Yesterday I went to the doctor to get my “medical exam.” There was no measuring of height or weight. No blood tests taken. He didn’t use the little hammer on my knee to see if I had good reflexes. Nope, none of that. Instead we had a two minute meeting in his office where he engaged me in conversation. We talked about how I was from the U.S. He told me he had been to Baltimore and loved it. I mentioned I went to Johns Hopkins; turns out he did too. Then he signed a paper, handed it to me, and wished me a good stay in Botswana.
This is what he gave me:
In case you didn’t read it closely, please do so now. Here is a copy of the important part:
TA-DA! I am officially NOT an IDIOT! And I have papers to PROVE IT!
While this exam is quite out of the ordinary for the practice of medicine today this is common 1920s medicine. And since this is just so unusual I figured I would provide a brief history lesson centered around my medical exam. Please refer to bullet points in the picture for corresponding information:
(a) An idiot is an individual with an IQ of 0-25, an imbecile has an IQ of 26-50, and a moron is at the top of the heap with an IQ of 51-70. All three of these terms are formal medical categorizations for people with severe mental retardation. So keep that in mind next time you call someone an idiot. Or feel free to be a smarty pants and when someone calls you an idiot say something to the effect of, “Actually if I was an idiot that means I would have an IQ no higher than 25 and we all know I’m the more intelligent person in this conversation, so who feels like the idiot now?”
(b) The term imbecile came into vogue in 1927 when a U.S. Supreme Court case ruling allowed for forced sterilization of “unfit” individuals, including those classified as mentally retarded “for the protection of the health of the state.”
(c) Feeble-minded was used in 19th century Europe, again to specify a type of “mental deficiency.” However, it should be noted one would rather be feeble-minded than an idiot because feeble-minded was considered the highest-functioning group of those with “mental deficiencies.”
(d) “Being an epileptic” has nothing to do with mental capacity, but rather is a chronic neurological disorder. I thought it curious that Botswana would be concerned about this, however, after some research I found 50 million people have epilepsy, and 80% of those people are in developing countries. Botswana is by far the most developed of any “developing country” I’ve ever been to, but I suppose this is still a major concern here.
(e) Technically, I’ve never officially had a previous attack in insanity, but I’m sure my students, particularly my graduate students, would beg to differ. I’m sure if given enough time they could come up with plenty of creative responses to this, so instead I’m going to surmise what I would expect them to say: “You put a red pen in her hand and it’s like a matador waiving a red flag in front of a bull in a china shop- she will bleed all over your paper with reckless abandon and then gloat when you ask her if she enjoyed her weekend reading your dissertation.”
(f) In 1922 Dr. William House wrote an article about Constitutional Psychopathic Inferiority (CPI), which stated CPI had only become a recent problem because when society was less complex CPI was less likely to have any real impact. Prior to society’s development and increasing sophistication, “inferior persons… mingled with their fellows without attracting attention (kind of like the aliens from Men in Black), but with advancing civilization they… failed to amalgamate and became conspicuous.” Dr. House goes on to state inferior persons “produce social discord, contribute to the divorce problem and other forms of legal controversy, propagate infections, cause and suffer from an excessive number of cases of illnesses, accident and injury, and furnish a majority of the inmates of almshouses, asylums and penitentiaries.”
(g) As for alcoholism, alcohol abuse is considered a prominent factor in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Botswana has the second highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world (24.8%) behind Swaziland (26.1%).
In summary, according to the doctor here in Botswana I am not an idiot, and therefore fit to become a Motswana resident. I’m sure my parents are very proud.