How and why to use compounding pharmacies, plus Belarus and Ethiopia news blasts

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, typically on weekends. This is entry 24 of 52.

Note: Readers of last week’s post might enjoy seeing some of the revisions I made to it, such as the addition of subheads.

Bottle of compounded quetiapine/Seroquel for custom dosage of 290 mg per night

When I lived in Texas during my teens and twenties, a decade or more ago, I’d not yet encountered a lot of high-quality information countering psychiatry. Here and there a friend might say something, or an unusual news item might flash across my radar, causing me to briefly question the psychology industry, but although these blips of knowledge did help dent my confidence in the mental health system subtly, I still remained, overall, a believer in and user of conventional psychiatric services. But there’s one very clear exception to this.

Even early in my experiences with the prevailing mental health system, I did realize the unavailability of psychopharmaceutical dosages in any increment desired was a red flag signaling that Big Pharma shouldn’t be trusted. If the pill-makers truly cared about the well-being of patients, they’d sell the psychopharmaceuticals in pretty much every dosage possible. For instance, AstraZeneca would offer quetiapine (Seroquel) at 300 milligrams, 299 mg, 298 mg, 297 mg, 296 mg, and so on, as well as at 301 milligrams, 302 mg, 303 mg, and the rest. That way prescribers and patients could select the dosages that would provide the precise antipsychotic effects supposedly needed (the distress the diagnosed experience is real and at times strange, but the chemical lobotomies, to use the term Big Pharma initially employed to introduce the pills to psychiatrists, aren’t long-term solutions). And simultaneously, the psych drug consumers could take as little of the psychopharmaceuticals as possible, in hopes of dodging or minimizing adverse effects including but not limited to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, tardive dyskinesia, fatigue/tranquilization, brain shrinkage — the list goes on and on.

On the familiar commerical market today, Big Pharma supplies the drugs only at certain dosages — in the United States, quetiapine/Seroquel can be filled in the 200-300 milligram range at a regular pharmacy only at 200 mg, 225 mg, 250 mg, 275 mg, and 300 mg — but patients deserve custom dosages of any increment, especially for the sake of tapering down or off the drugs. Helping a patient taper down or off, increasingly referred to as deprescribing, is just lately penetrating the consciousness of conventional medicine, since the pill industry planned patients to be on the drugs for life; doctors who aren’t up to speed on the topic are seriously behind. See for instance the amazing 16 March 2021 article in the peer-reviewed journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology by Adele Framer (aka Altostrata), founder of SurvivingAntidepressants.org, with the in-your-face title “What I have learnt from helping thousands of people taper off antidepressants and other psychotropic medications.”

Sometimes patients without compounding pharmacies attempt to break or cut their pill tablets at home, but this often doesn’t work well. For starters, a jeweler’s scale used to measure the cut tablet might not register small weights accurately or precisely. Making matters worse, if the individual at home tries to cut a tablet and screws up (little tablets can be slippery, among other reasons), they don’t get a second chance, since the monthly bottle contains only 30 pills. The psych drug consumer now has to try to pick tiny tablet shavings up off the floor where they fell and figure out how many of the crumbly shavings to swallow, along with whatever grody grime from the floor is sticking to the shavings. It isn’t convenient to weigh and cut pills yourself if you’re travelling, either. And how does anyone know if the chemical is evenly distributed across the total volume of the tablet? Breaking, say, a 25 mg tablet in half to obtain a 12.5 mg dosage won’t work if the chemical is mostly on one side of the tablet due to vagaries of the corporate manufacturing process. If the tablet is scored, that can help, but not enough for precision necessarily, and it doesn’t feel very encouraging when the regular pharmacist promises you the tablet will be scored and when you get home, it turns out it isn’t. Patients whose pills come in capsules, such that they can unscrew the capsules and count out each bead of the psychopharmaceutical to reach a custom dosage, may have better luck — I have no personal experience trying to customize capsule dosages at home, only tablets — but not all psychopharmaceuticals are available in capsule form.

Enter compounding pharmacies

Two compounded pills of quetiapine/Seroquel in my hand

Compounding pharmacies are your way to hack the problem of prefab dosages so you can obtain custom ones. Tons of USians taking pharmaceuticals have never heard of compounding pharmacies (which is why I’m writing this). To compound simply means to make a medicine by combining ingredients such that the result is tailored to the needs of a specific patient. For example, someone might need a particular medication, yet have an allergy to a dye ingredient used in the versions made at large by Big Pharma, so the patient goes to a compounding pharmacy to have pills created that are without the dye but otherwise the same. Shouldn’t all pills be tailored to the needs of each patient? Anyway, in the United States, compounded drugs are not FDA approved, but they or the compounding pharmacies are typically subject to other oversight, including state-level regulatory agencies. Compounding pharmacies work by basically doing similar weighing and cutting procedures as patients might try to do themselves at home (in the case of tablets; I don’t know about capsules), but the compounding pharmacists have at their disposal much better equipment and expertise to bring to bear on the task. I don’t know the history of compounding pharmacies versus the “regular” ones typically found in corporate drug stores like Walgreens, but I bet it’s fascinating.

To get started, the two things a patient mostly needs are an unconventional psychiatrist who will agree to prescribe at a compounding pharmacy (maybe they’ve already done so for other patients), and health insurance that will cooperate if the custom pills are expensive (compounded quetiapine/Seroquel is merely $40 USD per month out of pocket in Seattle). Finding such a doctor is easier said than done, but it’s definitely possible, especially nowadays with the widespread use of telemedicine. Health insurers sometimes cover compounded drugs; check their policies and fight with them if necessary.

Custom dosages are especially needed for reducing or eliminating dependence on psychopharmaceuticals. If a person diagnosed with severe manic-depression and psychosis has been on a dopamine antagonist (an “antipsychotic”) for decades, stopping cold turkey, or decreasing the dosage by 50% for two weeks and then quitting, can itself trigger psychosis — and sadly, psychiatrists will then claim it’s the “underlying disease” acting up, rather than admitting that the huge jumps in dosage via regular pharmacies, or via conventional psychiatrists, could have been at fault. In my case, in my quest to get off this crap, I recently went down from 300 mg quetiapine/Seroquel per night to a compounded 290 mg, a decrease of merely 3.3%, whereas going down to the next dosage AstraZeneca offers, 275mg, would have been a decrease of 8.33% or approaching 10%. That’s quite a difference that can have dramatic implications for whether an individual going down on such drugs remains safely functional or not. I’ll quote Framer’s article on the subject of protracted small, gradual tapers (I removed the footnotes; see the link above for the full info):

For decades, in both psychiatry and addiction medicine, there have been calls for research into tapering protocols for psychotropics so as to avoid withdrawal symptoms, with little result. We have found that very gradual dosage reduction at an individualized pace minimizes the emergence of withdrawal symptoms. Years ago, inundated by people with severe withdrawal symptoms from the “half, and half, and then off” reductions recommended by their prescribers, patient peer support groups propounded reductions of 10% per step, as suggested by many sources. Since 2011, SurvivingAntidepressants.org has advocated a conservative 10% reduction per month of the most recent dose – an exponential taper, the size of each reduction becoming progressively smaller, approximating the hyperbolic method endorsed by recent research. These gradual tapers to minimize withdrawal symptoms typically require the creation of customized dosages and take many months to several years, depending on individual tolerance for dosage reduction.

Some, like me, are in situations where even a 10% decrease might be too much too fast.

It’s astonishing how many conventional psychiatrists I’ve had to see, and maybe you’ve had to see, who never mentioned compounding pharmacies, for I certainly brought up my desire for custom dosages to them during face to face appointments. These were docs in corner offices packed with awards. Based on exposés I’ve read about the medical industry over the years, I’m guessing in medical school, doctors maybe hear about compounding pharmacies once or twice tops, and then go on to forget all about them. Too busy, I suppose: after all, the psychiatry industry invented the disease of drapetomania, which diagnosed as insane slaves in the United States South who thought they should be free; psychiatry decided homosexuality was a mental illness and then finally un-decided that by vote as recently as 1973 (that’s when 5854 psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the system of diagnoses, while 3810 were in favor of keeping it in); and lately, the psychology industry has been criticized for assisting the United States military and spy agencies in committing torture. Hmm, too busy to learn about the compounding pharmacy down the street. I had to quit going to a mental health center here in Seattle (for refills of the pills I’m still physiologically dependent on) because the psychiatrists there would work only with that center’s regular pharmacy. I suppose the effort to set up prescriptions with a compounding pharmacy was just too much for these precious lightweights.

