Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act.
I think the militant and committed people in our movement for human rights in psychiatry are not really aware of the damage that has been done to us by those who are responsible for smashing the national conference we controlled and most of the rest of our movement besides.
People have grown used to our having no power at all, not being taken seriously, being completely shut out by the media. That isn’t the way it was before 1985 and “Alternatives,” and the takeover of our movement by the “mental health” system.
I think by around 1982, the year Berkeley voted for the ballot measure we organized to ban shock treatment, our movement was about as advanced, in terms of public consciousness and sympathy, as the LGBT movement was at that time.. Gay people continued to fight, the same way we had been doing. They refused to grovel. They didn’t beg for respect, they demanded it. And they got it. Where is the respect that WE should have?
From almost the beginning of our movement, we had a great deal of access to the media. I can remember in 1972, me and Judi Chamberlin being on national TV together, and it wasn’t the first time. And I don’t intend it as a boast, but before 1985, I was on national television as many as 20 to 25 times. So were other people.
We need that kind of exposure of our ideas to the public. We need to inspire people the way the brave black students did in the Sixties who were attacked for demanding the simple right to be served at lunch counters, like the Freedom Riders who faced jail and beatings for refusing to sit at the back of the bus, like Martin Luther King, who wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail on scraps of paper smuggled into his cell. He said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and decent people all over our country took heed.
Millions of idealistic young people were inspired by the courage and example of these people, by their moral authority, and I was one of them.
All other movements for liberation in the last half-century were inspired by the civil rights movement, and we were too.
Now we don’t protest in the streets against people being tortured and abused by psychiatry. We just have bureaucrats paid by the system to be our “leaders,” sending out press releases about the “recovery movement” and “peer certification.” Why should the average person, in or out of the media, pay attention to that? How can we inspire people to join us if we let these agents of the system be our public face? People are inspired by courage and idealism, not cynicism. Our society has too much cynicism as it is.
My dream when I joined this movement in 1971 was that we were a civil rights movement for people like me who had been abused by psychiatry. We acted like a civil rights movement and we were perceived as one. And we were succeeding in convincing the public to be concerned about what psychiatry does.
We have the potential to be a very large movement, with tens of millions of people having been locked up on psych wards, and many millions more who have been drugged to the point of brain damage, along with their children.
And what do we offer them? A national conference controlled by our oppressors where you better watch what you say, where they tried to ban Bob Whitaker from speaking? Why would anyone want to join such a “movement?”
We need to go back to our roots, to emulate the courage of the black people who started the civil rights movement. We need leaders who take risks and make sacrifices, who lead by example, and who work for our cause and not just for their own glory. No, it will not be easy. The risks and sacrifices we have to make will be very hard.
But if we don’t do that, we will never be able to inspire anyone, and we will continue to be powerless and ignored.
We can do better than this. We did it before and we can do it again. But nothing will change unless we go back to our roots.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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