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Remembered Today:

Forgotten Lunatics of The Great War


salientpoints

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Gwyn, I think some of us will just have to agree to disagree on this one in here as you for one seem to have actual experience/research in dealing with this subject in modern times, so I'm going to gracefully bow out of something you obviously feel strongly about as its not going in the right direction (it was meant to be just about a book) and some of us clearly aren't offended by a title.

I'm sorry to offend anyone for bringing this book to the forum's attention but it certainly has raised a few temperatures.

I'm sure we will be interested to hear what the publisher has to say should you take this up with him.

Cheers

Ryan

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And there was me thinking that with a title like that it must have been a new volume by the late Alan Clark on some of the lesser known Generals.

I am afraid I am guilty of looking at a title and drawing a conclusion and this is not a title I would warm to.

Its right that the topic is discussed but I tend to the argument that the title might have been more sensitively chosen.

I feel that as a WW1 community we remember those who served and suffered with respect and I do not look upon "lunatic" as respectful, not least because it does not truly reflect the status of their situation and illness. Mental illness is better understood and better classified these days and I would expect a sound volume to have a sound title.

The way the afflicted were treated by society and the use of derogatory terms is one avenue such a volume should discuss but it is not really appropriate for the title, unless, perhaps qualified by a strap-line or sub-title.

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I'm sorry to offend anyone for bringing this book to the forum's attention.

Sorry for what? How can anyone offend merely by passing on information about what sounds like a fascinating book? You are not responsible for the title of the book, nor the reactions of other people to it.

To me, the most interesting part of the title is 'Forgotten'. There is a poignancy in that word which appeals and in conjunction with the word 'lunatic'. it indictates clearly the line the line the author is going to take: sympathy, anger, and compassion.

At any rate, I don't think it can be right to pillory an author without first having read his book and establishing exactly what it is he is saying; nor can it be right to to tell the book buying public what they ought to think (no one has the right to do that), or to anticipate what they will think (no one is that prescient).

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The reason that the forum members that have already posted to this thread have done so in the first place, is that because the title of the book has shown its pulling power. Being used as the title of the thread has done it's job - to some, like myself, it aroused interest, others have been upset by it. But both sets of people have joined the thread.

I don't like the idea that anyone could read the title and not immediately realise that the word 'lunatics' has been used in any other way than to show how these poor men should never have been labelled as such. I would be totally horrified to learn that this was not the theme of the book.

However, that is not to say that I can't sympathise with people having to put up with authors making use of words which are abhorrent to them. On a far more trivial level, I experienced something of this the other day. On Good Friday, I went to Plymouth to take photos of the Naval Memorial. I decided to walk down in the Barbican area, and as I passed down the main street, I became aware of one of the shops being called 'Who ate all the Pies?' As I have had that particular jibe shouted at me in my time (not to mention the sarcastic 'sexy', offered by numerous young females, the most recent of which had occurred while on the Hoe that afternoon), I was mortified, and surrepticiously (I hope) glanced round hoping that nobody had twigged on the shop title and the person trying to pass by unnoticed. That was quite bad enough, but suppose someone decided to publish a diet book with a title that really stood out, and decided 'Who ate all the Pies' was just the job, something to get their book noticed. Well, I wouldn't be looking in the windows of any shop selling that title, just in case someone should give voice to the fact that I was the most appropriate prospective buyer. And one has to be extra sensitive in these matters, because there is no sympathy for a fat person. Why? Because the common-held belief by 'normal' people, is that if they just tried hard enough, a fat person could lose weight, end of story.

So there is the rub; whilst I can accept the use 'lunatics' in the title of a book, which I would hope was setting the record straight about the psychological horrors in the aftermath of the Great War, could I also accept a book which should be helping people who find it near impossible to diet, if the title was a constant embarrassment to me? Surely a less imposing title could be used? Or could it?

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Hello Gwyn

By that token, most books concerning WW1 or other conflicts should be banned: virtually all such books depict graphic scenes of death or suffering either in word or pictoral format; some even on their front pages. Perhaps ex-soldiers don't wish to be reminded of their experiences and suffer a similar response?

Should such a word be proscribed, or the book not set out to grab people's attention in this manner? Who is to set these boundaries if not market forces? Surely that is the concern of the Author and the Publisher; but not to be held in thrall to some potential viewer or buyers who may be - misguidedly - offended. The same argument holds true of any other work depicting suffering of any kind in an explicit fashion or, indeed, any political standpoint with which one violently disagrees. What is one person's realism is another's prurience; what is one person's freedom of expression is the other's perpetuation or ignorance and discrimination.

