Kendra’s Law Must Be a Beginning, Not an End


I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it. I am an overweight Jewish man from New York State with an active schizophrenia diagnosis. I have been committed to involuntary treatment numerous times for different stays at local and state psychiatric hospitals across New York State.

Despite all these hats I wear in the mental health community—or perhaps because of them—I am also a firm believer that forced treatment for V-SPMI (Violent Severe and Persistently Mentally Ill) people is justifiable.

I do not believe it is always the best treatment fit or practice that should be considered the gold standard for mental health treatment or the long-term standard milieu. Instead, we need to be continually revising our rules, moving studies and research forward to move mental health treatment into an era where forced treatment is obsolete.

As for Kendra Webdale and the day when the very ground floor of modern mental health treatment trembled and collapsed on itself, we will never forget it. For patients who have and continue to fall through the system’s cracks, Kendra’s death marked a new beginning—for many violent and chronically mentally ill patients facing possible incarceration, legal issues, and jail sentencing in New York.

I am speaking of that day in 1999 when Andrew Goldstein pushed Kendra in front of a subway train. Well, that is now all history. But we must never ignore the implications of that violent act, which forever changed the face of mental health treatment in New York and states adopting forced treatment laws.

Kendra’s death was not in vain. Because of Kendra’s premature death, the lives of so many violent mentally ill people changed—and in many cases, these folks are protected by the new laws governing the provision of mental health treatment.

Now, there is a glimmer of new hope and available treatment for this population who have been incarcerated by the justice system. Evidence points toward “offenders” ultimately re-entering the criminal justice system due to further offenses after being imprisoned. But appropriate treatment might prevent this cycle of recidivism.

Kendra’s Law was a good idea. It interrupts the cycle of prison and homelessness for V-SPMI people. Now they are mandated to receive treatment—instead of being sent to prison, only to come out with no help and be right back on the street.

But Kendra’s Law has so many dehumanizing effects for us as well. It’s not perfect and we need to keep working to create better laws that allow for our rights and freedoms as citizens to be respected.

If we genuinely want to help people have a real chance of survival from socially unacceptable and violent mental health conditions, Kendra’s signal must do more than just be a gesture to the public. We need to make radical structural adjustments to the mental health system before more people suffer tragic and avoidable loss.

Forced treatment doesn’t work perfectly for everyone in this category of mental health disorders. I have seen it firsthand as an ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) practitioner. I’ve seen the law fail clients and forced treatment create hatred, anger, and self-shaming.

Indeed, the stigma that evolves from an AOT (Assisted Outpatient Treatment) label is demoralizing. The title is humiliating, infantilizing, and demeaning for many.

V-SPMI patients under the AOT structure are mandated by the criminal justice system to receive mental health treatment. As part of that mandate, these people lose a part of their independence, autonomy, and relative status as citizens equal in the name of the law. The law places restrictions and limitations on people’s movement and personal freedoms under the AOT regulations.

AOT lays out restrictions on travel, medication administration, treatment staff choice, and frequency of contact with mental health staff and treatment teams. These mental health treatment domains are prescribed, mapped out, and monitored closely by the county government, who can, at any time when its rules are violated, pick you up at your home and take you to the hospital for forced treatment.

The loss of Kendra impacted people carrying a mental health diagnosis. We will never lose that scarlet letter that labels us, and marks us as eligible under the law to lose our rights if our conditions worsen. After Kendra’s death, our fate to make decisions for ourselves and our care will ultimately be under the law’s provision and maintenance until a new paradigm arrives. Our personal beliefs on how we want to manage our mental health affairs will continue to be ignored.

The right to fail. To live our lives as flawed, diagnosed, mentally ill people the way we see fit to do so. In New York State and many other states in the US, unless you are mandated or in an AOT or forced treatment program, you can fail out of society and be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric rehabilitation. People labeled V-SPMI cycle back into the system, from hospital to independent living.

Some states operate differently, and offer more supportive services to people who want to live independently. We must protect the freedom of choice and independence within the system. I must defend the endorsement of this freedom and dissemination of this privilege at all costs. We can never give it up.

Next to the modern mission of dignity, hope, and recovery by NY-OMH and another state mental health regulatory bodies, we must write into mental hygiene law the right to fail. To be non-adherent to treatment and discharged from care. To be left to our own devices as human beings. 

Whenever you hear, “should this person or that person be allowed to live independently or be discharged from a hospital,” it boils down to nearly where the identified patient falls on this continuum of being more of a risk or maintaining stable living. But what does a regular living look like? What does failure mean? Clinicians can do their very best to assess and predict outcomes, but do we ever really know what people can do?

I have done unfathomable things during the tenure of my mental health disorder. I have also done something I still cannot express regret for or live down.

I have also done wonderful, beautiful things in my lifetime, since my diagnosis, and would never forget these memories. The light outshines the darkness every time my freedom is involved. We cannot ever give up this privilege!


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. “Despite all these hats I wear in the mental health community—or perhaps because of them—I am also a firm believer that forced treatment for V-SPMI (Violent Severe and Persistently Mentally Ill) people is justifiable.”

    Sorry, as someone who also has experienced psychiatric violence, I do not agree with that. The violence done to me, and others, some of whom died because of it, is never justifiable. Violence done towards people is never justified. Violence is not a stepping stone to something better; the end of violence is. Perhaps, conversely, we ought to be worried about the epidemic of violent mh professionals, and accordingly be prosecuting, locking up, drugging, and detaining them until they can prove to a judge that they’re able to find better ways of interacting with the world.

    I guess I’m deeply confused about your article. You mention the “right to fail,” which I agree with from what I understand, but that’s in direct ideological confict with the basic premise of AOT.

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  2. Since there is no such thing as “mental illness” there can be no “violent mentally ill offenders,” only people who commit violent acts — either justifiably in self defense or the defense of others, or criminally.

    Szasz pointed out long ago that the myth of “mental illness” cuts two ways, both unacceptable. The first is as a rationalization to force psychiatric “treatment” on unwilling law-abiding people. This is what is focused on the most in the anti-psychiatry movement.

    Equally destructive, Szasz said, was the power of psychiatry to absolve people of legal responsibility for violent crimes and socially destructive behavior. The first right of a citizen in any society (including socialist ones) is to be free from fear of violent assault and other predatory acts.

    Mislabeling bad behavior as “mental illness” is an inherently absurd practice from the start, so it’s impossible to make a “pro” or “con” statement regarding laws which are based on this sort of confusion.

    This is not to suggest that once someone’s immediate threat has been neutralized they should then be tortured in a dungeon for decades, which is the sort of vindictiveness bred by capitalism. And hapless people who get caught up in violent situations should be entitled to have extenuating circumstances considered in court. But the community also has a right to protect itself and contain such immediate threats. Calling violence of any sort a “health” issue, and those apprehended for such “patients,” perpetuates the same tired mentality and ignores the deeper realities.

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    • Equally destructive, Szasz said, was the power of psychiatry to absolve people of legal responsibility for violent crimes and socially destructive behavior. The first right of a citizen in any society (including socialist ones) is to be free from fear of violent assault and other predatory acts.

      I reckon this is another example of Szasz’s libertarian ideology overruling his common sense. Anyone who thinks the penal system is any better than psychiatry at keeping citizens free from fear of violence hasn’t been paying attention. Both have a vested interest in maximising fear of violence so as to increase their own power and wealth, so they do. It’s also how they justify the fear of violence they themselves inflict upon disempowered people.

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      • Only people who are privileged enough to not have to worry about going to sleep at night without a gun under their pillow think like this. NO ONE has the right to predatory behavior, and the first right of any person is the right to defend oneself, or better yet not be forced to.

        Anyway the quote you cite doesn’t mention any penal system; it simply affirms that everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and that psychiatry cannot absolve them of that. You disagree?

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        • Anyway the quote you cite doesn’t mention any penal system

          That’s disingenuous. You (and Szasz) are talking legal responsibility, so you’re talking legal penalties. Szasz was more explicit. He railed specifically against psychiatric defences in court and his examples were cases that would have resulted in a prison sentence if the defendants were found guilty and fully responsible for their acts. So you’re talking the penal system.

          If not, perhaps you’d like to specify what sort of responsibility enforced by our legal systems you think might keep us ‘free from fear of violent assault and other predatory acts’.

          everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and that psychiatry cannot absolve them of that. You disagree?”

          Of course I disagree with a statement as simplistic as that.

          We’re not responsible for our behaviour, we’re responsible for our decisions. We don’t hold people responsible for behaviour that wasn’t intentional. OTOH, we do hold people responsible for intending to carry out acts even if they fail to do so. And our decisions are circumscribed by all sorts of circumstances. So we don’t hold children or dementia patients as responsible for their decisions as others. We shouldn’t hold someone as responsible for a violent act if they were acting under the delusion that they were defending themselves or loved ones from demonic attack either.

          Whether psychiatry or courts are adequate or appropriate tools for adjudicating responsibility is very debatable, but at least they acknowledge that degree of responsibility depends on many circumstances, not just the behaviour of the defendant.

          And that gun under your pillow?
          Statistically the person most likely to be shot with it is you. Next most likely is another member of your household.
          How does that keep you free from violent assaults?
          (I’m speaking as a gun owner who doesn’t kid himself with Hollywood cowboy fantasies).

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          • You’re getting liberal on me. Frankly if a known violent predator were on my porch threatening my well being my first concern is getting him the fuck away from me, the details secondary. I’m sure the majority of people feel the same. Unfortunately because of who I am I don’t have the option of owning a shotgun. You also know that many people are in prison for defending themselves, so fuck that too.

            You got a better solution for protecting people from violent motherfuckers than keeping them out of reach? I’m all ears.

            But everyone is still responsible for their own actions; whether or not this responsibility is accompanied by legal repercussions is a separate issue.

            I absolutely oppose psychiatric defenses in court in principle, and I also oppose psychiatric “experts” being called by the prosecution. Of course with a corrupt justice system all bets are off, and someone unjustly charged who can get off using a psychiatric defense should go for it.

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          • You’re also mixing up basic principles of human conduct with the failings of the current system, as though to acknowledge people’s basic responsibility for their own actions is to justify the oppressiveness of this or that particular system. If “mental illness” doesn’t exist “it” can’t be used to justify anything.

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          • You got a better solution for protecting people from violent motherfuckers than keeping them out of reach? I’m all ears.

            Not sure if you mean guns or prisons here, but if you’re a typical American you’re over 1.4 times more likely to use that gun on yourself than be murdered by someone else using any means (2019 figures).

            Sometimes the violent motherfucker is closer than you think.

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          • someone unjustly charged who can get off using a psychiatric defense should go for it.

            I sure wouldn’t recommend it.

            You’ll not only end up physically incarcerated (probably in a prison hospital) but mentally incarcerated with drugs. You won’t have a release date to look forward to and will probably spend longer locked up than if you’d been convicted. And you will have more of your rights (e.g. visits, possessions) taken away. And when you do get out, instead of having ‘paid your debt to society’ many people (like you and Szasz) will see you as having exploited a loophole to ‘get off’.

            The only people who ‘win’ using a psychiatric defence are lawyers, who have one less convicted client on their record. Families can be keen on that outcome too. Having a ‘sick’ family member is less stigmatising than having a criminal one.

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          • At least the degree of criminal responsibility. But this is where the concept of “extenuating circumstances” comes in.

            No. It’s where the legal concept of ‘diminished responsibility’ (or ‘insanity’ or ‘irresistible impulse’) comes in.

