In 1999, Leopoldo María Panero starred in one of the programs of the Black and White series hosted by Fernando Sánchez Dragó on Spanish Television. The chapter was titled precisely Leopoldo María Panero. Clinical case or lyrical case? and in it participated, in addition to the presenter and the writer, J. Benito Fernández, author of the biography The outline of the abyss. Life and legend of Leopoldo María Panero (Tusquets, 1999) and Jaime Chávarri, director of the famous documentary about the Panero Disenchantment (1976). The four of them around a round table on which the smoke of the cigars hovered that the poet chained, who at that time had just published his book My brain is a rose.
Leopoldo María Panero, the poet of Never Never, passes away
Chávarri’s film about that family full of dark secrets had elevated Leopoldo María to the category of “mad genius” in the popular imagination. Endowed with an undeniable talent for literature, he was an extremely cultured man and had a great knowledge of psychiatry. He was also a mental patient who knew first-hand what happened in Spanish psychiatric hospitals since he was a teenager. As Dragó recalled when introducing him, by then he had already been hospitalized more than ten times. Then he asked him how his liver was, in case anyone had forgotten the alcoholism he also suffered from.
Panero had the ability to make me imagine a book that did not exist. It was a ghost book that ended up haunting me
– Art curator and cultural researcher
In the middle of the episode, Panero interrupts Sánchez Dragó to tell him that he is going to send him a book that he has written entitled Notes for a destructive psychiatry in which he talks about how voices act as ruthless self-criticism. Taking advantage of the outburst, the host of the program asks him if he hears voices and the subject deviates. Nobody remembers this document again until Alfredo Aracil borrows the title for his own book, which has just been released by the Piedra Papel publishing house. It is a compilation of essays on antipsychiatry that the author has published in different media in Spain and Argentina in the last five years.
Aracil came to the video of the program while preparing an article for El Estado Mental. “I was amused by the comment. Leopoldo María Panero’s conditions are not the best and even so the lucidity of his intervention is incredible, the ability he has to put points on the i’s to Sánchez Dragó, to stop him,” he says by Zoom from Argentina to elDiario.es. “It was key because it had the ability to make me imagine a book that didn’t exist. It was a ghost book that ended up haunting me.”
God knows if he wrote it. Panero fantasized a lot
Fernando Sánchez Dragó
– Writer and TV host
It is not known whether Panero wrote the essay or not because it never ended up in the hands of Fernando Sánchez Dragó. He states by email that he has no recollection of this matter and that he has no idea whether the book would exist or not. “God knows. Panero fantasized a lot,” he says. For his part, Aracil believes that it is quite probable that he had written things. In fact, in 2017 Tide published an unpublished text that Leopoldo María Panero had written in 1981 entitled The last madhouse and that could have been included in those notes that he mentioned in the television program. He came to the middle of the hand of the psychiatrist Enrique González Duro, author of Distance to Insanity: Theory and Practice of the Day Hospital (Ed. Fundamentos, 1982), who had had the poet as a patient.
González Duro interviewed Panero many times, but the book never came to light in their conversations. For Aracil, “There is something intertextual: destructive psychiatry is actually a veiled quote that Leopoldo María Panero makes to Anti Oedipus of Deleuze and Guattari. Throughout the last part of the work they are dedicated to proposing schizoanalysis against psychoanalysis. There is a kind of game with what Leopoldo wanted to say and did not say, like what Deleuze and Guattari tried to propose, which in the end is like an exercise in fiction “.
What is antipsychiatry
At the end of the 60s, mental institutions or asylums were detention centers in which those who were diagnosed with some type of mental illness were admitted. Secluded and unable to decide on the treatments they received or the length of stay in the center, the sick were prisoners who were kept away from the community. The facilities were not exactly comfortable and the living conditions of the users left a lot to be desired, to put it mildly. In that situation and with the impulse of the ideals of May 68, some mental health professionals decided to rebel and propose another type of treatment.
