Life doesn’t spare you from that thrashing feeling.
Never mind the anaesthesia, or the legality or efficacy of the lobotomy. I’ve always imagined lobotomies to be a thrashing feeling. I could imagine the patient – insane and demented as he may be – strapped to the operating table or the chair, and the doctors and nurses start poking things inside your head.
Could you imagine those instruments poking into your head, scraping at the insides your skull, rearranging and pushing aside nerves and the cortex of the brain, and just “curing” you of your illnesses: real or imagined. The instruments don’t feel, but the patient certainly does.
A thrashing feeling. We all like to see the Other at his most vulnerable, where he lies under the mercy of knives and syringes and scalpels and the instruments of curing and torture. It’s all in the interest of getting to someone’s head. All emotion is thrown out the window when one enters the operating room. The patient is under anaesthesia. The doctor is simply doing his job, no matter how cruel and inhumane the lobotomy may be.
At the end of the operation, the patient walks out (or is wheeled out) of the room: numbed, ruined, destroyed. Broken, as he may be. Reduced to a shell of his former self, no more relevant to society as a breathing cadaver than he was in stages of psychosis. That thrashing feeling comes from the fact that the operation never really fixed anything. It just turned a lunatic into an invalid. It just changed things; none for the better, none for the worse.
Thank heavens for anaesthesia. Otherwise the medical crew in charge of the lobotomy will have to deal with the patient squirming, screaming, thrashing… as people get into his head, looking for an ailment, using a procedure to cure an ailment, real or imagined. Two different people are wheeled in and out of the room.
The point to the lobotomy is changing. It’s never about betterment, it’s not about improvement, and certainly isn’t about deliverance. I guess that’s why in this giant operating room table called life, with instruments of society poking into our heads at every opportune moment, we’re in a perpetual lobotomy. We emerge from it no better, and certainly no worse, than where we started. It’s not a positive change, it’s not a negative change. It’s just… different. We poke, but at the same time, we’re being poked.
And in so many situations in society, there’s no escaping that thrashing feeling. Certainly when a lobotomy – of a social kind – takes place. A feeling that happens more often than you suppose, understand, or pay heed to. It happens all the time. Just take it as it is, and hope that society and all its lobotomies doesn’t fuck you up in the head enough to not feel anything at all.
– Picture is Aktion 3 of Rudolf Schwarzkogler, 1965, from Tate Online