Last generation

The cops have killed the man who took hostages at Discovery Channel, and the author of the book that “inspired” him has already denied his interpretation of the same. A psychiatrist has tried to explain the event in terms of mental illness, and recommends forced commitment before loonies commit crimes; keep the streets safe for “normal” people, you know-

Fighting mental illness that leads to violence requires resources to ferret out those who have lost the ability to reason and are incompetent. In these tough times, we will face increasing numbers of such people.
We had better deploy each in proper measure at the right times or we will suffer, needlessly.

My guess is that James Lee had become hostage to a psychiatric disorder long before he took hostages. He should have been under enforced psychiatric care—perhaps as an outpatient taking required anti-psychotic medications—right from the moment he stood trial in a court of law last year. His brother-in-law should have been (but I’m not so sure he was) in touch with a psychiatrist at a local E.R. and the local police to report his concerns that Lee could kill someone.

Classifying a non-mainstream political belief, or actions taken to bring it to fruition, as a mental illness is a dangerous game (you ought to read Szasz on this); I guess no one would call a bank robber mentally ill if he thought that taking hostages at a bank and forcing the safe open was an acceptable risk when it came to making money. But I am digressing.

If Lee had published his manifesto as a book, he would be Obama’s “science czar”; if he had written an article, it would have been an op-ed. If he had been a philosopher, NYT would have invited him to write on The Stone (Opinionator)

Is a world with people in it better than one without? Put aside what we do to other species — that’s a different issue. Let’s assume that the choice is between a world like ours and one with no sentient beings in it at all. And assume, too — here we have to get fictitious, as philosophers often do — that if we choose to bring about the world with no sentient beings at all, everyone will agree to do that. No one’s rights will be violated — at least, not the rights of any existing people. Can non-existent people have a right to come into existence?

Call yourself a philosopher and you could write just about anything without being called insane (in a non-colloquial sense of course).

Talk about bad career choices.

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Comments

  • Slamdunk  On September 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    “If Lee had published his manifesto as a book, he would be Obama’s ‘science czar’; if he had written an article, it would have been an op-ed.”

    Great line. Interesting to see the coverage on this story by the networks.

  • Abhishek  On September 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Agree with you completely, and its an issue I have strong feelings about. Mental illness has always been a preferred excuse for the government (or the majority) to persecute those who deviate from the norm. It used to be homosexuality 50 years ago, today it is spending too much time on the internet.

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