            I agree with evanhaar that for this dialogue to make any sense you’re really going to have to specify exactly what kind of responsibility you’re talking about. In your initial comment you specified legal responsibility but are now retreating from that without saying where you’re retreating to. So I have no idea whether you’re talking about moral responsibility, social responsibility, duty, obligation, accountability … They’re quite different and if you keep jumping from one to the other you will continue to be incoherent.

            Also like evanhaar I suspect you’re talking about responsibility as if it’s some kind of natural law that applies to all people at all times independent of what the individual or society thinks. I’ve struck several US libertarians who seem to believe in such a thing. If you’re one, maybe you should lay your cards on the table and say so.

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          • “Insanity” as a legal principle grew up as a completely separate concept from “mental illness” in the psychiatric world. Psychiatrists have made every possible effort to co-opt this judgment, and I find this extremely problematic. There is no objective way to determine who “has” and “does not have” a DSM diagnosis. While the concept of “diminished capacity” and “awareness of right and wrong” can be executed in the legal arena without any “help” from psychiatrists. Psychiatrists need to get out of the legal arena, because their claims of being able to determine “legal responsibility” are not grounded in science or even in legal tradition. They are grounded mostly in fantasy and in social biases that have no place in courts.

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          • Absolutely right.

            Unfortunately there are loads of ‘sciencey’ sounding concepts in law that aren’t really science at all but have enabled expert witnesses to muscle in on the territory. The judiciary is notoriously ignorant of scientific matters and laps it up.

            There’s a US Federal standard of admissibility for scientific evidence called the Daubert standard that would exclude psychiatric evidence if applied rigorously. Unfortunately it’s rarely applied to shrinks at all (in fact I’ve never seen such a case). If any admissibility standard is used it’s usually the older Frye standard or one of the state specific ones that have let all sorts of pseudoscience into the courtroom.

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          • I would love to see someone challenge psychiatric “science” in court using the Daubert standard. The falsifiability standard as well as the discernible error rate standard would exclude any psychiatric testimony relying on DSM “diagnoses.” Has this ever been tried?

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          • Don’t know why anyone would want to strip someone of responsibility for their own lives and own actions. Even if it could be done it would not be doing them any favors but diminishing their humanity. All this talk of legal principles is irrelevant anyway without a just system to enforce them. You can’t reform capitalism any more than you can reform psychiatry. I don’t believe any revolutionary societies (none exist today, except maybe Cuba still to an extent) have yet found a way to dispense with police and prisons. But the future is a long time.

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          • Has this ever been tried?

            Not to my knowledge.

            For about five years I was on a mailing list that kept track of admissibility challenges to junk science in US courts. Psychiatry never came up, though challenges to junk psychology and neuroscience did (mostly in the context of lie detection).

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          • I don’t believe any revolutionary societies (none exist today, except maybe Cuba still to an extent) have yet found a way to dispense with police and prisons.

            Cuba has an appalling prison system, comparable to the US albeit with a much lower incarceration rate. (I’m sure you know ‘The Land of the Free’ has by far the highest imprisonment rate in the world.)

            Nonetheless there has been loads of progress all over the world in finding replacements for prison systems for the same reason asylums were largely abolished. They’re becoming harder to sustain economically. So capitalism may yet kill the PIC, though we have to try to avoid simply shifting it to the other wing of the P/PIC.

            Most of the alternatives implemented so far have been about diverting offenders from the system with non-custodial sentencing. The most promising ones are based on restorative justice principles.

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          • Steve,

            Are you suggesting that the legal historical use of ‘insanity’ in courts is somehow more reliable and that a judge would know better than a psychiatrist? That legal authorities are any less biased and non-scientific? As we’ve seen over the last few years at least, we certainly wouldn’t want a police officer to make any final decision, or act as judge, jury, and executioner. What ‘outside party’ would be used to make a decision, if not a ‘mental health professional’? I admit, I’m not saying that they would fit the bill either. I’d like to know more about the concept of insanity in the justice system, some day at least. I know Carl Jung had occasion to be summoned to court in Switzerland as a psychiatrist for very difficult cases involving the psychology of the charged, and that was around 100 years ago, certainly absent any DSM Manual. He sometimes used his ‘word association experiments’ to give insight into guilt or innocence, as well.

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          • I am not saying that at all. I am saying that the legal definition is a SOCIAL definition, and that the legal system acknowledges the uncertainty and subjectivity of such judgments, and makes no claim to scientific verity (hence the need for a jury of 12 to make final decisions). The problem with psychiatrists in the legal system is that they claim to be able to KNOW who is and is not dangerous, who is and is not responsible, who is and is not aware of right and wrong, in some sort of expert or “scientific” way, such that other people’s judgment should be subordinated to them. It gives them WAY too much power, and is based on no actual knowledge that differentiates them from anyone else’s judgment, as has been shown again and again when the question of predicting danger or recidivism is concerned. Psychiatry has no right to claim expert knowledge of danger assessment or evaluation of a person’s state of mind at the time of committing a crime, because they as a profession have proven incompetent in such assessments. We are better off by far admitting that, and giving that latitude to the judges and juries who are appointed to make difficult, subjective judgments. Having psychiatrists in this role makes it way too easy for judges and juries to pass the buck and accept their judgments, rather than those parties having to personally wrestle with the difficult questions of capacity and safety.

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          • Having psychiatrists in this role makes it way too easy for judges and juries to pass the buck and accept their judgments, rather than those parties having to personally wrestle with the difficult questions of capacity and safety.

            Right again Steve.

            About 15 years back I attended a forum on the insanity defence held by senior members of the NSW judiciary with input from psychiatrists and (sigh) a UNSW philosopher of science of my acquaintance. Hearing the judges basically begging the shrinks to tell them what to think was quite unedifying.

            When comments were invited from the audience I started by reminding the philosopher that questions of the limits of free will vs determinism were notoriously intractable and unlikely to be solved in a NSW courtroom. I then had a go at the judges for abrogating the responsibility society had given them to judge in favour of the testimony of ‘experts’ hubristic enough to make claims way beyond their capabilities while under oath (expert witnesses are immune from perjury in NSW). I got some murmurs of approval from the audience, but pure ice from the podium. I bet some of those judges wished ‘contempt of forum’ was a criminal charge.

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          • Well, time for a test case, I say!

            At Justice Action we’ve been trying to get one for some time (there’s a hopeful case heading for the Supreme Court right now).

            Unfortunately there’s no specific code of admissibility for scientific evidence comparable to Daubert here, just generalised ones for expert witnesses that aren’t applicable to this purpose. However there are legal precedents for borrowing from Daubert in civil cases that we hope to extend and consolidate in criminal trials and tribunal reviews.

            So far every time we’ve got a case to the Supreme Court the Mental Health Review Tribunal has declined to contest it. Good for the client, bad for the precedent.

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          • Dang, we need someone to try and refute it! Of course, the fact that they haven’t even tried means they know how badly they would lose if they did. They want to preserve their ability to con most people by allowing those who have the resources to fight to get away with it.

            What about a class action?

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          • What about a class action?

            It might be worth a try in the US if you could get enough people to sign on. Class actions are notoriously difficult in Australia and lawyers are reluctant to take them on. They’re usually only worth trying when a product has proved harmful to consumers, especially if it’s a financial product. (There’s currently a class action against Facebook underway. If Facebook keeps poking Australian elites like they’ve been doing it might succeed.)

            The difficulty would be finding enough people who’d suffered similar harms because the courts had accepted psychiatric evidence as scientific. It would probably be easier to pull off if they were all harmed by the same shrink, but that would also make it harder to generalise the ruling to all psychiatric evidence.

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        • oldhead,

          Are you using a ‘model’? You don’t seem to be explicitly using a moral model and definitely not a medical model. Are you using a legal model, but an unconventional one? Or are you using a moral model, that is, using notions of good and bad, with according redemption and punishment? I see you use violent, criminal, and irresponsibility similarly. I’m not being especially clear myself, but since you reject psychological pathology as deviance in a medical model, I thought I would ask. Can you elaborate?

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          • oldhead,

            Let’s say model of human behavior and deviance. You’ve accepted that criminal physical violence, unjustified violence not for self or other-protection, can me sanctioned and controlled legally on a basic level, but not put in a context of mental illness or a medical model. Model of deviance. Violence would be defined legally since you denounce criminal (only physical?) violence, but it could be defined and explained in other terms such as a moral wrong or sin, or a physical/mental medical sickness or even criminal insanity, and this kind of thing. You, yourself, used ‘bad behavior’ as a basic premise, and above you use ‘basic principle’ and ‘basic responsibility’ as if these are common sense or come from a higher authority perhaps. Part of my concern is that restricting it to a legal one, which if you notice has an ostensible moral one as a background, is insufficient and often ends up reducing and limiting the captive just as much as a narrow-minded medical one. Legal and moral concerns can be filled with just as much illusion and projection as a medical, so my impression is that each of these areas, including medical and mental, have something to offer as well as hinder.

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          • Deviance is relative to community standards, and is neither good nor bad in & of itself.

            Anyway without raking you over the coals semantically my closest answer to your original question would be a “political model.”

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          • oldhead,

            I suppose I’ll be glad you didn’t try rake me over your coals, but the intimation is enough.

            I realized that ‘legal’ and ‘political’ may be synonymous, but there are subtle differences that I would have to do more homework on.

            My impression is that you want a ‘revolutionary society’ and use an anarchist stance, but I’m not sure how these translate into your ideal community standards and practical political realities, or fit into existing politics without playing only a role of destruction. Then again, I know almost nothing about you.

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          • My impression is that you want a ‘revolutionary society’ and use an anarchist stance, but I’m not sure how these translate into your ideal community standards and practical political realities, or fit into existing politics without playing only a role of destruction. Then again, I know almost nothing about you.

            I can’t speak for oldhead, but I’d suggest that if you think anarchist politics is only destructive then you’ve got some more homework to do. The Sex Pistols aren’t the final word on the topic you know.

            “What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice.” – Ursula Le Guin

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          • cabrogal,

            I knew I was treading incompletely with my anarchist comment. I was referring to the themes of negation and deconstruction of government and authority (anti-capitalist, anti-psychiatry, anti-etc.). Sometimes I get the impression that oldhead wants to replace these into a void (completely get rid of rather than radically reform), but others I sense that oldhead wants to replace them with complete alternatives, though unnamed and unknown to me now. I feel that to the degree that anarchists have freed themselves from the structures and institutions they oppose, it is an ideal, but that to the degree that they still interact with the institutions, it will inevitably be deconstructive and dissolving (or destructive), unless they compromise their own will and principles. But I admit, I’m not a wiz at the history of anarchy, including anything related to The Sex Pistols. If you have a link to examples of anarchic ‘politics’ or ‘society/groups’ (especially completely autonomous) that didn’t implode/explode or splinter into ever smaller pieces, then please link it here. A favorite writer of mine held anarchists IDEALS, and I sympathize with some of this, such as limiting hierarchy and realizing personal responsibility and liberty.

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          • I’m actually a commie. But none of these terms have any current relevance unless someone is a political science major, at the very least. Almost no one knows what terms like “communism” and “socialism” actually mean, or “capitalism” for that matter. Democrat politicians like Bernie and AOC calling themselves “socialists” confuses matters even more. Talking about principles, e.g. “defeating the corporate dictatorship,” is more likely to resonate with most people.

            You should be aware that I’m not trying to be “practical,” at least by most definitions, but to look at the situation objectively and define exactly where we should be trying to go. Which is actually the most practical approach if one can look beyond the artificial limitations of one’s own life span.

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          • There’s loads of philosophies within anarchism about the best ways to promote change.