As to the viability of the Publisher's decision, it seems like a great many more people now know of this work than 24hrs previously.

Richard

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:D Is not this a book of history? And were not the people it is about locked up in what our history called 'Lunatic Asylums'. Lunatic was an official word used on many census forms of the 1900's. Do we have to when republishing these also remove the words that are no longer acceptable ? If such words are changed to satisfy todays sensabilities and attitudes then it no longer remains history.
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I just strayed into this thread.

Did we get this excited about "Butchers and Bunglers", and if not, why not?

Remember, 'the past is another country, they do things differently there'. I remember lunatics and lunatic asylums, and am [only] 66 years old.

We can carry political correctness a little far if we try to extend it backwards. 'Old Soldier Sahib' for example is hugely out of touch with 2004, but was written in 1936 about the period 1902 to 1909.

Writing about 1914-1918 in 1914-1918 terms seems perfectly acceptable: perhaps I am becoming too tolerant to retain my pseudonym of:

Captain Grumpy.

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BlackSeptember1918

You only know that RT , cos they been threatening to lock you up in a lunat....uhmmm...mental challenge institute for years now :P .

I don't care much for political correctness , if people said what they meant more and not being politally correct then we might actually know what they wanted to say . I can't imagine this author's motive can be called into question seeing he's the one that has been studying this for years ..not any of us ...or me atleast ...anyway , I'm buying it .

As a side note ..my user name ...black Sept..blah blah ....well it was done at a forum for wwi aviation enthusiasts ....I was attacked by some members for calling myself after a terrorist group ??...I hadn't even thought about a terrorist group !!...anyway , cos I have no love for political correctness ( a term I believe really means " too scared to say what you really think " ) I stuck with the name ...and decided to use it everywhere I went ....so if they hadn't complained about me calling myself after a very bad month for the R.A.F. ...then I would be plain ole dumb gold miner Phil Smith .... :)

Phil.

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At this very moment, I am watching 'Random Harvest', and where has Ronald Coleman been kept since losing his memory near Arras? None other than Melbridge Mental Asylum. And sure enough, the lady in the sweetshop thinks he's about to freak at any moment, whereas he is really only finding it difficult to talk. But here's Greer Garson to help him escape - so things are looking up.

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I have no more to say on this subject. I had hoped to arouse some compassionate awareness of the effects of an apparently insensitive choice of language in the book title, both in its implied disrespect for the subjects of the study and its pernicious reach into modern attitudes.

I wonder whether reactions would have been so apparently free-thinking to, perhaps, ‘Forgotten Cripples of the Great War’, or maybe stigmatising expressions for black or homosexual men in the army?

I said that I was saddened and perplexed by the choice of expression and that I would have liked to know the reasons for the author's decision. That is not 'political correctness'. It is a legitimate statement and question.

The 1930 Mental Treatment Act all but got rid of the expressions lunacy and lunatic asylum, substituting outpatient clinics and mental hospitals, reflecting the spirit of public sympathy and awarenes.

I sign off with the recalled contemporary words of Tom Pear, professor of psychology and one of the pioneers of trauma therapy techniques, including psychotherapy, in a humane treatment environment, to bring peace into the minds of traumatised Great War soldiers at the Red Cross Military Hospital, Maghull (where W H Rivers briefly worked).

‘This is an illness. It is called mental illness. They are not lunatics and they’re in a mental hospital and there are all sorts of treatments that can help people with mental difficulties.’

Please note his choice of words.

Gwyn

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BlackSeptember1918

Gwyn

Your last words on the subject were put very eloquently . Perhaps I'm just an insensitive Ba***** ? , I'm sure my wife has imformed me of that more than once ..anyway , if you were to read the book , I would look forward to your review as you have a nice way with words , a talent I wasn't blessed with unfortunately.

Phil. :)

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Author and publisher are entitled to be judged on the work, and that has not been seen yet. So the circumstances in which the word is used are unknown. To want the word dropped without knowing the circumstances is surely tantamount to asserting that there are no circumstances in which the word may be used. I don’t think that can be right. The word may properly be deprecated but not proscribed.

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I have no more to say on this subject. I had hoped to arouse some compassionate awareness of the effects of an apparently insensitive choice of language in the book title, both in its implied disrespect for the subjects of the study and its pernicious reach into modern attitudes.

