No New Normal: MLK, President Joe & Green Disability

Today, Monday, 18 January 2021, we celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In two days, we in the USA will have a brand-new President, thankfully. Every morning I listen to a lot of National Public Radio (NPR). With vaccinations increasing, NPR reported that a “new normality” may finally be possible. A few minutes later, an NPR editorialist warned us, as he should, that the surge of white supremacy must not become a “new normal.”

With all this talk about “new normality,” let me tell you something that MLK wrote and spoke about that is often neglected. MLK called for the end of what we call “normality.” This is my 44th year working for human rights of people with disabilities, so I got very interested when I first heard about this incredible historic fact, and dug in for more.

One of the best examples is that MLK brought a written speech with him in August 1963 to the famous, peaceful March on Washington. At the podium, perhaps after expertly sizing up the huge crowd on the Mall in the summer heat, he never gave that longer written speech. MLK instead improvised, partly based on previous speeches, and gave impromptu what is now known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous in US history.

The title of the original speech that MLK did not give was “NORMALCY — NEVER AGAIN.” This typewritten speech, complete with his corrections marked with xxxxxxx, is carefully archived at the Woodruff Library at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Here are some of his words that are most relevant to me today:

1966: MLK marches on the south side of Chicago, through hundreds of racist counter-protestors.

“[W]e will not be beset by the nagging knowledge that this nation owes an abject apology to Lincoln; an apology for going too slow in granting equal rights to all her citizens; an apology for not pushing hard enough in bringing to reality his hopes and dreams; an apology for invoking the evil alibi that ‘this is not the time’ for the hour of freedom to strike.”

King concluded this part of his speech with words that he would often say other placed and are so well put and so important today: “For we know full well that… any time is the time to do the right thing.”

We white USA-born males owe the world an apology for the bigoted folks, mainly white male “citizens,” who are leading the bankrupt ideology of White Supremacy. The best way for us to apologize will be to take action: Black Lives Matter! 

MLK frequently visited the theme of challenging normality. He even called for the creation of a “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.” The nonprofit human rights coalition, MindFreedom International, celebrates this vision of having a real IAACM.

Welcome President Joe, But No New Normal!

With the impending inauguration of a new president, many of us feel great relief. Wonderful. But let us learn a lesson from electing President Barack Obama, who I supported. I feel many of us progressives relaxed and let down our guard during Obama’s eight years. Obama himself encouraged progressives to be more active during his administration, and we should have listened to him. Now we know. This time, let us be on guard, prepared, engaged, and always active.

Chicago, 5 August 1966: Struck on the head by a rock thrown by a group of hecklers, Dr. Martin Luther King falls to one knee. Dr. King regained his feet and led a group of marchers.

I think back about my childhood growing up in the south side of Chicago. White Supremacist racism was rampant in that area, not far from the Nazi headquarters. At the age of nine, I was only a few miles away from where Martin Luther King was struck by a rock or brick on 5 August 1966. 

I later got out of Chicago, went to college and became a community organizer activist for people with mental or physical disabilities. In 1983, I moved to Eugene, Oregon.

I distinctly remember sitting in Monroe Park, not far from downtown Eugene, Oregon. I was reading material written by MLK. He recalled those days on the south side of Chicago, and I remember he remarked about the intense hate he saw in the eyes of white protestors. MLK said that racists in Mississippi could probably learn from Chicago racists! I especially remember, to paraphrase, that MLK said the hate was so great, his hope was that some young people would get out of the south side of Chicago, go to college, and get away from that environment. I was so startled, it felt like he was writing directly to me. 

Perhaps MLK was writing to me, in a sense. Certainly he is speaking to all of us now, that we must never again have “normality.” No normality and no new normality! Ever! Here in our household we even have a little game that you might want to play: Whenever your hear the word “normal” such as on the radio or TV, everyone sneezes or howls. The first to do so “wins.” Let us continue to be allergic to normal or new normal! Why?

Green Disability

Dr. Ellie McCance-Katz, appointed by President Trump to an important mental health position. She resigned in protest 7 January 2021.

On Jan. 7, 2021, the day after the D.C. riots when Trump supporters violently invaded the Capitol, a Trump administration leader for mental health, Elinore McCance‐Katz, M.D., Ph.D., announced her resignation. She had been Trump’s appointed assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Yes, we ought to all applaud her resignation in protest of Trump’s rioters. Here is an excerpt from her recent statement:

“I believe that this behavior was totally unacceptable and, in my own heart, I simply am not able to continue. I believe that we are given certain life situations where we must make the difficult decisions and we get one chance to do it the right way.”

