The sunny side of global crisis: Why now may be a delightful opportunity to challenge the huge division between those considered “crazy” and those considered “normal.”

One of the reasons I’m able to do the bit of work I’ve been able to do, is my wonderful and amazing wife Debra. Yesterday I asked her if she read this blog, and my darling Debra did not know I had a blog.

I do not blame her. I said my blog was a little windy, and blogs ought to be little newsy nuggets. My windiness on this blog did not surprise her!

Well, I have another windy blog entry, on the “big picture.” The future of the planet, that’s all.

But first, I may need to introduce a word to you.

Lately I’ve been asking good friends of mine who have been activists in our “mad movement” for many years  if they had ever heard of the word “sanism.”

Most have not.

People have heard of racism, sexism and even ablism and classism.

What is sanism?

There are many differences between people, and we all ought to embrace that diversity when it makes sense. But when mental and emotional differences are distorted by society into enormous and impassable canyons? You have sanism.

Sanism is a clearer word than mentalism, I’ve been told, because the latter is also a school of philosophy and even a type of magic trick that claims to read minds.

In 2009, sanism is apparently the oppression that is not named, at least not very much. The brilliant Prof. Michael Perlin of New York University Law School has written about the topic, you can Google him and the word sanism. Or better, ask him at the annual conference of our founding group National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) this fall where he will again present like a flowing waterfall of legal insights

But 2009, a year of crises, is exactly when we ought to be talking about sanism.

Why? Consider: Differences between people based on perceptions of their gender and race certainly exist in our society, and when irrationally amplified in an unfair way can become sexism and racism.

But how to we human beings tend to define ourselves. Ask a few!

“We’re the thinking animal… the rational animal.. the animal that can do math, fly a plane, tell a joke and laugh.”

Now, I think a lot of non-human animals can do some or all of this, with varying levels of success.

But my point is that people tend to differentiate themselves from non-human animals by talking about their minds. So what if someone is considered to have a very different mind?  Then this “ism” will be one of the most extreme. Those of us labeled mad are often considered fundamentally different from everyone else, to our core, even in our essence, our chemistry, our genes, forever.

We are considered, as counselor Ron Unger puts it, “non-understandable.”

One opportunity for me to reflect on sanism, is that I personally now and again attend the Unitarian Universalist Church here in Eugene, Oregon. It turns out that UU Minister Rev. Stephen Landale, will be giving his sermon on 22 March 2009 on the topic of human rights and mental health. He generously asked to meet with me to inform him about his sermon.

Summing up these issues briefly is tough!

I explained that if I have one lesson in my 33 years in this field I’ve been telling people, it’s that the oppression was deeper than I originally thought!

Rev. Steve pointed out that more people than ever are admitting to depression, anxiety, mood swings. True, though I said I felt we must go much deeper to truly challenge sanism.

One point I was barely able to touch upon with Rev. Steve is that I feel the time is right to confront sanism as never before

There’s a silver lining in our society’s crises.

Now in the winter of 2009, the global mind of humanity is realizing it is in a catastrophe of enormous proportions, economically and ecologically, not to mention militarily. News reports are showing people are losing sleep, and going to more movies to try to escape the stress. Almost every day I see another news item about widespread distress as people worry about losing a home, as scientists discover the climate crisis is far worse than they first thought.

So where’s that bright side?

Well, we can now point out that to be human, to exist, is to live a paradox that perhaps we can never totally resolve. Yes, we humans think. But inherently we do not have an absolute grip on reality. We are all unique. We all are on the edge between overwhelm and “normality.”

That’s why we need to tread carefully on our planet and with each other, as peacefully as possible, and include every person’s heart and mind as much as possible in the emergent wisdom we require to take our best guess as a society on our next move.

For those interested in this topic I’d highly encourage reading a best-selling book with a title that is more relevant than ever, Collapse, by physician Jared Diamond.

This is my favorite book by far.

What successful societies seem to have in common, it seems to me, based on Dr. Diamond’s book, is the ability to think well as a society. There is no cookie-cutter recipe for that effective group mind.

But I think it’s clear to everyone that our group mind today — as a society and as a world — is, as it were, metaphorically and spiritually sick, out of touch with reality. The word origin for “psychosis” is in fact spiritual sickness.

Very likely, those people who have experienced extreme mental and emotional distress and have to some extent recovered have something to offer society during such a crisis.

Remember Martin Luther King’s call for an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment (IAACM). As never before, it’s time to include those who are maladjusted in our group mind. Because all maladjustment is not good, but during a global crisis we need to hear from the maladjusted as never before.

It might be helpful if all of us humans — every one one of us — came out of the closet and acknowledge that on some level we are all maladjusted, or if you want to use the word, “mad.”

In other worrds you, dear reader, are a leader in the IAACM, and this is an antidote to sanism.

That radical hospitality, that extreme inclusion, that ‘beloved community” envisioned by King, is not a cliche, it is not trite, it is a necessity as we begin to pull off one of humanity’s greatest achievements: a nonviolent global revolution.

And to my honey Debra, you who are one of my proofs of the power of that “beloved community,” when I wake you up this morning, think of all the time we can save by your scanning my blog, instead of hearing this monologue over breakfast while we distract Bongo the Kitten!