Category Archives: Mental Health

Covid and its Man-Made Gigantic Collateral Damage: The Great Reset

The going narrative in the west is: “Covid is on the Rise.  We are entering the second wave.  We must protect our people.”

The offered recipe is testing-testing-testing. It is the instrument for increasing “cases”. The more you test, the more cases you have. Is that so difficult to understand? If tomorrow the world stops “testing”, covid is gone. Finito. Back to life. That’s what they don’t want, though. “They”, the higher-ups. Let me call them the diabolical Deep Dark State.

However, testing and the testing results are never analyzed. How many positives are asymptomatic, who are the “positives’, what are their age groups? According to all those doctors around the world who have stepped out of the Matrix and formed associations of medical professionals and related scientists, most of them call themselves Doctors for the Truth, in Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Peru, the USA and more – more than 80% of the “positives” are asymptomatic, meaning asymptomatic people feel nothing and never get sick.

About ten to fifteen percent have slight to more serious symptoms, but do not need hospitalization  and the rest who may be hospitalized is above 75 or 80 years of age almost all of them with one to several comorbidities. Of those who die, most die from a medical pre-condition – coronary disease, diabetes, cancer – with “tested” covid-19, but not from covid-19.

According to the various associations of Doctors for the Truth, they concluded, based on their experience, more than 50% of the so-called RT-PCM (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) deliver “false positives”. Of course, the labs, hospitals and doctors who perform them are aware, but they are silenced with a carrot or a stick. And the “false positives” conveniently help drive covid statistics through the roof.

But who would have an interest in that?

Curiously, very curiously, in the northern hemisphere — also called the Global North — the hundreds of years-old common flu has literally disappeared. From one year to another. We have just entered the season of the common flu, or “influenza”. Fall and winter are typical for the annual flu and cold. But nobody talks about it. Suddenly the flu has evaporated. No flu statistics. No mainstream media, no coopted doctors, hospitals or Covid Task Force, and, of course, no government officials, especially not those from the sacrosanct Health Authorities, would ever mention the word flu or “influenza”. Why? They don’t think that We, the people, could get the idea. Or do they?

Is it possible that the flu has been adopted, integrated into covid? This is just an innocent question, of course. One ought not to speculate with things that could put authorities in a corner, or worse, imply that they have been lying to the people who elected them, to the very people who pay their salaries.

And why would they do that? Do they have an obscure reason? Someone, something high-high above them, who tells them, all 193 UN nations at once, they have to cheat their people, because these high-high above them, sinister dark un-people have an agenda to implement? Perhaps Bill Gates’ Agenda ID2020, accompanied by WEF’s Klaus Schwab’s “Covid-19 – The Great Reset” (July 2020, available on Amazon and everywhere)?

It is indeed possible that governments around the globe have been coopted, by carrot or by stick (to put it benignly), to drive up covid statistics, covid “cases”; and what’s more convenient in the fall-winter season than converting the common flu which in any case, when tested, will show corona viruses. The flu and covid viruses are very, very similar; they are practically undistinguishable in a test.

Ask the doctors who stepped out of the Matrix, the doctors for the truth. Virtually all flu viruses contain a proportion of corona viruses, as high as 17% to 20%. So, telling what is what is almost impossible, and even less so if the mix-up can be favorable for covid and help drive the covid statistics up and up and up.

But who would be interested in making the pandemic look worse than it already is? Isn’t it that everybody wants to “flatten the curve”? At least that’s what they said during the first wave. It justified the first lockdown. Why would it be different in the second wave? And, yes, we are suddenly in the midst of the second wave. But nobody dares talking again about flattening the curve.

Virtually all governments have assured their people – frankly, we are more subjects than people for them, subjects that are manipulated with lies and masks and social distancing, separated from their loved ones through senseless quarantines – these potentially resisting subjects, WE, were assured that there will be no second lockdown, that the countries, the world, could not afford a second lockdown. However, gradually but with giant steps, these dictatorial governments, almost all of whom have quietly and without consultation of the people, adopted “Health Emergency Laws” — a close equivalent to Martial Law — have closed all the windows and doors, so that “bang” another lockdown is on the plate. And again, nowhere to escape.

Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Greece, the UK, and so far, partly Switzerland have just declared within the last 48 hours a lockdown, or a quasi-lockdown, with curfews and “house arrests” – isolation at home, shop closings, work-from-home rules, and more.  Worse may follow. People take it. Benign protests only. But no steadfast and unrelenting resistance yet.

Others governments are weighing in, rather “when” than “if” – they want to take this draconian step, eviscerating the last shred of the remaining economy, and causing detrimental damage to humanity, social damage from isolation, social distancing – not being able to get together with family and friends. In some countries like Canada, the tyrannical Trudeau government has already announced that this year “Christmas may be cancelled” – meaning, no visits with families and friends. Others may follow suit. Can you imagine!

In a recent interview with RT, Stanford University Professor, medical doctor and President Trump’s Covid advisor, Scott Atlas, called the lockdown policies an “epic failure” and argued they are “killing people,”. Atlas added, “The public-health leadership have failed egregiously, and they’re killing people with their fear-inducing shutdown policies.” And further, “The lockdowns will go down as an epic failure of public policy by people who refuse to accept, they were wrong.”

Atlas then pointed to job losses, rising suicides, rising drug abuse and the harm being done to young people, tying the issues to the Covid-19 restrictions put in place. He referred to a study showing that 25 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 thought about killing themselves in June “due to the lockdown,” he said. And what’s maybe worse, We’re creating a generation of neurotic children, forcing them to wear masks and be six feet apart from their friends, or not even have school in person.”

People do not take it! Resist!

France, under President Macron, is already considering a third wave. RT reports:

France’s minister of solidarity and health, Olivier Veran, has said he cannot rule out a third wave of the coronavirus, as the country enters a second national lockdown.

As they battle a new spike in Covid-19 cases, French officials are already concerned about the threat of a third wave. Discussing the situation on France Info radio, Veran told listeners that, due to the severity of the virus and the speed at which it’s spreading, it’s not possible to rule out a third wave, even if the second peak is brought under control.

Defending the government’s decision to implement a second national lockdown, which comes into effect at midnight on Thursday (29 October), Veran claimed that it’s “nobody’s failure,” but said there are challenges with containing the spread, as they are dealing with an “invisible enemy.”

A second wave, worldwide, was already predicted in May 2020 because those who call the shots on the “innocent” people knew exactly that the flu season will come, as it does every year.

Now, the flu is blended in with covid, mixed up and adding to the dramatic hike of covid “cases”, covid statistics. This and the media hype will create more FEAR, more – or rather – THE justification for a second lockdown, and obedience, yes.  The scared are weak and vulnerable, they are manipulable, especially when threatened at the same time with disproportionately huge fines for disobedience. FEAR is the strongest weapon of these tyrants.

The FEAR factor makes new parents accept that hospitals impose upon them to wear masks when receiving their newborn. Faceless parents, fearsome world. Their newborn and later toddlers and children will know their parents with masks. Facial expressions are hidden. The child is being isolated in plain sight from their parents. That’s what this monstrous dictatorship, to which every government of this world is submissive, wants. Alienated children – a generation that grows up in a faceless society. This is a sinister form of child abuse that may destroy an entire generation. But that’s what the eugenists behind this covid cum 5G atrocity want – heartless, emotionless people, who may easily become dispensable. The dispensable people is not a new term. It has been used regularly in the circles of the current US Administration to designate people who are in their views worthless for society.

This reminds of an infamous Henry Kissinger saying, “Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.” These words were spoken already in the 1960s, by a eugenist. That’s what Kissinger is, a Rockefeller protégé, sharing his Master’s deepest thoughts, and he is joined, by whom else, Bill Gates, who doesn’t make a secret of wanting to reduce “drastically” the world population. It would therefore not come as a surprise, if the Great Reset also had in mind reducing food supply to certain “lesser populations”.

Even without disrupting food supplies, the poor will have no money to purchase food. They will enter a painful phase of famine, parents seeing their children starve  and many will succumb to famine, death by famine. This is the natural consequence of what’s already happening – bankruptcies abound, unemployment rises into unheard dimensions. The International Labor Office (ILO) predicts by end 2020 to mid-2021 that up to half of the world’s workforce may be out of work – most of them in the Global South, where about 70% of labor is “informal”, meaning no social safety nets, no pensions, no unemployment benefits, nothing.

Simultaneously, The World Food Program (WFP) predicts a Famine Pandemic, the consequences of which are far more disastrous than those of the so-called “covid-pandemic”. The WFP reports that today already 821 million people go to bed hungry every night, and an additional 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse. That means 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation.

WFP predicts that Covid-19 will likely add another 130 million, who could be facing starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people on the brink of death from starvation by the end of 2020.

The world’s governments – and all 193 UN members participate in one way or another – they are genocidal, since they know exactly what they are doing.

Enter the Great Reset, referred to above. It presents a disaster plan of total destruction – the 4th Industrial Revolution, based on IT, algorithms, robotism, transferring assets from the bottom to the top, what’s left of them, converting them in an “eco-friendly” way into a new capitalism, painted green, The New Green Deal. Will people fall for it? Propaganda is strong. Propaganda had already started with the 1992 Environmental Conference in Rio (The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), from 3-14 June 1992. This conference set the pace for the climate hype that ensued and to which by now almost the entire world is enslaved, leading to “How Dare You” Greta – and now the New Green Deal.

In this 4th Industrial age, where robots call the shots, we the surviving people, other than the commanding elite, of course, would become tele-commanded obedient servants, a bit like Aldous Huxley’s futuristic “Brave New World”.

We can resist. Peacefully, of course. For example, no more testing. Nobody goes “testing” and within no time the covid figures would decline. Covid would actually stop. And the common flu, as it does every year, would bother us a bit. But no reason for fear, because there are plenty of remedies – but NO Vaccines.

We have to peacefully engage in dialogue with the police and military, explain to them what’s at stake. They must understand that they are only the obedient servants of an abject rich elite’s agenda that has nothing to do with protecting public health, that, to the contrary, they are destroying public health and humanity. Police and military are just like us, We, the People. Once this dark sinister elite reached their goal of total control and take-over, police and military will be discarded and replaced by robots. That’s already in the books.

We have to talk to medical personnel in hospitals, clinics and medical practitioners, as well as to teachers from Kindergarten to primary school, all the way to universities – explain to them the “sinister plan” and what it has already done to humanity, to the world’s socioeconomic fabric.

And finally, we have to engage with the numerous country associations of thousands of medical doctors, virologists, immunologists and other scientists in the bio-medical field, who have stepped out of the matrix and sided with the people, often at the detriment of their careers – and worse.

No more testing and covid will be gone. And no vaccines.  Only in unison we are strong and can overcome. And overcome we shall!

The post Covid and its Man-Made Gigantic Collateral Damage: The Great Reset first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Anxiety Mindfulness and the Natural Unity of Life

Depression and anxiety are commonplace in contemporary societies, part of everyday life; celebrities and public figures, British Royalty even, talk openly about their struggles with conditions that were hidden and dismissed just a few years ago. Most of us either suffer from one of these debilitating diseases or know someone who does; for huge numbers of people around the world, life has become a kind of agony, something to cope with, a competitive battlefield in which only the few triumph.

Individual stress adds to, and is intensified by, the collective anxiety and tension under which we all live, which in turn exacerbates personal suffering; and so a self-perpetuating cycle of pain and discomfort is created. Divisions along a variety of lines, from income/wealth to ideology, nationality, race and gender are pronounced, fracturing society, feeding fear, fermenting conflict. This fragmentation contradicts the natural unity of life; all of life is connected, an integrated, complex whole with human beings constituting part of the intricately diverse planetary ecosystem, one that, due to ignorance and greed, is being destroyed apace.

Globally the number of people suffering from one or other form of mental health illness is thought to be around 720 million, or a tad over one in ten; among children, the World Health Organization estimates that, “10-20% experience mental disorders.” Given the stigma (still) surrounding mental health in many countries and cultures, plus the lack of data in developing countries, for example, the figures are no doubt a great deal higher, the problem even more serious, the suffering more widespread.

Anxiety and depression are the most common strains and find focus in relation to a number of areas: economic uncertainty, low self-esteem, self-image, fear of loneliness, fear of failure, environmental worries and others. The pressures to conform and ‘succeed’ are relentless and all pervasive, applied primarily through education, the media, peers and fearful parents who ‘only want the best’ for their children. The whole focus is on becoming something or somebody, instead of being; of allowing oneself to be, and finding out what that is. All of this creates the conditions in which anxiety and depression are virtually inevitable.

