"By the late 1940's, electro-shock was becoming increasingly popular among psychiatrists in Europe and North America. It caused less permanent damage than surgical lobotomy, and it seemed to help: hysterical patients frequently calmed down, and in some cases, the jolt of electricity appeared to make the person more lucid..." Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine)
"Well now, boys 'n girls... how de do de?"... yeah, you got it... it's the return of Mr Punch.
So what do you think of 200 volts of electricity zapping the frontal lobe of your brain, Mr Punch? Your body convulsing violently on the table; bound limbs straining against the leather straps. Back arching, spine cracking. The smell of sweat and fear. The taste of vomit in your mouth. Fractures, sprains, bloody teeth, broken lips...
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Mr Punch remains unimpressed.
"Sounds like a fuckin' good night out" says he.
Why no, Mr Punch... it's a treatment. A cure.
"Hmm... a cure, you say? What ailment demands such a cure?"
Why, insanity, of course, Mr Punch.
"Ah, but how does ye define insanity?" says Joey the Clowne. "Erratic behaviour and irrational thoughts? Self-destructive urges and suicidal tendencies? Paranoid delusions?"
"Sounds like a quiet night in, to me" says Mr Punch.
Seriously? Torture masquerading as treatment? A callous disregard for any after-effects of the 'cure': "hallucinations, intense anxiety, loss of touch with reality". What next? Sensory deprivation? Beatings with rubber truncheons? Water-boarding? And we call ourselves a fucking enlightened and civilised society. Mr Punch is 'aving none of it. And he's a fuckin' serial killer.
In 1945, three psychiatrists were requested to attend the war crimes trials in Nuremberg, to attest to the sanity of Rudolph Hess. One of them was Dr Ewen Cameron, a Scottish-born American citizen.
By the early 1950s he was pioneering a radical new form of psychiatric treatment. He rejected the traditional Freudian approach of 'talk therapy' in favour of "erasing faulty minds in order to re-build new personalities". He called this technique "psychic driving".
Using a combination of multiple electric shocks, bizarre cocktails of drugs and sleep deprivation his aim was to "break up old pathological patterns", leaving a kind of tabula rasa: a blank slate on which he could write.
"Sounds like playing God, to me" says Mr Punch.
Why Mr Punch, you're a philosopher. Who'd have ever thought... I wonder in whose image the good Doctor envisioned this wondrous re-make. I wonder if he even saw the similarities between his work and the man who had just narrowly escaped a death-sentence at Nuremberg. Shock and awe warfare for the mind: side-effects were later found to include amnesia and personality loss, irreversible infantile regression and full-blown schizophrenia.
"Sounds a bit murky, to me" says Mr Punch. "A little dark, methinks."
How right you are, my hook-nosed pal... time for the spooks to get involved. In 1957 Cameron started receiving funding from the CIA, laundered through a front organisation called the Society for the Investigation of Human Evolution. Really? Surely you can do better than that.
"Methinks I hear the sound of coins-a-clinking" says Mr Punch.
You're right on the money, my wooden accomplice... the dollars rolled in and Cameron upgraded. The controversial Page-Russell machine came into it's own, administering six consecutive electric shocks at once, twice a day for up to 30 day stretches. Isolation chambers were built in his hospital, which began to resemble a macabre prison; wards for narcotic induced hypersomnolence lasting up to 65 days a session.
Mr Punch claps his hands in glee.
"Sounds like a holiday" says he. "Sun, sand, sedatives 'n sea."
Exotic climes for all, my manic friend... under the guise of researching brain-washing techniques to train US soldiers to withstand interrogation if captured, what they ended up with was a blue-print for Gauntanemo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Torture chambers using civilians, often suffering no more than mild anxiety, as guinea-pigs. Cold War paranoia at it's most irrational: state-sponsored mutilation of the mind.
Why do they always have to try to make us conform? Make us into puppets. Do we scare the motherfuckers that much? It's the differences between us that surely make us human. Without them aren't we merely animals, incarcerated in a 21st Century zoo?
Mr Punch thinks we should move on to lighter thoughts.
"How were the Easter festivities for thee?" says the King of slapstick comedy.
Fucking fantastic, my squawking little compadre... there were larfs 'n carousing, drinking and dancing. So many smiles. Such goodwill. So many best wishes...
Felt like... vindication.
So give us a fuckin' song; you know you want to, really. To show the folks at home; you mean your words sincerely...
"We thank all who spent the weekend with us, partied the nights away. We hope that you enjoyed yourselves, hope you came out to play." Is this to be a regular thing? "Methinks I hear you say. You'll have to wait for the morrow, for tomorrow's another day..."
Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
"All the time, my man" says Mr Punch. "all the time..."
So check here at 'View from the Bar' and on our Facebook page, Wednesday 23rd April 2014, for an official announcement regarding the future of The Intrepid Fox: we ask our many friends out there to please share.
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