Ultimately, this isn’t about science. (Refuting what studies supposedly show about psych drugs is too much to include in this single post; check the links in the first sentence for more on the topic.) What psychiatry is really about is name-calling, pointing fingers, damning or cursing some as official less-thans. Just like many cults, as this book analyzes in great detail. Reflectors/fans of psychiatry might feel this post has disrespected doctors and their diplomas, which they probably idealize, and they probably believe those diagnosed have all this stuff (nightly tranquilizer pills, lobotomies, electroshock, etc.) coming to them anyway, just because the docs said so, and well, maybe someday a third party messiah will come along and improve the mental health system or something, but eh. I actually had a conventional psychiatrist in Seattle tell me that in the past few years: Okay, she conceded politely, the mental health system might have some troubles, but “we just have to do the best we can” until some outside factor slowly reforms things realistically and all that. Thankfully, out of the 1-in-5 or 1-in-4 USians on psych drugs, with COVID’s psych drug shortages having provided a scary reminder of what’s happening behind the scenes of the industry’s shiny happy commercials, many, many, many people are no longer asking the hierarchical white coats for permission, and are busy horizontally helping each other improve their situations.

The colorful photo shows the Columbia River with a boat in it and a bridge across it. Hills on each side with a bird soaring overhead.
Easier to feel sane out in Nature, such as here, the Columbia River, seen from Grant county in central Washington state. (Photo by me, 18 June 2021)

News blasts

Belarus. There’s still a dictator in Europe: Alexander Lukashenko (alternate spelling Alyaksandr Lukashenka), protected by the Vladmir Putin regime in Russia. Lukashenko took office in 1994 amid the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In what would be hilarious were it not for the human rights violations under his rule, Lukashenko is really into the aesthetics of Soviet communism, wearing a decades-out-of-style uniform with a silly hat pictured in the video below (it’s a bit like George W. Bush’s fascination with official dress of station). Belarus is a presidential republic with a bicameral parliament and all powers centered on the president. Belarus keeps the Soviet-style KGB for spying on dissidents and arresting Lukashenko’s enemies. Lukashenko dictates all industry, major media, and education in Belarus. He claims to provide stability in Belarus, but he’s a chief cause of instability, and a puppet of Russia (which might sound familiar to US readers). Lukashenko jailed one of his major political rivals, banker Viktor Babaryko, and also jailed Sergei Tikhanovsky, a vlogger in his forties whose youtube channel “A Country for Life” was growing in popularity as Tikhanovsky interviewed members of the Belarusian public about the situation in their country. Tikhanovsky’s channel, started in 2019 and still active thanks to his allies, aims to show ways to a better Belarus by featuring everyday Belarusians’ stories and examples of entrepreneurs. But when in May 2020 Tikhanovsky was announcing his candidacy for president — Lukashenko has controlled that office since 1994, amid accusations of fraudulent elections — Tikhanovsky was detained supposedly for his participation in a protest against the integration of Belarus and Russia, leading to Amnesty International declaring him a prisoner of conscience. That’s when Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, previously an English teacher and human rights activist, stepped in to replace Tikhanovsky in the presidential candidacy; they’re spouses. Her platform similarly emphasized human rights, democracy, freeing political prisoners, reinstating term limits (as opposed to Lukashenko’s dictatorship), and getting away from the union treaty / integration with Russia, viewed as an infringement on Belarusian sovereignty. She received many votes in the August 2020 election; some reports says she won, but according to leaked audio recordings involving poll workers, the dictator continued electoral fraud. He remains in power today. Soon after the election, the dictator’s regime threatened Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s young children, and she was thus forced to flee the country to Lithuania. Her twitter is here (in English) and here’s her English website. Allies of the couple have also faced intense political repression. Meanwhile more general mass arrests of dissidents took place in Belarus; plus, widespread organized crime and trade economy troubles are ongoing. Yet the largest pro-democracy march in the country’s history took place on 16 August 2020, with more than 200,000 people rallying. Pro-democracy protests continue even as these activists are assaulted, raped, and tortured by police. Lukashenko plotted assassinations of political opponents living in Germany (including via explosives and poison): a 24-minute excerpt of a bugged recording of Lukashenko’s then-spymaster was published by EUobserver in January 2021 here (see also the 12-page English transcript or the 8-page Russian transcript; this DW article in English too). The bugged conversation occurred in April 2012. At one point in the conversation the Belarusian KGB discussed killing a Belarusian-born journalist, Pavel Sheremet, who was living in Russia at the time and under constant surveillance. The spymaster wanted the assassination to send a public message, explaining to officers of the KGB’s Alpha Group: “We’ll plant [a bomb] and so on and this fucking rat will be taken down in fucking pieces — legs in one direction, arms in the other direction. If everything [looks like] natural causes, it won’t get into people’s minds the same way.” Pavel Sheremet was eventually murdered in a car explosion in Kiev in July 2016. Lukashenko’s forces currently use beatings, rape, and torture to maintain power, as well as fake rallies and Putin’s protection, but Belarusians keep demanding free elections, release of all political prisoners, and the fall of the dictatorship. Embedded below is a video, just under six minutes, from YAC on 25 May 2021, titled “How Belarus Is Being Held Hostage.” It is the source for most, though not all, of the information in this Belarus news blast.

Ethiopia. In 2019, after ending two decades of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Within a year, Ahmed nevertheless launched a brutal military attack on Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. This is a bit like former U.S. president Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and within two months sending a 30,000 troop surge into Afghanistan, except domestically. Ahmed attacked Tigray after he received criticism for postponing elections (he claimed COVID-19 concerns). Many, including the corrupt and long-standing Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said Ahmed was postponing elections to seize more power. Then Tigray held regional elections in September 2020 anyway out of defiance. Things escalated from there, including (in chronological order) the Ethiopian parliament blocking funds to the regional Tigrayan government, the TPLF attacking a federal military facility, and Ahmed sending into Tigray a heavy military force accompanied by airstrikes. The Ethiopian federal government is falsely calling it a “law enforcement operation,” but it’s a full-scale invasion. There are more historical factors and multiparty tensions underlying the Tigray War, but the preceding gives some of the absolute basics. Most importantly, the two sides described are both accused credibly of atrocities, though most of the evidence points to the Ethiopian federal forces along with their Eritrean and Amhara allies. The civilians are being trampled underneath all these fighters, with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other atrocities taking place. These include mass killings, abductions, daily rape and gang rape of civilians as collective punishment, and other horrors. In some cases, men are being forced to rape their own family members, and in one instance a mother was forced to watch the execution of her twelve-year-old son prior to being taken to a camp where she and other women were raped. The threat of famine is currently rising due to interrupted food shipments. It has also been reported that Amhara forces are committing ethnic cleansing. Multiple countries globally have condemned Ahmed’s invasion of Tigray, the United States has declared sanctions on Ethiopia and its leadership, and human rights defenders and investigators are demanding access to the region. World governments are urged to stop doing business in the area, particularly the telecomms industry, but I’m not sure what the current status of that is, anyone know? It would be amazing to see activists in the United States transform from ignoring the brutal conflict to pressuring the unfortunately mighty telecomms toward ceasing collaboration with Ahmed. Many interesting things come from Ethiopia, such as injera bread (made of gluten-free tef, the world’s smallest grain, and very healthy too) and the music of the krar instrument, both found here in Seattle. Below is embedded the following recommended videos (the ones from YAC are largely the sources for this Ethiopia news blast): The first video, from YAC on 3 June 2021, is “Ethiopia’s Descent Into Darkness In Tigray,” at just under six minutes long, with the transcript available here. The second video, from YAC on 24 April 2021, is “The Ongoing Nightmare Of Ethiopia’s Tigray Genocide” at two minutes long. The third video, from YAC on 13 March 2021, is “World Governments Urged to Stop Doing Business With Ethiopia” at about a minute long. The fourth video, uploaded to youtube on 2 November 2017, is some Eritrean folk music, singing accompanied by the krar.

Does anyone have more information on this performer and song?

Creative Commons License

This blog post, How and why to use compounding pharmacies, plus Belarus and Ethiopia news blasts, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/06/19/how-why-compounding-pharmacies/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

FOIAs and the rest of life, now with executive function

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, typically on Saturdays. This is entry 23 of 52. I’m a day late, so we’ll pretend this entry came out on the 12th and is thus part of Week 23 (which by my count technically ended Saturday).

Note: I edited a bit of last week’s post, correcting something in the news blast about twitter censorship in Nigeria. Readers of last week’s post might consider looking at that fix.

The image shows an excerpt of the FBI's reply to my Freedom of Information Act request seeking anything they have about Philip K. Dick. To summarize, the excerpt looks a little like a typewritten document, and says Dear Mr. Lucas, we were unable to identify main file records ... pertaining to your request, yadda yadda.
In an interview, the late science fiction author Philip K. Dick says he obtained his FBI file via a Freedom of Information Act request. But I’ve never been able to get anything about PKD by sending FOIA requests to the FBI. I did ask the bureau to search far more than just their main files. To no avail.

This past week I’ve been catching up on my open records requests. At MuckRock, a service for filing such inquiries online, I have 169 requests in various phases: some completed, others ongoing, and still more with different statuses. Adding the requests I’ve lodged over the years without using MuckRock, for instance by emailing agencies directly, I estimate I’ve filed something like 200 open records requests in my life. That’s a lot to keep track of!