There are various conventional treatments for anxiety, depression and related conditions, most commonly counseling and medication (prescribed or self-medicating), and, in recent years, like other so-called ‘spiritual’ practices emanating from the East, Mindfulness has become increasing popular. It is even recommended by the UK’s National Health System (NHS). Although only now becoming widely known, mindfulness is an ancient technique, shared by Gautama Buddha some 2,500 years ago (but one that may be even older). It is generally spoken of as a practice – the ‘practice of being mindful’, but being mindful moment-to-moment is closer to an art form than a practice, which implies an action. It is not meditation, but if embraced fully can open a door onto the silence and unmediated relationship that is meditation.

Being mindful is the act of attending to the moment, this moment, then the next, then the next and so on. Paying attention to the various aspects of oneself and the world around us, so that we become consciously aware of: the physical form, that’s our body and the sensory space; emotional movements and reactions; and the activity of the mind, the endless chatter of thinking.

Such attentive observation helps tackle anxiety and depression by focusing the mind in the present moment, and not allowing movement into an uncertain future or a painful past to take place; not by control, but by choice-less awareness – without judgment – of life as it is at any given moment. As the mind moves forwards in time, and away from ‘the now’ we create the conditions in which uncertainty and anxiety can flourish, and when the mind drifts backwards into a past allowing regret, sentimentality or guilt to surface, depression can occur. By being wholly, not partially attentive, and not fragmented, the psychological movement in time ceases. Sustained, and this is key, it is a powerful act that frees the mind from its constant yearning and ceaseless agitation, allowing ‘peace of mind’, or contentment, to naturally occur.

These ‘Qualities of Being’ – peace, contentment, happiness – are inherent within all human beings, but for most of us, all of us perhaps, they are absent from our lives, replaced by anxiety, desire, dissatisfaction and fear. The socio-economic structure and the ideology of competition and greed intensify such debilitating states.

As well as education, social media and the dominance of screens in the lives of billions throughout the world play a major role in keeping everyone in a state of unease, discontent and mindlessness. Like all areas of consumerism, social media is built on people, or ‘users’ (like drug addicts) as they are called, being in a constant state of inattention and agitated desire, with the forces of competition and comparison, running throughout. Like anxiety and depression, desire, partly functions in relation to psychological time and is a cornerstone of the pervasive economic model. Undivided attention to the activity, thought, feeling (including desire) at hand, negates the power of desire in that moment, and starves anxiety/depression of the conditions needed for their growth.

Like anything, to be potent mindfulness requires consistent application and focused effort; specific periods of concentrated attention during the day are helpful (when, for example, undertaking daily tasks, washing, cooking, dressing etc.) functioning as reminders and aiding in the establishment of a new rhythm of conscious living. In observing ourselves: the body with its aches and pains, its movements and sensations, fluctuating feelings (observed and not named) and the activity of thought we become mindful, in that moment, of our pre-occupations and of our own conditioning. Everyone is conditioned and all forms of sociological and psychological conditioning whatever the source, are imprisoning, divisive and fear inducing. Mindfulness allows us to become consciously aware of this false and limited image constructed by and sustained through our identification with the body and thought.

There is, or should be, no goal with mindfulness; there is nothing to achieve or aim at. In the moment of observation, and with consistency, such moments expand, the activity of the body including the mind/brain slow down, and when we slow down the nervous system can begin to settle. Doing things (everyday activities) slowly and mindfully is a powerful tool in bringing relief from anxiety and depression. In a world dominated by divisive modes of living designed to cause discontent, mindfulness creates a space in which awareness can naturally operate, and awareness is a liberating quality and the key to change, individually and collectively.

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Assange’s Fifteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Solitary Confinement and Parlous Health Care

September 28.  Central Criminal Court, London.

Throughout the sham process formally known as the Julian Assange extradition trial, prosecutors representing the United States have been adamant: the carceral conditions awaiting him in freedom’s land will be pleasant, accommodating and appropriate.  Confronting 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Assange and his defence team have been resolutely sceptical.

Today, the prosecution reiterated its position on the US federal prison system as one of rosy comfort and decent facilities.  As has happened at several points in the extradition trial, the views of Gordon Kromberg, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, were given another airing.  Stale as ever, Kromberg told the court that, “Inmates in administrative segregation are able to speak to one another through the doors and windows of their cells.”  How civil!  “Typically,” he also noted, “there are several inmates in administrative segregation.”  He does not tire of this canard, and makes the point one more time with robotic certitude.  “Even in administrative segregation, Assange would be able to communicate with other inmates through the doors and windows of his cell.”

Ellis on solitary confinement

The defence witness Yancey Ellis, as with others more acquainted with the bestial prison conditions of the imperium, suggested something quite different.  Ellis is a former judge advocate in the US Marines.  First would come the experience of being held in the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC), where Assange will be given his pre-trial blooding on US soil.  Most likely, he will find himself, Ellis claimed, in X block, kept in a narrow cell each day for 22 to 23 hours, containing “a sleeping area, a small sink and a toilet”, guarded by thick doors.  Meals would be taken in the cell.  The precious one or two hours granted to the inmate would often only be granted at “very odd hours.”  The time would be spent in the “common area of the ADSEG unit, which is maybe about twice the square footage.”  Only one inmate in the unit would be permitted out of the cell at any one time.  “There is limited interaction with other ADSEG inmates because their doors and food-tray slots are closed.”

Such an individual is purposely segregated from others, alienated and prevented from accessing therapeutic or other programs available at the facility.  “There is no outside recreational or exercise area at the Alexandria jail and I do not recall there being any windows in the ADSEG unit,” Ellis notes in his written submissions.

As with other defence testimonies, Kromberg’s came in for special attention.  There were “several assertions made by Mr Kromberg” that were “incorrect or incomplete”.  When asked by Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defence whether Assange would be given the means to “associate with other prisoners”, Ellis was far from convinced. “The short answer is: not really.”  Administrative segregation implied just that.  Kromberg’s assertion in his affidavit that there was no solitary confinement at ADC was dispatched. “1X ADSEG unit is essentially the same as solitary confinement.”

Ellis had himself experimented with conversing through such barriers, and was discouraged by the effort.  In his court statement, he suggests that it might be “technically true” to suggest that words might be exchanged.  But in practice, it was “impossible.  In 1X ADSEG the cell doors are made of thick steel and the ‘windows’ are transparent, thick plexiglass material with no slots or holes.”  It would be, Ellis explained, “almost impossible to speak through the door if the food tray slot is not open.  It would not be possible for anyone to say that if he is familiar with the X Bloc.”

Communicating with his clients through such doors proved “very difficult, even when standing several inches away. I find it implausible that inmates could really communicate in this way, unless they constantly screamed at loud volumes.  I would routinely have to ask for a deputy sheriff to open the cell’s food tray slot in order to be able to speak with a client.”

In addition to the physical features of the facility will be Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), further limiting Assange’s communication and hindering his means of mounting an adequate legal defence.  While Ellis conceded to having had no experience of them, he understood them to entail further impositions on visits and communication with friends and family.

On matters of mental health, Ellis was distinctly discouraging.  Provision at the facility was rudimentary.  “The extent of mental health care is that a social worker or counselor comes around to check on you every once in a while to ensure basic functioning.”  There were no permanent doctors in residence at ADC.  Part-time psychiatrists were employed instead, meaning irregular visits and consultations.  Those at risk of self-harm found themselves in suits designed to prevent suicide, immobilizing “the arms away from the body, removing shoe strings and sheets, etc.”

In cross-examination, James Lewis QC for the prosecution attempted to shore up the shoddy assertions in Kromberg’s affidavit.  Ellis, he suggested, was doing a bit of crystal ball gazing: how could he really know if Assange would be held in X Bloc?  Ellis had, after all, not interviewed the warden, a psychologist or prison staff about the conditions.  This was a desperate ploy; Ellis had been asked to testify on the conditions he had seen, not the totality of a policy that remained opaque.  “I have requested those records [determining how inmates will be housed] before and can never get them.”  Triumphantly, Lewis suggested that “Kromberg’s statement of how [Assange] would be assessed for housing at the ADC” was not something that could be disputed.  As to whether Assange would actually find himself in administrative detention, Ellis was cautious but convinced.  “I can’t predict the future, but I would bet he would be put in administrative detention.”

The prosecutor also attempted to lay a trap in discrediting the testimony.  Had Ellis been massaged by the defence to use the words “solitary confinement” in his statement to the court?  No, came the reply.  The time detainees in administrative segregation are permitted outside the cramped confines of their cell was “generally equivalent to solitary confinement.”  Mockingly, Lewis scrapped about definitions: an inmate could not be said to be enduring conditions of solitary confinement meeting his lawyers three hours each day.  (Not much verisimilitude on the part of the prosecution, given that the application of SAMS would make such meetings a difficult, if not an impossibility.)

Lewis then focused on Assange’s standing in Ellis’ eyes.  Did he feel that the publisher’s case had garnered publicity and large public support?  “I would agree with the publicity,” came the reply.  Public support was another matter he could not speak to.  The fact that previous prominent figures such as Paul Manafort and Maria Butina had been housed at the ADC and placed in “administrative segregation” suggested that Assange would not be treated any differently.

This line of questioning stirred Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who went on to probe Ellis on how the US Bureau of Prisons would handle Assange’s case.  In the United Kingdom, “Assange has been in custody in this jurisdiction for 18 months,” housed in the general wing. “Other than his being a public figure, any reason you think he’ll be held in administrative detention?”  The “primary reason”, suggested Ellis, would be his notoriety, though mental health might be a factor officials would consider.  But as the mental health unit was located in the general population, a decision might still be made to place him in “administrative segregation”.  “The mere fact you are high-profile dictates conditions?” inquired Baraitser.  Generally, came the reply, the ADC preferred segregating “these types of defendants” to “maintain a secure and safe environment” though he could not say why. “I am just speaking from experience.”

Sickler on health care

Veteran prison advocate and founder of the Justice Advocacy Group in Virginia, Joel Sickler, followed for the defence.  Much of his testimony seemed reiterative and supplementary to that of Ellis, though it also moved into discussion about the ADX Florence supermax facility, a nightmare Assange may face after softening at the ADC.  He suggested that Assange would have “no meaningful reaction” at the ADC, kept in his parking-space sized cell.  It was “ridiculous” to assert, as Kromberg had done, that credible communication between inmates in administrative segregation in the facility could take place.  “You’re twiddling your thumbs.  You’ll have access to reading material, but your whole world is the four corners of that room.”  There was also “significant sensory deprivation comparable to isolation in a cell.  There is little natural light as well as access to fresh air.”

While Assange’s attorneys would be permitted “to meet with him at any time during professional visiting hours” finding yourself “in the ADSEG unit at the ADC could compromise Mr Assange’s ability to focus on and assist his attorneys in his defence – for reasons related to how debilitating the experience may be for a prisoner.”

There was also a real risk of SAMSs being applied by the Attorney-General in the event of conviction. Challenging them would pose almost insuperable challenges. “It’s a well-known fact here that even the most minor administrative appeals by inmates are denied.”  Sickler claimed to have filed over a thousand appeals, “winning a dozen at most.”

Sickler’s testimony also covered the issue of health care at the ADC.  “Mr Assange should expect to receive only the most limited medical service at the ADC.  Any suggestion to this Court that he will be fully evaluated and assessed for medical or mental health conditions is misleading.”

Holding the flame for the prosecution was Clair Dobbin, who attempted to create a world of textual reality rather than grounded fact.  Policies of the US Bureau of Prisons were discussed; staffing and health care provisions were canvassed, including ADX facilities where inmates might be able to labour and improve their conditions.  This would present a good case to the authorities to have their SAMs removed.  Sickler suggested that what the BOP was claiming was different from practice.

While the prosecution smelled blood in suggesting that Sickler was actually unexperienced on the actual operations of X Bloc and the application of SAMs, Sickler rallied on the issue of how medical care would be supplied in such prison facilities.  Dobbin made the assumption that he had no access to prison medical records.  Not so, came the correcting reply.  Dobbin then moved on to limiting the value of such knowledge gained: it was specific to Sickler’s clients; not of the same order as an academic or research account on medical care in the prison system.  As for whether SAMs would be applied or not, this was up to the US Attorney General, who would determine the case on the basis of whether the prisoner had classified information threatening to “national security”.

Dobbin then engaged in what could only be described as a tidying up effort for one of the most notorious facilities in the US.  ADX Florence was hardly atrocious, she insisted.  Prisoners, she noted from a report, had claimed to form close personal relations with the staff.  “If it’s such a great place,” Sickler retorted, “why are so many prisoners trying to get out?”  Finding the report “incredulous,” he also suggested that institutionalisation brings with it fears of change.  Under re-examination, he noted that a client of his at ADX was “begging to get out.”

