#3 In the Belly of the Beast
-The Absolutely Unofficial Underground Newspaper of Metropolitan State Hospital -
Ah yes, boys and girls, welcome, once again to Dr. Phibes demented world of Brutal Truth, Mad Ravings and Final Wisdom. That's the ticket here, friends: reveal the lies, unmask the truth, and Face the Music as it were. We don't have much time as it seems that I'm cycling in and out of hopeless insanity much faster these days. The cycles get increasingly vicious as the scene gets weirder, and the scene has gotten very weird, of late. Staff are being shuffled around like so many cards, William Weld is sharpening his axe and familiar faces are disappearing as the life boats fills up.
No One Gets Out of Here Alive. The Doors
Indeed. I was pondering this evil idea as I looked out my grimy window at the lifeless grounds when I suddenly recalled something a colleague had asked me earlier that day. "Does this all really suck as bad I think it does?" he said dead serious. "Or am I just complaining too much? “He leaned forward across the desk, suddenly animated, and the way he was gripping his dagger-like letter opener was beginning to make me nervous. "I mean I can't go through the day without standing up in the middle of some meeting and saying that I've had enough of the lies and the BULLSHIT!" Abruptly, he froze, and in one instant I realized that he had just heard the rattling around behind him, which I knew to be a porter emptying the trash. But before I realized what would happen in the next instant, he had whirled and was upon the helpless porter, who never even screamed.... "Poor bastard," I said as were disposing of the body, "he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and instantly I realized how true that was, for all of us, and even more so for the patients. The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time.
The New Dumb are in power and they fully intend to work out on those of us unlucky enough to be outside the power loop. The corruption and evil start at the top and pour down in crashing torrents far from a trickle. Weld clearly doesn't give a good goddam who gets hurt as long as his State's bond rating goes up, which makes for a perfect dovetail with the vicious slashing of the last months of the Dukakis term when managers hoping to hold onto their political power took out their axes and swung freely. Of 450 layoffs in DMH last fall, only 29 management slots were eliminated. And how many of the managers occupying those slots were protected by moving them elsewhere? Like at the Quincy Mental Health Center where managers were moved into positions like Director and Supervisor of Case Management and Human Rights Officer. No less mysterious is all the juggling which has gone on right here in our own newly formed Middlesex Area. And the evil just keeps coming down the pike. At each level, it's passed onto the next while everybody covers their ass.
Yeah, yeah , yeah. Tell me something new, will ya? The rich and powerful get where they are by stomping on the skulls of the weak and the doomed. So What? That's the way it's been since Egyptians thought that the Israelites would make fine slaves, and nothing has changed in thousands of years, plagues and files and angels of death notwithstanding.
So what are WE supposed to do about that? If we oppose it directly, we're shark bait. Shit, can you imagine what they'll do to me if they ever find out who I am? And what have I done? I've spoken the ugly truth and I have not been a team player. In some circles, that is enough to earn you a bullet in the brain and an unmarked grave.; But the real sin of the Disconnection is how it forces people to face that side of the ambivalence which they thought they had out to rest. "Maybe I should think for myself about every step of this wretched process. It’s very upsetting to those who would prefer to just do their jobs and leave the ethics to the academic types , and it even pisses some off...
But for those still working in some relatively intact part of the hospital, the central question remains: faced with this unrelenting evil, what are we to do? How can we fight it? And how do we deal with the idea that we have worked side by side with people who, on the basis of ethical clinical practice, we should wrestle to the ground and squeeze until they scream uncle?
It is impossible to know virtue without vice...Good and Evil have always existed side by side. Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Czart! How's that for a grip on reality? A lot of sane people will move to the back of the bus to make room for the whatever epileptic/fanatic wrote that little gem. Truth rears its ugly head. Get used to the idea that even if you see yourself as standing for what is good and right in clinical practice, you must be able to deal smoothly with yahoos and water heads who know no better. Even if you can't change the world and the Department of Mental Health, you will have plenty to small battles in which you can score victories for your principles. How should a transfer really be done? Should a clinician who is reassigned to another unit with barely ten days’ notice terminate with a client before he/she knows who the new clinician will be? Where should a given patient go? How much anxiety should a patient be expected to tolerate? In a pinch, should Psychologist be expected to do (shudder) social work? At what point are the clinical resources so stretched that treatment is no longer happening and one enters the nether world of custodial care? (Take a look at the staffing pattern for July 1991 as an example.) With all the changes happening is it worth the effort to do the routine bullshit of continuing to see patients and increase passes for people doing well and all of the rest of it?
