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Putin on the psychiatrist’s couch


IT is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr Putin is mad. This is the view of many pundits, triumphant from Covid and that fishing industry diversion. Do they want someone to remove sharp objects from his house so he doesn’t harm himself, or add sharp objects to his house so he does? Can Ukraine hold long enough for the armchair epidemiologists to retrain in armchair psychiatry and answer this vital question? If someone pretends to tie their shoelaces in front of a tank, will it buy enough time to watch the necessary ten-minute YouTube video?

Most people decided that Mr Putin was mad when they read an article about a mad, rambling hour-long speech he made; reading the actual speech would have been crazy. Mr Putin said what he was going to do and why he was going to do it. Would he have been less mad or more mad if he hadn’t done it? Don’t try to answer if thinking upsets you.

A few minutes after reading the article about the mad, rambling speech, the people who were now certain of Mr Putin’s madness realised they had always thought him mad even when they hadn’t. And not only when he was going on long walks in the country but also when he was riding horses without his shirt on.

For others the invasion was the proof of madness. What sort of politician says he’s going to do something and then does it? It’s like that time when a political party fought an election on that one thing they said they were going to do, and then when people voted for them, they did it. Madness. The sooner politicians go back to saying they are going to do something, and then don’t do it, the better. Or say they aren’t going to do something and then do it. Like that time when a political party fought an election, saying they weren’t going to re-organise something, and then went and re-disorganised it. Just what the doctor ordered.

What do people mean when they say Mr Putin is mad? Are they upset that he is suffering and want him to feel better? Or are they upset that he has upset them, and want him taken away, so they don’t suffer any more?

It is most likely they want him locked away but so many people give mad, rambling speeches of 280 characters nowadays it is almost impossible to tell what they want and what they might do. Especially if they keep using words like kindness while staring and jabbing with their finger.

Unfortunately for those upset by Mr Putin, it is unlikely that a Russian mental health professional will resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the world’s armchair psychiatrists. Mr Putin would likely view it as inappropriate. His definition of inappropriate seems to trump anyone else’s in Russia, no matter the breadth of their qualifications and the depth of their compassion.

Spare a thought for all those mental health professionals itching to show they care, yet unable to act. Perhaps they should send their sharp objects to Mr Putin just to be safe? Let’s hope the newest edition of the Mental Health bible gives clear guidance on Border Uncertainty Disorder. Without it the world is rudderless.

Sadly, the magic words will not summon the men in white coats to take the troubling person away. They work only if that person doesn’t have tanks and a red button. Will the magic words help us understand Mr Putin and tell us what to do? Alas, led by donkeys once again. The word mad is for helping, when understanding is too much work, not to help the work of understanding.

In the absence of a convenient inconvenient-person disposal service, best listen to what the person says and look at what they do over time, and plan accordingly. They’ll likely do the same to you. If you are lucky, they’ll think you’re mad and make lots of mistakes. At the least, be prepared for sweat and tears. Are there some non-clowns in The Circus who still do this, old fashioned as it is?

Commentators wish to distract themselves and their readers from anxiety, and to get paid for providing this kind therapy. In response to Mr Putin’s actions, they have blundered into a metaphorical conflict to demarcate the borders of the territory of madness. Where these will end up being drawn depends on the tanks and the red button: He’s mad; they’re mad; all are mad; none is.

They have bought pens to a conflict that has always been settled by the sword. They play their ‘my noble lies are better than your noble lies’ game as Mr Putin plays his. Fortunately, it is not necessary for most people to choose to join in with either of them. It has been written that ‘truth is the first casualty in war’; delusion is the second. It is up to us whether our emotional stability is the third.

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Matthew Dinnage
Matthew Dinnage
Matthew Dinnage is an occasional writer.

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