You would think that the whole world would be talking every day, all day about the threat to life itself on this planet due to decades of delay in addressing the climate crisis. Here in Eugene, Oregon at this point one would think our very progressive community would be discussing this topic all the time.
So why is there such silence?
Last week, our local weekly newspaper printed a little letter from me about the silence in our community regarding the climate crisis, a copy of the text is below.
Each of us individually can and must break the silence about climate chaos, or what I call climate silence.
Earlier this month the Paris climate meeting ended and we heard some mixed messages about the progress the resulted.
As the poet Dylan Thomas said:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
… Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Below is my letter to the editor (12/17/15) summing up my own activism on our climate chaos:
OUR CHAMBER IS SILENT
COP 21 in Paris focused on what is most certain about climate change, such as the amount of sea-level rise. I am most concerned about uncertain disasters, such as positive runaway feedback loops, like methane release. We might hit a tipping point that could result in a chaotic Russian roulette with our planet. With such a worst-case scenario a possibility, our local response is far too silent.
For several years I have helped a campaign by the well-respected national group, 350.org. They ask local businesses to say that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not speak for them! Our local Eugene Area Chamber is actually independent from the U.S. Chamber, but unfortunately, after years of emails, visits and publicity, their leadership has stayed silent about global warming and refuses to put out a simple statement that the U.S. Chamber does not speak for them! Only about 56 local chambers, out of thousands, have spoken up.
Approaching friendly local businesses to talk about this issue is a good test of our nonviolence, compassion and civility. For example, several of us have communicated and visited with Ninkasi Brewing Company, whose Chief Financial Officer Nigel Francisco is the chair-elect for the Eugene Area Chamber. The Chamber’s website has a convenient business directory so that anyone can easily see if their favorite businesses are members. Eugene Weekly is a member.
Two of the leaders who went to the event at Ninkasi have commented about why this action is important:
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is very actively fighting attempts to take real climate action, so one of the ways that local chambers and their members can make a difference is to publicly distance themselves from the national chamber, and commit themselves to the changes needed for us all to survive and thrive. This should not be a difficult choice to make – people lives are at stake!” — John Abbe, Great March for Climate Action (LA to DC, 2014), Hike the Pipe (here in southern OR. 2015)
“It’s really rare when the consequences of speaking up, or not, are this dire. So for the sake of our children and grandchildren, who will need a stable planet to live on, let’s speak up before it’s too late!” — Ron Unger, mental health counselor and activist, please see his blog here.
I invented the word Normalgeddon to describe the risk of ending not only civilization as we know it, but ending life on Earth over the next few decades. Yes, I realize that things like sea-level rise and hurricanes are more certain, even currently-existing, outcomes of global warming. But there is an uncertain and real chance of “run-away” global warming, when positive feedback loops bring our chaotic climate system into uncharted waters. In this case, a tipping point of no-return could be reached and a very different and unlivable environment unfolds. I call this phenomenon Normalgeddon because it is our collective complacency and adherence to so-called Normality that are driving us toward catastrophe.
For example, one of the most famous scientists, Stephen Hawking, said: “I am afraid the atmosphere might get hotter and hotter until it will be like Venus with boiling sulfuric acid.”
I like to think that by acting urgently and based on our highest principles, we have a chance of turning things around.
Here is a brief list of resources both on this blog and in the web about preventing Normalgeddon.
Links to my blog entries:
1. My latest blog entry about the Chamber of Commerce and Global Warming:
April 2015 Update: We visit the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, and now you can see both a four-minute and 44-minute videos by David Zupan and Jana Thrift about our protest here:
Readers of my blog know that I am informed as an amateur about the science of emergence, or as I like to call it “the butterfly effect.” In other words, if we all act from our best values of unity, activism, and love of Earth, then we may have unexpected great results — a Climate Miracle! So remember that hope involves taking action without knowing exactly what the outcome may be.
