So I'm just writing this in response to the uproar about the DLA reforms.
Just for the record I think it's horrendous and I'm not saying that the anger people feel about it is unjustified in the slightest... I think the decision taken is disgusting and it's going to affect a lot of people's lives so badly.
But back when I was doing research for my dissertation (suicide reports from the Victorian period), I ended up learning a lot about people's daily lives and how people survived. I was reminded this evening (well, this morning since it's 2.30am :P) of a case I looked at about a man who I think had autism. However, since medicine had not progressed enough to even remotely understand problems such as autism, he was just treated as an imbecile.
I'm going to paste the article here so you can have a read... I think it shows quite a few things:
1) How badly newspaper articles were written in 1850!
2) The kind of awful vocabulary used to describe those who were mentally retarded (I use that term in its appropriate context, not in a derogatory way!)
3) The complete lack of understanding and mistreatment of those people
4) That learning disabilities were often confused with madness and general insanity
5) Most importantly, it also shows just how lucky we are to have the NHS and welfare state. I know they're inefficient and I know they need some serious work, but we are so lucky to have them even at the level they're currently at, because people like John, the guy in this article, were not lucky enough to have any sort of support or understanding.
So, here it is:
John Cox, a young man of idiotic appearance, was charged with attempting to commit suicide, under the following circumstances:- James Factors deposed that he had known the prisoner for the last twenty years, and that he had always believed him to be of unsound mind, his actions at intervals being altogether those of a madman. About three o'clock on Sunday afternoon, he was at dinner with his wife, in the lower part of the house in which the prisoner, with his aged mother, resides, 3 Woburn-mews, Woburn-place, Russell square, when Mrs. Cox ran down to him, and told him that her son had been attempting his life. He rushed up stairs, and found that the prisoner had attempted to hang himself by a rope, which he had passed through a hook in the ceiling, and then formed into a loop. The loop giving way had, however, thwarted his design, and he was lying on the floor, fully believing that he had succeeded in committing suicide. The prisoner had never done anything regularly for a livelihood, as he was so exceedingly stupid. All he lived on was a few pence he got from the ostlers in the mews for running errands on their account. The reason for his attempting to destroy himself was ascribed to the following conduct of some persons whom he was in the habit of meeting in a taproom in the mews. For some time past they had told him that he never washed himself, and they persisting last Saturday that his skin was very black, he was foolish enough to undress in the taproom, to show that their allegation was quite unfounded. He then became very morose, refusing to partake of anything up to the time of his attempted suicide. Mr Hall remarked that it was a very distressing case, and that the parochial authorities ought to look after him, as he was unable to support himself, and his aged mother could do nothing for him. He then ordered the police-constable to take him to the St. Giles's workhouse.
I'm not saying that we all have it easy. A lot of people still lead horrifically difficult lives and are not supported by the state anywhere near as much as they should be. But equally, at least most don't have it this bad, and aren't sent to a workhouse if they are suffering from learning disabilities.
Would be interested to hear people's thoughts on this article as I found it fascinating to read and think it really shows how much society has progressed in a positive way since then.