Open records requests encompass many moving parts and nitpicky details. For instance, on the federal level in the United States, there’s the Freedom Of Information Act legislation (initially enacted into law in 1966), which has resulted in any and all open records requests being called “FOIAs” as shorthand, even though if you’re lodging such an inquiry with, say, the Fort Worth Police Department, on the local level within the state of Texas, it’s not a FOIA but rather, in the lingo of those particular local cops, a public records request, or a public information request, or an open records request. But what to call these formal inquiries the public can make is just the first confusion individuals typically run into. Other complexities involve how to actually word the requests, which specific documents to seek, the multiple ways agencies will deny fulfillment of requests or outright lie and hide things, how to go to court over denials, and so on. Some people turn assisting others with open records requests into entire professional careers, which I suppose makes sense, since sorting through the deets involves deciphering time-consuming prolix tangles, not to mention authoritarian deceptions.

From the dark comedy movie Brazil, a 1.5-minute scene where bureaucrats physically battle paperwork

A specific trouble I’ve run into with my requests is undertaking the appeals process. If an agency denies a request, or claims they don’t have any responsive records for it (i.e., you requested x, but the agency says they don’t have any documents regarding x, and you don’t believe them), then if you want to pursue the matter, your next step, especially on the federal level in the United States, is to file a appeal — not a lawsuit, yet. Not all laws, not all jurisdictions allow for an appeals process. But if they do, it’s recommended you appeal the request for which the agency’s response has left you dissatisfied. An agency’s response you don’t like is called an “adverse determination.” For instance, if the Bureau of Prisons’ replies to your request constitute an adverse determination (and delaying fulfillment of a request for years, a frequent tactic of federal agencies, can constitute an adverse determination), then you’re supposed to appeal first to the Office of Information Policy, prior to suing anybody. Both the Office of Information Policy and the Bureau of Prisons are components of the federal Department of Justice, so your appeal to other foxes guarding the same general henhouse may be unlikely to succeed, but appealing makes your later lawsuit look better. It shows you “went up the chain of command,” to make an analogy to what the system usually asks whistleblowers to do. Once the appeals process fails, you then file a lawsuit, asking the judicial branch (basic separation-of-powers theory) to step in and overrule the executive branch or legislative branch agency you’re contending with. Because this process can take years and be expensive if lawyers are required, it prevents a lot of important information from being released and entering the news cycle. Plus, from the perspective of an individual member of the public (journalist or not) pursuing this process, it’s akin to fighting a battle. Even if it’s conducted on paper, it can be emotionally trying.

Executive function to the rescue

In the first half of the last decade, when I was more known for third parties publishing my journalism (as opposed to my self-publishing it), especially my writing for WhoWhatWhy, I filed most of the open records inquiries that exist on my 169-Muckrock-requests spreadsheet — but in my whole life, I’ve yet to appeal a single one. That was the obvious next step I should have taken with filings that resulted in adverse determinations (most of them). Now I’m confronting the confusing question of whether I can appeal them at all, since some laws/policies require appeals to be filed within, say, 90 days of the adverse determination. I’ve missed many of those deadlines, and I’m currently trying to figure out if I have to start completely over with brand new filings on the same subject matters. But then, can’t the agency just say the new filing is denied because it’s identical to the past filing that was denied? Yet would that still open up a new 90-day window for an appeal? In any case, I don’t want to end up waiting years and years again between my new request and the new adverse determination. I’ll ask the MuckRock experts for help on appealing.

Music video for the awesome 1988 song “Trip at the Brain” by crossover metal band Suicidal Tendencies shows the musicians playing atop a stage that’s a huge brain

I didn’t file a single appeal back then because I was going through mental health struggles that undercut my moxie to pursue such stressful battles and to organize my work as needed. I didn’t see the connections sufficiently in those days, because the grandiosity of mania made it difficult for me to perceive that I lacked skills and that I needed to formulate humble, mundane step-by-step plans to reach goals. “Executive function” is a concept in psychology and the mental health industry that refers to a suite of abilities such as managing time, formulating step-by-step plans, multitasking, streamlining procedures, and so on. If you’re cooking, and you realize that while one hand holds the saucepan under the flowing filtered water faucet, you can use the other hand to sprinkle herbs as the water slowly fills the saucepan, thus saving time by performing two tasks at once, you’re using executive function to optimize a routine task in your life (cooking). If you just unthinkingly follow a list of instructions someone else gives you, acting mechanically, without inventing little ways to improve the procedure, or questioning if it’s worth doing in the first place, you’re using little to no executive function. When people’s mental health deteriorates, they get stuck, the thought of venturing out beyond their comfort zones provokes overwhelming anxiety (sometimes they can’t even identify that they’re anxious), and they just doomscroll twitter all day (or engage in similar addictive behavior), losing the executive function to formulate battle plans to improve their situation. One of the nice things about my recent schoolteaching experiences has been that in teaching there’s such an onslaught of workload — lesson planning, grading papers, assessing where students are and adapting lesson plans accordingly, taking attendance, sitting through largely useless staff meetings, etc. — that if teachers don’t learn how to streamline things, they’re quickly in deep shit, so the schoolteaching experiences forced me to get more comfortable with applying executive function to, like, everything. I imagine new parents must have similar experiences, when the arrival of an infant decreases their sleep and free time, yet they still must get many things done (chores, employment tasks if no parental leave, etc.) just as they did before the child showed up. It can be tough when an adult is unemployed/underemployed, or trying to create structure for themselves in self-employment, to self-impose the same sort of ruthlessly efficient executive function that an outside job like schoolteaching can impose. It’s the difference between externally imposed instructions/structures, and internally imposing them, which requires a strong and healthy mind.

In my years in Seattle so far, with some exceptions, I’ve detoured from journalism to focus primarily on mental health (including by volunteering), a topic too broad to cover in this post (but see here, here, here, here, and here for starters); what’s relevant to open records requests is the idea of creating efficient processes for staying up to date with them. If you have 200 requests, then every single day, you, or MuckRock on your behalf, and/or the agencies are sending detail-crammed messages back and forth with status updates or notifications of adverse determinations or whatever. These notifications pile up in the requester’s email inbox (and the agencies’ inboxes, sometimes resulting in grumpy public information officers sending back sternly worded replies). The requester has to keep track of all this bureaucratic, checkbox-y data, or opportunities will be missed, deadlines will pass, and so on. It can feel overwhelming.

1.5-minute scene from Brazil shows the character Tuttle, a bureaucrat turned suspected terrorist, being physically killed by so much paperwork sticking to him that he’s completely enveloped by the papers to the point they disappear him

Now my mental health is much stronger, so it’s been time to return to the nagging stacks of open records requests, and this past week I spent a lot of time figuring out how to streamline my process with spreadsheets such that each weekend, or every other weekend, I can spend just 30 to 90 minutes updating my spreadsheets tracking how my requests are going and making/executing decisions about particular requests. For instance, this week I learned how to create logical styles in Libre Calc (a free software equivalent to Microsoft’s Excel) and how to use other non-beginner features. Also, MuckRock has a helpful option, I think one they introduced pretty recently, that allows users to export all their requests in .csv format to create a spreadsheet automagically. In sum, the efficiency prevents me from falling behind, prevents unattended requests from piling up to the point it takes a whole week to catch up. If someone is going in and out of psychiatric hospitals every few months, they don’t really have the time or energy to optimize procedures in their lives and then maintain those optimized procedures regularly. Or to change the example, imagine a person with low to zero income, who’s bouncing from one problematic partner’s apartment to another problematic partner’s apartment every few months, arguments and break-ups right and left, no stability they can rely on to support them while they organize/optimize/streamline their lives. And yet, having the opportunity to use executive function well is just damn required to advance toward huge goals successfully.

Executive function, meet Alan Turing and computer programming

The image shows the yellowed first page of Turing's Computable Numbers paper, with a handwritten addition mentioning that some corrections have been made
Title page of an early copy of Turing’s “Computable Numbers” paper, the sale of which is discussed here where I found the image

This idea of executive function is not just, “Oh, somebody has a project, and they simply sketched out some ideas on a piece of paper to make their project more efficient, what’s the big deal?” — it’s actually a very powerful concept that’s core to many things, including computer science. For instance, the idea of leaving notes for yourself about where to start next time you resume a project is an important component of late mathematician Alan Turing’s 1936 paper On Computable Numbers, With An Application To The Entscheidungsproblem, in which Turing invents the very concept of computer software, and what’s now the job of programming (such as coding HTML), before computers even existed. Leaving notes for myself was something I was doing with the FOIA spreadsheets: when I was calling it quits for a day, I’d leave myself a note, such that the next morning, I could read the note saying something like “Start on row 121 of the main spreadsheet next time I work on this.” How leaving notes applies to Turing’s invention of computer software is too complicated to go into here in depth, but I can present a quotation from his paper for flavor and say that in short, Turing uses a note left as an analogy for a software code instruction, and iterations of such notes left as an analogy for a series of software code instructions linked together. Recall when reading the excerpt that in 1936, the word “computer” meant a human being who performed mathematical calculations at a desk with paper and pencil as their job, for example for the accounting department of a large business. Turing:

It is always possible for the computer to break off from his work, to go away and forget all about it, and later to come back and go on with it. If he does this he must leave a note of instructions (written in some standard form) explaining how the work is to be continued. […] We will suppose that the computer works in such a desultory manner that he never does more than one step at a sitting. The note of instructions must enable him to carry out one step and write the next note. Thus the state of progress of the computation at any stage is completely determined by the note of instructions […] the state of the system may be described […] we can construct a machine to write down the successive state formulae, and hence to compute

The black-and-white image shows Alan Turing sitting in a chair, a frontal photo
Alan Turing, circa late 1930s

The software program is the set of instructions, what Turing called an “instruction table,” and he’d even argue that to some extent, you are the sets of instructions you generate for yourself. Or rather your mind is, not so much your social selves and physical body. Well, if you have good executive function, anyway, if you’re actually generating and streamlining procedures. If you have poor executive function, you’re reduced to obeying the instructions of others, mindlessly. Look at it this way. Another example of a helpful executive function action is, if you’re about to read a book, flip ahead to see where the next section break or chapter break is, and determine if you have enough time to read to that point, before plunging in. Sounds blindingly obvious, but might not be if you’ve grown up in a narcissistic country where to admit not having a skill, to admit not knowing something, to admit weakness, is too often putting your survival (employability, relationships, etc) in jeopardy. Further, psychiatry and identitarianism incorrectly teach people that inability is usually innate, part of some invisible, unprovable identity that must never be questioned, only honored, and that such gaps of knowledge usually aren’t fixable through learning. Then people get diagnosed as being intrinsically unable to perform executive function skills, and celebrate their diagnosis anniversaries and so on, explaining to each other without providing solid evidence — the symptom of distress, even strange distress as in psychosis, isn’t proof the problem’s cause is genetic — why they’re supposedly banned from improving their executive function. Like maybe because some mental health provider said so. When instead, individuals can support one another in improving their executive function abilities and ideas.

Executive function/programming versus the spies

A world sans executive function leaves individuals adrift, easy targets for what’s called soft power/active measures/seductive coercion/etc: TLAs (Three Letter Agencies) flooding our lives with sockpuppet propaganda to such a degree that the spy agencies are writing the highest level instruction tables influencing what humanity does. See for instance the testimony of defectors from spy agencies, like KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov in the early eighties saying 85% of that agency’s emphasis was on the “slow process” of “psychological warfare”; or, see the obsession with which the US State Department surveils literary figures, revealed in the 2010-2011 massive leak of diplomatic cables; or, read about the CIA funding creative writing programs. A person shopping for a bookcase might evaluate their options at a store with a fair amount of impartiality, perhaps using a tape measure to ascertain the geometric facts. But people do not typically evaluate their options regarding systems of governance similarly, because beyond the bare minimum, the various choices aren’t much discussed in formal education or popular culture. That’s a result of the spy agencies programming what individuals are interested in, for instance, by ensuring celebrities dominate the front pages of newspapers, tabloids, televisions, social media apps, and so on. The executive function ability to change and refine how you spend your time can protect you from getting swept up in default assumptions (e.g., such as the default assumption that focusing on what entertainers have to say on podcasts is the method to be selected for evaluating current events and ideas).

But improving executive function skills enables people to steer their lives better even in a propagandized environment. It’s so helpful to create and optimize little software-like programs to direct yourself, or recipes for your own life (to put a folksy domestic spin on it), about how to manage whatever tasks, such as requesting FOIAs, so that staying on top of everything becomes realistic, practical. Time and chance happenth to us all, regardless of how good our to-do lists are, but impressive executive function betters our odds of achieving at least some of our aims, even across generations. This is attested in many quotations; I’ll present three below, the last bringing this post back to Philip K. Dick.

Your mind is programmable — if you’re not programming your mind, someone else will program it for you.

Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond

Humans are the most programmable systems on earth. We were all programmed and we can all be reprogrammed. Our programming is our governance.

Philosopher Heather Marsh

 today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups — and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener […] The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. […] The power of spurious realities battering at us today — these deliberately manufactured fakes never penetrate to the heart of true human beings. 

Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick

I’ll say more about FOIAs in future posts. But it’s worth quickly noting a limitation to them: unlike government agencies, private firms and corporations can simply ignore records requests, though documents from within them sometimes come out thanks to hacktivists, or whistleblowers, or other leaks, or lawsuits. Open records legislation does not apply to the “private property” of files within business firms. Since corporations are typically more fundamentally responsible for the state of the world than governments (to put it in a bit of an oversimplified manner), the media’s focus on FOIAs can simply distract us from corporate crimes. The astute reader might notice an apparent contradiction: above, I say spy TLAs write the highest level instruction tables manipulating humanity, but in this paragraph I say corporations are more responsible for what humanity does and doesn’t do. The resolution to the seeming contradiction is that most of the spy TLAs’ budget nowadays goes to private contractors, i.e., private spies. So to whatever extent the CIA is currently funding creative writing programs, the picture is more accurately painted like this: private spies contracting with the CIA put together everything required for the funding/creation of creative writing programs. The spies shifted from working directly as government agency staff (which they still do to a degree) to working in private businesses contracting with the TLAs, to escape accountability (including open records requests). Still, many times, government documents obtained through open records requests can be important puzzle pieces for understanding the world around us.

The colorful image is a fantasy/surreal computer-generated drawing of a beautiful landscape. Part of the grass and hillside is a book, open to the middle. Upon the watery pages grow bushes.
Artist unknown to me. A book of the world…

News blasts

I wanted to include Belarus and Ethiopia, but ran out of time. I’ll include them in my next post.

Nigeria. In October 2020, mass protests occurred throughout Nigeria’s major cities following revelations of abuses by the Nigerian police’s notorious SARS unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. These decentralized protests, which spread across Nigerian communities worldwide, were called the #EndSARS movement, at first opposing the brutality of the SARS police, and then expanding to include demands for good, accountable governance in general. It’s important to note that authorities worldwide, including special police units, cooperate across borders, so to match that strength, it’s necessary for activists to cooperate across borders as well, which activists increasingly do, not staying mentally siloed within the invisible borders of the country they were born in. See this interesting Al Jazeera article from June 2020 on that topic. Back to Nigeria. The energy and organizations spawned by the #EndSARS movement did not appreciate when, earlier this month — as discussed in my previous post’s news blasts — the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (a general who ruled the country in the ’80s via a military coup) started trying to shut down Twitter in Nigeria once the social media company deleted one of his tweets for terms of service violation, since his tweet threatened violence against pro-Biafra separatists. Sparked by Buhari’s twitter censorship, Nigerians planned a massive protest for June 12. In Nigeria, June 12 is Democracy Day, a public holiday marking the event in 1999 when Nigeria transitioned from military rule to an elected civilian government. The protesters’ fire has been heated by many injustices, not just the twitter censorship. Among the injustices are extreme poverty and lack of public education, and horrifyingly widespread femicide and rape of women, all hardships worsened by COVID-19. Also, the Nigerian government has failed thousands of institutionalized individuals diagnosed with mental illness and confined in the country’s state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities. These individuals can find themselves locked up in chains or otherwise abused. There’s a nonprofit called MANI (Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative) that is led by Nigerian users of mental health services (as opposed to led by mental health providers like therapists and psychiatrists); MANI has an interesting website, and they seem at my cursory glance mostly focused on the various support services they offer, but they did tweet a few times regarding the protests (some of their tweets about Buhari’s twitter ban embedded below). I’d like to learn more about the mental health situation in Nigeria, if there’s a psychiatric survivor movement there, and so on. Back to the June 12 protests. Activists in Nigeria criticized the large numbers of kidnappings in the country by terrorists seeking ransom, the many deaths in cult clashes and communal crises, the civil rights violations, the displacement of more than 10 million Nigerians, the high unemployment rate and the rising prices of essentials, the Internet shutdowns, and more. The Nigerian protestors have been issuing three demands to the Nigerian government: 1. End the killings and insecurity; 2. End the social media shutdown immediately; 3. Convene an emergency inter-regional dialogue committee for all regions in Nigeria within a month. During the June 12 protests, cops in the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Abuja fired teargas, detained protestors, and smashed cellphones, which of course activists use to spread information online. On short notice, I was unable to find much of anything about any Nigeria-related protests in Seattle or Texas. The situation in Nigeria will likely continue to develop. For more, read this YAC.news article, the source for much of this news blast item, or watch the YAC.news 7.5-minute video on the subject embedded below (the article is the script for the video’s voice-over), and/or watch the 3-minute Al Jazeera video about the protests embedded below.

The colorful image shows protestors marching during the day in Nigeria, including one woman with a bullhorn, and many holding their hands in the air
Source: 12 Jun ’21 tweet by Emeka Akpa, a Ph.D. economics student in Nigeria who says in his tweet: “Let me tell you what the government of Nigeria is afraid of: An educated, restless, enlightened and upwardly mobile southern young person.” (My understanding is that much of the instability and secessionism in Nigeria is in the southern states.)