Everyone ought to be familiar with this revolution in the sciences sometimes called systems sciences or complexity theory. You may read about this here:
Books such as Web of Life, by physicist Fritjof Capra, apply this type of thinking to living systems.
By coincidence, earlier this year I spent a whole session with my great counselor, psychologist John Bundy, about this very topic because I found I was losing a lot of sleep as I did research. After all, this may be the end of human life. I like to think that we all act together and save life. But I know this topic can be very upsetting.
May I suggest that we use the power of peer support, and I plan to do a lot of protesting and speaking out about this topic. I sure hope we work together now about this, no matter what the results, and hopefully we will celebrate later on!
There is an ancient Persian saying: No one is tired on Victory Day!
This page will change as more material arrives. Speaking of which, the great leader for connecting our movement to his career of mental health counselor, Ron Unger, sent me the following:
Action: At the bottom of this entry, you will see a link for you to endorse this statement about climate chaos!
About 15 of us folks in the Eugene area who care about the climate crisis gathered together last night at the Tasting Room for Ninkasi Brewery. We signed a statement together and gave that to Ninkasi staff.
Why did we choose the site of a maker of micro-craft beer for this? It turns out that our best reason was because of a great coincidence, the Chief Financial Officer for Ninkasi, Nigel Francisco, will become the next elected Chair for the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce.
Below is the statement we all signed, as supporters of Ninkasi. We thanked them, and we asked for something more. After you read the declaration, we hope you will join us and endorse this online:
Statement to Ninkasi Brewery about climate crisis:
Thanks and there is more to do!
Thanks for your great craft beer!
Thanks for your public principles in support of the environment!
Thanks for your community involvement!
And there is more we need to ask you to do:
Your Chief Financial Officer Nigel Francisco, will soon become the elected chair of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. For more than five years the well-respected anti global warming group 350.org has had a campaign to ask local chambers to say that the US Chamber does not speak for them, because they are one of the main groups to block progress for climate justice.
Unfortunately, despite many messages, peaceful protest, letters, newspaper articles etc., the Eugene Area Chamber has refused to publicly say anything about the emergency of human caused climate crisis.
We the undersigned ask you to speak out and request that the Eugene Area Chamber say that the US Chamber does not speak for us! The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges ever faced by humanity. It is urgent that we all take action, now!
For more info about this please see this news release:
Eugene Activists Visit Brewery To Ask Ninkasi to Say: “The US Chamber does not speak for us about the climate crisis!”
Chief Financial Officer of Ninkasi Brewery Will be Next Elected Chair of the Local Chamber of Commerce
This Friday, 20 November 2015, at 5:00 PM, Eugenians concerned about the climate crisis will gather at Ninkasi Brewery Tasting Room at 272 Van Buren St. Activists will drink the craft beer, and speak about the way global warming impacts each of us locally.
For more than five years, the influential climate group 350.org, has had a campaign to ask local chambers to distance themselves from the US Chamber based in Washington DC. The national US Chamber has had a history of blocking progress on addressing the climate crisis.
Now, having this gathering at Ninkasi Brewery makes more sense than ever:
Nigel Francisco, the Chief Financial Officer for Ninkasi, will soon become the elected chair for Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. Ninkasi has a history of endorsing and speaking up for environmental principles.
David Oaks, one of the activists who plans to visit the Ninkasi Tasting Room this Friday, said, “This event will be friendly and supportive of Ninkasi’s support for our environment. While this gathering is unofficial and not organized by Ninkasi, we sure hope that someone from their staff attends.”
For more information about this campaign and local activities, please see:
You can download a PDF of the below news release here: ninkasi
When: Friday, 20 Nov. 2015 — 5:00 PM
Where: Ninkasi Tasting Room, 272 Van Buren St, Eugene, Ore.
Join us for an evening of beer tasting at one of the few local businesses in Eugene to respond to our raising concerns about the US Chamber of Commerce’s role in climate crisis. We recognize that Ninkasi is a staple in this community with the leverage to make change at a large scale. We hope that our presence will inspire them (and us all!) to take greater action.
