Chapter 2

The ‘Mad Artist Syndrome’

2. 1. Society’s Creation

Clearly the meaning of words such as madness depends on their definition. Subjective words like good/bad, right/wrong, normal/abnormal etc. only gain meaning through definition. Society determines what such words mean over a long time by how it understands and uses them.

illustration from handout
Atomic cloud

One could for example argue that the dropping of the two Atom-Bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima was good in some way :they stopped the war and made future generations aware of the dangers and risks involved in the nuclear age. And if we can see good in something so terrible then how can we use words such as good in such a narrow-minded way. Some psychiatrists argue that there is no such thing as madness : people differ, they say, occasionally to the degree where they cannot understand each other and may cause harm to themselves or others. Those who represent the majority in their general behaviour call the minority mad. In truth they are only different. This shows that a word can never be an absolutely reliable truth and thus has to be used carefully. This is of particular importance when it involves judging a person and subsequently treating them accordingly (e.g. defining someone as mad and giving them addictive drugs to 'treat' their condition) . History shows just how mistaken we can be about a person, a religion, a government, etc...

Today at least society struggling to be tolerant of eccentricity and innovation, with some success.

In his book ' Der Dreizehnte Stamm', Arthur Koestler mentions a civilisation which hangs everybody, who shows extraordinary intelligence.

The human race has never been able to tolerate the extraordinary. One way or another we long for explanation and to acquire it we are capable of being totally illogical and blind. Just think of the various religious sects. When we can't comprehend a supposed work of art we tag it 'mad' not because it is but because it helps us deal with this defeat. Surprisingly artists have done little to correct these assumptions .