Towards a Discourse Strategy

Getting Mad

An anecdotal remedy to psychiatric brainwashing is to turn the Oedipal construct on its head and reparent to the Persian myth of Sohrab and Rostam. The mind today is held hostage to Freud's Sphinx, to his obscure Oedipal construct, with its crystallized denial of patriarchy and class struggle refracting rather than reflecting the social matrix of the subject. You must oppose this conventional madness with your own madness, you must brace your mind to the maturity and poetry to handle its tempests and vagaries. The patchwork experience of decalage, a Swiss cheese of the mind, obliges people not to the cowardice of an infinite regress of avoidance but to the courage of an active effort of socially grounded mental reconfiguration.

The problem of Oedipus (and the problem of Rostam) is the utter humiliation suffered upon learning of slaying a beloved family member. The problem of the less developed societies of the Third World and the national minorities of the developed societies is that their pridefulness is refracted, in reverse, as madness to those who reckon Oedipally. The condition of the humiliated is so wretched that revolt against it will surpass all expectation and all reasonable calculation. The recent U.S. war with Iraq vibrates with the tensions of a Third World society swamped by the consequences of leaders vaingloriously, foolishly challenging U.S. humiliation, only to provoke its reinforcement.

The human organism is mad in the sense that the mind is not a realization of the ideal of an information processing system arranged to compute outputs based on inputs. The mind has the complex character of a system networked with modularizations and multiply functioning elements whose efficacy degrades only gradually with injury. The reductive assumptions of dynamic psychology, isolated from the social matrix, have the impact of describing the operation of a subsystem of the mind, of a diminished, clamped down version of the complete mental system. A positivist expectation of logical-style non-madness drives people to confine the fullness of their beings to a dull routine, to exhibit a syndrome of reduced awareness.

The social definition of madness and the patterns of response to it are specific to historical conditions, not universal like cholera or cancer. Medieval approaches like Geel and Renaissance approaches like the Ship of Fools are now supplanted in this society by the manipulation/control clinical model. In lieu of enforcing the maximum disconnect between people in expectation of rationalizing the polity, why not rather dance in time with the social dynamics? True mental dysfunction in this era is in constricted awareness, in denial of social justice, in sectarian, self-righteous egotism, in avoidance of responsibility.

Intentionality and Abuse

The old ground of Western reality is "I think, therefore I am" -- the immanent sense of self as participant in business. The modern philosophical version of this is in positivist phenomenology, the idea of intentionality thought of as the rational-affective cognitive mediation of subject and object. The recognition of the non-groundedness of the subject pushes philosophy back upon issues of the way being happens in the world, upon existentialism. The recognition of the wholesomeness of a certain madness raises questions about the terrorizing, mindless rationalism of today's psychology, caught in the act of replacing criticism with sophistry, in the name of reason.

In this mad world the problem arises of the social impact of individuals and groups having their madness impinge upon others. The anarchy of madnesses produces a situation where everybody cries her cause, few people listen to others, and what occurs is a medley of sectarianisms. The intentionalities of the involved are invested in the self-righteousness of well-rationalized justification which ultimately exhibits or conceals a logic of the victim or against the victim. The passion for and mentality of victimization reduces communication to exchanges of bitterness or vacancy of affect; it is needful to disconnect from these egotisms in favor of dialogue and moral engagement.

The peculiarity of being abused is that either repressing it or expressing it is more likely to amplify the incidence of abuse than to diminish it. The resulting paralysis of the abused in overcoming abuse serves as a moral stance by the person, who, troubled by the liability to destructive behavior, may prefer to do nothing. The socialization method of anti-abuse pioneered as the 12-step method provides a point of engagement with the negativities which surface in the struggle against abuse. However, there remains the task of getting beyond the ideological confusion of the 12-step perspective to build social institutions for the empowerment of a general attack on the roots of abuse.

A canned answer to the abuse problem is liable to lead you into the irresponsible expression of madness that is your own intentionality, to the expression of your intentionality in the form of abuse. The problematic of totalizing is the contradiction between your need to extend your perspective and generalize your understanding with a proselytizing or controlling approach that accompanies that need. As a general rule, the rationalist commitment to the philosophy of intentionality is inclined to, perhaps even fated to, the excesses of totalizing. To prevent a moral degeneration, akin to the kind exemplified by Stalin, you must engage and analyze the slightly mad discourses of others and work out unities in values.

