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Brexit mexit win for dumb fucks


Brexit1

So, the United Kingdom (UK) has voted by a narrow majority to leave the European Union (EU): a triumph for ignorance, nationalism, divisiveness, fragmentation and the scapegoating of ethnic and foreign minorities.

One look at the leading politicians in favour of a British exit (dubbed ‘Brexit’) from the EU would have been enough for any moderately clued-in person to vote against leaving: Nigel Farage (leader of the UK Independence Party, where right-wing conservatism shades off into nastier reaches), Boris Johnson (ex-Mayor of London, a populist and opportunist carefully disguised with genial buffoonery), Donald Trump (Mr. Dodgy, right down to his orange, spray-on perma-tan) and Vladimir Putin (Mr. Macho Man, Gangster-in-Chief of Russia).

But hey, folks, we’re not talking about moderately clued-in people when it comes to a significant proportion of the pro-Brexit voters. Hell no, we’re talking about a large number of dumb fucks: the ill-educated, more ignorant, racist, xenophobic and self-pitying.

This is the section of society from whose woodwork has always emerged, throughout history and when opportunity presents, the supporters of authoritarian and fascist rulers – the stern father figures who will look after ‘us’, banish and punish all the ‘outsiders’ (i.e. anyone that the clueless deem responsible for the ills in their lives) and give licence, subtly or otherwise, to the resentful, scapegoat-seeking feelings – violence, hate, intimidation – carried in their supporters’ hearts.

These are the dumb fucks who have now voted – tho’ they knew it not – for:

  • The breakup of the UK (Scotland will now surely vote to leave and so re-join the EU).
  • The renewal of terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republic is strongly pro-EU, and Sinn Fein, which has MPs on both sides of the border, has already called for a vote on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or instead become part of a united Ireland.
  • The ceding of Gibraltar to Spain (the Gibraltarians voted massively to stay in the EU).

These are the clueless citizens who have voted for the very possible fragmentation and eventual collapse of the institution – the EU – that was brought into being to make impossible ever again the outbreak of war within Europe. After the UK, Greece could well be the first to go … their economy has long been in tatters, defaulting on their massive debts via an EU-exit looks increasingly attractive to many Greeks, and leading Greek politicians have been cosying up to Russia for some time now.

And these – the Brexiteers – are the clueless idiots who have effectively voted for the encouragement of far-right groupings right across Europe:

  • In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was among the first to hail the Brexit vote with a cry of “victory for freedom!” Now, she tweeted, it was time for a referendum in France and elsewhere in the EU.
  • In Holland, Geert Wilders – the leader of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party – was also among the first to congratulate Britain on its “Independence Day”. He promised that if he were elected the Dutch would be granted their own EU-exit referendum.
  • In Germany, Beatrix von Storch, an MEP for the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, welcomed the result. “The 23 June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day”, said Storch, who was recently expelled from the Tories’ party group in the European parliament after suggesting German police might be within their rights to shoot refugees trying to cross the border.
  • The far right Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power in Stockholm, tweeted: “Congratulations to Britain’s people on choosing independence! Now we are waiting for a #swexit!”
  • The powerful far-right Danish People’s party congratulated the British people on their “bold” choice, which, it said, was a “stinging slap to the whole system”.
  • In Athens, Golden Dawn, Europe’s most violent rightwing party, rejoiced at the referendum result. Predicting it would further empower “nationalist forces” across Europe, the neo-fascist group welcomed what it described as “the brave decision of the British people” and said it hoped a similar referendum could take place in Greece.
  • Belgium’s Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang was overjoyed by the result of the Brexit referendum.

The authoritarian forces outside the EU are also delighted with the Brexit vote. In Russia, Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin noted that “Without the UK in the EU, there’s no one there who’ll so stridently back sanctions against us [imposed for Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea].” Meanwhile ultra-nationalist Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the British public “had performed a heroic deed”.

So well done, all you dumb fucks. Your ignorance and stupidity has opened Pandora’s box.

Psychiatry: a failed profession?


Psychiatry.jpg

 

Psychiatry: its origins, how it became threatened and its response:

Psychiatrists are doctors of medicine who have undergone additional, specialist training.