Never forget that any simple clinically good act you do is a blow for the oppressed against the wolves in power. It doesn't matter what the Administration says. Our own clinical judgment is the final measuring stick because our alliance is first and foremost with the patients.
These too are human beings, they are your brothers. Vissarion Belinsky
Which inevitably, brings my admittedly warped train of thought back around to this one concept which, though theoretically substantial is meaningless horseshit to an audience of people about to lose their jobs, their purpose and their heart. That concept is the future of Met State. To the 100 or so employees who will almost certainly be dead meat come July 1st, the Met will be little more than a graveyard of lost dreams and doomed hopes. But, in fact, there will still be 220 (according to Marylou) patients here, and a few staff hanging around for some as-yet undetermined purpose. What will this latest incarnation of Met State look like, and what will be possible given the current projection of totally inadequate numbers of staff? And what can they be expected to attempt given the horror to which the survivors have been exposed over the past 6-8 months?
How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? 1 Corinthians 15:35
The survivors in July of 1981 will have inherited one helluva legacy or kickass clinical treatment in the face of oppression and mismanagement perpetuated by the rednecks of L.B.J's era, the paranoid fascists of the Nixon years, the doomed goons of Carter's gallant attempt at principled gov't., the yuppie pigs of Reagan, and the new dumb of our man Bush. We're talking once again about the school of the gonzo psychotherapy, which says that true therapy is not for the faint of heart and that all those who believe either that one can remain intellectually or administratively distant from their work are full of shit. Although the foundation of gonzo therapy, (and gonzo journalism - see HST) is participation in the therapy, there is an underlying truth, which is that there is another reality beyond what you can see and touch.
It is a reality of emotion in which the experiences of attachment, closeness and loss are considered far more real than the day and date and whether or not one in fact has heard the voice of Cleopatra saying that one should come to Egypt and be King. Sounds like a great gig to me, man! There's the Queen, there's being fed grapes by all those babes in the harem, cruising down the Nile in the moonlight, camel races...Fuck reality, man. But then, the gonzo psychotherapist knows that reality has less to do with whether or not one acknowledges having a mental illness than with how one deals with wishes to be close to other people and the pain of loss of significant others. Everybody has a life. Staff or patient, administrator or clinician. Everybody has a life. How you gonna live it? What's really important? Status? Power? Having a candy apple red 1991 Toyota Celica? How you treat other people , regardless of their mental status?
But all of that is for those who still have some room to maneuver. What about those who have been put in a no win situation clinically? Those who have screwed over on one unit only to be transferred to another where doing anything would amount to participation in the crime? Simple. Get yourself a letter of resignation, write "Fuck You and Die" on it, and get in the goddam lifeboat!
And what of Met State? What shall be the fate of the place that has come to stand for so much to those with and without a major mental illness? What of the place which has been our hope against despair and the vessel for our energy, our talent, our faith? Will it pass away into dust, done in by half-mad dimwit managers with bigger fish to fry? Will it pass forever from the consciousness of those who struggle for principles of the downtrodden over the oppressors and good and evil? Dream fucking on pigs. The writing may be on the wall for this place at this time, but we will ultimately be judged by how we fought and how we died, and whether we saved our necks by fucking over someone else. It takes courage to give up personal gain and security for the sake of higher principle, and we have balls galore! You are fucking with the wrong people, and when the great scorer comes to write against our names, it will not matter who won or lost, but how you played the game ( see Red Grange) And it wont matter what sort brutality you subject us to in this place at this time, because the forces of nature are good and cannot be denied. There will be another place and another time. Just wait!