Justice Matters My Ass

Justice Matters My Ass

by James L. Secor, Ph.D. & Minna vander Pfaltz

“If we consider the purity of the Christian religion, the sanctity of its moral precepts, and the innocent as well as austere lives of the greater number of those who during the first ages embraced the faith of the Gospel, we should naturally suppose that so benevolent a doctrine” would have filled and comforted us with due reverence and that its works would shine, strengthening the imperative of justice, thus making a city where such justice “rolls down like a mighty river”–and what better place than the arrogant little town of Lawrence, Kansas, albeit in the name of the world.[1]

And so it is that Justice Matters, a conglomerate of myriad Christian denominations purporting psychological knowledge, has set about solving the mental health crisis in, first, Lawrence and Douglas County, and then purportedly the nation. Justice Matters believes that the Christian way knows the right way to solve psychological suffering. Indeed, Christianity believes it has the answer to every sort of suffering. A befitting arrogance, as Justice Matters considers itself a Nehemiah action.

Nehemiah was a builder–a re-builder. It is believed that he rebuilt the walls of Israel but, in fact, he only rebuilt the walls of the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judea (capital at Jerusalem). Apparently, the northern kingdom of Israel was somehow not worthy of consideration.

A great man? Perhaps. But he was arrogant and boastful: “I beseech thee, O Lord, let thy ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant. . .and give him mercy. . . .” The Book of Nehemias I:ii. “The hand of my god was good with me,” II:18. “Remember me, O my God, for good according to all I have done for this people,” III:19. “Remember me, O my God. . .and wipe not out my kindnesses, which I have done. . .,” XIII:14.[2]

The more so arrogant because he was eunochus and not oinochoos (cup-bearer). A later re-interpretation saw eunuch as not so highly thought of? Within the text itself we have proof he was, though: 1) he appeared in the presence of the Queen, not to be done if he’d been a “real” man; and 2) he would not, without great rationalizations–especially to his heroic status–cross over the temple threshold which, as eunuch, he could not cross over. A taboo that even the possibility of death could not override.

Ergo, the Justice Matters leaders fit their Nehemiah namesake for arrogance: religious leaders expecting God to praise them for their doings. But Justice Matters’ arrogance is worse, for while Nehemiah knew what he was doing, Justice Matters is pretending to knowledge it does not have. The religious organizers know not the psychology of mental illness but pretend to. And they pretend to help while they are not the least interested in admitting to their number, much less listening to, the mentally ill or the social activist. Why? Justice Matters knows better, that’s why. Über-arrogance.

But the situation is considerably more tarnished and twisted. For this, the Justice Matters people are in denial, denial of their Janus-faced behavior, in denial that they do not know psychiatry and mental illness and organic brain disease and in denial that the mentally ill are not helpless and do not know themselves. The Justice Matters people believe they have the answer while propagating the old and conventional belief in hospitalization, belief in isolation and separation–and medication. They even use the nomenclature of incurable illness that is, in fact, old hat and, in the rest of the western world, has been found to be inappropriate.

This attitude is unsupported by science and empirical evidence, unsupported by the Hearing Voices Networks and the alternative methods so popular and successful in Europe; unsupported by the personal testimony of the “sufferers” themselves. “Sufferers”? Only in that psychiatry and society has made them suffer in their ignorance, for neither listen.

Justice Matters is correct–by jumping on the bandwagon–that jail/prison is not the best or appropriate place for the mentally aberrant; aside from lack of knowledge and treatment, criminalizing “mental illness” equals no treatment outside of abuse. Something more and better is, indeed, needed.

Otherwise, Justice Matters is not the least bit interested in making their professed belief in what needs to be done happen. There is no plan of action. For, with their very successful fundraising drives, nothing has been done with the money raised. Nothing at all. As the money raised by donation to a religious organization, there is no accounting. No taxation. Where is it going? Certainly not to the realization of their vision.

“We’d like to get concrete expectations on where we’re moving,” says Ben MacConnell, an organizer for Justice Matters. Doesn’t he already know? This is akin to a general going into battle without any plans to fight.

