“Invisible” Resistance: Taking Charge in the Face of Difficulty and Institutional Rule


The context in which this article is penned is rule by institutions which are functions of the state, in particular those deemed services; the ways in which these interconnect to create a veritable trap; contrary to current hegemony, the ease with which they can substantially harm those that they “serve.” Pivotal in this article is the “mental health system” and the psychiatric dangers that it presents (for an extensive demonstration that psychiatry intrinsically harms and lacks validity, see Burstow, 2015). Likewise figuring prominently are the educational system and the social services—which, despite their comparative validity are themselves centralized sites of social control, and as such, also wreak havoc in people’s lives.

At the centre of the discussion are two stories, each involving individuals competently attending to their own needs and/or the needs of their loved ones precisely by keeping one or more of these institutions at bay. These particular stories were chosen because of my intricate knowledge of each, also because of the contrast between them (they take place in very different eras, and very different modes of resistance are involved). Questions explored with respect to them include: What problems do the stories bring to light? Would the complications encountered in the first story have been better or worse if some semblance of these events played out today? What attitude do they suggest that we should take to the various apparatuses of the state? What do they tell us about resistance? And insofar as the solutions arrived at by the central protagonists might be thought of as instructive, what do they alert us to, open up as possibilities, or prefigure?

Story One:  Ottawa, 1950s.

A younger me is the central protagonist of this story, age 12-13. My family had just moved from Winnipeg Manitoba to Ottawa Ontario, and both in Ottawa itself and in the new school that I attended I found myself encountering a level of anti-Semitism which I had not previously experienced. Badly thrown, for better or for worse, I did not share these conundrums with my folks for my dad had just suffered a major heart attack and parents were in such dire financial distress that it is all they could do to put food on the table. What I did is stop going to school. A truant officer was summarily dispatched to our flat to drag me to school. Eyeing this menacing looking figure approaching the door, I locked it, whereupon he yelled, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll unlock the door pronto.” As I did not respond, he eventually departed. This left the school in a tricky position for what was happening here blatantly broke the rules. What was their solution to this interference with standard operations? To insist that I must be “mentally ill” and force me to see a psychiatrist – a framing which “solved” their immediate problem.

For the next year and a half, I saw a psychiatrist thrice a week. He began by administering an ink blot test, then asking follow-up questions. Whence began an extended conversation, which in no way touched on any of my conundrums. Now one day I inquired what would happen to me when I was out of answers to his queries. He never responded, from which I surmised that my safest course of action was to keep the conversation going. Now I did indeed wonder whether or not I might be “mentally ill”, as almost everyone beset by psychiatry does—for we are primed to do so. However, he soon made a critical error that signaled to me that he had not a clue what he was doing.  He told my folks and the school authorities that it was okay that I had left school for I had not the intelligence to pass out of grade 7. Well aware that I had just heard something preposterous, I made my own assessment of the assessor and his tools, and I continued to bide my time. Meanwhile, knowing that I would be seriously disadvantaged in life with nothing but a grade 6 education, I took a part-time job at the National Art Gallery of Canada—and I stayed alert to whatever “possibilities” arose.

One day my family announced that we would be moving back to Manitoba, more particularly, to the small northern town of Churchill—for my dad had landed a job there. Here was my moment! I intuitively knew that whatever anti-Semitism awaited me there would be in a range that I could handle. I immediately told my parents that I wished to return to school. They nodded. Taking a deep breath, I continued, “but I don’t want to go back to grade 7. How about if I go to the grade I would’ve been in at this juncture had none of this ever happened –y’know, grade 9.” Without soliciting any further explanation, again my parents nodded. The question, however, was how to pull off a coup of this proportion given that no school would knowingly permit such a major violation of their rules. Indeed, as we were all aware, such a request would not even “compute”. My father’s brow knit as if he were lost in thought. Then he responded, “I’ll assure them that you passed out of grades 7 and 8 and that I have sent for the records and they simply have not yet arrived.”

My parents looked at me, knowing that I was the weak link for I had (and yes, still have) a passion for truth. I also knew that we were up against an unbending power and this was a critical moment–for here was my opportunity to get my life back on track. So I took a deep breath, then returned their nod. And without a word from anyone, the die was cast.

We moved. I spent the summer hitting the books so that I could handle grade 9. Then the school year commenced.

For the next several months, my father stalled the principal, who kept calling to inquire about my records from Ottawa. Come the end of the first term, I took the interim exams and came in top of my class. Then circumstances landed us in Winnipeg, where I subsequently took the departmental exams. The successful completion of the departmental exams meant that I could now “officially” enter grade 10.

I continued on, completed high school, attended a number of different universities, where I acquired four different degrees, included a doctorate, and received numerous awards (e.g., the Russell Gold Medal in Philosophy). Then I resumed teaching in universities (which I had begun after my first masters). In the fullness of time, I became a world famous scholar who had published extensively. All this, by a person, note, “officially” without sufficient intelligence to pass out of grade 7.

Discussion of Story One 

Students being forced to deal with pernicious racialization is a common plight in schools. As a 12 year old who was thrown by a level of it that I had not previously witnessed, I dealt with it as best as I could. Clearly, the solution itself was less than ideal. At the same time, getting distance from the daily assault on my dignity was a reasonable course of action given that there was nothing in the system which even allowed for the possibility of such difficulties existing. Hence the decision to absent myself (the first act of resistance). Once I acted on this decision, two of arms of the state—the educational system and psychiatry—entered in to rectify a breach of their rules that could only be conceptualized institutionally as something over which they needed to reassert control. I was now trapped at least seemingly between two unacceptable outcomes—being dragged back into an oppressive learning environment or falling prey to psychiatry.

To the best of my ability I proceeded to keep both institutions at bay. I kept the school system at bay by going along with their insistence that I see a psychiatrist. And I kept psychiatry at bay in essence by engaging in a kind of mindless chatter that might best be characterized as stalling. Anguished though I was, the task which I set myself was competently performed, in other words, and the tactic was successful.

