5 Ways “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” is an Anti-Government Metaphor

I went into Boston on Sunday to see my friend perform in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Central Square Theater. The entire cast did a phenomenal job, which is probably what helped me pick out all the parallels between McMurphy being stuck in an insane asylum, and society becoming an insane asylum, run by our very own evil Nurse Ratched.

I am basing this mostly off my memory of the play, which may vary from the movie with Jack Nicholson which I haven’t seen in years, or the book which I have not yet read. There are spoilers.

In case you don’t know what One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about, Randle McMurphy had a 5 month prison sentence, but decided to feign insanity in order to spend his time in an asylum instead of prison.

1. The Administration. Although Nurse Ratched runs the insane asylum, she is not really in charge. Technically, the doctor must sign off on requests, and have the final word in therapy, including shock therapy, and lobotomy. The Doc in charge is actually a pretty nice guy; he connects with McMurphy, signs off on his slutty visitor, and even endorses his idea for a “carnival” in the ward.

But the doctor has an ulcer, 200 patients, and is getting old. He is probably making good money, and only a few years away from comfy retirement. Sure, he might support McMurphy in rhetoric, or at the weekly meetings, but he really can’t be bothered to stick his head on the chopping block for anyone. In the end, he agrees a lobotomy could be allowed on McMurphy if he exhibits violence for a second time, even though the doctor knows full well the first episode of violence was instigated by Ratched and the orderlies.

The orderlies are the enforcers. Ratched may suggest the lobotomy, and the Doctor must approve it, but the people who will grab either arm and tie McMurphy down on the operating table are the orderlies. And they hate Nurse Ratched too! But they are also sadistic themselves, and draw joy from their power to abuse the patients without retaliation. They are able to be bribed at one point to help McMurphy throw a party, but quickly revert to supporting Nurse Ratched as soon as they are caught. These are the guys who are just following orders, and have their job security to think about.

The one who seeks the most power gets it. Nurse Ratched is a middle management bureaucrat. She has power over the enforcers, but still has to appeal to her superiors. Her minions will follow every order, no matter how much they hate it, and her superiors can’t be bothered by the hassle. So really, the shots are not called by the doctor (our elected officials), nor the orderlies (enforcers like police and tax agents), but by the Nurse Ratcheds–think Janet Napolitano, Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, Janet Reno, or a vindictive Child Protective Services director.

2. The Inmates. After the first therapy session, McMurphy can’t believe how Nurse Ratched treats the patients. Of course she claims everything she does is strictly for therapeutic purposes, but McMurphy can see through her thinly veiled sadism. Ratched brings up the educated inmate Dale’s young wife with big boobs, and asks why he was never able to satisfy her. Another inmate chimes in to ask why Dale doesn’t just admit he’s gay. McMurphy intervenes and the meeting is disrupted enough to disperse.

McMurphy then asks Dale why he would take that from her and the others. Dale begins by launching into an energetic defense of Nurse Ratched claiming that everything she does is to help, that she is like a mother, cares deeply for all her patients, and only seeks to transition them into the outside world as fully functioning, normal members of society… “That bitch”. Dale can’t help but realize at the end of his defensive speech that Nurse Ratched really is horrible. What therapeutic quality could be derived from making a man feel worthless and impotent while talking sexually about his young wife?

And we should never assume that what the government does is for our, or anyone else’s benefit. They don’t care about the poor who they exploit by keeping them in poverty to get votes when they toss them scraps in the form of welfare. The bureaucrats get to control the money, some of which will make it to their friends. Politicians also do favors for political donors, which sometimes amounts to them being put in a Nurse Ratched type position of power. These people are out for themselves, and will use any excuse to get more power, and more control. For example the drug war: we aren’t locking non-violent offenders up for their own benefit, it keeps the prison-industrial-complex rich, and the Nurse Ratcheds will make sure of that.

Nurse Ratched goes to work everyday and gets sick pleasure from psychologically torturing the inmates, yet everyone on the outside, and even most on the inside believe that what she is doing is for the inmates’ benefit! McMurphy is the only one who feels powerful enough to call her out on this, knowing that his jail sentence was only 5 months long.

