SHIP OF FOOLS
In medieval times, "irksome madmen" would gradually accumulate in
a town. So, periodically, they would be rounded up, put on a
boat, and sent downriver to someplace -- anyplace -- else. Such
a boat filled with "madmen" was known as a "ship of fools."
In 1955, in the USA, the population in state hospitals stood at
559,000. By 1984, the number of patients had dwindled to
119,000. This was in part due to Reagan-era budget cuts. Many
of the deinstitutionalized became part of the skyrocketing group
of homeless persons, estimated to number as high as 3 million.
Nowadays, admission to state hospitals is based more on
availability of beds than on need. So, for example, someone
"merely" contemplating suicide is denied admittance. It is even
common for those who have actually attempted suicide to be
refused admittance. In better times, the state hospitals
provided sanctuary: you could be allowed in for a month and
thereby gain some time to "cool down." Unfortunately, now, with
the percentage of "mentally ill" greatly increased, it has become
increasingly difficult for them to get care.
We have all sorts of political talk about "getting tough on
crime," so that murderers are "well taken care of"; there's no
"shortage" of money for dealing with =them=. Yet each year in
the United States many more are killed at their own hand than by
homicide. (Why aren't the politicians screaming about =that=?)
"Somehow," there "is" a shortage of money to help divert those
bent on self-destruction away from their horrendous act.
So where's the conspiracy? The conspiracy is this: if the
"economy is good" and times are truly "wonderful," then why has
the suicide rate skyrocketed in the past 25 or so years? And all
the while "there are many steps that might help reduce the
suicide rate... tackling such social ills as unemployment,
divorce, homelessness, unwanted children, neglect of the elderly,
inadequate medical and social services, violence, loss of
spiritual values, and the threat of nuclear war. In short, one
might reduce the suicide rate by giving people more reasons to
stay alive." 
As shown by Emile Durkheim, suicides do not occur in a vacuum.
Suicides, says Durkheim, are explicable only by the state of the
society in which they occur. And since suicide rates in
"modern," western, industrialized nations are far higher than in
"backward," third-world countries, the question is: Are things
really so "wonderful" as "they" keep telling us? 
In medieval times, the "irksome madmen" were put aboard a "ship
of fools." In our "modern" USA, the "irksome madmen" are given
"Greyhound Therapy": a ticket is purchased and they are put on a
bus, bound for a distant city. There, they arrive -- homeless,
friendless, and alone.
---------------------------<< Notes >>---------------------------
 *The Enigma of Suicide* by George Howe Colt.
 *Le Suicide* by Emile Durkheim.
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