In our society, the majority of texts that we encounter present the values and attitudes of the author in highly constructed packages that are significantly biased. They employ various techniques that result in only the selection of detail that will present this particular view, while disregarding others. This issue can be explored by the investigation of such techniques with regard to a chosen subject, such as institutionalisation. By definition, to ‘institutionalise’ is – of a prisoner or long-term patient, etc. – to make apathetic and dependant after a long period in an institution. (Australian Oxford Dictionary, 1998) This is a very prevalent contemporary issue, as it poses many problems to those in charge. For example, if institutionalisation of murderers was to be addressed, what is society to do with this type of person if not put them in jail? And yet the consequence of lengthy imprisonment is a high probability of institutionalisation. Many texts explore this issue, such as the documentary Who Killed Malcolm Smith? directed by Richard Frankland, which uses the idea of institutionalisation as a vehicle for persuasion in order to convince the audience of racial inequality in Australian custody. Frankland employs significant use of selection of detail which supports his argument. The feature film The Shawshank Redemption is another text that explores this issue, with the director Frank Darabont using effective visual techniques that successfully convey the damaged emotions of Brooks, a character that has trouble adjusting to society after being let out of jail. A different view of institutions is presented in Tell Me I’m Here by Anne Deveson, which is shown through her use of first person point of view and powerful descriptive language that convey her desperation when faced with her schizophrenic son whom the authorities refused to ‘put away’, even though it was clearly necessary. By studying these and other texts, I can clearly see that there are many different versions of reality and there is no absolute truth. Our perspective is dependent on the way the truth is presented to us, and we are continually influenced by texts which employ various techniques to present and persuade their views.
Institutionalised is a hardcore punk and trash metal song by Suicidal Tendencies that uses colloquial, descriptive and emotive language to convey the subject, Mike’s, depiction of the society we live in and our nonsensical dependence on senseless institutions that do nothing but crush our individuality. The lyrics relay Mike’s initiation into a mental institution and encourage our empathy by presenting the world from his point of view in a rational and familiar manner, creating a situation which many can relate to, if only regarding a lesser topic. When his parents try and tell him he ‘needs help’, he reasons “I went to your schools, I went to your churches, I went to your institutional learning facilities, so how can you say I’m crazy?”, which is an understandable argument, as it seems ridiculous that his parents are labelling him as crazy when he was shaped by the life they made him lead. The band uses colloquial language for effect, which brings the reality of the situation into sharp focus. The rhythm of the lyrics is another technique that captures the listener’s attention and the roughness of feeling that the singer is expressing is revealed. Towards the end of the song Mike sums up his view of institutions, as he sings; They say they're gonna fix my brain.
Alleviate my suffering and my pain.
But by the time they fix my head,
Mentally I'll be dead.
This song makes a strong statement and is different to most texts in the point of view it is written in. Mike’s thoughts offer an insight into someone who is facing the idea of institutionalisation knowing fully what he is about to experience but unable to do anything about it. The band Suicidal Tendencies use rhythm, language and compelling words to persuade people to...
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