3. Voluntary Inmates. But when this subject comes up, Dale informs McMurphy that most of the patients, including Dale and Billy, are not even committed, meaning they could leave at any time if they chose. McMurphy can’t believe it. “You should be driving around in a convertible picking up girls at your age!” he tells Billy Bibbit. But Billy has been convinced by his mother and Nurse Ratched that he is unfit for normal society, even though the only thing that appears to be wrong with him is his stutter–which happens to get worse when he is being degraded by Nurse Ratched.

Completely sane people have been convinced by Nurse Ratched that they are crazy, because they don’t fit into society. Instead of just going out into the world and doing whatever they want to do, they have been brainwashed into thinking they are sick and need to be cured, when they simply don’t fit into the extremely narrow scope of what Nurse Ratched, and all those who allowed a person like her to attain her position, think they should be. Then Nurse Ratched is able to use these people she has damaged to maintain her position.

That is the only way people are governed, if they allow themselves to be governed. You could compare Dale and Billy to people who gladly do their taxes on January 1st, and send off a check to the government with a smile on their face, glad to have done their part for society. And McMurphy would be the person who pays his taxes on April 15th in order to avoid being arrested and caged.

You mean you guys WANT to pay your taxes? I can imagine him saying. But since so many volunteer their money and are gladly robbed, the rest of us are stuck in the asylum with inmates who choose to be there. Since it is easier just to comply with unlawful commands of officers, everyone is stuck in a position where if you exercise your rights, you are more likely to get a bullet than your day in court.

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Alex Wersted plays Randle McMurphy, and Aubrey Dion plays Nurse Ratched in Central Square Theater’s depiction of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

4. But it is a democracy! The ward is said to be a democracy, and the inmates can vote to change things. So when McMurphy wants to watch the World Series, he calls a vote. Everyone in the ward except the silent Chief votes to watch the World Series. But Nurse Ratched informs them the vote must be unanimous, a rule she might have just made up when she realized the inmates’ will would overpower her own. So McMurphy goes over to the silent Chief and miraculously convinces him to raise his hand. They celebrate, the TV is turned on, and they all begin cheering. But for some reason, Nurse Ratched still insists they turn the TV off. McMurphy has a solution: ignore her and cheer louder, which they do, and continue watching the game.

But it is not over for Nurse Ratched. Her authority has been compromised, and now she has to take it out on someone, and prove she has not lost control. She turns her sights on the Chief, who she claims mislead them by not talking for so long. Nurse Ratched calls him a liar and insists his silence all these years has been a clever ruse to get out of therapy. McMurphy can’t watch the abuse, the scene escalates, and McMurphy ends up punching an orderly in the face: the first bout of violence. Both he and the Chief are taken away for electro-shock therapy.

Sure, you can vote any way you want, but if it is not the way the government wants, they will ignore you, or even retaliate against you. That is why the Tea Party gets audited by the IRS, that is why people are beaten by police for exercising their rights. It is why Chris Christie shuts down lanes on a bridge to cause traffic in an area that did not vote for him. It is why the federal government withholds funds from states that do not do the bidding of DC, and imposes draconian rules on self sufficient farmers who produce raw milk, or non-GMO food.

When the inmates all gang up, they get their way, and Nurse Ratched cannot do a thing about it. But when she gets them alone as individuals, they no longer have the safety of the group, and can no longer overpower the authorities.

5. Ratched claims to want to protect the other inmates from McMurphy, because he is “taking advantage of them”. McMurphy is a gambler, and challenges the other inmates to cards, and other bets. In an attempt to turn the other inmates against McMurphy, Ratched asks if they know how much McMurphy has profited off of them. I am sure you know what you have lost individually, she says, but what are his totals? McMurphy has stolen $300 from the other inmates she claims. Profit, stolen, tricked, swindled.

McMurphy told us from the beginning he was out to take us for all we had, chimes in an inmate. They knew all along what he was doing, and chose anyway to participate! McMurphy didn’t steal their money, he won bets fair and square.

Nurse Ratched’s reaction is the same reaction the government has to business. Even though the government is clearly corrupt and untrustworthy, they step in and claim they want to regulate the market in order to protect us from the greedy businessmen. But the government takes our money by force, while businesses must offer us something in exchange for the money (unless of course they buy off the government, and force our business in the form of subsidies, bailouts, grants, and taxpayer backed loans).