Likewise competently exercised and sensible was the decision to return to school once I had reason to believe that I would be entering a safer environment. By the same token the decision made by my entire family—for me to skip two grades and for us all to lie to the principal—also made sense. Lest it strike you otherwise, let me invite you for a moment to consider the alternative: Had we played by the rules, not only would I have been unnecessarily stuck in a class with students two years younger, having received the relevant documents from Ottawa, instead of approaching me as a bright and promising student, the school officials would have instantly turned to pathologizing. And indeed we were all of us acutely aware of this, and as such, our response constitutes “critically aware resistance”.

Herein, let me suggest, the fact that we were working class served the family well. The point here is that working class families, like most other oppressed groups, harbour an inherent distrust of the establishment, have a standpoint which, while hardly foolproof, uniquely positions us to see through the official line. What we understood, quite simply, is that the system is not our friend. And what is mere dishonesty in one situation is self-protection in another. Not that sheer luck did not likewise come to our aid.

That said, to return to the various institutions themselves, what was wrong with what each one did—beginning with the educational system? Besides that the educational system allowed an atmosphere of anti-Semitism to flourish in the first place, it activated institutional responses which were ill advised, insensitive, and punitive. And capturing even themselves up by their rules, they turned a situation which called for listening, respect, and creative problem-solving into one which allowed for only two possible interpretations and two possible courses of action—both of them injurious—EITHER the child was “derelict” and therefore should be manhandled into returning to school OR the child was “mentally ill” and therefore should be forced into the psychiatric system.

What did psychiatry in turn do wrong? It uncritically accepted its role as the correct handler of the situation. It failed to share information. It prioritized its own dubious tools over human relating. Correspondingly, as an agent of the state, the psychiatrist proceeded to come up with an assessment that not only made no sense but was transparently political. The point is if “the child” was both “mentally ill” and “intellectually incapable”, the broken rules became far less of a problem for the other arm of the state—the school. Moreover, psychiatry’s “owning” of the situation was guaranteed.

Now as it happens, only two arms of the state directly figure in this saga, and in both cases, significantly, contrary to their own sense of themselves, they were problem-creators, not problem-solvers. Nonetheless another arm of the state might easily have entered in, and had it done so, it too would have been a problem-creator. To wit: What if the family had been less skillful in pulling off this ruse and the deception and collusion became evident? In accordance with the boss texts which determine its operation, the school would have been obliged to call in Child and Family Services. Expertly applying their own texts, the Child and Family Services officials, in turn, would have “determined” that the welfare of the child was at stake, that the parents were badly negligent at the bare minimum, and that the removal of the child from the home was mandatory. At which point, “the child” would not only have lost her home, her foundation, and her one true ally but in all likelihood, would once again have been facing the danger of the psychiatric system (theorized as help). Moreover, the family as a whole would suffer.

Now it might be argued that this happened eons ago and things would have played out in a better way today. Let me suggest, however, that racialization in schools remains a fact.  Moreover, if we assume even a vaguely similar beginning and a vaguely similar set of circumstances, the outcome today would be every bit as bad and arguably considerably worse. How so?

There is now a far closer relationship between the educational system and the psychiatric system. Moreover, there has not only been a “drug revolution” but a specific honing in on the child market (see Whitaker, 2010 and Burstow 2015). Ergo, “the child” would almost certainly have ended up on psychiatric drugs, with all the brain-damage which this entails—a course of action that would have likely commenced the moment that she stopped attending class.

Nor would the escape route that opened up later exist. The point is, unlike in 1950s, subterfuge of that particular nature is impossible under the current circumstances for the problematic records would follow the child electronically wherever she went. Moreover, even were it possible, were the subterfuge ever discovered, not only would the social services still remove the child (see http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/c080e.php), and not only would psychiatry similarly summarily be called in, the psychiatry called in would be modern psychiatry –that is, one duly armed with toxic drugs.


Story Two: Toronto, Current Times

The major protagonists in this story are: a woman whose husband had recently died (pseudonym: Nel), her children, and her mother-in-law (pseudonym: Lisa).

A year ago, as a well known antipsychiatry therapist whose opinion she respected, Lisa called me to solicit my advice about how to help her daughter-in-law. The backstory? Nel was overwhelmed, was having enormous trouble coping. And she would every so often start screaming at her children. The children in turn were frightened of their mother. What had Lisa already done with respect to her family? Something remarkable. She had supported both the children and their mother. She had also begun advocating on Lisa’s behalf, arranging for nonintrusive counseling and stopping psychiatry’s relentless attempt to push psychiatric drugs on Nel. Having been asked what she might do now, I naturally  applauded Lisa’s efforts to date and urged her to continue on in the same vein. I likewise suggested that she spend as much time as possible listening to Nel, helping her mourn, and brainstorming solutions with her (and I gave her ideas how to do this), that she support the children similarly, that she provide the children with a place to which to retreat, as needed, moreover, that she encourage the family to hold meetings where everyone discussed the problems in the family and explored ways to support one another.

What next I heard from Lisa, besides having enacted all my suggestions, she had also in effect taught her family all that I had taught her. Additionally, she had masterminded an agreement whereby when Nel was having a bad day, she would shut herself in her room to spare the children, and on the children’s side, they would let their mom know that they needed to take off now and would return when “the storm had blown over.” Which they all accomplished without involving authorities and without incident.

What happened in the fullness of time? The pain, needless to say, did not disappear. Nonetheless, Nel began getting control over her life. The family became good at handling its problems together. The children ceased being afraid, confident that they were loved, knowing, moreover, that everything could be discussed and everything handled together.  Correspondingly, the family unit stayed in tact.

Discussion of Story Two

The institutions involved here or which threatened to become so are two of the very ones that figured so prominently in the first story. However, a very different dynamic played out, with the institutions totally kept in line—with one, additionally, drawn on as needed—and by someone with a keen sense of how to advocate.