The path towards establishing psychiatry as a mainstream profession effectively began with Sigmund Freud, a medical doctor who famously developed psychoanalysis as a means to help some of his patients. This ‘talking treatment’ approach included the exploration of dream-symbolism and the unconscious self, a focus on repressed (unconscious) sexual desires (e.g. the ‘Oedipus complex’) and the use of free association … where the patient talks freely, without censorship or inhibition, about whatever ideas or memories occur to them. Within this approach, anxiety and depression (for example) were seen not as symptoms of disease, but instead as emotional distress arising from internal psychological conflicts.

The psychiatrists who followed in Freud’s footsteps keenly adopted psychoanalytic theory, partly because it hugely expanded their potential ‘customer base’ beyond the asylums, opening the way for the treatment of patients in private practice.

As the 20th century wore on, however, the effectiveness of psychoanalysis was scrutinised and increasingly criticised … to the point where psychiatry as a reputable profession came under serious threat, partly because of problems over diagnostic ‘fuzziness’, and also because of the rise of counselling[1] as a rival form of talking treatment offered by practitioners who didn’t need to have medical doctorates.

In an effort to protect their guild interests – and to safeguard the very survival of psychiatry – the profession switched direction. It enthusiastically adopted a ‘disease model’ for mental ill-health, a model that fitted well with the medical background of the doctors involved. And with this new model, the treatment of patients became increasingly centred on prescription drugs.

So began the development of an institutionally-corrupt financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. And so also began psychiatry’s journey down a deeply unscientific path.

Psychiatry as pseudo-science:

The American psychiatric ‘bible’ is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders (equivalent diagnostic manuals exist in Europe and elsewhere). The first DSM edition, published in 1952, contained 106 categories of supposed mental disorder, including homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.”

Fast forward sixty odd years: the recently published 5th edition (DSM-5) now lists well over 600 categories of supposed mental disorder … a nearly six-fold increase compared to the 1st edition. This is, of course, excellent news for the business and commercial interests of both the psychiatric profession and the pharmaceutical companies.

Thus, egged on by vested commercial and guild interests, almost every type and incidence of emotional, personal and ‘mental’ problem or distress has been turned into a ‘disorder’ or ‘illness’ or ‘syndrome’ or similar type of stigma – to be treated (of course) mostly by means of prescribed drugs.

In what way has this process been driven by pseudo-science? In what way is the bio-physical ‘disease model’ adopted by psychiatry so profoundly flawed? The main answer is simple: after all this time, after decades of research, there is still a complete absence of any biological markers for – and biogenetic causes of – ‘mental’ ill-health.[2]

Take, for example, some of the more severe forms of ‘mental’ ill-health. Dr. Lucy Johnstone (a psychologist) has written:

“We have known for a long time that terms such as ‘schizophrenia’ are scientifically meaningless. They are not actually ‘diagnoses’ in a medical sense, since they are not based on patterns of bodily symptoms or signs. Instead, the criteria consist of a ragbag of social judgements about people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  The people who are so labelled may well have difficulties and be in urgent need of help, but this is not the way to help them.”[3]

Or, for further instance, take so-called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As one of the more enlightened psychiatrists, Dr. Sami Timimi, has written:

“ADHD is … ideally placed as a convenient diagnostic ‘dumping ground’ allowing all of us (parents, teachers, doctors, politicians) to avoid the messy business of understanding human relationships and institutions and their difficulties.’[4]

Or as John Shlien, Professor of Education & Counselling Psychology at Harvard University, has written:

“Diagnosis is not good, not even neutral, but bad. Let’s be straightforward and flat out about it, it is not only that its predictions are flawed, faulty and detrimental to the relationship and the client’s self-determination; it is simply a form of evil. It labels and subjugates people in a ways that are difficult to contradict or escape.”

The good news, however, is that the crisis of psychiatry has now reached the point where even the authors of diagnostic manuals are starting to finally admit that psychiatric diagnoses are not supported by evidence.

So where to now?

The reform of ‘mental’ healthcare is a vast subject and contains many needed elements (not least, under the heading of ‘prevention’, a priority focus on children and young people – see here, for example, ‘Bad Education’). But we can identify at least three of the main strands without further ado.

  1. Recognise that ‘mental’ healthcare is largely misnamed. The real focus should be emotional healthcare … because emotions (e.g. depression, anxiety, fear, guilt etc.) are the core experiences of most so-called ‘mental’ health problems.
  2. Abandon the disease/medical model and replace it with a contextual approach in which problems do not exist in isolation, but arise from, and are connected to, each person’s unique self, life story and life circumstances. Instead of asking people ‘what is wrong with you?’, we should instead ask ‘what has happened to you?
  3. Hugely reduce the emphasis on drug-treatments (treatments which stem largely from the misconceived disease/medical model) … and hugely increase the provision of counselling services.