Brief speakers will include Michael Carrigan (long-time justice activist), Ron Unger (mental health counselor), David Oaks (activist on human rights and climate madness), Michael Hejazi (mental health counselor).
This can be a great community building activity. Endorsed by MindFreedom Lane County and the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.
Please note that this event will be held at 272 Van Buren St, Ninkasi Tasting Room. This activity is informal, unofficial, and not part of Ninkasi itself. We are a peaceful and friendly gathering for nonviolent revolution to challenge climate chaos.
For more information, find this event on facebook by searching for “Taste of Climate Justice.” You may email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The World Health Organization (WHO), based in Switzerland, has a project Mental Health Innovation Network that is publishing brief online blog entries to promote “dignity” of mental health system users and psychiatric survivors.
Below is the blog by me that MHIN distributed, in which I looked back on four decades in The Mad Movement:
Psychiatric Survivor Story: 40 Years Witnessing Mental Health User Dignity
To mark this year’s WMHD, the Mental Health Innovation Network is running a month long series (#WMHD2015 Blog Series) highlighting dignity in four areas of global mental health where dignity is most often compromised and/or redeemed. This week’s subtheme is “Service User Advocacy”.
Share this blog on social media using the hashtag #WMHD2015 and our Twitter handle (@mhinnovation), and join the conversation by commenting below.
David Oaks is a service user advocate with over 40 years of experience in the field of mental health human rights. He is also the former Director of MindFreedom International. Contact him through Twitter or visit his website: https://www.davidwoaks.com
Last month I turned 60-years-old. Thankfully about 16 good friends, including my loving amazing wife Debra, made this transition fun. We gathered around a big table in a Sushi bar, drank Sake and ate chocolate cake.
This little party was very different from when I was 20, forty years ago, back in college. That is the year that I began to experience difficulties in my life that led to five stays in psychiatric institutions. About a dozen psychiatrists would diagnose me as psychotic, schizophrenic, clinically depressed, and bipolar (then called manic depression). More than once I would find myself in a solitary confinement room with just a bare mattress on the floor for a few days. More than once, about five staff would hold me down and forcibly inject me with a powerful psychiatric drug.
In my senior year, a college volunteer agency placed me as an intern for a mental health service user advocacy group. I wrote about this work for school, and this internship became my career for the next four decades. I have had the unique honor of watching thousands of other psychiatric survivors go through extreme and overwhelming states of mind, supporting one another as loving and equal peers, and thriving through the power of their human spirits.
Because of what many of us call “The Mad Movement” I have met with mental health consumer/user leaders in nine countries, poor and rich, who with allies in the mental health and legal communities, have reached out over and over again to anyone who would listen. While the details and exact perspectives of these service users are very diverse, I have heard some of these themes during my 40-year story:
1. Never giving up on reaching out for dialogue with mental health professionals.
In my own country, the USA, as well as many other countries, and internationally, I have seen psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers/users pull together and ask to have reasonable discussions with organizations representing psychiatrists and psychologists. Despite extreme human rights violations, including atrocities such as forced electroshock, unfair lock-ups for years, four-point and five-point restraints for days, etc., survivors have shown incredible self-discipline and resilience by successfully reaching out for dialogue with professionals.
Unfortunately, with some heartening exceptions, I have seen this outreach by consumers/users flatly ignored by national and global mental health professional organizations. Of course, only a percentage of mental health professionals engage in human rights violations. However, every single mental health professional has personal responsibility to make sure that groups representing them address human rights issues. I have had the pleasure of making friends with dozens of psychiatrists and psychologists who are concerned about our empowerment. But groups representing mental health professionals have been almost universally silent, from regional leaders to the top leaders.
2. Questioning the language that is used about us.
After attending hundreds of meetings of people who have personally experienced mental health care, it seems that many of our gatherings begin with a discussion about language. Some people might get a little frustrated because there does not seem to be any perfect words to describe us. However, this is not about “political correctness.” Instead, imperfect though this effort to redefine ourselves may be, our people are seeking their own empowerment and a first step is to address word issues.
