Who really are the 'sane' ones?

08 Dec 2015

Those who speak out for a different approach to vital issues, such as how to respond to the threat of IS/DAESH, are quickly labelled as naive by the so-called "realists". But isn't it the "realists" who have run out of ideas? Isn't it the so-called "sane" who are following policies doomed to fail?

Thomas Merton, writing in 1964, had something important to say about realism and sanity. It seems highly relevant to events 51 years later:

"We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

"It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared. What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake.

"In other words, then, we can no longer assume that because a man is "sane" he is therefore in his "right mind". THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF SANITY IN A SOCIETY WHERE SPIRITUAL VALUES HAVE LOST THEIR MEANING IS IN IT SELF MEANINGLESS. A man can be "sane" in the limited sense that he is not impeded by his disordered emotions from acting in a cool, orderly manner, according to the needs and dictates of the social situation in which he finds himself. He can be perfectly "adjusted". God knows, perhaps such people can be perfectly adjusted even in hell itself."