Friday, July 29, 2016

#19. People Have the Right to Be...

This is Day 19 of our 30-day blog on the Declaration of Principles adopted by the 10th Annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Toronto, May 14-18, 1982.  (More info here.)  Today we are talking about Principle 19.

Principle 19 reads in full as follows:

We believe that people should have the right to live in any manner or lifestyle they choose.

Basic Rationale

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired and exhausted by a world that always seems to be asking for a better me.  I’m tired of the politics of scarcity and not enough.  I’m tired of kicking myself, driving my body and mind, to produce the next thing on the horizon that always seems urgently necessary.  I’m tired of what that does to me.  I’m tired of what that does to us – to the people around me, to the world around me, to the trees, grass, fields, animals, air, sky and water upon which we depend for shared existence. To the life within me that needs all of these things to live and with which I’ve been entrusted by the Universe to do right by during my time on the planet.

My body, every body, is made up of living cells. Tiny living beings that depend on us for their existence.  Tiny living beings that are every day giving themselves up – spending all of their tiny short existence, living and dying in good faith - in order to support the much larger enterprise that is we represent to them to be. 

I can tell you from lived experience -  from listening to their many voices – that, at least as regards to me, these tiny living beings upon which my life depends are not at all sure that the enterprise of me is worth it.  They are not at all sure it stands for something they believe in.  They are not at all sure that they are up for what I’m asking them to do.  They wonder, on a regular basis whether any good will come of their effort. 

Every day, the modern world is asking me to push them, cajole them, make them produce.  Every day the demands of modern life are asking me to force them to boot up, buck up, go along and get along.  Every day the propaganda of modern life is asking me to tell them – this is as good as it gets, stop complaining, get with the program.  If you want to survive, these are the terms, this is what you have to do.

These are the beings that are in ground level contact with how my existence is going.  They trying to get me an accurate read about that from their perspective.  They sincerely want me to know how they see it from where they are sitting.  They are trying to communicate with me honestly as to what is working, what isn’t, how it could be better, and what needs to change …

My objection to psychiatry is that it kills their right to vote.  Medical model (drug, shock, surgery) psychiatry doesn’t just affect me as a person, although the impact has its analogy.  To psychiatry, I’m basically just a human-sized cell.  Their job is to get me to function in a useful way so that the societal enterprise human beings have created has what it needs to function.  The meaning of my existence, from a psychiatric perspective, is to get me to the point where I can be plugged into one of the so-called essential organs of society that makes up our collective social body.  That way, I do my part to help produce the energy and functioning that support the world economy of corporate human existence. 

The drugs, shock, psychosurgeries that psychiatry is selling are all designed to make me useful from that perspective.  Basically, it is tantamount to being told by the larger systems that depend upon my energy and participation: You don’t like it?  Here’s a pill.  Now boot up, shut up, get back in the assembly line of life.

Seen for what it is, the core message of psychiatry is that we don’t effing matter:
  • Even if the big organism we belong to (human body, family, community, society) is doing something totally wrong for living beings. 
  • Even if the dominant culture we are a part of (individual, family, industry, race, religion, town or country) is heading itself – and all who support and depend on it - in directions that are killing all concerned, along with the resources needed for living. 
  • Even if the vast majority of voices are unhappy on the inside despite the appearance of conformity on the outside. 
  • Even if, as a body, person, culture or world we are passengers on a steam-roller to our collective physical, emotional, moral and spiritual demise. 
  • Even if our cumulative silence and compliance is what is allowing this to happen…. 
Even if any or all of these things, the message of psychiatry and the industry interests that allow it, is still the same.  Our collective voice, our collective concerns, our cumulative opposition don’t effing matter.  Our intuition, subjective knowing, voices, visions, beliefs, meanings, activations, animated and urgent expressions don’t matter.  The massive levels of anxiety and distress don’t matter.   The massive sum and culmination of every diagnosis on the books  - each registered not only visibly publicly to the families, neighbors, organizations and communities that refer us to psychiatry, but also individually, privately, behind closed doors that only the ‘experts’ are allowed to see and address - all don’t matter. 

None of these mechanisms for getting the collective body of human social existence good information about what human society is doing to human beings (not to mention other living beings) matters to psychiatry or the industries that support it one wit.

I can’t live with that.  I think your little vote counts and mine does too.  I hate that we are living this lie, telling each other to boot up and buck up, rewarding each other for doing that and killing everything valuable about living, each other, and the world we live in along with it. 

I suspect many others are out there who feel that way too. I suspect this is a big part of what it means to end up being the kind of person that gets labeled by psychiatry.  I suspect this is a big part of what transforms so many of us from confused compliant pill-popping patients to full-fledged fire-breathing, fiercely-determined anti-psychiatry activists, protestors and survivors. 

