When a subject turns into a disposable object
(…) the term “concentration camp” renders speakable, on which it seems that our thinkers, in drifting from humanism to the terror, have not sufficiently concentrated. Let me summarize by saying that what we have seen emerge from this, to our horror, represents the reaction of precursors in relation to what will unfold as a consequence of the rearranging of social groupings by science and, notably, of the universalisation science introduces into them. Our future as common markets will be balanced by an increasingly hard-line extensions of the process of segregation. (Lacan, 1967 , p.276)
Lacan’s remark is still valid for current time. In his remark there is a clear reference to concentration camps, sadly famous in terms of turning a subject into a disposable object, and to the role science played in those camps. Furthermore, it hints that the other side of capitalism is segregation. Segregation processes have to do with hatred to the Other, they point out the real in the Other, they involve intolerance to the Other’s way of enjoying as segregation deprives subject of his/her own enjoyment.
As Naparstek (2006) points out, the Nazis, who segregated people enjoying in a similar way, were the precursors of segregation, either in a ghetto, a concentration camp, or a mental hospital. In good faith and wishing the best for an alcoholic or drug addict subject, or one whose neighbors report as being “insane”, this subject is hospitalized and placed with others who enjoy in the same way.
The mental hospital, however, with all its differences from concentration camps and as currently articulated will continue being a place of disposal to send those subjects whose particular way of enjoying is not tolerated by the Other, as long as their transformation is not achieved.
Back to Mental Health Legislation, beyond the conquest they imply, it is not licit to get one’s hopes high because we should remember—common places, what a temptation!—that every law has its loophole. Regulations do not control what happens at institutions dedicated to the treatment of drug-addict subjects, such as NGOs, neither do they control nursing homes. Moreover, National Mental Health Act makes explicit its limitations regarding hospitalizations generated pursuant to Section 34 of the Criminal Code, which sets forth that:
The following persons are not punishable: 1°. Persons who at the moment of committing the act are unable to understand the criminality of such act or to direct their actions due to the inadequacy of their reasoning faculties or morbid disturbances of their faculties, or because of their irreproachable state of unconsciousness, factual error or ignorance. In case of mental derangement, the court may order the confinement of the actor in a mental hospital, which shall not leave without a judicial order, with a hearing held at the prosecution authorities, and with prior report of the experts stating that the patient is not in danger of causing harm to self or others.
This article is full of consequences, as it sheds light on how, beyond current legislation on mental health, in the interplay of the latter and justice, conditions are laid down for segregation processes to occur. Since the subject is unfit to plead for not being in possession of his/her mental faculties, either due to a morbid state or to the effects of intoxication, and he/she is unable to understand the criminality of the act, the case is dismissed. However, a mental health warrant will be issued for the subject under the legal label of “implementation of a safety measure”. Cases like these ones leave no option but hospitalization. On a case by case basis, evidence will show that for some people this is an appropriate measure; however, for others it will be evident that the grounds for hospitalization, which causes it, is the decision to separate from society those subjects whose particular way of enjoying cannot be stood by the Other.
[Translator’s Note: The Spanish term “manicomios” refers to mental hospitals and was intentionally left in Spanish for easy reference to the terms “manicomial logic”, “manicomial mental health policy”, and “demanicomialization” used in this document.]