• Reducing senility to 'bare life': are we heading for a new Holocaust at mid-C21?

      Capstick, Andrea (04/12/2013)
      The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight¿.The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable. (Benjamin, 1940: 248-249) The German-Jewish critical theorist Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) wrote these lines shortly before his death in exile whilst fleeing from the agents of fascism. They seem particularly relevant to a healthcare policy conference with the title ¿Condition Critical¿ taking place almost 70 years later. In this paper one of the things I hope to do is outline how Benjamin¿s concept of the permanent state of emergency relates to health and social care provision for older people with dementia today. Benjamin believed that the Holocaust came about because of the 'amnestic' view of history as an unbroken, linear process of scientific achievement, including the belief in human perfectibility. He suggested that in order to see history stripped of this ideological myth of progress, we need to wake from a collective 'dream history', from our usual somnolent acceptance of surface appearances (Cohen 1993: 5). Similarly it can be argued today that the 20th century 'dream history' of linear progress away from a never-to-be-repeated Holocaust is a myth. My strong claim in this paper is that present day demographic panic related to the economic 'burden of care' for an ageing population is leading to proposed solutions analogous to the ideological killing of psychiatric patients, the physically disabled, Jews and other victims of Nazism in the mid-20th century. Such 'solutions' are fuelled by media propaganda, the profit motives of what has been described as the 'medical-industrial complex' (Bond et al 2004) and a reductive, medicalised, biological determinist model of the cognitive changes of ageing.