"You don't ask permission to take to the fucking streets. You take to the streets and you do not leave. People are invariably arrested, injured, even killed when they take to the streets. There is a very strong will that wishes to suck the earth dry and make a tonfuck of money doing so. This power is in command of all law enforcement and military on the planet. So, yes of course when folks go up against it without tidy permits and tight schedules, this power is threatened, and all it knows to do is attack.
This is what happens when people oppose forces such as corporations and/or their governments: people die."
~Inga Muscio, Rose: Love in Violent Times
Rose is an excellent book. Inga Muscio is a feminist, and very intelligent woman who writes about the many ways in which violence influences all of our lives. The violence she describes is not just the obvious variety: war, rape, murder outside war. It is also "passive violence", such as: "Betrayal, sabotage, creating hierarchies, lying, cheating, stealing, racism, homophobia..." and many other things. I just started reading it tonight, but I'm in love with this book about violence and love.
The part that I was just reading really struck a cord with me. Muscio writes about being invited to speak at an anti-war protest in Washington D.C. at the start of the war on Iraq (which she would refer to as a brutal occupation and not a war). She was disgusted by the hierarchical nature of the rally and its speakers, and the behavior of some of the people in charge of the the rally.
I believe she was talking here about a protest that I helped plan myself. I was on a committee to plan a rally for a women's antiwar organization back in 2003. I lived in Alexandria, Virginia then. I was psychotic, but not to the point that I could not function or that it was always noticeable. I was very physically ill, and was using a rented wheelchair to sit at the White House in vigils against the upcoming war which we were hoping would never start. And I got onto this committee. The organization has since grown to be known world-wide, but at the time it was very new.
The hierarchical structure of the planning committee was horrible. It was like this: there were some of us hometown activists, people who lived in the area and were on the streets protesting and were there to work as activists do. Then there were these paid staff members who were brought in from a company that helped fund the organization who decided to derail our plans and tell us all how it was going to be done. I spoke up in disgust at this. I said in an email, a quote by Audre Lorde, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house". Coincidentally, in the part of her book where Muscio describes the situation she found at the rally in D.C., she mentions that exact quote.
I also created a web page, which still exists, of housing such as campgrounds, hostels, and the like where activists coming to the march could stay, since the corporate folks who took over the planning of the march never did any such thing. They expected, apparently, that all the activists would stay in Washington D.C. hotels.
I was also insulted when my ideas for wheelchair-equipped vans to allow people with disabilities to participate in the march were criticized because of whatever reasons having to do with money and things being too complicated for that.
In the end, on the day of the march, I didn't feel well, and I didn't go. I had helped plan this thing that about 10,000 people attended, and I didn't go. And I got no credit for helping plan it. None of us unimportant people got any credit. The celebrated famous authors and journalists and the celebrity activist who created the organization got a lot of press and attention and made sure that they were arrested so it would make the news, though people in the march were not warned they might be facing arrests, which is rather rude considering not everyone can afford to go to jail. There are people who have valid reasons to not be able to risk arrest. Those people weren't warned about the possibility.
I've always regretted not going to the march, but only a little bit. I got so disgusted with the dynamics of the planning crap that I didn't really want anything at all to do with this organization after that. I never took part in their activities again.
The positive parts of this experience where that I got to see Alice Walker and Susan Griffin speak in public. They were there for the march, and the night before it, they spoke at a ceremony held at a college. I was with an acquaintance who was doing recording for the local NPR public radio station, and she took me upstairs afterwards where I was able to meet the musicians who played at the ceremony. I can't remember their group's name right now, but it was a Native American group of women and talking to them I found out one was related to a poet I like named Joy Harjo. They are cousins. But I almost didn't get back there to speak to these people because someone acting as a security guard wouldn't let me in until my acquaintance told him I was with her and i was there to record for the radio. Only important people like that were allowed back there. This is what I mean about hierarchical structures. The "important people" matter and the rest of us don't. Muscio discusses that point brilliantly in her book.
As I read this book, I think of the violence that has been perpetuated against all of us who live with mental illnesses. For most of the history of man, we have been abused. We have been labeled with all kinds of stigmatizing, horrible terms, and we have been deemed subhuman, chained to walls in sanitariums and forced through tortuous insulin treatments. Locked up like Charlotte Perkins Gilman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" with the rest cure forced upon us. We have been alienated, trampled upon, and subjected to all manner of bizarre treatments and experimental tortures expected to possibly help us get better. Even today, we take drugs to help our illnesses which, while helping us, also cause us to gain tons of weight, get diabetes and heart disease, and die early deaths. We are guinea pigs, put on drugs that have not been properly tested for enough years that anyone could know their long-term side effects. We are maligned in the media and shunned by our own families. We are arrested, locked up like caged animals in jail cells where we are dehumanized and left to suffer between the concrete walls with no medication, therapy, or help of any kind. We are left without shelter because we have no money due to our illness causing us to be unable to work, and we are ignored by society as we sleep on sidewalks before we get arrested for sleeping there. We are treated like shit.
