“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.


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  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.


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    • While I have already responded, I did want to add, humanbeing, that my sense is that helping the average person in “the general population” acquire those traits, is precisely a major part of the job ahead of us. And for this, we need s massive changes in the educational system, though we can all of us as individual also influences directions simply by how we talk, but how we act, by how we write, by the issues that we put on the table. The point is that we are also part of the “cast of characters” and we can play our own role in how people think about things and how they respond.

      That said, humanbeing, I do wish you the best with whatever it is that is happening with your neighbour.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.


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    • Thanks for writing, Nomadic, that is, both for writing to me personally and for posting your reply. Yes, I would welcome the types of radical changes that you specify. And I too often find my heart sinking when I visit this site. It would be good to see a whole lot more radicalism.

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      • 1. No pity seeking, no psychotherapy, no recovery, no life coaching, no motivationalism.

        2. Holding parents accountable, no disinheritance, abuse law suits like a parental divorce.

        3. Set up our own institutions, like independent study university, and our own foster care.

        4. Any therapist who is treating a child must report to CPS immediately or go to jail. Only then does the child have some degree of protection.

        5. No drugging of children.

        6. Any case where parents are seeking child drugging, or where child is behaving strangely, goes directly to CPS. All treatment of children is in effect forced.

        7. Government is no longer allow to issue Psychotherapy licenses, just like it doesn’t license Psychics or Fortune Tellers.

        8. Were someone feels that they have been coned by a therapist ( and psychotherapy is always a con ), help them sue and put the therapist out of business.

        9. Wash the self-reliance ethic out of our law and institutions, as everyone wants to do well, and that ethic is just a guilty until proven innocent crime like Original Sin. It is a justification for the abuse of children and adults.

        Thanks again Bonnie for your article. It shows how parents can stand behind their child, and how children are actually capable of far greater moral judgment and resourcefulness than they are even given credit for.


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          • I don’t see it as a matter of extending state power, rather it is just to shift the existing powers so that they be properly used and be effective.

            We already have mandatory reporting laws for suspected cases of child abuse. But it is not followed, as therapists market themselves to the parents, as mediators. So enforce the law and put an end to these co-abusing therapists.

            CPS can already, if backed up by the court, remove children. This is necessary, otherwise children are unprotected and it becomes the same as slavery. This is not acceptable. If the gov’t does not act, I’ll be happy to. So as it stands, the govn’t is protecting the abuser parents.

            We the survivors of the middle-class family must set up our own foster care. Otherwise children cannot be protected. What we have now is designed to reinforce the middle-class family, by teaching foster care kids that they are deprived. Our foster care will not be like this. It will graduate a revolutionary vanguard.

            We will comply with all regulations, but it is still we who design the program. Then we pressure the gov’t into picking up the tab. The gov’t already has great power, it is just usually being used either ineffectively or to do the opposite of what it should do.

            Children should never be trapped in a family home, there must always be places for them to go.

            Parents must not be able to hire therapists to help manage their children. Otherwise the child is unprotected and almost certainly being abused. Such therapy is not voluntary for the child. So CPS must be able to oversee it. While not perfect, at least CPS is not being employed by the parents. It is supposed to protect children. And only CPS and the Court actually have the authority to do this.

            And as far as abuse lawsuits and estates, these are already fully within gov’t prevue. It is simply that children are not being protected, the abusers are. So we need to win some strategic law suits, and probably get some laws changed.

            I don’t think their is any parental right to abuse with immunity. And I don’t think there is any parental right to disinherit, not unless the children agree that that is okay. I feel that the parents must always be held accountable, and that the children are the ones who should have the authority.

            So I do not agree with you that this expands the power of other state arms. It is simply the redirection of what power already exists, so that it protects children instead of abusive parents.

            And we the survivors of the middle-class family must lead the way, by handling some of these things ourselves, as that is what will force the government to start acting properly.

            FWIW, most of the situations where I have contact with the govn’t now always come down to me forcing them to act in areas where they otherwise might have done nothing.

            And as far as money, the one who had it right was Frances Fox-Piven and her husband Richard Cloward. Welfare is used to humiliate. So the way to respond to this is to take it as a right, and humiliate the government. All of these things need to be handled that way.


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    • Overall, I agree, Bonnie, but I also think it depends on the relationship of the activist to society. Success in creating change is exhilarating, but the road there can be vastly divergent experiences for people. We’re in different life stations and I believe that matters quite a bit regarding the effect of activism on our energy and health. There are myriad reasons people are led to activism.

      I did well in a legal mediation 12 years ago against blatant discrimination, and it was not only life-affirming, but also life-saving. And it all led to where I am now, which is good. And aside from good life changes for me, it led to changes in the community, so that felt good.

      However, I cannot say enough the seriously negative (draining) impact that this had on me, regardless. I was facing monsters, extremely dishonest and exploitative. The mediator saw this clearly when I told my story of what happened. It was the most needlessly oppressive and blatantly discriminating operation and work environment I’d ever experienced, and I worked retail for 17 years!

      I didn’t have the support system that my employers would have, I was facing pure uncertainty. One very keenly empathic, big-hearted, and clear minded attorney was my salvation, 5 months after this happened. I did not give up, and I faced a lot of seriously stigmatizing crap going from lawyer to lawyer, until I found someone who saw past the stigma to actually see and hear *me,* and finally listened and got it.

      This was my first job back in the field after having gone through a brief period of disability to get off the drugs, and during my success in work and in healing, all this discrimination started, and it was devastating to me. This was VOC REHAB, and they knew I was healing and I was hired after I did their program and healed by leaps and bounds. It was their idea to hire me, I did not go to them, they came to me. Then they turned on me with blatant discrimination, and it was evil what unfolded over the next few months, I will just tell you. They stonewalled me in every direction.

      All smoke & mirrors I discovered. My co-workers knew I was right and supported me personally, but they feared these employers and said nothing to them, only to me, in whispers. Yes, I was very naïve, but this woke me up fast and hard. They eventually closed.

      This was the epitome of “the system.”

      Despite my success and the changes which incurred as a result of my action here, it took me a while to heal from how I was treated, that was tricky and intricate—really, the utter shock of such systemic barbarianism. Simply from very honestly and diligently trying to move along humbly and get back in the swing of things, I found myself in a whirlpool of corruption and discrimination, and that’s not so easy to heal, at least not at first. I was extremely vulnerable and sensitive at the time, as to be expected. They had no clue about how to deal with these vital life transitions they were supposed to be supporting, and I was kind of counting on at least competence. But no, this was a mess, and to them, perfectly normal.