On Sickler’s own example of the darker side of the US penal system – an individual who suffered a mental breakdown at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, “severely beaten by correctional officers” and “thrown in the hole naked” – Dobbin was bizarrely disingenuous.  Initial calls by Sickler that the individual suffered psychiatric illness might have been callously ignored; and it took a federal court to grant the individual bail and eventually receive a writ for treatment at the Bellevue psychiatric center, but “judicial oversight” had prevailed.

The prosecutor also referred to the case of Cunningham v BOP to illustrate that things, even if they had been dire, must have improved.  The case involved ADX inmates, described as “five seriously mentally ill men”, along with six other ADX prisoners (“interested parties”) with “serious mental illnesses” suing the Bureau of Prisons in 2012 for violating BOP policy and the Eighth Amendment.

The class action argued that the authorities had failed to adequately diagnose and treat prisoners at ADX with grave mental illness.  This eventually led to an approved settlement covering, amongst other things, a range of improved measures for screening and diagnosis for mental illness and the provision of mental health care and suicide prevention.  Dobbin was being selective. As Sickler noted in his statement, “that same Court would find that the health care in ADX failed to meet basic standards of care for inmates.”

Dobbin, continuing her train of dissimulation, submitted another, deeply flawed example.  ADX Florence had permitted a convicted terrorist known as the “Underwear Bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, time to see family members during his time at the facility.  This belied an inconvenient reality: Abdulmutallab sued the Justice Department in October 2017 claiming that prison officials had held him in “long-term solitary confinement”, restricted his communication with relatives and force-fed him during hunger protests and fasting sessions.  Abdulmutallab had also been the subject of SAMs, and incarcerated in the infamous H-Unit of ADX.  Not exactly a paragon of US prison treatment, and not one of the prosecution’s better examples.

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Assange’s Thirteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Mental Health, Managed Risk and Publication Chronologies

September 24.  Central Criminal Court, London.

The lion’s share of today’s Old Bailey proceedings in Julian Assange’s extradition trial was spent on battles over mental health and dire risk.  The prosecution continued its attempt to minimise the dangers facing Assange were he to be extradited to the United States for 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. While the defence has its case on Assange’s fragile mental health well plotted, the prosecution is hoping that witnesses such as Dr Nigel Blackwood, consultant psychiatrist with the National Health Service, will punch holes in the argument.  They will certainly hope for better efforts than those made by their own witnesses, Seena Fazel, a psychiatry professor who seemed too professionally tentative to land firm blows against Assange’s diagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome, or dismiss the health risks facing him in the US prisons system.

Blackwood and managed risk

Blackwood had conducted his own psychiatric evaluation of Assange’s condition via phone in July 2020.  What he gave the court was a show of qualified hypotheticals.  He found the publisher to be “moderately depressed”; there was undoubtedly “some risk of suicide attempt in the event of extradition”.  He did not feel this risk to be a “high” one.  It had been “carefully managed in Belmarsh and the risk factors are modifiable.”  Assange “engages with treatments to manage that risk.”

Reliance was placed upon the capacity for self-control in the face of such risk.  If the person facing extradition could self-manage or be “capable of controlling” their own risk of suicide, the extradition should be made.  Blackwood was excruciatingly selective, finding Assange “resourceful” and “very resilient”.  He believed Assange “retains the capacity to resist suicide.”

An unstinting faith in the prison authorities was shown by the witness. They would have sent Assange for outside treatment had he suffered from severe depression.  The release of a video of Assange in prison, made public in June 2019, prompted the authorities to send him to the medical ward.  Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defence was unimpressed by Blackwood’s reading of this incident: confining Assange to the medical ward had been for reasons of “reputational damage” to prison officials.  A prison document of that day’s incident noted that Assange had been sent to the ward for being at risk of self-harm.  Why had Blackwood failed to mention it in his report?  The prosecution witness was moved to admit that, while multiple factors were present in the decision to send Assange to the medical ward, Assange’s considerations of self-harm was one of them.  This was a fact Blackwood omitted.

The defence turned on the issue of whether prison conditions Assange would face in the US would be broadly on par with those in the United Kingdom.  The point is significant as previous legal authority – notably the UK High Court decision in the Lauri Love case – found much to be worried about in the assurances made by the US Bureau of Prisons, notably on their poor provision of mental health facilities and safeguards against suicide.  Blackwood conceded that his assessment drew heavily upon US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg’s affidavit, which claimed that there was no “solitary confinement” in the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC), where Assange will be initially held.  “I relied on Kromberg and the academic literature on what happens in US prisons.  There may be stuff that isn’t covered, but there is broad equivalence.”

An all too confident assessment, given the revelations of Eric Lewis, board president of Reprieve, who had previously testified to the court about his own clients’ experiences of solitary confinement and Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) deployed at ADC.  They were not findings Blackwood had cared to consult. When Fitzgerald asked Lewis, in re-direct examination, whether Kromberg was “more qualified than you are on prison conditions”, the defence witness suggested that the assistant attorney would rarely have stepped into a prison. Lewis, in contrast, was well acquainted with a range of prison conditions ranging from Guantánamo to the United Kingdom.

Blackwood was also taken to task by the defence for being green about the US prison system: he had never visited the ADC or any US federal facility.  His modest haul included visits to a state prison in Connecticut, and a Newport, Rhode Island jail.

The prosecution witness was duly attacked for his presumptuousness in a report marked by vital subtractions and unnecessary additions.  Having failed to note the presence of solitary confinement in the ADC, he had also concluded that it would not be unjust to extradite Assange, given his mental health condition.  The defence proved stormy on this point.  “It’s not your business to decide that, whether extradition is just or unjust, that is up to the judge.”  This was a point Blackwood was left to accept.

Crosby and very high risks

Testimony for the defence was then provided by Dr Sondra Crosby of Boston University, an authority on the physical and psychological effects of torture.  Crosby’s expertise in the area is extensive: as of March 2019, she had evaluated a touch under 1,000 survivors of torture.  She runs a clinic specialising in the care of refugees and asylum seekers, “most of whom have experienced torture.”

She had visited Assange in the London Ecuadorean embassy in October 2017 after an American doctor (left unnamed) organised an “academic evaluation of the effects of living in the embassy”.  Assange then described “symptoms of depression, symptoms of post-traumatic disorder.”  While capable of conversation and not seemingly in a “horrible state”, his physical symptoms were “worrisome”. But mental decline was evident, marked by an inability to concentrate, depression, nightmares, disturbances to sleep.

Thoughts of suicide were first described to Crosby in 2018.  The dramatic suicide of the convicted Bosnian Croatian general Slobodan Praljak by potassium cyanide, drunk before the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, left a deep impression.

In her February 23, 2019 session with Assange, her notes evaluating his state were taken from her by embassy staff, thereby violating doctor-patient confidentiality.  She noted the presence of cameras.  A copy of her medical license was demanded.  Her credentials had to be verified by an embassy security guard.  The incident might have formed part of the defence testimony on showing the operation of a US-backed surveillance operation, but did not.

She was also alarmed during that visit by Assange’s marked deterioration, physically and psychologically.  “I was very concerned about a very advanced tooth infection that was causing him excruciating pain, requiring him to take narcotics.”

Visits to Assange at Belmarsh in October 2019 and January 2020 were also made.  Crosby’s December 2019 report was even more unequivocal.  Assange had “met all the criteria for major depression”; he was “essentially dead”, “tearful”, pleading.  He had called the anonymous suicide hotline Samaritans.  She also found physical symptoms indicative of anxiety or cardiac arrest, and the possibility of chronic respiratory infection.   Assange, she concluded, was “at high risk of completing suicide if he were to be extradited.”

The risk was compounded by an incomplete picture on Assange’s intentions.  He had concealed the “full extent of his depression and suicide plans” in meetings with mental health specialists and prison doctors.  He feared being subjected to “more surveillance” or further isolation if he confessed to the full scope of his “suicidal ideations”.

In cross-examination, Lewis dished up some common, misguided fare.  Any assessment of Assange’s health would surely have to be qualified by the fact that he could leave the embassy at any time.  Such a question, replied Crosby, was “complex”; Assange found himself in a position similar to one “who is being chased with an axe or a gun and locks himself in a room for safety.”  What faced Assange, were he to leave the embassy environs, were the arms of the police and the prospects of extradition, made concrete by the current proceedings.

Lewis also returned to what is becoming a favourite animus of his: the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, whose widely publicised views of Assange’s treatment are known.  “You rely on your report [to the court] on Nils Melzer,” he coldly observed.  “I think you got him involved.”  He also posed a rhetorical question verging on the inane: “Are you aware that no one ever extradited to the US from the UK has committed suicide?”  A man of true venal faith.

Cryptome: published and unpunished

The last instalment of the day came with the reading out by the defence of a witness statement by John Young, host of cryptome.org.  The role of this testimony goes to corroborating other accounts on the chronology of publication.  Cryptome, which Young founded in 1996, published the entire set of unredacted US State Department cables on September 1, 2011.  WikiLeaks followed suit the next day.

The publication, Young’s statement reads, “remains available at present.”  Since “publication on Cryptome.org of the unredacted diplomatic cables,  no US law enforcement authority has notified me that this publication of the cables is illegal, consists or contributes to a crime in any way, nor have they asked for them to be removed.”

Other sites, and their operators, have also been spared the stern and intrusive gaze of the US Justice Department.  Assange’s defence had at hand a statement from Christopher Butler of the Internet Archive.  Butler confirmed that, to this day, the Internet Archive still hosts records of WikiLeaks’ publications.  Both he and his data have been left undisturbed.  Yet another instance showing this prosecution effort to be political, singular and selective.

The post Assange’s Thirteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Mental Health, Managed Risk and Publication Chronologies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

State of Pandemic Disaster: Melbourne Moves to Stage Four

MelbourneBeing in control of a sinking ship is not enviable.  Regulations previously passed have a museum feel to them, distinctly obsolete.  Directions, once dictated with confidence, lack timbre.  Coronavirus is serving as that most wily and cheeky of agents, with the most appropriate of accomplices: Homo sapiens.  Human beings are fed up, munching on conspiracy tales, wondering when a vaccine will arrive, and generally fatigued.

Globally, people are exhausted, disgusted, deluded and dying.  Somewhere in that cocktail of ill-taste are those who think they are doing their best and abide by regulations with understanding obedience.  They are told about a science that is altering. They are told that they must stay home and avoid going to work.  If they are infected, they must undertake measures of self-quarantine, irrespective of whether they have support or income.  Stiff fines and penalties follow in cases of transgression, including the shaming howls of social media junkies.

The language of political authorities in a state of desperation is ominous, paternal, judgmental.  For Daniel Andrews, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, this is starting to seem natural.  “Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks,” he revealed in his statement on Sunday.  Modest dispensation is permitted for those “partners who live apart and for work”.  A curfew operating from 8 in the evening to 5 in the morning is now in place for six weeks.  “The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving.”  Exercise is confined to an hour a day within five kilometres.  People, at most, can move about as couples.

Like locusts, purchasers have been swarming the aisles, trolleys heavy, and emptying them of meat, vegetables and fruit.  The obsession with lavatory paper does not seem as pronounced this time (purchase limits have been maintained), but people are stocking up on certain food items knowing that their access is stifled by both time and geography.

What is in place is similar to the elimination regime used in New Zealand, though it is not articulated as such.  It might best be described as suppression with an eliminating spirit, a somewhat more brutal approach.  The Melbourne model is even more onerous: no curfew was imposed in New Zealand, or the compulsory wearing of face masks between March 26 and April 27, or a time limit on exercise.  But the view from across the Tasman is that merely applying such a regime to Melbourne is not sufficient.  Valuable time, suggests University of Auckland academic Siouxsie Wiles, has been lost.  The less restrictive Stage 3 level that came into force on July 8, applying only to Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire “provided too many opportunities for the virus to spread.”  From this less oppressive environment bloomed 7,000 active cases of coronavirus, 2,000 of whom are still a mystery to contact tracers.  Wiles’ suggestion?  Imposing Stage 4 restrictions across the entire state, thereby giving “Victoria the best chance of success, rather than setting it up to play an endless game of COVID-19 whack-a-mole.”

Pandemic politics is also proving to be a nasty business. On the state opposition benches, Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith continues to hyperventilate and fantasise about the ultimate demise of the Labor premier.  “These ministers and Daniel Andrews have blood on their hands,” he spluttered on Sydney radio station 2GB.  “They have so monumentally failed the people of Victoria.”  Smith sees the crisis as an opportunity for political harvesting. “We are so sick of this man… we’re so utterly sick of him.  In the name of God, would he just go!”  On Radio 3AW, he was truculent.  “We can’t suspend democracy, accountability and the basics of a free society just because we’re dealing with a global pandemic.”

