I was recently in Boston attending the World Hearing Voices Congress, thanks to a scholarship. I was there the same time as the Alt-Right rally at Boston Common. I met some cool people and laughed at the weedy Alt Right congregation vastly outnumbered by counter protesters. The fascists kept whining about their Freedom of Speech being denied at the face of protesters. Freedom of Speech means you can criticise your government safely. If fascists are allowed to speak, then the counter protesters are free to disagree. This idea around freedom of speech has direct links to psychiatry and madness. Although I don’t believe in Thomas Szasz’s political stance, there is a quote of his I concur with: ‘When a man says that he is Jesus or Napoleon, or that the Martians are after him, or claims something else that seems outrageous to common sense, he is labeled psychotic and locked up in a madhouse. Freedom of speech is only for normal people.’
Normal people, nowadays, are acting outrageous to common sense. Look at Trump’s election, for example. But if it suits those in financial or political power, then it is freedom of speech.
The other similarity between what is happening in situations of racism in Charlottesville to those of us deemed mad is that our word is seen as less than and I hear the term ‘take responsibility’ used a lot in both settings. Racists tell people of colour to take responsibility of their lives despite deep-seated disparity and oppression. But the racist whites won’t take responsibility of their historical privilege. Someone put up a tweet that summed it all: Racist White Person: ‘I didn’t keep slaves, that was a long time ago, I am not responsible for that.’ Black person: ‘Then pull down the statues of slave-owners’. Racist White Person: ‘Now hold on…’
The intersectionalities of our experiences are different and cannot be boxed together. But that term ‘Take Responsibility’ keeps cropping up in psychiatry too, when mental health professionals have run out of things to say.
We are often told: Take Responsibility
It’s hard to take responsibility for people hating me
It hard to take responsibility for this government’s devastation
Of so many disabled people’s lives.
It’s hard to take responsibility for my poverty, my lack of future,
Or for the sharpening of a thousand knives.
May I ask:
If you will take responsibility for the millions tortured and killed by psychiatry?
For Action T5, for the forced sterilisations, for all that physical pain?
Will you take responsibility for ignoring people’s traumas and then forcing medication down their throats again and again and again?
Will you take responsibility for ECTing people’s best memories and dreams away?
Will you take responsibility for the dead choking and gagging under control and restraint?
Will you take responsibility for taking people’s liberty, but not their poverty, discrimination or loneliness a diagnosis loves to provide?
Will you take responsibility for turning on the answerphone for people’s desperate calls for help?
Will you take responsibility for adding more trauma to the already broken camel’s back?
Will you take responsibility for your colleagues’ benefit assessment that starves people and points the road to suicide?
Will you take responsibility that your profession has put beautiful people in the ground – I can count at least three of those as friends.
Well, will you?
Our freedom of speech is caged before it’s even left our mouths.