      It’s really quite a shock to the system to suddenly be treated second class, and extremely rudely, disrespectfully, utterly patronizingly, and in a controlling manner, as though I were a bad child who didn’t know my place–especially when everything is going great for me, on my way back. I’d worked for years, I wasn’t green. I was in my 40s at the time, my bosses were way younger than me, hot shots, complete snobs. The harm was not about my ego, it was about my nervous system. I was disoriented from it, and had to do all sorts of multi-dimensional healing in order to gain my balance, clarity and sense of self again.

      But I get what happened now, I know the story and what it means to my own life path and purpose. My healing was all about accepting this and learning from it, using it to heal from core issues, which worked for me. It was a valuable and meaningful life education and great things came from it, especially my personal freedom, so it really is behind me at this point.

      But I can’t help but to stick my nose in this still, even though it can be frustrating and triggering. I can’t stand what I learned about how we operate and take pride in whatever changes speaking my truth has brought about. I’m always feeling a bit vulnerable at this point, I’ve gotten used to that. It’s fine.

      So yes, activism can be life-affirming and enriching, indeed, and right now I believe it’s necessary. Still, it can also be dangerous and toxic, if we are at the front lines standing up for ourselves and challenging these very narcissistic people. At present, this is how I’m seeing it. It’s a huge dilemma in how to deal with extreme narcissists who will no way no how listen to reason, and use all sorts of dirty tricks and dangerous mind games to maintain power—including pissing you off so badly that they’re just waiting for you to act “crazed,” then they got you.

      People with histories face consequence for showing anger in the face of oppression. Another way it is draining and unhealthful. That anger builds if not, somehow, expressed in words or action.

      Two perspectives of the same coin, I guess.

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      • Yes, of course there are 2 sides to this, Alex. I am sorry about what you went through. That said, in general, I think that to a large extent he issue of whether or not activism is draining centres around whether people are acting on their own or as part of a community acting on grievances together. I think it is the latter which is more often exciting and uplifting and the former that is more often draining. My sense is that anti-oppression movements like the women’s movement has something to teach here. While individual women needed to stand up for themselves, critical though that was, that was nonetheless very often draining. However, women’s groups proclaiming truths and standing up for women’s rights was truly energizing.

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        • It was rough, but most definitely empowering, and it served me well to be on my own and fight my own battle. I wouldn’t have though I could pull it off, but I did, and it grew me and made me feel fit for the world once again. Nothing at all to be sorry about, it was my path to take and it served me as healing transformation, that’s the most important part of my story. It was my personal battle to fight, and I was very proud of winning it even with all they threw at me. Healing from this brought me a lot of enlightenment, which is the point of facing our trials and tribulations with authenticity.

          Personally, I have a hard time in groups. I find them virtually impossible, group dynamics are tricky to navigate, I think, and tends to bring up our family roles to repeat social trauma. Becomes all about control, and I rarely see justice modeled in a group. I find that bullies tend to wind up in leadership positions, and that’s just a repeat of the system, so *real* change, at the core, doesn’t really occur, simply more illusions to replace the old ones. One thing I’ve had it with is the repetition cycle of corruption. I think we need an entirely new perspective for real change to come about. That’s how it worked in my personal life, in any event, and I believe that applies to the bigger picture of society, as well.

          Although, as a long-standing LGBT community member who participated in all sorts of pro-marriage equality events (I lived in Castro District of San Francisco for 17 years), I do understand the power of numbers. Still, for me, personally, group dynamics tend to be more difficult than acting alone, ironically enough.

          I love activism but I think it’s changing, due to the way humanity has shifted into fear and anger, due to en masse injustice and mega-violence. This is not the 60s or 70s any longer. The world has become much more dense and fast-moving (electronic) since then. We’re in much different times now with social dynamics that are killing people at worst and leaving them in the dust at best. Groups seems to replicate this, I’ve noticed, the constant conflict is maddening.

          That’s just me, though. I so very much appreciate your thoughts, Bonnie. I’ve enjoyed learning about activism from your work, been really interesting for me. Thank you.

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          • For clarity, when I balk at the “constant conflict,” I don’t mean about issues and debating perspectives for clearer vision about objectives, if it is productive. I’m talking about ego conflict and control issues, which so often steal the spotlight from the goals and distract from the issues. So many mind games played in groups, and some serious manipulation.

            Personally, I believe that is what is the crux of this community in particular, what brings psych survivors together. These mind games (gaslighting, etc.) is what does the damage, to begin with, and what leads people to seek help. And, it is often undetected it is so subtle and insidious. Drives people to madness. This is what becomes most draining of all, especially repeating this in a psych survivor group.

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          • For sure, Alex, as 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 we should all be trying to prefigure that in how we treat one another

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          • Beautifully stated, Bonnie, and right on I think. I envision the new world as just and harmonious in all its diverse glory. We teach by example, so the first community to show this example through and through, with high standards of kindness and respect, as opposed to fear, prejudice, stigma, and alienation, will change the world. Change starts from within. always, otherwise the change is superficial at best, and even illusory.

            Thank you, this dialogue has been perfect and to the heart of the matter, imo. Institutions are made up of people, and the institutional dynamics are defined by the example of who is at the top, the elite of a community, usually defined by who holds the purse strings. And these folks can be quite intimidating and retaliatory if challenged, which, to my mind, is pure systemic corruption.

            Moreover, If they are not in harmony with themselves, then they will create a discordant and ineffectual community, as an extension of their dynamic. I believe that’s how it works, universally. As you say, the power dynamics become compromised, yes, indeed.

            To change the system, the ones on the bottom rung of the hierarchy are the ones with the power, as they do not have to play politics. They have nothing to lose at that point, so they can actually be authentic and speak their hearts truth. The trick is to stop the generational abuse and marginalization, to speak our truth with responsibility, integrity, and awareness, and to be purposeful and mindful of what we are putting out to the collective. We all influence the collective energy, one way or another.

            We can so easily pass along abusive manipulation, in the name of control rather than true personal power. Awakening to ourselves, and the energy we offer to the world through our words and actions, is the first step to creating change and social transformation, I truly believe that.