Something about the life spirit in us started rebelling against this a long time ago.  Something in us started questioning, resisting, pushing against, insisting, trying to find a better, more livable way.  As a people, as a movement, many of us are tired, beaten down, demoralized from this struggle. 

This principle is for us.  It was written in our honor.  It is dedicated to us and our efforts.  It affirms and advances our collective right to be.  It is about the value, the imperative, the absolute necessity of respecting human diversity.  It’s about the need to sincerely stop, look and question – rather than force compliance – when one of us breaks down.  It’s about trusting, listening to – actively seeking out -  the wisdom inherent on an individual, cellular level. 

It’s about taking seriously the egalitarian, inclusive, belief – inherent in the concept of being ‘peer.’ 
Not as ‘mentally ill’ peers on a recovery journey, but as worthy, respected human peers on a worthwhile, respectable human journey.  

In the former sense, we are tied to the opinions of experts, who substitute their judgments for our own about the value of our insights and truths – and ultimately the value of our lives.  As peers in the latter sense, we are entirely different beings. 

We are human beings, members of a human family.  We all are people of worth with valued insight.  

We all are endowed with reason and conscience uniquely our own.  We are born, each of us, with capacities and perspectives of value that urgently need to be seen and understood by those around us with shared power to affect our relevant worlds. 

As peers in this latter sense, none of us has the right to ‘Trump’ the value or lived experience of another. 

As peers in this latter sense, we give new meaning to ‘peer support.’  We take each other seriously – none of us as The Expert – but all of us as holding needed, valuable expertise.  
We determine to lean into the question of Rodney King, why can’t we all get along? We determine to go forward together, with mutual regard, leaving none of us behind. We determine to accept the challenge of Intentional Peer Support as social change:

 “It’s only working if it works for all of us.”

It stopped working for a lot of us a long time ago.  Perhaps, except in bits or blips, the working for all of us part never really even got started. 

At the same time, in my heart of hearts, I really want it to work for you, not just me.  I also really believe you want it to work for me, not just you.

That, for me, is the beauty of this thing called life.  It’s the beauty of the essential nature of the spirit that makes each of us alive, rather than dead. It says I’m willing to give a lot, sacrifice a tremendous amount.  Just don’t leave me out – don’t leave me behind.  I want me vote to count.  I want my vote to matter. 

It is willing in the voice of Dr. King to say, I may not get there with youOn some level, that’s ok with me.  Painful but ok.  Just so long as you are paying attention.  Listening.  Being aware.  Doing your best do register the heart and soul of what I am trying to communicate here. 
Because more than anything else, I want my existence to matter. I want to make it better for those here now.  I want to make it better for those who come on after.

Like you, like me, our families, neighbors, people across the planet we’ve never even met – like plants, like trees, like everything living on this earth.   - Like the cells in our bodies giving the best they have every day to make the enterprise of us possible - in good faith, even though they don’t particularly enjoy how we are going about it or the effects we are producing…

None of us, anywhere, on any level or dimension, wants our lives to be in vain. 

We all want our existence to express the preciousness of the spirit in us. 

We all know on some level that it is precious or we wouldn’t work so hard to protect it. 

We all want, on some level, living others to be there with us. 

We all want, on some level, to be there on the same page with living others.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so darn painful when we clearly aren’t.   

Questions for Reflection

We are building this work together.  Your lived experience is needed and valued.  It is essential to building our shared knowledge and expertise as a movement.  Please comment on any or all of these questions or in any way that speaks to you personally.

1. What dose it mean to you to have the right to be you...? 
2. How has psychiatry - and the overall psychiatrization of human experience - interfered with that right?   
3. What has it that cost you, those you care about, and psychiatry at large, when others have insisted you be something that you're not?
4. If we took seriously the value and message of human diversity, how could we change the world for the better?
5. What would need to change about how we are relating to ourselves and each other to truly value and respect each other's 'right to be'?
6. I, personally, would like to redefined 'help' from meaning how to get each other to 'make it' based on socially defined standards to 'supporting each other to voice the truth of our experience and to live fully into who we long to be.'  That's what would work for me.  But how about you: How would you redefine help in a way that respects and honors you right to be?  

August 19, 2016:  Conference on Principle 19 

We will talk about Principle 19, including your responses, on August 19 from 9-11  PM EST.  The conference will convene on

To join:

By Phone: (1)267-521-0167

By Internet:

We welcome your participation.  Simply press #1 on your phone to speak with the show hosts.

More details are available at

Post-Conference Reception

Those wishing to continue the discussion after the conference – or to talk informally with others who participated – may join us for the Post-Conference reception.  The reception will start immediately after the conference (11 PM EST) and continue til the wee hours or for as long as there is interest.

To join: 

By phone: (1)331-205-7196 (dial *67 for added privacy)

By internet:

International: Local access numbers available at

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