However, for the past four years, under Dr. McCance-Katz’s supervision, SAMHSA has sadly betrayed our values in the movement for empowerment of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. Quietly, SAMHSA has given two major grants, in 2016 and 2020, to dozens of cities and towns around the USA to support more “court-ordered” coerced mental health care of people living in their own homes out in the community. SAMHSA uses the euphemism “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” (AOT) but really the term that legal scholars use objectively is “Involuntary Outpatient Commitment” (IOC). 

Last month, I did a vlog about SAMHSA’s betrayal. You can find my video and transcript here.

We have now made a spreadsheet about grants for outpatient commitment based on SAMHSA’s own public documentation. For more than one year, I requested, unsuccessfully, that SAMHSA supply any reports about the outcome of their support. You may find our spreadsheet about SAMHSA backing of outpatient commitment, as well as a copy of my one year of email dialogue with SAMHSA here:

https://aciu.info/2021/01/17/resources-events-202101-02/

So, Dr. McCance-Katz, we appreciate your service and your resignation after the white supremacist violence, but please do not reapply for your position at SAMHSA! During your time at SAMHSA, millions were found to support IOC, but SAMHSA claimed poverty when it came to supporting the popular annual Alternatives Conference, which since 1985 has provided a way for hundreds and thousands of US mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors to work together. You can read about the history of Alternatives here:

https://www.alternatives-conference.org/our-history

SAMHSA canceled Alternatives and zeroed out funding support. Now the main annual conference is Peerpocalypse, which is sponsored by a State nonprofit here in Oregon, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon. You can find more about Peerpocalypse here:

https://www.mhaoforegon.org/peerpocalypse-main-page

It is no surprise and coincidence that the federal agencies who are supposedly working for our mental well-being, instead use coercion to support “normality” and silence the voices of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. 

SAMHSA is not the only federal mental health agency with a bias toward the old-fashioned medical model approach, and against an empowerment-based model. My friend, psychologist Al Galves, PhD, told me:

My hypothesis is that the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) spends more than 80% of its $1.7 billion each year on studying the brain — neural networks, cells, molecules, neurotransmitters, other chemicals and genetics. This is a big problem because human beings don’t use our brains or our genes to live our lives. We use our minds — our thoughts, feelings (emotions), intentions and perceptions to live our lives. The mind is not the same as the brain.

I have often pondered the way so-called “normal” is hurtling itself towards the cliff of environmental catastrophe. Now I realize that humanity as a whole, with a few exceptions such as many indigenous tribes, has a “Green Disability.” That is, it is irrefutable that generally speaking modern humans are so very out of touch with nature, that we threaten our own extinction. 

There are five new brief free online videos launched from Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama about the role of feedback loops in amplifying the risk of climate crisis. This is why we need immediate and major action, so that seven generations ahead there will still be people and life. Please take a look at these short videos, narrated by Richard Gere:

https://feedbackloopsclimate.com/

Our consulting business, Aciu! Institute, has several events and resources for groups fighting to address “green disability.” For more information, click here:

https://aciu.info/2021/01/17/resources-events-202101-02/

Let Us Celebrate!

We ought to celebrate today and every day for the liberation movements uplifted by MLK. Yes, many of us will certainly celebrate when the current White House occupant is evicted.

But please, no normality or new normality! Whenever you hear the word “normal,” please join our household and howl or sneeze. We all enjoy our game.

Also, seriously, we need to take real, effective action for a global nonviolent revolution. That is anything but “normal.”

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Oaks Vlog #1: Mental Health, Disability & Revolution

David W. Oaks Vlog text:

Mental Health, Disability & Revolution

7 December 2020

Joe Biden’s Federal Mental Health Agencies

I love you. I am David W. Oaks. And I love you if you’re quadriplegic/tetraplegic like me. If you are a psychiatric survivor like me. Or if you’re not any of those.

My friend, the late Justin Dart, Jr. was a leader in disability. He connected mental health and physical disability. He said over and over and over:

“No forced treatment ever!”

And now I think he would say:

“Black Lives Matter!”

I love you whether you’re a relative who’s a Democrat. And I love my relatives who are Republicans. Justin worked with both.

And as Joe Biden becomes President, I encourage his administration to look at federal mental health agencies. Look at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Why don’t they look more at alternatives? Like Peer Support?

And I especially would encourage Joe Biden’s administration, and everyone in the US and the world,to look at the SAMHSA. That stands for the “Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.”

