ELSEWHERE IN MINNESOTA,na 21-year-old retarded man is about tonbe treated for his compulsive selfinjuriousnbehavior to the tune ofn$292,000 —or more —annually. MichaelnUntinen has a tendency to strikenhimself, to try to gouge out his ownneyes, and to induce himself to vomit,nand is presently being treated withn”faradic shock,” from a hand-heldnelectrode. The proposed new $800-adaynmethods would exchange for thenshock more sophisticated and expensivenmedical and behavioral treatments.nI have some sympathy for the statensenator who labeled faradic shock devicesn”cattle prods,” and it is sad to seena case in which a man is so mentallynretarded he is piece-by-piece destroyingnhimself. But with estimates of thenyearly cost of Untinen’s treatment innthe hundreds of thousands of dollars,nwe must pause. A little over three yearsnof treatment and the state is talkingnabout spending a million dollars.nIt is not pleasant to put a price tagnon human life. Nor would I argue for anreturn to medieval methods, chainingnUntinen up and leaving him to rot. Butnthis is a case of showering perhapsnmillions of dollars on a man, and fornwhat result? At best, he will only benrendered harmless to himself We arennot an infinitely rich country. Wencould not save everyone, even if wenwere. And as it is we cannot afford tontax and spend continually in the effortnto try to save a stunted mind from thenconsequences of its own unhappy fate.nIt is the unpleasant duty of a societynto set priorities. Surely the somewhatnsick must be placed before the hopeless.nIt seems unwise, with the numbernof relatively healthy young people whonneed care, and the number of olderncitizens who have contributed much tonour society but who are now elderlynand ill, to make so many of them take anbackseat to the unfortunate Mr.nUntinen. (KD)nHow DO THE FRENCH seentheir revolution today, two hundrednyears later? Confusedly, suggests a recentnpoll discussed by R.W. Johnson innthe London Review of Books. Askednwhat they considered the most importantnevents of the revolution were, anthird answered “don’t know,” an answernalmost as popular as the fall of thenBastille (37 percent), and well ahead ofnsuch events as the Declaration of thenRights of Man (16 percent), the executionnof the king and queen (13 percent),nand the end of aristocratic privilegesn(10 percent). The revolution isnstrongly associated with liberty — “nondoubt strengthened in the popularnmind,” says Johnson, “by the fact thatn14 July marks the beginning of thensummer holiday season”—but it getsnhazy after that. Only 30 percent knewnthe first article of the Declaration ofnthe Rights of Man. Asked to name thenthree words most associated with thenrevolution, only 55 percent managednto get “liberty” and 48 percent “equality.”n”Fraternity” brought up the rearnat 43 percent, perhaps because to modernnears, so old-fashioned a word seemsninconsistent with a progressive revolution.n(Some respondents attributed femalensuffrage to the revolution. InnFrance that did not come about untiln1945.)nTo be fair, Americans are scarcelynstronger on history, our own or thenSERIES OF 5IN5nnnworld’s: one thinks of the all-too-typicalncollege student who asked his professornwhether Julius Caesar resentednhis portrayal by Shakespeare. And thenFrench seem to have retained an importantnlesson: asked who deserved thenguillotine, the greatest number (albeitnonly 21 percent) named not KingnLouis XVI, but Robespierre. The implication,nsuggests Johnson, is that “thenrevolutionary Terror has made a farndeeper impression on the popular imaginationnthan the more humdrum,neveryday cruelties of the Ancien Regime.nThe main reason for this is thatnnobody can imagine the monarchynever coming back . . . but Robespierrenseems a frighteningly contemporarynfigure.” (MK)nIT’S BEEN A YEAR and a half sincenTom Wolfe published The Bonfire ofnthe Vanities — doing for New YorknCity what Tom Eliot did for June bugs:nimmortalizing them wriggling on anpin. I’m curious why a similar novelnJUNE 1989/7n