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          • And btw, this is my contribution to the collective, this 28 minute musical documentary. This is my activism now, to change the world through music and sharing our hearts and spirits with others. The entire thing is healing for all concerned. For me, it is the example of my transformation in living color. Much of this I attribute specifically to my activism, which was enormously healing to me. I hope you enjoy!


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          • Thank you, Bonnie, I very much appreciate your kind words of encouragement :). And I return the compliment, I think your work is brilliant and heartfelt. I like to think we’re all addressing this issue of social change from our best perspectives, somehow creating a whole. Thank you for generously engaging with me as you have, here. This has been enriching and very clearing for me, and I am feeling more optimistic.

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  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.

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    • I hope, liberalminority, that you will not take offence by my pointing out that describing “horror’ or “torture” was not what the article did; nor was this in any way what the article was about, and as such, you miss the point of the article. That said, all the best.

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      • This person is some sort of plant or has an axe to grind. I doubt they’re being paid to shill for “the institution of mental health” since they don’t do it very competently or even understand the main points of debate.

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        • Liberalminority, no, my point –and I have repeated this now a few times–is that you did not in any way get the point of the article. For one thing, I would in no way equate a very careful tracing and analysis with “a whole lot of complaining”. And what you additionally seemed to have missed is that the analysis in question was not about psychiatry per se but was looking at something larger –the way in which institutions come together to create problems. As for solutions, I have frequently written about what we as as society should do instead (see last chapter of my book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness), but regardless, there is a place for intricate analysis. As for myself, I particular favour analysis which actually maps how problems come into being –hence this article. And hence my use of institutional ethnography.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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        • 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.

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  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?

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      • 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.

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        • 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.

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          • 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.

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      • Let me suggest, if anyone “rules”, we are in trouble. From my perspective, it is precisely “ruling” that is problematic. I do not think we should be looking to changes in who has “power-over” but looking for routes and spaces for bringing in cooperation and mutual participation.

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  8. Thanks for you comments. As for me, I don’t believe we need hierarchical institutions, and though certainly we need organizations, they need not be hierarchical or bureaucratic. Nor do I think we need to dominate each other. As for being a pragmatist, I am also a pragmatist but that does not mean that I do think we can have more participatory processes. Though no question that means a substantial shift.

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    • Thank you Bonnie, I appreciate your response. I would love to think we could have truly democratic institutions but maybe I miss-labelled myself, not pragmatist but cynicist. Even if we could start such organisations and I accept that this is what we would like to do, how long would it take for the strong to overcome the weak, the `robber baron’ is ever present? Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean we shouldn’t try. But we would have to be extremely vigilant as even the most benign can be corrupted by even a very little power. I remember working out, aged about 12, that the best, most efficient form of government would be a benign dictator who cared for everyone, my father quickly disabused me, citing the power corrupts argument and told me to research a bit more. I did. Democracy, for instance, in its purest form has to be the ideal system, but there are always some people more equal than others.
      Still, societies can change, but it takes a long time and its directions may not be predictable.

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  9. 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.


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  10. Thanks, anothervoice. Always good to hear. And I understand why you find personal experience persuasive. And so do I. At the same time, I myself use personal experience not so much to persuade per se but as a beginning of understanding, as entry points which makes the workings of institutions at once visible, traceable, and accountable. Different than testimonials (which for sure also have their own strengths), it t is a mode of doing inquiry that I think has the potential of serving both antipsychiatry and critical psychiatry people particularly well.

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    • Bonnie, as someone whose focus in all of this has been specifically personal stories as the means to the end, I do appreciate what you say here. I think one of the most interesting aspects of this entire endeavor is the unique role that these particular stories play in creating world change–which, to be honest, I’m not terribly clear on how my story is ever processed by others, and it often doesn’t match my truth when I get wind of it, so I’ve kind of given up on that. I believe we all exist to each other as projections, anyway, we fill in the blanks. I’m really so off the grid at this point, that my focus is shifting rapidly away from all of this in order to continue creating new things. I’m ready for the new world.

      However, as an activist who can still get kind of angry if I let myself think about my journey through the system too much, if only because I just haven’t seen a shift here in abuse and marginalization dynamics despite so many of us trying every which way to communicate this as directly and reasonably as we can, and indeed, sometimes angrily, but can you blame us? And so very often, the dismissal, disregard, and even gaslighting that occurs at this point is hair-raising, that would be systemic, it’s in the language of the culture. The extent to which we avoid dealing with this in the moment is staggering, I think, and not a good outlook.

      This is, personally, my main concern about the system because it is the crux of the bad power dynamics that keeps certain people at a grave disadvantage and the trauma from that builds.

      Yet, I’m aware that it is the most challenging issue to address, for so many reasons, it gets very personal and that can be scary. I can accept that is the case, but it’s the reason I don’t stick around too much these days.

      Given that this is a field that is supposed to be able to deal with trauma and it only causes more of it is something I still, after almost two decades of this, have trouble wrapping my mind around, even though we talk and talk and talk about it, and so many of us have experienced it and we can express it rather articulately and reasonably at this point.

      Shouldn’t these testimonials/stories carry more weight than they actually do, as evidence of systemic abuse? It’s kind of a loud secret anyway. I think everyone knows the system sucks and that it damages people. I just can’t believe for how long this dialogue has been going on and it’s getting worse!

      I get tired of hearing, “I’m sorry about what the system put you through,” which is the best I can get, even from attorneys now. Although one friend did say to me once, “This is insanity! Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?” That was 10 years ago.

      With that said, one of the more salient reasons that I am angry about all of this is, what these institutions and systems put us all through, is that I know how far down I went because of 1) these drugs they push and 2) their blatant and sadistic discrimination and 3) their lies, ignorance, and utter lack of self-awareness and self-responsibility.

      I was about a minute from death at one point–maybe even less, I had left my body–and that was my choice. I thought it was reasonable at the time, based on what had been communicated to me about my condition and “prognosis,” mixed with the fact that I got more anger, blame, and shame thrown at me than empathy and compassion, God knows why, but that’s the system for you, sop.

      Had I succeeded, I never would have made my films, which have touched many people. A lot of peoples’ lives would have been affected quite adversely. It was a miracle I willed myself back and the eventually, fully back on my feet as I did.

      Anyway, I’m saying all this because I’m still angry that they’re killing people like me every day, at the very least killing their spirits, as well as the ability to create. Can you imagine how many creative resources are being wasted in this stupid and useless system just at the time we need these the most?

