Monday, December 5, 2011

The Therapeutic/Protective Service State: Guerrilla Actions

Individuals who refuse psychiatry when their betters think they should accept it are quite likely to suffer wrathful coercion from what Tom Szasz calls the Therapeutic State.

Families and groups who are cynical about the proclaimed beneficence of the Protective Services State (e.g., "Child Protective Services" or "Department of Children and Family Services") may also be regarded essentially as though they are mentally ill. They will be presumed to not know what is best for their own children, and they will be asked to prove negatives which are impossible ("How can we know for sure that this won't happen again?").

Children misbehave, sometimes badly. Parents are not supposed to punish them anymore, they're supposed to turn them over to experts outside the family who are employed by the state. It's very similar to (and sometimes it directly and explicitly involves) forensic psychiatry.

So if your 13-year-old child rebels against a type-1 diabetes diagnosis, runs away from home, gets pregnant and learns how to selectively manipulate you and the CPS bureaucrats back and forth against each other depending on whom she wants to defy on any given day, well guess what? You're quickly going to feel very much like somebody who is involuntarily committed in a state nuthouse.

The key to understanding the similarity is the concept of institutional machines meant to do things that individual people shouldn't have to do or don't want to do. Forensic psychiatry and child protective services are attempts at dependable, impartial, no-fault, objective processes to relieve real people from having to pay attention. The experts running the machines supposedly know how people -- as cogs in other machines -- ought to work. It's all nonsense, of course. The real world results are consistently and embarrassingly terrible. And anyone who knows himself or herself to be more than just a cog in somebody else's machine instinctively hates both forensic psychiatry and child protective services, or at least they do when these institutions are aimed "incorrectly" (at them).

But by the time people find out that forensic psychiatry and child protective services alike are all about state tyranny, not about state therapy or state protection or helping anyone, well, it's too late, you "can't fight city hall." You have to collaborate (which means surrender) or the machine crushes you, and everyone -- even your family -- will say it's your fault!

Back in 1964 a young man named Mario Savio gave a beautiful speech in Berkeley, about making the machine stop. It was a clarion call for civil disobedience and guerrilla actions.

Now, a half-century after the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, we confront forensic psychiatry and child protective services, and we lose over and over again. How can we put our bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels and upon the levers, and upon all the apparatus, and make it stop?

The following three tactics or principles are suggested, as the most basic guerrilla strategy.

Tactic/principle #1. Don't participate, even tacitly. Don't acknowledge that anyone is trying to help you, if it doesn't feel like help to you. Don't let anyone say you agreed to something, if you don't think you actually did agree, freely. Never let anyone call something your duty or your job, if you never actually accepted it as such, yourself.

If your psychiatrist can't confirm that you have a "chemical imbalance" by way a blood test or a brain scan (which of course, they cannot do), don't accept his explanation about why the meds are therapeutic. If they get a court order for involuntary medication, make them hold you down to inject the drug into your body, never let them pretend it's not forced.

Never acknowledge the social worker's expertise or the guardian ad litem's authority over your child. Never fail to challenge their motives, which are egocentric, elitist, ignorant and mercenary. Never believe these people are acting in anyone's best interests but their own.

Just don't ever cave or agree, at least not in your heart. The little tyrants are trained and drilled to trick you into thinking that you have agreed when you haven't, that something was your idea when it wasn't, that something is best for you when it's their own arbitrary, pet theory. You might pretend, just to gain somebody's confidence or a tactical advantage. But don't ever forget what you know yourself.

Tactic/principle #2. Make it an expensive, time consuming nuisance. The reason the state makes machines and automatic, uniform processes is that people think they can't afford to deal with live individuals. So, be a very live individual. When somebody mentions a policy, make them show it to you in writing, then make them tell you its purpose. If answers don't make sense, keep asking, don't let it drop. Be that child who asks "Why?" to every answer, endlessly until all the parent has left is, "Because I say so!" The state pretends to rationality, not force, so it is more vulnerable than a parent, it has to keep explaining.

A friend told me years ago that the law is reasons (small r, plural). Whoever has more of them and is willing to stand up and say them longer than the other guy, wins. The reasons don't have to be all that good, either. They just have to be good enough that nobody is sure you don't believe them yourself. If you have more reasons, more questions, if you're staying longer and talking more than the little tyrant wants to, you'll win. You have to wear them down, be the squeakiest wheel they've ever heard.

The state appears to have all the money, but the little tyrants are often answerable for their efficiency or lack of it. If it's generally expected that one hearing will result in the efficient disposition of a case, the bureaucrat who can't finish it in three hearings can look pretty bad to his or her boss. When a member of a mental health treatment team has to have legal representation for a deposition and that has to go into his boss's budget, well, maybe the machine will figure out it's easier not to petition for involuntary treatment, or not to place a child in a foster home, after all.

Always ask for a change of venue, always ask for a different judge, but always have more reasons than anyone thinks you could possibly need. Always make them late for dinner.

And by the way, when it comes to this factor of expense, if you can easily pay thousands for a lawyer, it can help you a lot. But many lawyers (especially the ones whom the court appoints for you for free) really believe in the system you're fighting against. You can still use them, they are ethically required to follow your instructions and your strategy if they are representing you. But be aware that you may be spending (or paying for) lots of hours arguing with your own attorney. I hate to say it, but sometimes it might be better to study the law and represent yourself.

Tactic/principle #3. Always look for the good in each individual, even while you never miss an opponent's lie or illogical, arbitrary claim. Ultimately you can separate well-intended individuals from the state machines which they think they have to slavishly serve. Expect this to happen.

You are in the right, and a good person will know that. Get them to betray the empire, remove them from the matrix. Love your enemy.

If you are more persistent than they predict you could ever be, if you are a very creative nuisance, and if you look for the good in individuals and presume they will ultimately come around to your side, you'll be surprised how often you'll get defectors.

And you might end up a hero.