JULY 25, 1946
NEW YORK, Wednesday—Yesterday evening, I went with Mrs. Morgenthau to a preview of a film on a section of Africa under British control. The color photography was beautiful, and it was extraordinary how well the natives did their parts since, in the whole film, I think there were only one or two professional actors.
I find that I am a very poor judge of whether a film has general appeal. Often I fail to see the reason why it appeals to one particular group or is very much disliked by another. In front of me, last night, sat two young men who thought that this film would have to undergo considerable changes before the public would really take an interest in it.
It certainly showed the best type of British colonial official, and it brought out the problem of tropical diseases and the efforts made to cope with them. I doubt, however, whether there are many countries under foreign rule where treatment such as was pictured in this movie is universal. Where there is one really good administrator who takes a sympathetic and understanding interest in the colonial peoples in his area, I fear one might find at least two administrators who looked upon these people and their development as secondary to what could be gained materially by the mother country through exploitation of the people and the resources of the area.
I remember long ago visiting a prison camp in this country and feeling that I would almost rather encounter one of the criminals on a dark night on a lonely highway than to be at the mercy of the boss of the camp. Complete control over defenseless human beings seems to give too much power to the ordinary person, and he sometimes becomes rather arrogant and cruel. Ruling over people who cannot defend themselves is in somewhat the same category as dealing with prisoners, and it requires exceptional human beings to carry it through for the real good of the subject people.
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I had a succession of visitors this morning. First of all, one of the very devoted and interested young people in the National Mental Health Foundation came to tell me of the progress they had made. This group, many of whom worked in our state institutions for the insane during the war, are dedicated to improving the mental health of our nation and especially the treatment of the poor people who find themselves in our mental institutions.
No one in the whole group is receiving a salary of more than $150 a month, so this is truly a labor of love. Many articles about the work they have been doing and about the conditions in our institutions are appearing in magazines and newspapers, so I hope that they will manage to create an awareness about these problems on the part of our citizens generally.
Often, mental illness, like other illness, is preventable and curable. And we do not have to feel that it is something which has to be hidden and which dooms one to separation forever from society as a whole.