Ratched doesn’t care about the inmates “being taken” by McMurphy, she attempts to exploit “their losses” in order to gain the upper hand on McMurphy. The same thing happens when McMurphy throws his party and invites two prostitutes, one of whom has sex with Billy Bibbit–his first time. Billy was perfectly happy with this situation, excitedly agreeing weeks earlier in anticipation of the night. But when Nurse Ratched finds out, she says she will have to tell Billy’s mom, and guilts Billy for doing this to himself (since she was a prostitute), and those who love him.

When Billy kills himself minutes later, it is not Nurse Ratched who takes the blame, even though it was clearly her actions that led to Billy’s suicide. Instead she turns the tables on McMurphy, claiming Billy’s death is on his hands because he “coerced” Billy into losing his virginity to a prostitute, the guilt of which Billy couldn’t take. But Billy didn’t feel guilty about having sex, he just could not handle the thought of his mother finding out, which she never would have, if not for Nurse Ratched.

The government tells you drugs will ruin your life. Then they catch an 18 year old smoking a joint, lock him away in prison, ruin his future, and say, “See! Look what weed did to his life!” Clearly it was not the weed that ruined his life, it was the prison sentence for a non-violent crime.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the story of a rebel, who rallies against the state, and attempts to regain control of his own life, and help those around him do the same. He seeks to rally the masses to overthrow the minority who rule them sadistically. But the masses are not firmly on his side, or even interested–they sway back and forth depending on how each situation unfolds and benefits or hurts them. But McMurphy is trying to address a deeper problem, not of individual cases of abuse, but a systemic issue that can not be solved by simply choosing a new leader, or shuffling the rules a bit.

McMurphy is the only inmate who tries to fight back against unjust and cruel authority. When he can no longer take the lies and torment from Nurse Ratched, he attempts to choke her, immediately following the suicide of Billy. For this, the state, Nurse Ratched, finally has their excuse to do away with him. Nurse Ratched wanted to be attacked, she was thrilled Billy’s suicide gave her the chance to instigate McMurphy to choke her. In the end, McMurphy, supposed to only have a 5 month sentence, is given a lobotomy.

The Doctor who gives him the lobotomy knows that under normal circumstances, McMurphy is not violent. The orderlies who tie him down know that he is a normal person, probably less violent than them. But Nurse Ratched gets to remove him, in order to form society to her liking. She is not trying to prepare the inmates for the outside world, she is trying to form her own world. It is the public school that pumps children full of Riddilin because for some reason a 12 year old can’t sit still for 6 hours a day. It is a government that puts a man in jail for life for creating a successful online marketplace.

Today, the rightful rebels often end up like McMurphy, lobotomized by the Nurse Ratcheds of our system. The government doesn’t care about you, those around you, or even society. It is a cruel machine that goes round and round, exploited by those who understand which cogs will give them the most control. And they will crush anything, or anyone, who stands in their way.

Fourth Amendment Ignored at Osceola Vista Campground

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I usually only have good things to say about New Hampshire, but leave it to the federal government to tarnish a state’s reputation. “Live free or die” is the state motto, found on every license plate. But the Osceola Vista campground in Conway New Hampshire, is essentially a hunting preserve for cops. The campground is owned by the US Forest Service, who, according to the police officer who crept up on me and my family this past weekend, pays local Waterville Valley police to patrol the campground. This would not be such a bad thing–obviously a police presence can keep people safe in many situations. The part that sparked this review is that police officers are instructed to walk up to people camping, on camp sites that have been rented and paid for, and search for things to arrest them for. This occurs with no warrant, and no probable cause to any camper who happens to have rented a site.

First, here is a little background on illegal searches of rented property. In the U.S. Supreme Court case Stoner v. California the court ruled that the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure does apply to rented rooms such as hotel rooms, and that the manager or other employees of the hotel are not legally entitled to allow a search of a renters’ room. According to FindLaw the court ruled that renters have a reasonable expectation of privacy when renting a room, and I see no reason why this would not apply to other rented areas such as a campsite.

No less than a tenant of a house, or the occupant of a room in a boarding house, McDonald v. United States,335 U.S. 451 , a guest in a hotel room is entitled to constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10 .

Because of this Supreme Court decision I can see how the police officer at Osceola Vista Campground would be allowed to walk or drive the roads of the campground, with permission of the campground management, which he had. It would be legal for him to search common areas such as the water pump or bathrooms, and to conduct plain view searches, from the road, without entering upon the rented property: the campsite.