That psychiatry posed an imminent threat to Nel is transparently obvious. Lisa’s calm and effective resistance, however, prevented anything untoward from happening. What Lisa did is gently but persistently block the intrusion at hand and successfully lobby instead for the provision of empathic psychological counseling while reassuring everyone by her steady ongoing involvement. By the same token, once again we have a situation in which Child and Family Services would normally have been called in, and had this happened, once again, in all likelihood the children would have been removed—and everyone thereby harmed. The persistent, skillful, and loving help which Lisa provided prevented this from happening, moreover turned the entire situation around, leaving all family members and the family as a whole in a far better place.

What particularly strikes me about this story, I would add, is how incredibly better Lisa responded than oh-so-many mothers-in-law would. The point is that a situation like this in a patriarchal culture is a setup for a mother-in-law in grieving and who is naturally worried about her grandchildren to fall into pathologizing and/or vilifying her daughter-in-law, perhaps even encouraging social services to remove the children, placing them in her custody instead. This might or might not be accompanied by her urging that the daughter-in-law be “afforded” psychiatric “care”. How wonderful that Lisa was so clear-sighted and giving that instead of sacrificing the daughter-in-law, she safeguarded her, while helping the entire family.

In so doing, I would add, she prefigured how families and community members might handle problems in the better type of society that I would like to see us build (for details, see Burstow, 2015, Chapter Nine).


This article has laid bare a number of the intricate, insidious, and profound ways that institutions which are arms of the state individually and collectively control people, in the process substantially injuring and/or endangering them. It likewise has made visible everyday acts of skilled resistance. Correspondingly, it has demonstrated the utter necessity of such resistance. Had I chosen stories involving other institutions, I would suggest, as long as psychiatry or the criminal justice system were one of them—and to an appreciable degree, even were they not—similar dynamics would have materialized.

The primary lessons to be gleaned from the forgoing are: While for sure there are times when certain institutions serve us, we can ill afford to simply place our faith in any institution, much less any institution embedded in the state, this, note, despite the fact that society “dictates” otherwise.  We need to be aware of the connections between all major social institutions, to see how they can work together to the enormous disadvantage of human beings caught up by them. We need to prioritize people over institutions. We need to keep our eyes peeled for instances when resistance is in order. And we need to know how to resist.

In ending, some concrete recommendations that readers might consider:

  • Nurture a healthy skepticism about all the arms of the state, including, and perhaps especially, ones theorized as “help”.
  • Albeit it may well be that psychiatry (and I would personally add others) is the sole arm of the state totally lacking in validity, be aware that an analysis restricted to psychiatry is insufficient. Safety lies in having an analysis of all regimes of ruling, having a sense of how they interconnect, and acting accordingly.
  • Get into the practice of noticing how power operates.
  • Step back from the worldview created by regimes of ruling so that you are in a position to truly assess both what is happening and what the institution or the institutional network is likely to do. A good beginning is distancing yourself from their discourses (see Burstow, 2013).
  • Touch base with and respect your own knowledge and that of your community—for irrespective of how the institutions may frame things, you surely do have knowledge.
  • Take note of the institutions currently governing your actions or those of your loved ones and/or community, with an eye to determining what problems might arise, what steps you can predict, and how, if necessary, you might work around them.
  • Observe how seemingly separate institutions connect together in ways which entrap individuals.
  • Study not only the routine operation of institutions but the permutations that occur when they connect with racialized communities, with women, with the very young, with the very old, with the disabled, with the LGBTQ community.
  • Remember that “experts” and their “knowledge” are themselves institutional products.
  • Be willing to reach out as helpful; be equally willing to keep your own counsel as necessary.
  • Negotiate and advocate where helpful.
  • When facing the power, contradictions, and circular reasoning of institutions, be prepared to sabotage and to do so skillfully.
  • Study resistance strategies, investigating what works and under what circumstances.
  • Try to navigate life in ways that maximize the likelihood that everyone’s welfare is safeguarded, community is supported, and a decentering of power occurs.

Finally, never forget that children are far more resourceful than adults realize, moreover, while they may be at a loss to explain themselves, they have unique insight into their own needs. Correspondingly, if you find yourself dismissing their behavior as misguided, as simply bad, or worse yet, as evidence of a fictitious disease like “oppositional defiance disorder”, reach back to the time when you were a kid—then think again!!

* * * * *

[For this article and others by this author, see http://bizomadness.blogspot.ca/).


  1. Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the Business of Madness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  2. Burstow, B. (2013). A Rose by any Other Name. In Mad Matters. ed. Brenda Lefrançois, Robert Menzies, and Geoffrey Reaume. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, pp. 79-93.
  3. Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an epidemic. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.


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.


  1. If only all mother-in-laws were like Lisa.

    If only more families were as supportive as yours.

    This all rings true, but it’s a messy, messy world out there with an ever growing cast of characters who are floundering in a sea of planned dysfunction by the powers that be.

    Both you and Lisa had your inborn wits about you in your respective situations.

    I think it is highly unlikely to find those traits in the ‘general population’ these days.

    I’m dealing with a situation with a neighbor right now, and this essay gives me pause.


  2. Thank you Bonnie for a very insightful article.

    You say ” oppressed groups, harbour an inherent distrust of the establishment, have a standpoint which, while hardly foolproof, uniquely positions us to see through the official line”. This helps me realize how difficult and in some cases impossible it can be for people for whom ‘institutions’ have always provided a sense of safety and security, to really `see’ what is going on, and to understand what is the best way to go forward.

    Now that the ‘security blanket’ of ‘institutions we traditionally depended on have been ripped out from beneath us, our way forward to help our loved one, has been fraught with so much self doubt and continual reanalysis about what is the best way to promote recovery, and we have felt such a lack of support from our ‘traditional’ community (despite the best of intentions in some cases). Luckily we have been able to slowly forge a new community helped by people who have a much better understanding of how inadequate systems are for oppressed groups.

