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Combatting Political Mental Illness

I have a mental illness.

So as to not get any reader’s alarm bells ringing, I need to clarify two things: First, I am mostly recovered from this illness. Second, my mental illness was a walk-in-the-park compared to what other people have had to deal with. But nonetheless, I have a mental illness.

I won’t get into a lot of details, but my mental illness started with puberty, and I carried it for the next 30 years. In all that time, I gave the world the impression that I was a well-balanced person. I was competent in the workplace. I was full of the good life with friends and fun activities. And during all this time, I thought I was the epitome of well being—and mental illnesses belonged to other people.

Then a confluence of serendipitous events in my life made me realize that I was not whole and needed some work done on myself. I found a good counselor who helped me sort out the bad parts my life. Then I did some thinking and reading.

About a year after those counseling sessions, I had an interesting sensation: I was a lot happier than I used to be. You see, I had been suffering from a mild, continual depression in all those 30 years—and that depression would not let me see a higher level of happiness.

I have to say “mostly recovered.” I don’t think one ever fully recovers from life trauma, but we can get better, even a lot better. I still have the occasional depression. But now I can recognize when I’m in a dark mood. And just knowing that usually brings me out of my funk in a few hours.

And I am cautious. Because I spent 30 years believing I was happy when I wasn’t, I’m open to the idea that there might be a higher level of happiness that I can’t reach just yet. There may be more serendipitous events to help me move higher.

Here’s the strange thing. In all those 30 years of depression, if a friend ever recommended to me that I should seek some professional help, I would have spurned that advice quite quickly. I think my friends knew better than to make such a suggestion.

Ten years after my recovery, I had another life trauma that put me into a dark place. But rather than try to think myself through this moody time and come up with a not-so-ideal solution, I got some outside help. I booked some time with the same counseling firm that aided my recovery.

Counselors really know how to ask good questions and have different perspectives. This counselor gave me a different way to look at my problem, which turned out to be very useful. But most importantly, I deliberately sought him out. That says something about my current mental state.

What I’m trying to say is:

People with mental illness often do not take advice on how to deal with their mental illness.

There are a few people in my life who are driving their car of life in the ditch rather than on the pavement. Being down in the ditch, they just can’t see the pavement. While they go slower in the ditch and often bump into things thrown into the ditch, they still congratulate themselves on being such good drivers. My experience is that it is almost pointless for me to suggest to them that there is a nice smooth highway not too far away from where they are currently driving. Their life can be better with some professional help. But they are in the same state of mind as I used to be in. I understand why they won’t take my suggestion.

Mental Illness and Politics

I occasionally check the American news to see what is happening politically south of the border. CNN has been conducting an interesting experiment by sending reporters into the heart of Trumpland to talk to ardent Trump supporters, who seem to be just ordinary folk. Maybe we should commend CNN for bravely putting their reporters in this position so that some Americans can learn about other Americans. Maybe if we could just understand each other, right?

The CNN reporters skillfully and tactfully ask questions we would all like to ask. But the answers that come back leave us shaking our heads. “How could they really believe that stuff?” Which then leads our thoughts to “That person must have a mental illness of some kind.” And “there’s another 74 million of them.”

Let’s suggest to these people: “Hey, your thinking is not that straight. You should seek some professional help for mental illness!” Well, we know where that suggestion is going to go, don’t we?

After my recovery, I would replay certain life decisions I had made in my 30 years of depression. I can now easily see how my depression clouded my judgment and led to less-than-ideal decisions. Relationships suffered, career suffered, business suffered. Had I been a more whole person in those times, there would have been better decisions. There would have been a happier and more productive life. There would have been a lot less “driving in the ditch.” I wonder if I still might have one wheel in this ditch.

So yes, when I watch the CNN interviews of Trump supporters, I first see “idiots.” Then I have to consciously move myself to an understanding that they just can’t see a better way because their mental health is clouding their judgment. Something made them this way. A significant contributing factor could be the adversarial politics as overly ambitious people are seeking more status, influence, and power. The stuff we watch on TV or click on the internet does alter our psyche!

If we continue to see the CNN interviewees as idiots who are voting for the wrong politicians, thus ruining the USA, then the only purpose of these CNN interviews is for CNN to retain its loyal audience who wants to feel superior.

