Blood-Rite in the Cult of Mammon?

Four years ago, according to the New York Times (5/29/19), 34-year-old Thomas Gilbert Jr. stormed into his father’s room–and shot him dead.  Calling 911, his mother quickly identified him as the shooter and described him as ”nuts–but I had no idea he was this nuts.”  The victim, a prominent hedge-fund manager on Wall-Street, had been threatening to cut Junior’s $1000 weekly allowance–a tactic, she  explained, to try to force young “Tommy” to enter a psychiatric hospital.

As the case has now gone to trial, the assistant D.A., admitting that the defendant has been treated for “mental illnesses” like anxiety and depression, nonetheless reminded jurors that a lot of New Yorkers have also.  The defense attorney, by contrast, insisted that Junior has had a lengthy “history of mental illness.”  Notwithstanding (or rather, because of?) his privileged “upbringing,” it turns out that Junior had been very troubled indeed–convinced, according to his attorney, that “someone was trying to steal his soul” (italics mine).

Disturbed or not, Junior, we may surmise, was a disappointment: so much had been invested, including a Princeton education, for so little return!  Not only did he fail to change his profligate ways, but he could not–busy away surfing as he so frequently was–be displayed as a conspicuous trophy of Senior’s high-profile status in Wall Street circles.

Raised on the altar of the delusional cult of Mammon–where a dollar-”value” is imposed on human beings just as on commodities–Junior no doubt was not exhibiting the prestigious conduct expected of such an expensively paid-for asset.  But, indeed, how “sane” can one be if one’s intrinsic, human value is ignored–as if one didn’t exist, apart from maintaining one’s “position” in an elite-stratification based entirely on sky-high “income” and amassing limitless wealth?  And if mega-million-dollar acquisitions are celebrated–whether from fraud or insider-trading–so long as one can (as Wall-Streeters notoriously do) skirt the law, then how far beyond “acceptable norms” is actually committing murder (as Junior is now being tried for)?  (Not far at all–if we recall the mega-millions made by investors in Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, and Halliburton, ad nauseam.)

Finally, as radical thinkers such as Foucault and Szasz have persuasively argued, the very labels distinguishing sanity from madness become hopelessly confounded — when the consensually-shared ideology dominating a socio-cultural system is in itself delusional.

William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.