            Some lean to building communities based on anarchist principles (usually communes) as examples for change, some prefer to start anarchist activist groups that attempt to address current social problems without necessarily overturning the existing order (e.g. Food not Bombs), others go for promoting anarchist principles and outlooks within existing groups and communities (I lean more to that). Some, like the IWW, promote workplace organisation along anarcho-syndicalist lines, and some are into tearing down dysfunctional and oppressive institutions, with or without proposing replacements. Bertrand Russell held that anarchism was a probably unachievable ideal which nonetheless should inform the goals of any revolutionary or reformist political ideology (Marxism was supposed to lead to anarchism, but as Bakunin pointed out from the start it’s centralisation of authority doomed it to failure).

            I don’t know if your summary of oldhead’s position is correct (I suspect not) but I consider it entirely respectable. You don’t have to propose replacements when you advocate tearing down dysfunctional, oppressive institutions. Many don’t need replacing because they serve no worthwhile function. In other cases the object is to remove the institution so communities can find their own replacements free of control and coercion. Having a revolutionary vanguard trying to impose its own idea of the best replacement would likely lead to the same old oppression under a different flag.

            If you want to know about the history and various philosophies informing anarchism I’d recommend Peter Marshall’s book Demanding the Impossible.

            If you have a link to examples of anarchic ‘politics’ or ‘society/groups’ (especially completely autonomous) that didn’t implode/explode or splinter into ever smaller pieces, then please link it here.

            There’s heaps of examples. Try googling it. I’m personally familiar with the two Sydney groups centred on bookshops, Black Rose and Jura, as well as anarchist activist groups like Squatspace and the now defunct Catalyst anarchist computer collective.

            The longest standing anarchist group I know of are the IWW (the Wobblies), but I’ve never been a member.

            Oh, and if you want the Sex Pistols’ take on anarchy, try here.

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          • Almost no one knows what terms like “communism” and “socialism” actually mean

            Make that “almost no one in the US”. Most of the world has a fair idea of what communism is, even if they can’t quote at length from Das Kapital.

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          • cabrogal,

            That’s very thorough, thank you.

            I suppose being an anarchist group, though small like a bookstore, is as autonomous as you’d get still being a citizen of a country, paying taxes, using public services, using currency to buy groceries, and so on.

            My immediate feeling is that I resonate more with the ‘attempt to address current social problems without (necessarily) overturning the existing social order’ or ‘promoting anarchist principles and outlooks within existing groups and communities’. Those who are ‘tearing down dysfunctional and oppressive institutions’ need to do so in a way that remembers that the people composing them have to go somewhere and do something, and shouldn’t be told ‘too bad’, ‘get a life’, or ‘get used to it’. A hard question would be how the transitions could occur with dignity and understanding, even if it is legal and financial compulsion that forces change. Anarchy brings up many important issues within very difficult and complex circumstances.

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          • Those who are ‘tearing down dysfunctional and oppressive institutions’ need to do so in a way that remembers that the people composing them have to go somewhere and do something, and shouldn’t be told ‘too bad’, ‘get a life’, or ‘get used to it’.

            That was pretty much the proto-liberal argument against practical action towards the abolition of slavery.

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          • I suppose being an anarchist group, though small like a bookstore, is as autonomous as you’d get still being a citizen of a country, paying taxes, using public services, using currency to buy groceries, and so on.

            The bookstores are small, the anarchist communities centred on them aren’t.

            Obviously you can’t be fully autonomous within a self-declared sovereign nation. The rulers don’t like that. It’s also pretty hard to be autonomous outside of one as your neighbours see it as a threat to their own authority and act accordingly. We saw that with the anarchist parts of the Ukraine in the 1920s, Spain in the 1930s and the Rojava parts of Syria now. If there’s one thing governments of all stripes can agree on it’s that anything demonstrating that anarchism might be a viable option must be crushed.

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          • cabrogal,

            Slavery & Anarchy:

            Slavery is a good but extreme example, but my argument still applies. The ideal goal was never to simply kill off or abolish slave owners as people nor leave slaves in the lurch. To take a less heady example than slavery, the need to end coal mines and fossil fuel industries should be respectfully yet firmly transitioned toward renewables simultaneous to a reduction of energy consumption. People want jobs, and they see that in what they’re accustomed to. It takes a comprehensive plan. Banning fossil fuels while saying you are on your own to figure the rest out is not the way and builds resentment and a feeling of resistance and revolution against the proposed alternatives. As I don’t align myself with a destruction of the entirety of psychiatry or government per se, I don’t require each to be simply abolished. There have been some fairly smart innovations over the last 100 years, and certainly lesser evils, which may be as good as we can expect. Evil and dysfunction are intrinsic to human nature, so we will have to learn to live with them. However, conventional and industry of psychiatry is not my friend, and they should be ashamed and forced to look behind the mask in the process of transition and atonement. But I’ve learned that conventional psychiatry at large doesn’t change and political and financial pressure is necessary just as slavery and its after-effects.

            Given the diversity of anarchists you mentioned, it still seems that individual communities would be small unless they all gathered under the Great Anarchy Banner at the anarchy convention. If anarchy unification could really meaningfully stick given the different styles, that’d be interesting. I still feel certain anarchist goals are inimical to group development, especially large groups where it gets ever harder to limit hierarchy and conflicting leadership and agreement.

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          • Well, I can’t help thinking that if I was enslaved and was told that I’d be set free just as soon as alternate work and accommodation was arranged for me that I might say “Fuck that. Just let me go and I’ll try to find my own solutions as a free man.”

            As far as energy sources go, we need energy of some kind so it wouldn’t make sense to just shut off the CO2 belchers and freeze while we wait for replacements. Do we need slavery? Do we need psychiatry?

            As for things like prisons, it’s the current PIC – especially in its for-profit form – that’s holding back the alternatives that are already in place on a small scale, just as the fossil fuel companies try to hold back sustainable alternatives. Many alternatives to prison have already proved more effective at meeting the stated goals of prisons than prisons themselves.

            There’s anarchists who’d agree with your last paragraph. A group of platformist internationalists once tried to recruit me. I’m not buying. I can’t see how you can call it anarchy if everyone has to think the same.

            Anarchism has thrown up several ideas for keeping hierarchies flat to non-existent within a large scale industrial society. Probably the best known one is anarcho-syndicalism, which seemed to worked well in both agrarian and urban industrial settings during the Spanish revolution. However it didn’t work so well in alliance with the non-anarchist groups of the Spanish Republic so a more hierarchical system of appointing delegates to represent anarchists within the Republican government was tried, with unfortunate results.

            A similar thing was tried by some Sydney anarchist groups in order to gain representation within the NSW Greens party. As in 1930s Spain the delegates were eventually captured by parliamentary party politics and ceased representing those who’d put them there.

            A (formerly?) anarchist friend of mine who is now a Greens member of parliament even entered into a strategic alliance with what was then a particularly authoritarian pro-psychiatry group in the name of political pragmatism, though to be fair the group is now focused on maintaining the green space around a former asylum rather than reviving the asylum and flogging forced psychiatry, so perhaps the alliance had merit.

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          • cabrogal,

            I get your point about the enslaved, and that is ideal of course. Although I wasn’t really suggesting that freedom SHOULD be postponed UNTIL the most efficient way could be implemented. But can you imagine what would happen not just to the mental health industrial complex, but to the point here, to existing or new customers/clients/patients, if ‘psychiatry’ were to be made illegal overnight or over 3 years even? I completely see that the ‘system’ holds back alternatives, and that there are already numerous alternatives that prove more effective (each in their own way) in the mental health spaces. I have no issues with all that, and I fight daily to play my part in this type of awareness and transformation. But perhaps you see my point about anyone who is or could be a ‘patient’ if the ‘systems’ were to be disrupted abruptly? I’m sure the history of slavery does have much to teach us in this respect, which is of course still being reckoned with. My guess is it that some important work will change ‘from within’ as well as from without, but legal and financial pressures will have to continue.

            Thank you for all your nuanced anarchy histories. I’m glad someone is keeping track. I’ll probably have to make this my last comment.

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  3. “But appropriate treatment might prevent this cycle of recidivism.”

    The problem is that the psychiatrists don’t have “appropriate treatments.” Their antidepressants and ADHD drugs can create the “bipolar” symptoms, as Robert Whitaker pointed out in “Anatomy of an Epidemic.” Their antidepressants and antipsychotics / neuroleptics can create “psychosis,” via anticholinergic toxidrome. And the neuroleptics can also create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    Plus, those forced treatment laws are being abused by criminal doctors, like this now FBI convicted doctor:

    Who was having lots of patients medically unnecessarily shipped long distances to himself, admitting them with non-existent “chronic airway obstructions.” Then he had his psychiatric “snowing” partner-in-crime, massively neurotoxic poison the non-violent and innocent people, in the hopes of making them unable to breathe, so he could have unneeded tracheotomies done of people, for profit.

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    • I agree. I also think that there are therputic communities within the prison system that are humane and effective and also that psychiatric drugs are dolled out on prison wards.

      I think we need to hear from inmates from both institutions as well as looking at outcomes from both. They all sound pretty dismal to me.

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      • Yes, we need the US to return to the rule of the law of the land, common law. I’m pretty certain I now understand the medical industries systemic crimes. As a banker’s daughter, it didn’t take me too long to understand the banker’s systemic crimes. But I’m still working to understand the legal industries’ systemic crimes against the American people.

        What do you think, or know, about this? And, yes, it needs to be about bringing about “justice for all.” Since that’s what America is supposed to actually be about.

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    “..The most typical patient is a man suffering from schizophrenia who has stopped taking his medication and has killed a family member – often a parent…”

    Findings from fairly recent research by Psychiatrist/Professor Sir Robin Murray would indicate that a person coming off drugs abruptly might become disturbed, but that this disturbance would not be genuine mental illness but the effects of drug withdrawal.

    So where would this leave a person that comes off drugs abruptly and behaves violently as a result?

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  5. It is well known that these “medications”, actually “psychiatric drugs” are probably the biggest cause of violence in the modern world. Of course, the psychiatrists, big pharma, the mental illness industry and even much of government, education, etc. will deny it by placing the blame on the victim. And, the victim needs in all these situations to be identified as both the perpetuator and the perpetuated. Therefore, in my opinion, “Kendra’s Law” or its variations fails at the outset if it demands “mandatory drug compliance” and adjunct dangerous therapies for the person so identified to remain in compliance to the law. So, as usual, a law that appears to look good on the surface bears underneath it a terrible secret that few are willing to confess. Thank you.

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    • I strongly disagree with the statement that violence is mainly caused by drugs. Of course it is in some cases, but violence is a human possibility.

      These drugs are terrible brain distorters but excessive demonization just detract from cogent and legitimate criticism.

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    • Since neurotoxins cause brain damage, their forcible use must be legally considered torture and/or human experimentation.

      Even for proven crimes torture is not supposed to be sanctioned as punishment. Incarceration is supposed to be the extent of the state’s power, in some places state execution. But not even those on death row are supposed to be tortured.

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      • oldhead,

        I see you are comfortable with highlighting physical illness such as brain damage. Why such a reluctance for mental illness? Does this mean, in reference to a comment above, you would reject ‘violent mentally ill offenders’ but accept ‘violent brain damaged offenders’? Would the brain damage influence your reckoning of the violent offense and any legal punishment, or would it once again simply be a matter of personal responsibility? Surely you would agree that brain damage has psychological correlates even though it may not directly imply a straight forward conventional mental illness. Just trying to feel this out.

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        • I see you are comfortable with highlighting physical illness such as brain damage. Why such a reluctance for mental illness?

