Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The ultimate failure of behavioral psychology as the primary model for treating mental illness and accompanying dysfunction stemmed from the immediate results yielded by chemicals on the brain. Early psychiatry, working hand in hand with behavioral psychology, operated on the premise that drugs (sedatives mostly) would simply mask symptoms of mental illness, then perceived as more controllable by the afflicted. The underlying problems would resurface unless they were either rooted out by psychoanalysis or mollified by changing behavioral habits.

Now, decades after seeing pharmacology failing to address the overall scope of mental illness in society, it seems obvious that there is no one way of treating mental illness. Drug manufacturers continue to study the human brain's chemistry. Not all of this research is ethically motivated, I am sure. However, they are using science to deal with disease. Behavioral psychologists are perhaps more prosperously employed by advertisers than by the medical establishment. This is perhaps related to the neglect of the poor and addicted by the mental health establishment and by government. The vast majority of homeless people are mentally ill, addicted or both.

Looking at the global response to the Syrian crisis reveals to me that world politicians have failed the Syrians in a similar way to members of the medical establishment. For four years the world has watched the decline of a pivotal Middle East country. The response has largely consisted of ranting and school-yard banter between various allied groups. Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been impacted negatively by the conflict. Now the surrounding nations are about to pay a heavy price as well due to mass migration of displaced Syrians.

We are living in a time of basic conflict between ancient models of dealing with oppression, such as revolution and war, and scientific approaches to resolving conflicts and injustice. The main reasons for this conflict are economic disparity and overpopulation. Economic equity cannot be provided for all seven billion human beings with current resources and technology. And it is doubtful that technology will expand as quickly as human population has been expanding.

This does not bode well for the human species, if there is not another form of social advancement outside the current establishment of capitalism and quasi-democracy, fueled by greed, materialism and war. The Syrian diaspora is an exaggerated form of the homelessness that is present in every prosperous city of the world. There is no "better" place to run on a planet which is overrun with our species. It seems to me that it is time for governments to be assiduously funding and applying scientific research on our species itself. How can our species live equitably without violence? This is a worthy pursuit of science. New smartphones, new weapons, social networks and fake food are not the treatments we need for our disease.

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