Do countries become psychotic?(seriously!)


Since individuals can and often become psychotic and since countries are but mere collections of individuals living in certain geographical areas, it would be surprising if they did not.
Anybody who has watched the famed two part BBC documentary “Afghanistan: The Great Game” by Rory Stewart knows the phase of intense paranoia which propelled the British Empire headlong into three wars in Afghanistan. Any authentic account of this phase of history of Great Britain contains the key phrases, a magnified sense of self-importance,loss of contact with ground reality, irreparable damage to self and no lessons learnt.These symptoms, if occurring in an individual would have merited admission to a mental hospital even in those times with a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder with Psychotic features. In fact, Afghanistan is a Rorscharch test for world powers. Most of those who took it flunked, leaving themselves basket cases since there are no psychiatric facilities for countries. Flag of the mighty empire which basked in sunlight on a 24×7 basis now has to do with a few hours on a sunny day, Gibraltor included.
The mind of another super-power which came in from the North to take the Afghanistan test shattered literally into pieces almost overnight and could never be put together again.
Much later, the sole remaining global power after repeated failures at Afghanistan has been lashing its head against distant shores. It is hopelessly deluded that it has a messianic duty towards mankind. The supposed duty is to bring democracy to countries so far ignorant about the soul purifying concept, defined among other things by corporate billions, lewd tapes and infidel men. So single minded and so very oblivious to disastrous consequences to itself has the said super-power been going about its calling, that it un-reservedly qualifies as a clear cut case of “Altruistic Suicide” described by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Again, if it was an individual with behaviour so dangerous to self and others,he would long have been detained under relevant sections of the Mental Health Act in a state psychiatric institute and treated involuntarily. Given the advances in Individual Psychiatry, he would have recovered sufficiently in due course to be legally at large and perhaps even function independently.
Psychoanalysis tells us that some individuals when frustrated by stress regress to a phase in their early childhood where they felt snug and comforted.When it happens repeatedly the infantile bebehaviors called ‘pathological regression’.Extreme form of regression is seen in chronic schizophrenia with patients lying curled up for months in foetal positions. Now imagine a country which whenever faced with challenges like hunger and illiteracy  regresses thousands of years to an ancient period when rivers of milk flowed in streets and skies were full of dainty aeroplanes decked with lotus flowers; where all the riddles of mankind had been solved by the country’s sage scientists and all the scholarly texts had already been written. And apparently, when rest of the world treated its hernias with poultices made from shrub leaves, we here had plastic surgeons going about doing organ transplants at street corners.
Our neighbouring country has this lifelong obsession about its mid-riff being too slim, a feature which young girls anywhere in the world would die for. Their generals call it lack of strategic depth. Experts are convinced that the country also suffers from ‘Double Personality Disorder’.The two personalities take turn and are apparently oblivious of each other’s behaviour. This serves the useful purpose of plausible deniability when bombs go off in market places in nearby countries. Personality C is submissive and represents the country at social functions abroad while personality M is all steel and armour and stays home trying to make the county’s waist roomier by pushing the frontiers in both directions.
People who saw the 1967 cult movie “Raat Aur Din” would see a resemblance. In that, Nargis is an amenable overdressed house wife during the day but at night walks the streets of Calcutta as dressed to kill, ‘Peggy’.
In addition to mental illnesses there are minor eccentricities which may be normal for children but not for grown up countries. We and our neighbour were born together and continue to show at sixty nine years , intense sibling rivalry which in eight years old boys would be akin to pissing matches to decide whose stream goes farther.
On a more realistic note some years back I organised a psychiatrists’ conference in Ludhiana where colleagues from Pakistan were to join. The Joint Secretary in-charge of visa clearance in Delhi held on to it till the last minute when it was too late for the delegates from Pakistan to travel. When I asked him on phone “Aap aisa kyun karte hain ?”, he shot back, “Wo bhi to aisa hi karte hain”.

Author is a psychiatrist and a weekend scribbler. An anthology of short stories ‘Partitioning Madness’ is being published by Speaking Tiger.

(photo credit google images)