          Not sure what you mean by that, however “mental illness” is a metaphor, not a real disease, any more than is “spring fever.” Comparing “it” to brain damage wouldn’t make sense.

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          • oldhead,

            I sense that the very real ‘mental symptoms’ I described, from the standpoint of experience and psychology, are given their due as long as we don’t call them ‘mental illness’. This reminds me of the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ although here, brain damage can be structural/functional, and not limited to primarily or simple disfunction of neurotransmitters. But of course we know that psycho-social and environmental influences can also create the very symptoms I listed, in which case the physical causation would not have been the primary cause. I’m trying to see how someone can call mental illness metaphorical, or rather non-existent, yet be so open to both physical illness and apparently mental illness as long as its cause is physical. Even if the disease proper is physical, there’s ultimately no reason to see the psychological correlates as any less ‘ill’. But you should probably know that if my mother dies, and I go into deep depression, crying spells, non-constructive rumination, chronic anxiety, etc., that I consider this illness and not simply understandable grief of a lost love.

            But I get it, conventional psychiatry is so full of itself that these highways and byways are inevitable. And I wouldn’t just accept that my grief over my dead mother would require an SSRI antidepressant, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or a support group for those whose family member has died.

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          • I still don’t get why you don’t get what I’m saying here. There ARE physical illnesses that can be DIAGNOSED based on CAUSE. These are real illnesses/injuries of the BODY. They may cause what is currently called “mental illness symptoms,” but they are PHYSIOLOGICAL PROBLEMS that can be diagnosed as such. Would you say a person with low thyroid has a “mental illness” if they become depressed as a result? Is the child who is hyperactive because of disturbed sleep (sleep apnea or other sleep disruptions) “mentally ill?” Or do they have a physical problem that makes them act hyperactive?

            Compare this to someone who is depressed. Diagnosing them with “major depression” can be done without the slightest reference to cause. They could be depressed due to a head injury, due to domestic abuse victimization, due to having a dead-end job and no chance of promotion, due to feeling unable to pay one’s bills, due to the loss of a loved one or a pet, due to confronting the difficulties of aging, due to lack of sleep, due to wondering what the point of life is, due to anemia, due to Lyme Disease… you get the idea, I hope? The “mind” is not “ill” because a person feels depressed. They may be struggling with something difficult, but that does not make them ILL. Their body can be ill/injured in a way that affects their mind via their brain (which is a part of the body). But being depressed does NOT suggest any sort of “illness” that can possibly be defined! It’s kind of like saying I pick my nose because I have “nose-picking disorder.” It is completely tautological and means nothing at all. It CAN be used metaphorically (“I experienced psychic injury as a result of my abuse” or “I need to heal from my difficult childhood,”) but until someone can show me the location in the body of the “psychic injury,” it is a metaphor and not an “illness” in the medical sense.

            I think that is as clear as clear can be. I understand that “mental illness” is used generically to refer to any kind of emotional upset or reaction, but it’s obviously beyond stupid to say someone is “ill” because they feel sad that their dog died, or because they are anxious about asking a girl for a date, or because they find school boring. There is a clear and distinct difference between a physical illness that has emotional effects, and an emotional situation that has no physiological cause. If that’s not enough to explain it, I’ll have to just agree to disagree. It seems obvious to me that these are very different realities.

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          • Steve,

            Not sure if this is a re-post, I had trouble with my first posting. I apologize if this is redundant.

            Part 1:

            Should I assume your recent comment is directed toward me? I try to put the name of those I’m talking to in order to clarify this. I hope I’m right, and I will respond as if this is true, and it seems clearly to be directed to me, given some of your specifics. However, I want to be clear that none my recent comments on this particular thread were directed toward you nor responding to your own commentary. This would immediately explain why you ‘still don’t get why (I) don’t get what (you’re) saying here.’ I don’t even see where you’ve addressed this on this thread, but please forgive me if I have overlooked it.

            I try not to use cheap simplistic definitions of mental illness, and it seems that much could be overcome if I simply replace ‘mental illness’ with ‘mental suffering’ or ‘sickness’. And yes, I would say that if a person’s low thyroid was the (only) cause of their depression, they would have symptoms of mental illness. But it would primarily be seen as a physical illness including mental symptoms. Incidentally, there are many physical ailments that can’t be tested, directly proved, understood, diagnosed, or specifically located, yet they exist and cause suffering. If I use psychic pain and disequilibrium as being mental illness, I don’t necessarily mean A or THE mental illness, per the DSM. Certainly not necessarily a ‘disorder’.

            When I talk about depression, it should never be assumed that I personally would use it in such a cookie-cutter way as ‘major depression disorder’. I’m perfectly aware of many of the issues you raise, and in that vein, I support your views. However, I don’t need any condescension implying that I don’t appreciate the nuance of your lists of influences of depression. But it appears that you yourself don’t deny that there really are depressions, and they can be caused by both physical and psychological influences. I’d note that even though an emotional or mental quality is not caused by physiology, it in no way implies that there aren’t immediate and complicated physiological reactions, some of which can also feedback as further causes and correlations of mental anguish or problems. This seems obvious, but this puts your comment ‘There is a clear and distinct difference between a physical illness that has emotional effects, and an emotional situation that has no physiological cause’ in a particular light, as the mind and body are so intertwined that it is NOT always clear and distinct. Even if ‘depression’ was not the ‘illness proper’, it still would be part of the state of suffering and seen as a symptom and therefore an element of sickness, of illness. The side-reference implying I’m beyond stupid because I consider devastating grief of the death of a parent (or dog) as psychic illness is interesting. I would not belittle my heartbreak as generic by using the term illness, in this case psychic illness. I’m sick, I’m ill, I’m suffering. Here it’s probably worth pointing out that I see ‘ill’ as encompassing an entire spectrum, not simply a state or even a quality that should define the person, such as when the term ‘patient’ is used. If the comment about nervousness when asking a girl out or school boredom was used to counter my example of grief of a dead mother as being sickness, being ill, then there’s an unfortunate disconnect, although those qualities may be included on the spectrum of psychic discomfort and
            ‘dis-ease’. And when I say ill, I also wouldn’t want to imply that it’s chronic. Whether we call the grieving person ill, we still give them all the concessions of someone who is physically ill and in a sick role. We give them leave of absence, send them get well cards and phone calls, and know that there suffering’s primary cause was psychological/experiential but has enormous physiological reactions, some of which can be managed with rest, Tylenol, good food, yoga, etc.

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          • I am sorry if you thought I was referring to you when I said “beyond stupid.” I was referring to the authors of the DSM who make that claim, that if I’m not “over it” when my spouse dies within two weeks, I have a “mental illness.” It is the most absurd of many absurd things in the DSM.

            It appears you are simply defining “illness” as “distress.” I don’t define it that way. I believe there is plenty of distress that is natural and normal and healthy and not a part of any disease process. I also believe that calling these things “disorders,” as the DSM clearly suggests we ought to, prevents research and interest in actual physiological problems that may be in play.

            But it sounds like we are substantially in agreement on most points, except for that definition.

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          • Steve,

            Part 2:

            You seem to necessarily define illness based on the nature of the body or the ideal physical sciences, so your argument that being depressed is not an illness makes sense on that level. But I, and medical psychologists like Carl Jung, do not require this restriction. I personally use ill as including distress, (relative) disfunction, and suffering in general. So I could replace mental illness with mental suffering or mental injury, with no need to call it a metaphor. It would partly be a matter of from what direction the perspective is coming from. I realized I also don’t want to use ‘mental disorder’ as I would use psychic sickness. I normally wouldn’t consider grief of a dead loved one to be a disorder how it’s typically used in the DSM, although some people’s anguish lasts an exceedingly long time and requires continual care — self, communal, or professional.

            It’s part of the nature of mind/psychology not to be easily located or proved, and to remain subjective no matter how objective we aim to be (or actually are). I do believe even the mind can incorporate objective psychological facts, since otherwise we wouldn’t ever understand each other, and dreams can portray accurate qualities of other people and things, not just the subject. Jung showed us that the mind has a nature just as the body does; with functions/disfunction, problems, pathologies, etc. I admit I harken back to Jung’s use of ‘medical psychology’ and don’t like to restrict the term ‘medical’ to a physical definition. I also respect his work in the psychogenesis of mental illness (elaborated in the book by that name). My impression is that we’d be able better sit at the same table if the definitions of ‘ill’ were expanded or replaced, including those beyond ‘emotionally upset or reaction’, which you seem to reject anyway. Mental illness can affect all psychic functions. Certainly beyond the DSM models, and no one should ever assume I abide by the DSM or most of conventional psychiatry. I don’t feel a need to see psychic suffering — systematic, categorical, conceptual — as a metaphor, unless I’m only defining it based on physical premises and assumptions, which you seem to be doing and take for granted. Not to go too far afield, but Hitler was pathological, and there’s obviously no immediate need to tie it into the body. Should we really need to sever the terms ‘mental pathology’ and ‘mental illness’?

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          • I don’t think we’re far apart here. You are choosing to define “illness” more broadly by far.

            Just for the record, I have never regarded SUFFERING as metaphorical in any sense, and I don’t believe I said anything like that. The problem with the term “mental illness” at this point is that it is used intentionally as a means of denying that suffering has any kind of meaning beyond messed up brain chemicals. The idea of the “mind” being “ill” in the same sense as the body is the metaphor we’re talking about here. Suffering is very real. Saying someone “is mentally ill” because they are suffering is metaphorical.

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          • oldhead,

            As no one else elicited my name to you, once you begin speaking of me indirectly in the third person while still responding to my comment knowing I am a reader, I see there’s little use in continuing. Although I do see it as a clever way to try to ridicule me and distance yourself while trying to align with others.

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          • The problem with the term “mental illness” at this point is that it is used intentionally as a means of denying that suffering has any kind of meaning beyond messed up brain chemicals.

            And I think that comes from the incoherent way the mind sciences approach the mind-body problem(s).

            On the one hand they insist the mind is the brain (or an entirely emergent property thereof), so it follows that any problems with the mind are manifestations of problems in the brain. OTOH, they see the individual as the locus of suffering caused by the mind-brain, as if the individual is something separate from her mind. It’s Abrahamic/Cartesian dualism glossed over with Enlightenment physiology. It don’t work.

            That’s how you get counterfactual claims that locating a person’s suffering and aberrant behaviour in his brain defects rather than his character will somehow reduces stigma while at the same time insisting that mind, and therefore character, is simply a manifestation of the same defective brain. That don’t work neither.

            So we see articles like this one in which a musician’s ‘intensity’ is pathologised as borderline personality disorder and her music is therefore a symptom of “a young woman struggling with a neurological condition she didn’t yet understand”.

            Art too is now an illness. I’m sure there’s a pill for that; though it took ECT to cure Hemingway of his art.

            “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.” – Alejandro Jodorowsky

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          • Realistically any comment posted here is addressed to the public, as well as the specific person who prompted it. And we all need to leave our egos and insecurities out of these conversations to the best of our abilities.

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          • oldhead,

            I’d clarify that many of my comments such as this one are not addressed to the public, but to you, a specific individual. If you want me to take you seriously, you should not provoke me, or whatever lesson you were wishing to give, indirectly in the third person. Say it to ME, not the public, if also addressing my comment specifically. Just as you did on your previous comments to me. You knew very well that I would read it. Ego and insecurity are beside the point.

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          • I think the salient point that is being missed in this discussion is that even if we acknowledge substantial illness with its psychological effects, the answer is not now nor has it ever been to adjust the brain chemicals of the person who is suffering. The only thing this sometimes accomplishes is a relatively temporary reduction in suffering. But as most find, it doesn’t last, different drugs are tried, combinations are tried, and it then becomes a game of chasing mental effects rather than healing the body and subsequently healing the mind.

