Mad Studies: Setting the Tone
“…Ive written and published such and such, blah blah blah…. It would be very valuable to me personally to be a part of the Mad Studies course as it would provide me with important opportunities to bring together my collected thoughts on mental health and continue to be a part of a vibrant critical mental health movement.
I feel that I could bring to the programme my lived experiences as someone who has contended the psychiatric system as it is and as someone who is angry about the injustices which are recreated in culture and through pernicious myths. I would also bring to the programme scholarly skills, research experience and my passion for analysing complex problems relating to how people’s behaviours are perceived and to institutionalised structural violence.”
This is the tail end of the personal statement I made to get on the Mad Studies MSC course which Queen Margaret University are running; the first in the world I am led to believe and a part of the current frontier on the horizon of critical psychiatry field as it unfurls and opens up.
Being aware of the nature of the course and as someone without formal academic qualifications getting this personal statement right has been very important. Language matters, the words matter; sticks and stones may break my bones but names encourage people to hurt me. The uses of the word ‘mad’ I contend with. It is a word that is loaded and used as a weapon, a word that condemns people to pre-conception even in the face of alternative evidence.
[Taken From: Fiske S. T. (2012). Warmth and Competence: Stereotype Content Issues for Clinicians and Researchers. Canadian psychology = Psychologie canadienne, 53(1), 14–20. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026054]
Flat pack ready made identities that create in people automated behaviours which they are not fully aware they are acting out. Specifically my aim is to inform the use of this word in context with myself as I create my own narrative in relation to 21st century reinventions of medieval myths and ways of being – new wine in old bottles which intoxicate clear and present thinking.
Mad studies means to me anger, an emotional reaction in response to injustices. My approach is to be taken from the stand point that equity is the highest principle of the law and that the law refers to a system of establishing shared values to settle disputes. I am mad-angry because of the lack of equity-equality which is forged into the load bearing structures of our society in how people are met when something ails them.
In particular, how rubric bound medical systems have come to negate the voices, knowledge and experience of people who are perceived to be the targets of the dominant medical system. I believe and have gathered evidences of these inequalities to buttress against a mythology of what I see as primitive accounts of and charters of action against people who have been traumatized by the way they have been treated by other human beings – by the apparatus of other human beings.
It boils down to inequality of treatment – how one person is being treated unequally to another, which is against the law and contravenes the human rights of certain individuals. I take no fixed position on matters of the wellbeing of mind and emotion and think it is problematic to do so. If we are not open to new information or to exploring perspectives which don’t accord with our own, we are set adrift from the tools which help us navigate complexity.
There is something important to be found in the accumulated information of the medical model of mental ailment – there is little doubt that mercury poisoning for example, does affect psychological wellbeing -; and there is something equally important to be found in the social model of mental ailment – there is no doubt that bullying affects mental wellbeing. There are no categoricals that hold true on close scrutiny. Exposure to mercury disrupts the normal functioning of the nervous system. How do we bridge the gap in which utilitarian decision making conveniently absolves the quest to respond in complex ways to complex situations ?
Information taken from the Material Data Safety Sheet on THIOMERSAL (www.oxfordlabfinechem.com/msds/(T-08895)%20THIOMERSAL%20(Extra%20Pure).pdf). Thiomersal has been used in medicines which large populations have been exposed to: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiomersal
This systems problem is only getting more present in our increasingly automated, centrally organised societies. Camps form and people feel compelled to agree with a sub prime, pre-packed position which is the yield of organisational structures manufacturing consent. I say primitive responses as the systems which compel people through flow charts of enactments which are dressed as choices are lacking evolutionary mechanisms – that is, the capacity to learn and respond to instances which do not fit with circumstance; the organisations which humans have created are lolling strandbeests.
People are locked into policies and peer group responses that are failing to take on new information and act in ways that represent their experience and knowledge. We are lacking the skills and practices that help us act appropriately in spaces of dissonance – where there are disagreements. Does this come from a sub prime political system or does the political system (policy system) represent a failure to embody a culture which represents real world diversity ? These are some of the philosophical roots I am mapping.
