How to twist an idea
It should come as no surprise that knowledge is often coloured by preconceived judgments and values, and that someone’s words can be twisted to serve an alternate purpose than what was really meant. In spectatorship theory, multiple readings are a given, as much as you want a film to mean something specific, someone can come along, get a different meaning, and it is no less valid to them. Does that mean it’s the right or wrong meaning? Or that you failed to make sure your intention was clear? I don’t know.
What I do know is this little tidbit I picked up last night from Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country. The infamous quote by Karl Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the masses” has been assumed to mean that religion is worthless, a form of willing delusion which people engage in. We have to see that we’re looking at that through ideas around things such as drug addictions and our judgments of the people who use drugs and our own limited understanding of why they would use drugs. Vonnegut pointed out that Marx was in fact an opium user, and at the time it was the most effective painkiller around. Can you imagine if he has said something in contemporary lingo that had less stigma, like “Religion is the Tylenol of the masses.”
What he meant is that religious concepts alieviate human suffering, which is a very different meaning than the one most accept.
But the alternate meaning held more value for people who wanted to use it in nefarious ways, by shutting down religious institutions in Communist dictatorships.
I should also say Communism is not a negative thing any more than Christianity (Vonnegut also says this), it’s the Application of communism in a totalitarian form that is negative.
An ideology can be twisted to serve any purpose, which is why context is important. For instance, psychiatry has at it’s basis a very humanitarian principle, that people have psychological distress and need care and compassion. HOWEVER, various assumptions and ideologies have been Applied in psychiatry which make it’s practice today a negative thing. Capitalism would be one of the worst forces which have shaped psychiatry as we know it. A sick patient is worth more than a healthy one, it creates jobs in the pharmaceutical industry which can keep making them take expensive pills that while not curing create a docility which makes people easier to control. And then there are the hospitals, which need patients to keep returning because it’s very profitable. My own hospitalization cost $24 000. Then there are the outpatient service organizations, the cost of psychiatrist, therapist, psychologist appointments, etc etc. It makes a lot of money For Certain People. In the long run though it costs a lot of money too, a person unable to work because their medication has destroyed the ability to remember or to move around even won’t be able to support themselves. They become more dependent on a system which needs their dependence. They will live in poverty and that creates more psychological distress. It’s a cycle which is hard to get out of.
What would revolutionize psychiatry is to eliminate the rewards of capitalist intervention. How that could be done without also hindering the funds available to help people with psychiatric disabilities, temporary or not, I don’t know. I’m trying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater anymore. Some psychiatrists had some very good ideas, like R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, and Loren Mosher. And some, like Benjamin Rush, had some really appalling ideas. But Benjamin Rush is still highly regarded in psychiatry, while Loren Mosher is considered a bit of a kook.
I’m not really going to come up with a good answer to the question of removing totalitarian capitalist ideology from psychiatry yet, but maybe someone else can. I do think we need to set up more Soteria houses, more structure for alternative care. There are some alternatives around. What we really need is a handbook for the lay person to care for someone in an extreme state without inflicting further psychological damage. One thing to know is that if someone is having a delusion, it’s not your place to make a judgment about that and try to tell them that their delusion isn’t real. It might be VERY real, but they can’t communicate about it in a way that makes sense to you. For instance, I ran around saying I was god, and people got really pissy about that. But in fact I am god, like everything is in this world, in a Buddhist idea of it and in a quantum physics sense. However I couldn’t explain that at the time, and no one wanted me to anyway.
My morning thoughts anyway.