People might accept or reject psychiatric diagnoses about themselves. People might accept or reject words the public assigns us. But we can have influence over the words we use for ourselves.
Are we psychiatric survivors? Mental health consumers? Service users? That is up to us to decide. In the meantime, how about we stop calling each other things like “normal” or “mentally ill.” Describing each other with unscientific, vague, disparaging labels can hurt our mental wellbeing.
3. We are the 100%!
One of the most effective ways to rob a group of their dignity is to segregate them and treat them unequally. As other advocates have shown, it is wonderful to celebrate differences between people in terms of color, culture, gender, background, etc. However, when differences are exaggerated irrationally and become walls, oppression can win.
The most difficult and the most valuable insight I have gotten from my four decades in The Mad Movement is that every human being, from womb to tomb, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, always wrestles with overwhelming, life-threatening mental and emotional challenges. Yes, we are all different. However, as the climate crisis is showing us all more each day, to be human is to deal with recovery from the mysterious, unknown difficulties of our minds.
In the wake of yet another national uproar about a mass shooting, much of the public once again turns its eye towards supposed mental health reform as the solution to the atrocity of acts of gun violence carried out in public spaces by primarily young, white men. The issue of gun control has soared back up to the top of concerns being addressed by presidential candidates, and national discourse has fallen back into its routine, polarized stances. The Republican leadership continues to suggest that gun control is not the solution — there must be something wrong with “those people’s” brains.
Leading Black mental health reform activists are warning us that the simplistic approach of more involuntary psychiatric drugging is inherently racist. To address the spiritual illness of violence in America we must confront the reality of racism in our media, institutions and lives.
Forced Psychiatric Drugging is Racist
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) is proposing a huge and complex bill that would, among other disasters, expand what he calls “Assisted Outpatient Therapy.” Mental health rights advocates more accurately refer to these methods as Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC). IOC is court-ordered psychiatric drugging of people in their own homes, out in the community. Murphy’s bill has been widely criticized as an expansion of a system that forcibly drugs people and leaves them to their own devices with little or no meaningful support.
Following the clearly racially-motivated mass murder of nine members of an all-Black congregation in Charleston, North Carolina, Yvonne Smith, a leading Washington D.C. African American psychiatric reform activist commented, “One of the premises I hate about the Murphy bill is that all bad things can be explained by ‘mental illness.’ Racism is an act that hurts and destroys. More than five decades ago when four little girls were killed in a church no one questioned if it was a illness. Sometimes evil just occurs. Sometimes, actually, it’s fueled by the likes of a Murphy or a Rush Limbaugh. I doubt seriously if they will use last week’s tragedy to fuel their evil plans because it would then suggest that racism is in need of a remedy.”
Mass Shootings are a Racial Issue
When white men kill people some people decide there must be something wrong with their brain, because no normal white person would ever had reason to commit such acts. When Black men kill people, we often talk about Black-on-Black crime, gang violence, violence against white women, or mostly we just stay silent. When Arabs commit such acts they are labeled terrorists and no further questioning is needed about why someone would do such a thing. Historically, our mental institutions primarily served white people, who were considered able to reach higher levels of civilization than colonized and enslaved peoples. In other words, white minds are considered worth fixing.
Murphy’s Bill (Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646) opens with the following statement: “Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, class or ethnicity.” While that may be true (though let us avoid use of the term mental illness), it cannot be denied that mental health care does in fact discriminate based on race. Within circles working in opposition to this destructive bill there is little discussion of its inherent racism. We need to bring to the light the realities of psychiatric racism and the potential for Murphy’s Bill to dramatically exacerbate this historically entrenched reality. Yvonne Smith expressed her distress at the predominantly white movement for psychiatric justice: “Just wondering, am I the only African American person against the Murphy Bill? Sure seems like it!”
