Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Behind the railings...

A few years ago, a friend of dad came to visit us from the States. He had the impression that Singapore was this backward state in the middle of Asia, and asked us how come there were no destitutues and beggars on the streets. I thought then they must have been 'removed' somehow. Years later in anthropology class, I learnt that they call this a form of gentrification. The social worker at the drop in centre I volunteer at does therapy at this enclosed community inside the government's mental health hospital; it's one of the places that 'destitutes' go to. So yesterday, I tagged along with her. Some of the residents here are affected by mental illness (the 'low functioning' kind), others by drugs or other forms of addiction. The community is like a holiday resort, very nicely decorated, with koi fish pond, lots of greenery; a really pleasant place. There's a barber, music room, art room, basketball courts, all managed by the residents. Technically speaking, the place is also a 'prison' where the residents cannot go outside. There is strict security, but of the 'soft' kind. (Like in the Singapore zoo where the barriers are almost always concealed by natural ornaments.) At first I was quite alarmed. By what authority can people be put there against their will? A fellow volunteer told me there's a provision in the Penal Code or something, the cops have a legal right to do it; I'll confirm this later. But I guess the good thing is that at least the residents are getting support there, and they seem to be generally OK with the situation. Some, obviously, want to go home. Some, I think, don't really or can't form an opinion. Then again, it could be we who don't understand them at all. But at least they have a relatively pleasant place to stay, for all intents and purposes. I guess it could be far worse... I was watching Ultraman just now; it was showing on the Malay channel. A similar thing happened when I once watched Oshin on the Malay channel. So she's wearing a kimono and speaking in Malay. My problem with Ultraman is the absolutely trivial plot for the first 25 minutes of a 30 minute episode. There'll be some sort of plot development among the guys and gals in uniform, and they're part of this organisation that's equiped with some fighter planes that are essentially useless against the monsters. Sometimes, the human bad guy is actually a monster in disguise. I don't really understand it. In every episode, one or two useless fighter planes will be shot down, and that's when Ultraman appears. He will win, then lose, then win. That's it. So the first part of the show is quite unnecessary. Only the last five minutes contain some interesting combat sequences. Why do they still need to film the first 25 minutes? I don't know... ------------------------- Update to the first story: It's actually not the Penal Code, but I found this act called the Mental Disorders and Treatment Act.
Order for detention of mentally disordered person. Section 25. When upon any inquiry under this Part any person has been found by the court to be of unsound mind and incapable of managing himself and his affairs, the court shall either make an order for the person to be received into a mental hospital and send him in suitable custody, together with the order for his reception, to the mental hospital named in the order, or may, if any friend or relative of the person undertakes in writing to the satisfaction of the court that the person shall be properly taken care of and shall be prevented from doing injury to himself or others, make him over to the care of that friend or relative. Apprehension of persons of unsound mind. Section 32. It shall be the duty of every police officer to apprehend any person who is reported to be of unsound mind and is believed to be dangerous to himself or other persons by reason of unsoundness of mind and take such person together with a report of the facts of the case without delay to — (a) any medical officer for an examination and the medical officer may thereafter act in accordance with section 34; or (b) any medical officer at a mental hospital and the medical officer may thereafter act in accordance with section 35.
I don't understand everything that's in the Act, but I guess others have quite a bit of authority to do what they want to do with the people of unsound mind.


seadrop said...

Somehow when you think about it, mental institution itself is not a bad thing at all - just that the people inside are not "our type"
And it goes back to what we've studies in Psych, "our" group and "their" group (out group and ingroup?)
I always feel very reluctant to the idea of sending people to the mental institution because they are not doing what we've been agreed to. Truly they need help yet somehow sending them there doesn't mean the problem is being solved.
But yeah as you said - that's good that they are all getting support over there, and at least they are well attented to.

On the other hand, ultraman - I guess we will not see the power of him unless he loses some at the beginning. And that's the way which makes kids idolised him because no matter how badly bashed he was, he still wins at the end.

Ah well I better go to sleep, because I realised my writing is all over the place hehe.

And in case you don't know me, I am hidi :)

jeffyen said...

Another thing about ingroup and outgroup is that we tend to focus more on the differences between the groups, when in fact, it's difficult to define when one goes past the line of 'being different'. I think sometimes the similarities between groups far, far outweigh the differences though...