Thursday, October 16, 2014

Simchat Torah Thoughts: We have met the enemy and he/she/it is us

It seems to me there is a tendency to project onto the psychiatric establishment, multi-national pharmaceuticals etc etc our shadow stuff...that they are the “baddies” who pathologise deviance and attempt to control the symptoms of deviance with money making drugs administered by a hierarchical system which has the power as gate keepers to define the sane, with all its attendant privileges, and the insane, with all its powerlessness and exclusion.

But this conceptualisation of “the problem” seems to me to be as futile as the war on drugs was futile when it ignored the demand side and only went after the supply side. There is no point in trying to get rid of Afghan growers or Jihadist drug networks or Mexican cartels when you have huge urban markets that demand recreational matter how many producers and distributors are removed, new ones arise to take their place because their is a lucrative demand for the product. In the same way we create the demand that our appointed agents – doctors, psychiatrists, carerers, police – remove significant deviance (illness, old age, madness, dysfunction, criminality, extreme poverty) to the periphery of our vision. When we have soccer world cups we drive all the beggars and homeless people out of town, so as not to stain the eys of tourists with our city's blemishes. When we have V8 motor car races in Australia, we take the animal emblazoned on our coat of arms - the kangeroo - and shoot any of them that may possibly wonder onto the track and stop the mad racing around asphalt which is done in the name of entertainment and distraction.

We – you and I and pretty much everyone - collectively create and maintain the conditions for closed mental wards. In the same way as we banish abattoirs and land fill and sewage farms to the peripheries of our cities, to keep the under belly of our so-called civilization hidden from ourselves, so we banish our “criminals” to jails, our toxic waste to poor developing countries, and our insane to locked wards. As with the butterfly affect, there is a direct link between the numbed out signature which ends most commodified interactions in Australia (“have a nice day”) and the collective hiding from ourselves which gathers like a cloud of numbing anxiety and depression over large swathes of the Australian human landscape (and any other over developed society). 

It is our collective fear of significant deviance and diversity that creates police forces and psychiatrists. We give them permission to act as our agents, they do not derive their power from anything other than the collective permission we grant them to keep us safe by removing significant deviance from the public realm where we may encounter it and where it may unsettle our already tenuous hold on our own sense of ok-ness. Not only do we allow police to criminalize dysfunction, and psychiatrists and psychologists to pathologize otherness, we task them with doing this. They are no more complicit than we are. So let the work of integration begin with me...bring the killing fields, slaughter houses and locked wards back home, into my house. After all, my house is large, and has many rooms.