The upshot of these is that psychiatry, as a profession, becomes largely redundant … at least in anything even remotely resembling its current form.

Of course the majority of psychiatrists – and the drug companies whose profits thus become threatened – will loudly protest. But when it comes to emotional healthcare, the truth is that the majority of doctors do not know best.

[1]     A profession effectively begun by Carl Rogers in the 1940s.

[2]     As used here at least, the term ‘mental ill-health’ does not include conditions – such as dementia – that are caused by bio-physical factors and involve a loss of brain function (e.g. memory).

[3]     Dr. Lucy Johnstone, www.madinamerica.com 2013.

[4]     Dr. Sami Timimi, Making and Breaking Children’s Lives, PCCS Books.

Bad Education


education

 

The key problems:

Three-quarters of people who have mental health problems in working life first experienced symptoms in childhood or adolescence.

For children and young people, there’s not just exam pressure and insecurities around body image, but also the risks of social media … not to mention the bullying and harassment that occurs outside of a social media context. Research from a respected mental health charity (Mind) suggests that one in five young adults in the UK will end up crying in any given week because of stress and anxiety.

It’s therefore no surprise that when the UK Youth Parliament recently voted to choose their priorities for the year ahead, nearly one million young people chose ‘curriculum for life’ and ‘compulsory mental health education’ as two of their three most important aims.

Of course the best way to prevent the escalation of mental health problems into acute and/or chronic conditions is to identify and work with these problems early, and to teach children and young people the emotional and psychological skills and knowledge that can greatly help them to maintain their well-being.

Yet currently, one in four people will suffer a mental health problem at some time in any given year (with anxiety and depression being the most common), not least the more than 53,000 people in Britain – the highest number ever recorded – who were detained last year under the Mental Health Act.[1]

Moreover, the majority of bio-physical illnesses are caused by obesity[2], smoking and excessive drinking: lifestyle problems which (together with other addictions) stem primarily from underlying psychological factors. This is why attempts to tackle them with advertising campaigns or taxation (or a combination of both) have met with only limited success.

But the inter-related problems in focus here don’t just centre on mental or physical ill-health. In England and Wales, 30.0% of women and 16.3% of men have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16: around 4.9 million female victims and 2.7 million male victims?[3] And a recent study found that 11.3% of young adults in England aged 18-24 had experienced sexual abuse during childhood. Yet more, for the year ending March 2015 the latest estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show there were 1.3 million violent incidents – including homicide, violence with injury, and violence without injury – in England and Wales.

The questions:

In the face of all this – the sheer scale of mental ill-health, lifestyle-induced physical illness, domestic and sexual abuse, the violence in society – we are entitled to ask:

  1. How is it that so many children exit from our school system, after 10 years or more of full-time education, so lacking in the social, emotional and psychological skills and knowledge that would greatly help them (and those around them) throughout their life?
  2. How is it that so many children exit from our school system, again after 10 years or more of full-time education, to become the teenagers and adults who commit such violence, or live such unhealthy lifestyles, or engage in domestic and sexual abuse?

The answers:

Clearly the vast majority of children receive a bad education – one that singularly fails to teach them what they really need most of all to know and be able to do. Instead, the school curriculum (the key issue here) largely centres on things – reading, writing and basic arithmetic apart – that most pupils don’t need to know and will never ever use.

Children in our schools learn far too little about the understandings, skills and areas of knowledge that would prevent many of them – even despite the difficult family and domestic backgrounds which some must endure – from becoming mentally ill or turning into anti-social and/or violent characters. And they spend far too much time in school learning about things that little benefit society (and themselves) when weighed against the huge societal and personal burdens that result from mental ill-health, physical ill-health (that which is caused by psychological factors), and abusive and violent behaviour.

The cosine of wasted time, the algebra of trivial information. Months spent on calculus, scant time given to schooling empathic imagination. Years ransomed to teaching foreign languages, yet many can barely grunt in the dialect of relationships. A decade or more given over to studying facts and information about the outer world, with barely a glance at the inner worlds that will affect them, their lives and the people around them so much more.

When was the last time you, the reader, ever really needed or used a knowledge of chemistry or physics or geometry?

In contrast, when was the last time you felt depressed or anxious or isolated?

