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Sane Privilege

Posted on June 1, 2015 in Authoritarianism Class Psycho-bunk Stigma

For Larry Drain.

square887The sane are not like you or me, nor, understandably, do they want to be. But they also don’t want us to be like we are and they have the power to thwart and make our lives more difficult, power that they exercise to protect their own status, power that they strive to deny us at every turn. Being sane frees them from the burden of stigma (which they don’t want to admit exists or harms so that they can use it to control us) and gives them access to special privileges, jobs, privacy, etc. which are denied to us.

Observe the way they identify themselves. They call themselves “human beings” “people” or “just plain folks”. They do not mention whether they are afflicted or unafflicted, abled or disabled; they decline to state their social class, their race, their gender, their sexual preference, their sex. They think they are being inclusive, but their actions speak otherwise. They refuse to recognize the unique perspectives that those of us with mental illness bring to the table. What sounds like a language of inclusion is actually one calculated to exclude the expression of our views and needs.

When one is privileged, one gets to set the rules. Police officers in Abilene, Texas, instead of trained medical professionals, for example, get to decide who needs to go to the hospital or not. Courts get to decide whether our mental illness plays a part in the crimes we sometimes commit. Police departments are allowed to declare whether shooting a suicidal man is justified or not. Input on these rules from the people who most affected by such rules is seldom solicited or taken seriously among the privileged. They can do what they want and they see nothing wrong with the hegemony of their views.

I had an exchange with a social worker who dismissed something I wrote as “tame”. When I described what she wrote as an attack, she denied it was any such thing. Her privileged position led her to believe that she was above such things when she wasn’t. Whatever rules governed the definition of the word attack that I used did not apply to her. She got to make the rules because we were not equals in her mind.

The privileged decide how money is spent. So they under-fund community health centers or do not have them at all. Some are now aiming to return us to mental hospitals on the grounds that community mental health centers have failed. They allow houses to go vacant while allowing the severely stricken among us to wander the streets. Where does the money go instead? To major corporations which do not need it, to billionaires who have more money than they should. If they get their mental hospitals, where will the money go? To corporations which will dominate how mental health is treated in this country. Trust that the privileged will invest in these without any qualms of conscience.

They believe that having money and having jobs means that they are better than those who are blocked from having these things. Some insist that paying for our insurance means that they can violate our privacy. They believe that giving us money through jobs or charity means that they get to own us.

They set the issues. So the media talks about violence when the facts show that we are more likely to be victims. They get to ignore the way that states have steadily spent less and less on our care. They get to champion authoritarian solutions over ones that allow us to be self-reliant. When they do let us speak, they carefully select people who parrot their agenda and deny the podium to the critical among us. They call this unity among advocates when most of us who have mental illness do not want their solutions.

They use their professional titles to silence us about matters that we understand without their university training. When we are fighting to become stable, to give one example, they fail to tell us about unbearable side effects on the grounds that they know what is best for us.

The social worker who I mentioned above only brought up her professional qualifications to defend her assessment of me. She cited no statistics. She shared no personal experience. She just invoked her title. We are not allowed to be equals or partners.

They choose to do things “on our behalf” instead of allowing us the means to realize our destinies.

They tell us how we are instead of listening to us. They either promote or do nothing about the stigma that keeps us from having jobs. They may deny that our illnesses even exist.

If they do take the time to let us speak, they let us talk and then go back to make the same proposals for “solving” their version of the problem that they have always made.

They refuse to recognize that we know more about what it is like to live with a mental illness than they ever can, but they tell us that they understand us better than we do ourselves.

They barely notice that they are doing these things if they notice them at all. If we point them out, we are called divisive or childish or selfish by people who are oppressive and childish and selfish to the extreme.

They will not change unless they are pressured to do so by clear-headed, brave, and relentless activism. But mark this: they will try to hold on to as many of their advantages as they can, so we can never waver in our resolve for change.

Many of us do not trust the neurotypical. It should not surprise you.

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