Uplifting items in Dallas and Bangladesh/Australia. First, the Dallas chapter of Food Not Bombs has been sharing food in the southern part of that city at #CampRhonda, a community of individuals denied housing by their wider (un)society. Camp Rhonda is named in memory of Rhonda Fenwick, who lived there for a month before dying of organ failure, according to an interesting February 2021 article by The Dallas Morning News. In mutual aid, Food Not Bombs Dallas shared meals at Camp Rhonda today despite the 100° Fahrenheit temperature, and the activists have been working on a community garden at the camp, too. The garden and today’s sharing are pictured below. For my readers in North Texas (where I’m originally from), contact information to volunteer with or donate to the chapter might be: 972-955-0849 or dallasfnb@riseup.net or frankenstein@riseup.net. That’s according to the Google Map linked by the foodnotbombs.net website. I can’t link to that portion of the Google Map directly, so I typed the contact information directly into this paragraph. I don’t know if the contact info is up to date; if it isn’t, try contacting the chapter via Twitter: @FNBDallas. And c’mon Fort Worth, get your own chapter going! Now for Bangladesh/Australia. In the past month, there have been a handful of articles about 25-year-old Rohingya Noor Kabir, who was born inside a refugee camp due to the genocide against the Rohingya. Noor Kabir grew up on strict food rations, but migrated to Australia alone at age 16, where he recently won a Brisbane bodybuilding competition called the ICN Classic. He’s currently studying to be a nutritionist, and he aims to inspire refugees, even those in bad situations as he was, to exercise and eat as healthy as possible. This article about him is really good, this one too, and he’s pictured below. Upon arrival in Australia, he spent two years in community detention (I think something Australia has been imposing on immigrants/refugees generally, not just Noor Kabir), but then was given a bridging visa and worked as a forklift driver prior to meeting a mentor who encouraged him to become a personal trainer. The bodybuilding developed from there. In the article, Noor Kabir says, “When I lived in the camps, I struggled with food — not enough food, not enough carbs, not enough drink” and continues “We lived […] seven people in a room that’d be […] 5 square metres [roughly 53 square feet]” and concludes “I lived like this for 15 years – it wasn’t a good life, so I wanted a new beginning.” Noor Kabir is believed to be the first Rohingya man to win a bodybuilding competition.

The image shows a folding table set up at a park. On the folding table is a blue water cooler with Food Not Bombs painted on it. Next to the cooler are various food items such as pickles and watermelon. In the background stand what I believe are four Food Not Bombs participants, one with camo pants, another with a Nirvana T-shirt.
Source: @FNBDallas tweet from 13 June 2021. Sharing food at #CampRhonda
The image shows folding tables in a park with food items set atop. In the background stand what I believe are two members of Food Not Bombs Dallas.
Source: @FNBDallas, same tweet and sharing as the above pic.
The colorful picture shows a community garden built on the grass of Camp Rhonda. There are food plants growing within the garden.
Source: @FNBDallas tweet from 12 May 2021. Community garden at #CampRhonda
The high contrast picture shows the upper body a man standing with his hands on his hips. A dark red curtain is in the background. The high contrast style of the picture, as well as the stark expression of the very muscular, very symmetrical man, looks almost computer-generated, but it is real.
Source: 6 June 2021 article in the Rohingya Post. Noor Kabir, first Rohingya man to win a bodybuilding competition

Creative Commons License

This blog post, FOIAs and the rest of life, now with executive function, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/06/13/foias-executive-function/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Benefits of making a timeline, both personal and anti-corporate … plus global resistance news

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, on Saturdays. This is entry 22 of 52.

Note: Toward the end of this post, news blasts start. They include: US, Myanmar, Nigeria, and China. Skip down if you just want those.

Note (added 6 June ’21): I edited part of the Nigeria section (most of the editing shown with strikethrough), and explained the change in the comments

The artwork, in the fantasy surreal genre, shows hands holding the planet Earth in front of the face of an old-fashioned analog clock.
Source of artwork

In the past few months as part of journaling and mental health recovery, I’ve been slowly creating a timeline of my life and the lives of those relevant to me. It starts with birth dates for some of my great-grandparents and continues to the present. It looks like the below excerpt (but here I’m adding redactions and obfuscating some specifics, for privacy):

Aug 24, 1998 (age 1█.█): Private therapist Dr Barry Norman refers me to private psychiatrist Dr Tom Murphy
██ ██, 1999 (age 1█.█): A sibling of mine [name] and [name] marry in █████, Texas
██ ██, 2000 (age 1█.█) A nephew of mine [name] is born in ████, Texas

I hope to add many, many more entries into the timeline as the years go on; it’s still pretty sparse.

The black-and-white footage clip shows Neil Armstrong walking down the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar module.
Apollo 11 moonwalk image, 11 July 1969. Source

All the same, I’ve learned quite a lot from building the timeline .txt document brick by brick to the degree I have. For instance, I never realized the Apollo 11 landing — when humans first walked on the moon — was less than a decade and a half away past-ward from my birth. Previously, I’d pictured families watching astronaut Neil Armstrong utter his famous line from the lunar surface on televisions in homes that must have looked like Revolutionary Road 1950s stage sets. But instead, Neil & Buzz & Michael Collins did their celestial thing quite close to when I showed up on this particular planet (in my current bodily form, anyhow).

I also hadn’t ever deeply thought about some pretty key forces beyond my control that explain my life to a powerful extent, such as the event/date when my biological parents married (those youthful Southern marriages, those multigenerational Southern novels!). I also hadn’t ever seen the important temporal proximity some dates have to one another. For example, imagine a big medical event (e.g., a surgery) happening soon after another event (e.g., a breakup with a romantic partner). That temporal connection can hold clues explaining what exactly was going on for a person in a certain time frame. Unfortunately, life dates are typically siloed by category, with medical events stored in one file, and breakups as entries punctuating a separate social media profile, the two categories never to meet. Yet we live through our various events at once, holistically, so to understand ourselves, our world, each other, we gotta bring together into one timeline the disparate dates … Or, it helps provide a sense of multigenerational continuity to discuss with parents, while they’re still alive, what their wedding was like, and how their marriage played out (sadly, it seems people typically discuss weddings far more than marriages). Instead, a crucial event like a wedding too often remains something that never even enters the offspring’s consciousness. You get the point.

Or maybe people don’t get the point: often, when I ask others if they remember whether a certain event happened on this date or that date, they frequently don’t remember, not just the topic I’m inquiring about, but their entire lives: “it’s all a blur,” they say. That doesn’t help a person steer! Here’s an analogy. If you’re trying to cook a meal, taking food from unprepared to prepared, and you don’t even know what kind of food it is that you’re planning to cook — steak? broccoli? quinoa? bread? — then you don’t know if you need a grill, a steamer, an oven, or what. So if you are, to yourself, “all a blur,” and you’re having mental health problems that you’re trying to improve, be it alcoholism or manic psychosis or procrastination or anything else, then how are you going to select what to do to take a blur from troubled to firing on all cylinders?

I understand, though. The notion of putting together something like a personal/family timeline — which a mentor once suggested to me over a decade ago, couching it in terms of writing a memoir — used to feel too threatening/overwhelming. So I rejected such advice fairly quickly, not even knowing that I was feeling threatened and overwhelmed (no such thing as “social emotional learning” in Fort Worth private schools, unlike Seattle Public Schools, not to say that public education SEL is fantastic necessarily). Although, when I resisted helpful suggestions, or resist them even nowadays, I still had/have awareness of what’s good for me. When encountering a great idea that at first was too threatening/overwhelming (such as going vegan, which I initially learned about in philosophy undergrad), I usually did have the sense (and even would tell the other person aloud), as I was pushing the concept away, that I did aspire to eventually implement it (I did go vegan years later: here have a beet root smoothie). The lesson is, if someone recommends a beneficial possibility, but it feels overwhelming, yet you know there’s merit to it, say so, and return to it later once stronger.

The image, a clip from a youtube video, shows on the right the Kenyan inventor, Nzambi Matee, holding bricks. On the left the image says: "Nzambi Matee is a Kenyan inventor who has turned 20 tons of plastic trash into paving bricks." The bottom right gives the videos source as the website yac.news
Some tackle pollution. Source

What people are really talking about when they say their lives are “all a blur” is dissociation. That was an impossible-to-understand vocab word for me, for a long time. I think dissociation can be defined in two ways: how it appears from a first-person, psychological perspective, and how it operates, analyzed from a systemic, sociological point of view. In the daily first-person navigating through life, dissociation means tuning out, especially in the face of overwhelming emotion or distress (unless emotion/experience has been dulled by any combo of causes ranging from garbage quasi-food, to psychopharmaceuticals praised upon their introduction by the medical industry as chemical lobotomies, to exhausting paid-jobs, to widespread poisonous pollution). In the social-structures sociological perspective, dissociation means being severed from companionship, allies, society, or being torn apart from our internal selves that are composed of interactions with the world/others (that might seem contradictory, how can a self be made of interactions?, but what exists that’s not interactive? I’ll wait). Torn apart from those internal interactive selves, forced to serve corporations and their ancillaries. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans in small tribes chilled and gathered berries and did horrible things too, but this whole deal of staring almost every waking hour into glowing screens answering nonstop Microsoft Teams notifications about stupid comments that don’t even relate to the reader in order to obtain imaginary numbers in an abstract bank account to hand over the fictitious digits to a typed-up rental corporation that exists merely on a piece of paper, or else… yeah, I mean, next to the enjoyable experience of climbing across rocks on a beachside in the summer sun (leave out this Seattle pollen tho plz), how dissociated, torn apart from our relationships with Nature and our interests, is remote paid-work, resulting in such distress that we mentally tune out from our own lives, reducing them to “all a blur”?

