1990s >> 1997 >> no-1120-december-1997

Madness – A Short Story

I recently made an appointment to see my doctor. He sat at his desk and I sat on a chair to the side of him. He had my records in front of him with one eye on me and another on them.

He asked “now tell me what can I do for you?”

I told him “I think I’m going mad.”

He turned a page of my notes to see, I think whether there was any record of my ever having gone mad before. “So,” he said, sitting back in his seat and clasping his hands together. “What on earth makes you think that?” I told him that everything on earth made me think that. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Can you be a little more specific?”

“Yes,” I said, “people are killing one another, if not in one way then in some other way, pollution, malnutrition . . . “

He frowned at me. “You can’t do anything about that, it is the way of the world. That is how the world has always been.”

” . . . Exploitation,” I went on, “the stockpiling of more and yet more weapons of torture and destruction . . . and  . . . ” My doctor shook his head.

“But this is nothing for you to get depressed about surely.”

“And this lottery, millions are given away to one person and yet in this city, as in others, people are begging on the streets and . . . “

He picked up his pen and wrote something down.

“And there are rich people with several homes and other who have no homes and no paid work . . . “

He looked at me sternly over the tops of his spectacles. It is a waste of time to concern yourself with these matters and what is more it is detrimental to your health. You really must not upset yourself about things you cannot change.”

“But they could be changed —if goods were produced for use instead of for profit and more profit.”

My doctor gave me a long, hard stare. “There are fine minds out there whose job it is to make sure these things are taken care of. You must realise that there are people who cannot fit into society who prefer to  . . . “

I finished it for him. “Who prefer to remain on the streets, cold, depressed and hungry. Do you believe they prefer that?”

A look of irritation flitted across his face. “I did not say that they ‘preferred’ it but if there is no work they can do . . . ” He looked at his watch. “Now I do have other patients to see so I will tell you what I am going to do. I am going to prescribe some tablets, and they should help you to stop worrying about these things. If we all of us dwelt in such matters then would we all end up?”

I suggested perhaps with a more just society. But ignoring this he wrote out a prescription. “I want you to take two of these three times a day with water. I should warn you that there could be side-effects; you could suffer from a blurring of vision, some auditory impairment and possible some sensations of numbness and loss of feeling. But I think if you take them regularly you may find that poverty, starvation, injustice, pollution and war no longer worry you quite so much.” Then, cheerfully, “We’ll soon get you back to sanity

“Thank you doctor,” I said, “but I would far rather be mad.”

Heather Ball

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