And when you’ve answered these questions, here’s another one. Did you – did any of us – really get a good education?

 

[1] “Britain’s Mental Health Crisis”, BBC Panorama, October 26th 2015.

[2] According to Prof Nick Finer, from University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science, obesity is now “the most pressing health issue for the nation”. He says that “estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the National Health Service.”

[3] 2012-13 Crime Survey for England and Wales, Chapter 4 – Intimate Personal Violence and Partner Abuse, Office for National Statistics.

Trumperites


The supporters of Donald Trump are venting their anger at a Republican party “establishment” which they feel has consistently let them down and betrayed them. But in supporting Trump they show no understanding that the Republican leadership has mostly been forced to “betray” them because the causes that they espouse find little echo amongst the wider electorate and are thus heavy political liabilities when it comes to electing a president.

Yet Trumperites live in denial, persisting with the delusion that they are the “silent majority”.

But hey, here’s some breaking news for such folk: in reality you are nothing but a loud, aggressive and unpleasant minority. And in truth the American people will never elect Trump – or anyone like him – to the office of President … because they know that such bigoted blowhards are quite simply not fit for office.

So go ahead, support the ignorance, bluster and deliberate outrageousness of Trump. Cheer his racist comments. Clap heartily as he continues to hurl insults left, right and centre. Stamp your feet in approval as Trump makes ridiculous, ill-informed, abusive comments and proposes absurd and impossible policies – building a wall along the entire Mexican border being just one of the less outlandish.

And enjoy your fifteen minutes of exultation as you effectively destroy the Republican Party from within … because you’ll have another 4 long years in the wilderness to reflect on your blinkered stupidity when Hillary Clinton is sworn into office roughly a year from now.

One day, Republican supporters will come to understand that bible-thumping doesn’t cut it, that homophobia isn’t popular, that focusing narrowly on anti-abortion campaigns simply alienates most women, and that bashing Muslims and Hispanics merely loses them most of the Muslim and Hispanic vote.

One day Republican supporters will come to understand that the politics of hate, bigotry and division don’t win presidential elections in the 21st century.

One day ….

Do Republicans threaten US democracy?


Gun

There’s no doubt that the Republican party is becoming more and more extreme in its views. Is it perhaps even getting dangerously close to threatening US democracy itself?

It’s not just that the majority of Republicans in Congress have, during the entire Obama administration, focused almost exclusively on trying to damage and block the President rather than seeking what’s in the best interests of governing the country. Much worse, some leading Republicans are now seeking to place their version of ‘Christian beliefs’ in opposition to democracy itself.

A few examples:

  • Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee describes the laws legalising gay marriage as “judicial tyranny”, vows to “fight to defend religious liberty at all costs” and says “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

He has also endorsed comments from the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, namely that “… the Supreme Court is not the final authority … the Bible is God’s final authority … and on this book we stand.”

  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: “This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies [Satan] has his sights on ….. the United States of America.”
  • A statement on the official Republican Party 2012 platform said “The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people (my emphasis) …”

The same official website highlighted George Washington’s notion that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” It went on to proclaim that “… our rights come from God.”

When you put such inflammatory statements together with the Republicans’ huge emphasis on ‘gun rights’ –  especially gun rights in relation to their supposed role in preventing any government tyranny – then you have a potentially explosive mixture.

In this mixture you have gun-toting “Christians” being egged on to regard their version of morality as above the law, above democracy and – since “rights come from God” – above constitutional rights as decided by mere humans.

Whether this Republican drift towards extremism will win them the next presidential election seems doubtful. And despite losing the last two presidential contests, many Republicans still don’t seem to twig the fact that the majority of Americans just don’t support – and likely will never support – a bible-thumping, homophobic and quasi-misogynist agenda.

So if the Republican party loses yet again – and this time to not only to a woman, but a woman called Hillary Clinton – then might we see their anti-democratic rhetoric transformed into something more sinister?

Green Party – after the election


Green Party logo banner

[See also the pre-election post: The Green Party – a failing venture]

The General Election in Britain has come and gone. The Green Party retained the single seat that they already had, but made no gains. The “green surge” predicted by the party’s campaigners simply didn’t happen.

It could hardly have been much different … not with the first-past-the-post voting system, in which the winners take all and the losers, no matter how many votes they receive nationally, get little or nothing.

