I had James Patrick Corcoran, M.D. on the witness stand last week. I had called him hoping to get an admission that he ordered Elgin Mental Health Center apparatchiks to undermine my client's request (and his treatment team's request, and the 10th floor's independent recommendation) for court-ordered pass privileges. Dr. Corcoran doesn't like my client, doesn't trust him, doesn't believe he should get privileges or progress toward release, because my client doesn't take psychiatric drugs. Because he doesn't take the drugs, Dr. Corcoran can't own him.
The drugs are the whip on the Elgin MHC plantation. If you take the drugs you're reduced to a subhuman, compliant slave. If you don't take them, you might be too literate, too willful and too interested in your own life.
It's a strange thing that Americans want slaves, but they surely do. The USA was founded on a system of slavery actually justified by Enlightenment arguments for scientific social organization, efficient production and greater human prosperity. Even as James Corcoran believes that every patient at Elgin should be drugged whether he or she likes it or not, and Jeffrey Lieberman believes that mastery of brain science will make psychiatrists rulers of the world, our most outstanding Virginian founders truly believed that their Negroes were in their best natural condition as slave laborers. They were quite certain that the plantations were the instrument of God's love for humanity as a whole, and that the world would soon come to adopt this ideal Southern social order.
(By the way, if anyone thinks I exaggerate the American history, let me just recommend two books: This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy, by Michael Karp; and Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the American Civil War, by C. C. Goen. And if anyone is interested in a much more thorough argument comparing American slavery to modern state psychiatry, please read the ultimate explication: Liberation By Oppression: A Comparative Study of Slavery and Psychiatry, by Thomas Szasz.)
The Southern plantations exploited the physical labor of black Africans, to build a fabulously wealthy cotton kingdom. The Elgin plantation exploits the violent threat of criminal perpetrators, to build a fabulously powerful political protection racket. In the mid-Nineteenth Century the European world desperately wanted cotton clothes and cotton sheets. Beginning in the mid-Twentieth Century, the American world desperately wanted to pretend we could medically "cure", instead of punish, bad behavior.
Hence, consider a completely hypothetical example (anyone who gets obsessed with circumstantial correspondences to real people or events in this narrative is, of course, paranoid and delusional!) of a young black man (let's just call him Ben).
Ben is found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity on a charge of aggravated battery on a police officer, and committed to the Elgin plantation for a period not to exceed three years. The judge tells Ben's mother that if he just does what the doctors tell him, he'll probably be out much sooner than three years. But in this case, liberty will not come so easily or so soon.
Ben's psychiatrist (let's just call her Dr. J), and the Medical Director who supervises her, both hold a strong belief that Ben must have some brain disease which should be "treated" with psychiatric drugs. They can't say exactly what this brain disease is, beyond the label itself, or exactly why the drugs will help, beyond some urban legend about correcting chemical imbalances. The uncertainty and lack of validity in their beliefs is why Dr. J and the Medical Director are absolutely determined to convert Ben to them. If he is released, he'll have to be a living example of the power and beneficence of the Elgin plantation, he will have to evangelize the true psychiatric faith, to get Dr. J and the Medical Director more "patients" and more authority, and to prevent the public from realizing that their state salaries are worse than a waste of tax money. It's difficult for these people to tell for sure whether Ben truly believes in his brain disease and the drugs, because he's a shy and immature black man, who doesn't communicate well and who has never even had a girlfriend.
Speaking of which, Ben's social worker (let's just call her Christy) finds young black men to be terribly attractive. She has taken previous opportunities with Elgin plantation "patients" (let's just call two of them Angelo and Manseur), and those experiences were the single most thrilling times of all her work, the greatest reward of her career. Christy has been married for many years, and her relationship with her husband does not include passion any more, it's really almost a brother-sister thing.
To Christy, Ben looks like a perfect prospect. And after all, he is owned by the Elgin plantation. Christy is basically entitled to him, because she works for this institution which has the lofty purpose to help Ben....
(To be continued.)