“Our scriptures speak of a powerful, loving God when matters of justice arise. So, let us go upstream–as one body–and trust in God to help along the way” (Justice Matters website). So, they really have no plan, only God. And. . .if God’s away on business? Then what? “St. Peter don’t call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store”?

There seems to be no innocence of motive here. Moral precepts are sidelined in the push to appear great in the eyes of their God and the world. Look at me! Look at me! So very Nehemiahan: remember me and bless me for I am good, full of good intention. Halleluiah! The humanity necessary to support and succor the poor and homeless, the disabled and mentally ill has all but been squeezed out of existence leaving an empty, rotting shell.

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic.
She has you right by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk
inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.[3]

There is no more purity and benevolence left in religion. The truth of this assertion billows into a black and boggy Garden of clinging choking vines nursed by Christians’ practice of intolerance and hatred and a love of war and their demand to discriminate and refuse to serve those who don’t fit their brand of righteousness, of their social Darwinian precepts. So much cruelty and violence–abuse–is meted out these days, rationalized by citation to the holy book, rationalizations that are, in fact, not there. The Christians are lying to themselves as they lie about the world and lie to the world in order to get. . .what? What is the pay-off? Simply to get ahead? To earn indulgences so to sit on the right hand of God? Nehemiah arrogance to be sure.

Theocracies are ever of this ilk.

In an abusive society, no one is truly interested in helping (Cf. R.D. Laing). Abusers have lost all sense of proportion and all innocence; there is no austerity to their lives, which would give them some sort of compassion. As others in need are found wanting, so the religionists themselves are wanting. Better to talk and paint exquisite pictures than to engage in practicing the espoused higher virtue of their way, The Way, while they wonder, loudly, how it is the world has become such a horrible, gruesome place; for with people of such worthiness as themselves abounding, it is inconceivable that we are living in the end times.

Since Christians are doing nothing and, of course, since nothing is happening, everyone must pray. A pray festival–with donation–is the answer, a vital need. Cry out unto the Lord!

Praying is too slow. And Portugal is too small and too far away. . .and not American.

Justice no longer means or involves transformation. It is now all about feelings of satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing profound. No transcendence. Just me and my ideas. Me and my survival. Legally, any more, justice means vengeance with laws built around someone’s disgust and shaming. It is also about hiding facets of civilization that are disturbing to have around for their evidence of society’s inhumanity to man.

Before continuing let us remember a few things:

  1. He who can name the way does not know the way; and
  2. Beware the do-gooder; and perhaps
  3. The way to success is to correct oneself.

One could, at this point, add, “alas and alack.” For wisdom does not seem to be part of the Christian canon. Not to be wondered at as none of the wisdom writings of Christianity were included in their New Testament. None. That is to say, they–the Wisdom Writings–are non-existent but in the Old Testament where we find a warning of the self-proclaimed wise: “Let us therefore wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and devulgeth against us the sins of our way of life” (Wisdom II:xii, in which the self-proclaimed wise are upbraided). And “He boasteth that he hath knowledge” (Wisdom II:xiii). Ignorance is vain reckoning. And yet again, “He that rejecteth wisdom. . .their hope is vain, and their labours without fruit, and their works unprofitable” (Wisdom III:ii, in which the truly wise are extolled).

Other than “become not unwise” (Ephesians V:xvii), look to the Nag Hammadi and you shall see the wisdom books, considerably more “books” (45) than make up the New Testament.

“Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance” (Proverbs XIX:2) because “I would not have you ignorant” (Romans I:xiii). Perhaps Justice Matters should heed the question put to Job: “Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?” (Job XXXVIII:ii).

Why do I say Justice Matters is ignorant? Again, they do not wish the so-called mentally ill in their organization; nor do they read anything other than the accepted status quo diagnoses and treatments and, therefore, have no knowledge that hospitalization and drugging are not the best or most productive of treatment methods. Justice Matters is stuck in 19th century mode. Perhaps they should read history and the horrors of 20th century hospitals. Perhaps they should heed the words of the knowledgeable, the “mentally ill.” Willful ignorance is a sin against God.