I, for one, am sick of this entire situation. I would, as Muscio said in the quote at the beginning of this post, like to TAKE TO THE STREETS about it. I have gone to a million NAMI meetings now, and I love NAMI, but I do not see the change happening that needs to happen in this world if people with mental illnesses are ever going to achieve equality in our lifetimes. I have written to my legislators, written complaint letters to advertisers who stigmatize us in their commercials, posted flyers for NAMI meetings, attended conferences, and spoken at numerous places to dozens of people at a time. But I want to do more, and I want to see ALL of us do more. I want to see the collective power of people living with mental illnesses that could manifest if we banded together and worked for equal rights, right now.
Of course, I know this isn't going to happen. People have a lot of apathy about the way we're treated, because we feel defeated by it. People sometimes don't even realize they're being treated unfairly. But I want to see the day when I am not made to feel ashamed of myself if I mention that I have Schizoaffective Disorder and it affects my life. I want to see the day when my life circumstances are facts that I'm allowed to mention which are honored by people bearing witness to them and not shunning me into silence. I want to see the day when I don't have to feel like a freak of nature anymore. I want to see the day when there is enough care about these devastating illnesses that there will be more government funding for research and for treatment. I want to see the day when everyone can get mental health services whether they have money or not, and when they can get them in a timely manner. I want to see an end to the homelessness of people with mental illnesses. I was homeless on several occasions, and though I never lived on the streets, I see myself in ever homeless mentally ill person that lives out there and has no place in this world where she fits in and where she matters.
I'm tired of the goddamned status quo. It's time for it to go.
I'm also tired of the rapes that happen every day on this planet, the torture, the occupations of lands deemed occupy-able, the contamination of our food by Monsanto and friends, the destruction of ecosystems, the sexism rampant everywhere, the racism, the homophobia, all the crap that goes on which we need to rid ourselves of and which we probably never will.
One of the things that bothers me a lot is hierarchy. I do not feel comfortable in the women's organization I'm part of because I am on the "board" of the state, and I do not want to be on the board. I never really wanted to be on it. I was asked to do it, and so I agreed. But I don't feel right about having a position of authority, and I don't really like feeling responsible for helping to run this whole organization. I would rather work together with many other women to create change in the world, instead of worrying about how to increase the membership of the organization and feeling totally incompetent because I don't know how to do so. I've discussed some ugliness that's taken place in this organization before here, and I am still considering leaving the board, though I may stick it out till my term runs out so I don't have to be a quitter.
I'm also second-guessing the college major I chose. I chose it, as I've mentioned here before, because of the logistics of me getting a Bachelor's degree being difficult. I do not feel up to moving to another city, as I would have to do to be able to get a degree in social work. I do not have the finances to move, do not want to lose my therapist and doctors, and do not have a job anywhere else but here. So I opted to go for a degree I could get here, and one of the few that interested me, at my small college where there are only a handful of Bachelor's degrees, is Public Policy and Administration. That's the program I'm starting in January. But I'm not sure I want to be in that type of program. I don't really desire to work in a bureaucratic environment for a government agency, and I'm afraid that this degree would lead toward such a career. I'm pondering what to do right now, but most likely I will stick it out for one semester and see how I like the first public policy class.
Hating hierarchy makes it hard to want to work for the government, you know.
Now that this post has twisted and turned in a few ways, I'm not sure it will make complete sense to you, but I hope you can follow what I'm getting at. I get very frustrated with the state of the world, and I find when I read books like, Rose, someone is finally speaking my language for a change. I don't understand how screwed up this planet is, due to the doings of mankind. I don't understand the hatred people have towards each other. I don't understand why the fact that I don't have a full-time job should mean that I'm not a worthwhile human breathing deserving of air to breathe. I don't understand why we are made to hate ourselves for being sick. I think all of these things are wrong. I think we have a right to be, just be, like everyone else, and not be insulted on a daily basis by discriminatory depictions of mental illness in the media and by people around us who have no education about mental illnesses and have no clue what hell we have lived through. I don't understand why there is not more compassion on this planet. And I really do believe, that at the heart of these problems likes patriarchy and lies hierarchy: two things we could all live without, and live quite happily.
It's not enough that we have to survive the violence reeked on our minds by these brain disorders. On top of that, we have to survive the violence perpetrated upon us by everybody around us for the fact that we have the brain disorder in the first place. This oppression is unfair, and not right, and it needs to end. When are we all going to do something to end it?