“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"...extension of the processes of control within the capitalist state."

That is how Michael Oliver, the Professor of Disability Studies describes the move from institutions to the community in a 1994 article. He does not see the change as "part of a process of removing some of the apparatus of social control by the state." But an extension of control. I am confident that I don't agree, at least for those individuals with intellectual disabilities that I have known. Perhaps there was more "freedom" within institutions, however, I think chaotic, irresponsible, life without any direction is hardly a desirable alternative to more of a regulated life in the community. His general point, however, I think is well taken. That being that the move from institutions to the community was somwhat of a facade in terms of people truly having their lives changed in terms of approaching more of a typical or normal life. Normal meaning a life like that for the average individual.

However, he doesn't provide an alternative to institutional lives of regulation which is the answer that is really needed. People confined in institutions were "protected" from the community although their protection was not worth the price and was a horror. The shift to community based care was not as Oliver states, a way to save money. If anything it is more expensive if only because of the ratio of care providers to those with disabilities, and the programmatic offerings (good or bad) which are in place.

But his point about extending the processes of control I think I would agree with. Are there capitalist ties, perhaps there are, but I think it is more related to the human condition than it is to our lack of movement toward Marxist ideals as he would desire. I think we see the vestiges of protectionism that occurred at the time of deinstitutionalization which may have provided some level of protection for ex-inmates of institutions, but has now has created new generations of state controlled people, with the venue of control being community based housing/group homes or community based services.

But I wonder about the church. What could the role of the church be, as a free agent not submitting to state regulations in terms of setting up parallel homes or parallel services causing them to be as regulated as any other service. We have tremendous resources within the church, tremendous creativity, but oppressive traditions which do not often allow us to be innovative. We put video screens in the sanctuary and think we are innovative. How about doing something innovative for poor people, or those with disabilities often living in lonliness? One of the beauties of the L'Arche communities as I understand them is the creative model they developed. Yet when they come to America, they struggle to hold on to their identity because of regulations. How might we facilitate community integration that it excludes the governmental regulation, the "processes of control" such that people cease to be commodities that are regulated and be come human beings who just want a regular life?



Gary Sweeten said...

The Kennedy Administration shut down most hospitals for the chronically disabled with the promise of "Community Mental Health Centers" that rarely ever emerged. I can't imagine that we could go back to the days of large mental hospitals. We do need communities of some sort but it is a huge challenge and churches could be a great asset.

Barbara said...

I wonder ... using the term 'rights' seems to veneer the reasons for many governmental programs.

I read enough complaint about lack of separation of church and state that it seems that if churches would get involved, the state would necessarily have to bow out. No?

"an alternative to institutional lives of regulation"

I'm afraid this brings to my mind the issues surrounding homelessness. In the city where I live, a partnership between the gov and not-for-profit orgs is creating a (huge) center of services for 'homeless' persons - to include a gated courtyard for outdoor camping. No more living under hwy bridges here.

Anonymous said...

quite interesting read. I would love to follow you on twitter.