This question was asked by someone in my writing group. Here is my response. I think I blogged all over it. 🙂
I think distinctions need to be made. Is the world dysfunctional as a whole? Yes. Because the world is made up of different social groups (societies) and not all of them, in fact, most of them are not compatible. Incompatibility breeds dysfunction.
Is our particular society dysfunctional? Probably, yes. The United States is considered a melting pot of different cultures and societies so of course there is going to be a certain amount of dysfunction that comes along with that. I think we can and have established rules of ethical behavior that help us to function as a society, but it is a very bumpy road that we are constantly improving.
What I am about to say may make some of you question my er… what’s the word… sanity? Intelligence? Loyalty? Not sure. My feeling on our government is that a Bi-Partisan system is highly dysfunctional, and I think it should be thrown out in favorite of something better. What you ask? There in lies the problem. I don’t know. I wish I did. All I know is that our current system places too many barriers between the governing and governed. The governing (leaders) spend more time arguing than governing and the governed (people) are the ones that suffer.
I think the most important elements of a harmonious functional society (world) are respect and empathy. Individuals need to be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Empathy breeds respect. There needs to be mutual respect from all members of the society. Respect breeds cooperation. Cooperation leads to accomplishment (function). If all the members of a society are empathetic to each others needs, and willing to cooperate to accomplish their goals this creates an efficient and functional society.
The problem of course, is the larger the number of individuals in a society the less likely they are to exhibit respect and empathy for one another. Thus vanquishing the ultimate functional (Utopian) society to the realm of fantasy.
Now, as for dysfunctionality on an individual basis I believe the majority of the world is functional. People who are incapable of functioning in a society are removed from it. That’s why I believe we must all be functional. I also believe that we all have idiosyncrasies that are considered dysfunctional by a society, but remain within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Once an individual’s behavior goes against societies norms we start to question the individual’s motivations and often their sanity. Many of my thoughts on sanity are stated quite eloquently in the quotes below.
“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
― Akira Kurosawa
“Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.”
― Mark Twain
“Solitude is indeed dangerous for a working intelligence. We need to have around us people who think and speak. When we are alone for a long time we people the void with phantoms”
― Guy de Maupassant, Le Horla et autres contes fantastiques
“There are certain people in whom you can detect the seeds of madness – seeds that have remained dormant only because the people in question have lived relatively comfortable, middle class lives. They function perfectly well in the world, but you can imagine, given a nasty parent, or a prolonged bout of unemployment, how their potential for craziness might have been realized.”
― Zoë Heller, What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal
“The worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. “I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.” That’s bullshit. These people are not crazy. They strong people. Maybe their environment is a little sick.”
― Dave Chappelle
“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the Earth goes round the Sun; today, to believe the past is inalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him; the horror was that he might also be wrong.”
― George Orwell, 1984