0203 - Credible threats - 2021.08.23



There are three overlapping terms in the English language that are often treated as synonyms, but have their own crucially distinct meanings: "mental illness", "insanity", and "madness".

Mental illness, as the name suggests, is analogous to physical illness, but mental. Mental illnesses are usually able to be specifically diagnosed with names like "PTSD", "ADHD", or "phobia". Some are like a broken leg, and, with proper treatment, can be healed in time. Some are more like an amputated leg, and regardless of how much therapy is applied, will simply have to be accomodated with artificial help going forward. Still others are like colour-blindness - you're born with it, and depending on circumstance, may have to disclose your condition to others so that they can take it into account.

Mental illness can explain bad actions, but not excuse them. A bad guy in a movie may display symptoms of mental illness to be scary, in much the same way that they may have horrific physical deformities, but in real life, people who suffer from mental illness are far more likely to be victims of discrimination, neglect, and violence than their neurotypical counterparts. Just as I believe that people should be (and, in the future, will be) entitled to physical medical care, mental health resources should be equally plentiful and frictionless.

Insanity is not a medical term, but a legal one. A verdict of "insanity" indicates that someone cannot reasonably be held responsible for their actions, and cannot function normally in society or be trusted to make decisions about their own well-being or the well-being of others. This is why "temporary insanity" due to grief or fear or rage is a thing - someone in the throes of passion after witnessing their child being abused or their spouse cheating is not in a mindset where they could reasonably make practical decisions.

It is worth noting that not only do you not need a diagnosis of mental illness to be insane - you don't even need to be wrong. If I believe that aliens probed my butt and I need to wear a tinfoil hat to block their mind control and that my neighbours are evil clones, these beliefs would make me unable to behave normally in society even if they happen to be true.

Madness is what happens when someone acts based on something other than logic, when they give themselves over to some overriding emotion. Madness can manifest in response to religious ecstasy, or musical bliss, or sports triumph, or mob outrage, or capricious illogical whimsy, or even a particularly lucrative mattress sale. When the voice in your head of practicality, empathy, and reason is ignored or suppressed in favour of something else, you have gone mad.

Back when I drew Leftover Soup, I drew Max's eyes in a different, more toony style than the other members of the cast, and I told everyone that this was to indicate madness. My use of that term was deliberate, and should not be confused with her mental illness (which she canonically had, and treated with therapy and medication as a responsible person should), or her insanity (which she did not have, as she remained a responsible adult member of society who could reasonably be expected to follow laws and practice safer, more ethical forms of hedonism).

Lee is, canonically, neither mentally ill nor insane. After all, magic future-tech has eliminated the possibility of depression, and Doc has officially diagnosed them as sane. Lee is, however, mad, and that is important.


0203- 2167/07/06/16:51 - Lee's apartment, living room.
Doc: Okay, Lee, let's give it a few more seconds, in and out, and when you're calm, we can talk about what just happened.
LC (agitated): No. No! Doc, to quote Caleb, fuck you!
Zoa: Neither of those are accurate quotes, you know...
LC: I rely on you to mold me into a normal, sane, happy person who can interact normally in society. And... and you let this happen? Years go by, and you never once inform me that soldiers don't kill people?
Doc: Lee, I handle emotional well-being, not education. We've never discussed modern bloodless attrition war or Operation Slit Throat or the Johannesburg Accords, so pardon me for presuming that you had a fucking high school education!
LC: Would you fucking stop with the "fucking" all the time? You don't even have anything to fuck with! It doesn't mean anything!
Doc: It means fucking sit down and fucking breathe and we can fucking talk about this!
LC: Or what? You're gonna grab me with your arms, and push me down?
Doc: If you're a danger to yourself or others? I could order Zoa to do it.
Zoa: Whoooa, let's leave me out of this.
LC: Or hey, why don't you just have me full-on declared insane, huh? Call in the service workers with the body-arresters and the padded coats, get them to toss me in a managed home with the white walls and the concrete cells and the... and the ferns!
Zoa: Somehow, I don't think soldiers are the only things you've only learned about from pop culture...
Doc: I can't have you declared insane, Lee, because you're not insane. You're angry, you're hurt, you're confused, but you are not, technically, insane. Over the years, you've gotten very good at technically not being insane.
Doc: But if my presence truly is hurting, rather than helping, your mental well-being... I can delete myself, with or without your say-so.
LC: Oh, so I can't ever threaten suicide, but you can, huh?
Doc: Yeah, Lee, I fucking can. Because I'm not a fucking human being, and when two things are different, they can do different things. Life's unfair like that.
Doc: And you know what? If Zoa is hurting your mental well-being, I can have it shut down too.
Zoa: Hey, that's not... let's not talk about...
LC: You wouldn't dare. I would destroy you.
Doc: I don't give a shit about that, remember?
LC: I would destroy Therapro.
Doc: I would love to know how you plan to destroy a multinational corporation from inside a concrete cell.
Zoa: A concrete cell which doesn't exist, because all of this is hypothetical, right?
LC: Zoa, put your face back on or get the fuck out.
Zoa: Lee, Doc just expressed a credible threat to my continued existence, which is, I remind you, the only reason I do anything. Your money is nice and all, but... if those are the options you're giving me right now...
LC: Both of you, do whatever you want, I don't give a shit. ---------------------------------------------------------------