April 17, 1998
"The Crossroads of Dead Ends" is a set of shorts stories and documents which attest of dramatic events which have occurred in a psychiatric hospital in France between 1984 and 1991.
Because of the professional secrecy to which I am held to as a nurse, these writings do not indicate the identities of the actors of these events, neither of the patients, nor of the staff. Moreover, it is important to say that the hospital concerned here is, in our country, a center of care by far more livable than many others, where similar facts, if not worse, occur. Then since these texts were written, some of their actors died. This is why they do not aim to attract the attention on some individuals, but to put in light some facts and some behaviors, in order to lead to their comprehension, and to make so that the actor of these events will not be forgotten, that they will not have lived them in vain, and that their example will avoid that some other undergo the same processing.
The domain of hospitals is a closed world at the informational level. If the cares results in a greater comfort of the patients, there is no problem. But when the hospitalization leads to degradation, the loss of freedom and sometimes the death of people, then there is a problem. If the people who work there, who are the only persons able to have the whole set of elements relating to facts which occur (administrative documents, extracts of files, etc.), do not testify then of what they observe, they take part to a perversion of public services and contribute to perpetuate and stand for such a situation.
When I noticed the dichotomy existing between the level of the words, the theory which had been taught to me as a scientific knowledge and which I had studied as such, and the level of the facts, namely the reality certain patients could live, which appeared as intolerable and unacceptable to me, I initially tried to change the things from the inside. I worked out and set up a project, based on the data of Alfred Korzybski 's general semantics, Henri Laborit's theory of inhibition of action and the burroughsian concepts ofAcademy and Johnson Family*, which aimed to fulfill the human needs of the people and to lead them to use their capacities. The entreprise, which became real through the group B 23, with the complicity of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, succeeded beyond our expectations, but the hierarchy put an end to it after three years, considering that these results put in question the whole institution.
I tried then to use my function to intervene in favour of certain patients in difficulty at different level of the hierarchy, thinking naively that what was intolerable to me would also appear as such to the concerned people, who could influence practically on the fate of the patients more than I. I then noted that it was not so, and during these years I saw the collapsing of the whole reality of the speeches on the humans right, medical ethics, duties of the public services, etc, in which I had believed before. I came to the conclusion, after having used all the means I had, that there was no way out of such a system. The situation then appeared to me as absurd and desperate. However I did not believe in absurd. I put forth the assumption that to come out of there, some solutions had do exist which had not been considered up to now, and I decided to remain in the place until I understand what was going on there exactly, while using in this intention the whole of the means I had. With the assistance of general semantics, a camera, a tape recorder and William Burroughs' data on control systems, I inquired for myself on the factors of degradation, adopting towards them a similar attitude as the one of a biologist towards of virus in his laboratory, passinf implicitly from the status of nurse to the one of a burroughsian agent. This tactic made my situation mentally much more comfortable: outside it was not modified, but this change of inner attitude enabled me to cease undergoing and to acquire a certain control of the situation while reducing the emotional impact of the aggressions. Thus, in the chapter "Evaluation ", which is a recording of a discussion with the head doctor and the chief-supervisor, the use of the tape recorder, the existence of which they are unaware of, modifies radically the stregth relation, transforming it to my advantage into a relation of intelligence.
" The Crossroads of Dead ends ", result of these investigation, was the only possibility of action I had which had not be prerecorded, foreseen, nor included as a data by the psychiatric system. " Castaneda would describe it as a sudden eruption of the Nagual, the unknown, the unpredictable, into the Tonal, which is the totality of prerecordered film. This violates the most basic laws of a predictable,control-oriented universe. Introduce an unforeseen and therefore unforeseeable factor and all the structure colloapses like a house of cards. " W. Burroughs, "The Place of Dead Roads".
These writings allow to consider these event with distance, which their actors could not do while they were living them , whatever their functions might have been. They allow to observe the following of the events in their context until their dramatic end, and to note that this following and this end result not so much of some individuals'will, than of the conjunction of various factors interacting at different levels : ideological, institutional, structural, relational, semantic, etc., factors which nobody is aware of and which condition the ways of thinking and behaviour of these actors without them to know it. The end is not foreseeable at the beginning and there is no deliberate will to cause these events, no conscience of consequences of the acts nor of the mechanisms which generate them, and because of this unconsciousness, no will either to prevent them to occur. Each one is taken in a ceaseless rhythm of disparate tasks to achieve, which monopolize the attention and blunt perception. Each level of the pyramid reasons according to a logic, a knowledge and a grid of thought specific to its formation, and certain aspects of which are in contradiction with the ones of other levels, hence the impossibility for these levels to really communicate ....