      I think that, in general, those that get diagnosed and drugged up are the most brilliantly creative people who threaten extremely uptight, extremely controlling people, to be blunt. That was my experience and observation, repeatedly. I think it always comes down to dynamics such as this. It is legal abuse, based on personal insecurities and limited tolerance, and it limits society on the whole more than we realize, of exponential proportion. Who knows what do to about that? But I felt compelled to say what I’ve observed, that might influence some introspection for people.

      I’m taking an MIA break for a while, at least, but this is where I am with it all at this point, and when I saw your post, this wanted to come out. Feels like a good stopping point for me. Thank you, as always.

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      • One thing I did what to say in relation to your point about expereince: There has tended to be a separation between people who critique via personal experience and people who do it in a more cognitive fashion. What I like about using institutional ethnography approach is that allows people to use the first as an inroad into the second and as such, is one way of bringing the two together.

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        • I think the separation is between people who have felt in their bodies the experience of chronic social marginalization and dehumanization to the point of being rendered utterly powerless, and those who study these phenomena observationally, from an academic perspective. That is the difference between heart wisdom and intellectual perception. It is the experience of this *feeling* is where clarity and truth are found.

          An observer can interpret it through their filters, even being told the story or witnessing it, but they cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to have this experience. And less so, what it takes to crawl out of that very deep hole. That is where transformative healing occurs, and where personal power is restored.

          That’s the clincher, coming out of it. That’s when one can look back and see with greater clarity why it happened the way it did, and how to prevent that from ever happening again to one’s self.

          There’s a reason people go down the rabbit hole in this system, and it is exactly that separation in perspective and experience. That is a vast internalized cultural difference. Were that to be reconciled effectively and authentically, then I’d have more faith in these endeavors for change. But without that shift in understanding, I don’t see the possibility of change at present, certainly not from the intellect. I truly believe that it will come from the heart of experience, and from there it will ripple outward.

          My partner was witness to my experience and even worked in social services for a while, and got the full picture. What he knows is that ‘mental health service’ and ‘social services’ are atrocities rife with social ills and law-violating behaviors, but even after all our talking about it and his watching me helplessly go through this, he STILL cannot even imagine my experience of it from the inside.

          His humility to my experience is what has allowed me to heal and grow past all of this, other than to use my voice to speak the truth of the matter, for the greater good. Otherwise, I have no stake in this at all, other than as a member of society at large.

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          • Also, when we heal from the effects of blatant social ills, that is when we realize that the feelings and experiences of freedom, self-sovereignty and living in our personal truth and empowerment tremendously outweigh the opinions of others which are projected effortlessly and continuously. That’s how we heal stigma, starting from the inside.

            As a healer, this is what I strive for others to feel–their own power, from their self-loving hearts (that’s the work, to get there), so that they can be and feel who they truly are, and not a reaction to a sick and seriously judgmental society, which is not at all freedom or self-agency.

            What makes this challenging is because it means leaving behind habits of thought of being an ‘underdog.’ These are internalized beliefs which we can shift at will, but it takes work, and a lot of humility, because in order to do so, we must eschew old beliefs and explore the unknown and unfamiliar. Takes courage, trust in our process, and the heartfelt desire to heal. That is transformation.

            At some point, we have to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves in way that makes us feel good about ourselves. Feeling good about one’s self would indicate healing from the system and our institutional culture, because they cause us to feel bad about ourselves, powerless and expendable. Turn that around, and these institutions will be the ones disempowered.

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          • At the end of it all, my conclusion here is that a group is truly effective, at the core of change, if and only if each and every member of that group knows her or his true self, and their freedom, above and beyond any sense of ‘victimization.’ That is power through perspective, and it changes reality.

            Otherwise, I think it’s pretty much a guaranteed conflict and dependence-ridden power-imbalanced mess, aka status quo.

            Until then, one person can be more powerful in their clarity and focus than an entire community in disarray, and break ground for change on her or his own. Others would choose to either follow that path or break their own ground. I think that’s a neutral choice, based on one’s personal blueprint and preferences.

            But “being saved” is not an option if one is desiring personal freedom and empowerment as the pathway to healing. That’s a perfect paradox. In the end, everyone winds up feeling used, betrayed, and having to perpetually cover their asses. That is stressful living, and not the only option in life. That’s what I discovered, once and for all, thanks to going through all of this.

            Been sitting with this one since we began this exchange, Bonnie. I believe it’s a critical discussion, where the power is in dissidence for the purpose of revolutionary change. To me, it all speaks to individual healing through personal self-empowerment, they go hand in hand. Otherwise, we simply repeat oppression and marginalization, I think that’s been demonstrated repeatedly in history, one oppressive group replaces another, and on and on…

            I appreciate your patience with my process here, all a work in progress for me, this is my focus with my work and activism. I’ve had to process this out loud a bit, obviously, to get my clarity on the matter. I hope it’s meaningful to you on some level.

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          • The thing I have the hardest time getting people to understand is that my partner was not ‘there for me,’ he was part of the problem, in a really big way, he’ll be the first to tell you that now. He supported me getting off the drugs because he knew they were toxic, but he could not handle what was to follow. That was HIS dark night, on the heels of mine. Oh, it was a “fun” time in the City by the Bay…

            One thing we learned is that ‘mental illness’ (or whatever one calls it) is more of a product of relationship imbalance (e.g. clinician vs. client).

            We have a complex story. He’ll be the first to tell you that if it weren’t for my persistence with my own healing, he would not have awakened to what he needed to awaken to, for his sake as well as mine.

            I’m completely transparent about my story and so is my partner, and still, the stigma follows me everywhere. Being off the grid, it does not effect me, I am impervious to the opinions of others and am not disempowered by them, I am my own boss.

            But getting the accurate info out there for the purpose of helping to bring clarity and truth to these matters is very challenging, because of assumptions such as these.

            I wasn’t ‘ill,’ it was the relationship which was toxic. I’m the empath in the family, so I took it on. I was still learning to develop healthy boundaries, which were compromised by my own family abuse, which is what led me to all this in the first place, as is the case with so many people, which I don’t think is a coincidence.

            We both did our healing, repaired the imbalance by getting our roles straight, and as a result, we both transformed.

            Awakening and transformation is not about ‘diagnosed’ people; it is about everyone. No discrimination here, it’s a level playing field. Not something I can say about these systems and institutions which have undermined our society so violently. That’s the problem.

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          • I know I’m being really chatty here, but this is exactly my focus, so a lot of information is coming in about this now.