Smith’s demagogy is proving rather rich fare, even for those on his side of politics. The federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg preferred giving his party colleague a wide berth. “They’re not words that I would use,” he admitted to radio host Neil Mitchell.  “Daniel Andrews is obviously operating in a very difficult environment.”  For the moment, grievance and disagreement had to be put aside.  “My message would be, to Tim and to everybody else, let’s work together towards that one single objective, namely to reduce the number of cases and to get the virus under control.”

Frydenberg might well think so, but other party members do not.  Craig Kelly, a federal Liberal MP who can always be counted upon to dynamite the waters of moderate contentment, has mounted his own quixotic crusade against the Victorian premier.  His particular pet project of late is praising the merits of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, and sniping at those who disapprove and ban its use in treating coronavirus cases.  Should that disposition, he asked over the weekend, mean that Andrews face 25 years in jail?  This drew criticism from shadow health minister Chris Bowen as being positively Trumpian, but a clumsy sidestep from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who refused to “get into what people talk about on Facebook on a day like this”.  This, from a leader keen to take Facebook to task for content extreme and extremist in nature.

The clock has been reset; the gains of the last three weeks regarding the coronavirus annulled.  Many businesses were already on the road to ruin during the previous phase of lockdowns. Many more will now assuredly perish.  Mental health will atrophy.  The death toll will continue to rise.  Other states are monitoring and adjusting their responses.  The measure of grief and concern just went up.

Revolutionary Group Dynamics: How Minorities Influence Majorities, from Group Complicity to Collective Creativity

Orientation

From the macro to the micro

When it comes to stereotypes of the masses of revolutionary people, the masses have built barricades that look like forts which they hide behind, armed with guns. But if we trace the behavior of masses back far enough to pre-revolutionary situations, masses become groups. In order to understand how masses of people become a revolutionary force, we first need to understand how groups, small groups of ten to twenty people, become revolutionary. By revolutionary I don’t mean that groups consciously advocate for revolutions. By revolutionary I mean that people in the group understand the science of how minorities in groups can influence majorities to change, no matter what the contents.

Who is to blame when groups go wrong?

The most typical responses people give when groups fail to meet their expectations are to:

  • blame the leaders;
  • blame stigmatized, obnoxious individuals.

For example, at a staff meeting, staff members will say to each other “the leader should have done this or they should have done that”. Psychological analysis of the leaders is in no short supply. The leader is a narcissist, a control freak, an alcoholic or a dictator. Another common strategy is to target members of the group that are stigmatized in some way. They are deemed as recalcitrant, needy, talk too much, talk too little, don’t listen, are unrealistic, are cynical, depressed or inarticulate. Usually people will say to each other, “if only the stigmatized people would get fired, transferred, get sick or find another job, everything would be fine”. But everything wouldn’t be fine. Most groups will unconsciously produce the following to do the work for the majority of people:

  • more bad leaders;
  • more stigmatized individuals.

From by-standing to complicity

However, there is a third possibility. Let us assume a group has sixteen people. It has two leaders and two particularly obnoxious members, leaving twelve other members. How is it that two leaders and two stigmatized individuals can control twelve other people? Why don’t those twelve other people take control of the situation, challenge the leaders’ faults publicly and shut up the obnoxious individuals? After all, its twelve against four. Why don’t those who appear as bystanders jump into the fray? Why are they putting up with a miserable situation? That is one of the subjects of this article.

Groups of human beings are not machines. They are composed of individuals with free will who can coordinate, cooperate, obey or leave a group. Because groups become “alive” as they function over time, the truth is that in groups, there are no neutral bystanders. Every member of the group is either actively or passively producing expansion or contraction of the group’s power. Those twelve people are complicit in whatever happens in the group, for better or for worse.

My experiences in groups:

Blaming leaders and stigmatized individuals

I have been in groups most of my life. From the age of seven to the age of twenty I played in pick-up baseball and football games. During the same window of time, I endured 12 years of Catholic education in grammar and high school where I was taught by nuns and brothers. For the first 13 years of my life I blamed leaders and obnoxious individuals for group problems. My understanding of groups changed when I became involved with radical political groups.

Awakening to complicity

In my twenties I participated in Men’s Liberation Collective, a radical psychiatry group, community and in a council communist political group. In those groups I learned about Wilhelm Reich and his theory of mass complicity.  In my early 40’s I worked as a group counselor for an organization called Men Overcoming Violence. This was a 40-week program which met once a week to help men gain communication skills so as to not resort to battering their partner. I worked in group settings in two half-way houses in San Francisco.  I spent about eight months in what I would now call a cult, a left-wing political psychology group. Beginning in 1989 and for the next 27 years, I taught psychology courses at universities and community colleges, including classes in group dynamics and mass psychology. These classes ranged from eight to 40 students. Throughout those years my appreciation of group complicity was a key to understanding why rebellions in groups don’t occur more often. It was both revealing and frightening.

Theories of groups

Reactionary theories

The earliest years of social psychology in the 2nd half of the 19th century were dominated by political reactionaries who hated groups. Taine, Le Bon and Sighele had never forgotten what the masses did during the French Revolution. For them the whole (the group) was less than the sum of the parts (the individual). In other words, something degenerative happened to individuals when they joined a group. Without any empirical research they characterized groups as childish, criminal, beastly, savage, irrational, impulsive, blood thirsty, primitive, cruel and fickle. Despite the lack of scientific research behind these pronouncements, this stereotype is a staple of mass media today, with the “looting” mantra splashed across the headlines, whenever a natural disaster or a social uprising appears. For them Lord of the Flies depicts what happens in groups without strong leaders.

Leftist theories

At the other extreme on the left, whether they are anarchists, communists or social democrats, they all believed that the working-class in masses was heroic. All workers had to do is was overthrow the capitalists and their kind, gregarious and cooperative tendencies would come to the fore. For them the whole (the group) is more than the sum of its parts (the individuals). Major social change only comes about through mass action. The challenge is to awaken in the masses confidence they have the numbers to take over the world. The problem these leftists were unwilling to face is that workers are conflicted about what to do in a revolutionary situation and they can be turned into fascists with the right kind of political manipulation such as used by Goebbels and Hitler.

Mass complicity theory of Wilhelm Reich

When I was first starting out in the early 1970s on my radical political journey, Wilhelm Reich was required reading for being a situationist communist. I read every book of his that was translated into English. Reich was the only psychologist whose theories were more sexual than Freud’s. He had a theory of character armor which explained that working class people didn’t rebel more because they had character armor in their bodies that prevented them from having good orgasms. For Reich, good revolutionaries were bodily unarmored and had good orgasms. I never had a problem with orgasms, but I investigated Reichian therapy to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I spent three years in Reichian therapy.

Typically, either leftists don’t know about Reich or if they do know about him, they refer to the Mass Psychology of Fascism and then say he went crazy. It’s fair to say that the last fifteen years or so of his life Reich did go around the bend, but he never lost his insight into the mass complicity of the masses in the situations we were in. Reich once said that there never could have been a Hitler if there wasn’t a little bit of Hitler in a whole lot of people.

Reich was at his best at criticizing the masses from a left-wing point of view. He argued the fascist rulers were much smarter than communists because they knew mass psychology. He demonstrated how mass complicity works in his books “Listen Little Man” and “the Murder of Christ“.

How Minorities influence majorities—from complicity to power

Let us return to our group of sixteen people: two leaders, two stigmatized individuals and twelve members who are complicit. In our Men Overcoming Violence group, we taught men communication skills so that they don’t batter their partners. In our group we gave our members an opportunity to shape the direction of the group in terms of when we met and how consecutive the meetings were. Since part of the mission of Men Overcoming Violence was to communicate in a non-violent way, we were open to the men practicing this as group members in our program, not just on their partner.

On one occasion, a group member – I’ll call him Antonio – complained that 40 weeks in a row with no break was too much. Men needed a Saturday off now and then where there was no meeting. For the rest of this article, I will use this example to show how group members moved from passive members who were complicit, to members assuming some power as to what the direction of our group would be.

At the end of our two-hour Saturday meeting we allowed 15 minutes of time for members to meta-communicate about how the meeting went and how the program was going for them. It was here that Antonio first brought up the problem of meeting every single Saturday.  The following italicized headings are the steps necessary by which a minority in a group can impact a majority. When minorities impact and change majorities the group has gone through a revolutionary process.

Perseverance

Antonio made a proposal both to all members of the group and to the group counselors that we should have some breaks between meetings. He made his pitch to a dead silent reception. Mistakenly, Antonio interpreted this as a sign that no one liked his idea. Dejected, he didn’t say any more. But what Antonio didn’t realize was that group silence can mean many things besides rejection. It can mean some members were not paying attention. It can mean they were paying attention but were apathetic and don’t care. It can mean that some members want to think about it. It could also mean they agree with Antonio’s proposal but are afraid to speak about it publicly because they are afraid to speak publicly about anything. They might agree but withhold saying anything about it because that would violate subgroup norms, whether they be race or class customs.

So, the first skill Antonio needed to cultivate in moving the group from complicity to power was perseverance. Antonio had to bring up his proposal more than once. People needed time to get used to it and those who didn’t agree would have time to think about how they could rebut it. If Antonio brought his claim up repeatedly, he gave the message that he was determined, and he was not giving up easily. In private, we counselors encouraged Antonio not to give up and to try to pitch it again, which he did.

Rhetorically compelling

It was not enough that Antonio repeats himself. He had to make his position rhetorically compelling. Aristotle argued that there were four considerations in being rhetorically successful. The claim has to be logical, meaning the person had to have their facts straight and there must be a tight relationship between the facts or the reasons and the claim. The argument also has to come from a reliable source, whether as a primary or secondary source. The third consideration is that the argument was not just rational. It had to have heart and it had to show imagination. In Antonio’s case part of his evidence needs to be something like – he can go to a ballgame with his son on the Saturdays he has off. The last ingredient in being rhetorically compelling is that the claim has to be timely. There has to be a necessity to the claim. There has to be an urgency such that if something is not done now it may be too late. Why is it now or never?

Then the counselors and the rest of the group criticized Antonio’s claim. We told him that the claim had to be specific about how often and in what sequence he expected these breaks to occur. It wouldn’t do to simply say “let’s take a break when the group feels like it”. The breaks needed to be built into our institutional setting. His claim had a pathological (emotional appeal) because he talked about all the places he would go with the time off. His source was good since he was a respected group member who did his work and participated in the program. The timing of the argument was not good. We had only held three meetings, so members had not been ground down by the wear-and-tear of the group in order to make his appeal compelling. Had he brought it up after 10 or 12 meetings in a row, he might have had a better reception.

The rest of the group members and the counselors discussed Antonio’s claim and we decided if we went along with Antonio’s pitch the best time for breaks would be every eight weeks, because that was when we allowed new members to come in. We told the group that if they agreed to take a break it would need to be every eight weeks. However, it wasn’t just the counselors’ decision. It was still up to the group.

Find allies and get them to commit to a public agreement

Even if you persevere and repeat yourself and even if Antonio had followed all four of Aristotle’s criteria of logos, ethos, pathos and kairos, he is only one person in a group of 16. His claim can be dismissed by the group members, whether to themselves privately or to other group members on personal grounds such as these. Antonio is:

  1. heroic but unrealistic;
  2. a rebel and a troublemaker;
  3. a victim of a psychological disorder and has a need for attention; and,
  4. just an extroverted personality.

Antonio needed to find allies. How did he do this? He got the phone numbers of the members whom he senses might be sympathetic to his claim because of what he knows about them and talks to them between the meetings. It is not enough to get them to be sympathetic over the phone or privately in person. It has to be public. I remember as an adjunct faculty member, I would bring things up at faculty meetings. Other teachers would listen politely, but nothing would be said or done. Then after the meeting, a couple of adjuncts would come up to me and say how much they appreciated what I said. I thought to myself “why in the world didn’t you say anything when I was making an appeal in the meeting”? Finding allies to change the direction of a group means asking them to make a commitment to speaking in public before and after you make your pitch. It means verbalizing their own reasons at the time.

How many allies do you need? It is a mistake to think you have to convince all or even half the members. You just need to have enough to make an impression that you are a political force within the group to be reckoned with. What that means is that the majority will be affected by your presence and your views will be taken into consideration even if they are not discussed. In a group of sixteen, three or four people is enough. In other words, about 20-25% of the group.

Anticipate the objections of the majority and rebut them

Between meetings, Antonio drew up on paper three columns. In the first column he put the names of the people he thought would be opposed to his proposal. In the middle column, in bullet form, he listed their objections. In the last column he rebutted their objections, as much as he could, and committed his arguments to memory. When he made his proposal at the next meeting, he said something like, “I know there are significant objections to my proposal. Some of you may feel that it drags the program out even longer than it already is. Others may feel like having two weeks off with no group structure might cause a relapse to being violent. Well, I thought about that and here is my answer”.