  3. Reading this made me feel the oppression of living in modern society. It’s easy to see how utterly stressful and paranoid-making life, itself, can be. It’s par for the course, which is why people are burnt out from it all and stressed beyond reason, even if they have been fortunate and skillful enough to be fruitful in their efforts. It’s always a super pain in the ass, regardless, because we cannot trust. These institutions can so effortlessly betray people, and so often do as standard practice.

    “The system is not our friend.” True, and it is draining and ill-making to all concerned, totally energy-sucking. So why on earth do we allow it to continue to exist? It serves a few at the expense of everyone else. Certainly the numbers are on our side to change this.

  4. Bonnie, yes, I like your article.

    I have to say now that with so many articles written by people promoting psychotherapy and advertising themselves, that when I read your title, I was prepared for the worst. I expected you to be trying to justify your own role in oppressive institutions, to be a advancing the Just Following Orders Defense. And so I prepared myself for responding to that.

    But I am most pleasantly surprised to see that you are doing nothing of the sort. Your own story is moving. There are exceptional times when The Family, what is held up as a middle-class norm, is in fact mitigated, and so there occasionally are families which are protective and supportive.

    Unfortunately, in my view, more often than not The Family makes at least one of it’s children into the scapegoat. And so with the help of outside authorities, the parents advance their own claim to legitimacy by showing how they are subjecting their child to correction ( drugs, therapy, medical and religious abuse ).

    And for example, where I live, city governments work to set up charities which reach out to the poor and homeless, some overtly religious and some not. The city has done searches and found people with backgrounds in the privatization of health and human services administration and gotten them installed as church pastors. They then proceeded to shut down charitable programs and replace them with Recovery Programs, where clients would need to submit to case management.

    And of people living on the street, and often on drugs, alcohol, and psychiatric medication, even if we gave them a Rolls Royce, a house in Bel Air, and wads and wads of pocket cash, that would not be justice. It could never be a substitute for having had the chance to develop and apply one’s abilities, and then for being able to apply them to doing good. Everybody wants this.

    But the middle-class family runs on rejecting this, and instead on the premise that children need to be broken and inculcated with the self-reliance ethic. And so future Einstein’s, Mozart’s, and Elon Musk’s are turned into Homer Simpson’s.

    And so I am sorry over what you were subjected to, Anti-Semitism plus extreme governmental abuse. And even if they are determined to enforce the truancy law, they never should have subjected you to psychotherapy or psychiatry.

    And I fully support your handling of the school records issue, so that you got to continue at your proper grade level.

    FWIW, I mention Phillip Roth, a man who has built a great literary career, much of it based on making fun of Jewish mothers. Well in his “Plot Against America”, where a family is under genuine persecution and at great risk, a completely different side shows, and the effect is overwhelming.

    So I fully agree with your suggestion,

    “•Nurture a healthy skepticism about all the arms of the state, including, and perhaps especially, ones theorized as “help”.”

    And yes, where I am the helps being offered to the poor are always pity, scorn, and contempt. And of course most of those preyed upon by the psychiatric system fall into this, and they get the very worst forms of psychotherapy as well.

    And these are only some of the reasons why I am so opposed to those quarters of the Anti-Psychiatry Movement which encourage pity and approval seeking. They are only playing into the eugenics and social Darwinism which neo-liberal Capitalism runs on.

    As a young woman, Alice Miller had survived the Warsaw Ghetto. She learned how to get in and out, and she found comrades, and she was able to smuggle in food.

    Unfortunately it was only in some of her writing that this sensibility came through.

    As I see it, Capitalism used to need cheap labor, and even slave labor, and so it got this from immigrants, racial minorities, and by neo-colonialism. But now, it no longer needs this, it just needs people it can subject to ritual public humiliations. So it gets this right from the Middle-Class Family itself, aided by Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists, Developmental Disabilities Therapists, and Religion.

    So I am also moved by your second story. We need to have supports for families and for the children. The reason we don’t have this is simply that everyone knows that they would be used by the poor and by racial minorities. And the welfare of children is the main means by which adults are kept in harness. So our society is using children.

    And then people do need places they can go to for support, things they can actually have long term involvement in.

    My understand is that one of the main reasons for the popularity of Freud was that he was more accepting of people’s instinctual impulses than religion was. And our religious traditions are fruit that is completely rotten.

    But very soon Freud was replicating the worst of religion, the premise of Original Sin. It is in his Oedipal Complex Theory, and what he ends up doing is denigrating aggression and sexual desire. What he does is make you believe that you are guilty, but with no evidence. And this is why today so few people want to fight back, instead they want to seek pity and approval.

    And this Original Sin approach is the basis of the Self-Reliance Ethic, which is the cornerstone of the Middle-Class Family.

    I strongly agree with Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. And they are mostly talking about psychotherapy, capitalism, and neuroticism. Psychiatric drugs aren’t really part of the picture yet.

    My view is that we who have survived the Middle-Class Family need to organize and claim our place in the world, without any appeals to pity. And then we need to set up our own Supervised Independent Study university system, and then also our own Foster Care Group Homes.

    The first is because what is usually lost when the conflict level becomes high enough in The Family, is the chance to obtain an education. And then besides, education needs to be self-directed and life long anyway.

    And then we need the Group Home, because otherwise there is no way to protect children, and so we are right back at Moria. People say how horrible Foster Care is. I say that that is because it is intended to be that way, because otherwise it would undermine the Middle-Class Family, and this is how Capitalism is able to propagate itself. So our Group Home will be outstanding, and we will be graduating a revolutionary vanguard.


  5. Oh my the incredible horror and torture of having to see a psychiatrist thrice a week and being declared mentally ill.

    The social control must have been unbearable to such an innocent young mind.

    Meanwhile without ‘institutional rule’ many more would actually be institutionalized in a prison for mental illness, homeless, or far worse.

