One of the most debilitating side effects with which psychiatrists afflict their patients is akathisia, an uncontrollable restlessness which is a regular consequence of treatment with certain drugs, especially the classic neuroleptics like haloperidol, though it can be seen even with widely used antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac).
The word akathisia is derived from the Greek kathizdô, sit down, and if you append the "privative alpha" (Greek a implying negation) as a prefix and fiddle with the suffix you get something meaning can't sit down or can't sit still.
Since 9/11 I have been afflicted with a kind of mental akathisia.
Somehow within days of September 11, 2001 I stumbled on my first blog, Charles Johnson's amazing Little Green Footballs, and I was off and running.
Here were peers -- many of whom I disagreed with and some of whom I thought were deranged even compared with myself -- but some of whom seemed able to express thoughts I was beginning, in my inchoate and desultory way, to grapple with.
Thoughts like, Why don't we hate them?
(I know, I know: this is supposed to read, Why do they hate us? But you blog sophisticates know what I mean.)
In the peripatetic manner of blog readers I drifted from Little Green Footballs to Roger L. Simon. (Perhaps this was inevitable: note the rhythmic similarity in the two titles, both two hexametric feet, dactyl spondee!) And at Roger's place I found the kind of community of virtual blogging entities among whom I could feel at home. That urbane and genial host seemed to attract a following of articulate, thoughtful and tough-minded types, many of whom suffered fools (myself), if not gladly, at least patiently.
And so this persistent restlessness of mine, this mental akathisia, found at least a partial point of repose. But I am mindful of a criticism often leveled at virtual communities, a criticism with merit, that we are in danger of becoming echo chambers, preachers to virtual choirs of a gospel we all accept. And I am worried about the political red-blue divide in our wonderful country. (A former blue, I am now red enough to be purple.) Helped along by a much better thinker, I have started to think about our democracy. A task for which I am ill-equipped.
A psychiatrist who thinks he can say anything useful about democracy is mad.
(Mad, I tell you.)
Did Winston Churchill really say, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter"?
If not, he really should have.