There are other African American women speaking out against the Murphy Bill. Vanessa Jackson, an activist/soul doula/therapist working her magic in Atlanta, Georgia says, “It is very important to stress the way that these laws disproportionately impact people of color. Getting swooped up for behavior unbecoming Black people is a well-established tradition in the mental health field. It is another way to police black bodies without addressing the external factors — racism, economic inequity, violence, lack of affordable housing and continuous traumatic stress disorder — which contribute to our emotional distress.” (You can learn more about Vanessa’s work at www.healingcircles.org)
Celia Brown, President of the MindFreedom International Board of Directors says, “In Solidarity with #blacklivesmatter: African-Americans experience emotional distress, trauma and psychiatric oppression due to institutional racism. As a psychiatric survivor and African-American woman, I understand that African-Americans live daily with the threat or experience of psychiatric profiling, racial profiling, losing our lives due to police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, involuntary psychiatric treatment, harmful mental health practices and psychiatric drugging. Racism chips away at the emotional well-being of the African-American community.”
In the United States, prisons are serving as de facto “treatment” facilities that warehouse and exploit the labor of a population that is disproportionately black and working class. Today, women are the fastest growing population of people being imprisoned. Historically, men have been incarcerated and women have been institutionalized in equally violent insane asylums. As the racist prison-industrial complex expands, so does the mistreatment of people experiencing mental and emotional duress. In fact, the system is designed to silence and invisibilize people that we, collectively, deem problems that we cannot solve.
Murphy suggests that his bill is a solution to the issue of people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or experiencing mental and emotional distress in prison, but we know that “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” is not a good solution. In reality, it is court-ordered Involuntary Outpatient Commitment. It’s just one more tactic of surveillance, control and domination — the newest manifestation of the insane asylum, the penitentiary, the private prison. In response to H.R. 3717, the original bill proposed, the Bazelon Center says, “Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) mental health legislation flies in the face of the federal government’s efforts to promote community integration, and would send mental health systems decades backward. H.R. 3717 would destroy the main system of legal representation for Americans with psychiatric disabilities, would strip away privacy rights, would incentivize needless hospitalization and civil rights violations, and would redirect federal funds from effective, voluntary community services to high-cost, forced treatment, including involuntary outpatient commitment.”
Murphy’s bill is part of the story of centuries of racism and psychiatry unfolding in the United States.
Here is a very, very, very incomplete history of racism, psychiatry, and the USA:
1792: Benjamin Rush, largely referred to as “the father of American psychiatry,” argued that the “color” and “figure” of African-Americans were derived from a form of leprosy, and he argued that with proper treatment, they could be cured and become white. Rush used the term “negritude,” popular at the time, to refer to the disease of blackness.
1851: Drapetomania was a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright that caused black slaves to flee captivity.
1961: Black activist, musician and lawyer, Paul Robeson, is administered electroshock and excessive doses of multiple barbiturates with no psychotherapy.
1967: Mark, Sweet and Ervin argue that brain disease plays a role in African American political resistance and suggest that lobotomy may be a solution to rioting.
1984: Reagan admits to CIA involvement in the Introduction of crack cocaine to LA. (See the 2015 documentary Freeway: Crack in the System.)
Late 1980’s: Nina Simone is given the label “bipolar,” institutionalized and administered forced, unauthorized drugging.
1992: The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration unleashed its “violence initiative,” which sought a genetic basis for criminal behavior. ADAMHA director Frederick Goodwin compared the “high-impact inner city” to a jungle and its youth to rhesus monkeys who only want to kill one another, have sex and reproduce. By focusing on “biologically vulnerable” youth for psychiatric interventions, including drug treatments, the initiative was essentially depoliticizing as it de-emphasized social explanations for crime.
1994: NAACP speaks out about the fact that minority boys are 11 times more likely than the general student population to be administered mind-altering drugs.