He didn’t name the people who might object, he simply named the objections. That kept those members from being put on the spot and less likely to be defensive. He didn’t pull out the paper and read it. That would be perceived as being too lawyer-like and might be a turn-off. He also didn’t name every possible objective because that would be overkill. He could save those objections if he needed them for another round of group discussion. Anticipating objections and rebutting them like this will build up his credibility: “Wow, Antonio has really thought about this. He’s done his homework. He’s serious” these members might think to themselves.

Be Flexible

None of these group members will want to follow the proposal of someone who seems rigid or fanatical. Even if Antonio is right about everything, it is better to intentionally give ground on the little issues. People are far more willing to work with you, if they feel that you are dialectical and can go back and forth on an issue and concede points. Antonio did do this and we think this is one reason he was able to keep his allies.

Present your message so that it appeals to the whole of the group

As much as possible, try to make the claim as an appeal to the interests of the group as a whole. In Antonio’s case, he suggested to one of the counselors that his proposal would be welcomed by counselors so they would get a break too. He also argued that this would be better for the men who enrolled in the problem long after Antonio’s cohort graduated. Of course, there is Antonio’s self-interest involved. However, as much as possible, if there is some part of the proposal that appeals to wider interests, it might have a better chance of passing.

Seize spatial seating advantages on the day of the meeting

It is very important that if there is any flexibility in the seating arrangements that Antonio take full advantage of them. If the tradition of the group is for everyone to be seated (including the counselors) it will be too much for Antonio to stand to make his proposal. But if it is possible to stand without it seeming weird as the act of standing commands more authority than sitting.  In addition, Antonio had three allies. On the day of his presentation he made sure that each of his allies were evenly spread out so that they could see each other and interpret others’ body language. Also, if they were spread out, they appear to be independent voices rather than as part of a clique. One ally spoke before Antonio, and one spoke after Antonio. They all gave different reasons for wanting the break every eight weeks.

Present your message so that is part of a plan

Since the counselors already suggested that they would go along with Antonio if the breaks were every eight weeks, the structure was set. However, he still had to convince the rest of the group. Would the eight-week break proposal go into effect immediately or would it be gradual? Since some group members were not convinced that extending their program an extra five weeks was a good idea, Antonio suggested that they try two breaks in the next 16 weeks and then revisit the proposal.

Having a plan also means having an articulated division of labor as to who will do the work, a timeline for each step to be taken as well as some measurable indicator of whether the proposal was a success or not. Antonio and his allies agreed to write up a questionnaire at the end of the 40-week program and ask members on a scale of one to ten how successful the proposal was. The questionnaire also included essay questions, asking what group members did with their time off, and whether they had any violent incidents during that time.

Meta-communicate: reveal the steps you took to move the majority to other group members

Antonio’s methods should not be kept secret by Antonio and his allies. Antonio should reveal all the steps in this article to his fellow group members so they too could try to influence the majority of the group on other issues. In this way, the twelve formerly complicit members of the group move to become active minorities so that the group maximizes its collective creativity by making all members capable of transforming the group. In this way, leaders would be reduced in stature because the seat of creativity will be the group rather than the leaders.

Conclusion

All members of a group are always co-responsible for what happens to it, whether we like it or not. Most of the time most members in groups are dragged along in the galleys of groups unaware of what is happening, stupidly blaming leadership or annoying individuals for what happens in the group while doing nothing about it. But it doesn’t have to be this, as this article tries to demonstrate. Complicit members can become active minorities who demand that majorities come to life and maximize their resource basis through collective creativity of the group. To do that is to revolutionize group dynamics.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

Neoliberal Psychological Romanticism: From the Primal Scream to the Collective Unconscious Part II

Orientation

In Part I of this article, I begin by grounding neoliberal psychology in the political and economic reality of neoliberalism between 1970 to 2020. First, we discussed the historical origins of neoliberalism, and then its economic exploitation, mystification and ideological use to control people. I briefly discussed the realities of the practice of neoliberal economic policies which has resulted in cannibalization of the infrastructure. Further, I show thirteen instances in which neoliberalism shows its class bias. Neoliberalism is an ideology because the upper and upper middle classes of society do not use neoliberalist economic policies on its own class. It is only applied to neoliberal practices when it comes to middle-class, working-class and the poor who experience this cannibalization.

In practice, neoliberalism strips the individual of his social, qualitative, historical and cross-cultural connections so that all social life can be reduced to a quantitative, measured and calculating cost-benefit analysis. Everything is saleable and reduced to a price. At a micro level, neoliberal psychological realism results in what is called the “entrepreneur self”. This entrepreneurial self is manifested in at least five areas in which neoliberal psychological realism takes place:

  • in the thinking processes of the working class;
  • in the commercialization of child development;
  • in the relationship between Barbie-doll toys and the obsession with being thin;
  • in hookup sex; and,
  • in the preoccupation with living in the present through its ideological use of “mindfulness” psychology.

In this Part II article, I discuss two forms of romantic resistance to neoliberal psychological realism: humanistic psychology and the human potential movement on the one hand, and New Age spirituality on the other.

To counter the entrepreneurial self of realist psychology, romantic psychology develops an “expressive” self that was the result of the work of Maslow, Rogers, Fritz Perls and Arthur Janov. This expressive self peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The other kind of romantic psychology is in cultivating what I call a “mystical self” as embodied in the work of Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell. This “spiritual psychology” peaked in the early 1980’s and continued to cultivate followers at least well through the 1990’s.

In the next few pages, I will review selectively some features of romantic neoliberal psychology as they relate to the humanistic psychological construction of an expressive self. Please see Table A for a deeper comparison between the entrepreneurial self of Part I and the expressive self.

The human potential movement early years: New Deal liberalism

 Abraham Maslow

The seeds of romantic psychology began in the United States, not in the 1960s, but decades before. Maslow was very influenced by the anthropological, cultural relativist work of Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. Both anthropologists challenged the progressive theory of cultural evolution. They were extremely sympathetic to tribal societies and each championed what they thought were their liberating sexual practices. (This anticipated the sexual revolution of the 1970s). The neoliberal political and economic movement began with the Freiburg Circle in the 1930s at roughly the same time. Abraham Maslow began his optimistic quest to rescue psychology from the clutches of what he felt was the pessimism and determinism of Freudians and behaviorists. Maslow first mentioned his famous “peak experiences” as far back as 1946. According to Joyce Milton (The Road to Malpsychia), Maslow was a New Deal Liberal, and as late as 1960, Maslow maintained a respect for Marx. Among his most enthusiastic students was Abbie Hoffman who switched his major to psychology and took every class Maslow offered.

Carl Rogers

Parallel to Maslow, Carl Rogers, another humanistic psychology heavyweight, began studying at a liberal theological seminar in NYC in 1924. Five years later he worked for twelve years on the front lines of counseling, working with problem teenagers and abused children as a staff psychologist in Rochester, New York for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He developed a following among social workers and pastors.

In the early 1960s, Rogers published On Becoming a Person which outlined his version of Maslow’s self-actualization. Increasingly, Rogers was critical of most institutional authority including psychiatrists, and this translated into how he did therapy in the 1960s and 1970s. Rogers did his best to level the playing field, insisting that a person’s emotions and personal experience were the most important guides to health. Rogers became a champion of self-directed therapy in which the client determined the goals, processes and when they ended therapy.

Esalen Institute

The home of the human potential movements in the 1960s and 1970s was Esalen, located in Big Sur, California.  The two co-founders, Richard Price and Michael Murphy had different ideas about where Esalen was going. Michael Murphey identified more with a mystical tradition, having studied with Sri Aurobindo in India. Richard Price was more sympathetic to the experiential, drug-taking wing of Esalen. Throughout most of the 1960s, Esalen was closer to what Murphy wanted. This changed in the latter part of the 1960s with the wave of LSD use on a mass level and the growth of a counterculture.

Shift to romantic neoliberal psychology

By the early 1970s Esalen had moved from a more moderate, discipled approach to a drug-using, “winging it“ orientation. There was a willingness, and, in fact, an expectation by group leaders that people experiment with LSD. Fasting, trance states rebirth rituals, dream work, social nudity and group dancing were par for the course. Sexual encounters within group sessions were common.

The cathartic theory of the emotions

The foundation for virtually all humanistic psychology was the cathartic theory of the emotions. However, the venting approach to the emotions did not originate with therapists. It has roots in the Greek concept that audiences watching a stage play and emoting along with the story serves a cathartic purpose. Aristotle felt that viewing a tragic drama would allow catharsis to occur for the audience, draining off pity and fear. According to Joyce Milton, the cathartic method as a mental practice within the field of medicine was introduced in 1877 by Josef Breuer, perhaps best known for his theory of hysteria and his use of hypnosis. Later these ideas were taken up by Freud. In the hands of humanistic psychologists, the cathartic theory states that emotions are like steam under pressure. If not released, they will explode. Emotional ventilation is supposed to relieve inner frustrations.

This theory was carried on in groups with Will Schutz’s encounter groups and Fritz Perl’s Gestalt groups. Therapists taught people to scream, beat pillows and confront each other. This also occurred in individual therapy with Janov’s Primal Scream therapy along with a spinoff group, “Center for Feeling Therapy.”

Group Cathartic theory: Will Schutz and Fritz Perls

Social psychologist Will Schutz helped to transfer relatively tame “sensitivity groups” in the 1950s to the dramatic encounter groups that began in the mid-sixties.

Schutz conducted the groups as marathon weekend-long events in which sleep deprivation eroded inhibitions. After 24 hours without sleep, open and honest expression as well as actual tears, seemed to flow more easily. (Encountering America, p. 195)

Fritz Perls was trained as a psychiatrist and Reichian therapist and led his first encounter groups in the mid 60s: Jessica Grogan tells us:

In contrast to traditional encounter groups that relied on the self-direction of the group, Perls held the reins in his groups. He utilized the concept of the “hot seat,” a position in which the seated individual received his full attention. Another empty chair was set beside the seated individual and served as an object of projection (it became the victim’s mother or father).

Perls then proceeded in the words of one Esalen historian to take the person apart by noticing and commenting on every defense mechanism, every body posture, every quiver of voice or eyes. Instead of allowing group members to interact with the hot-seated individual, Perls assumed full control while the group watched on in silence, and often, awe. After a brutal dissection of his subjects, Perls measured his success in tears. He then attempted to re-integrate the fractured person in order to create all new gestalt or whole person (Encountering America, p. 197)

Arthur Janov and the Center for Feeling Therapy

About the same time humanistic psychology was “letting it all hang out” at Esalen, in Los Angeles, Arthur Janov was developing what he called “primal therapy”. According to Janov, almost all of people’s problems centered around their parents not giving them the right amount of attention. The way Janov took his clients back in time to the original parental deprivation was a three-week isolation regimen with no external stimulation. When alone and not in therapy sessions the client was not to smoke, drink alcohol or coffee, watch TV, listen to the radio or talk on the phone. They were now raw enough to be taken back to the primal scene. As they got closer, they screamed more and more at their imagined parents. The idea was that once you got the screaming “out of your system” it was possible to begin living a full life instead of through muffled anger at parents.

In early 1979 A spin-off of Janov’s emerged, the Center for Feeling Therapy.  They followed Janov’s method of having the new client stay in a secluded motel room alone for three weeks. A new client of the center met with a therapist in marathon three to seven-hour individual sessions during which the person was attacked and criticized. Over the next 10 years, the center grew very successful. There were 350 patients living near one another and sharing homes. As often happens in cults, the demands of the therapists grew more bizarre and at the end all twelve therapists associated with the center lost or surrendered their licenses.

The problem with the construction of a romantic, expressive self is not just that the therapists had no scientific basis for the cathartic theory of the emotions, but that they stirred people up on marathon weekends but offered no structure for them to integrate all of what was stirred up after the weekends were over. Several suicides at Esalen in 1968-1969 served as painful indications of the Esalen staff’s inability to provide comprehensive services for the mess they had created. For more on the dark side of the human potential movements, see Singer and Lalich’s book, Crazy Therapies.

The sun sets on the romantic expressive self

The numbers of those involved in the counterculture during the 1967 Summer of Love was no more than 100,000 people. But by the early to mid-1970s “flower power” had become mainstream and hippiedom had arrived. As the counterculture became a more mainstream phenomenon, psychology found a new life in self-help books. From 1972 to 1979, self-help books mushroomed across bookstore shelves, but many were written by authors untrained in psychology. Nevertheless, as in any large bookstore, the psychology section contains at least 10 shelves of self-help books for every shelf of books that attempted to uphold some scholarly standard. Many self-help books actually disparaged psychotherapy directly.

