Malingerers, Malingerers Everywhere

I am currently reading the seemingly endless output of Dr. Theodore Dalrymple,  (Now, remember kids, prolificacy in itself is not a virtue) nom de plume of Dr Anthony Daniels: retired consultant psychiatrist in a hospital situated in a run-down district of Birmingham (in a fit of shrieking hyperbole the good doctor calls it a ‘slum’).  He also spent two afternoons a week working in the city’s Winson Green Prison.  In other words he has spent the latter part of his career treating (to put it bluntly) the criminal and the insane and sometimes the criminally insane.  The kind of people who have been told in no uncertain terms by the judiciary and the medical profession that their behaviour is unacceptable. That is how they wind up in hospital or prison. Dalrymple’s advocates often argue that his experiences in these institutions give him a clear view of the decline of civilization. Well, no, not really; he had been given a clear view of the behaviour and worldview of social deviants.

These people are called ‘deviants’ because they deviate from the norm and yet Dr Dalrymple/Daniels tells us that their worldview and the behavior that emanated from this is prevalent across the country amongst the law-abiding and the non mentally ill.  I am reminded of something a war-veteran neighbour told me about a medical officer he once worked under when he was overseas. Some members of the conscripted lower ranks, shell shocked before they’d set foot on any battlefield, feigned illness in order to avoid being sent into battle. The phrase ‘to shoot oneself in the foot’ is a reference to military personnel who would literally shoot themselves in the foot to render themselves unfit for armed conflict.  A tiny minority of new recruits were willing to do anything to avoid what was coming.  The medical officer wised up to the fact that a small proportion of those who came before him were ‘malingerers’.  In time he began to see ‘malingerers’ every where even when there were none.  And, because of this, many genuine invalids suffered more than they should have.  (There is a similar situation replicating itself in the benefits system in that, according to some sections of the media, some benefit claims are fraudulent so all benefit claims must be fraudulent.)

I strongly suspect that the Dalrympian worldview can be partially attributed to the fact that he spent the twilight years of his medical career treating the mad, the criminal and sometimes the criminally insane therefore, to his mind, many people he sees outside the world in which he once moved are possibly mad, criminal or criminally insane. ‘Mad people, mad people everywhere and I’m not permitted to forcibly medicate a single one.’

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