            For me, it boils down to this–in my film, Voices That Heal, which was filmed in 2011, I say that imo, the ‘stigma’ around DSM diagnoses and having a psychiatric history is what makes a mess of all this–from that comes blatant discrimination and social marginalization, all based on heavily insisted upon projected assumptions. It is an IMPOSSBLE wall to surmount, the more you fight it, the stronger and more fierce it gets.

            It was after I made this film that I was led to MiA and I’ve been participating here for 5 years. I wondered if my opinion about this would change, it was challenged repeatedly in here. In the end, it has not. I still stand by that statement, more than ever now.

            Think John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me. Second-class citizenship is chronic stress and trauma, 24/7, one double-bind after another, a bottomless pit of it–a product of power abuse galore. That is to say, “Hey, I have the power here, that person has no money or position, nor a leg to stand on. I will just take full advantage of that with no regard for ‘the other,’ because I can!”

            This is our social epidemic.

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          • So no, I was not saved, I did it myself–I learned to heal myself and to own my experience in a way that was profound and meaningful, giving me back the power to take control of my own life. My partner followed suit, got his own information. I supported him through that, based on my own experience. He trusted me because he saw how I worked my healing with integrity, no short cuts or bypassing. I was thorough. And I’ve been helping others find their own power and voice ever since.

            I am not invalidating your work with others, Bonnie, I think you are courageous and highly compassionate, I see that you care about people and humanity, for real. I can tell when it’s authentic and when it’s lip service (at least most of the time, I think). I have a lot of respect for how you address these issues, as per your writings.

            But I am trying to give another perspective, from the inside of this shift, fresh in my mind from recent years. I’m still shifting, on a daily basis, it’s become kind of a way of life, perpetual transformation. Makes life fascinating and highly creative, full of surprises and all sorts of fun manifestations.

            I think these perspectives can be complementary, rather than competitive. That’s usually my intention here, but I am often met with competition rather than complement. I’m sure I’m not innocent here, altogether, but really, my intention is always in the name of unity, not further division and segregation. Not an easy feat in such a supremely media-programmed institutionalized society.

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          • I am replying to what you wrote further down in this exchange, because I could not do it there. Alex, it is good that both you are your partner are out about the fact that you were basically alone in this. I would have to add, that even where others are fully supportive, as I see it, ultimately no one “saves” anyone else. People save themselves.

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          • I completely agree, and I think it’s one of the misconceptions about this particular activism work, in the ‘mental health world.’

            There is an air of ‘savior’ in this arena that I feel is quite dominant, and I also feel that people are looking to be ‘saved’–kind of goes both ways, a perpetual co-dependence which keeps some people feeling powerless and bound up, while others remain ‘in charge,’ at all cost. This repeats, generationally, until the cycle is broken.

            I think that’s where truth-speaking comes in, to break the cycle of social abuse, at least that’s a necessary start, to my mind.

            That’s my main criticism of clinical work, that it is often about the clinician’s agenda to be a savior more than being authentically present with a client’s truth, that is, looking to empower him or herself. That’s the agenda to focus on, not “from what client stories are my next book going to be written?”

            I AM my story, it can’t be told by anyone else, at least not with accuracy and integrity. It is my own, for my purposes. I believe I’m entitled to that, having lived it and with the battle scars to prove it.

            I think this relationship dynamic bleeds over to the activism, that’s where I think things get stuck and continue to repeat the cycle of stigma and marginalization (aka systemic abuse), as a way of ‘putting people in their place.’ The system fears personally empowered people, they see through the veils.

            Your statement clarifies this issue perfectly. Thank you, Bonnie, for articulating this directly and unambiguously. I think it’s an important point to not only remember, but to apply as we go along.

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          • Final note, as I realize I’ve made this thread quite long and again, I do appreciate your patience with my process, Bonnie, this discussion was important to me and I appreciate having had this opportunity along with your prompting comments–

            I say what I say with sincere all due respect for the many, many “professionals” out there of all kinds who are dedicated to fighting the good fight for justice and personal freedom, despite, perhaps, having to make certain sacrifices. I know there is a lot of integrity in that community, while we also know there is not so much in vast areas of it. It can be rather challenging to tell the difference, so many smoke and mirrors. Psychology can be a language all its own, and with a lot of vague innuendo, and most of the world does not speak it.

            And also with respectful acknowledgment to those who have written valuable books to achieve greater understanding of humanity and the mind.

            I just want to draw attention to the difference between being a case study and being human. Those are two entirely different perspectives on a person. I’m not sure people always realize the difference, in practice.

            That’s my main point. I’d like to see the the ‘dehumanization’ process that occurs in this field cleaned up. No healing occurs here, it is vampiristic, very bad for people, makes people sick when they don’t realize they are being subtly dehumanized.

            I think it’s the most subtle abuse of all, albeit unintentional.

            But I feel it when I’m around it, which is why I no longer submit my story anywhere or do studies, etc. The responses I would get, if I’d get them, made me feel raped. That’s how it felt to be dehumanized, step by step.

            That’s the best I can do at this time to get my main point across regarding all of this. That would be the entire point of my activism, the core of it, to speak my truth about feeling dehumanized. It’s why I made a film with only us telling our stories, no one is interpreting anything for us. Pure truth, unfiltered, in the moment.

            I won’t belabor any longer, Bonnie, I really do sincerely appreciate this dialogue. I finally got to my point, whew! Many, many thanks, not just for this conversation, but for all you do. I know you are the real deal.

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  11. 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

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    • Fred, yes, critically aware resistance is indeed what I am advocating. And no, it is not easy. That said, your words “I guess we must believe in the strategies we come up with in our most lucid moments,” are very apt here. More or less everyone has lucid moments –and for the most part, we can distinguish between that clearness and what we are thinking when we are less clear. Taking note of that clarity and going with what it dictates even and especially when we are being pulled in other directions –that, I think, is the trick. To use a metaphor here — for I see this as metaphor only –we all have “parts” that are very aware of what is needed, of what protects us. To let that “part” have sway especially when we are tricky positions or in times that require clearly-sighted vision and very careful strategizing and following through, –that, let me suggest, is what people need to get good at. To be able to do this, this, I would suggest, is one of our great strengths as a species, and one it behooves us to exercise more.

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  12. 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.


