Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Dead End of Institutionalization

Today I read a piece about the horrors of Medicaid-funded nursing homes. And then a piece about Oregon's foster care system housing children in hotel rooms.

All this while Lady Marjorie and I attend her mother, who lives in a retirement home cared for by paid home health aides.

We moderns live an astonishing fraction of our lives in institutions. We are born in hospitals, go to school in government child-custodial facilities, go on to college and live in barracks -- er, dorms -- and then spend our working hours in factory-like office buildings. Then we go to die in "retirement communities" if we have the ready, or Medicaid-funded nursing homes if we don't. Used to be that parentless children were stored in orphanages. Now they are put out to foster homes except when they are stored in hotel rooms.

I suppose the reason for all this is that humans, whenever they can afford it, pay someone to look after their children. Rich women used to have wet nurses to nurse their children. Wealthy Brits used to send their kids away to boarding schools and, according to Dickens, put unwanted stepchildren away in horror shows like Dotheboys Hall or Mr. Creakle's kindly educational establishment, Salem House.

And now, with the welfare state, everyone gets their kids institutionalized, at government expense, in government child-custodial facilities, and gets granny institutionalized in a retirement community or a nursing home.

(However, I heard from an acquaintance that Medicaid now prefers to keep granny at home, paying for a family caregiver and additional help if needed, rather than putting granny in one of those horror-show nursing homes described above.)

I wonder if sometime after the end of the present moral crusade for political correctness and race and gender politics we will experience a different kind of moral revival, one that regards the institutionalization and warehousing of the young and the weak and the aged as a moral horror, and the idea of putting kids away in school, or granny away in a nursing home, as an indictment of our society comparable to plantation slavery.

Think of it this way. Some people think that the modern school was invented to make children obedient enough to submit to the discipline of the factory system. It is, in other words, boot camp for factory work in the same way that military basic training breaks a military recruit to military discipline.

But if the factory system, of ranks of people doing simple and repetitive tasks under close supervision, is to be a thing of the past as simple repetitive tasks are taken over by robots and automation then humans will be released from wage slavery to take care of each other. Mothers will not need to go out to work but can stay home to raise their children in community with the other women in the neighborhood. Daughters will be able to look after their ailing parents rather than do stupid repetitive office work or school administration as they do now under the notion that they are pursuing "careers."

On this view the present situation, where women are to be "liberated" from the caring responsibilities of the home, will end and human civilization will revert to its old shape, where women are carers and men are fighters.

Honestly, I don't have a clue what is coming next and why. But I just have this nagging feeling that the modern habit of institutionalization is riding for a fall.

Just like the top-down centralized administrative model of politics and big business.

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