Inmates in Charge

December 14, 2007

On David Rochester’s blog, the discussion has focused on his mental health. David explains how crazy he is; explains how his therapist is trying to help and maybe cure him; explains how he is (so far at least) incurable; his readers (for the most part, an intelligent, caring, supportive group of people, except for the two stupid, clever, and wicked people who are trying to harm David) make helpful, intelligent, supportive suggestions.As one of the two bad people among his readers, I make sarcastic, unhelpful comments.

Cheles (one of the helpful people) wrote, in part, on a comment on David’s blog:

I vaguely remember walking in on a radio program a few months ago. The speaker spoke about his beliefs that the planet we currently live on, is a “Prison Planet.” His take on this was that our souls had chosen to be here to work out a past karmic “sentencing.” Apparently, something bad happened and we were given a choice for our punishment: to be sent here to do pennance or follow evil and be doomed forever…

The entire post and the rest of Chele’s comment.

This all ties in with something I was going to write about anyway. As I was growing up, I often wondered whether or not I was a sane person. I have had various emotional problems over my lifetime. At a fairly early age I encountered the distinction between neurosis and psychosis. My childish interpretation was that a neurotic person is really irritating and a psychotic person is really dangerous. Later I amended that a bit to argue that a neurotic person is someone who never really “grew up.” One problem with that definition is that I am not sure that anyone knows what a “really grown up” person would look like or how he or she would behave. (It may be that there are no grown-up human beings.)

Another thought I had was that maybe our entire species is insane.

When I was a child, I read a lot of science fiction. One of my favorite science fiction writers was the British writer Eric Frank Russell. Although British, he mostly wrote for the American market and his writing conveyed what seemed to me as a lively American diction. Although there was a certain amount of melodramatic “space opera” in his writing, he also had a sarcastic sense of humor, a disrespect for bureaucracy and hierarchy, and and a humanistic concern for sentient beings (who might be portrayed as “humans” or might be portrayed as “aliens”) that verged on the sentimental. As an impressionable child and immature teenager, I liked Russell’s writing a a lot.

A few years ago I re-read some of his writing, and also read some works I had missed when I was young. Sometimes when we re-read a writer we liked as a child again as an adult, the author does not hold up that well. This is particularly true with science fiction, a genre that does not usually “age” that well, and Russell’s sarcasm does not always hold up that well, either when re-read after a few decades have passed. I’m not sure I would encourage anyone to search out and read much of his work. However, one of his novels, Dreadful Sanctuary, does have a “high concept” that might be worth some contemporary author taking and redrafting in contemporary idiom and perspective.

Some of the basic story line of Dreadful Sanctuary:

Hold on to your hats. The four inner planets have long been inhabited by human beings, and each planet has produced a different subspecies or “race”. Black people come from Mercury, brown people are from Venus, yellow people are the only native humans from Earth itself and white people are from Mars. Sounds like one of those simplistic relationship manuals, eh? Once the stunning audacity of this concept sinks in…. that different ethnic groups had their skin tones determined by how close they were to the Sun (?!)… things get steadily even more bizarre.

The reason our little planet has so many specimens of the different human varieties is that, a hundred thousand years ago, the Martians developed a machine which can determine whether or not someone is insane. They (the Martians, the white people, remember) deported all their lunatics to the Earth to get rid of them as a humane solution. Sheesh, we are the Botany Bay of the Solar System! Kind of explains all the war and crime and perversions and pop music, doesn`t it?

All the descendants of the Martians who have been tested and found sane by that psychotron gizmo have formed a worldwide society with cells in every major city. Forget the Si-Fan or the Illuminati or even HYDRA, the real hidden power behind governments is the insidious Norman Club. (“Norman” for “normal man”…do you think Russell was familiar with the Great Shaver Mystery with its teros and deros?) Complicating things still more is that those who know of their real ancestry back on Mercury or Venus have different agendas than those descended from Martians. It`s quite a tangle, with three different ET clans plotting and scheming behind the scenes.

Although Russell was not a racist, the stuff about skin colors was silly and unnecessary (and not really that good a contribution to his satirical purposes). I’m not going to write the book, but I think a modern retelling of a novel based on the idea that our entire species is insane could be an interesting project.

One possible route to go would be to base it on the idea that one person alone among all humans is sane, but thinks he is crazy because he is so out of step with all the crazy people.

10 Responses to “Inmates in Charge”

  1. Moongirl Says:

    “The truth lies in a man’s dreams… perhaps in this unhappy world of ours whose madness is better than a foolish sanity.” Cervantes. Help me! I’ve overdosed on Don Quixote! I’ve learned over the years that I am Orwhat; you know, are you crazy or what? Are you stupid, or what? and so forth… FTL, jen

  2. Average Jane Says:

    Yeah, great argument. I may be convinced butI am not sure which group I belong to. I mean I think I am perfectly and genuinely crazy but I don’t think people around me are sane either. I think they are pretty much crazy too but in a different way from me. Anyway, who is the other bad person trying to harm David? You interest me strangely, Mr.Random.

  3. modestypress Says:

    (1) Another take on the story I propose is that as soon as a human being becomes sane, the knowledge and insight then immediately drives that person insane. Sanity may be something like the state described as kensho, a state that can not be maintained.

    (2) The other bad person trying to harm David? I don’t know who that person is, but he or she must be present in our little group. It is rather like what is known in the world of murder mysteries as a “locked room” mystery.

    Under the circumstances, I must request that everyone not leave the premises until the inspector has completed questioning all the suspects.

  4. cheles Says:

    *Whew!* I am so relieved to hear that I am not one of the bad people! Had me worried there.

    Perhaps sanity is in the eye of the beholder. We all think that we are insane but really, we are not. I think insanity consists of its own individual personality. Once we figure this out we become enlightened and this in itself drives us even more nuts. Its mind boggling to think that there are so many creative, crazy, intelligent and fun people out there. I’m not sure if I understand what I just said. Time for another coffee!

  5. Ela Says:

    Mr. Random, I stop to wish the best New Year 2008 for you and your lovely wife and daugther and grand daughter and the daughte-in-law. Let your years be happy and safe for ever and ever!

  6. modestypress Says:


    The humorist Jean Shepherd once said something like, “Don’t be afraid of the people with the wild and crazy look in their eyes. They are just the creative ones.

    “Be afraid of the people with the very fixed stare of fanaticism. They are the dangerous ones.”


    Thank you for our kind and generous wishes. I wish the best New Year for you and your loved ones as well.

  7. Ela Says:

    Thank you Mr. Random

    I wish to tell you that your comments might be even more helpful then the others.
    I will not call them sarcastic, because I do not think they are written to wound, although they are sharp sometimes.
    I read them, they make me laugh,sometimes I don’t get them, but mostly they make me think that we do exaggerate our problems.
    If only it was easy to switch from one thought to another… but I know it isn’t. My husband is one of those people who leave a thought and does not think about it, at least for a while. I have no such ability, and I do understand how a person can agonize over and over and over the same issue.

    Your comments make those issues less painful and more like it is something that one day one will look back and say, thank God for all the people in my life, especially the once that had the guts to differ.


  8. My theory is that I’m the other person trying to harm David. Like many of the conspiracies that I belong to, I’m such a deep agent that I’m not aware of it myself.

  9. modestypress Says:

    We will have to waterboard GRUFF to see if we can get the truth out of his unconscious mind.

  10. cheles Says:

    Random: I loved that quote. So true, so true. Don’t ever change in your wit will you? Its what keeps me coming back to visit. Hugs!

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