I’ve done this work for 44 years, and for decades SAMHSA was an ally. They supported empowerment, recovery, alternatives.

But under the wonderful Obama, who I support, they began funding cities for involuntary outpatient commitment. This is court-ordered outpatient mental health.

Now this has been going on quietly all over the US, for decades for thousands of Americans. Your home becomes an institution. You’re court-ordered to usually take drugs, powerful drugs.

Sadly, SAMHSA began funding several dozen sites, with millions of dollars. I’ve tried to get information from them.

They refuse.

Please help. Because SAMHSA is refusing to disclose. One year ago, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and they still have not told me anything about these programs, in terms of evaluating. One fact is that black people tend to be in these programs more than white people.

Right now, I chair a subcommittee, for a work group in the Oregon legislature, for the Voice & Inclusion of Oregonians with Lived Experience of the Mental Health System. We are concerned about the way alternatives to police violence, like CAHOOTS here in Eugene, Oregon, need to include the peer perspective, or else they can be a gateway to outpatient commitment.

Last week, we met with a representative of CAHOOTS, and they are interested in the peer perspective. Cities all over the US and Canada are looking at CAHOOTS as a model. Our local Affiliate of MindFreedom, MindFreedom Oregon, is looking at these issues.

Wherever you are in the world, you can create an Affiliate of MindFreedom, like MindFreedom Ghana or MindFreedom Ireland, who are doing great work. Or you can use your group’s name and simply be a Sponsor of MindFreedom by endorsing the principles.

I congratulate the National Council on Independent Living. Their Mental Health Subcommittee has adopted MindFreedom’s Shield campaign. And NCIL plans to reach hundreds of Independent Living Centers about this Shield program.

Today, the climate crisis threatens vulnerable people. COVID is related to climate crisis and the way we treat our environment. For us to live seven generations in the future, we absolutely need a revolution, the sooner the better.

But we will have one.

Please look at SAMHSA.

And Lead On!

Thank you.

I love you all.


David W. Oaks is a Revolutionary Consultant with Aciu! Institute (aciu.info). 

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Peerpocalypse Started Monday, 7/20/2020 until Thursday, 7/23/2020

Updated: 20 July 2:22 pm PST

The main international conference this year for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors will be entirely on Zoom, and it is now all free (unless you want continuing education credits.)

There are so many dozens of wonderful workshops and keynotes, along with a virtual display. There will be participants from all over the world.

Unfortunately, unless you paid and registered (which is now closed), the only way to get links for the workshops is through the workshop presenter themself. Again, now everything is free on Zoom.

I gave this with Christina Peirsol:

Winning Human Rights in Mental Health: Campaign Action Team Support!

Today, Monday, 20 July 2020
2:30 pm – 4 pm CST (12:30 – 2 pm PST)
Register for free first to get the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0ud-mhpzstGNP5imG6nQLR_2T7cy-bNtiT

I am also one of the five keynoters. Because of my communication challenges, my keynote will be a little longer than others, 30 minutes.

Here’s how to listen live directly:

We are the 100%: Mad Pride, Disability & Revolution

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 21 July 2020
1:45 pm – 2:15 pm CST (11:45 am – 12:15 pm PST)
We are currently arranging ASL by Patrick Galasso
Join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85606595030

Here is the description of the whole event from organizers:

PEERPOCALYPSE is a conference of leaders, emerging leaders, innovators, and peers who want to become more involved in the peer community. Adopting the philosophy that peers bring with them a great deal of knowledge and expertise, the event is about bringing the community together to share information, skills, and experience.

Peerpocalypse Link: https://www.mhaoforegon.org/peerpocalypse

If you missed any of the workshop or keynotes, most of this should be recorded and available. Check it out!

Thanks to all the folks who worked so hard to support the empowerment of our people’s voice for all these years with this important annual event, organized out of an office in Portland, Oregon. Aciu!

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Launching Business: Disability, Memorization, Revolution! Ačiū!

Bongo the Cat (recovering from an injury, probably from a fight), myself, and Ian pose with 112 playing cards that I just memorized!

I’ve just gotten some very good news:

After a year-and-a-half of preparation, I am finally about to officially launch my consulting business, Aciu Institute. More about that soon.

Memorizing 112 Cards

Readers of my blog know that I have been working on my memory, in order to prepare for launching my consulting business. Rather than just memorize the order of a deck of playing cards, I have been using a double deck. My home care worker shuffles these decks, and I memorize the order.

