It is madness to treat madness


It is madness to treat madness – by P.K. Odendaal – March 2018.

I have been struck wise by three films which illustrated to me the fallacy of the treatment of patients by specialists in special institutions or facilities. The conventional wisdom, which, as we know, is always wrong is to do that, so we need to do the opposite.
The three films were:

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
As good as it gets
Three Billboards.

All three are brilliant expositions of the treatment and therapy of such people inherent in social and communal activities.


If I may digress somewhat with a different, but the same type of argument, I believe that prisons are the wrong places to treat or rehabilitate criminals. If I read the excellent poem by Oscar Wilde, The ballad of reading Goal, intently, as I have done over a hundred times already, together with my own observations in this regard, I cannot but believe in my hypothesis fully.
Here is an abstract from that poem:

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and save the chaff
With a most evil fan.
This too I know – and wise it were
If each could know the same –
That every prison that men built
Is built with bricks of shame
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.
With bars they blur the gracious moon,
And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
Ever should look upon!
The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is despair.
For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.
End of digression.

Similarly it is my profound view that the same is applicable to people being treated in Asylums.
I do not want to labour the content and message of these three films, which carry basically the same message, but I wish to quote a beautiful quote from the last film in the short list above:

Jason (the cop full of hatred in the film), Willoughby here. I'm dead now, sorry about that. There's something I wanted to say to you that I never really said when I was alive. I think you've got the makings of being a really good cop, Jason, and you know why? Because, deep down, you're a decent man. I know you don't think I think that, but I do, dipshit. I do think you're too angry though, and I know it's all since your dad died and you had to go look after your mom and all, but as long as you hold on to so much hate, then I don't think you're ever going to become, what I know you want to become - a detective. 'Cause you know what you need to become a detective? And I know you're gonna wince when I say this, but what you need to become a detective is love.
Because through love comes calm, and through calm comes thought. And you need thought to detect stuff sometimes, Jason. It's kinda all you need. You don't even need a gun. And you definitely don't need hate. Hate never solved nothing, but calm did. And thought did. Try it. Try it just for a change. No one'll think you're gay. And if they do, arrest 'em for homophobia! Won't they be surprised! Good luck to you, Jason. You're a decent man, and yeah you've had a run of bad luck, but things are gonna change for you. I can feel it.

Time for another digression, this time on failed marriages. Does divorces solve failed marriages? of course not! Hear the words of Miles Massey, a divorce lawyer in the film Intolerable Cruelty:

Well today, Miles Massey, is here to tell you that... love need cause us no fear. Love need cause us no shame. Love is... good. Love is good. Now I am of course aware that these remarks will be received here with cynicism - cynicism; that cloak that advertises our indifference and hides all human feeling. Well I'm here to tell you that that cynicism, which we think protects us in fact destroys - destroys love, destroys our clients and ultimately destroys ourselves. Colleagues - when our clients come to us confused and angry and hurting because their flame of love is guttering and threatens to die, do we seek to extinguish that flame so that we can sift through the smouldering wreckage for our paltry reward? Or do we fan this precious flame - this most precious flame - back into loving, roaring life? Do we counsel fear or trust? Do we seek to destroy or build? Do we meet our clients problems with cynicism, or with love? The choice is of course each of ours. For my part I have made the leap of love and there is no going back. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last time I will address you as the president of N.O.M.A.N.

End of digression, and time for a next!

I still remember my children acting in a play at school which addresses the two groups of people in Asylums – the sick and the staff. At one stage the sick hijack the asylum and take the staff hostage. Of course when the staff do not have their white jackets on, it is impossible to recognize then as staff and they are then easily mistaken for the sick, which in fact happens then in this play. Ultimately nobody knows who is sick and who is staff and then one realizes that it really does not matter!

And that is the point I wished to make QED.

This world depends on interactions between individuals and groups to function ‘normally’, and because Man is a social animal it works. If Man was alone, like Adam and Eve, they would have gone mad and sold the world for an apple, as they did. Interaction and cross-pollination keeps it stable and sane. That is called playing sane.