  6. “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” – Plato
    Thank you Bonnie for your clear and critical thinking – a rare commodity.
    But what to do? You note that “in all movements, the infighting can be terrible. Also the power dynamics are often highly compromised. And it is a shame when this happens, for it is hardly the world that we are trying to build together, and if we should all be trying to prefigure that in how we treat one another.”
    It’s a lovely idea that we can change society so that we all care for each other etc, but won’t we need an institution, a collection of like minded individuals with a well defined program of some sort, to organise the resistance? And inside such an organisation/institution power is power is power, the struggle for dominance is inbuilt in our organism for obvious reasons. There’s nothing we can really do about it except recognise when it threatens to become destructive and attempt to control it. Machiavelli, among others, recognised that the individual who opposes the system will meet a sticky end, but a mass uprising will not. I believe that what we are seeing today is the beginnings of the uprising against psychiatry, or possibly the medical institution of which psychiatry is the most oppressive and least viable, but so far it is just a fragmented group of malcontents, albeit with a just cause and growing support. But every revolution begins with a just cause, and every last one fails unless it has an alternative structure to offer. That will be an `institution’, and though sometimes the new Caesar may be better than the old, for a time at least, more often he just has a different name.
    I would love some discussion on how to circumvent history and human nature, or maybe how to contain it. People are always drawn to that which gives them an advantage, how do we replace the `system’ that sells itself as our `protector’ with another `protector’ the people might like better, and that suits US?
    PS: I have been an anti-institution iconoclast all my life, but I am also a pragmatist.

    • inside such an organisation/institution power is power is power, the struggle for dominance is inbuilt in our organism for obvious reasons. There’s nothing we can really do about it

      What a dialectic dialogue for a hot Sunday night. I don’t believe in “human nature,” at least in this sense, I think you’re looking at the effects of individualism and capitalism on the psyche.

      At any rate I think we can come up with a coordinated, democratic, somewhat centralized network to start with which would have no “power” except the power of persuasion and mutual agreement on basic principles.

      • You seem to be starting from a position of reason, which is fine but it’s not what I’m talking about. You may not believe in “human nature”, but you have to acknowledge it because,whether we like it or not, we are animals My point is that at the deepest levels we respond to the most basic need to survive and perpetuate ourselves, and we deny it at our peril. In that we are no more or less than any other organism on this planet. I believe that this underlies all our behaviour, and there are plenty of examples to support me, particularly in the formation of power groups. That we can be better than JUST this is the measure of our difference from other animals, which is our ability to make choices. However without awareness we are at the mercy of these instincts as much as a mollusc or a chimpanzee.

        • I didn’t really define “human nature” per se, which if I had to I would basically equate with the drives for physical survival and to experience the many pleasures of physical existence. I don’t believe in innate greed, an innate desire to control others, etc. These are the spiritual by-products of capitalism.

  7. Maybe we need to look to biology. The adult male must always be on guard lest he lose his chance to pass on his genes, and spread his influence as far and wide as possible, therefore he must be vilgilant and prepared to defend himself against attack from stronger individuals at all times. Thus the ever present power struggles at all levels in a patriarchal society. Females however, whilst also competitive for sustenance and general comfort, do not have the same pressure of competing with other females to pass on their genes. (Of course we have managed to introduce that as a social issue, but as a basic biological drive, aggression and competitiveness are not as powerful in females. (The one female, one male mating system in humans is male devised anyway). Therefore, might a better world be one where females run the place?

      • You reckon? How can we know, it’s never happened that women have ever ruled anything unless they behaved like men? Remember, Elizabeth I, `I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a Prince.’ And Margaret Thatcher, as fierce or fiercer than most men, because she couldn’t command any respect whatsoever if she wasn’t.
        Here in Australia we had a female Prime Minister, she was white-anted constantly by her male colleagues, the press and the public, including other women. Her clothes, her hair, makeup, voice, accent, you name it were attacked, and as soon as they could do it, she was toppled.
        Why can we only female count heads of state on our fingers? Why do we have to make rules to include women on the ballot paper?
        So often, in business when you see a woman at the helm it’s where the company is in some kind of trouble and it’s felt that a woman might a) gain a little more sympathy because if her perceived `femininity’ and lack of aggression, and b) she is more expendable if it goes pear shaped.
        Come on, I say again, how can we know?
        The only way women can rule is to do it by stealth, like the small business women you see in the back blocks of the world, and as soon as they make a success of it, the men take over. Not human nature – animal nature- the spoils are to the strong.

        • deeeo

          Actually, in prehistory the world was ruled by women in what is now Europe. The Mother Goddess ruled religion and spirituality. From what little we can gather women held the positions of power and decision making. There didn’t seem to be a lot of warring going on.

          However, along came the invaders from the north who brought their male deity who ruled the sky. They swept everything before them, destroying the worship of the Mother Goddess and subjecting women under the heel of men. They turned the world upside down and it’s never been the same since.

          • The healers were women too. But seeing how powerful they were, the church stepped in, called them witches, heretics etc and killed them, along with the knowledge of millennia. Thus began the purge, mutilate and burn, ultimately patriachal approach to medicine, so eloquently described by David Healy in his response to my queries about his attitude to ECT, to drive out, to defeat, to fight, and battle `illness’, intrinsic male attributes (the fight to survive and procreate) that remains with us today.
            The nurturing was done by nurses (females), but the TREATMENT, the important stuff was done, almost exclusively by males and still, positions of power in medicine today are mostly taken by men.
            With the fall of the all powerful church, physicians stepped in and with the`miracle’ of antibiotics medicine in the mid 20th century, were able to take on the mantle as the new all powerful religion. `Medical Science’ became the catechism and very lucrative it is too. There was some thought that with women being permitted to study medicine the more brutal treatments (such as ECT) might subside, but as men still hold the power and the women who want it must behave like men, they are able to suspend disbelief and plough on.
            Medicine today is no more or less than it has been in our western society since the slaughter of the women healers began nearly a thousand years ago. It will take a monumental change of attitude to re-align it to something that is Patient not Physician driven. Psychiatry is just the worst of a bad lot.
            Needless to say there are many, many good people who practice medicine, it is the system that is the problem.

