Sanity in this world is a precious, yet ill-defined thing. There are so many people who are in some state of psychosis. Philip K. Dick seemed to understand that the underlying principles of sanity and schizophrenia are many degreed, and not clear-cut. In my interpretation of the novel, Dick indicates with the "one out of nine people have a crippling mental illness which makes it impossible for them" to function. Perhaps these figures aren't because this many people are truly un-sane--but that the definition to the 'phrenia may be too broad. Nowhere in the novel do I see him indicating that the world environment, the government or quality of life was making people bump into a thicker unsanity.

Another alternative explanation could be that this figure is true now, but only because of the definitive form of psychological categorization. There do seem to be an awesome amount of at least partially sane people out there. Schizoid personality disorder seems to be rampant. According to the DSM-IV's definitions, just about every person I've ever known falls under diagnosis. Which is just like Louis Rosen (the narrator) in the book, who multiple times throughout the novel lists all his friends and family that have gone to the mental health clinics.

In 1957 Ronald Reagan and the voters of California (yes, they were responsible too) brought the Short-Doyle Act, "which aimed to move the mentally ill from incarceration in state mental health hospitals to community mental health programs." They made no concern as to whether those community programs were ready for this influx of insanity. It has been estimated that 40% of San Francisco's homeless population have a mental illness. Once again, I ask the question? What is this mental health? Are these mis-defined terms and diagnosis? Is the world really that fucked up? In a way the novel offers a universe where that never happened, where instead mental health services improved. But perhaps the very awareness of an epidemic causes the epidemic.

And this now brings me back to Philip K. Dick and We Can Build You. We know Dick wrote the novel (at first) in about 1962. It was first turned down by editors, and then he revised the novel while also writing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which shares many similarities already with We Can Build You, the psychological cousin. Finally, in 1969 a draft was published in Amazing magazine calling it the Abe Lincoln Simulacrum. Finally, in 1972 it was published as a novel under this title.

"I can almost hum this drug," I said. "Want me to try?"

I can identify most with Louis Rosen, as he discusses the type of pill-based drug (a post-cursor to Paxil et al.) in the form of musical mood. I've had music many times have a similar bio-chemical effect on my consciousness, and beyond. Dick is on the right track here.

"Do you by any chance have a drug whose setting in terms of the Mood Organ corresponds to portions of the Choral Movement of the Beethoven Ninth? ... On a Mood Organ I'm particularly affected when I play the part where the choir sings, 'Mus' ein Lieber vater wohnen,' and then very high up, like angels, the violins and the soprano part of the choir sing as an answer, 'Ubrem Sternenzelt.'... They're asking whether a Heavenly Father exists, and then very high up they answer, yes, above the realm of stars. That part--if you could find the correspondence in terms of pharmacology, I might benefit enormously."

The doctor then says the line that I will close with, because there are no conclusions I can make, no conclusions the novel makes. "We live in a society where detachment is almost essential."

Public Affairs Report, 2000.
RAND California Policy Bulletin (Vol. 3, No. 5) Mar 13, 2000

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