have physical and mental illnesses,
    that realize that they are spiritually equal to everyone, no matter what,
    and the rest of us that get that.
    • Jul 1 2012: There have been experiments where in an experiment the test subject went on increasing the intensity of electric shock to such an extent that the death of the experimental offender would occur. Such experiments show why normal people become cruel, and do something that they generally would not, as in the case of Nazi soldiers at concentration camps for example, or why people lose their empathic core that normally guide their behavior within ethical parameters.
      The point I am trying to make is not that of religion or religiosity but that of empathy, which does exist independent of religious leanings. And is not empathy the main topic of this talk? What Ms. Saks is appealing for or appealing to, after all?
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        Jul 2 2012: Agree that any society that had empathy is what we need, but it is a word some republicans and the righteous hate. IF the people were non judgmental, they would naturally have empathy.
  • Jun 30 2012: Purpose of the question is to consciously think about choices that we end up making. Let me generalize my question.

    The essential question is: solutions to our problems and empathy for our shortcomings, both are necessary. Both the needs are in inversely related to each other. As we move towards Plutocracy empathy is the casualty, and if we remain rustic, knowledge is the casualty. At what point the society should say no to one at the cost of the other? Are we prepared to have a `sterilized tomb’, or the `Brave New World’ in pursuit of efficiency? Or, should the society fail to walk ahead till the last of its members are able to join the rest? These are not the questions that occupy our awareness when we decide on any of the particular issues.

    Moreover, across our lifespan we all have our shortcomings and failures, and not only through debilitating diseases. Such shortcomings are displayed by everyone from children to criminals. Most of us remain most of the time `commoners’. In a Plutocratic model, there is nothing against even ordinariness being sneered at, marginalized and repressed. On the other hand, in traditional societies problems persist and persevere almost endlessly. If we remain aware of the trade-off we would end up making better choices.
  • Jun 29 2012: Just because someone has a college education does not necessarily mean they are a progressive. I think part of considering yourself progressive is the notion that no one is a lesser human being.
  • Jun 29 2012: poor leaves no treatment options

    traditional, aka conservative, would look for an exorcist, shun you, or try to pray the illness away

    Progressive society would accept you for your illness and have therapies based on a desire to progress and advance.

    I think the answer is clear,
    • Jun 29 2012: There is a lack of acceptance in both worlds, actually. I, having come from a rural family but having lived in cities most of my life, have seen little difference in the degree of acceptance from both groups. The largest divergence is, rather, in the way the stigma is communicated.
      My rural relatives have always been very accepting, despite lacking understanding of my condition, but there is also the tendency to hide family members who are disabled (particularly in the case of mental disability) as though they are something shameful.
      I have also been party to conversation after conversation degrading people with mental illnesses by educated, "enlightened" ubanites. Some of my university classmates see the mentally ill as lesser human beings.
      It's not so easily cut and dried.
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    Jun 29 2012: Neither would be desirable, but the education and research one would edge out tradition and ritual - in my opinion. Only an holistic view of humanity, that we are all significant and contributory, that we all may need varying degrees of assitance and reap various amounts of benefit at various times, would be desirable. Burying our head in the sand for 'peace and love' does not help those with infirmities. Give us a cure or offer a hug and we'll take the cure every time. Research and development without accompanying concern and outreach is just as incomplete and impotent. My dear friend, for society to prosper (again, in my opinion), we must begin to see each and every person with high regard. Whether healthy/happy/beautiful or deformed/debilitated/insane we must realize that everyone is us. That way, we have concern and empathy for all concerned with the research and development necessary for progress. Just a thought.