  8. Foucault learned to resist when he was sent to a psychotherapist as an adolescent. He learned what he had to learn, which was how to protect himself.

    We all need to learn this, and starting as children. It is not that our society is always unfair, though often it is. It is though that psychotherapy and psychiatry were originally invented as a means of social control, and they still function in this way.

    And then of course sometimes, and in my view most of the time, Parents are just using their children anyway, because they are not being honest about the choices they have and they want something to hide behind. So the dim view of the child starts with the parents, before it is with the school teachers or the mental health and developmental disability people.

    Being middle-class is more an identification system, and ideology, than it is to be of an income range. It is a reactionary identity system, and it is one which preys on children. The middle-class really does have choice, choices that previously people did not have. But the middle-class justifies itself by pretending that it does not have choices.

    I read books written by autism advocates like John Elder Robeson and Nick Dubin. And I read one written by a mother, Jayne Lytel. The evidence is overwhelming that there is no disorder or neurological difference. The stuff these advocates claim is true is completely disproved by their own writings. There is just an intense hatred and revulsion which starts with the parents. And this can be there whether White Coats get involved and make an assessment or not.

    It is something which is part of our evolutionary heritage, and there is an innate revulsion to it. But the problem is that Capitalism and the middle-class family run on sentimental imagery, and people are blinded by this and they can’t see that parental love can often be leathal.

    As I know, and I have never read this, but I think it obvious that in primitive societies when someone shows autistic tendencies, really just a temperament, they separate that person from the socialization by bullying system, and they place them under the care of one non-parent adult, because that person will become the shaman.

    And then, people are more reactive, defensive, and rigid, when they are in negative environments. When it is not this way, they usually will be able to start opening up and becoming more flexible.


  9. Bonnie
    Thanks, for your article that illustrates among things the importance of “critically aware resistance”. The importance of stepping outside of anger, panic , and fear to enable a more accurate view and assessment of what’s going on in front of us so we have a better chance for the best survival moves to surface . It always helps to have real allies. But what do those of us who are still cycling in and out of extreme states do to withdrawal or other pressures , attracting attention of authorita do? I guess we must believe in the strategies we come up with in our most lucid moments.
    Here’s an article I ran across that seems to me to be somehow related to this one and to some of the comments.
    alexanderhiggins.com/noncompliance-broken-system-im-not-voting/ Thanks, Fred

  10. Yes, Resistance, like Lisa is demonstrating is the way.

    But we also should provide supports and escape valves for families and children, because if the children are being made into scapegoats, then outside society is obliged to step in. So it has got to be either these outside supports, or it has got to be CPS. Letting the children hang out to dry is not acceptable.


  11. Bonnie, of your second story, what do you think the lines would be where Lisa would become guilty of Child Endangerment, or Child Abuse herself?

    And I hope in looking at this, that you can look at it considering the interests of the child, and in so doing set aside the wants of the parent.

    You know that in Pennsylvania they convicted one Monsignor William Lynn of Child Endangerment, and they gave him 6 years out of a possibility of 7. He was the Vicar of Clergy for a Roman Catholic Diocese and he reassigned a known pedophile priest to another parish, and he again abused a child. This case marks the first time someone higher than the actual direct abuser was punished. Child protection advocates celebrate this, though I believe I read that it did get overturned on appeal.

    Mandatory reporting does not apply to the general public. But still, if you are actively involved in something where a child is being placed at risk, then there is going to be some line where beyond which, you are committing a felony.

    Where do you think that line should be drawn?

    Without this, children are again just pawns, as they always have been once the middle-class emerged and privatized them.

    And then as far as what CPS might do, any of their actions need to be approved by the court before they are binding. But given this, they can remove children and it can be short term, long term, or permanent. They can compel counseling for the parents. And this one kind of therapy I definitely approve of.

    They can allow supervised visits.

    I think everyone understands that there are things which can happen which can push someone over the edge and get them to the point where they need help. But then is it right to subject a child to the effects of this? And what other recourses are available?

    And of course I would never ever endorse the use of drugs in any situation, and especially one of this kind.

    The reason I called Judge Leonard Edwards to your attention is that he works to reduce the number of families permanently separated. But to do this they need more resources. CPS is grossly overloaded as it is already. They drop huge numbers of cases, and elected office holders have publicly apologized for this.

    Reasonable Efforts: A Judicial Perspective

    I know someone who is an LCSW in our County Hospital, and she says, “You report *EVERYTHING*” And she is the one who teaches their department’s class about this. And think about it, how would that look if someone was seen by a county social worker, and then child abuse was continuing, and then if you could show that the social worker did something to gloss over it and legitimate it? So I suspect that she reports in a very high percentage of the total cases. And then probably with most of these cases, CPS cannot even make a well being check, a knock and talk.

    Okay, but at least they are paying homage to the law and to its intents, and they are letting someone else review the case. And then also, if there are any follow up reports, then that might raise it to the level where they do knock on the front door. Even this alone could give a child more strength and let them know that a reckless parent is not the highest authority. This could forever change the life of the child.

    Leonard Edwards talks about overnight calming down periods. He feels that this is reasonable.

    I think we all understand that a large portion of the threats faced by children do have to do with economics and the resulting stresses and dislocations. And so most of what CPS does is deal with these cases. And of course their intent going in is never to permanently separate families unless their really is no other recourse.

    Now when it comes to religious fundamentalists, Stephen King, helped by his wife Tabitha, continues to do an outstanding job showing us how things work in those families. And the guy I helped get convicted and get a lengthy sentence was of that type. He was molesting his daughters, not just for his own sexual gratification, but also to humiliate them, because otherwise they would not end up like he and like the other members of his church, believing that their sexuality was dirty. And then this would have forced him to face the ways he was abused and broken. We have had some weeks of warm weather. Where he is right now, I doubt that is smells very nice.