Romans I:xiii, “We would not have you ignorant.”

Thus it is that these people with a belief system and their leaders with degrees in Divinity–a devilish conundrum–have no knowledge of psychology or of mental illness yet believe they do because God is on their side and they have a desire to do good. I wonder. . .does this mean their belief is that people are mentally ill due to disbelief in their creed? And that, as of old, the heathen, pagan disbelievers who are (obviously) mentally ill must be isolated from the rest of Mankind and drugged into the oblivion all non-Christians are deserving of for fear of contamination?

Most telling–and without damning commentary–is Justice Matters’ lack of knowledge of modern, more humane approaches being applied outside the US, including a non-illness approach; after all, the organic brain disease approach was a diagnosis of Emil Kraepelin, from the late 19th century; and it is known that a major component of mental illness is socio-cultural: quite simply, if you take away the anxieties, you ameliorate many of the symptoms. Then, one must deal with handling the problem, which is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Peer-to-peer gives more applicable and useful options. Perhaps, though, reading is not a thing the Justice Matters ministers do, despite their religion’s reliance on humanity and human rights.

These more humane and more successful means of treating “the mentally ill” are not obscure or hard to find. In fact, as research goes, discovering this information is all but effortless: it’s on the Internet, to begin with.

The oldest involves the people of Geel, Belgium, from the Middle Ages where the mentally ill were given a home and work and the mental illness symptomology decreased, even disappeared.

There is the vast–except in the US–Hearing Voices Network, one of several peer-run approaches that are accepted in the health insurance industry of other countries. Peers: no doctors, no nurses, no social workers, no family or friends. By, for and of the people who hear voices. Or, for that, matter any other “mental illness” sufferer–including those who have liberated themselves from the system to find a real life. How many artists have ended their lives secondary to in-hospital treatment, especially that horror known as ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy, aka Electro-shock Therapy). For more on artists see Kaye Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire.

But, again, reading about mental illness does not appear to be high on the list of Justice Matters’ things to do. Perhaps I ask too much (Cf. Romans I-xiii). “We” In this moment means the mentally ill. To not listen to these people is to continue the practice of modern-day psychiatrists who also do not listen, just hand out drugs like good pushers. “God damn the pusherman,” sings a popular rock band. Why? Because the pusherman doesn’t give a damn what the drugs do to you, as long as he gets his money. Are not these psychiatrists akin to the money changers in the temple? The temple of the mind.

The Norwegian approach that does not use drugs–unless the individual wants–and then at the level each person finds comfortable. (Cf. Robert Whitaker, The Door to a Revolution in Psychiatry Cracks Open.) This self-assessment is important, for the Big PHRMA-set therapeutic levels are often enough inappropriate. Often, the side-effects to anti-psychotics and anti-depressants are passed off as “just what you have to put up with.” Drooling, involuntary mouth and tongue movements, problems swallowing, dull affect, inability to think or speak, agitation that never abates and has, itself, a diagnosis (akathisia). And the therapeutic level can itself be an overdose, as with Lithium (LiCO3). Overdose of Lithium results in behavior and symptoms similar to those of a stroke, called encephalopathy–and occurs at “therapeutic level” in some people. The sooner caught and treated–cessation of Lithium–the better. Sometimes, these people go on to suffer TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack; colloquially, a small stroke). If a less than “therapeutic level” works to control symptoms, it’s good, Big-PHRMA be damned. But psychiatrists prefer the dogma.

Look, too, to the Finnish.

How much better if doctors listened to patients who say, “Oh, yes. This is enough.” But US psychiatrists–and Justice Matters, as already noted–don’t listen to the mentally ill; they simply administer drugs and then damn as non-compliant the imposed-upon individual who won’t take the drugs due to effects and/or side-effects. Some of these nut cases are told it’s all in their head. (Oh, the irony!) And hospitalization, wanted or not. This is the wrong way to deal with the problem. This is hiding it and attempting to make it go away, as with the homeless people, as embarrassment to the abuses of modern civilization.

