Ri An asked us to each name a medical condition observed in the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When it was my turn, I said “delusion”. Murmurs broke out in the class. Voices emerged and explained that delusion was not a medical condition, but a symptom. There was nothing else I had that hadn’t been said, so I admitted as such and passed the turn. I certainly did no favours to Sociology here in this NUS SC2211 tutorial class dominated by Nursing students.
Psychological disorders, says the charitable. Craziness, says the uncharitable. An ‘alienative coalition’, says the sociologist Erving Goffman. Before you dismiss this as conspiracy talk, let’s look more closely at what he meant. ‘Coalition’ means an alliance of different parties, and ‘alienative’ refers to isolating someone. Goffman argues that a mental patient is first a prepatient, and the key condition for the transition is not the severity of condition, but the reactions of other parties. Here’s how the process looks like:
Each time I surf the aisles of the supermarket for something new, I like to check 2 things. One, price. Two, Nutrition Facts. Yes, that rectangular space where packaged foods are virtually broken down into its components. As if I knew what 10g of sugar or 40mg of sodium are supposed to mean. I still scrutinize, since I know anything in font 8 is worth looking at.
Step inside Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) for a breath of fresh air. Literally, because the buildings are designed with gaps and fins, allowing winds to ventilate all open spaces. And they were spacious indeed. Yet the first impressions were formed earlier. The fashionable glass exterior is fronted by potted plants. Along with Yishun Pond and plenty of lush greenery, one would be forgiven for bypassing it when locating a hospital. It just doesn’t feel like one.