By the mid-1970s, the humanistic movement seemed more self-indulgent rather than awakening a higher and deeper self. After 1975, Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP) participation began to decline. In 1976 and 1977, the annual conference attracted about 2,000 participants. By 1980 that number was 1,000. Literary critics turned on the field and John Updike wrote that the American ride had run out of gas. The expressive self was withering on the vine.

Neoliberal Romantic Spiritual Psychology: The Mystical Self

In the early 1970s, feminist women’s spirituality was in crisis. On one hand, women fought for more inclusion within Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious institutions. But for other women, all the world religions were patriarchal. They were drawn to pagan and neo-pagan traditions. Many joined already existing magical groups that centered on people like Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn, while others like Starhawk started wiccan groups from scratch. At the heart of this movement were goddesses and gods and their mythology. Psychologically, all these groups were more or less influenced (whether they knew it or not) by the psychologist Carl Jung, the historian of religion, Mircea Eliade and the mythologist Joseph Campbell.

Commonalities between Jung, Eliade and Campbell

All three were anti-modern, rejecting science and materialism. Their idealistic past was either the medieval world (Jung), 19th century Romanian peasant culture (Eliade), or the early American West, including Native Americans (Campbell). Jung and Eliade rejected democracy and flirted with fascism. Campbell dissociated himself from the 60’s anti-war and civil rights movements. He was not sympathetic to minorities, feminists or toward liberal social programs. Campbell once said he would flunk any student who took part in political activism. All three were anti-communist.

All three mythologists developed a following in the United States. Why? On one hand, their theories went with the emerging anticommunism of the 1950s. On the other hand, they also corresponded to the growing uneasiness of the American middle classes and what they feared was too materialistic a way of life.

All three mythologists were, in different ways, hostile to Judeo-Christian religions, all of which they believed were complicit in modernist problems. Modern religions denied the importance of spiritual experience and were marred in superstitious rituals and material wealth. For all three, mythological stories are really about solutions to common human problems that have been lost, marginalized or demonized by traditional religion. All three mythologists were followers of a spiritual gnostic tradition which says there is a hidden spiritual knowledge that the ancients were aware of, but which has been lost, thanks to modernity. This gnostic tradition teaches that the material world is not reformable and it is better to withdraw from it in order to perfect oneself.

Though Jungian spirituality is eclectically Western, it is fair to say that Jung admired what he imagined to be pre-Christian German paganism. If James Hillman is any indicator, Jungian psychology is a modern version of the archetypal, polytheistic psychology of the Renaissance. The roots of Eliade’s religious beliefs are Hindu’s Vedanta tradition of yoga. According to Robert Ellwood, Campbell flirted with Hindu traditions but ultimately settled on the pagan traditions in the west, from Homer to the Holy Grail.

Carl Gustav Jung and Wotan’s Return

Collective unconscious

In The Politics of Myth, Robert Ellwood tells us that after his break with Freud in 1913, Jung underwent a spiritual crisis and came out of it with an array of archetypes drawn from pagan sun-worshiping volkish mysticism to which he later added other western esoteric traditions such as alchemy. Jung took Freud’s personal unconscious and collectivized it, arguing that nations and races each had a collective unconscious which could be tapped through their mythology and ritual. Jung thought that levels of the unconscious lay like geological strata in the psyche. Mythology was to culture what dreams were to the individual.        

In the modern world, the collective unconscious was repressed because modern religion has lost its ancient roots in mythology and ritual. Modern masses are alienated and lack the symbols, myth and rituals that would ground collective psychic energy and provide integration. Jung followed Ortega y Gasset in claiming that modern humans isolate socially from others, while also separating from their unconsciousness and instincts. To be fair to Jung, given this pessimism towards modernity, it is understandable that he flirted with the Nazi movement. Because of their rootlessness, modern humanity’s collective unconscious had more power and can be easily distorted into a monstrous hybrid which results in the worst of tribalism and modernism (Nazism). Jung realized this later.

Mircea Eliade and nostalgia for the sacred

Rejection of secularism

Eliade fled Romania after it became a satellite of the Soviet Union in 1945. In the same year, he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and then, starting in 1956, at the University of Chicago. In these roles he became the most important historian of religion of his time. Eliade radically and systematically rejected the very epistemological and ontological foundations of the modern secular world. He thought the object of the study of religion was beyond historical analysis. For Eliade, ordinary means of knowledge and experience are not only flawed but are a “Veil of Maya” over our knowledge of reality. He saw himself as caretaker of spirituality against the assault of secularism. Why should he not try to engineer a religious destruction of the confidence in secular consciousness?

Eliade seemed to hold a degenerate theory of the history of religions. Rather than primitive societies consisting of backward, superstitious people, Eliade was all for Frazer’s description of bloody sacrifices, drunken banquets and carnivalesque masquerades as sacred activities.  Like Dumezil and other “order” theorists, Eliade felt that historical consciousness and modernity was a catastrophe for humanity’s sense of the sacred.

Sacred space and time

The arena of sacred time is myth, not history. Eliade believed that to live in historical time and place was to live under fallen conditions. Mystical experience was to live beyond history and place. Myth tells us of the eternal time of origins. Sacred space is the location in which myths are enacted. The world’s spiritual sites have common properties – they are perceived to be the navel, or center, of the world. This center is the cosmic tree where the perpetual regenerations of the world take place. Thus mandalas, mazes or labyrinths of medieval Christianity helps us to experience this center.

Joseph Campbell and the New Quest for the Holy Grail

The life of Campbell

According to Ellwood, Joseph Campbell was the best known of all interpreters of myth for late 20th century Americans due to his lively and highly readable books, grand lecture hall performances and PBS appearances with Bill Moyers. He was born in 1904 to Irish-American parents and both his grandfathers arrived in the US as poor immigrants who escaped the Irish potato famine. Joseph’s father was a successful salesman who rose his family to upper-middle classes status which exposed Joseph to the arts and cultures of the world, allowing him to attend concerts, plays and museums. After being taken by his father to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, he cultivated a strong interest in American Indians.

Spiritual influences

Through Thomas Mann, Campbell met Indologist Heinrich Zimmer. When Zimmer died in 1943, Campbell received the responsibility of editing Zimmer’s manuscripts. The Zimmer connection enabled Campbell to become attached to the famous Eranos conferences which included scholars like Eliade, Gershom Scholem who had revived the study of Jewish Kabbala, Henry Corbin of Iranian mysticism, as well Jung. Campbell became a major figure in the world mythology with the publication in 1949 of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Despite his flirtation with Indian religion, a trip he made to India made him think twice because of the poverty and the disease he witnessed. In the end, he turned westward. Besides Native Americans, Campbell was drawn to Homer’s Odyssey and stories of the search for the Holy Grail. From 1959 through 1968 he wrote a great four-volume world mythology.

According to Campbell there are four functions of myth:

  • a mystical experience to awaken and maintain a sense of awe and gratitude;
  • an image of the universe in accord with the knowledge of the time (in the sciences);
  • implementation of a moral order; and,
  • to give an account stage by stage through life.

20th century myths: individualism in space: Star Wars

In the application of myths to today, Campbell was no reactionary. He proposed the place for myths to play themselves out today was in Outer Space. This is our mythology in a way that is comparable to the role of Arthurian fantasy in Victorian England and Wagner’s heroes in Wilhelmine Germany.

Ellwood makes a very interesting comparison between Star Trek and Star Wars as a way to demonstrate Campbell’s individualistic roots. Star Trek was about cooperation between the crew, not the individual. It isn’t even about the patriotism of, say, the United States. The crew members included people of many ethnicities. It was about humanity in space. In these episodes there was a direct struggle for power between humanity and extra-terrestrial civilizations. In the case of Star Wars, the theme was about the individual heroism of Luke Skywalker. In Star Wars, Arthurian legend and Wagnerian cycles of myths all show the ultimate futility of grasping for power.

Politically this has conservative implications.  How convenient this is to encourage people to withdraw from political power and engagements into the private world of mythological journeys. What kind of society would Campbell’s view of myth construct? Most likely a society of heroes like the characters of Star Wars who follow their own myths. Meanwhile a ground-crew of non-heroes (the working class) sing about heroes and the songs that keep the social order together. It is ironic that in spite of his conservative politics, he was extremely popular at Esalen.

The mystical self as the playground of the upper classes

What kind of Americans were drawn to Jung, Eliade and Campbell?

Interestingly the publisher of both Campbell and Jung’s work, Bollington, was owned by Paul Mellon, related to Andrew Mellon who was one of the wealthiest men of that time. Given the conservative tendencies of Jung and Campbell, it is not surprising that they found so much money to “spread their word” at a time of rabid anti-communism in the fifties, and as a reaction to the liberal and radical sixties with its expressive self.

Overwhelmingly, those drawn to Jung, Eliade and Campbell are upper middle-class and upper-class wealthy people – doctors, lawyers, architects and ministers from the upper middle-class as well as the independently wealthy. They are people who laid low during the 1960s and 1970s and then stepped forward into the vacuum left by the human potential movement. They became the upper-class version of the swing to the right-wing politics. This was happening at the same time when the lower classes were gravitating towards a right-wing fundamentalism in the churches of the South.

The place and misplace of romantic self

As I said at the beginning of Part I, romantic emotional and spiritualist selves are two different answers to the experience of feeling trapped by neoliberal modern social conditions and realist psychology. Their proposals are either to flee from all social relations (expressive self of the human potential movement) or to search for a premodern social life based on an organic community. Their reaction is either for the individual:

  1. to detach from society and rebel emotionally, or;
  2. to reject the associative, social contract relations of modern life, not by denying our social identity as the expressives do, but to dissolve into pre-modern social life as in the Middle Ages or into pre-Christian paganism.

Please see Table B for a more exhaustive comparison between the expressive and mystical selves.


A Story of Resurrection

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.
— Michelle Rosenthall

A feature on a local person usually doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of a person’s trauma and her battles scraping to get out of darkness.

A few artists I’ve interviewed  unleashed catharses into their personal journeys, including personal hells; however, after reading my drafts, many have declined to “expose” so much of their lives for public consumption. The exposing of one’s trials and tribulations is powerful to readers, but many times opening up in person is easy; seeing it in print is devastating.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not a great place to find healing, though, and a person like Oregon Coast resident Kiera Morgan faces those demons head on. She embraces the good, bad and ugly of her totality.

The Central Oregon Coast (where I live) has remarkable narratives of people who face down homelessness, incarceration, depression, poverty, illness — what some call the school of hard knocks to the tenth power. Trudging out of the dark into the bright burning light serves up powerful survivors’ tale. It is a microcosm to the rest of the USA, the world.

Kiera Morgan fits this to a tee. I met her last year at Depoe Bay’s Neighbors for Kids (a non-profit for families in need of a place for children to be when parents are working) while I was giving a presentation on an anti-poverty program I am heading up in Lincoln County.

Her nose for news quickly motivated Kiera to get me on camera for her weekly show, “Coffee with Kiera.” This is a newish Lincoln County digital platform of her own creation: Pacific Northwest News and Entertainment.

A few months later, here I am talking to her on phone, my first interview conducted with the impersonal tools of social distancing.

I ask Kiera several times — “Are you okay with the dirty laundry aired and published in a newspaper?”

I am not ashamed of where I came from. I think my story could be a learning lesson for others.

ACES — the deck is stacked

Her story is one of reclamation — radio DJ-ing, theater and a newshound background. She has been out here since 1994. Setting down coastal roots entailed pain, struggle and personal discord. Kiera is now at her sweet spot — a good marriage to Tony Thomas (with Rogue Brewery in Newport  for 12 years) and her own involvement in civic and community programs.

She has been on (or is currently a member of) such diverse advisory boards as the Salvation Army, Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, Partnership Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Central Coast Child Development Center.

Sort of the “why” of Kiera’s involvement in these social services non-profits weaves back to her early years as well as her adulthood: she was born in Idaho 55 years ago; moved to Bend; ended up in Gresham by the age of five. She’s spent time in Portland, Pendleton, Sweet Home and, finally, the Central Oregon Coast.

Though she’s not “just” defined as a child of early divorce, Kiera recalls a stepdad who was an abusive alcoholic. She ended up emotionally and physically battered.

We bring up ACES — Adverse Childhood Experiences. I’ve worked in education, with gang prevention programs, newly released prisoners and foster teens. Training around ACES, I was galvanized to in understanding my students’ and clients’ childhood traumas. Those negative events early on have concrete outcomes — future violence victimization and perpetration, lifelong physical and mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness and plethora of lost opportunities as adults.

The adage, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is pivotal in how society should create neighborhoods, communities and situations where children can thrive. Letting children fall through the cracks and live in abusive, impoverished homes nullifies many possibilities of a thriving adulthood.

