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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Have you been processed?


“In England at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were, perhaps, a few thousand 'lunatics' housed in a variety of disparate institutions but by 1900 that figure had grown to about 100,000.”

In the heart of Sussex there is a building that at one point in history housed more people than the population of Brighton. It was built in 1859 and is a quarter of a mile in length; it was the largest of its kind in Sussex but not the only one. Every county in  the uk had one. Hospitals badly needed investment and upgrading yet money was ploughed in large asylums instead.

People were admitted for all sorts of reasons not just because they were ill mentally. Even promiscuous young women would find themselves living within the walls of The local Asylum. The doors finally closed on the Asylums in the 1990’s and although there are many stories associated with them, generally in the last 20-30 years of their lives they were happy places for the patients and staff who resided there.
Because of the amount of time they functioned for (over 100 years) i cannot help but wonder what kind of a impact these places had on the population of the UK.

On this sort of scale i could only imagine it to be a kind of social cleansing. I can’t help but wonder what types of people were left to live on the outside of what in my mind’s eye i see as huge people processing plants with people quite literally being pulled from society.
The only people i can imagine who were living on the outside must have been farmers and working class that were needed to keep the county going along with a lot of yes men.
 A type of Eugenics operating in the UK was this as scary as it sounds?. Church hill wrote in a letter of 1899 declared that 'the improvement of the British breed is my political aim in Life’.

"The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life," Winston Churchill wrote to his cousin Ivor Guest on 19 January 1899, shortly after his twenty-fifth birthday. Churchill's view was reinforced by his experiences as a young British officer serving, and fighting, in Arab and Muslim lands, and in South Africa. Like most of his contemporaries, family and friends, he regarded races as different, racial characteristics as signs of the maturity of a society, and racial purity as endangered not only by other races but by mental weaknesses within a race. As a young politician in Britain entering Parliament in 1901, Churchill saw what were then known as the "feeble-minded" and the "insane" as a threat to the prosperity, vigour and virility of British society.


Could this be why now in the uk we are so docile and display this stiff upper lip in the face of trouble times, where our friends on the continent when faced with similar problems are seen to be tearing up the streets. Is the fear still inherent so much so that we feel if we speak up or voice our opinions men in white coats might once again come drag us from our homes. Is the reason that today the mental health is one of the largest health issues in the uk because it is no longer managed in the way that it has been in for the last hundred years who’s knows I can only but speculate.

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