As far as I'm aware every respondent has acknowledged that 'Lunatic' is offensive and unhelpful if used as a genuine term to describe those afflicted with mental health problems; virtually everyone has acknowledged that all too often these men were let down by the Society they served.

Therefore, to disagree does not mean that we lack 'compassionate awareness' - or indeed unwittingly seek to perpetuate - the stigma (still) attached to those suffering from such complaints: it is just that we disagree over the acceptability of using the term in relation to a different epoch.

In the US, certain nouns viewed as highly offensive (i.e. those deemed extremely rascist, sexist or homophobic) were to be stricken from the dictionaries produced by certain publishing houses for fear of giving offense by merely providing an objective definition, until the futility of simply omitting them from a compendium of modern language was realised.

As with many emotive issues, people will just have to agree to disagree.

Cheers

Richard

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As for "cripples", it is the word my 66 year-old head comes up with, and was certainly the word used in my youth, absolutely dispassionately, with real pity and no malice. Like "blind" "deaf" "dumb" "fat" "skinny" and "short".

By the way, I am vertically challenge although too big for the Bantams. When lunatic, cripple, deaf dumb and blind get sorted, can my little problem be addressed, please? Oh, and I am old, can we sort that?

I am struck by a contradiction in the levolution of language of modern society: indescribable filth can be uttered in print, on shirts, on radio, on TV, filth that no decent man [and certainly no decent woman] would use in public until a few years ago, and yet honest descriptive words have to be written out of the language. How long before "gay" is replaced by a seemingly less pejorative word?

Funny old world. Queer, even.

Capt. Grumpy at your service.

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:D I have had a condition since birth, that in my 56 years on this earth has a least four, or five different names, terms and letters given to it. However as each change of label has become into common use the prejudice and preconceptions that go hand in hand with my affliction have changed very little. Only education, intergration and unconditional support from our more able counterparts and not WORDS will achieve equality. Until then I am a 'Blind, short, blonde, pommy, dare I say Hobbit. In my view, in the long run words are just that, words, it is actions, or the lack of action that really counts.
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Since you are not allowed the last word on any subject, I suggest we wait for the book.

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  • 2 weeks later...
salientpoints

Without going over old ground I found the book 'Shell Shock' by Wendy Holden (that accompanied the C4 programme) in the Brighton branch of 'Bookcase' for 99p!!!

I shall read up with interest prior to this other title.

Ryan

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Hello Ryan

This book was reviewed favourably in the Psychiatric Bulletin Sept 2000.

Here is a link.

http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/24/...tdate=5/31/2004

I’ve also posted some information in Des’s thread about shell shock, indicating the routes I follow for psychiatric information. (Chit chat section)

I enjoyed Wendy Holden's book, by the way, when I read it ages ago.

Gwyn

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salientpoints

Thanks Gwyn,

That was a very interesting review. I have added it to my fav's

Ryan

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I bet your heart sank when you saw I'd added to this thread! :P

Ha.

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HarryBettsMCDCM
Titles of books about Hitler or Bush are not a matter of argument, they are fact.

Factual As Of The Time They Are Written About.

In Post World War One Britain,The Word 'Lunatic' was to all intents & purposes the Correct Term for Persons Suffering From Many Forms Of Mental Abberation,The Words we use today rightly or wrongly to describe such conditions,had no relevance then,though many try history cannot be re~written to salve the consciences of today,A Rose by any other name........................is still a Rose!

I write from personal experience having been disabled since a severe accident in 1973,I am not mobility impaired,I am Crippled by definition of the Oxford English Dictionary{qv} & I have the Scars to prove it!;They are just words ;Words cannot harm me,someone elses perception of my physical & or mental state cannot harm me,but a there are a lot of much more worrying things could & might :blink:

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I have had a condition since birth, that in my 56 years on this earth has a least four, or five different names, terms and letters given to it. However as each change of label has become into common use the prejudice and preconceptions that go hand in hand with my affliction have changed very little. Only education, intergration and unconditional support from our more able counterparts and not WORDS will achieve equality. Until then I am a 'Blind, short, blonde, pommy, dare I say Hobbit. In my view, in the long run words are just that, words, it is actions, or the lack of action that really counts.

history cannot be re~written to salve the consciences of today,A Rose by any other name........................is still a Rose!

Quew: well said.

Dare I suggest we bury the matter [OK, I know I am not allowed the last word on any subject but, please?]

:) I think we should just read the book and make our own minds up! After all was that not the reason for all those people dying in WW1-WW2 for freedom of speach and thought?

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