Kiera emphasizes how our communities pay for this as fellow citizens get involved in substance abuse, are challenged with illiteracy and fall into myriad unhealthy lifestyle “choices.” As a community, we pay in many ways for these people failing through the cracks:

Poverty, violent parents, substance abuse in the household and being a foster youth are all high-influencing ACES.

Kiera ticks off all of the above. Her biological father was out of the picture, she says, not because that was his choice. Her mother was not emotionally sound to break away from an abusive husband, her step-father.

She moved in briefly with her biological father who was a chef and baker in Rhododendron at an operation centered around rental cabins.

“I would go to the restaurant for meals,” she says, emphasizing how she rode her bike to friends’ homes, and was able to hang with farm animals at her friends’ parents’ farms.

“My dad was good-natured, a very positive person. He would literally give the shirt off his back to anyone in need. He was a happy man, and everyone called him, Hap.”

Getting back up

Kiera’s time with her biological father ended when a private detective, hired by Kiera’s mother, stated he saw Hap letting his young daughter hang out by herself in their cabin while her father was just around the corner working in the restaurant.

More ACES: whipped by her step-father, and bruises on her body. “I literally had the design of his belt on me because he hit me so hard.”

Her biological father would show up to his sister’s house. They called the police once, and the step-father told the officer the marks were evidence of normal disciplining. Nothing happened to the abuser.

The young Kiera witnessed her stepfather’s heavy drinking. She had the marks of being swatted and belted, and she held in the emotional pain. The vicious cycle of a mother allowing the abuse of the child by a male step-parent put Kiera front and center into his rage. She was grabbed by the throat, her hair pulled and head slammed against the wall.

The next day the sixth grader showed a teacher the fingerprint bruises on her neck and welt on the back of the head.

Is this proof enough, or do I have to die before you believe me?

This journey has more twists and turns in Part Two published on the OCT website, but as one bookend to her life, Kiera reiterates, “I want to be like my dad — loving and a smile on my face. It’s important for me to expand my web site. It puts me at peace knowing I can help others through the news site.”

PTSD may stand for post traumatic stress disorder, but the label could mean Personally Tough Strong Dame after spending time with Kiera Morgan.

So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive

— Audre Lorde

Kiera is open about her life, about survival. She recounts how she was living paycheck to paycheck in Sweet Home. She was with an alcoholic, a husband who “did get physical with me, punched me.”

She emphasizes leaving an abusive spouse is not always an option. Kiera knows the psychological underpinnings of “battered spouse syndrome” by heart. She went back to this fellow many times.

One instance, Kiera’s sister came to get her, and Kiera spent her time couch surfing, virtually homeless. She lived in her car. “Nine months pregnant. Jeff found out where I was. He told me he missed me. I knew better, though, but I went back to him.”

The vicious cycle of believing a man can and will change when the bottle or the needle are more important in their lives is not atypical.

At the end of her pregnancy, she was quickly feeling massive heartburn. Eventually she went to OHSU where she was diagnosed with toxemia, which meant bed rest. On Sept. 10, 1992, a six-pound, nine-ounce Nick was born.

Foster parents bow out

Being put into a foster home and being told that you are just like their own daughter is powerful. More impacting is having these foster parents tell you they are done fostering and want out of the deal.

Kiera had that experience in 8th grade. Afterward, she got packed up and sent to a different foster home, this time in Gresham. “They had lots of kids. It was that they needed a babysitter for the other foster kids, and I was it.”

Kiera laughs, telling me she constantly listened to the Billy Joel song, “My Life.”

She had an older foster sister, aged 16, who stole and used drugs. “I could have easily gone down that path.”

Her Aunt Jean told her that she was going to be her daughter. Another change in schools. “It was tough, even though I knew Aunt Jean loved me. I really loved music and that what really helped me get through some rough parts.”

She was obsessed with record clubs, and she got into Queen, the Bee Gees, Journey, Cheap Trix and others.

My aunt always encouraged me to work. I babysat and worked at an after-school program for a Montessori School.”

Theater, she says, was a lifesaver for her. She was involved in the Overlook Acting Company that gathered in North Portland. She calls those people “my theater family.”

She also got involved in the Big Sister program. That sister, Lois, paid for a plane ticket to go to Alaska so Kiera could visit Lois’s family. But tragedy struck — her biological father was killed in a sandstorm in Idaho, hit from behind by a semi. Kiera had only been in Alaska two days when she got the news of his death.

She graduated from high school in 1983 at age 17 and went to work for a window treatment company.

More tragedy. Her foster mom was aged 60 when she was diagnosed with an inoperative brain tumor. Kiera took care of Jean for three weeks, before she passed away.

“I’ve been on my own since age 17.”

After she died, an ex-husband of Lois showed and took away the house.

Kiera was working in Beaverton for a dry cleaners, and then the day care center, and landed another job, at an Albertson’s bakery. There, she met a woman whose husband was director of the National Broadcasting School in Portland.

Work, buses from one side of Portland to the other, and this amazing school. She graduated as valedictorian. Her first gig was with KFIR AM/FM in Sweet Home.

It was a country station. “I had grown up on KGON since I was a baby. I was a rock ’n’ roller.”

Country Western music grew on her.

She ended up in an abusive relationship, but he was the father of her son. She ended in a domestic violence shelter in Pendleton. One thing led to another and she drove to Newport, found jobs and a house and ended up at the Shilo Inn as a DJ.

She was in a small trailer up the Alsea River near Waldport, Oregon.

Nick is 28 years old and had his first baby July 2019 with Amelia. Three years ago, Keira and Tony (they were married in 2001) bought a house in Newport Heights.

Kiera’s life is one of struggle, but with plenty of highlights too: working for KZVS-Toledo, KFND, delivering newspapers, retail work for the Chocolate Basket. She also works for KSHL — the Wave, 93.7 FM — doing sales and PSAs.

She and Tony have his son, Nathan, and girlfriend sharing the house with Rocky the cat and two shih tzus.

Her takeaway at the end of the interview:

I want people to feel hope.

Q & A Rapid-fire

PH: What makes you tick inside?

KM: What makes me tick, is work. I am a hopeless workaholic. I like to stay busy and be in touch with what is going on around me.

PH: What do you like about this county, this community?

KM: What I like about Lincoln County and this community is the willingness to help others when they are in need. When the chips are down for someone or an event creates a situation where people need help, like right now, we step up and help.

PH: What advice would you give a young woman who is in a viscous and abusive relationship? The elevator speech.

KM: I would say to a woman in an abusive situation that they should use their best judgement to protect themselves and loved ones. Don’t always believe everything your abuser says. If you can get out and do so safely there are those who can help you recover and get back on your feet. Most of all get counseling!!

PH: What are two big changes you have seen since first moving to Lincoln County almost 30 years ago?

KM: One of the biggest changes I have seen is the effort to help those and a better understanding of homelessness. I think people now realize that those who are homeless are not that way because they are lazy, they are families who work but simply can’t afford high rents and costs of getting into homes or apartments with fees and credit checks. I am also proud of the changes being made to have a better understanding between law enforcement, the community and those who have a mental illness and the work to get them the help they need.

PH: What are the top two issues that need addressing in Lincoln County?

KM: One of the top issues that concerns in Lincoln County, in my opinion, remains the lack of quality child care! Families often can’t afford the high cost of child care so they turn to the next best thing. This is not always a safe choice but when we live in a county that is not a M-F, 9-5 community it leaves parents with little choice. There is an extreme lack of infant care. This makes two parent families choose between only one parent working or having to work opposite shifts, which puts a strain on families. If I have said it once I will say it a thousand times “you can’t have economic development without childcare.” Families need a safe place for their kids to go for them to be able to work, it also defeats the purpose when the parent is working is paying nearly all of their paycheck to childcare. Help from the state or from companies is essential. Homelessness would be the second. There are many options that could be explored that have been done in other areas including creating small house communities, instead of trailer parks that would be managed by programs such as Grace Wins or the programs in Lincoln City.

PH: If you could do some things over in your life, what would they be?

KM: I am old enough now to realize that the mistakes that we make in our lifetime are what helps us to learn and grow as a person and become better. Love and appreciate those you have in your life, as we truly never know when things can change.

PH: What’s your basic life philosophy?

KM: My basic life philosophy is happiness. Do what makes you happy, treat others with the respect and kindness that you would like to be shown.

Air Pollution, Mental Illness, and Covid-19

Lockdowns imposed in response to Covid-19 forced millions of people to stay at home, businesses closed and a widespread hush descended. The major beneficiary of the controls has been the natural environment; in particular there has been a dramatic reduction in air pollution everywhere. But as countries begin to lift restrictions, road traffic levels are once again increasing, air and noise pollution rising.

Changes to working patterns and daily living have created a unique opportunity to re-imagine how we live and work. Central to any new pattern needs to be the environment; many people recognize this and the importance of not ‘going back’. Some cities in Europe are already responding positively (Milan, London, Bristol e.g.), proposing pedestrian only areas together with an increase in cycle lanes, and the results of a recent survey by the Automobile Association (AA) in Britain are encouraging. “Half of those polled said they would walk more and 40% intended to drive less…to maintain the cleaner air of the lockdown and protect the environment.” In addition around a quarter said they planned to (continue) to work more from home, as well as flying less.

Death by Breathing

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 90% of the global population breathe filthy toxic air. The bulk of air pollution is the result of burning fossil fuels for heat and power generation (e.g. oil and coal power plants and boilers) and fuel combustion from vehicles – cars, motorbikes, lorries etc. All of which not only throw toxins into the air but also generate enormous levels of noise pollution.

Worldwide, air pollution is said to kill around nine million people a year, making it the fifth leading risk factor for death in the world. Children are particularly vulnerable; they inhale more airborne toxins than adults, tend to spend greater periods of time outside and are more active. The detrimental effects can be long lasting, affecting their physical and mental health as well their education.

Contaminated air is also a significant factor in a person’s susceptibility to Covid-19. Air pollution, particularly Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), as well as Particulate Matter (PM) – both of which are released by vehicles burning fossil fuels, causes and exacerbates respiratory complaints.  A university study conducted in Germany found that of the total number of coronavirus deaths in 66 administrative regions of Italy, Spain, France and Germany, “78% of them occurred in just five regions, and these were the most polluted.”

The results of the research “indicate that long-term exposure to this pollutant may be one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the Covid-19 virus…poisoning our environment means poisoning our own body, and when it experiences chronic respiratory stress [Covid-19 e.g.] its ability to defend itself from infections is limited.” A separate study in the US shows that even small “single-unit” increases in particle pollution in the years prior to the pandemic is linked with a 15% increase in deaths. Cleaner air in London or New York; e.g., in the past could have saved hundreds of lives.

Air pollution affects everyone but predictably the poorest members of society, including people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, are the most severely impacted, they appear also to be the most at risk from Covid-19. In multi-cultural Britain; e.g., people in deprived areas have been dying of coronavirus at double the rate of those in affluent areas. And those from BAME backgrounds –making up around 13% of the UK population – account for a third of virus patients admitted to hospital critical care units. Similar patterns have emerged in other European countries with large minority populations as well as the US. Black Americans represent around 14 per cent of the US population but total 30 per cent of those who have contracted the virus. In Norway people born in Somalia have infection rates more than 10 times above the national average.

The social causes behind the figures are complex. Many people from BAME groups live in overcrowded housing in extremely polluted areas and work in high-risk low paid jobs. Diet among some BAME communities is poor and (in part as a result) there is a propensity to underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and respiratory illnesses, all of which make people more vulnerable to Covid-19.

Poverty is the world’s biggest killer, and Covid-19 is, it seems, the most recent addition to the symptomatic causes of death for the poor, the vulnerable and people from minorities, which, in many cases are one and the same.

In addition to causing millions of deaths and a variety of respiratory conditions, air pollution is increasingly being linked to a range of mental health illnesses, including depression, bipolar, and, according to a study in the UK, psychotic experiences in children.

An estimated 300 million people in the world suffer from depression, a similar number are plagued by anxiety. Many aspects of contemporary living contribute to mental health illnesses. Various studies in recent years show that air pollution is one of them. The finest particle pollutants are known to reach the brain via the bloodstream and the nose, The Guardian reports, causing increased brain inflammation, “damage to nerve cells and to changes in stress hormone production, which have been linked to poor mental health.” Air pollution has also been shown to quadruple the risk of depression in teenagers and is being linked to dementia.

Together with noise pollution, studies show that filthy air feeds sleep apnea symptoms and may disturb sleep by exacerbating asthma, COPD, or other respiratory or chronic diseases. This, in turn, creates greater vulnerability to depression and anxiety, as well as the current Covid-19 virus.

Changing behavior

Air pollution is poison. We are literally breathing in toxic compounds that are making us ill, physically and mentally. Urgent and lasting steps are required to reduce to an absolute minimum the levels of air pollution. This requires humanity to drastically reduce its dependency on fossil fuels.