And what is to be explored in cultural reactions to emotional expressions ? The subjective existence seems belittled to the rhetoric of scientific rationalism which pervade the secular frameworks that hog the limelight; the individual experience has become problematically devalued as unreliable. Centre stage is the ‘rational being’ which maximises economic profit for the self, but this fiction – creation – does not map even to the financial wheeler dealers of the stock market which opine for a ‘share holder democracy’; when closely examined this is a misnomer of human existence however our society penalises those who are economically impoverished or socially oriented retracting from them the means to be the social mammals they are, or withdrawing also the means to economically sustain themselves.
For many emotional and psychological reactions to being marginalized, brutalized and financially impoverished are met with powerful, debilitating and life-shortening drugs but only those which come via the prescription pad are promoted when alternatives like cannabis are met with criminalisation predominantly in populations which cannot afford representation in a court of law. Mention some natural molecule which cannot be patented and we are met with the shunning silence of specious orthodoxy.
The questioning of prescription drugs by individuals outside of medical ordination is met with the double whammy of the M’Naghten effect (i.e. the individual is written not competent to know reality) and the professional enclosure of medicine for the most privileged which dates back to the cruel enclosures of the Elizabethan Statute of Artificers (so called the statute of apprentices by Adam Smith).
Atiyah, P. S. (2000). TheRise and Fall of Freedom of Contract. Oxford: Clarendon Press. page 67-68
Locked out of the development of medicine ranks of people have been excluded from representing knowledge which is falsifiable (testable) and vital to the healing arts. Intellectual property, through the granting of monopoly rights, has perpetrated a horrendous stunting of collective capability which we are yet to arrive at appropriate correctives to. Narrow economics and corporate medicine which amount to financialism continue in their golem like effect to shape how the well intentioned practice their listening skills – the ‘investment world’ calls intellectual property ‘the valley of death’ and this mechanism to means continues to dominate what invention and innovation, and ultimately what practices come to availability.
Rai, Arti Reichman, Jerome Uhlir, Paul Crossman, Colin, (2021), Pathways Across the Valley of Death: Novel Intellectual Property Strategies for Accelerated Drug Discovery, Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics
In psychiatry we seem no collectively further forward than tautological accounts of wellbeing – ‘they’ are psychologically incompetent because ‘they’ have a biochemical imbalance in the brain; however we are offered no integrated account of what a biochemical balance looks like next to norms or necessarily how to achieve it. Counterbalancing this is the perspective that ‘it’ is all psychologically based but this as a fixed position takes no account of an aberrant food chain or toxic environment that disrupts neurotransmitter systems, endocrine function and physiological well being.
Wilson, B., (2009), Swindled; The Dark History Of Food Fraud, From Poisoned Candy To Counterfeit Coffee. Princeton University Press. Preface
Take for example organophosphates which were used as nerve gases in war and post war put on crops to kill insect life and boost yield. When raised as a valid issue I am denoted ‘conspiratorial’ and out of touch with reality despite citing peer reviewed science. When opioids and petrochemicals are added to foodstuffs and are known to interrupt and change normative neurological functioning triggering cravings and affective disorders, nobody wants to know; the doctors incline towards taking about positive psychology, anything but engaging the problems.
Von, H. F. A. (2020). The chemical age: How chemists fought famine and disease, killed millions, and changed our relationship with the earth.
Hajime Hirata, Soushi Sonoda, Shun Agui, Mariko Yoshida, Kousaku Ohinata, Masaaki Yoshikawa, Rubiscolin-6, a δ opioid peptide derived from spinach Rubisco, has anxiolytic effect via activating σ1 and dopamine D1 receptors, Peptides, Volume 28, Issue 10, 2007, Pages 1998-2003, ISSN 0196-9781, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.peptides.2007.07.024.
There is always room made for talking about the euphemistic, jingoistic ‘positives’ but not about the crippling poverties of a toxic society. I’m angry about the theoretical eradication, Meno’s arrow used to split the pains and traumas visited on individuals; I’m angry about the eternal Disney picture playing through the policy mind hive like and magnetic with is weighted structure. I’m tired and emotional about the sub legal behaviours of predatory human beings – I’m angry about love and those things done in its the name.
