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 places 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 ten, 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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For a Well Mind, Try Revolution? Creative Maladjustment Week 2015

In the Oregon Country Fair, you will find a number of us who work for social change in the Community Village. (Photo by mylerdude via Flickr.)

In the Oregon Country Fair, you will find a number of us who work for social change in the Community Village. (Photo by mylerdude via Flickr.)

Your mental wellness requires a global revolution. In fact, your physical wellness requires one, too.

For many years, I have noticed that there are people doing good social change work for mild reform. That is nice, but during my work in what we affectionately call the “mad movement,” I have often called for revolution, because the change we need is so big! Please do not misunderstand me, we need to attempt a peaceful revolution, which I do not think has been adequately tried; however, I am not a pacifist.

How do you know that a revolution has started? How does it feel? Maybe one has started but we did not get the memo? Or maybe you will start one? What is the connection between peaceful, nonviolent revolution and violent revolution, if any?

Given global warming, inequality, and so many other problems such as bee colony collapse, etc., etc., most people I talk with agree that there needs to be a revolution. My amazing wife, Debra, has helped name our revolution “Love Earth Revolution,” and maybe your name for this revolt is different?

It seems that whenever I hear about big problems in the world, the person concludes by saying that we know what needs to be done, we have the technology, a solution is affordable, but we need to act urgently and the main question is, “Do we have the collective will?”

There is a moral paralysis that blocks necessary revolution. Even Pope Francis is calling for a revolution because of global warming and poverty!

Hmmm, paralysis, seems like I might have some tips about that subject, in fact, maybe the disability movement might be able to help? Many other social change movements have also called for a nonviolent revolution.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his speeches and essays for about a decade that we all needed to be “creatively maladjusted” to oppression. In fact, he said that the future of the world lay in the hands of the “creatively maladjusted.” MLK said that we are in dire need of a new organization that he called, “International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.” Because this was an obvious reference to NAACP, many in his audiences would laugh, but there is a very serious side here.

As many readers of this blog know, a few years ago, the mental health activist group MindFreedom launched Creative Maladjustment Week to help make MLK’s vision real. Tomorrow, July 7,  is the start of this year’s CM week. Each day has been given a theme which you can read below:

7 July – Day of Creativity

8 July – Day of Action & Movement

9 July – Day of Laughter & Joyful Noise

10 July – Day of Kindness: This Friday, by the way, I will celebrate out at the Oregon Country Fair. The honorary chair of the IAACM has long been the real Patch Adams. Patch will speak at the Front Porch at 1:00 PM, however, we hear that he will be at the Community Village stage at 5:00 PM to kindly address creative maladjustment. Folk singer David Rogers will do a sign-along of the ancient freedom rebellion song, The Thoughts Are Free!

11 July – Day of Self Care

12 July – Day of Community Care

13 July – Legacy of Lunacy

14 July – Day of PRIDE: This is also Bastille Day and for decades, psychiatric survivors have used this day for international protest about changing the mental health system. When the revolution in France overthrew the Bastille, a psychiatric survivor was in there!

Your Leadership is Needed!

We know that leadership is best when it is near equal and everyone is a leader! This leaderful approach is known as a horizontal approach. That means you are in charge of creative maladjustment week, if you choose to! As long as your activity is in sync with the values of MLK, the sky is the limit.

Tomorrow, July 7, which this year happens to be a Tuesday, what will be your creative act of maladjustment to the seeming moral paralysis that is holding us back?

You may leave your answers on this blog’s comment area below. Or, if you are on Facebook, please search for our FB page https://www.facebook.com/IAACM , and you can leave your ideas there.

MindFreedom set up a webpage to promote Creative Maladjustment Week and you can read about that here: http://cmweek.org/

There is plenty of more info on the web, try these search terms: mad pride, MLK creative maladjustment, IAACM.

This year, for the first time, we will not have the activist present in this world, Leonard Roy Frank. This great psychiatric survivor worked in our movement for decades and died this year. My friend studied revolutionary social change by reading a lot about MLK, Gandhi, and many others who worked for social justice. Leonard was born July 15, 1932, and died January 15, 2015. So the next day after CM Week, Leonard would have turned 83. Personally, I think starting a global nonviolent revolution for justice on his birthday would be a great gift!

Here is a little-known aspect to CM Week that you might not know. There is actually a good reason to start this on July 7. From a Wiki article about Alleged Lunatics’ Friends Society:

“On July 7, 1845, Richard Paternoster, John Perceval, and a number of others formed the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society. A pamphlet published in March the following year set out the aims with which the Society was founded:

At a meeting of several Gentlemen feeling deeply interested in behalf of their fellow-creatures, subjected to confinement as lunatic patients.

It was unanimously resolved:… That this Society is formed for the protection of the British subject from unjust confinement, on the grounds of mental derangement, and for the redress of persons so confined; also for the protection of all persons confined as lunatic patients from cruel and improper treatment. That this Society will receive applications from persons complaining of being unjustly treated, or from their friends, aid them in obtaining legal advice, and otherwise assist and afford them all proper protection.

That the Society will endeavour to procure a reform in the laws and treatment affecting the arrest, detention, and release of persons treated as of unsound mind…

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2014 Creative Maladjustment

Here is an idea for Creative Maladjustment. Now, first let me give credit where it is due. For more than a decade Martin Luther King used that CM concept in more than a dozen speeches and essays. In fact, MLK repeatedly said the world may be in dire need of an IAACM–that is International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.

For several years we have helped make MLK’s dream of an IAACM real. So what about next year July 7 to 14 2014?

Author and Psychiatrist Carl Hammerschlag gave some positive feedback after leading an IAACM event at the Oregon Country Fair this year. Carl said let us nominate people who deserve recognition and then we can give them awards next year. What do you think? How can this process be open? How can we use crowd sourcing and social media? I have major disabilities so I can not do this all on my own, nor should I.

So I suggest that we use something like Tumblr. Anyone can nominate anyone else, though I suggest we especially recognize younger people. For a deadline I suggest MLK’s birthday for nominations. Patch Adams and Carl will be at the 2014 Oregon Country Fair and can be asked to present the awards to those who are there. Though you can tell there are many ways to do this. Let us hear from you. For instance IAACM, has a Facebook page.

IAACM is a wonderful gift for MLK for social change, including disability, mental health, anti-racisim, climate crisis, and so much more. Did you know you are a leader in the IAACM if you want it?

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