Imposing isolation and drugs on people is unconstitutional: it is a restriction of freedom.[4] In the House of Representatives, there is a man who has attempted over several years to have a bill passed into law that would require forced hospitalization, drugging and other treatments for anyone with a mental illness diagnosis. His name is Murphy. The House has passed his bills; the Senate, the lawmakers, has not. If passed, there would be no artists of any kind on the streets, on the stage, in the movies. Truly a Murphy’s Law.[5] What a dull, second-rate society we’d live in. . .and one mirroring a Fascist state: utilitarian and intolerant.

Justice Matters utilizes diagnoses found in the DSM-V, a diagnosis by committee booklet that medicalizes everything that is not considered normal–even women who cannot achieve orgasm are mentally ill, according to this book. This book is the only way to get symptoms covered by the health insurance industry. It is extremely unpopular amongst practitioners: “In recent years, clinicians and researchers have started to question the very diagnostic paradigm that once gave them so much hope. Mounting scientific evidence has indicated that DSM– and ICD-based categories do not reflect patterns of mental distress found in both clinical and general populations.” Indeed, it is generally thought that there are “built-in assumptions of homogeneity within diagnoses, purported to occur as a singular, one-size-fits-all process [that] leave[s] no room for the heterogeneous reality of mental health experiences” and result in “the pathologizing of sociopolitical deviance.” This is what the DSM-V is all about.[6] (Aside from money.) The health insurance industry in the US is, “If you can’t afford it, you deserve to die” and mental illness is all but dis-included as unworthy even of the limited coverage given to the physically ill, despite the ties the mind has to the body.

Who, then, it seems to be right to ask, is the true mentally ill person?

The mental set of Justice Matters is old hat and not fully accepted within the psychiatric field. Justice Matters approaches the situation from one of disease, indeed, incurable disease. This is just not so, for there are times–often years–when symptoms are not present. The disease model sees this as “remission”; the human (humane?) model sees it as normalcy because the symptoms of mental illness are not continuous forever and ever diseases, aka organic brain disorders, or permanent and irreversible chemical imbalances. Nothing in the brain is static. Indeed, the mind, the mentality affect of the brain, is not the brain. Science doesn’t know where it is, much less what it is. Which would make mental illness an undefined unknown.

Mental hospitals were done away with because of their ineffectiveness, abuse and even worsening of the mental situation. The replacement was supposed to be local acute care clinics. Not one state in the US bothered to institute such clinics. The “mentally ill” were left to wander the streets; to be arrested and jailed. Though Justice Matters notes it is interested in acute care clinics, the organization has done nothing to help bring this about, despite the money collected in one fund raiser after another. Ergo, Justice Matters isn’t interested at all in the mentally ill other than as a means of enriching its “leaders” and making its constituents feel good about themselves for becoming involved in some kind of human interest do-gooding.

Why?

If Justice Matters were serious about what it says it wants to do and if Justice Matters was in touch with what’s going on in the city, they’d know there is a place for establishment of an acute care clinic. But Justice Matters is out of touch with reality and more interested in face and money. That is, they chose a social action that turned out not to be easily attained nor easily understood. Justice Matters entered the fray in ignorance and has continued in ignorance, perhaps believing their God-given desire is all that’s necessary. Yet, Proverbs XIX:iii has it that “Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance.”

[1] Quotes are from Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the Justice Matters website.

[2] The Holy Bible, John Murry & Co., publisher, 1891.

[3] The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks.

[4] Cf. the Fourth Amendment. Quarantine is a different matter.

[5] Manic-depression occurs eight times as often in artists than in the general population. Indeed, it was once known as “the artist’s disease.” And it has a genetic component. Nowadays, under the rubric of Bipolar I or II, it is a diagnosis for anyone who has mood problems, including those with severe anxiety problems and borderline personality people, genetics be damned. But the confusion is good for the psychiatric pocket book.

[6] Although the quotes from this article, “Psychologists Push Back on Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual” can be found variously on the Internet, it first appeared in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and alongside another article looking at alternatives in The Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

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