2005: One of the main statistical reports about involuntary psychiatric drugging using court orders for people living at home out living in the community was published this year by New York State. The data reveals that African Americans are far more likely be on the receiving end of such outpatient forced drugging. The report stated that, “The racial and ethnic composition of the population receiving court-ordered treatment is diverse: 42% of AOT recipients are Black, 34% are White and 21% are Hispanic.”
(For a more elaborate history, see page 5 of the report linked in the resource list below.)
So-called “mentally ill” people are not our greatest dangers
Once again, more gun violence is in the spotlight in the USA. At first, it would seem to make sense to think that mental health has the answer. But as Dan Fisher, MD, PhD, and Director of Emotional CPR at the National Empowerment Center points out, “Rep. Timothy Murphy has proposed legislation, HR 2646, which would increase forced psychiatric treatment in our own homes out in the community, and institutionalization of persons with mental health conditions. This legislation is based on the false premise that persons with mental health conditions are more likely to carry out gun violence than the general population. In fact, persons with mental health conditions only account for 4% of gun related homicides and yet account for 20% of the population.”
The solution to gun violence that we are hearing is often from people who call for small government. However, forcing people in their own homes to take powerful psychiatric may be one of the worst examples of government gone out of control. Incredibly, there are two examples from Minnesota where court orders for psychiatric care have meant that individuals living at home have been required to report to a nearby hospital to receive forced outpatient electroshock against their wills: Ray Sandford and Elizabeth Ellis.
Murphy’s Bill would make people’s bedrooms into cells and would make their homes into wards. Can you imagine turning psychiatrists into parole officers?
This debate about mental health may seem theoretical, but it can have real life consequences in families’ lives that can lead to a great deal of suffering. One of the mothers of a psychiatric survivor to speak out is an African American woman, Cindi Fisher.
She described having her son receive forced psychiatric drugging for almost two decades, rather than real help: “Following the overdosing, within eight months, after stopping and starting the psychotic drug, over and over again in an attempt to relieve his torment and agony, he experienced a medical crisis and made a desperate attempt to get someone to call 9-1-1. This act was criminalized and was the beginning of a 19-year vicious cycle of being drugged and criminalized, jailed or forced hospitalized, released into the community without real treatment, and criminalized and drugged again. These treatments have caused a significant decline in his cognitive functioning; a loss of his love of music, and dancing, as well as made him an insulin dependent diabetic; dependent on high blood pressure medication and caused a critically enlarged growth on his thyroid gland.”
Take action to stop the racist Murphy bill!
We ought to all take action against the Murphy bill, which is getting many sponsors in Congress. Please ask US Representatives to send some questions to Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) about his bill H.R. 2646. This is called a “constituent inquiry” and is done frequently; the other congressperson often feels like they need to respond. Here are some questions you can ask:
How many Americans do you feel should be court ordered to receive psychiatric care?
How many more Americans would receive involuntary psychiatric procedures under your bill?
Would involuntary psychiatric drugs, and even occasional electroshock, be court ordered to Americans living in their own home out in the community under your bill?
Have you engaged in dialogue with the major groups representing USA mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors that are all opposed to your bill?
How will you address the disproportionate impact that your bill will have on People of Color?
In addition to talking to your representative, we also encourage you to check out and contribute to the conversation happening on Twitter at #BlackLivesMatter
We say, #BlackLivesMatter! Spread the word.
Resources to Stop the Murphy Bill and Connect with the Mad Movement:
One of the main groups to fight Murphy’s bill is an alliance of groups run by mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors, the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery. You may see their website for links about the bill and how to reach USA Congresspeople: http://www.ncmhr.org/
MLK said that the world is in dire need of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Here is a Facebook group for the IAACM: https://www.facebook.com/IAACM
Whether you live inside or outside the USA, the Murphy bill raises international human rights issues. Please ask the World Health Organization to oppose and investigate this threat: http://www.who.int/about/contact_form/en/
This note is to provide acknowledge and thanks to Adrienne Bovee who worked so hard on this entry for months. Adrienne is truly a powerful, young, courageous worker for justice in prison, psychiatric, race and many other issues!