When you open a typical Bicycle deck of playing cards, there are of course two jokers (black-and-white & color). There are also a couple of promotional cards. Now I include all of these cards. So yesterday, I memorized a total of 112 cards, and repeated the order back blindfolded & perfectly. This is the 15th time I have memorized a double deck, but the first time I have memorized so many.

I have already blogged about the card memorization and why I have used this approach to help my self-determination despite several profound disabilities.

Rebellion or Revolution?

Like me, perhaps you have been very interested in the new group started in London called Extinction Rebellion. They have used nonviolent civil disobedience to help activate the globe about the climate emergency.

Recently, this past Friday, 24 May 2019, we held a People’s Assembly for Extinction Rebellion here in Eugene, Oregon’s Kesey Square. In my small group, I focused on a theme from Extinction Rebellion: Regenerative Culture.

We in the disability and mental health activism movements have long ago promoted peer mutual support for our wellbeing despite trauma. Now, I would argue that 100% of the public are in the big tent of our movement, because of the climate crisis. Everyone is physically disabled by this emergency. Everyone is traumatized with grief, perhaps so deeply they might not even know it. Yet.

July: Mad Pride Month

One of the clients Aciu Institute is supporting is the local affiliate of MindFreedom International: MindFreedom Oregon. Our regular monthly grassroots meeting will be a week from this Friday, the first Friday of June, 7 June 2019.

MindFreedom Oregon grassroots meeting welcomes you. (TC is upper left, David Oaks is in middle left, Chrissy is in front.) This June 2019 meeting we will try to have it livestreamed online.

Local psychiatric survivor activists TC Dumas & Christina Peirsol will join me in calling for a number of activities during July 2019: Creative Maladjustment Week, speaking with Patch Adams, MD at the 50th Anniversary at the Oregon Country Fair, and finally a free public gathering for the Opal Network.

I believe I will call for us to declare every July from now on to be Mad Pride Month. Sound good? Your feedback and comments are welcome.

If you are interested in attending our MindFreedom Oregon meeting and helping to plan these fun activities, email us at mf-oregon@aciu.info.

Thanks! Ačiū!

The name of my consulting business is Aciu Institute. “Ačiū” is an ancient word in Lithuanian meaning “Thanks.” Thank you, everyone, for supporting me, my rehab, and the launch of this business. Let us have the nonviolent global revolution we need, now! If not now, then when the heck?

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Eco-Crisis Means Disability Movement Must Help Lead Global Revolution, Now!

This year, 2019, is my 43rd year working for human rights in disability. Based on sheer numbers, we are one of the largest social change movements in Earth’s history.

Let us act like it now, and help lead a world-wide revolution.

Sound crazy? Well, the odds are indeed against us. However, this is not a question of what can be done, this is a question of what must be done.

Here are three reasons I feel we must pour our souls into this endeavor, now:

1. Creative Disorder

We in the disability movement are extremely diverse. Some of us reject our diagnoses. Some of us embrace our labels. But all of us have been diagnosed as “disordered.”

When society by any definition seems paralyzed, who you gonna call?

The disability movement! The current individual who occupies the White House identifies himself as a “very stable genius.”

But we need instability right now. And not any kind of instability.

We need creative instability.

Creative Disorder! This is a modernization of a phrase that Martin Luther King used over and over for over a decade. MLK repeatedly said he was proud to be “maladjusted.”

In fact, MLK said the world was in dire need of a new organization, the “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment” (IAACM).

2. Never Again!

Over and over and over again many of us have vowed, “Never Again!” We will never have another Holocaust.

But now scientific experts overwhelmingly warn us that the ecological crisis may wipe out a heartbreaking amount of life and civilization. Humanity keeps heading toward trigger points for positive feedback loops. Dozens of them.

Most recently, scientific studies show that the warming of the oceans may be 40% worse than originally thought. As methane is released from the floor of the ocean, for example, this can lead to more warming, which means more methane, which means more warming, etc.

We are headed toward a wall of cascading chaos. We cannot predict the future exactly, but let us glance at a worst case scenario.

I have made a very rough, unscientific estimate of just the number of human lives at stake.

The life of a species is about one million years. We humans are only through part of that cycle. Basing my estimates on the “carrying capacity” that many have estimated, along with the number of generations yet to come, etc.

Adding this all up, just focusing on human life, I get an incredibly large number.

By coincidence, this number is six million squared. In other words, for each person lost in this six million estimate, there is another six million.

This is the Holocaust Squared. That is the human cost that I estimate is at risk. Not even addressing all the animal and plant life at risk.

3. Extinction Rebellion

My hats off to you for being a leader in the coming global revolution.

