Depressive activism

A first rate madness (Uncovering the link between leadership and mental illness) by Nassir Ghaemi


Gandhi and Martin Luther King are bookends of depressive activism, the innovators of a new politics of radical empathy that didn’t exist before Gandhi and hasn’t persisted after King.

Though their countries and the world remain deeply influenced by their legacies, neither India nor the US could now be said to exemplify the nonviolent ideals of these men.

Their politics of radical empathy could not be maintained by leaders who lacked their vision – and their illness.
They both attempted suicide as teenagers, endured at least one depressive episode in midlife, and suffered a very severe depressive episode in their final years, before they were killed.

Gandhi’s critics commonly use the letters he wrote to Adolf Hitler addressing him as “my friend” to deride him.
They repeat the conventional wisdom that his non-violent strategy could only work against a democracy like Britain; Hitler or Stalin would have defeated satyagraha.

The conventionally wise error here lies in making only political judgments.

Gandhi devised satyagraha not to gain Indian independence ( which would have occurred with or without satyagraha) but rather because he wanted to influence how independence happened, to affect the collective psyches of India and Britain and thereby their relations after independence.


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