I’m mad about the devaluation of the elders whose voice and wealth sink below the blanket used to waterboard them with euphemistic utilitarianism; a use of ‘care’ which silences and dementalizes. The dissonant aversion to negotiate the fact that the planets apex predator – homo sapiens – does indeed turn on itself in cannibal cultures like it does to all other forms of life.
The denuded natural world is instrumentally reduced turning all to foodstuffs or yoked as pleasure toys or erased. This is unacknowledged as my grief is, but I am called mad and problematic for raising this – the grief is laughed off as not serious. I am inferred dangerous for being made precarious by tax haven classes and dispossession from birth rites. I am stowed in a silence because I raise such issues when I am asked about what pains me.
Shaxson, N. (2016). Treasure islands: Tax havens and the men who stole the world. London: Vintage. Page 11
What gets labelled mental illness is the faceless other which acts like a dark night on to which fears and hopes are projected; these labels carry scientific myths of the void which causes such discomfort as we stare back out of the darkness like badgers blamed for infection rather than the insane – unhealthy – living conditions that the homo domesticus has been confined to. The rich talk to the rich and listen to the poor but hear the rich. Born into inequity the heteronormative chip holders, bound by their psychological bents of sympathetic magic, create their circuses and get the hungry stirred to fighting others for their exceptionalisation.
The brutalities of competition are rewarded and cooperative stability is asset stripped, trauma bonding the last one standing to the exceptionalised instance given out by solipsistic war-horny Cesar cyphers drunk on their own cabals. No I don’t want to fight. I don’t want any more violence; I want peace, I want to be left alone in my difference, to be….
The small brutalities bound up in a deference-dominance culture feeding back into itself erase the small pleasures that texture the life worth observing leaving CAD like town planners architectural visions, a bleak highly glossed future picture designed in their silicon computers painfully assembled by hungry children’s hands and short spanned adults who cluck the mantra that they could have less – it could be worse…
All this stowed inside human relationships, the architects of structural violence and the Janus door of contentment. Shining in the sexual prerogative of an image of man – man who is a fiction, man who is self awarding privilege, man who has been painted warlike by some toffs bored itch to try socially engineering. No, not that inheritance do I want for its toxic thrills. Matched in its shadow cast the cult of true womanhood and its homage lip service shores up power structures, Hobbesian golems recreating its pathogenic utterances.
I am deemed mad not to be party to this. The choice to leave and live outside the citadel where sustenance is stored and allocated – no basic income, no land to farm or forage, the automated system issues forth; not without prostrating yourself, taking the drug intoxication spilled forth, and performing your traumas for a perpetual paperwork machine which bankrolls protected salaries do you get your crumbs.
Asylum; grant me asylum, I call to the weather, the rain, the re-configured homelessness, for I am stateless defacto. And all this I must retain, hold within, along with the case studies of adult bullying, exploitative bargaining, the peace shilling carved from melting ice caps, the instrumentalizations, the deracination, the cruelties called kindnesses, the gladiatorial sortings, and my waning physical health…
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write.
I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’ So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’”
This speaks to me but it is on the TV; it is a fiction drawn from people’s lives and leased back to us. If we say it we are placed in such a world, and so I climb inside the computer and its castrated wilderness bit by bit for digital equivalents of grouse moors and sheep farms which leave barren places of gross abundance, monetized, fucking monetized as we become the self loading cargo of the dopamine farms. The digital future now like the world, a part of a hanging balance swaying and staggering to tipping points.
What malformed tempest keeps us on this island as we stare out from the stomachs of the golems unsated searching for the origin messages placed in their mouths ? I mark these notes to purpose a record of how I go into this Masters of Science on Mad Studies as there was no space in the digitized bureaucratic process to record what it means to me.
I go into the institution with hope there will be somewhere to make an account beyond the rubric. We are a people divided from our selves – estranged from our authentic possibilities – betrayed by the response to our emotions sprung up from pain and occurrence, crazed by a hunger that regular bread and nurture largely fix, maligned for taking soothing draughts of forgetfulness and shattered that the unintended consequences are borne in our very own actions. What do I know ?
This is an extended version of the article written for Asylum Magazine which includes some reference material for the provocations