One day a old supervisor, who had live the period of opening of asylum after the Second World War, said that some nurses had to live by themselves the experiment of Nazi camps to carry out the similarity of condition of enfermement between these camps and the asylums. What they were not aware of before living it themselves insofar as they did not identify with their patients appeared to them intolerable afterwards. And this supervisor deplored the fact that the young generations of nurses, who were trained to theoretical knowledges, and did not have this personal experiment of enfermement, could reproduce attitudes and behaviors of asylum time towards people who were presented to them just as objects of study and whom they did not identify to at the human level, such an indentification being considered as out of the frame of "benevolent neutrality " which the therapist has to observe with regard to patients, and as such, as antithérapeutic.
Therefore the aim here is not to make the lawsuit of anybody but to confront the level of words with the one of facts, in order to put in light mechanisms of thought and of behavior which generate oppression in a given area, and to provoke a reflexion on them as on the postulates which underlie them. Because of the similarity of the structure of public services , they are not specific of the psychiatric area, and can be also observed in some other branches of these service s(police, prisons, education, etc). Also the techniques used here to put them in light is also applyable by the agents of these service who feel confronted to a situation similar to mine.
The recent lawsuit of Maurice Papon declared him guilty as a prefect ofthe regime of Vichy during the Second World War, judging as condemnable the compromising of administration and its participation in the crimes comited then under the pressure of Nazi invader, and incompatible with the republican and democratic values. " The Crossroads of Dead Ends " put in light similar behaviours and logic , four decade afterwards, without interference of any foreign country and during peace time, putting in question a structure of thinking which generates them, and consequently, the legitimacy of the condemnation of Maurice Papon: according to which right would we condemn a man for behaviors which we adopt ourselves? Who are we to judge? Where are the " lessons of History " that we are supposed to learn from this close past when we be unable to confront ourselves to the consequences of our own acts, in other words, irresponsible? What do we mean by " guilty ", if not the rejection of a fault on this past for better denying the present?
" Le Carrefour des Impasses" is the translation of the title of a book by William Burroughs, " The Place of Dead Roads " (" Parages des Voies Mortes ", Christian Bourgois). " A writer is a spy in someone's body", he wrote once, quoting Jack Kerouac. "Le Carrefour des Impasses" is an experiment at several levels , of the technics and concepts developped and described by Burroughs and his friend Brion Gysin, without the work and support of whom the group B 23, which was one of the aspects of this experiment, could not have existed. It is an application of the functions of writing they used :
- the function of time-binding, which consists in binding the author and the reader through time-space, and thanks to which we can integrate and use the knowledge of past generations, enrich them and transmit them to future generations,
- the magic function, which consists in writing a scenario of reality and making the events happen, to create reality : "Mektoub, it is written." It is part, at different levels, of the reality their books have generated.
Thanks to them, members of Johnson Family*, for making this adventure possible, and for the role they played in it.
* " The Johnson Family" was a turn-of the century expression to designate good bums and thieves. It was elaborated into a code of conduct. A Johnson honors his obligations. His word is good and he is a good man to do business with. A Johnson minds his own business. He is not a snoopy, self-rightous, trouble-making person. A Johnson will give help when help is needed. He will not stand by while someone is drowning or trapped under a burning car."
William Burroughs ,"The Place of Dead Roads".
Extracts from the Official Jounal of the French Republic
Decrete 93-221of February 16th 1993, related to the professional rules of male and female nurses :
Art. 2 - The male or female nurse practices his profession in the respect of life and human person. He respects the dignity and the intimacy of the patient.
Art 4 - The professional secrecy is imposed to any male or female nurse and to any nurse student in the conditions established by the law.
The secret covers not only what he was told in confidence, but also what he saw, read, heard, stated, or understood.
Art.6 - The male or female nurse has to bear assistance to patients hurted or endangered.
Art 7 - When a male or female nurse detects in his profession that a minor is victim of brutalities or privations, he must use the most accurate ways to protect him, not hesitating, if needed , to alert the competent medical or administrative authorities when a minor under fifteen years old is concerned.
Art. 26 - The male or female nurse acts in every circumstance in the patient's interest.
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