Man and mental illness: The Kayne Edition

We’ve heard Kanye say and do some very strange things.  Memes of his “I’m gonna let you finish” stage storming, microphone grabbing antics have circulated on social media for years. He’s been in the press again due to an extraordinary number of Tweets that fluctuate by the minute from arrogant, passive aggressive, thoughtful, and forgiving to enraged hostility. Back stage meltdowns have been recorded and uploaded to the Internet.

There are 2 sides to every story but it’s really difficult to follow any of Kanye’s narratives. Recently he’s complained that he doesn’t have enough funding to take his fashion line to the next level. But his fashion currently consists of very basic, bland active wear that he’s trying to position as luxurious high fashion. I’m no fashionista, but it seems to be about on par with gear you might find at Target. He’d probably have plenty of money if he dropped the prices and sold it at Macy’s. Kanye, call Jessica Simpson’s people and get some solid, strategic advice. I’m not sure how well vanity branding is going to work out based on the current culture anyway. But those are thoughts more aligned with Marketing Monday.

Today is Thoughtful Thursday. My thoughts are on the man’s mental health. Could it be that the world is waking up and beginning to see that what was once considered arrogance masquerading as confidence all in an effort to thinly veil deep insecurity might be mental illness? Does it take us longer to see it because he’s male? Everyone had a field day with Britney Spears until shortly after she shaved her head. “Whoa. She’s ruining her BEAUTY. She MUST be sick. That’s not funny! That’s the sum total of her value as a human being right there: her beauty. Now we know it’s serious; It’s a true cry for help!”  There was a similar pattern with Amanda Bynes. It may be that the “weaker sex” has always been cast as the more emotional one with the mushy mind that might just go sour so we can move toward pity or empathy faster. (disclaimer: the weaker sex and beauty-is-everything ideas are expressed as satire)

Fragility as power? How's that working out for us?

Using fragility as power perpetuates many false beliefs. Please stop. Mental Health is a real thing that can affect anyone and doesn’t make them weak.

Maybe there’s more stigmatization about mental health issues for men? Maybe the only acceptable form of mental breakdown for a man is when it results in violence? “Oh wow. He went on a rampage with a gun. That man is mentally unstable!” Does a man have to hurt others before he can get help or even sympathy? Actually, I don’t think we extend sympathy to men with mental illness. We tend to pigeon-hole them as  tragically “weak minded or spirited”  if the mental illness results in drug overdose or suicide. If the illness gets to the point where they take the lives of others, we tend to become angry and act as a virtual lynch mob demanding justice. That doesn’t leave a lot of space in our hearts and minds to support the male population suffering from mental health problems.

Am I saying we have to watch every criticism and say nothing in case we might offend someone? No, but I do think our knee-jerk reactions and societal “norms” are thought provoking and worth examination. It’s interesting that many believe humor has to come at the expense of another person. Ask yourself why someone else should pay an emotional tax for you to earn a laugh? Yes people do funny things. Sometimes it is tempting to punish or shame someone who has an ego that’s breaking the boundaries of good taste. You might be thinking, “But what about those real wackos? Are we to get soft on murderers and hand out passes because everyone is mentally ill now?” (Of course, you wouldn’t be thinking it in precisely that way. You are far too politically correct to think of calling someone a wacko.) To answer the imaginary question, No. Although we probably should consider why so many people are struggling with mental health (Is it environmental? Spiritual? Something Else?) and what we can do to rectify that horrible situation. (Reducing the stigmatization might be a good start!)  We might want to inquire what is behind this cultural shift because the use of pharmaceutical treatments for these issues has increased at an alarming rate.

I don’t think, as a culture, that we enjoy thinking. We don’t seem to ask the right questions. Rather than fixate on how soft we should be on negative behaviors, could we contemplate how hard we need to be on everyone all of the time? Is there some sort of medium? We might inspect the social inequality with regard to mental illness. Men and women are different by design. However, we don’t have to dispense our kindness in amounts that vary based on the gender of the recipient. If Kindness came in a tube, the directions might say “Apply liberally to affected area. Repeat.” I don’t think you can go wrong applying kindness to everyone, including the wounded.

As for Kanye, at this point, I feel sorry for the man. He seems to be in great distress. It is shameful that the public out-cry isn’t to encourage him to seek professional help to assist him with the management of his emotional impulses. It is embarrassing that we are being entertained and mocking him. Do we take joy when the person with cancer wastes away before our very eyes? Is that entertaining? Are they demonized because of it? In the distant past, someone with sores that wouldn’t heal, a change in skin tone, weak limbs who mumbled distressing things would be cast out of the village due to fear and ignorance. That person would be looked at with disgust and left to rot. We live in an age when we’re so sure we know everything. We look back at the social injustices, shake our heads in dismay, and think the people were so unenlightened. History makes it seem like people who lived as recently as 100 years ago were barely a step above the knuckle-dragging cave dweller who gets excited when he makes fire. Modern mankind can broadcast opinions far and wide with the click of a button or a slightly warm touch to a glowing screen. (Could it get ANY easier?!) We are so advanced, yet we use so little of what we have to help others. In all of our wisdom, we have de-humanized others and even ourselves, leaving a shortage of compassion in our world.

Or not. *shrug* Maybe my medication isn’t working. Happy Thursday, everyone!

P.S. Who will help Beyonce?! *wink*

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