For example, I have been active with the group 350.org. I am gratified to see Our Children’s Trust continues to fight for the future. There are many other groups.

There are a couple of organizations that I have only recently found out about, are very promising for a global revolution. Everything that I have seen so far is positive.

First, there is a group that started recently in London with non-violent civil disobedience that shut down several bridges, and is going international, Extinction Rebellion.

Second, today, 15 January 2019, is a kickoff date for a national Earth Strike. There are several more dates over the next few months, leading up to 27 September 2019, Earth Strike! Check it out.

Disability Leadership Needed Now!

In the comments below, I would love to hear your reactions and suggestions. I know revolution is difficult. The first question I often hear is “what kind of revolution?” But even talking about the topic is helpful.

And I feel, that no matter what the odds are, hearing that folks are positive Revolutionaries may help us maladjust to our collective trauma, creatively.

And we are all, 100%, traumatized today. All of us, 100%, are now the Creative Disabled!

Let’s roll!

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Double Deck Memorization by David W. Oaks, Perfectly! But Why? Go Extinction Rebellion!

Update 12 April 2019: Here is a brief video by my good buddy David Zupan from Summer of 2018 showing me, David Oaks, perfectly memorizing the order of two shuffled decks of cards (108 cards counting the jokers). As of April 2019, I have done this nine times perfectly, faster and faster. But why?

For one thing, even those of us with extreme disabilities have something to offer. I love this new group Extinction Rebellion, which uses peaceful direct action to resist the climate crisis. They call for global rebellion this Monday, 15 April 2019. Here is XR’s international website.

A few years ago, a blind friend asked me, “Don’t those of us with major disabilities just hurt the environment?” We are part of one of the biggest movements on Earth. Let us help wake up humanity about the value of supportive community, especially when facing overwhelm. Especially now!

Below this video is a blog entry after one my earliest memorizations about why I do this:

 

5 September 2018

by David W. Oaks

Memorizing Two Decks of Cards: Why?

Excellent home care worker, Ian, poses by our grape arbor with two decks of cards and double-deck memorizer, me, David W. Oaks.

Excellent home care worker, Ian, poses by our grape arbor with two decks of cards and double-deck memorizer, me, David W. Oaks. So, counting the four Jokers in the deck, here are a total of six Jokers!

This morning, one of my main home care workers, Ian, shuffled two decks of cards together a few times and then cut them. Each deck has the usual 52 cards, plus Jokers in both black-and-white and color. So the total number of cards is 108.

Ian laid out 18 at a time, and I memorized their order. He did this six times.

Without looking at the cards again, I then recited all 108 cards, the entire two decks, in the same order, from memory. Ian carefully validated this and my accuracy.

Perfect!

Why?

Extreme Disability and the Mind

As my blog readers know, back in 2012 I experienced a severe accident which not only led to me being a quad (tetraplegic) in a power chair, but because of complications I have an impaired voice and no use of my fingers.

Because my mom taught to type when I was about 12, my typing speed was faster than 110 words per minute. Before my accident, I professionally spoke in a dozen nations about human rights and mental health. In my “big picture” planning, which I enjoyed, I loved to sketch big notes on huge pieces of paper.

Now, I realize I need to use my mind, rather than notes, typing, speeches, etc. So I learned to memorize a deck of cards. My understanding is that all of us deck-memorizers use the same ancient memory technique known as the memory palace. I memorized a single deck perfectly about 15 times.

But I wanted to do more. After a few attempts with errors, today I memorized two decks combined.

But We Humans Know So Little!

Sure, I can memorize two decks of cards, but I am reminded of something: The best of current science — whether it is complexity theory, quantum, string theory, dark matter, dark energy — tells us over and over that we humans hardly have any grip on reality, at all.

We are all crazy and mentally disabled, by any definition. Our choice is to be positively crazy or destructively demented.

I hope we all make the best choice. And today, with my amazing wife Debra, we celebrate.

Hey, I just memorized two decks of cards, perfectly!

Because We Know So Little, Let’s Support Each Other!

Yes, I have several physical challenges but my cognitive abilities appear to be fairly intact, I think.

But even if you have major cognitive disabilities, or your loved one is even in a coma, everyone and everything deserve dignity and respect! This week, with the help of Vocational Rehabilitation, I worked with a great business expert, Scott Weaver, to create a business plan, consulting, Aciu Institute.

May I use any cognitive skills, and my awareness of our extreme humility, to help this for-profit benefit our community. May we all launch a revolution to challenge the “normality” of climate crisis!

Please leave your comments on this blog, of any kind, so I know you are out there.

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