            Calling a person’s internal distress or outward behaviors a “mental illness” is problematic not because of what some progressive thinking individuals may mean when they say those words, but because of what those words mean in common parlance. We cannot possibly have this discussion every single time we engage with someone about what they mean when they use a word or phrase that has a commonly understood meaning. Therefore, the concept of “mental illness” remains harmful regardless of whether a particular user of that concept has a more nuanced understanding of it. Words have meanings that are both linguistically and culturally understood and it’s important that we stick to those definitions in most cases so that we can understand what people mean when they speak. I will not use “mental illness” for this reason even though I think that I am generally in agreement with both Evanhaar and Steve’s articulated understanding of mental distress and physical illness and how those states interact. Furthermore, my objection to terms like “neurodiversity” and “madness” stem from the same root. “Madness” is defined as “severe mental illness” by all major English dictionaries. “Neurodiversity” implicitly defines some as being outside the spectrum of normal despite the majority of children displaying obvious distress and diverse states of being in this incredibly stressful and toxic culture and world we live in.

            I think it’s important when we are discussing psychiatry, either in terms of eradication or reform, that we are careful to stick to well understood meanings for the terminology we use, lest we repeatedly end up speaking over and past each other and making no substantial forward progress.

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          • kindredspirit, etc.:

            I disagree in two ways, and I sympathize and relate overall. This should probably be my last comment on this thread.

            I use and support chemical strategies for mental health and overall health, and I use chemical in the broadest definition and not just pharmacology. Nutrient supplements, and especially food, are clear examples. The face of conventional pharmacology and the consideration of ‘brain chemicals’ and prescribing has been so appalling that it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

            Part of the reason people have these discussions is not only because it is NOT clear what the common parlance means exactly, but also as a means to evolve and change the dynamics of what we’re dealing with. The people who identify or don’t identify with terms like neurodiversity or schizophrenia also have the most complicated time fleshing it all out, and it’s not always about REJECTION. Of course we can’t always hash it out like this, but that’s why people do homework, go to workshops, and then bring it into the world. Anyone is welcome to use a term how they want it, especially if they clearly define how they use it, recognize the context they are in, and that there are expectations people have, sometimes with repercussions. Part of my mentioning Jung is that he used the term ‘mental illness’ in a way that I relate to, but he didn’t necessarily use it in a way that the DSM-eras have come to use it. You do seem unconcerned if and how there could be more than one definition within ‘psychiatry’ rather than the ‘common’ one. Even though there can be overlaps, if words were always frozen into a single meaning and context, we’d be all the more poor. I certainly would hate to have to not use a word, phrase, or symbol just because some norm has cornered the market, although that has occurred, such as the rejection of the rigid Nazi swastika vs. the centuries-old multi-cultural use of it, whereas the circular rounded 4-winds symbol is still used. Having said all that, I now know that you, Steve, and oldhead would prefer ‘mental illness’ not be used, so if I were to continue speaking with ya’ll, I would be more sensitive to that. In that way, it’s not just about commonly acceptable forms but commonly unacceptable forms.

            But I see your thrust, and I’ll easily admit I understand where you’re coming from with your comments on mental illness, neurodiversity, and madness. Also, if I say ‘blue’, a person wants to know that I mean ‘blue’, and you don’t necessarily want to inspect its etymology, distinguish between sky vs. indigo, go into the nature of the perceiving eye vs. inherent object, or how a painter might use it vs. a physicist. I personally don’t think of ‘psychiatry’ as a monolith, and I find much value in the history of psychiatry. So I’m thankful that I don’t have to think within the bounds of what I’ll call a common psychiatry even though its full of loaded and controversial terminology. If I want to free myself from a common psychiatry, I will use my language in a way that allows me to do that, as you seem to be doing too. I feel free to pull from alternative, complementary, and critical psychiatries as well in order to do that.

            Anyways, this kind of forum allows people to ping-pong all this out, and hopefully there’s value in sharing and disagreeing along the way. Much of Steve’s comment had me thinking a lot. I first brought this as a question because I wanted to know how someone could consider ‘it’ non-existent, unreal, metaphysical, and/or metaphorical. I’ve learned a lot. Thank you.

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          • Evanhaar,

            FWIW, I do not agree with the idea that the mind is an entirely metaphorical concept as Oldhead contends. In my view, the mind is the entirety of the nervous system and all of its sensations and experiences of the physical world. The condition of the physical body has a strong effect on the mind regardless of where we believe the mind resides. I know this to be true of my own illness – Lyme Disease – as it is with other systemic infections and inflammatory/immune-mediated illnesses. Likewise, my understanding of psychological trauma is that it is physically injurious and that these injuries have long term implications for the individual in terms of physical illness and psychological distress.

            Where I diverge and where I am solidly antipsychiatry is in the knowledge that adjusting brain chemicals does not actually address the etiology of psychological distress even if it produces temporary relief for some. Morphine also relieves pain but it won’t set a broken bone. I appreciate Steve’s references to physical injuries as they seem a perfect metaphor for the disconnect between the temporary relief of distress and treatment of the underlying condition.

            I think the continued focus on mental illness as illnesses in and of themselves rather than effects of other physical illnesses and adverse environments is what I see as the underlying problem with the current approach to mental healthcare and it’s obsession with brain chemicals and states. This may place me at odds with some others in the AP community.

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          • I use chemical in the broadest definition and not just pharmacology. Nutrient supplements, and especially food, are clear examples.

            That sounds a little like the apologia offered by supporters of the oil, pesticide, pharmaceutical, etc industries use when they say “Chemicals in your food and air? Everything you eat and breathe is chemicals! And so are you! Hah!”.

            We know what ‘chemicals’ means in common parlance; as do corporations that call themselves ‘chemical companies’ and retailers who call themselves ‘chemists’.

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        • evanhaar, Please forgive me for getting between you and oldhead, however, I just wanted to note that those symptoms you mention in your post CAN be caused by brain damage and mental illness may not even figure into the equation. Even a brain tumor might cause the symptoms you list. What is tragically ironic about psychiatry, etc. is that many times the symptoms they say are caused by mental illness are actually caused by a physical illness. Yet, they will diagnose someone with a mental illness, then blame it on chemical irregularities in the brain, but… they have no proof. They just causally assume this. Then, they prescribe these psychiatric drugs which they claim will mediate the symptoms, but, instead, these drugs cause physical symptoms which, although the psychiatrist will probably deny it, can only be described as a form of brain damage. But, then the psychiatrist will claim the now real brain damage is nothing short of one of his or her mental illnesses. One could say in the psych world, a person can not win for losing. Thank you.

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  6. it is sobering to hear freedoms in terms of a privilege we must not give up as I see it freedom is the most basic inherent and inalienable human right of which the state liberated existed is measured from person to person and place to place. The question of freedom to whom and if all are the cogs of racialized colonial hatred that has continued to play roles in placing some human life as more worth than others. Now that Kendra’s law has branched to a federalized and operationalizing systemic method of carceral care it seems like a fool’s game to attempt to disrupt its cost to human life and curation of state violence with the frame that we only have the privilege of freedom that we should try to hold onto. Dark times are certainly on the horizon I hate that it also has been looming in ways that make it easier more bearable even to justify why these assualts on our individual freedom are up for debate.

    in closing based on AOT data it appeast balck male bodies constitute 2/3 majority of those under it’s constraints on community existence. and no data of evidentiary rigor or validity to indicate it does result in any degree of improvement and less degree to which the implications of those involved are truly violent. in fact I have NEVER in my life scene the application of violently-severely mentally ill before this article. I imagine being from NY jaffe homestate that perhaps this WILDLY DANGEROUS AND NEFARIOUS terminology has led to the belief among those of identified to the level of SMI and/or longstanding community removals for “care” might be more willing to fall prey to the epistemic violence that places freedom in terms of privilege. we must united and center ourselves assertively /and actively against coercion. END FORCED TREATMENT NOW

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    • Well yeah, but after all that poetic rage why would you stop there? Many would say that even “voluntary treatment” is violent and coercive. How about MAKE PSYCHIATRY HISTORY, period?

      More pragmatically speaking, do you have a link to the statistics you referenced on the racial breakdown vis. a vis. AOT?

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      • Considering the right to force is the locus of power upon which psychiatry builds and fortifies itself I’d wager that ending forced treatment is a sound first step to just that.

        I will circle back with links to the statistical breakdown I am referring though I’d suggest that all readings of related material will easily point to such in the breakdown of the study demographics a standard to near all reporting

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        • Definitely agree with that assessment.

          Maybe psychiatry reformers would like to consider abolition of forced psychiatry as a necessary step to avoid capture of its institutional ethics by authorities in the way the ethics of US psychology was captured by its association with CIA torture and mind control programs.

          I’m an abolitionist because I think enforcement of authoritarian norms is intrinsic to psychiatry, with patient care and community protection used to justify the primary function. I can imagine a caring profession that would fill the role of psychiatry without also having a social enforcement function, but it would look so different to psychiatry as we know it that calling it by the same name would be misleading.

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          • Here’s how we phrase that in our organizing principles:

            ⦁ Psychiatry is not a legitimate field of medicine.

            ⦁ Psychiatry is a tool of social control which enforces conformity to the prevailing social order.

            The next level of critical focus should be on the idea of a “profession” to deal with the inherent emotional trauma of capitalism, rather than simply dealing with the problem at its source.

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        • Considering the right to force is the locus of power upon which psychiatry builds and fortifies itself I’d wager that ending forced treatment is a sound first step to just that.

          Bingo — That’s my strategic analysis as well. Which is why our AP collective joins with all sectors of the movement to make the end of forced psychiatric intervention our #1 demand. But, it is both a demand which stands on its own AND a tactic towards eliminating psychiatry altogether.

          When making such a demand from an anti-psychiatry perspective, not just a “civil liberties” one, it’s important for all to understand that simply eliminating (overtly) forced intervention will not suffice on its own and that it is a tactic toward abolition, not simply a reform that will solve the problem for good.

          But you’re right, without force psychiatry would shrivel up & die relatively quickly, as long as we keep publicly hammering at its fraudulent underpinnings. Because of course “power cedes nothing without a demand.” (Frederick Douglas)

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  7. Human beings can do bad things. No need to be ‘mentally ill ‘ for that. Nazis are not deemed mentally ill.

    I dont think locking people into the highly stigmatized circle of fear that is such a label can be productive.
    It erases persons, human connection, and perspective of evolution.

    Sometimes force has to be used as a last resort in desperate situation, but it is an option of crisis that should never be elevated to a standard of treatment.

    And I think human beings should be accompanied, not ‘treated’. We are not virus.

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    “….Most people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of crime. The vast majority are not at all violent, and among those who are, risk factors for violence are the same as in the general population: young age, male gender, being single, poverty, and substance misuse…”

    Irish Psychiatrist Brendan Kelly MD Phd

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    • Exactly! There is no known “additional risk” that comes with “mental illness.” It’s mythology. The only think Brendan Kelly missed is domestic abuse as an indicator of likely violence and danger. “Mental illness” doesn’t even come into the equation!

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  9. The thrust of your argument assumes there are ‘appropriate’ forced treatments for those designated mentally ill. I don’t think you’ll have to go too deeply into this website to find strong arguments against that notion.

    I think it may be possible to identify groups of people who are statistically more likely to commit violent offences. For example, it seems irrefutable that men aged 18-35 who play contact sports and binge drink are at seriously increased risk of committing assaults and rapes. But before we round up the NFL and Largactil their asses it might be good to have a discussion as to whether there are less harmful and abusive ways to reduce that risk.

