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All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others.
“This is J__, the case worker; I’d just like to reiterate what Mr. M__ said a minute ago, because it is so important. He is right that this case and your placement aren’t just about the mental health aspect and treatment, and we are working toward reunification with your mom. And it is truly amazing that, as he pointed out, we went from having a reliquishment of parental rights actually filed back in July to now, here we are, talking about overnight visits and Mom flying all the way up here for that holiday visit. Back in July, when you were having the suicidal ideations, and you had the run, and the … the mental breakdown, for lack of a better phrase … I was just so impressed with the way that you actually reached out to your mom and to me and to your attorney and you were able to articulate your needs and actually spark some changes being made, and that was really important. So just because you’re in a treatment program and focusing on your mental health goals, you don’t have to feel stuck.”
It wasn’t quite what I had said, but I didn’t make much of that and followed his statement with a slight emphasis elsewhere.
“… yes, though more importantly, I don’t want you to think that the treatment program is necessarily the only thing that the court will be looking at – it is for your benefit, but this case isn’t just about your mental health, it is about reunification, and that’s something that may be accomplished at any time, regardless of whether you’ve completed the program or not, so we’ll be focused on trying to present to the judge a complete picture of everything that’s going on. As I said, the fact that we’ve gone from relinquishment all the way to Mom flying up here for Christmas to do the overnight – that’s the direction we want to keep moving in, and the goal is for you to be with her full time, as soon as that’s possible. I want to remind you to call me to discuss all of this – I know there were some things in that referral that you disagreed with, and if we need to write an affidavit, we will do that and present it to the judge so that he has all perspectives to consider…”
[case manager at the facility] “… Hi, yes, thank you all for that and thank you for calling in, Mr. M__, I apologize for the misconfusion earlier because I didn’t understand that all of these people were a part of the treatment team when I sent out the invitations but I will be sure to include you in the future. I just want to say – I really hope the visit will happen over the Holiday, but I have to let you all know, we do right now have an active covid case on campus, which means there is no visitation at present… and … we cannot have any visitation or contact unless there is zero covid on campus, so I really do hope that the visit can happen, and absolutely we can help you, A__, with a hotel if you do come, but I don’t want you to make plans and everything and then…”
“… I’ve already booked the…”
“…it would be so sad if you did all of that and then it cannot happen because we have an active covid case.”
An active –
My eye twitch is back.
This is a residential facility, a group home of sorts; not a hospital or a nursing home, but a place for foster kids who, quite frankly, don’t have anywhere else to go. We’ll call it a treatment facility for mental health, and instead of “placement,” we’ll call it a “program,” with goals and benchmarks and …
I saw recently that the city of San Francisco has been having a serious crime problem. People not just engaging in crime; people devoted to crime. Organized ransacking of businesses that are stripped clean – “flash-mob looting,” I think they’ve said – and people filling entire shopping carts with goods and brazenly marching past the registers and out to their cars, being filmed all the while. License plates removed, face masks dutifully worn (hey, this mask is for safety!). No police, no prosecution, no ramifications. The city council of San Francisco was deeply concerned … because people kept referring to this activity as “looting,” and don’t you know that “looting” carries with it a certain connotation, implying the African American communities and other minorities? That stigma is damaging and hurtful, so … can’t we call it something else?
… I have for a long time wished that we could simply refer to these treatment facilities as orphanages, because that is what they are. That carries a stigma, of course, but shouldn’t it? We pretend that we care about the stigma because we don’t want the children to be stigmatized, but this great big elephant in the room keeps talking to me – am I seeing things? Maybe it’s a pink elephant, but I’m sober and I’m pretty sure – he’s saying that these particular children might be hurt less by the stigma of being in an orphanage, and more by the reality of being in this place, whatever you might call it, and … dare I say? Whatever it was that got them there in the first place. No, I don’t think it’s the children we’re worried about, I think it’s the adults. Abortion is such a nasty word, when “Women’s Health” sounds so much better, but I don’t think the lifeless fetus cares about that word quite so much as about the life-ending forceps. But we did at one time care about the inmates, didn’t we? What drove all of those state hospitals to be closed in the ’70s and ’80s if not concern for the treatment of their inmates? Maybe it wasn’t that. Either way, we closed all of those hospitals, but we didn’t get rid of Nurse Ratchet; no, we just gave her all the difficult foster kids.