    But for most of those well off, they had children in order to advance their own social standing, and so they know what to do to use a parental role to gain respect. They aren’t going to let the child live in squalor. And you know that they have gone to Barnes and Nobles and purchased a current pedagogy manual, the kind that show you how to break children in two, by using concepts like Empathy, Nurturing, Communications Skills, and Attachment. It is just like Alice Miller explains about Rousseau’s Pedagogy Emile. He explains it himself, it is always about making it look to the child like they are in charge, when actually you always retain all control. It is always conning and manipulation. These kinds of parents know what they can get away with, and still make themselves look good. Of course they won’t use corporal punishment, as that is for their social inferiors. So their abuses will by primarily Psychological, and sometime Sexual means, and sometimes be Medical, Psychiatric, Learning Disabilities, or Psychotherapy based.

    Difficult to do anything about this, unless the child comes to see through it and speaks out. But then, who can they speak to and what can they do? It should be both criminal and tortious, and animosity should be enough to prove it. But in fact, the discontents are always shunted into Therapy, Recovery, and Religion, and always then they are taught to worship the Holy Family. So very few people are trying to enforce against parents, even though the abuse is absolutely real.

    Improving Outcomes for Children in Child Protection Cases: Role of Child Advocate



    Andrew Vachss outlines the qualities of a good investigation into child abuse

    Andrew Vachss talks about how to change the world view of child abuse

    Andrew Vachss talks about “consciousness raising” with regard to child abuse

    Angry Mom Freaks Out On Her Whole Family

    Angry Catholic Mother

    Do you see now my point, that we who have survived the middle-class family need to set up our own Foster Care Group Homes? These could offer 3 kinds of services, and of course they will always comply with the directives of CPS and the Court.

    1. Long term foster care, with visits allowed when indicated.
    2. Short term emergency foster care.
    3. Drop in center for all children, and operated by our older children. A child should never be trapped in a familial residence.

    What most people say about current foster care is that it is horrible. But we also have attorneys, community leaders, and elected office holders who grew up in foster care.

    Probably foster care is underfunded. But the main reason that I suspect that it is often so bad is that it is designed to subjugate children and make them believe that they are underprivileged and deprived, instead of showing them how they are the next generation of revolutionary leaders.

    I’ve been reading about Israel’s Kibbutz Movement.


  12. Bonnie, I also ask you to consider two other things:

    1. If someone starts melting down, this may have been triggered by some big life event, like the death of a spouse. But very often what it is really about runs much deeper. It may be a mid life crisis. And what this usually involves is that the party may have been living basically a fake life, living a life they were thrown into. The big event may have been the last straw. And consider, the connection could be huge. The party may have felt that they sacrificed their life for a spouse they were displeased with, but now it is even worse because they have nothing. So the kids may not just be getting cross fire, they may be the primary targets.

    I know what you are writing about is a real example. But in the more general sense, it could be this way.

    I know someone who was permanently changed, and for the worse, when her second parent, the father died.

    But there was a concealed reason for this, because she had lived a life of lies and denial. She had done as was the norm, covering up for paternal sexual molestation, and all the time talking about her wonderful privileged childhood. It gave her an advantage in conflicts with her husband and children.

    And of course she wanted the inheritance. It was not that the amount of money was that large, or that the need was that great, it was just a matter of maintaining a normative and unstigmatized identity.

    So now she had done that, and the father was gone, and she’d gotten the money, but she was left with a buffoon of a husband and children she deeply resented.

    So while I know your story is not like this, in general, if a parent has huge animosity against their child, it could be temporary, but it might not be.

    And the guy I helped put into our prison had had a melt down, a mid life crisis, and he was acting like a jerk and got 5150ed, and drugged.

    But then something worse happened, the doctors were able to convince him that he had a ~~BRAIN CHEMICAL IMBALANCE~~ and so he would need to be on mood altering drugs for the rest of his life.

    So to this day, he lives in fear of not having his meds and of facing his feelings, because that could trigger another melt down.

    So he never explored what his mid-life crisis was actually about.

    Usually what they are about is that the person is effected by childhood abuses and they are living a fake life. Mostly it will be about marriage and career.

    But this guy did not look at this. And besides, a Christian Fundamentalist is supposed to have all the correct answers handed them already. He had come of age using street drugs. But then campus evangelicals offered him a more serious addiction, and with this he could give up street drugs.

    So now, as written in his autobiographical materials, the wife instinctively knew that what this was really about was their marriage. So as he explained, she approached him in a negligee, and he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with him.

    Looking at the dates, and in the Case Complaint, this is exactly when the massages with the eldest daughter, beyond the hour of midnight, started.

    And then there was an email the Prosecutor presented in court when the wife threatened that she would leave him, “if he molested the two younger girls”.

    So children get used, and usually because it is convenient for the adults.

    2. Sometimes child sexual molestation only starts when a divorce is initiated. It is a way of getting back at the divorcing parent.

    extremely good book:

    And an extremely good movie about a phenomenal attorney, on of the first to focus on SOL reform:

    So to conclude:

    1. Families do often need outside support, and we should have it. Sometimes a parent may need to be away from their kids, at least for some time. There should be support for this. And then sometimes a parent might not be able to see how bad it is getting.
    2. Mid-life crises can involve very big and very deep issues, and negative changes may be permanent.
    3. Children may end up in cross fire, but they may also become primary targets.
    4. Letting a child be used is not acceptable.
    5. Mandatory reporting laws are extremely important, but often therapists seem not to follow them because their therapy is based on a pro-family ideology, and this is how they get their clients.


  13. I have not read this, but I am sure that the stories about Foucault being sent to a psycho-analyst are in this. It came out right after he died.


    Know also that by about the early 60’s Foucault himself had gotten trained and licensed as a psychotherapist of some sort himself.


  14. Bonnie, you wrote, ” If Lisa’s solution did not work as in the shouting continued, and she didn’t do what then which she needed to (which likely would include but ideally would not be limited to reporting) then she would be derelict and would bear responsibility.”