    As to the idea that having your body locked up indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital and your mind locked up indefinitely with drugs because of something you might do is preferable to serving a fixed sentence of incarceration for something you did do, perhaps you should ask the people who’ve been through it.

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    • Cabrogal, No we are not selecting posts in order to wind up our readers. yes, we have a policy of respecting the voices of lived experience, which of course means that many will express different opinions, including about topics as controversial as Kendra’s Law.

      You will note that not long ago we ran a two-part series on AOT, which was our own reporting on the matter, and among other things, we noted how it is not “effective” in achieving its stated goals.

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      • I’m not suggesting you’re not committed to journalistic ‘balance’. Just that if MIA readers want to check out this sort of stuff there’s sites like the NYT, NAMI or the Treatment Advocacy Center that can keep them filled in. When I click on an MIA link I’ve come to expect a viewpoint that isn’t already being flogged by the mainstream media and corporate funded lobby groups so I guess I’m expressing my discomfort at having to adjust my expectations of late. It seems like a trend to me.

        Should we expect to soon see a blog reflecting E Fuller Torrey’s lived experience?

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      • Gotta admit I’m tetchy on this topic right now though.

        I’m in the middle of fighting a campaign by forensic psychiatrists in the NSW prison system to extend forced medication and compulsory intrusive ‘community care teams’ to all recently released NSW prisoners who have ever had a diagnosis of ‘psychosis’ (very broadly defined to include drug or medically induced psychosis as well as the usual ‘psychotic illnesses’).

        It’s entirely justified in terms of ‘reducing recidivism’ – even for relatively minor non-violent crimes. Not a touch of concern for other outcomes for the subjects. And the arguments deployed for it are the same old non-sequiturs we see on the TAC website and in the article above.

        I wouldn’t want MIA to become a ‘bubble’, with an Overton window excluding pro-psychiatry views, but given how the media currently covers mental health issues it might be nice to see some ‘balance’ away from that sort of propaganda.

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        • BTW, in case anyone is interested in that sort of stuff I’ve uploaded the latest iteration of the vision of NSW prison forensic psychiatrists.

          Defining optimal post-prison care in New South Wales for those with psychosis. (1.36MB PDF)

          As you can see, it’s about having your mens rea cake and eating it too. Making the convicted ‘pay their debt to society’ with a prison sentence, then declaring them unable to control their criminal impulses and putting them under psychiatric coercion and surveillance for life. It applies to even relatively minor offenders and is predicated on an anti-recovery model that can be summed up as “once a psychotic, always a psychotic”.

          It’s not up and running yet but there’s steadily increasing support for it from politicians and non-psychiatric medical professionals. If they can overcome the substantial resourcing hurdles it will probably be implemented here and you can soon expect to see something like it in a Prison/Psychiatric Industrial Complex near you. Otherwise it will be used as an ambit claim to negotiate increased intrusion into the lives of ‘mentally ill’ people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

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          • If they can overcome the substantial resourcing hurdles it will probably be implemented here and you can soon expect to see something like it in a Prison/Psychiatric Industrial Complex near you.

            So you find the term Prison/Psychiatric Industrial Complex useful, good.

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          • The group I’m with started out as The Prisoners’ Action Group, made up of current and former prisoners with a focus on the prison and criminal justice systems. As Justice Action we’ve come to the perspective that transinstitutionalisation and stigmatisation pretty much erase the boundaries between psychiatric and regular prisoners (as does the proliferation of forensic mental health expert witnesses in the courts and compulsory psychological programs in prisons). So the P/PIC is a natural way to look at it for us.

            One difference is that you don’t get anything like Psychiatric Stockholm Syndrome with criminal justice prisoners. You won’t find many ex-prisoners saying the prison system works and more people should have access to it. And like MIA, we have a policy of respecting the voices of experience. As you might imagine, that can lead to policy disputes. But we’re yet to run across any psychiatric survivors who endorse forced treatment without an advance directive to that effect.

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          • Well for one we should maintain an alliance, as we’re talking about mere variations of “prisoner.” Mumia Abu-Jamal & others refer to what some call “freedom” as “minimum security.”

            One distinction between psychiatry and the prison system: ostensibly psychiatry is supposed to work for the good of the “patient”/prisoner; “standard” law enforcement is supposed to work to protect others from the prisoner.

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          • I definitely see us as allies oldhead. Despite our differences on peripheral issues our stated objectives and analysis of the problems align quite closely I think.

            The stated aims of Western prison systems are retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation, with the latter supposedly for the benefit of the prisoner.

            The initiative being pushed by forensic psychiatrists in NSW is interesting in that it abandons all semblance that it’s for the benefit of the subjects. It’s couched entirely in terms of reducing recidivism. I guess they deserve credit for honesty.

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          • Nah. This is a bit of a jobs for the boys project. Loads of new positions for forensic psychiatrists, from doing the initial assessments to heading up the community teams to sitting on the panels to decide whether they’ve reoffended and, if so, to recommend either tossing them back into prison, scheduling them to a locked ward or changing their treatment orders.

            That’s what’s most likely to scupper this. They’ve gotten too greedy. Too many ex-prisoners in the net and too many expensive educated professionals in the various assessment and intervention arms. And no exit strategy. Once an ex-prisoner is in there’s nothing s/he can do to get out. The concept of recovery doesn’t exist.

            There will also be teams who mediate relationships between the subjects and their families, care-givers, employers, etc. Nothing says ‘rehabilitation’ like having a mob of suits explaining to everyone you’re a psychotic ex-prisoner assessed as being at risk of reoffending and that’s why you have to stay drugged.

            So when they start coming up with funding proposals we’ll be talking to fiscal conservatives in parliament. I think we can win this, but as I said, it’s likely to be an ambit claim aimed at getting a lite version that can be grown via bureaucratic creep.

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          • Nah. No conviction. No diagnosis of psychosis.

            The proposal as it stands will only effect convicted people who have completed a custodial sentence in NSW and have at some time in their life had what the shrinks have determined is a ‘psychotic episode’ (regardless of alleged cause).

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  10. Oof. I am having a really hard time with this article being posted in this space. It does not align with the ‘Science, psychiatry, social justice’ tagline at all. Well, maybe the middle (psychiatry) part… Nor does it align with my understanding of the mission of Mad in America overall.

    That aside… Max… You literally refer to people in this article as ‘V-SPMI’… And you write it out so that the acronym is OUTside of the parenthesis and the actual explanation of what it stands for IN the parenthesis. In other words, you use V-SPMI as if it is a legitimate word and thing to be boiling human beings down into.

    It is NOT a legitimate thing to boil people down into. It’s just not. It’s frightening, and unnecessary to speak about human beings as these objectified, dangerous things. Now, this isn’t to say that this is the biggest problem with what you’ve written here. But that that is your starting point is very telling, and it makes me want to talk to you about internalized oppression, and the dangers of painting a whole group of people who can be so subjectively diagnosed as ‘dangerous,’ and so much else.

    This piece is SO problematic. I hope there are people in your life who can help you unpack all of this at some point, and hopefully come to a different place. I’m not talking about trying to take away what you feel is helpful for you. That’s for you to decide… But this message you are putting out to the world is dangerous.


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    • Sera you are a shining star thank you for using clear terms to shed light on the clear tone of internalized oppression reflected in this piece from top to bottom. My heartbreaks to see the evolution of oppression and epistemic violence in this way and I find it all to common and to easily achieved when survivors are professionalized and sequestered into strictly clinical spheres. When the role demands a degree of complicity into the very mechanisms of violence from which out survivorhood is crafted it is endlessly devastating to see.

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  11. Years ago, my first job out of college was as a corrections officer. The main point of a prison system or even jail I was taught was that the jail or prison system has actually been instituted a form of protection and separation; protecting and separating society from the convicted criminal and protecting and separating the convicted criminal from society. That’s it. Education, rehabilitation, etc. is nice, but, “fluff” or considered as privileges and can be revoked if needed. Also, if necessary, the prisoner can be isolated from other prisoners. Prisons and jails never were meant to be joyrides or even the answer to society’s problems. In prisons, since the advent of prozac and other “modern” psychiatric drugs they also utilize these drugs as both a deterrent and a stabilizer, not unlike how they are used amongst those in the larger population. But, perhaps, the only real difference between prisons and general psychiatry is that the patient/client for the most part are kept drugged on the outside, while the inmate in a jail or prison is kept drugged on the inside. My main reason to present this information is help us realize why we incarcerate people in the first place. Thank you.

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    • Yes, I’m aware that the culture of prison officers is hostile to the notion of rehabilitation. “Once a crim, always a crim”. But the stated intent of prison systems in the West always includes rehabilitation as one of its primary aims, as the euphemism ‘corrections’ suggests. Nonetheless prisons are inherently criminogenic – they cause crime – so the attitude of officers is arguably more realistic.

      The principles of the modern prison system were first laid down by the Quakers who instigated it in the early 19th century (in Pennsylvania I believe) and strongly emphasised rehabilitation. They thought solitary confinement was particularly efficacious.

      These days Quakers know better and many groups (particularly in Canada) are now campaigners for prison abolition.

      (BTW, psychiatric drugs – particularly neuroleptics – are valued recreationally by many prisoners resulting in prison black markets for diverted drugs. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me but as they say “A day off your face is a day off your sentence”.)

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    • My main reason to present this information is help us realize why we incarcerate people in the first place.

      Well, I’d substitute “they” for “we.” And indeed the main rationale for prisons is to protect society from the most immediately dangerous people. And it’s a reasonable rationale in & of itself.

      However the gulag also serves darker and more nefarious purposes, one of which is to present the illusion of justice, another to generally keep the population in line by way of example. Both psychiatry and the prison system have roots in slavery. So it is of course impossible for a system as corrupt as this to make any pretensions of enforcing morality or showing people the “right way.”

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      • Oldhead, You are right; I could substitute “they” for “we.” but that could depend on the audience. You are also right when you speak of keeping the population in line by example. So much of how those in various forms of authority exercise their authority is “by example.” Psychiatrists, etc. use the “example” method to persuade you to take their drugs. Teachers, etc. use the “example” method to not only attempt to teach a subject, but to get their desired behavior objectives in the classroom, etc. I have had had supervisors use it against me to berate me to try to get their desired objective from me. That never worked. I usually left the room in tears. And, none of this usually works. Why? Because, each one of is an individual. Each one of us has been created as an individual, no matter how or where you believe this uniqueness of who each one of is comes from… It is why, at least, at this time in history, all governments, etc. are failing. The day we really acknowledge the individual spirit of each person will be a day of victory. However, it may be a while, as it is a big “cash cow” for so many to deny us this right in so many ways, etc. Thank you.

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  12. I wanted to point out that grief no matter the form it takes is not a “mental illness.” Grieving is natural after the passing of someone you love and it is individual in its expression. It is much better to experience sadness, crying, etc. after the passing of a loved one than no emotion at all. Once, I worked with those allegedly diagnosed with schizophrenia. This was a college volunteer assignment. One of the odd things that happened was when one of the clients reported that he had lost his beloved pet dog. This client expressed this without any emotion, whatsoever. His facial expressions were blank. His body, too. The ones who ran the place tried to attribute to his illness, although they would state to a volunteer like me that it was explicitly schizophrenia. Although this was before the years of SSRIS and the “modern” atypical anti-psychotics, when I look back on this, more and more I attribute this lack of emotion to the drugs he was being prescribed at the time. In fact, all the weird happenings at that place that Spring, I now believe can be more attributed to the drugs prescribed for these clients than their alleged diagnosis. Thank you.

