Poison Spreads — Creative Maladjustment is the Antidote! 01/14/2013Posted by ALT in Activism, Patient Rights and Advocacy, Philosophy/Spirituality.
Tags: creative malajdustment, human being, human rights, injustice, John Taylor Gatto, Jr., Martin Luther King, mental health
On September 1, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. was invited to give a Distinguished Address to the American Psychological Association. The speech was in proofs for publication in the Journal of Social Issues when King was assassinated less than a year later.
[Read full speech here.]
“Our struggle for human freedom and dignity”
This was how Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to his work.
That struggle hasn’t ended!
Human dignity is trampled with every instance of dehumanization. Institutions (like public schools and the mental health system) are inherently dehumanizing, because they expect humans to behave like machines.
Human intelligence and thought are reduced down to standardized test scores. Human behavior is reduced down to the physical interplay between neurotransmitters (and perhaps a few “bad genes” as well), and subsequently blasted into oblivion with harsh chemical interventions.
What does it mean to be human? Humans are flesh and blood, soul and spirit – not machines. Humans have emotions and feelings. They have agency. Unlike a computer program, which has no choice but to follow each and every command given – even a command to self destruct – a human has free will, and can exercise it in his own interest (whatever that may be).
Beware anyone who tells you that a human – or any part contained therein – is a machine.
Poisoned to its soul
“White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism,” says King. “All too many white Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions – the Negro himself.”
Transpose these words to the current state of mental health care in our society, and see the astounding insight here. Psychiatry is poisoned to its very soul – most of the self-proclaimed “soul healers” have abandoned their connection to the soul entirely, opting instead for the biochemical model of mental and emotional distress. And most of the treatments they offer are – literally – brain disabling, poisonous.
How many more stories do we need to hear of triumph over psychiatric adversity – of painstaking years spent withdrawing from medications that, in the long term, made distress chronic, and can bring with them a host of adverse effects far worse than the original distress – before we’ve heard enough? As inspiring as it is to hear about resilience and recovery, I anxiously await the day when there are no more stories like this to tell. When trauma is not a necessary part of each and every individual’s initiation into this society.
It gets worse. You see, poison spreads.
Did you think it could be compartmentalized? It cannot.
American society needs to understand that it is poisoned to its very soul – toxins in our environment, in our food, our water. Toxic consumerism, greed, and waste. Glamorized violence and a worship of death permeating every aspect of our culture.
Most of all, the poison of dehumanization – everywhere.
Nearly every human being, for the first 18 years of his life, is sentenced to serve time in a dehumanizing institution that is practically indistinguishable from a prison.
What do we teach in our schools today? How to read uncritically, how to ask only the questions written in the discussion section at the end of the chapter, how to assign only the meanings we are supposed to assign. In general, how to be remarkably incurious about many topics in history, science, economics, mathematics, etc.
But these are really secondary. Here are the primary lessons:
How to rank by numbers. How to judge, badger, and bully your fellow man.
How it feels to be constantly surveilled, subjected to random drug tests and unwarranted searches, how to grovel before police dogs and armed guards.
This is only the beginning. It goes on, through adult life. Especially for the unfortunates who live out their adult lives with institutions like the mental health system, the justice system, the social services system, etc. watching their every move.
And we as a society are horrified, not by the conditions of institutionalized life, but by its products: dehumanized, distressed individuals who are angry, and rightfully so!
Here is how King’s speech ended:
There are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence… And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
“Maladjustment” may not be a popular word these days. It is said that Adam Lanza was “maladjusted.”
But society has also judged as “maladjusted” people like Sandy Loranger, a Santa Cruz woman who went to jail for feeding soup to homeless people. When the judge offered her counseling instead of jail Sandy Loranger replied, “If feeding my fellow man is a crime, I am beyond rehabilitation.”
People like David Oaks and Mary Ellen Copeland, who started talking about real, long-lasting, stable, unmedicated recoveries from so-called schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, long before it was even considered scientifically possible.
People like Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, who knew that poison spreads and that injustice cannot be compartmentalized.
As I looked at what this war [Vietnam] was doing to our nation… I found it necessary to speak vigorously out against it. There are those who tell me that I should stick with civil rights, and stay in my place. I can only respond that I have fought too hard and long to end segregated public accommodations to segregate my own moral concerns. It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…
On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?!’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience must ask the question, ‘Is it right?!’ And there comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right. And that is where I find myself today.
Taking a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but RIGHT: this is the kind of positive creative maladjustment we’re talking about.
Taking a stand for human dignity. A stand for humanity.
Are we ready enough – are we “crazy” enough – to take on, in a peaceful loving creative way – what is called “normal”?