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    • Agreed, Nomadic, that we need others to be able to step in when a child is not protected. That said, as a Canadian, I don’t know the names or abbreviations for most American agencies, and so I am just guessing what “CPS” stands for. However, my guess is that it is an agency that takes children away from their parents and otherwise steps in at times of perceived neglect or abuse like Child and Family Services in Canada does. What your analysis leaves out and that is another arm of the state, and historically such agencies have done no end of harm, and indeed to everyone, but especially, the working class and the racialized. The point of my article is that all the arms of the state inevitably cause problems –and so to see them as just protection is inadequate. Which is where your itemization of what you thinks needs to be done in an earlier response of your to this article worries me In the better society that I would like to see us create (see Chapter Nine of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness), children in need of protection would be a problem of the entire community as a whole–and directly –and not some more or less detached and all-powerful arm of the state. And doing anything which expands their operation now, I would see as a misdirection.

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      • Yes, CPS means Child Protective Services, created by the 1974 Walter Mondale Child Abuse and Neglect Act.

        Without this, there is zero protection for children.

        A wonderful example in Arizona was when these parents had devoted themselves to driving their 5 children to hundreds of doctors, and had gotten them all diagnosed as having Autism, and were asking for goofy treatments.

        Doctors at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital are the ones who figured this out. And they said, “They’ve already fooled hundreds of doctors. Now that they’re exposed, they will probably leave the state and start over.”

        So CPS was able to persuade the court to remove all 5 children, plus a 6th older child from a previous marriage.

        Before we had CPS we had NOTHING!

        Yes, enforcement does fall heavier on the poor and minorities, and those with low education. But this is because the white middle-class is better able to hide itself. And so their children have less protection.

        Here, explains how the children of the well of have less protection:


        And Mones is an attorney, not a psychotherapist. I got to meet him once.

        As far as child sexual abuse, often those enforcements do fall on the well off. I was involved in one, and it was much much harder than I had thought.

        This book talks about such:

        And it explains that child sexual abuse is about the only time you find private attorneys involved. There is a whole industry of attorneys devoted to making all child protection laws unenforceable, and they pander to anti-government and anti-feminist sentiments in jury pools, and they are often able to hang juries even though the evidence of abuse and guilt are overwhelming.

        And here is a man committed to minimizing the number of families broken up. If they have outside support, such is often not necessary:
        Leonard Edwards

        But leaving the child in a negative and psychologically abusive environment is not an acceptable alternative.

        If you want to understand familial child abuse, I am convinced that the place to start is what used to be called Medical Munchausens. Today we just call it Medical Child Abuse. Why would a parent want to spend their time and money driving their kid to doctors? Well, it is because they need to project their own sense of defect onto the child. “Can’t you see that there is something wrong with this kid?”

        Overwhelming Book:

        And the most encouraging thing about Gregory is that she places no stock in therapy. She places stock in action and redress.

        She turned in her parents in Ohio for abusing she and Foster Care kids. So CPS feared for her life. Yes, exposing her parents made her a foster child. So CPS had to remover her and protect her. Her parents burned the house down to collect insurance money. They burned up Julie’s dog too.

        Then in Montana her mother had another Foster Child, and Julie visited and saw all the same things, under feeding, setting the stage to start a fire and blame it on the child, and the stacks and stacks of medical books. So Julie’s book ends with her dialing the number for Montana CPS.

        People think children are private property and that child custody is a private matter. This is wrong! Even though I live in the only country which has not fully ratified the 1989 UN Convention on Rights of the Child, keeping children as private property cannot be allowed. At the first hint of a problem, there has to be an investigation. And the law already proscribes this, it is just not effectively implemented, and there are not adequate resources in place for actually doing anything about it.

        Julie Gregory, the hero’s journey

        And earlier in the video Gregory explains that she has to live with no parents, and that this is the pain. And this is so important to understand. The largest pain in familial child abuse is NOT IN THE REPRESSED MEMORIES and NOT IN THE INCIDENTS OF ABUSE, it is in having to live in the present with a completely delegitimated identity, and hence having zero social power. And this will not change until we the survivors start to organize and act. As long as we go with therapy, recovery, religion, and forgiveness, we are still worshiping the Holy Family and we are complicit in the abuse of more children, because we are promoting the very lies which keep us oppressed.

        Hey if you don’t like CPS and the government, just deputize me. My remedies will be far more expedient. And to anyone abusing their child now, you better hope CPS finds out about it and gets there before I do.

        And all of this stuff, taking the kid to therapist and disabilities doctors, it is all an example of Muchausen’s By Proxy, and driven by the need to find Original Sin in the child.


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        • With people who have been treated with dignity and respect and been allowed to develop and apply their abilities, it is very unlikely that they would throw it all away for a life of drugs and alcohol. Unlikely they would be receptive to the premises of evangelical religion either.

          And it is also unlikely that they would have such a high degree of distress, unrest, or feeling of defectiveness that they would fall prey to psychotherapy or psychiatry. Perhaps they would make some first contact with them. But before they were led too far into pointless couch confessing, pillow punching, or drug ingesting, they would realize that that route goes no where. They would not have a severe enough sense of moral defect that they would be susceptible to this, even though much of our society is.


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        • Of course protection services are needed. That said, to claim that the fact that a far higher percentage of kid apprehended are those re from oppressed families like working class etc. can be majorly attributed to the fact that the middle class is better able to hide what they do wrong misses a critical ingredient. Given that the determiners of what is abuse and neglect are middle class, white folk, their own classism and racism predisposes them to see “abuse” and “neglect” in how “others” raise their children.

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          • Yes, if the standards which CPS uses are simply the white middle-class applying it’s standards upon the minority working class, then yes, that would be a replay of the sorts of things which happened at the start of the 20th Century. That is no good.

            How ever, I believe that if you look at some of the videos I posted, particularly about CASA, you will see that it is nothing like what you suggest. Most of the time families are not permanently separated. Most of the time CPS will recommend that there continue to be contact, though maybe with supervision.

            How far they can go here, depends upon how many people they have, and this is why CASA was set up, to multiply their number of people.

            And yes, it is hard to bust well off people, because they know what they can get away with. So among the poor their may be child neglect, or physical abuse, as well as sexual or psychological.

            But with the well off, it will usually be psychological, sexual, and medical.

            And being able to hire their own doctors, who seem not to report, is one of the defining lines of the well off.

            An excellent book about his is:

            She takes apart the arguments behind child abuse, and shows how they match the arguments behind racism.