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    • rebel,

      Once again, I resonate with and appreciate your insights. I responded more thoroughly about grief and illness above. I would find it easier right now if the word ‘ill’ was dropped and replaced by suffering and pain. Both of which should not necessarily be suppressed, but also should not go on indefinitely or constantly interfere with the necessities of life.

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      • Evanhaar, Actually, all I was trying to express is that the “psychiatry, mafia, etc.” has unfortunately called grief, a thoroughly natural process in any loss, a “mental illness.”
        However, as a sidebar, sometimes each of one of us can get very hung up with words and labels, etc. It can’t be helped and many on this site have commented about that.
        There is a funny thing about the word, “ill.” For some in the South, a person who says he or she is “ill” is really only telling the world that she or he, for whatever reason, is “cranky” or “out of sorts” or as my mother would say “awoken on the wrong side of the bed that day.” Of course, the latter can be quite painful if your bed is against the wall. However, what is really happening is that the person by saying that he or she is “ill” is warning the world, “Stay out of my way! I am in a bad mood!” Is this something to be diagnosed by an alleged professional? No! But, they will try. Why? These psychiatric, etc. people seem to have absolutely no way to deal with common and natural human emotions that in scientifically technical terms is necessary to our survival and has kept so far from becoming like the dinosaurs—extinct. Thank you.

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  13. I think there is the mistaken idea that it’s “anarchy” and “rebellion” to works towards the disposing of a system such as psychiatry, etc. However, that can only be is psychiatry, etc. can be considered a system of tradition and authority such as most governments or say the Catholic Church, etc. I would counter with wrong answer. Psychiatry, etc. is an system of abomination. Psychiatry, etc. is an illegitimate system. It is against Universal Law. It is against God’s Law and even the Ten Commandments. Our goal to eventually abolish psychiatry, etc. is absolutely not rebellion or anarchy. It is actually our insistence and assistance in returning the world to its natural order. When something as evil as psychiatry, etc. exists, those who seek to resist it or abolish it can only be seen as “warriors” for good rather than rebellious anarchists. Thank you.

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    • Some of my better friends are rebellious anarchists. And why would a Rebel want to “distance” herself from “rebellion”? 🙂 (Plus there have been rebellions by and among Christians throughout the course of history.)

      The evils of psychiatry can of course be denounced within the framework of Judeo-Christian law, but can also be seen as violations of practically every universal code of morality or scientific practice. That’s what makes anti-psychiatry a natural way of bringing together cultural and political perspectives that might normally seem inimical. But i know you already know that on some level.

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  14. evanhaar: First, as far as banning fossil fuels is concerned, all one need look to is the disaster in Texas and the nearby states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma due to extreme, unusual frigid air and snow, etc. Second, it would be a dangerous mistake to ever learn to live with evil and dysfunction. Learning to live with evil and dysfunction is akin to selling out and makes us all out to be “Neville Chamberlain clones.” The only way to deal with evil and dysfunction is to always choose the path of good over evil and renounce it wholeheartedly.
    Kindred Spirit: What you said is very good. I definitely agree with you about the word,, “neurodiversity.” There is something about this word that brings up a “kettle of worms” and has the potential of bring more harm than good. Sometimes, on-line, I read a phrase like this, “My husband, my children and I are all neuro-diverse.” I have this odd feeling that someone is not taking responsibility and excusing their choices, behavior, etc. onto this word. As as “madness” is concerned, I do miss it. It is now warped in mire of stupidity and has lost its true meaning and place in history. Still, it is preferable, in many cases to be “mad” rather than “mentally ill” or “neuro-diverse” such as “there is a method to my madness, etc.” At least, in the word, “madness” we had a genuine, natural way to describe behavior we didn’t understand. Now, with words like “mental illness” and “neuro-diverse” and other such words, the mere mortal has now become a mere robotic computer or in Star Trek terms, a “borg.” Thank you.

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    • rebel,

      *I should have made clearer my point on evil and dysfunction. I don’t simply support these things. But we cannot finally get rid of them, and I believe the art is to replace a greater evil with a lesser evil in many cases. It’s built in, but if you always understand it and can cast it forever into chains, or always purge it outside of you, all the more power to you. The Biblical wrath and vengeance of God, not simply the Devil, should make us mindful of evil.

      Dysfunction is another thing and has always been there, but we should try our best.

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    • Rebel: As a turn of phrase, I’ve always understood “There’s a method to my madness” to mean something like “I know this looks crazy, but there’s a purpose to how I’m doing this.” It seems to be a statement that the person is NOT “mad” or “crazy” despite temporarily appearing perhaps chaotic. I wouldn’t say it was a use case consistent with the attempts to “reclaim” the term “madness” by psych survivors. I myself get a little “out of control” at times but I would never call that madness. It is something I understand was harmful and apologize for and try to make right. It isn’t something to make normal, even if the circumstances that produced it are understandable. I don’t believe that holding odd thoughts or appearances are “madness”. It seems that like “neurodiverse”, the words “madness” and “mental illness” are often euphemisms for bad behavior that should be corrected, atoned for, changed and the like. “Mad Pride” sounds about as mature as saying “I can’t help it, I’m bipolar”. I’d rather have the context behind difficult behavior understood so that perhaps actual change can take place, whether that change be in the individual that is struggling or in the environment. And I’d rather allow that struggle to inform me that I need to change myself or my environment in a meaningful way.

      Instead of saying I’m “mad” or “bipolar” or “neurodiverse”, I could say something like this:

      “I know I acted out. I’m really struggling with sudden difficulty sleeping. I’ve been in an unusual and extreme amount of physical pain. I’m not sure what’s causing it so I’m stressed and anxious on top of hurting. My intimate partner has been abusive again. I have another loved one who has been making my life intensely stressful. I am really struggling under all of this. Please forgive my outbursts while I try to sort the situation out and get back to some equilibrium.”

      Another person’s circumstances might be “my kid is getting into trouble at school again, if I’m late one more time, I’ll lose my job, I’m three months behind on my rent, I’ve got a shut off notice on my electric Bill” Etc, etc, etc.

      I think that would be a whole lot better approach than simply saying I’ve got something called “madness” that makes unpredictable appearances, don’t you? It accepts responsibility for doing harm while acknowledging the context under which it occurred. I’m no stranger to extreme states, but I don’t ever expect those states to be acceptable and I think part of the path to healing is working hard to right the harms caused while one is experiencing an extreme state, not demanding they be part of the spectrum of normal. I’ve never seen anyone go mad with literally no explanation at all. They are sick or they are stressed. And spiritual emergencies count as stress in my book. Your culture may interpret things differently, but this is my perspective.

      *** I will fully admit that I’m not good at hearing “what can you change?” while I am in the throes of emotional reacting to whatever I’m struggling with. But it almost always boils down to considering what I have the POWER to change. The serenity prayer seems apt here: God (Creator/Mother), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength (power) to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The main tenet of Buddhism is that suffering comes from expecting things to be different from how they are. Acceptance of how things are is the first path to feeling better. If you can’t accept it, figuring out what is within your power to change and making those changes is the next step. Wisdom to know when to accept and when to change things is the cumulative effect of surviving long enough on this planet. If I’m going to keep getting older, I don’t want “mad pride”, I want a fuck ton of wisdom. And maybe a tad more power. 😉

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      • “Mad Pride” sounds about as mature as saying “I can’t help it, I’m bipolar”.

        I think most people use it in the same way I do. “Mad Pride” means that you accept the aspects of yourself that society condemns as ‘madness’ and stand in solidarity with those who are marginalised for their ‘madness’. It’s certainly not another way to say “I can’t help it”.

        The list of reasons you offer for acting out seems more like “I can’t help it” to me.

        Speaking personally, my cyclic mood swings, extreme states, acting out, etc are no more ‘because’ of external social circumstances than they are ‘because’ of internal brain chemistry. Nor are my flashes of inspiration, sustained bursts of energy and capacity to stand up to illegitimate authority. They’re because I’m me.

        I don’t have madness. I don’t suffer from madness. I am mad. And I’m not interested in curing myself of me.

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        • It used to be mostly used sarcastically or ironically, as in “so you think I’m a little neurotic?? No, I’m TOTALLY MAD!!!” It wasn’t an “identity,” except among a few. Now the whimsical nature of the term has been lost on many in the current generation, who also nurture and compare their “disorders” (and drugs) as a way of socializing and competing for social status.

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          • Yeah, I guess that’s one thing psychiatry is doing for school kids with its ever increasing rate of pediatric diagnoses.

            A decade or so ago you were ‘othered’ for having a DSM label. Soon you’ll be ‘othered’ for not having one.

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        • “Speaking personally, my cyclic mood swings, extreme states, acting out, etc are no more ‘because’ of external social circumstances than they are ‘because’ of internal brain chemistry. Nor are my flashes of inspiration, sustained bursts of energy and capacity to stand up to illegitimate authority. They’re because I’m me.”

          I have no problem with rights restrictions for people with this attitude. If there is no reason for your bad behavior (acting out) and you refuse to try to change it, it seems only appropriate that measures be taken to protect others from you. This is the definition of a jerk – and possibly a total sociopath. And it is exactly why the excuse of “madness” is so ludicrous.

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          • As you might imagine, KS, I’ve been running up against the sort of mindset that believes those who think and behave different to them need to be ‘fixed’ for my whole life.

            Some wear white, use words like ‘schizoaffective disorder’ and ‘bipolar’ and think the answer is pills and locked wards. Some wear blue, use words like ‘offender’ and ‘criminal’ and think the solution is handcuffs and prisons. Some wear Doc Martens and crewcuts, use words like ‘c**t’ and ‘f***ing nutjob’ and think the answer is fists and boots. Some are faceless, use words like ‘jerk’ and ‘sociopath’ and think the answer is rights restrictions.

            Same old crap. Different wrappers.

            As for me, I just want to be me and live my life as me.

            Careful rebel. An attitude like that can get you labeled ‘jerk’ or ‘sociopath’. I’m told we’ve gotta take measures to protect others from people like that.

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          • BTW, if I do something I regret that harms or upsets others I might very well say “Sorry. I’ll try not to do anything like that again”. Being me doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t change.

            What I won’t do is blame my brain chemicals, lack of sleep, my frequent bouts of inflammatory pain (HLA-B27), my intimate partner or other loved ones.

            And if I don’t regret it I won’t apologise at all.

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          • Actually, Cabrogal, I believe that people should be held to account for their behavior regardless of its origin. This is fairly consistent with a 12 step mindset of making amends. I don’t believe that anyone is “mad” and therefore anything they do goes. I think that people who treat their own behavior in that manner ARE a danger to the rest of society because they refuse to be held to a account for the effects of their behaviors on others. Whether the description is mental illness or madness or an alcoholic blaming the booze. There is a big difference between acknowledging understandable contributing factors like stress or illness or other environmental conditions and having no accountability to others at all. Those of you who say “This is just how I am because of my ‘madness’” show no ability or willingness to be accountable for the effects of your actions on others.

            I’m actually strongly against the penal system as it exists and strongly FOR restorative justice precisely because it fits within these parameters. We can both understand people’s behavior and hold them accountable for repairing the damage they cause. I’m truly sorry if the nuance is lost on you.

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          • Those of you who say “This is just how I am because of my ‘madness’” show no ability or willingness to be accountable for the effects of your actions on others.

            I don’t say that at all. My madness is just as much a part of me as my gender, my bass playing skills or my love of surfing. It’s not an excuse or ‘contributing factor’ for what I do, it’s part of what I am.

            I’m sorry if the nuance is lost on you.

