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Temple, William F. – Counter-Transference (1952)

04/23/2013

Overpopulation (a whopping 3 billion) and modernity leads to 42% (and rising) of the population being institutionalized. “The world was going mad, fast,” and Dr. Scott is “a front-line soldier in the fight for sanity.” Food is scarce, synthesized food is unsatisfying, the Mars colonies failed, the World State’s ending of wars just lead to localized riots, and people “just didn’t have a chance to attain mental stability these days. Almost from the cradle they were importuned and plagued by authority to learn this and know that. Civilization had fashioned for itself a world to live in which was a constantly altering maze, like those its research workers built to torture rats into a state of neurosis: every time the rat thought it had learned the way through, that was mysteriously changed again. It was never done learning what always turned out to be false. Eventually it believed in nothing, nothing at all, not even itself-and went either quietly or violently mad. As civilization was doing now.

This isn’t a particularly novel setup, and the action itself definitely doesn’t do anything to improve matters. Dr. Scott faces a certain amount of pressure from her superior, Dr. Alexander, to speed up her production of Certificates of Sanity in order to get her patients back out on the streets. To that end, he tells her to introduce group therapy sessions, and these dominate the bulk of the story, as each of her patients (caricatures who suffer from one particular affliction each) gets a chance to parade her- or himself in front of the group. This doesn’t work, and Dr. Alexander gives her a scolding about the epidemic of insanity and the fact that “Mankind is reaching the stage where it’s becoming self-conscious–conscious of itself as a race-entity.” She realizes that Alexander and the patients are members of this new groupmind and are all working against her, that humanity as a whole is mad, and throws herself out of the skyscraper.

This story would have been well-served by some of the ambiguity that “The Fly” had, but no dice:

She was on our side,” said Dr. Alexander, quietly. “I tried to get her for us. A few minutes more and she would have realized it. Never mind… our ultimate victory is certain.

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