Who is the Madman?

Prof Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Commentary on the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin MaryAfter questioning a man at length in his office, a psychiatrist asked: “You insist, then, that your brother is crazy?”

“Yes, doctor. And I can give you even more symptoms of his condition.”

And the man went on and on with his tiresome tale as the doctor listened, somewhat skeptical and annoyed. At a certain point, the specialist interrupted him:

“Well, nothing you are saying is conclusive. Some of these facts could have a quite normal explanation. Others are admittedly a bit strange. But they could be explained by some type of nervous tension caused perhaps by the state of his business affairs. I don’t believe they clearly and indisputably indicate a state of imbalance.”

The man, perplexed, retorted: “Doctor, give me five more minutes to tell you just one more incident.”

And, at the doctor’s acquiescence, the narration began.

Let the reader try to put himself in the place of the psychiatrist and judge the case for himself.

“Doctor, my brother lives in a poor dilapidated house next to the estate of X, the richest man in the city.”

“Devastated by the fact that he himself was not rich, my brother began to provoke hostility toward his powerful neighbor. He stirred up unrest among his employees, and then he incited them to go on strike.”

“The latter did not want to waste time over such petty problems. After all, time is money. He settled the domestic strife as best he could, and then turn his attention to my brother.”

“Do you know what he did? You would think he would tell his attorney to threaten my brother or denounce him to the police as a subversive? You think he would start a lawsuit against him. Do you know what he did? Exactly the opposite! The rich man offered to arrange credit for my brother so that he could remodel his old house and properly feed and clothe his hungry, poorly dressed children. He also provided funds so that my brother could efficiently cultivate his own land, which has good soil.”

“The wealthy landowner thus hoped to rid himself of the problem by investing a small amount of capital in my troublesome brother repayable at low interest for an indefinite term.”

“This arrangement should have satisfied my brother. But he was by no means content! He accepted the offer of the money, which he promptly used to further incite unrest that was brewing on the rich man’s property and to sow antipathy toward him throughout the countryside. Moreover, he began to arm himself to ‘defend’ himself against an attack from this neighbor who is so kind would never think of such a thing. At least, that’s how we all interpreted the constant influx of handguns to his property where everything – house and children – remained as poor and unkept as ever.”

“There is more. We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw the workshop for the production of arms and small explosives that my poor brother had built with the generous funds from the rich man. My brother, doctor, wants to invade the rich man’s estate, and thus end such a beneficial relationship and cut off this opulent source of credit that could have permitted him to rise from his misery – from that very misery that was the cause of his hatred for the rich man.”

“Don’t you see the contradiction, doctor? My brother hated the rich man because he was rich while my brother was poor. The man gives him the means to improve his situation, and, instead of profiting from this, my brother attacks his benefactor.”

“As you can imagine, it took no time at all for news of my brother’s plan to reach the rich man. And, since he is a very sensible man, he came to the conclusion that envy and hatred were boiling in my brother’s heart because the gifts already made to my brother had not been generous enough.”

“Madness, as you know, has its method. Realizing that the more he troubled and threatened the rich man, the more money he obtained, my poor brother continued to increase his stockpile of weapons and multiply his intrigues and subversive plans of aggression. It makes sense — at least to the mind of a madman.”

“Would you do that, doctor, to someone who made you friendly loans to remodel your office and home, filled your closets with clothes and your cupboards with food, and bought you a new car? Tell me, is my brother crazy or not, doctor?”

I ask you, reader, If you were in the doctor’s position, what would your opinion be? Would you think that the poor, ill-tempered brother was crazy? In any case, neither of us is the doctor. So let us return to the story to see what the psychiatrist’s reaction was.

Disgusted and annoyed, the doctor stood up, putting an immediate end to the consultation. As he prepared to leave, he sternly addressed the stupefied man:

“There is nothing crazy about your brother. He is an accomplished scoundrel who is exploiting his simple-minded rich neighbor. The latter is the real madman in the story. And you, my friend, are so naive for your age that I hold your own sanity suspect!”

“Now, either you leave this office immediately, or I’ll have you locked up for further examination, because it is impossible for anyone to be fully sane and that naive at the same time.”

The story ends with the man making a hasty flight for the elevator. When he reached the street, he calmed down a bit, scratched his head, and thought:

“The world is full of madmen. My brother is crazy. This doctor is not far from it. The only sane person in all this is the rich man. And, of course, myself.”

Reader, what is your opinion? Who is the madman?

(This story comes to mind when viewing the recent developments in China. The continued arm buildup in China are both unsettling and threatening. Reports say that China is developing intercontinental missiles targeted at American cities and bases.)*

However in light of this, there is not the least bit of evidence that America’s trade with China is going to decrease. In fact, according to the logic of constructive engagement, it should actually increase in order to pacify Chinese irritability.

Is there, reader, any connection between these developments and the story above? If so, I ask: Who is the madman?

* We have added this most recent case (highlighted in bold) as a graphic example of the phenomenon so well described by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliviera. The original article cited a similar case…and a similar Western reaction.

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