Democracy and Discourse

The blotchy picture of uneven individual development, where protruding subsystems of semantics and understanding encounter people in slightly mad ways, represents a kind of Tower of Babel. There has to be a lot of work on process if common elements of idea and purpose are to be identified and the appropriate recentering is to be performed. Foucault has created a technique of discourse analysis, a discipline which describes the form and pattern, the archaeology as it were, of the development of ideas. The deconstruction of conventional systems of ideas and bodies of opinions, in favor of newly sifted regularities of context, could engage blind-sided people with new textures of truth, with more felicitous patterns for madness and vision.

Those whose usual discourse is fractured in an absolute way are the mental patients, the people whose reality has been forcibly put down by society, whose very being has been abused. The rebellion of those who have nothing to lose but their mental chains is tremendously hopeful and stimulates a mass pressure to attend to and rework prevailing discourses. The struggle for the democratic rights of the mental patients is a struggle for a new, non-totalizing, self-consciously mad realization of social relations. The dignity of beings who have been thus afflicted by society not only deserves respect, but also challenges the matrix of fixed ideas and boring habits which impedes all innovation.

The social conflicts of the present trace back to choices made in the past, so that sifting out usages of language can be done precisely by studying those choices. Restructuring society is not just the business of the establishment for new profits, but, also, in a different way, the task of progressives seeking new extensions of social justice. The analysis of discourse as derived from a critique of the actual choices made in history has, e.g., turned segregation into arguments over sociology; it validates possibilities formerly considered mad. People's habitual social rigidity camouflages dysfunctional behavior of the elite, in a reflection of the incompleteness of democracy.

The October revolution against Czarist absolutism brought with it a great upsurge in voices for truth and, at the same time, a reductive concept of social being. Western democracy was not sufficiently respected by revolutionaries, who did not recognize the madness of their being, whose work eventually degraded to the level of the Gulag. The arena of democracy is designed for the full expression of the rich but it is vulnerable to the madness of the masses, if that is properly articulated. The present authoritarian psychiatric system, that denies abuse, or avoids its social implications, must be replaced by a democratic system for overseeing the social intervention process.

Transform Therapy by Politics

Coincident with the twentieth century pre-eminence of the clinical approach to mental health is the perspective of value neutrality in conventional social science. A social psychology based on envisioning an antiseptic world of social objects disconnected from their observers lacks veridicality, is, in fact, a moral imposition on society. To deny the moral involvement of social science with human reality is to intrude upon the moral activity of the subject. The moral position of the subject relative to the scientific activity, in general, the central and universal quality of moral discourse, demands the attention of a discipline of interpersonal moral psychology based on actual moral behaviors.

Psychology as an individual treatment regime is limited by its social non-intervention and by its moral error, its structural tendency to reinforce abuse processes. Psychology as an educational curriculum, psychological literacy, raises the level of moral discourse and constitutes a fitting and proper format for developing the human potential. Education in psychology can train people to see through and resist the machinations of unprincipled therapists as well as the social conditioning schemes of the ruling elite. Combating capitalist social relations requires both psychological literacy campaigns for the public and specialized training in the psychology of social intervention around abuse for practitioners.

By identifying and reflecting on the stabilities and bifurcations of social psychological dynamics, it is possible to describe the social change process. This leads to a variant account of the class struggle in a frame devoid of intentionality, describing the nature of the contention for hegemony, with the forces of repression pitted against the forces of progress. The assault on the positions of reaction and repression will come not as a jihad of abuse but as an attrition of social support networks. And the transformation process itself may be analyzed by the precepts of military science, adopting, by metaphor, the strategy and tactics of people's war.

So, finally, the therapist has no ego boundary, is structurally linked to abuse, is an unwitting agent of capitalist social relations, is disguised in a tangle of semantics. To confute the clinical paradigm, the choice with integrity is to jack up therapists based on their way of being stuck, a tactic of blending. To achieve centering in social intervention, the proper choice is to network an organized, political process that challenges abuse, implementing a strategy of discourse analysis. Replace the phony ego of quasi-principled self-righteousness with the productive activity of a principled struggle against abuse.

Selected References