So yet again the party’s electioneering strategy has all been mostly in vain, just as it has been since they embarked on this path in the 1970s. The party continues to be marginalised, as do (more importantly) the green policies that it promotes.

Will the Green Party ever realise that no deep-seated political change is possible – and that its engagement with electoral politics is pointless – unless and until the voting system is changed? Will they ever transform themselves into the cutting edge of a radical campaign for true democracy and its essential ingredient, namely a genuinely proportionally representative voting system? And towards this end, will they ever look to create alliances – focused on obtaining true democracy rather than the party’s recent ‘anti-austerity’ posturing – across the much wider range of green and progressive currents?

Will they ever announce a boycott of all national elections – and seek to persuade other parties (those similarly unfairly marginalised by the current voting system) to do the same – and keep this in place until true democracy is introduced?

The answer to all these questions is ‘probably not’ – not while party activists continue to seize, post-election, on any available positive statistic. This time around they point to gains in the number of votes received nationally and gains in the number of party members …. as if either of these things amount to a hill of beans in the face of the party’s continued electoral impotence … as caused by the voting system and the travesty of democracy that it represents.

The suffragettes– the ‘votes for women’ campaign in late 19th and early 20th century Britain – brought about the last major change in the democratic system. They didn’t get this by forming a political party and contesting elections.

It’s well past time that the Green Party looked to their inspiration and took up their mantle. It’s well past time for the Green Party to drop the election game and enter the arena of radical campaign for true democracy.

Republicans = Big Government


Republican Party

Have you ever noticed how many of those who most loudly claim to be against “big government” are actually the most in favour of enforcing social conformity and restricting individual freedoms?

Consider the Republican Party and its religious-right supporters in the USA, who want to (for example):

  • Exert central government control over the physical body of each and every individual woman when it comes to abortion and a woman’s right to choose.
  • Restrict individual freedom by denying the right of marriage to gays and lesbians … even though such marriage does not affect the rights of heterosexuals in any way.
  • Ban the provision for teenagers of information about contraception, replacing it with the teaching of sexual abstinence until marriage as the “responsible and respected standard of behavior”.

In other words, such folk are gung-ho for big government when it comes to enforcing conformity with their own beliefs and many prejudices.

And in many Republican minds, these belief and prejudices become translated to “morality” … which of course means that something is deemed to be “moral” if they agree with it, but “immoral” if they don’t.

What’s profoundly disturbing in this context is that, in the words of the official Republican Party 2012 platform: “The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people (my emphasis) …”

To put this another way, if the Republican Party and its supporters deem the views and behaviour of some people to be ‘immoral’, then those people can be cast as being at odds with democracy itself. Thus democracy can become equated with conformity to Republican moral values … and those who don’t conform can be seen as the enemies of democracy who can thus be rightfully subject to the repression and intrusion of big government.

The theme of supporting big government continues further with the Republicans, who want to:

  • Generally increase the funding and powers of American security and intelligence agencies.
  • Increase military spending – and hence further boost the power of the American military-industrial complex – despite the fact the USA already has by far the largest military budget in the world.

And it’s Republicans who are the most keen on blurring the boundaries between the different branches of government – and redefining the federal government in overtly religious terms (their official policy documents are littered with frequent references to God and Christianity). For example:

  • Proclaiming that “… our rights come from God” (as distinct, we suppose, from being inherent by virtue of being sentient human beings).
  • Supporting the appointment of judges who “respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life”.
  • Supporting “the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”
  • Highlighting George Washington’s notion that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Eternal rules of order and right …. hmmm. From which religion do these eternal rules stem, we might ask? All the more so since there is no reference to Christianity or Judeo-Christianity (nor even ‘God’) in the American Constitution. And, indeed, the Constitution’s 1st Amendment explicitly says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”

But speaking of “order and right”, it’s ironic that the individual right which Republicans seem most keen to promote is that of gun ownership (“gun ownership is responsible citizenship”) … supposedly in the cause of defending against a potential tyranny of big government.

The irony here, of course, is that if any federal government in America were to incline towards tyranny – a tyranny in God’s name no doubt – it would almost certainly be one run by the Republican Party … and almost certainly egged on and supported by a wide variety of gun-crazed, bible-bashing, misogynist nutcases.

Thence “One Nation Under God” might be better read as One Social and Moral Conformity Under the Republican Party. So much for small government …

[Note: all quotes in this blog-post, with the exception of one taken from the American Constitution, are from the official Republican Party platform website of 2012.]

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