No rational mental health professional would look at this situation and conclude that a single case of covid – or even a dozen cases – is a bigger threat to these children than isolation. But mental health professionals may sometimes be chameleons with dual roles, and sometimes the better judgment of the doctor is supplanted by the pragmatism of the administrator and his devotion to the system. Children come and go – they enter these doors, they sleep in these beds, eat at these tables; but they leave through the same doors, which remain along with the walls and the beds. The system remains, and preservation of the system is ultimately more important than protection of the nameless and faceless occupants within its walls.
Zero covid –
There were a lot of words that seem to have flown over the head of our bureaucrat, or maybe they just got lodged in my eyelid and have been flinging it about, trying to escape. Suicidal ideation is an interesting phrase. Mental breakdown … that’s breakdown in a bad way. Alerting your mother and social worker and attorney of abuses that led to the temporary shutting down (and complete re-staffing) of a previous
orph… facility. I don’t make arguments at meetings like this. I think them, and I save them, and sometimes I bring them into court … at the meeting, I only say “please call me and we will discuss this privately,” but in court I might observe that we are talking about a 16-year-old girl, and these statutes that enable all of what’s currently going on in this girl’s life make specific mention of the best interests of this particular girl. Whose ongoing relationship with her mother, and the improvement of which, has been integral in the progress that may eventually see an end to this case, but … a facility that is now testing regularly (and apparently testing everyone) for a virus that has been widespread for two years and is largely harmless to the young … one case and the entire campus is effectively quarantined. This is something that should never happen; it is something that should cause investigations; it is something that should be making headlines and causing outrage and demands for change. After all, the facility whose sole stated purpose is the recovery of foster youth with unstable mental health is now, for no defensible or even articulable reason, imposing on those same youth one thing that has been historically proven to cause destabilization of mental health – forced isolation. There are no questions, there is no outrage, the mother says “thank you for letting me know,” and the woman again apologizes for neglecting to invite the attorney, closing with “well, I guess that about wraps it up…” And yet…
All Animals are Equal. Some Animals are More Equal than Others.
That is a fascinating phrase. It does, I think, capture more of the socialist mindset than Orwell even intended. Or maybe his genius extends beyond the usual interpretation with respect to hypocrisy and human motivation. The statement is intentionally self-contradictory, because language is important. As Solzhenitsyn points out over and over again, the power of show trials was that they were absurd. The power of this language is that it is self-contradicting. How can something be more equal than something else? That is a mathematical impossibility. How can something be anti-fascist when literally all of its activities are textbook fascism? No – it’s not impossible, it is powerful, because language is important. Equality is not what we have always understood; what it means is simply “good,” and that is highly subjective. The state tells you what is good, who is equal, who is more equal, who deserves what. Fascism is not what we have always understood; what it means is simply “bad,” and that is highly subjective. The state tells you who is bad, who is fascist … but … most importantly, the fascist is sub-human. This is why Hitler, who was once a human being (even for Americans in World War II, he was hated, but he was hated as a human), is now a monster. If Hitler is a monster, then fascism can be associated not with his actions, but with the man himself. If we do the same things Hitler did, we’re not fascists, because we’re not monsters; and if we do none of the things Hitler did, but we are monsters, then we are still fascists. See? And monsters are not human. They don’t have rights. They aren’t discussed on the same level as actual human beings. In that sense, the phrase makes perfect sense. All animals are equal – all animals are equal to other animals in their class, that is. Monsters are equally monstrous. At the end of the day, when language has fully been flipped on its head and each word has come to be defined as what was once its opposite, the process is complete. We control the language. You do not have rights because rights exist; you are not a man or a woman because you were born a man or a woman; you are not innocent because you did nothing wrong. You are what we say you are, and you are not Human until we grant your humanity.
