This is Day 8 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 8.
Principle 8 reads in full as follows:
We oppose the psychiatric system because it is an extralegal parallel police force which suppresses cultural and political dissent.
Basic RationaleWe are supposed to be a society of written laws. The law is supposed to come from us all as a people. We are supposed to agree in advance what the law is. Law is supposed to reflect what is good and right for our relationships with each other. Only stuff that is bad enough, wrong enough, harmful enough to everyone's interests is to supposed to be anyone's business but your own.
The role of police is supposed to be limited. Police are supposed to police the law. The law is supposed to to be written down. Police are supposed to compare what you do with what is on the page. The rules on the page are supposed to rule the day.
We are not supposed to be a nation of big Kings or petty ones. No one is supposed to be able to issue edicts willy, nilly. Getting locked up, shot up, tied down or put away is not supposed to be a matter of opinion. It's not supposed to happen because someone doesn't like you. It's not supposed to happen because we disagree.
Fundamental rights, basic freedoms - speech, opinion, belief and the right to be let alone - are supposed to be for all of us. They're not supposed to be a matter of popularity. They're not supposed to be a matter of class or occupation. They're not supposed to change from person to person, over night, or get made up by someone with power as they go along. The little guy is supposed to have as much of a right to speak their mind, or peaceably, lawfully do their own thing as the college professor, the corporate executive or the President.
You might own a gun. You might have a loud voice. You might do stuff your neighbors call strange. You might spend too much money, take too much time, be too quiet or outrageous. Even so, the remedy is supposed to be law.
The law is supposed to determine the point at which your life becomes my business. Otherwise, it is not. Your education, license, degree are't supposed to matter one iota. You may have all the expertise in the world, but I still have a right to my stupid opinion.
Psychiatry turns all of these rules on their head. I'm hard to live with, hard to live next to, express my truth in uncomfortable ways. You don't like the way I dress, present myself, talk or smell. To your way of thinking, my home, my yard, my lifestyle, existence has become a public nuisance and deserves to be condemned...
No problem just call 911.
Enter extra-legal public health. Enter the parallel police. Enter social sanitation. In psychiatry, all these things matter. The opinions of family, neighbors, community are paramount. Other people's judgment, values, insights, assessments all take precedence over one's own. No need to trouble with writing it out in advance. No need for elections, processes, votes.
It's hardly surprising the profession has gotten so popular. The response is nothing short of addictive. What other arm of government gets results for you like this? Just collect a couple reports from family or neighbors and wave the wand of expert judgment. Poof, a diagnosis appears! Like magic!, the bunny goes into the hat. Like magic!, the problem vanishes. No more blight, burden or butthead to deal with.
Every other social remedy pales by comparison. It's exactly like the Emperors of old - and equally lacking in recourse. Someone violates the social sentiment and disappears into dungeons dark. The only way to get out is to present the appearance of reform - confess your crime, pledge allegiance, press the delete button on lack of sensibility. What ever page you were on before, make sure it gets written out of history.
Where else but psychiatry can you vindicate popular prejudice so swiftly, so effectively - so thoroughly without consequence for informants and enforcers alike?
The irony of it all is that, in the process, we're deleting our own future. In the name of sanitation, we are killing off the best that humanity has to offer. We poisoning the very capacities that make social progress possible.
The long and the short of it is this: Everything we build with bricks of arbitrary power, is another brick we throw at rationality and reason. A necessary step on the road to wisdom, reason assures that we learn about life. We try something out, it works or it doesn't. Cause and effect register their concerns. We notice, draw conclusions, and move on more informed.
Psychiatry all but kills this process. It all but ensures that only one outcome matters. Group think, group belonging, is enough, that is all. Don't think for yourself, don't leave the box. Popularity is paramount, just do what they say. This is already the way that politics works. Do we really need to make this the law of the land?
The other casualty of psychiatry is the death of our conscience. At its best, human conscience is about values and having them, priorities and weighing them, convictions and living them. In psychiatry, there is no need or room for human conscience. Someone else always decides. The conscientious act, from the viewpoint of the industry is to authorize someone else to exercise your conscience for you.
The message here is abundantly clear: Authority knows best. Listen, follow, obey. Don't question, don't think for yourself, don't explore or trust your judgment - if you know what is good for you. Don't risk disagreement, don't dare stand up for what you think. You will regret it.
Those are pretty much the unspoken rules that we're living in America today. We've ceded to the institutional bullies - like law enforcement, psychiatry and top-down managers - the most vital aspects of our humanity. Individually, collectively, we've surrendered to oppressive others the very best of what makes us human.
On one level it's really not our fault. We did it because they demanded it. They threatened us, and bellies up we laid down.
On the other hand, the results pretty much speak for themselves. We're getting about the outcomes you'd expect, given who we've left in charge. Violence and violations are rampant. Few and far between are the voices that dare to oppose it.
It's going to get worse, until it gets better. We have to dismantle the parallel police. We have to give as much regard to the values - and laws - that uphold diversity as we do to those that enforce conformity. We have to hold outlier drifters in as high regard - and value their contributions as as necessary and potentially wise - as those of the common, grass-munching herd.
So, have you herd? Yes, we have herd - an abundance of herd. But, now it's high time for something that is mostly unherd. It's high time we looked up and saw the fence between us for the arbitrary customary dividing line that it is. It's time we took the risk, a little at a time, to make a beginning of standing on each other's sides. It's time we started to explore, a little at a time, the rich pastures possible when we look through the lenses of reason and conscience, and decide to support this for all people everywhere...
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. Have you ever experienced the voice-suppressing outcomes of psychiatry?
2. What would you like others of conscience to know about your experience?
3. When you think of yourself in the worst of it, how were you able to hold on to your sense of your own humanity?
4. Think of a time when you felt your reasoning capacities were at their best. What supported that and how did that compare with your experience of psychiatry?
5. Think of a time when you stood up for something you believed in. Why did you do it, and what enabled you to?
6. If we really wanted to develop our collective capacity to reason and learn from experience, what changes would we need to make as a society?
7. If we wanted people in our communities to live their highest values, what attitudes and supports would need to be in place?