My family’s right to unreasonable search and seizure was violated when the police officer entered our campsite, which we rented, without permission by us, the renters, and without probable cause that any crime had been committed, and without a search warrant. He walked up to us while we were sitting around a fire on our campsite, meaning he had illegally entered our property which we have a reasonable right to remain unsearched. Based on the fact that he was viewing things which would not have been visable from outside of our rented space, this was an illegal search in violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. Since the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that rented spaces such as hotel rooms are protected by the Fourth Amendment, this further suggests that an illegal search took place.

But still, no crime was observed and the police officer eventually left the campsite to conduct other illegal searches of rented property. Upon illegally entering the campsite across from myself and my family, his unreasonable search turned up a joint being rolled by a college aged man. The man was arrested for possession of an illegal drug, marijuana. He was taken to the police station, processed, and returned to the campsite, at which point he warned us about the police, and told us what had happened. This is when it occurred to me that the police officer was not in fact “killing time” while on a 24 hour shift as he claimed, but instead was on a fishing expedition for crimes. The excuse was that the campground pays the Waterville Valley police to patrol the area; but now we know from Stoner v. California that the campsite management has no authority to authorize searches of rented property, just as hotel management has no authority to allow searches of rented hotel rooms.

At this point I must admit that I did not follow my own advice to never talk to the police. While on “vacation mode” with a couple beers in me, I let caution fall by the wayside, and luckily escaped without the police fitting something I said into a crime. Were I to experience this situation again, I would calmly and politely ask the police officer to step off of my rented property, and cease violating my rights. Before we realized that the officer was salivating over the prospect of finding a reason to make an arrest, we were having a normal jovial conversation, which I now recognize to be a police tactic that I warned readers about in “Don’t Talk to Police”.

When the officer mentioned how he would check the sites to make sure there was no underage drinking, the focus of the group turned to me, being the youngest at 24 (and arguably appearing younger). The group jovially asked the officer to guess my age (he guessed 21 or 22). Then the officer made some joke that he wouldn’t check my ID, to which I replied laughing, “I wouldn’t have shown it to you if you did ask”. To this he replied, “Actually showing your ID is the one thing you have to do”, at which point the entire group of 9 adults burst out laughing (we know our rights). Someone threw in a, “What is this Nazi Germany” while I asked the officer if he had heard of the Fourth Amendment. He quickly changed the subject, apparently feeling a little out of his league.

But he had time for one more police entrapment tactic. It was about an hour before one of our group members’ birthday, and the officer asked, “So you’re turning 21?”. Delighted that she had been mistaken for a few years younger, the birthday girl corrected him with “no, 26”. The police officer said, “Damn, that usually works”. Would he have arrested an underage drinker 60 minutes before their 21st birthday? We may never know.

Had we recognized this for what it was at the time, we would have gotten up and warned every other camper on the grounds that the police were walking around, illegally searching; but again with our guards down, we accepted the “it’s a long shift” ruse. And what made me especially angry about the arrest of the camper across the way, was the hassle over a victimless crime, after an illegal search, while they were just trying to have fun camping, and get away for the weekend. The officer walked to his car with the culprit–who possessed an illegal shrub–by his side, no cuffs. Then later, the “criminal” was returned to the site by the officer. So then why was an arrest made if police are supposed to be keeping us safe? If in fact no one was in danger, then why make the arrest at all? If in fact the marijuana smoking posed a danger, then why drop the culprit back at the campsite to continue victimizing? Obviously the officer knew this was a victimless crime, the perpetrator of which posing no threat to those around him.

So this is my review of the campsite, and a warning to anyone who would consider camping at the Osceola Vista Campground, where the Waterville Valley Police creep around illegally searching for crimes. Unless you are 100% sure that you are committing no crime, that you have no contraband at your campsite, or that something you say cannot be construed to incriminate you, then refrain from renting a campsite there. If you are underage and want to drink, or want to smoke marijuana while camping, do not go to this campground. If you are by all accounts a law abiding citizen, stand up for your rights and do not give this campsite your business, because they will treat you like a criminal. Don’t add stress or jail time to your vacation or camping trip. Do yourself a favor, and boycott the Osceola Vista Campground in the name of the Fourth Amendment, and in the name of our Constitutional Rights.