            The most important aspect of the 1974 Child Abuse and Neglect Act is not that it criminalizes child abuse, because the things being done to children would already be illegal if done to anyone else.

            No, the most important aspect of the 1974 act is Mandatory Reporting. Because when middle-class child abuse is uncovered, it always involves doctors. Unless doctors comply with mandatory reporting, they are accomplices.

            My views about this are also influenced by the writings of the Milan School of Family Systems Therapy.


            They explain that the middle-class always believes that it is in charge of it’s own fate, and so it hires its own doctors, and the family is much more insular because they are not dealing with welfare, probations, and parole officers, or CPS, publicly hired therapists. So the parents have all the power. The middle-class family is extremely dangerous, rather like if someone decided that they were going to keep a child locked in a gilded closet.

            It doesn’t matter if you or I agree, Mandatory Reporting is the law. And for those not covered, Child Endangerment is also a felony.

            I won’t ask about the specifics of the story you posted, but you did not answer my question, where would you draw the line and report?

            When a person is removed from the family by say death, divorce, or separation, it is not that unlikely that a child my get drafted into the role of replacing them, and they may become the target of intense hatred. This may be short or medium term, but it may also be permanent. So where would you draw the line, and understand that we are talking here about compliance with the law.

            And so trying to shield someone from CPS, because you don’t like it, not because there is no abuse, is not a lawful course of action.


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  13. 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.


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    • Nomadic, I was trying to respond to what you posted on the 26 (or was that 27th) but could not. To answer your questions about Lisa, I don’t want to talk about her as if she were automatically suspect of maybe slipping into being responsible for child abuse, when to me, what she did is dramatically the opposite. Child abuse comes in many forms. The most well know is harming a child or being negligent. And this she not only did not do but ensured that it did not happen. Another form of child abuse, though the law does not so recognize it would be unnecessarily depriving a child of access to their parent or other who was taking care of them. This she also did not do.

      That said, while I did not wish to go here for I don’t either want to do anything but celebrate Lisa’s actions, I do get why you wanted an answer to your question. And yes, I agree that question is relevant to this discussion. 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.

      Again, that is not the person that I know so what I am writing at this point is very much a hypothetical.

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  14. 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.


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    • All possible, but not what was playing out in this particular story. That said, of course I agree that letting a child be used is not acceptable. I would add at the same time, your trust in things like Child Protection Services is something that I don’t remotely share. A common pattern is the child is removed from slightly abusive home and put in a place that is far more abusive.

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      • I feel that the reason that Foster Care has so many problems is simply that it is designed to be horrible. If it were not so, then it would be undermining The Family. And people fear this, because that would expose their denial systems. And Capitalism could never operate without the middle-class family and its ability to scapegoat and cut people off, and it’s self-reliance ethic. So our society is all operating at the expense of children.

        If the middle-class family was so good, then the need for foster care would be very rare. And when needed, relatives could step in. But Capitalism and the middle-class family are intended to break down social relations, to scramble social codes, and then to replace them with its own over coding.

        The way Deleuze and Guattari explain it, as insane as Capitalism is, there can still always be axiomatics added to it, to compensate for some of it’s worst features and protect the vulnerable. So they speak of axiomatics added to protect racial and religious minorities, and sexual orientation minorities. And great progress has been made. But, writing back in 1972, what they don’t say is that very little progress has been made in protecting the poor. And when it comes to children there has not even been a serious attempt at advocacy.

        In the 1920’s, along with the campaign to obtain the vote, women also made great progress in reforming US laws to prevent spousal disinheritance. But today the US remains just about the only industrialized nation on the globe where there is no protection against disinheriting one’s child, and this has a monumental effect on silencing child abuse complaints and stopping litigation. Our inheritance laws all but guarantee denial.

        So in foster care you have children being sent to live with people who are very economically challenged and hence of low social status. And usually these are people whom life has already been hard on in many ways, and they lack social support and political awareness. Everyone knows that these are people who have very little in the way of other options.

        I know people f2f who have grown up in foster care who insist that they must stop paying people money for it. And I am familiar with some of the high water mark sexual molestation law suits.

        I know one of one guy who’s parents were both killed in a highway crash and so he ended up in foster care. He was sexually molested repeatedly, and he has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison for molesting children himself, and any chance he got.

        Why no relatives to step in? Well this is the nature of Capitalism / Middle-Class Family. It creates these sorts of situations.

        Is it better today? I don’t know.

        And then supposedly those in the group homes get it the worst. And this is where the most extreme stories of drugging are coming from.

        Our society does not want the group homes to work, it does not want anything which could undermine the exploitations and abuse of children which is the middle-class family.

        Kibbutznicks greatly value the bonds that they formed in their children’s homes. Though not a perfect set up by any means, but still consider, only 3% of Israel’s total population, about 130k. They supply more than 1/3 of their elite military units, and a full 1/2 of their fighter pilots. And they supply a disproportionate share of their agriculture and manufacturing. And they say that town wives schedule their pregnancies around the openings in the kibbutz day care centers.

        Yale’s John Merriman is an American who has become French. He keeps his family in a small town in the South of France, and he is involved in the politics to keep their one room schools going.

        The reason they set up these kinds of schools was of course economics, low population density in agricultural areas, and limited forms of transportation.

        But they out perform regular schools in every possible measure. And this makes lots of sense to me too. Regular schools are bullying factories because kids of the same age will compete with each other for dominance.

        But in the one room school there is a hierarchy built in, and bullying would be severely frowned upon.

        But this also means very little teacher specialization, and not that much teacher time. It is mostly independent study.

        So Paris does not like the system. But because in every possible measure it is so much better, the locals are fighting to protect it.

        So I say that we the Survivors of the Middle-Class Family should set up our own foster care system, starting with the Group Home. It can be for long term, short term, emergency care, and it can also be a drop in center for any juveniles at any time day or night. And of course our kids will have duties, there will be expectations and responsibilities, it won’t be like the middle-class family and its artificially created world of adolescence.

        The brilliant political leader Maximilien Robespierre was the best student in his orphanage. So he was given the honor of delivering an address in Latin to Louis and Marie. I say that he is the example we should aspire to.

        To prevent foster care from graduating huge numbers of such brilliant leaders is the reason today it is deliberately designed to be horrible.

        Our government and nation state are evil, but it is because they depend on Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family to maintain power.

        That the government collects taxes and enforces motor vehicle regulations and gun restrictions, and operates CPS, these are good things. There maybe abuses or excesses, but for the most part, these things are good because they mitigate some of the worst aspects of our society.

