Re: Madness, Jails, Regression

John Ransom:

Interesting article and commentary from you about the state the United
States is currently in with its mentally ill-- particularly those who
cannot provide for themselves enough to protect from such circumstances
ever occurring.

>Remember Foucault's book discusses the shift from treating the insane as
>criminals to developing special institutions for them.

And those institutions, even at their best-- today, tomorrow, yesterday...
have to be critically evaluated, with special recognition given to those
who break the mold and actually TRY to help people. The complexity of
dealing with mental illness often throws psychiatry back into a cybernetic
black box model: try this, try that. See what happens. Be patient.

For those who are lucky enough to work with goodpsychopharmacologists, it
*is* interesting to see drugs developed for entirely different things,
like epilepsy, work for other conditions, in small doses. (This is just
one example.) But this takes patience and tinkering, which many mental
institutions (much less jails!) don't have. They want a SOMA-like pill,
some sort of rubber-stamp solution to dole out to everyone and make their
own lives as "providers" in the Cuckoo's Nest or Jail easier.


The reason for the title of David Bowie's (and Brian Eno's) effort
_Outside_ in 1995 was that they visited many mental institutions, mostly
in Europe, as I recall. I'm not sure of the range of "high" and "low" that
they visited (gourmet versus grunt?), although in art, both are interested
in how the two meet, dissolving at times. What they found was highly
discouraging. People whose hallucinatory (left hemisphere?) world is
unhinged can be intensely creative, but without enough of a
rational/functional shield to protect them, they were often abused (or
*felt* abused, at least). The point was to try to bring "outside" what was
happening to these people, inside-- at least in part. (And to show that
what was happening "inside" WAS really "outside", too.) I'm sure Bowie
could do a Derrida, I-read-him-backwards, on this. But......

"We prick you, we prick you, we prick you...
Tell the truth! Tell the truth!"
---from one of the nightmarish tracks on that album

In the meantime, those with leverage (i.e. friends and money) are doing
better, thanks to the sometimes better illuminated world of
psychopharmacology and, as I said before, patience and tinkering.

I think John is correct when he writes:

>In the 60s and 70s
>we threw them back out onto the street, and now they're making their
>way back into the jails.

But I believe that there *are* ways to improve conditions for both the
individuals and society, so that someone driving a car but thinks they're
a bat out of hell (literally) gets their license revoked until they either
get on medicine that prevents them from being a hazard to the road (and
does not create a new hazard, as a side effect) or... gets someone else to
the driving.

Amnesty International and the ACLU not only give me, an "Outsider",
feedback. They also function as advocates for those who cannot advocate
for themselves.

And then there are the real-life people I see, like my favorite clochard
who does better on some days (and I *think* it's because he's taking his
medicine) than on others. He does not live in a vacuum. Although he
refuses to take hand-outs, neighborhood businesses often employ him to do
things like wash windows. These efforts are, just like some people's
efforts in the psychiatric world, something to be praised. They make a
difference, as both Emerson and James understood, by ACTING on good faith,
by trying, by not equivocating under the Wildean fear of "Those who try to
do the most good can end up doing the most harm."

"He who thinks but acts not breeds pestilence."
---William Blake, from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"

On a far milder front, at least the US Supreme Court upheld that same-sex
harassment was illegal the other day.

Thanks for the possibility of discourse, John, by bringing up this matter.

---Randall Albright

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