Socialism has always been anti-Christian, by necessity, which is why it has taken so long for socialism to make any headway in the United States, which was at one time a predominately Christian nation. Socialism is, at its heart, absolutely and completely dehumanizing. Christians believe that humans are made in the image of God, that they have rights because they are, as a whole, different from all other creation; they have individual rights because they are unique in the sight of God; women have rights because God has made us purposefully, man and woman. In order for us to have rights, language must be a reflection of reality, reality a recognition of truth, and truth unchanging. God is Truth, and is unchanging, and is therefore antithetical to socialism. God doesn’t empower man by forcing him to recognize God’s definitions, or by requiring uniformity … men disagree with one another, they disagree with God, and they sometimes deny him altogether. Recognition of God, however, is recognition of unchanging truth, which enables man to think; it allows him to see and recognize truth, to debate facts and ideas; to disagree. Socialism tells you that there is freedom in servitude, but that is only because the party defines words to mean their opposite. God tells you that there is freedom in humility, because truth is his alone, and no man or party can define it away from you. That is humanizing.
In court – now held remotely, with no end in sight – I constantly see new faces. The department of youth and family services, like all other state agencies, was ordered by executive fiat to be “fully vaccinated” by October 18, 2021. Anyone out of compliance would be immediately fired. Religious and medical exemptions were granted, but the administration could imagine no way to reasonably accommodate such exemptions, so full vaccination by October 18 was still required to avoid termination. That’s not the only reason I see new – and fewer overall – faces; there is always a great amount of turnover. But there were quite a lot of workers at all levels who disappeared without ceremony on the morning of October 19. The department operates as a hierarchy, and at each level, all animals are equal. Administrators often ask line workers for their feedback, just to let them know how much their opinions and preferences matter. All opinions and preferences not conforming to predetermined department policy, however, are invalid and will be dismissed. What’s left is a near-complete employee satisfaction level! Administrators do appreciate workers, and often send out mass emails just to let them know:
The administration recognizes and understands that these are extremely difficult times. Please refer to the previous email from [human resources], which suggests that if you are feeling discouraged, it may be that you are adversely impacted by seasonal affective disorder, and though this is out of the administration’s control, we would encourage everyone to take advantage of your 15 minute breaks during daylight hours to step outside and experience the sunshine; also, accrued leave may be used for mental health purposes, and we hope that discouraged workers will consult with their medical providers to discuss the possibility that they may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder.
Lastly, the administration would like to express its warmest appreciation for [worker], from the [regional] office, who has really stepped-up during this unprecedented emergency and the unfortunate loss of two thirds of the workers in her unit. [Worker] has served the department for [X] years, and [worker’s supervisor] indicates that the unit has benefitted extremely from the tireless efforts of [worker]. In acknowledgement and appreciation of [worker’s] efforts in going above and beyond, the administration has ensured that this verbal recognition has been sent to every worker in all regions, as a part of our weekly policy update. Thank you!
A bureaucracy is always established with a purpose in mind. Regardless of that stated purpose, each bureaucracy exists first and foremost with the single-minded and eternal goal of self-preservation and expansion of its own power. This is inevitable. But even though all animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others. I have always found it amusing that the State’s attorneys always refer to their client as “the department.” Any individual worker may be sitting beside the lawyer, but we don’t hear “Mrs. M__ argues in favor of …,” rather, we hear that “the department argues in favor of….” This happens for a reason, of course; workers come and go, but the department is its own entity, very nearly a living, thinking creature. Workers might make individual decisions, they might have unique motivations, they might develop personal attachments or concerns and have feelings … until they step outside the bounds of what is sanctioned, and then they are gone. But the department, like any other parasite, exists solely for its own self-preservation and growth. It is, by its very nature, dehumanizing. Because to be anything else would undermine its purpose for being.