    Okay, that is what I wanted to know. I am not saying that what happened here was anything other than an excellent outcome. I am not saying that there ever was anything which should have been reported.

    But I just take exception to how you have framed your entire article, making it be about resisting child protection authorities, instead of about helping a family and supporting a parent in hard times.

    While I understand that in this case, nothing bad happened and nothing that the authorities should have known about or would likely have acted on ever occurred. But I also know that if you make concealment from the authorities the objective, you are encouraging other people to handle things in such a way that child abuse will go on undetected.

    So I cannot condone your article or the POV you advocate, not in any way shape or form.

    You talk about child protection authorities removing children when that is not necessary. As I see it, they don’t even have the resources to do anything at all with a large percentage of complaints. They can’t even make the basic Well Being Check. So I feel that your concern is unfounded and your entire article is misguided and extremely irresponsible.

    People do advocate resistance and engage in actual resistance in times of slavery, military occupation, colonialism, and other tyrannies where there are no courts or ballot boxes. But to resist laws designed to protect children, really the only protection children have?

    I feel that your views are based on misinformation, and that they are also most irresponsible.

    As far as the truancy laws and prejudice in schools, these are also sensitive topics, and today they do intersect with child protection. What you describe in your story I praise, because it is about the acts of a child. So I don’t look at it the same way that I would if it were being driven by adults.

    Truancy laws have always been controversial, as have been the motives for their enactment.

    In the US today, some places enforce them, other places do not. I’ve been in parks where a police car will come up and ask a juvenile, “Why aren’t you in school.”

    They get taken to a detention center and the parent or guardian has to come pick them up. Children do not get punished for not going to school, but parents will be made to understand that it is their responsibility. I don’t think anyone really gets penalized unless the parent is preventing the child from going to school.

    Today in the US, kids can drop out of school, and the authorities leave them alone. I talked with such a youth in the same park. School should be improved. But it is pointless to force someone to go who does not want to.

    And then there is home schooling. Thought mostly used by religious fundamentalists, and for negative reasons, it will solve many problems, like the sort you described.

    I have never heard of a child being sent to a psychiatrist for truancy. And never heard of a case where they did not make sure that they got to the parents. That is how it is different today.

    There have been efforts to eliminate bullying and prejudice in schools. Today in the US I would just encourage the party to sue. I know of one such case where a threatening letter was sent to a School Board, from an attorney, and that solved the problem. Otherwise the child probably would have been diagnosed with something, like maybe Autism, and then that would have let the school administrators off the hook. But no, the parents were smart, no Psychotherapists, find an Attorney.

    And yes, when situations are extremely unfair, like what you describe in your first story, people do sometimes subvert the law.

    But as to your second story, making it be about willingness to subvert the law, when probably the law wouldn’t have even been interested, and when you yourself admit that there would need to be a cut off point, I find to be recklessly irresponsible.

    While I don’t agree with your idea of Resistance in your second story, I do agree that there should be better alternatives for helping families, alternatives put into use before anyone would need to decide whether they were going to comply or resist. But The Middle-Class Family and Capitalism have made it so that these alternatives usually do not exist. And then much of this also comes from the fact that our religious traditions are rotten at core.


  15. I believe that we both understand that in the specific scenario you described in your second story, there really is no problem with how things turned out. So the issue then is simply, what exactly you are trying to promote with your article?

    I also fully support the development of small communities where everyone has a say and everyone takes care of everyone else. I think my post where I mentions Israel’s Kibbutz Movement has gotten approved. I think we need something like that. But I also am convinced that until we interdict on some of the ways that middle-class families perpetrate psychological child abuse and otherwise use children, the situation will continue to deteriorate.

    So right now the only protection children have comes via laws enacted which allow intervention when there is child abuse. And as it is to protect the child, the standard of proof is lower than it would be when seeking a criminal conviction of the abuser.

    While efforts to implement this are always going to be imperfect and subject to abuse, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the premises.

    And in fact, though not fully ratified, the US has finally signed:

    It requires that states act in the best interests of the child. This approach is different from the common law approach found in many countries that had previously treated children as possessions or chattels, ownership of which was sometimes argued over in family disputes.


    And should the Senate finally ratify it, then this will have the force of federal law. I am not sure how many other countries are like this, but in the US you can sue in federal court if someone violates a ratified treaty.

    But your write:
    “I would prioritize the family over the institution.”

    There is no family interest, and their is no institutional interest. So your trade off is bogus both ways. The family cannot claim that holding the child is a legally legitimate interest. And then CPS, foster care, and the state itself do not have an interest in holding the child.

    If you mean that you believe that the child’s interests would be better met by the family than by an institution, well this could well be true. As I have said, the things you described in your story where not that serious, and so the risks always were minimized.

    The problem here is simply that you are using your anecdote to make the subversion of laws designed to protect children into a political cause, rather than offering ways which we can all work to make the laws designed to protect children more effective.

    So yes, you are advancing a Familiest agenda.

    You claim yourself a feminist. Well in the 20th century there have been tremendous advances in the legal standing of women and in laws designed to protect women. Children however have never enjoyed this kind of advocacy.

    And so here we are today, someone has a negative relationship with their child, and so they will be hiring a psychotherapist to convince that child that they are the one who is wrong, and for the child this whole process is coercive and without any outside authority monitoring it.

    This could result in said child becoming part of our untouchable cast which has no chance at anything like an ordinary life.

    I do not wish you any “best”, I am opposed in everyway to what you are trying to promote.


  16. If you are arguing against the enforcement of child protections, then you are arguing on behalf of child abusers. And we know that most child sexual abuse happens in the family, and is done by biological parents. I have confirmed this with an expert in child protection, Andrew Vachss.

    And then with the psychological abuse of children, this is almost entirely the province of biological parents, and the therapists they hire.

    So I do not accept or reciprocate you in your well wishing.