27 November 2011


I do not want to write this post - but must if I am to continue this series.

Around Christmas time, I think, or perhaps New Year's, of 1968-69, I became a terrorist.

Tantrums are unlovely things in 4-year-olds.  In young men of 26 - fathers of children, husbands of wives, and University post-graduate students - they are worse than unlovely; they are dangerous and must be treated as such.  I wonder, sometimes, whether terrorists are just grown men throwing a tantrum.  Do they really think they will achieve their stated goal, and, if they do, that they will then cease to be terrorists?  Or is the infliction of terror itself their aim?

I arrived at the office in Straub Clinic where Edna worked - luckily for me, a psychiatrist's office.  Was she at the front desk?  I do not remember.  Indeed, I don't remember any of the emotional build-up in myself that led to this incident.  But ... I arrived there - and began screaming.  I recall that I screamed that I would kill Edna and Kathleen, and then myself.

Was I even making demands?  Was I saying that I would do this and that unless ... unless what?  Edna returned to me?  It is difficult to imagine, impossible to conceive any possible relation based on such a transaction, deeply shaming to me, even now, 43 years later, to write about it.  But that, I know, was what I did.

Edna's boss - I wish I could remember his name - was a wise and prudent man.  Had he not been a psychiatrist, I suppose my subsequent history would have been vastly different.  I cannot imagine I would not have been arrested.

He came out of his office to see what was happening.  He spoke to me calmly, but gravely, and asked me to come into his office.  I don't think I was there very long - but he calmed me down.  He then told me that he had, of necessity, called the police, who were outside.  He said he had not liked to do that, but that I could certainly see that he could not assume that someone making the sort of threats I was making would not attempt to carry them out.

He could, he said, simply ask the police to take charge of the matter, and that would be that - but he would like to try a different approach.  Would I be willing to go out to the Kaneohe insane asylum (I could not find a link to it on the web, which leads me to think either that it is no longer there, or else that I must find some more politically correct way of referring to it) for a few days, just to cool off?  If I was willing to do that, he thought he could satisfy the police.

I said I was.  OK, go home, he told me, and a 'van would pick me up that afternoon and take me out to Kaneohe.

It is - or was - a spectacularly beautiful spot.  The buildings have the flavour of late 19th- or early 20th-century Hawai'i.  It is located in calm and peaceful spot out of town.  I arrived there, and was given a form to fill up.  The form was a form for voluntary self-admission.

I read the form.  I can say that, if I had been in any way insane before I read that paper, it cured me instantly.  It was clear from the form that the 'voluntary' aspect of this was strictly cosmetic.  The facts were:
  1. I could sign the form and be admitted.  If I did, and if I decided that I wanted to leave, the hospital could keep me for an additional five days involuntarily whilst they decided whether to make the commitment without my agreement.
  2. I could not sign the form.  In that case, they could hold me for five days whilst they talked to a judge to decide whether ...
...well, you get the idea.

"I don't know if I should sign this form.  Can I talk to the doctor?"

"Ah - Dr So-and-so is the man, but he is out right now.  He'll be back in a couple of hours.  Just hang around and he'll see you when he is back."

So I did.  Talked to a young man my own age, or a little younger.  He had been fighting with his father, so came in on a voluntary.  That had been eighteen months before.  He was still there.

I decided to go walk outside on the porch for a while, have a look at the lovely scenery.  Nice Hawai'ian orderly - weighing about 110Kg, I think - comes up behind me and gently but firmly - very firmly - takes my arm and asks me where I am going.  "Oh, just to look outside!"  "Oh, mo' betta you sit down here, wait for da doctor."

I was able - thank God! - to persuade this doctor that I was not going to cause trouble if they let me go; was not going to go screaming threats at anyone; would behave myself.  They sent me home.

Terrorism is a kind of strategy of despair, I think.  When you have almost run out of options, you scream.  Sometimes that is the end.  They put you in jail - or you carry out your threat and are dead.  But, if not - then a new sort of calm sets in.  You thought, until then, that you had given up hope.  You were wrong.  The ship is now becalmed.

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