The White Sea-Baltic Canal was opened in 1933, and was a major accomplishment, a feat of amazing engineering and effort from … the Party. Construction never stopped because of weather or accident; employee feedback was rarely sought, as labor was performed almost exclusively by Gulag inmates. Tens of thousands of Russians died of exhaustion, starvation, the cold, or outright murder. Work did not stop when a worker dropped dead. That worker was left to decompose on sight, or was made a part of the structure itself, his bones and flesh mixed in with the rocks and concrete and ultimately covered with water. The canal was, in the most literal of terms, built on the backs of prisoners.
But this was no great loss; you see, all of these workers were equal. They were equal to one another in their expendability, in their collective absence of thought, their lack of independent value – they had all been declared by the state to be equal, just as they had been declared by the state to be equally sub-human.
Why is it that so many adults are still wearing masks over their faces, two years into our collective experience with a virus that is no longer novel, which has been studied, and regarding which there is ample evidence as to both the efficacy of masks and the vulnerability of various populations? It isn’t just because some people are still afraid. It isn’t just because some people sincerely believe that these devices actually work to accomplish something, and that the something they accomplish is something we want to have. It isn’t just because people want to signal to others where they stand. And why are we still forcing these masks on kids, in spite of the well-known fact that the virus we are supposedly blocking is largely harmless to this group? That is more revealing than anything else, because it is otherwise quite senseless. We cover their young faces because the face is how we recognize an individual. Because, even if the goal is not yet to fully dehumanize them, the effect is a dehumanization; it makes them compliant and unquestioning and easily manipulated. It is openly absurd – on to stand up, off to sit and eat, on at your desk, off on the playground, on at school, off when you get in the car and go home, off at seemingly random times, playing certain sports but not others – like the Soviet show trials, the more absurd it is, the more powerful. Reason has no place here, and logic is forbidden; the only logic permitted will be the truism, a question too stupid to be asked. When the reporter says “do you have the authority to do this?” Nancy Pelosi stops short, chuckles awkwardly, and only replies: “are you serious?” Individuals are dangerous. They think for themselves, they ask questions, they make observations, they give feedback, and are not satisfied with the response that only approved opinions will be counted.
Covid is not a global conspiracy to usher in a new age of socialism. It is a virus that presented an opportunity for socialists to lead the charge, and it is a virus that came at the most perfect moment imaginable, when the United States, which could easily have ended the global panic by standing in stark opposition to the Chinese model of totalitarianism, was having a mental and emotional breakdown. Its media, its institutions, its myriad bureaucracies, and somehow its loudest voices were caught in the fervor of self-preservation; its people gave in to ignorance and fear. Its people allowed themselves to accept that socialist model: a solution that applies equally to everyone, and is shared equally by all. A solution that does not work in the presence of individuals, of humans. We allowed ourselves to be dehumanized, which the food upon which this beast emerges to feast.
He is not necessarily always a nameless and faceless beast. But there also isn’t anyone to go after at the top. Complain to the line worker – she will be gone in a month. Complain to her supervisor – he will have moved to a different unit. Complain to the regional administrator – she is bound by the language of the area administrator. Complain to the area administrator… But what you don’t understand is that even she: yes, Area Administrator, she/her, has a name, but she is also expendable. She will disappear as if she never existed, she will maybe allow herself to be tried and convicted, and like so many before her she may even come to believe in her own guilt, to confess, and to willingly ship off to the Gulag. She believes in the state, and she represents the administration, which will go on without her.
Our thinking is backward. We imagine a sort of grand conspiracy that can break and will shatter from the top down, but there is none. There is only the inevitable result of a nameless and faceless people; all becoming equal, all being churned up and into the gravel and cement and covered with water. We think there is a villain – and maybe there are a thousand little villains, all slightly more equal than us, but all eventually expendable. The villain is anything and everything that denies the existence of truth; anything that silences debate and discussion; anything that allows us to fall into categories the definition of which bear no resemblance to anything solid, but that shift and transform as necessary to encompass the next undesirables. The villain is our willingness to be dehumanized, to accept that all animals can or should be made equal – because, without that, the beast would starve and die.Published in