Creating the timeline has made me feel much more connected with both my own life and the generations of lives around me, past and future — and the helpful connection is in large part because the timeline is factual. Before the timeline, I knew my father was a general practitioner doctor. What I should make of his occupation, though, became the commodified/co-opted province of a stream of (conventional) psychiatrists, therapists, caseworkers, well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) friends trying to help as I flailed about, asking for advice (what Dr Terry Lynch calls ‘other-referral’), not knowing what to do next since the material from which I was working, namely myself, was “all a blur.” I had to listen to these myriad other people’s ever-changing, vague, inconsistent opinions on what I should think of my father and his profession. Now, however, I have the factual bullet-point on the timeline: on such-and-such date, my father at age such-and-such graduated with honors from such-and-such medical school in such-and-such city, etc. It might not seem like much, but it actually is quite a lot. In our supposedly post-fact world, it’s a solid fact of the universe that nobody owns and nobody can run their mouth telling me what it means and by the way, cough up hundreds of dollars per session and swallow corporate tranquilizers that shrink brains, or else. Given a beneficial timeline listing facts, I can see why it is sometimes said that hard news should clearly be separated from opinion, or why inquiries, tribunals, and other investigations often strive to focus strictly on the facts alone. Facts can speak for themselves.

The artwork, in the fantasy surreal genre, mostly shows outer space. In the center is the face of an old-fashioned analog clock. An old man wearing a suit and using a cane is walking through outer space toward the clock.
Source of artwork

I hope that I, and others, will add corporate wrongdoing to the timelines we make, since corporate crimes are extremely impactful on our lives and preventing us from changing in the ways we want to change, developing in the ways we want to develop. I’m curious what corporations poisoned environments familiar to me and those close to me, and when, and how. It’s interesting to me that many years ago, when I was researching the Stratfor emails and that Austin-based spy firm’s clients who were operating in Mexico, I created a lengthy timeline about Mexican history to help me understand that country — timelines are a typical tool journalists and researchers use to understand the world — but I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a timeline to understand myself, or how corporations in my own city were impacting me and those I cared about. Thankfully, it’s becoming much more acceptable to talk loudly about corporate crimes, and even to talk about avenging them. I remember a decade ago, in the Occupy Wall Street era, acquaintances (whether online or in person) would jump on me for just talking about (let alone talking positively about) sit-ins or take-the-highway protests or writing prisoners, etc. Nowadays, while quite a significant degree of ostracism still results from praising resistance fiercely, the Trump experience has made even the comformists/cowards/careerists hesitant to publicly diss activists. It’s not just Texas vs. Seattle, either, judging from what I see Texan friends/acquaintances saying online. There’s still much more improvement to be had, whether a lot at once or baby steps. Don’t care too much, don’t think too hard, get a job any job, you know there really is a lot of good television lately that transforms lives into unperceivable blurs just won’t cut it. Because military dictatorship may well be coming to this country next, or USians might learn to engage consciously with other countries, not just in the ways they unknowingly already do. And finally, sensible action feels better than anxiety.

News blasts

United States. On August 31 in Dallas, a Marine asked military general & Trump advisor Michael Flynn “why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here” i.e. the Tatmadaw military overthrew and arrested the democratically elected civilian government in that country last February. The crowd cheered. Flynn answered, “It should happen here.” The crowd cheered again. 30-second video of this embedded below. Be prepared to stop these oligarchs (naming names).

Short video shows Michael Flynn saying the military should establish a dictatorship in the United States

Also regarding Texas-based Elon Musk, a four-minute Anonymous youtube video, uploaded yesterday by original source anonews.co and amplified today by YAC, drags the shit out of the techbros’ favorite billionaire and his inflated reputation. Optional subtitles included.

Myanmar. The News Blasts in my last two posts included Myanmar. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s happening in that country, you might want to review those posts before continuing with this bullet point. Back on May 26, US resource corporation Chevron and French resource corporation Total suspended cash dividend payments that would have gone to the junta, but that’s only 10% of the revenues from the country’s Yadana natural gas pipeline project that Total, Chevron, Thailand’s publicly owned PTT, and Myanmar’s publicly owned MOGE (Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise) are partners in, so the suspension is merely a step in the right direction. On June 1, Myanmar’s military re-opened schools by force, even though much of the public is far more interested in toppling the junta to restore democracy and/or the National Unity Government (declared terrorist and treasonous by the junta). But the presence of tanks and other regime forces during the re-opening did not stop students from protesting the “military slave education system.” Youth, many Generation Z, engaged in flash protests instead of going to school, criticizing the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) and expressing sympathy with the country’s oppressed Rohingya people, against whom a genocide has been waged. Youthful protestors also showed their disapproval of the junta holding students captive, one sign reading “Are you reopening schools for dogs to attend after you have been jailing students?” Propaganda photos emerged of soldiers replacing teachers as kids supposedly learned happily, but in many cities, schools were actually largely empty. Since June 1, strikes, protests, and boycotts have continued. Meanwhile, due to transportation costs, cash shortages, and general instability, food prices in Myanmar are skyrocketing, plaguing people with worry. And the junta keeps restricting Internet access. However, passionate people in Myanmar still find ways around the censorship, spreading information online. Hopefully those with corporate media platforms in the U.S., such as the commentariat and literati, will admit they should assist in amplifying those brave voices. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — member states are Brunel, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — has been looked to for months by the United Nations, western countries, and China as a potential mediator between the Tatmadaw and the National Unity Government, but on June 4, because ASEAN was meeting with the junta rather than the ousted government, the National Unity Government’s foreign minister Moe Zaw Oo, said “We have little confidence in ASEAN’s efforts. All of our hopes are gone.” Moe Zaw Oo’s streamed press conference was disrupted by the junta’s censorship of the Internet. That same day, deposed Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest in the capital city of Naypyitaw, was moved by the junta to an unknown location, according to her legal team. The National Unity Government’s defence minister, Khin Ma Ma Myo, did say, referring to ethnic armed militias, “The NUG government will call for a war at some point. When that time comes, we must work together to defeat the junta.” Many urban protestors are moving to rebel-held jungle to train for that possible war. A two-minute AFP News Agency video is embedded immediately below.

AFP video of urban protestors now training in rebel-held jungle
The photo shows a bare schoolroom. Elementary age children sit at tables unmasked, looking a workbooks or the soliders standing around, who are armed and taking the place of teachers
Junta propaganda picture of soldiers replacing teachers. Source
The photo, apparently from the same schoolroom as the above image, shows unmasked schoolkids at a desk in a bare classroom. A soldier, replacing a teacher, is showing one of the smiling schoolkids his gun.
Junta propaganda picture of soldier showing schoolkid a gun. Source
The image show a narrow roadway with a parked motorcycle, bordered by trees and walls. Standing on the roadway are young masked protesters making the three-finger democracy salute and holding signs with Burmese written on them.
Students in Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay, protesting the “military slave education system” on June 1 Source
The image shows protestors marching through a market street in Yangon
June 1 protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, with three-finger democracy salute. Source
The image shows protesters in a market street of Yangon, some standing, some kneeling, all masked. They are holding signs, upon which is writing mostly in Burmese, else in English
More June 1 protestors in Yangon. Note “Gen Z” on sign. Source
The image shows a masked young girl, perhaps early teens, with her face blurred. She's standing in front of a door and making the three-finger democracy salute. Her other hand holds a sign, upon which is writing in Burmese.
Youth in Yangon’s Insein Township on May 31 protesting the re-opening of school when students remain jailed for opposing the junta. Source

Nigeria. On June 1, the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, a general who ruled the country in the early ’80s through a military coup, tweeted multiple times in reference to pro-Biafra separatists. Buhari’s Trump-like, bombastic tweets accused the separatists of “evil objectives” and seeking the “destruction of the system” and attacking electoral offices along with critical infrastructure. Buhari tweeted “Whoever wants the destruction of the system will soon have the shock of their lives.” One tweet in particular, pictured below, read “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.” On June 3, Twitter, citing its terms of service against abusive behavior, removed that particular Buhari tweet. On June 4, Buhari, again like Trump, retaliated by throwing a fit and trying to shut down Twitter, attempting to prevent Nigeria’s 200 million inhabitants from accessing the microblogging service that’s t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ an important forum humanity has t̶o̶ ̶a̶ ̶g̶l̶o̶b̶a̶l̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶o̶n̶s̶ for public discussion (̶r̶e̶d̶d̶i̶t̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶t̶u̶b̶e̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶l̶o̶g̶o̶s̶p̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶b̶e̶h̶i̶n̶d̶)̶. Ironically, the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture announced the Twitter black-out … on Twitter. The ministry’s head, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, complained that Twitter was inciting violence and spreading “fake news.” Some Nigerians using VPNs have been able to circumvent the Twitter shutdown, and continue to do so, defying Abubakar Malami, the country’s Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who ordered the “immediate prosecution” of any Nigerian members of the public accessing Twitter. Buhari’s efforts at shutting down Twitter have drawn widespread international condemnation. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, a leader of pro-Biafra separatists, also had his June 2 tweet firing back at Buhari, pictured below, removed by Twitter today, for terms of service violation. Articles for more info and context include two at Reuters and one at the New York Times. However, you can also search Nigeria’s plentiful newspapers (written in English) by going to https://news.google.com and typing in a search term, e.g. “twitter”, followed by site:.ng to restrict the search to news sites with the top level domain for Nigeria.

