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." [1]

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?  [2]

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 >>---------------------------
[1] *The Enigma of Suicide* by George Howe Colt.
[2] *Le Suicide* by Emile Durkheim.

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