        People are entitled to dissenting political views, but if they actually thwart the law, then they are committing crime.

        Resistance usually refers to times of military occupation, or of slavery, or tyranny where there aren’t ballot boxes or courts, not to resisting laws designed ( though imperfectly ) to protect children from abusive homes.

        With the Pentecostal Daughter Molester ( PDM ), most everyone in his church has a scapegoat child. Talking about all that is wrong with this child and about how much Christian Pity they are showing is how one gains status in their church.

        And of course everyone is expected to always forgive, and there is no such thing as child abuse because the child is always wrong, as children are born bad and need to be corrected and made to accept Jesus.

        And anyone who does not go along with the views of their parents is being “Rebellious”, and this means rebelling against God the same way that Adam and Eve did.

        And so of course they were all saying that the three girls were liars, as well as being wrong for even saying anything about such matters.

        And so I explained all about this in excruciating detail to the DA, and then finally to try and influence sentencing I also explained it to the Court.

        And I explained that their church runs outreach ministries where they give food to the poor and the homeless and they try to convince people that life is so hard because they are not forgiving and not accepting Jesus and they “carrying stuff around with them”.

        And I explained that if these three girls had listened to this church, then a decade or two down the line, failed marriages, failed attempts to get an education and build a career, and always believing that this is their own fault, and being susceptible to alcohol, drugs, psychotherapy and psychiatry, they could end up as the targets of that outreach ministry.

        And all of the volunteers in that ministry have their own family scapegoats, usually a sibling and a child of their own. But because the child is now grown and out of reach, they target the scapegoats of other people’s families and try to do the same things to them.

        And so this PDM was able to talk his way out of it over the telephone with a school councilor. Calling the parent when there seems to be trouble does not constitute compliance with Mandatory Reporting.

        And then it did get to CPS once. But they bungled it. They did knock on the door and they ended up talking to one of the younger girls, instead of the eldest. They are grossly overloaded. So they had to testify in court that they, “Failed to follow their own procedures.”

        But then we do have a 24 hour publicly funded youth drop in center. And the youngest girl, the one who got hit with the least of it, and the one who is clearly the toughest, then 13yo old and in the 8th grade, showed up. She talked with an intern counselor. She said some things which didn’t sound right. So this intern did exactly what the law requires.

        I don’t know if a more experienced counselor would have done this, though I have been told that they do. But from reading the stuff posted on Mad In America, it is clear to me that private practice therapists work for the parents, and they make parental exoneration and the handling of what the Pentecostals call ‘rebelious’ children, part of their pitch. So I doubt that they ever report.

        This intern asked more questions, and following the law and not first consulting with a supervisor, she wrote up the complaint and faxed it to both CPS and City Police.

        So soon Police were tracking down the eldest daughter, and then they used a different detective to make a video interview of each family member. They have this real nice carpeted interview room with upholstered furniture and lots of stuffed animals, for cases involving children. I’ve seen it.

        When they came for the defendant, he jumped into his car and started the motor. But police blocked him. Then when they put the bracelets on him, the wife said, “Officer, I don’t think you understand, he is our only source of income.”

        Now this police officer who ended up being the lead detective is someone I have watched rise up through the ranks for 20 years. He made a very good impression on me in how he handled a couple of sensitive matters, back when he first started. So I was most pleased to see that he was now handling this. And he did not have to quote the wife’s statement in his report, but I am most glad that he did.

        Now this would go on for well over another 3 years, led by a defense attorney who specializes in child sexual molestation and has built up a large firm committed to making all child protection laws unenforceable. He panders to Anti-Government sentiments, Anti-Feminist sentiments, and Anti-Child Protection sentiments in the jury pool. And of course our laws allowing disinheritance guarantee that the jury pool will be like this, as does the fact that these cases are not covered by the news papers.

        So my own involvement went on far longer than I ever had possibly imagined. And this defense attorney has clearly studied familial conflicts. There are patterns to them. He has learned to do what has always been done, turn it back on the child victim. So I spent much time analyzing each portion of the testimony and then writing back to the DA’s office about it.

        And in trying to influence sentencing and writing to the court, I explained about how that church is a menace. But I also explained how the system failed to protect. The school counselor bungling. CPS bungling. And then I referred back to the youngest girl’s testimony. Finally he was gone. But then a couple of weeks later he was back, because his mother mortgaged her house to put up $1/2 Meg bail.

        Well the one who should be removed from that home is the one who is under suspicion, the defendant, not the children. Letting him out on bail was okay, but he should not have been allowed to return to that home. And I am sure that the girls did not have representation by an attorney.

        What did protect the girls, and this is one of the things that first blew me away about the case, was that the eldest girl got herself out. They she went to court and got herself and her new husband named as legal guardians of the two younger girls and then took them to live with them.

        So nothing made me happier when finally after so many years and so many communications, the DA contacted me and told me that the jury came back with a guilty verdict and the defendant was remanded.

        I looked him up in the County Jail and wrote back, “Now he must be sleeping soundly, for the first time in many years.”

        And since I have tracked him in the State Prison system, and I’m watching close to see if he has any chance with appeals.

        Of the people I know online, child abuse is something which is not talked about, and never redressed, and especially the sexual kind. But for the young people of today will it be different?

        If we the Survivors of the Middle-Class Family set up our own Foster Care, we can be graduating people who won’t put up with child abuse, with disinheritance, or with the creating of an untouchable caste of scapegoats that lives on alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and psychiatric medications, and often sleeps in jails, shelters, and under bridges, and are always easy marks for the evangelicals.


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  15. 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.


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  16. 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.


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    • Nomadic, It is not that I want to promote the family. It is that for the most part –and there are for sure dreadful experiences to the contrary–I would prioritize the family over the institution. Not that I want to prioritize either for what I most believe in is small communities where everyone has a say and everyone attends to the needs of each other and especially of children and seniors and those in need of support. And note that the purpose of institutional ethnography (my methodology) is to trace precisely how institutions wreak harm in individual lives –to trace, significantly, not to compare or evaluate.

      Do I believe in the ideology of the family? As a feminist (and as such, as someone who sees it as part of capitalist patriarchy), and as someone more generally with a radical analysis, of course not.

      IN this regard, any given article or book that I write or anyone else writes is not in a vaccuum. It is written in the context of everything else I have written or will write.

      Again, all the best.

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  17. 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.


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  18. 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.


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