The image is a screenshot of a June 1 tweet from the Nigerian president. It reads as described in the blog post.
The tweet by the Nigerian president that Twitter deleted
The image is a screenshot of a June 2 tweet of pro-Biafra separatist leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. It reads: "It's not for the living to respond to the dead but given the lack of reasoning prevalent in the #Zoo Nigeria, I wish to assure @GarShehu, the Jihadi midget @elrufai & that Fulani lapdog Femi Adesina that any army they send to #Biafraland will die there. None will return alive. even if it require sacrificing my people I will do it , freedom doesn't come easy. any Igbos that die will be Remembered"
“His” people? Anyway, this is the tweet by the pro-Biafra separatist leader that Twitter deleted today

China. 32 years ago today, the unidentified protestor since nicknamed “Tank Man” blocked Chinese tanks leaving Tiananmen Square where pro-democracy activists were massacred, a subject the Chinese Communist Party still censors with the ongoing help of Microsoft and other big tech companies. CCP atrocities continue, including the current genocide of the Uyghurs. An estimated million Uyghur people are being held by the Chinese government in concentration camps. Embedded below, just under three minutes of footage of Tank Man, the iconic photo of him, and a more zoomed-out image showing just how many tanks he stood in front of.

Tank Man footage
The image shows a man standing defiantly in front of a line of Chinese tanks
Iconic Tank Man photo
The image shows a man standing defiantly in front of a very long line of Chinese tanks
Zoomed-out Tank Man photo

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Benefits of making a timeline, both personal and anti-corporate … plus global resistance news, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/06/05/benefits-making-timeline-personal-anticorporate-global-news/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Antipsychiatry playlist

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish one blog post per week. Here’s entry 13 of 52.

Here’s a playlist of thirteen songs I like with antipsychiatry themes. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, this post of mine from two weeks ago is as good a place to start as any.

I ordered the playlist not in any ranking, but in a sequence I find enjoyable for listening, akin to a mixtape from the days of old. I added very broad genre tags to each title; such categorizations are infinitely debatable, which can get boring. I simply put the tags there to aid hurried people who might prefer not to invest a lot of time trying out a type of music they hate.

After each youtube embed, you’ll find the song’s lyrics and then a paragraph from me commenting on the music. If you can suggest any additional entries for the playlist, please do so in the comments. Enjoy!

1. Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” live in Seattle 1989, originally from their 1986 album Master of Puppets. Genre: Heavy Metal

Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will
Moon is full, never seems to change
Labeled mentally deranged
Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight
No locked doors, no windows barred
No things to make my brain seem scarred

Sleep my friend and you will see
That dream is my reality
They keep me locked up in this cage
Can't they see it's why my brain says "rage"

Sanitarium, leave me be
Sanitarium, just leave me alone

Build my fear of what's out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I'm insane
They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He's getting better, can't you tell?

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win
They see it right, they see it well
But they think this saves us from our hell

Sanitarium, leave me be
Sanitarium, just leave me alone
Sanitarium, just leave me alone
 
Fear of living on
Natives getting restless now
Mutiny in the air
Got some death to do
Mirror stares back hard
Kill, it's such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again

I must have listened to “Sanitarium” a million times in middle and high school. (I’ve never heard a metalhead call this song “Welcome Home”; everyone just calls it “Sanitarium,” an old term for psychiatric hospital.) The live footage above is from Metallica’s peak period, no doubt accelerated by, not psych drugs, but the recreational kind. It’s nice to see Lars Ulrich putting in effort on the drums, unlike in recent decades. The lyrics portray well how psychiatrists typically just make things worse, leading their locked up patients to resent them and fire back, a doomed dance so long as genuine help remains drowned out by corporate volume. But it’s a little silly to imagine hospitalized patients staging a rebellion; realistically, people confined in in-patient settings are far too drugged and beaten down to resist much, and meanwhile, getting with the program, or pretending to, is how patients get discharged. I once saw a tall, muscular black patient repeatedly insist, for days, to the staff that he didn’t like how he was being treated. He talked with other patients, suggesting that they too speak up. The other patients kept their distance; plenty of patients in general nowadays say their hospitalizations are helpful, comparing them to worse family/friend situations instead of to what’s possible if people just tried. Anyway, the staff kept giving the outspoken black man Thorazine pills, and as far as I ever saw, he was made sluggish, tamping down on his efforts. Back to the song, I like Kirk Hammett’s melodic guitar solos early on. The fast section ending this tune, like the equivalent fast section ending many metal songs, sounds good, though a bit generic to me. A frenzied solo plays and cymbals bang, as more or less as expected. Thankfully the underlying chord progression is dramatic and enjoyable.

2. Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” the single from their 1983 self-titled debut album Suicidal Tendencies. Genre: Metal/Punk crossover

Sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn't work out the way I want it to.
And I get real frustrated and, like, I try hard to do it and I, like, take my time and it doesn't work out the way I want it to.
It's like I concentrate on it real hard but it just doesn't work out.
And everything I do and everything I try, it never turns out.
It's like, I need time to figure these things out.
But there's always someone there going: "Hey Mike, you know, we've been noticing you've been having a lot of problems lately, you know? Maybe you should get away and, like, maybe you should talk about it, you'll feel a lot better."
And I go: "No, it's okay, you know. I'll figure it out, just leave me alone, I'll figure it out, you know. I'm just working on myself."
And they go: "Well you know, if you want to talk about it, I'll be here, you know. And you'll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it. So why don't you talk about it?"
I go: "No, I don't want to, I'm okay, I'll figure it out myself."
But they just keep bugging me, and they just keep bugging me, and it builds up inside.

So you're gonna be institutionalized
You'll come out brainwashed with bloodshot eyes
You won't have any say
They'll brainwash you until you see their way.
I'm not crazy — Institution
You're the one that's crazy — Institution
You're driving me crazy — Institution
They stuck me in an institution,
Said it was the only solution,
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

I was in my room and I was just, like, staring at the wall thinking about everything,
But then again, I was thinking about nothing.
And then my mom came in and I didn't even know she was there.
She called my name and I didn't hear her and then she started screaming: "MIKE! MIKE!"
And I go: "What, what's the matter?"
She goes: "What's the matter with you?"
I go: "There's nothing wrong, Mom."
She goes: "Don't tell me that, you're on drugs!"
I go: "No Mom, I'm not on drugs, I'm okay, I'm just thinking you know, why don't you get me a Pepsi?"
She goes: "No, you're on drugs!"
I go: "Mom I'm okay, I'm just thinking."
And she goes: "No, you're not thinking, you're on drugs! Normal people don't be acting that way!"
I go: "Mom, just get me a Pepsi, please. All I want is a Pepsi."
And she wouldn't give it to me.
All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn't give it to me.
Just a Pepsi.

They give you a white shirt with long sleeves
Tied around you're back, you're treated like thieves
Drug you up because they're lazy
It's too much work to help a crazy.
I'm not crazy Institution
You're the one who's crazy  Institution
You're driving me crazy  Institution
They stuck me in an institution,
Said it was the only solution,
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

I was sitting in my room and my mom and my dad came in, and they pulled up a chair and they sat down.
They go: 'Mike, we need to talk to you."
And I go: "Okay, what's the matter?"
They go: 'Me and your mom have been noticing lately that you've been having a lot of problems, and you've been going off for no reason and we're afraid you're going to hurt somebody, and we're afraid you're going to hurt yourself! So we decided that it would be in you're best interest if we put you somewhere where you could get the help that you need."
And I go: "Wait, what are you talking about, WE decided!? MY best interests?! How do you know what MY best interest is? How can you say what MY best interest is? What are you trying to say, I'M crazy? When I went to YOUR schools, I went to YOUR churches, I went to YOUR institutional learning facilities?! So how can you say I'm crazy?'