“It was a very limited movement historically and geographically. It occurred simultaneously in England, France, Spain, Italy and there were also foci in Latin America. Broadly speaking, they shared a criticism of the abuse of power of psychiatry and its ideology”, Aracil explains. “Anti-psychiatry was a kind of internal revolt that was also able to empathize with the social movements of the time. They imagined different ways of life than the models of suffering that are imposed on us from capital. But, above all, those that are They make us desirable like leading a life full of competitiveness, being better than the other all the time, these kinds of things, “he clarifies.
In Spain, one of the main focuses of this fight was the Oviedo psychiatric hospital known as La Cadellada. There, a group of young psychiatrists questioned the established order and proposed other ways of doing it: new therapies, workshops, dances, visits to relatives, permits to go abroad, social assistance. There was also a change in the relationships between professionals and inmates, who participated in the organization of the center through assemblies. Among “the rebels” was Guillermo Rendueles, the psychiatrist who is credited with the popular phrase: “You don’t need a psychologist, you need a union.”
“It was a kind of struggle that was not completely carried out but it did put Francoism in check at one point. And then also as a kind of disagreement with the direction that La Transición was taking, which it did not fully satisfy. Many of the demands that were made in the field of mental health. They are fields that go beyond professional and sectoral demands and are installed in problems of suffering that I think we are all noticing “, describes Aracil.
What has remained
The movement, which had spread to centers throughout the country, ended in the 1980s when, first with the government of Felipe González and later with that of Aznar, mental health care was privatized. Asylums are closed, private clinics open and psychiatric wings are set up in public hospitals where only the acutely ill are treated. As Aracil says: “They are plants that you enter and leave constantly because if there is no prevention and if there is no treatment, you continually return to that crisis situation that has led you to enter”.
What was achieved was to carry out a policy of opening day centers, something that was among the demands of mental health professionals since the early 1970s. The problem, which is the same one that attacks public health In general, today, it is the one of the means that are destined to them. “They work very well but are endowed with little infrastructure and few resources. The infrastructure was developed but the commitment to that community health system was not finished. And the important thing is the work in situation, in the neighborhoods,” says Aracil.
The day centers work very well but are endowed with little infrastructure and few resources. The infrastructure was developed but the commitment to that community health system was not finished
– Author of ‘Notes for a destructive psychiatry’
Notes for a destructive psychiatry It also takes a tour of the movement through Argentina and investigates the subject of pharmaceutical treatments for mental illnesses. “In my case there is no outright criticism of medicalization”, the author advances. “Pharmaceutical chemicals, neuroleptics, have been an important advance in the relief of many people. I speak more of a use value, which is a theory that I bring from the most orthodox Marxism. A treatment can alleviate in a moment of crisis but to In the long run, you have to see what it uses and what effects it has. It seems to me that you shouldn’t be too moralistic, it is rather to be pragmatic. I say this after having a lot of contact with professionals, with workers: there are people who are very committed, on everything in public services. ”
Likewise, in the pages of the book you can also read about initiatives such as Crazy Pride or La Rara Troupe. “There is a cultural thing that has to do with the continuous and constant pathologization of any hint of uniqueness of people. Today there is practically a diagnosis for each person. When I went to school there was chiques what were they naughty, uncomfortable And today they have a diagnosis: attention deficit disorder. And everything that has to do with people’s sexual and gender identity, which is still thought of as a disease. For me it is key to break the association between mental health and illness and start thinking in terms of difference and uniqueness. Of ways of life and the right to live a unique life “.
In Aracil’s opinion, antipsychiatry had the power to restore creativity and refers to Mark Fisher, the creator of the concept of capitalist realism. “Thinking about the end of the world is easier than thinking about the end of capitalism. It has become impossible to imagine an alternative to capital by a kind of induced passivity, by a cut with the imagination. Antipsychiatry, like other movements of demanicomialization and fighting in psychiatric hospitals for the rights of the people who lived there, they did this exercise of imagining an alternative “.