Or we can see the CNN interviews as an education. The interviewees are not unlike us. They are holding on to jobs; they are raising families; they have friends and hobbies: they are reasonably functional people. Yet something happened to them to give them such errant thinking. If it can happen to them, it can also happen to us. We, too, just might have a different kind of errant thinking. We have to be open to the possibility that we just might not be fully whole in mind and spirit as well.

A Tale of Two Mental Illnesses

Let’s imagine this conversation between me at 28 years old and a good friend.

Friend: “Dave, you seem to be in a funky mood all the time.

Me: “I’m alright. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I have a business. I’m changing the world by being active in politics. I’m at the top of my world.”

Friend: “Really? Last week, you said your business could only pay you $20,000 a year. This salary has been going on for three years.”

Me: “That will change soon. I’m going to be rich.”

Friend: “I think you need a girlfriend.”

Me: “I’ll start looking when I’m making more money.”

Can you see the mental illness here?

Here’s another conversation between me and a Medium contributor:

Medium Contributor: “I don’t like Donald Trump. He is just a greedy businessman. He should have never been President. He was the worst President ever. I will work to defeat him in the next election. I’m going to write more Medium articles about him.”

Me: “I have developed an alternative democracy where people like Mr. Trump would not rise very high in politics.”

Medium Contributor: “That’s impossible.”

Can you see the mental illness here?

Some of you are saying, “Yep, I sure can. After 24 years, this Dave fellow is still working on his TDG project when no one else is interested in it. Now he is using guilt tactics to get us to buy his book. He must know this approach won’t work. The man must be insane.”

People with mental illnesses tend to rationalize their bad decisions. So I say to my detractors: “I spend less money on my TDG than you do golfing all summer.” Ha! Right?

About 10 years ago, I stopped mentioning my TDG to family, friends, and acquaintances. I got tired of seeing eyeballs turning inside out. The people closest to me think I’m crazy for trying to change politics as we know it. Maybe I am crazy.

But what about you?

The Message of Dave

I have been on Medium for 27 months. I have put up 175 articles and 4528 responses. Many of these are related to my alternative system of Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG). I’m pretty sure I have engaged at least 1000 Medium people with this idea. And at least 50 times, I have had a Medium conversation similar to the one above.

In other words, I have been offering a solution to Medium contributors that might alleviate all their Donald Trump problems. All have spurned this offer outright. Just like many mentally ill people spurning any help to make them better.

These very same Medium contributors can easily see the mental illness inherent with Donald Trump supporters, but they can’t see it in themselves.

So I just have to ask:

What had happened in your past that you can justify refusing to investigate this new way of democracy?

I am not a popular writer on Medium. For 27 months, I have been calling on Medium contributors to change their thinking on politics and governance. But they can’t investigate, which then becomes a subtle call on their state of mental illness. People who are mentally ill don’t like being called mentally ill, even in a subtle way. No wonder I am not popular.

For sure, this particular article is my most direct call for the mental illness within the left wing of politics. I would say three-quarters of this article’s readers walked away a few paragraphs ago. People who are mentally ill don’t like being called mentally ill, especially in a direct way.

Perhaps the worst kinds of mental illnesses are those minor mental illnesses—like I have. It is so easy to pretend that there really is no mental illness, especially when we surround ourselves with people who think like us. We all can’t be mentally sick, can we?

But multiply those small, unaddressed, political mental illnesses by 100 million people or 200 million people or 300 million people, then the USA is one mentally sick nation—both the political left as well as the right are afflicted. Then let’s extrapolate this state of mental illness to the rest of the world. This is not good, is it?

Something made us mentally ill politically. Yet someone has to break the cycle of political mental illness.

I believe building the TDG will be a tool to help other citizens to show a new way of governance is indeed possible rather than that political ditch we all seem to be driving through these days. In doing so, we will advance politics—and the world.

So, for the one-quarter readers remaining, what is your next move? All I am asking is three hours of your time to investigate my ideas. Those three hours could change your perspective of future politics—and help move the world into a better place.

Isn’t that what we all want?

Or is it more important to still deny your political mental illness?

Published on Medium 2021

The Nation is Too Sick

Life Inside a Political Party