It has always been the practice of the state to try to undermine or eliminate other bodies and associations that rival it for affection and obedience, primarily the parish, guild, community, and family. The modern unified and ever-present state has developed this power to such an extent that in some cases, we are learning now, it can even undermine the mental health of its citizens.
A new book, The Sleeping Beauties, by neurologist Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan, deals with several “mysterious” illnesses that cannot be readily explained and seem to fall outside the realm of medicine. The titular case involves some 169 adolescent, female Mideast refugees in Sweden. Between 2015 and 2016, all had fallen asleep for months and could not be woken up. They were not in a coma, and brain scans showed that they were apparently normal. Nor were they faking—some even had to be fed by tubes so as not to starve to death. Their only common symptoms were that they all had undergone severe stress while escaping to Europe and had no certainty they would be able to stay.
The book deals with many other similar cases of “sleeping sickness,” plus other odd cases, such as people dying of broken hearts. O’Sullivan eventually concludes that the only way to explain such phenomena is by understanding that the brain can hold immense power over the body. When the brain is faced with great stresses and shocks that no one can understand or treat, it may shut down the body—sometimes forever.
Ultimately, Dr. O’Sullivan concludes that there are too many times when illnesses are treated with pharmaceuticals when they should be understood as the failure of society, of community and family, of religion and spirituality, to provide meaning and comfort to the individual. “When societies lose a shared spirituality and a sense of community and family,” she writes, they deprive those within of the necessary support systems that could provide cures. By understanding illnesses as simply and solely medical problems to be cured by drugs or operations, the wider community is ignored and prevented from providing comfort and a cure.
What she does not go on to say, but what the book vividly demonstrates, is that “spirituality,” “community,” and “family” are in most cases simply not there to act as cures because they have been decimated by the modern state. The role of religion in most societies has been severely curtailed from what it once was—the provision of welfare, for example, once the dominion of the parish, is now taken over by the instruments of the administrative state.
Empowered communities proved so resistant to state power that whole sets of laws and money-strings were created to bring them to heel, and now even local public schools use curricula ultimately approved by national education ministries. Even families have diminished as a social force, in some cases because they are having fewer children (throughout Europe and the U.S.), in others because national welfare systems encourage women to become single mothers, and marriage rates fall year after year, now to the lowest point in history.
The nation-state has triumphed almost everywhere and most decidedly in the developed world. The vision of the progressives—of an “expert”-run, bureaucracy-heavy, border-to-border unrivaled power—has been realized.
Only now we see that it is not really working, and, as in O’Sullivan’s book, we are now seeing why. It is too big, too distant, too clumsy, and too corrupt to take care of its citizens’ real and intimate needs. In the case of the U.S., it’s also too riven with disputes and disagreements. If the left is successful in its attempt to completely remake America into a Europe-style-plus welfare state, we will see more of this writ large, and the social disintegration of the population will be evident everywhere.
America is now a country with regular mass shootings, murder rates on a seemingly inexorable rise, riots without consequences in the streets of a hundred cities, and a celebrity system spotlighting some of the most despicable creatures imaginable. It has record-high levels of addiction and suicide increasing every year, sexual abuse and pedophilia apparently rampant in churches of all sorts and even in secular youth organizations, and a medical establishment incapable of handling a pandemic or finding a treatment or a cure in two years’ time. Its educational system fails to educate children to even a minimal level of competence while instilling propaganda certain to create racial animosity. Its dysfunctional national government has usurped power from every other level of society, unable to satisfy a needful citizenry. Such a country is bound to fail, sooner rather than later.
We can only hope that we will be able to survive its collapse and stitch something new together in its wake.
“Loss,” a sculpture by Jane Mortimer (Unsplash)