Ship of Fools

According to Michel Foucault, in the olden days, Medieval times I guess, when people got tired of seeing and dealing with the village idiot and others whose sanity they might have found in question they simply gathered them up, put them on a ship and sent them out to sea. Out of sight out of mind, I suppose.

Seems pretty cruel initially but certain medical authorities would have it those folks probably were happier or at least less distressed confined to a predictable environment; assuming the captain and crew weren’t simply inmates in charge of the asylum.

I understand a lot of people in those days saw mental disabilities as some sort of satanic possession rather than a medical issue, which I can understand dealing as I do with demons of my own. But, other cultures have sometimes seen these special needs folks as having access to inner worlds where futures become knowable; which can be very useful knowledge. This belief elevated these seers in people’s minds; it gave them rank and status, commanded respect. As I think about it, maybe such groups had something; there does seem to be a fairly fine line between insanity and genius sometimes.

The issue has me wondering what would have become of the likes of me in Medieval Europe. They probably would have eventually been fine with a walking, talking doll but my skepticism might have gotten me burned at the stake.

ship of fools

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