            I’m also bemused as to why acknowledging the roles an allegedly abusive partner or a loved one ‘making my life stressful’ play in your acting out would need to be offered to others as an explanation/excuse. My attitudes and responses to those things might make my life stressful, not their actions. I have no need to pass the buck to them. If they had drugged me or otherwise compromised my agency it might be a different matter.

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        • Or as Rachel — who is sorely missed here — would say, “madness,” however defined, is a state of mind, just like sadness or anger. It’s not your permanent identity. As you obviously understand, you are not “mad,” you are you, i.e. a person with a distinct personality. If one person is “mad” everyone is. So why bother with the term at all?

          Another way of deconstructing the concept: rarely (I won’t say never) does anyone consider themselves “mad” before a shrink has labeled them “mentally ill.” Then as a way of resisting the “mi” label a person will say “I’m not ‘mentally ill,’ I’m MAD” — but all that changes is the label, not the “othering,” which remains intact and internalized as one’s self-image.

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          • I have no problem with “madness” as a self-description of a certain act or behavior – “I went mad!” Or “I had this mad idea…” I do see what you mean about it potentially becoming a counter-identity for someone being attacked or dismissed by psychiatry. I’m not sure I find that a bad thing – certainly better than kowtowing to the “authorities” and letting oneself be dismissed as “mentally ill.” But I can also see how it could still be viewed as accepting one’s “otherness.” In the end, I tend to agree that we’re all a bit “mad” in one way or another, and the distinction seems to fade away if it is viewed that way. Though it does provide a nice double-entendre, because we’re all freakin’ pissed at the system!

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          • rarely (I won’t say never) does anyone consider themselves “mad” before a shrink has labeled them “mentally ill.”

            That’s only because the shrinks get in early these days.

            I started school in the 60s and I sure considered myself mad decades before I saw my first shrink. And it was my permanent social identity from a young age. My teachers, classmates and family saw to that.

            There’s a body of opinion on this site that the labels get you ‘othered’. That’s not my experience and I doubt it was the experience of my out-group school friends who were othered because of their weight or looks or speech impediment or learning difficulties.

            You don’t get othered because you’ve been labeled. You get labeled because you’ve been othered.

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          • “Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.”
            – Carl Jung, The Red Book

            “An individual has the right to express himself or herself even if he or she behaves irrationally; to demonstrate his or her insanity.”
            – Muammer Gaddafi, The Green Book

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          • cabrogal,

            Also, there’s a section with the cabiri (gnomes) where Jung is relating madness (I don’t necessarily believe here it’s only ‘divine madness’) and the ‘knotted entanglement of the brain’, which he spiritually cuts through with an alchemical sword that the gnomes give him. The gnomes had played a role in creating the very entanglement that they wanted him to cut.

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          • Keep in mind, Jung distinguished between ‘divine madness’ and ‘madness’ in his Red Book.

            Yes, but I don’t. I agree more with Joseph Campbell on that.

            It’s not about individuation to me. It’s a matter of letting go of your self. It’s not the madness that hurts. That’s a storm of bliss. It’s trying to hold onto what you think you are in the midst of it that brings pain and terror. Differentiation might be necessary for a social animal to survive, but death comes, meaning evaporates, chaos reasserts, subject/object dissolves. Oneness abides. When you sacrifice yourself to the storm you are the storm.

            It probably helps to have a Goddess who is Madness and Death ;).

            So if you paid $120 you must have got the covered hardback with illustrations. I’m told it’s awesome. I’ve just got a text-only e-book.

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          • cabrogal,

            Campbell’s quote seems rather similar to me. The question becomes, is the water — or location and creatures in the water — the same? Is the shaman with scuba gear swimming in the same ocean as a person labeled schizophrenia/psychotic without proper gear & training? In any case, Campbell’s ‘swimming’ seems preferable to ‘drowning’. We should never generalize too easily from one person’s bliss or one person’s pit. ‘Madness’, like dreams, can take ANY form. No matter what form, conventional psychiatry and society have a drug for you, a place for you to go, & a conversation they won’t have. And easily replaces one madness with another. Swimmer beware, but try it naked under moonlight at least once! And bring a towel.

            It’s interesting you mention $120, which is what it cost 10 years ago. (*Oh wait, I guess you saw that number from my essay). I see it’s now ~$200 (roughly what it’s been for a long time), but after The Black Books were published last October, The Red was going for ~$280. The Black Books are equally heady & important as well, & long awaited. My illustrated Red Book is literally falling apart from how many times I’ve read it and referenced it. The cover is torn from the binding. Poor thing, bless it’s heart. Yes, the images are astonishing, & there were many more created but not in the book. Most during that period can be found online if you haven’t seen them already. I actually tore to pieces a couple of the images in my own fits of ‘madness’ & odyssey; that, along with my endless underlining, notes, & scribbles, is how I digested it. I ate it up. I was more tame with The Black Books.

            I’m sure you’ve noticed the Goddess Kali is mentioned once or twice (briefly) in The Red Book. Bloodthirsty. Same with Brimo:

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          • Campbell’s quote seems rather similar to me.

            I don’t see it that way. IMHO the experience of madness is a boundary smasher, including the boundary between sacred and profane. It’s not inherently divine or not divine, but if you don’t fight it and let go of your fears it opens the potential of apprehension of the divine.

            The qualities of the extreme states that happen when I’m in a safe place such as my own room and those that overcome me when I’m in public space some distance from home (thankfully rare) seem largely the same, but in the latter case the need to ‘pass’ (i.e. not prompt a police response) and find my way home means I have to fight it and that can result in a nightmarish experience with nothing divine about it.

            We should never generalize too easily from one person’s bliss or one person’s pit.

            Absolutely. I’ve been dealing with extreme states since childhood – often deliberately induced – and they’re pretty familiar turf to me. The voices I hear have never seemed malevolent to me either, though their comments can be cutting (I appreciate their honesty). My family culture prepared me somewhat for it (similar to Jung I have scientists and clerics on my English father’s side and mystics and artists on my Aboriginal mother’s, some of whom died in asylums). Almost five years in India probably helped too.

            But I think my own approach to extreme states has helped others struggling with their own, both when I’ve tried to assist people suffering a ‘psychotic break’ and when I’ve acted as a psychedelic guide, so I do think it’s reasonable for me to generalise a bit from my own experiences.

            I’m sure you’ve noticed the Goddess Kali is mentioned once or twice (briefly) in The Red Book. Bloodthirsty.

            I suspect Jung’s knowledge of Kali comes second-hand from the British colonisers and their mythologising of the Thuggee.

            There’s folk stories of Kali that seem bloodthirsty and Her iconography certainly supports that view. Also there’s no denying She’s the Goddess of Creation, Destruction, Time, Death and Madness. But the violence and thirst for blood is symbolic (as are the folk stories and iconography). Kali worshippers such as Vivekananda and Ramakrishna (and myself?) tend to be gentle people, albeit prone to ungentle states of mind.

            I consider myself agnostic (or rather, an epistemological and ontological anti-realist) but I can’t deny my direct experiences of Kali, in which She lacks form yet is infinitely beautiful and immanent in all things. Despite having spent years in India I didn’t initially identify Her as Kali, mostly because I’d never looked far beyond the iconography and folk stories. It was both Vivekananda’s poem, which I only read after encountering Her, and my reading of the Mahakali of Kashmir Shaivism that led me to recognise Her as Kali.

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      • Hi KS, hope you know I’m still appreciating all this, even when we come at it from slightly different angles. You’re still crushing it!

        PS Rebel is definitely worth taking the time to break this stuff down to. Hope things are ok.

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      • KindredSpirit: I think I was just bemoaning how “meanings” seem to change with words, in particular, which, in my opinion, used to be a mostly benign word. Although, I remember writing a paper once about the very thin line between “madness and genius” for a high school class. The words, “neuro diverse” and “neurodiversity” bring chills in my spine as these are labels that have the capability of being used against people, although there are those who seem to embrace it ; i.e. like “mental illness and mentally ill.” The idea of “Mad Pride” is totally repulsive to me. Again, it seeks to take people apart from the natural “mainstream” of society and places them into places they may or may not want to be. It makes it seem as there is joy in taking these psychiatric drugs and being therapized, etc. I make the distinction here because we are intrinsically unique, but we are not so different as to lose our natural and real human-ness. As for me, I just want to be me and live my life as me. Isn’t that what any one of us want? Thank you.

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  15. @cabrogal

    Make that “almost no one in the US”. Most of the world has a fair idea of what communism is

    Duly noted and largely true — still it seems that ignorance of the relationship between communism and socialism is not simply a U.S. thing. You hear many references to a “communist state,” which is a contradiction in terms, as “communism” refers to the point of human evolution where we instinctively cooperate to advance life, without a state being necessary to enforce everything. “Socialism” is simply reversing the class dictatorship of the .1% over the 99.9%; class distinctions still remain during this period however.

    As for anarchism I may agree that it’s probably most useful as a medium for fighting authoritarianism within the more organized larger movement.

    I have no issues in principle with either vanguard organizations as an educational and organizing tool, or with “democratic centralism”; however the “democratic” part needs a lot of work. There’s no U.S. based party I would currently join or promote. But history evolves.

    What is rarely mentioned is that in both anarchism and communism the goal is a stateless society. Many Libertarians wouldn’t mind this either. The conflict is over how to get there.

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  16. Cabrogal, In reply to your admonition: “Careful Rebel, An attitude like that can get you labelled ‘jerk’ or ‘sociopath’ I’m told we’ve gotta to take measures and protect others from people like that.” This is your reply to my statement: “As for me, I just want to be me and live my life as me.” Perhaps, it is my fault in that I did not finish my complete statement. I did not as I did not want to appear to be offensive to others with different viewpoints. I do not want to appear as if I am in critical judgement of another person’s beliefs. However, let me complete the sentence as it is meant to apply to me personally; “As for me, I just want to be me in Christ and live my life as me in Christ.” Perhaps, someone could label me as a “jerk” or “sociopath” with my personal statement. Or perhaps, not. And, perhaps, my issue might be that I was too careful to not be clear about who I truly am. And, that may be how I was so easily led down the path of the evil and destruction of psychiatry, etc. Thank you.

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    • Don’t take what I said to heart rebel. Mostly I was responding to KS’s admonition that anyone who is true to themselves – even to the point of being labeled ‘bad’ by those with different moral standards – should suffer penalties justified by the old ‘protecting others’ rubric used by all authoritarians.

      I’ve never been a Christian but I have nothing but respect for those who want to live their lives in Christ, so long as that doesn’t mean punishing or persecuting others who don’t live the same kind of life. As a Christian you’d be familiar with those who are criminalised, persecuted, even executed for living according to their beliefs regardless of what society thinks about them.

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  17. I also want to add about my statement “As for me, I just want to be [in Christ] and live my life as me [in Christ.] I make this because I have learned and I would “teach” this to any “young person” or actually anyone who is stuck in their life. Many of us struggle because a) we try to be someone we are not and/or b) we try to emulate someone in their work which is impossible. The hardest thing we have to learn in life and actually, the most rewarding thing we must learn in life is there is no one in the world exactly like each one of us and no one, past, present, or future can do something (anything) exactly as I do it. I think this striving to do/be either a or b can be a significantly tragic motivator that sends people :running to their local psychiatrist, etc. Thank you.

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    • Gotta agree with you there. I think most psychiatric ‘patients’ captured by psychiatry are trying to live according to standards set by others and think they can obliterate their ‘bad’ bits with the drugs.

      But yeah, your main point is the only person we need to be is ourselves. Ain’t no-one else gonna do it.

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