For this to happen there needs to be a major shift in attitudes, triggering a change in behavior and greater levels of environmental responsibility. Consumerism (including consumption of animal food produce) is the principle cause of the environmental emergency, including air pollution. Excessive, unnecessary consumption needs to stop, sufficiency not excess promoted and adopted as the guiding principle. Meat and dairy diets reduced and the trend towards plant-based diets encouraged.

At the same time investment in renewable sources of energy generation and supply needs to be increased throughout the world. All unnecessary travel should be eliminated (including air travel), and (where practical) a strategic movement away from the car onto public transport – reliable and clean, cycling and walking. Public transport needs to be state-owned and run as a service, not for profit. China, with 99% of the world’s total electric fleet, leads the way in the electrification of public transport.  In addition, the Chinese government has invested heavily in electric cars and has set a target of 40% electric vehicles by 2025.

The beautification of our towns and cities (where over 50% of the world’s population now live) goes hand in hand with the reduction in traffic and the promotion of clean modes of transport. Bold imaginative initiatives are required that prioritize the environment and human welfare over corporate concerns. Whole sections of cities and towns, major streets and abandoned sites could be redesigned as peaceful green spaces. And while many fear the closure of retail outlets and the slow death of shopping streets, the possibility of converting these areas to parklands and gardens, present itself and should be embraced.

All flows from a shift in thinking. The environmental emergency is the greatest crisis facing humanity; with every new report published the scope and depth of the crisis becomes increasingly stark, the need for action more urgent. To date the complacency of governments and corporations, as well as large tracts of the public, has been astonishing and shameful; this must now change.

Covid-19 forced governments to act (albeit in many cases inadequately); the same sense of urgency needs to be applied to tackling air pollution, which, I say again, is responsible for at least nine million deaths a year, and the wider environmental emergency. The pandemic has given the natural environment a brief respite from human abuse; as countries ‘open up’, we have the chance to adopt a new responsible approach to living and not revert to old destructive ways.

Street Wise and Worldly

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. For many the Reagan Administration is remembered for Reaganomics and ending the Cold War. Yet the poor and homeless of the time remember it rather for a dramatic reduction in housing and social services, Boss Tweed politics, and constant reminders that a mythical “welfare queen” in Chicago and exaggerated “welfare cheats” across America made their poverty their fault. “Mr. Reagan and Congress’s housing cutbacks are directly responsible for the homeless problem,” Mitch Snyder once said of the Administration.

On Thanksgiving Day 1981, tents appeared in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. A sign amidst the spread of tents read “Reaganville: Reagonomics at Work.” The tent city, an intentional throwback to the Hooverville encampments of the Great Depression, held 20-25 homeless persons and activists each night for the next four months. For many observers, a fine line had been drawn between what is real and what is theater. Such was precisely Snyder’s desire.

In addition to being an activist, Snyder was a self-proclaimed actor. A master of social pageantry and what now would be dubbed “street theater,” Mitch was famed for his insatiable motivation to cause a public scene. Among his exploits, he orchestrated a blood spattering of the Capitol steps, sloshed through the world’s biggest pie yelling “It’s all mine,” sat outside the White House in an old Irish tradition of waiting outside the home of someone who had wronged you without appropriate remorse, often jumped the White House fence, and, most infamously, fasted, nearly unto death three times. These actions gained significant attention to Mitch, the cause of homelessness, and helped to energize and unify many homeless persons and advocates.

— “I Don’t Mind Stealing Bread” … Remembering Mitch Snyder  (Hymns of Social Justice), Chris Henrichsen, July 24, 2013

Talking with John (he prefers a pseudonym), I know tagging this 48-year-old as a “victim of circumstances” won’t stick. He prefers to be called a vagabond. We talk about intelligent design, quantum physics, zoning laws, solutions to housing precarity.

He’s been going state to state for seven years. His own life philosophy is complicated, but in one sense is can be whittled down to – “Here today and gone tomorrow.”

“I am not a loner, don’t get me wrong,” he tells me while we share coffee. “I’ll associate with anyone who’s kind regardless of their station in life.”

Like many on the road, John doesn’t want many specifics revealed. He grew up in Los Angeles. He said he was probably a foster child. No siblings. He has no connection to his parents. The effects of a bullet to the lung and one to the hip at age 22 (both removed) are taking a toll on his ability to work long and grueling jobs.

Terry, 50, in Waldport, OR, on the streets and literally under a bridge at night.

He’s thrown in as a line chef, in carpentry, cabinet-making, demolishing structures and even was paid a penny a word for research through an on-line university.

He thinks labeling anyone with “mental illness” is both incorrect (“we can have mental issues and problems, but it is not a disease”) and a quick way to control people and taking away their rights.

John is skeptical of government services for homeless, saying, “The secular institutions aren’t capable of helping the homeless. When people help me, it’s members of the community. Religious institutions should be helping out much more.”

He’s not atypical in that he had his ID stolen in 2016, and has had major difficulty securing a copy of his birth certificate (from California) to get the process going for an ID. His California driver’s license, he said, was taken by police.

Working under the table isn’t always easy. He isn’t asking for any handouts, but when I pressed him about his immediate needs, he said:

  • somewhere to get out of the rain
  • a place with a source of heat
  • a place to cook food
  • a place to get out of the cold.

“It seems like the powers that be want us to freeze to death. Sometimes it’s just a place to get out of the cold that can make the difference,” John said.

Larry, right, 74, from California, went to Humboldt State, and he’s been without a home for fifty years. Both Larry and Terry (left) are the tip of the iceberg, so to speak: they are on the streets, have signs — “Anything will help” — and talk with locals. Citizens. Homeowners. The issue with homelessness yawns its monster mouth when we take into account couch surfing, basement living, folks with families in garages, those living in fifth wheels and vans and cars.

Two-part series in the local rag — “Behind the Faces of Lincoln County’s Homeless.”

Part of my impetus doing this sidebar is to get the word out, but in so many cases, I feel as if I am a babe in the woods. There are not real forums where strong, focused arguments about the failures of capitalism can be voiced. You see, the fewer opportunities for social-people-environmental-cultural justice to be voiced and delineated, the quicker this retail/consumer society will tank.

From the bottom up, of course, since we have a system of corporate welfare that sucks the very blood from people. Imagine, no outrage about food stamps — a program if run right, STIMULATES local economies, local food purveyors, local community building.

Instead, a million more people off the measly program, while those pigs of capital get cash hand over fist billions for military-surveillance-prison-banking complex.

Children already in bad schools — bad because they teach incompetence, small mindedness, compliance, stupidity, chaos, genuflection to lies about history and about the Empire — need real food, real veggies, real fruit, real nutrition. Instead, more children left behind.

And, then, who knows how many end up like these men in a decade, or two decades.

Imagine systems of oppression in schools, in communities, with police forces, with the broken and dictatorial social services, working to put more and more people through the ringer.

Yep, people come to Lincoln County (like hundreds of other counties) to find a place in the sun. To find work. To get away from the urban core of a Portland.

They find seasonal work, tourist industry low paying service jobs, no transportation system, no community gardens, no community centers, nothing, really, and alas, the worst part, they have no housing.

Think how hard communities of every size and shape give away trillions in tax abatements, free land, loopholes, entitlement program, federal dollars, the whole works. Yet, do we have cooperative housing so these businesses can keep people here with the low wages they shell out?

Insanity is believing the tip of the iceberg is the iceberg, so seeing these down and out men (and some women) on the streets and then calling it good when crappy hot chocolate is donated on a windy cold day, when a pile of toothbrushes is given out, when a Oregon Ducks used sweatshirt if thrown at them!

PhD’s on food-stamps! Adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants living in cars, tripling up, while football coaches and a million other superfluous employees at universities get big pay, big tenure rewards, big retirement benefits.

I have been around enough to have talked with plenty of faculty (I was a freeway flyer with a spouse, so we threw in together, with some help from my mother and her parents buying our only child “things” that would have cost us an arm and a leg) who are living in their vans. I have been around enough to have worked as a social worker with clients living in cars, in tents, in abandoned garages and shacks. These homeless people ARE workers, man — cutting Dole’s fruit, loading a million consumer goods onto pallets, answering phones at call centers. Tons and tons of people working the Amazon Fascist Smile Warehouse gig living in a beat-up 20 foot RV.

Tickets on their windows for parking in “illegal zones.” Tickets for expired plates. Tickets for garbage neatly boxed outside the RV. Tow truck operators making bucks, judges getting paid, cops getting retirement benefits.

Being poor, as John attests, costs a lot of money. “If I have no place to cook and heat up food, what does that leave me? Chips and bad food. I can’t go into a restaurant like this an pay $12 for an enchilada plate.”

Larry is so down and out he has cancerous growths on his face, on his back. His clothes are so bad that he gets shooed away from businesses just being outside. He is in need of massive intervention, and on the surface that intervention might look like mandatory “commitment” to a program or suite of programs. But he is in pain, dying on the streets, a constant reminder of the failure of so many systems in this wacko survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog/Christ Let’s The Poor Inherit The Earth mumbo-jumbo.

Mumbo-jumbo that drive policy. I have met a hundred social workers (females) who have crucifixes around their necks, who believe in their own personal angels. I have met dozens of male social workers who believe in tough love, in turning off someone’s food stamps to get them to come into the office for their monthly face-to-face.

These are the evil people, the Little Eichmann’s, the banality of evil that is a country like USA. Or any country that values the rich and the material over the majority of people in their midst, over the land, over the ecosystems.

John believes the churches will step it up. He thinks the government is too strong, and that churches — the Xmas kind — should have power in this country. he’s a smart guy, deep thinker, been around but over the years it’s been those ministries that have given him a spare blanket, a dime, food.

That’s the odd thing about smart homeless people — they have undying faith in their personal protector, their big daddy in the sky. Many see their lives in this constant chaos and estrangement from “norms” as part of some big plan.

Some, that is, believe that.

But, just last night — a woman, forty, with two girls, on her own, getting disability security checks for the autistic child. She’s in subsidized housing. She has no money for car insurance. Getting a job means something right across the street from her subsidizing housing. An 11 year old at home with a daughter who just turned 18 receiving the $1300 a month for housing and disability compensation.

If this woman — the daughter — goes over $15 or more a month, she loses payments. Already the food stamp allotment has been cut by $85 a month. Imagine, a family of three, and that is a big cut big time.

The average person spends $75 a month on coffee at Starbucks. But the average person in the other category — really precarious, on the edge, without many employment options — they end up in a life and death situation. Less nutrition.

Now, some redneck type might ask where’s the father? Oh, where is that father who ended up in the US Army, got injured twice, with 300 pounds of antifreeze coming down on his head? Yep, ya think that man is cognitively okay? Divorced and left with the two children at a young age, this woman is not getting back child support.

The cogs of the machinery not only do not turn, they are frozen in place.

Recrimination abounds in the world I travel through — it’s her fault for having kids; it’s her fault for having a bad spouse; it’s her fault for not going to college’ it’s her fault she was born into a bad family with no father figure; it’s her fault she carries extra pounds on her frame; it’s her fault the kids have no extras, no activities to do outside of school, walks on the beach and TV; it’s her fault for being here on the coast.

A lot of faults, a lot of recriminations, a lot of what most people of “good upbringing” say among themselves or to themselves while passing this woman by as she walks with her daughters and the passerby is in her SUV.

As a writer-journalist-advocacy thinker-biased human being, I can say not enough gets said in meetings, not enough passion is passed around by the stakeholders and powerful. Not enough calling the kettle black, man.

This society where I enter — so many different demographics, activities, realms, professions, people types — is still deluded into believing the crap of American Exceptionalism. They really believe there was great time in USA, when it was a Great White City on the Hill.

In the end, trauma-trauma-trauma. Many end up precarious because of the trauma. Misanthropes like a Trump or Bloomberg or Zuckerberg, well, there might have been trauma-trauma-trauma in their lives (all three have exacted millions of traumas to others) but these archetypes are able to “overcome” them and become the cruel and ruthless and demeaning hucksters they have become. That the average Joe and Jane like or respect any of these folk — cult of celebrity is a death sentence of intelligence — is amazing still to me.

But the daily survival of John — he has so many skills a Trump of Bloomberg do not have — is both elegant and real. He is getting close to fifty, and he may look like a regular guy on some walkabout, he still knows things could be much better for him.

He laments how women who are homeless have it worse than the men. “Look, I have seen women come into an area after an assault. The cops don’t care. There are missing women all the time. There’s a new poster out in Newport of a young woman missing. How many of them are murdered, left in the woods. The police don’t pursue these rape cases, these missing persons cases. It’s a tragedy, a crime.”