They say they're gonna fix my brain
Alleviate my suffering and my pain
But by the time they fix my head
Mentally I'll be dead.
I'm not crazy  Institution
You're the one who's crazy  Institution
You're driving me crazy  Institution
They stuck me in an institution
Said it was the only solution
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy: myself.

Doesn't matter, I'll probably get hit by a car anyways.

Unfortunately I never really checked out Suicidal Tendencies besides this one particular song, an MTV hit in its day. The lyrics are probably pretty relatable for many teenagers even today. One of the interesting facts about severe mental health problems is that they usually begin — plenty of exceptions, but usually — during adolescence, when people are expected to transition from childhood to “adulthood,” which is what we call complicity with corporations and their ancillaries (such as the education system) and the adoption of non-philosophies like Don’t think too hard, don’t care too much, get a job any job. There are a lot of ways to bail on this “adulthood,” and one of them is to develop the semi-involuntary, semi-voluntary capability to escape into altered states, especially when suffering extreme emotions, a kind of “non-compliance” with the corporate/military world that surrounds everyone. Thus fittingly, the lyrics of “Institutionalized”, and many other songs on this list, portray characters’ teenage years. I don’t know much about singer Mike Muir, who formed the band as a teen himself, but his vocalizations of the run-on sentence lyrics sound like he lived something like the lyrics describe, see for instance his use of psych industry jargon with the phrase “institutional learning facility.” Musically, I like the dramatic tension created by the chromatic chord progression in the chorus, chords going up and down over and over by just a half step. There’s also a neat bit on the electric guitar that’s easy to miss between about 1:34 and about 1:40, palm-muted arpeggios, I think in the middle of the guitar neck, that sound really dissonant and abnormal/deviant (insane) for a song’s verse section. I also like how in the music video, Muir’s bandmates in their eye-catching white car function as his rescuers; Muir’s existential answers rest with them, and at the video’s close, in the front passenger seat, he rides off with his comrades into the night.

3. Dead Kennedys’ “Insight” from their 1987 album Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death. Genre: Punk

Who's that kid in the back of the room?
Who's that kid in the back of the room?
He's setting all his papers on fire
He's setting all his papers on fire
Where did he get that crazy smile?
Where did he get that crazy smile?
We all think he's really weird
We all think he's really weird

We never talk to him
He never looks quite right
He laughs at us, we just beat him up
What he sees escapes our sight
Sight!

We never see him with the girls
We never see him with the girls
He's talking to himself again
He's talking to himself again
Why doesn't he want tons of friends?
Why doesn't he want tons of friends?
Says he's bored when we hang around
Says he's bored when we hang around

We never talk to him
He never looks quite right
He laughs at us, we just beat him up
What he sees escapes our sight
Sight!

We're all planning our careers
We're all planning our careers
We're all planning our careers
He says we're growing old

I really like this song. It’s short, like so many Dead Kennedys and punk songs in general are. Having grown up on metal, I’m always like, “Where’s the guitar solo?” Anyway, check out the lyrics: they’re told from the perspective of the conformist teens at school, who can’t fathom someone who gets “bored” with them and doesn’t need “tons of friends.” The chorus has some good musical humor that matches the lyrics, not just singer Jello Biafra’s goofy modulation of the word “sight” (right after “escapes our”), but that bass line too. I’m not sure how to characterize it, except both the bass line and the guitar chords in the background are really Beginner 101 stuff musically, and that serves to highlight the stupid conformity of the song’s narrators. Jello Biafra dancing around like a goofball on stage makes it even more indicting somehow… a little like their improvised(?) live song “Night of the Living Rednecks” from Portland Oregon in 1979 — which also mentions pretending to be a mental patient. Back to “Insight,” a quick dissonant chord progression ends the song, with Biafra’s lyrics hitting a usual point for him, the barrenness of careerism.

4. Daniel Mackler’s “The Psych Med Song” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

Prozac Buspar Xanax too
Haloperidol for you
Zoloft Zyban Trazodone
Antabuse and Methadone

If neuroleptics make you shake
then Benztropine you must take
They profit from the drugs they sell
From the side effects as well

Thorazine Amphetamine
Luvox Carbamazapine
Clozapine and Stelazine
Protripyline lamotrigine

Valium and Ativan
viagra for the modern man
But now some ladies take it too
Off-label is good for you!

Abilify and Mellaril
Klonopin Anafrinil
Naltrexone oxazepam
Rozerem triazolam

Celexa went generic, oh
So let's brand name it Lexapro
Tweak the formula a touch
Sells for thirty times as much

Venlafaxine Doxepin
Benificat and Ambien
Cymbalta and Adderall
Serzone and Propanolol

Bupropion does not sound fun
So market it as Wellbutrin
If its drug name makes you chafe
Change its name so it sounds safe

Effexor and Vistaril
Lunesta and Tofranil
Librium and Nembutal
Zeldox Phenobarbital

It takes a town to raise a kid
But barring that there’s Ritalin
Pills are good for kids I know
The FDA it told me so

Topomax and Trilafon
Depakote and Geodon
Methylin Modafinil
Dexedrine and Dogmatil

Lobotomy has since evolved
Nowadays there’s Risperdal
Zyprexa shrinks a monkey’s brain
You tell me now who’s insane

Nardil Paxil Elavil
Prolixin and Seroquel
Moban Marplan and Navane
Benadryl and Loxitane

Lithium will soothe your mood
If it doesn’t poison you
If you think they’re danger free
Buy the Brooklyn Bridge from me

Mirtazipine Nortriptyline
Procyclidine fluphenazine
Eldepryl and Loxapine
Flurazepam Desipramine
Symmetrel Reboxetine
Halcion Trimipramine 

La la la—la la la
La la la la la la….

“The Psych Med Song” is quite charming, the lyrics and the video both. The rhythm guitar parts are simple and clean, and over them the song has that little silly cute melody on the thin strings (reminding me somehow of the goofy beep melodies in Kraftwerk’s 1981 song “Pocket Calculator“). “The Psych Med Song” really shows what a musician can accomplish by merely using a flawless, even if simple, chord progression chugging away in the background, a nice memorable melody on the guitar repeating a few times (toward the end with harmony), and then clever lyrics with quality singing. The subject is something Mackler knows intimately from over a decade of experience as a therapist and documentary filmmaker, so that clearly touches his singing, and you can hear it in his voice.

5. Daniel Mackler’s “Bullshit” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

They tell me my problem’s genetic,
I'm born with a flaw in my brain
They tell me I need medication,
and force me to bury my pain

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

Their pills make me shaky and sweaty,
I fear that they’re breaking my will
They told me that this is quite normal,
and added another new pill

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They put me inside a straitjacket,
they locked me inside of a cage
They inject me with Haldol to calm me,
yet wonder why I'm full of rage.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They give me a shrink I can talk to,
but she is just spiritually dead.
She only repeats the same question:
“Are you still taking your meds?”

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They forcefed me E. Fuller Torrey,
But he is sadistic and gross.
I asked them about Peter Breggin,
They replied by increasing my dose.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

Their studies are so scientific,
and based on assiduous work.
But they don’t share their affiliations
with Lilly and Janssen and Merck.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

They absolve all of my traumatizers,
the horrors that they did to me.
They tell me to put it behind me,
and say that I need ECT.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

I said I think I can recover,
And taper off all of these meds.
They tell me that’s just my delusion,
An illness that lives in my head.

Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles and miles
Bullshit, bullshit, I’ve learned to smell bullshit from miles

A very combative song here from Daniel Mackler. His three songs in this playlist are all available on his 2009 album, which I still need to purchase myself. The rhythm guitar on “Bullshit” plays along steadily in the song’s background, like in “The Psych Med Song,” except instead of 4/4 time, “Bullshit” is in 6/4, sounding akin to a music box. I like the descending scalar runs from the lead guitar; it fits the 6/4 time somehow, like we’re placed into this dreamy world, except it’s not a good one; it’s the rose-tinted glasses dreamy world of conventional psychiatry, where if you just keep taking your “meds,” everything will be fine, no need to question or research who came up with the chemical imbalance theory and what the arguments for and against it are. The lyrics do a great, concise job of explaining why just going along with everything is bullshit and what’s really at stake.

6. Daniel Mackler’s “Little Bottles” from his 2009 album Songs from the Locked Ward. Genre: Folk

Little bottles in the cabinet
Little bottles full of chemicals
Little bottles from the doctor
Little bottles for your head.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

There's Zyprexa and there's Prozac
And Ritalin and lithium
And Xanax and Risperidal
And the MAOIs
They're for depression and bipolar
And anxiety and schizophrenia
And for panic and for smoking and PTSD.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

But the people who take them
Often get all sorts of funny side effects
Like twitching and weight gain
And some things that are worse
Like loss of feelings
And loss of passion
Loss of focus and no erections
And addictions and heart disease
And sometimes suicide.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

Yet the shrinks all recommend them
With their thousand-dollar consultations
But you should trust them
Because after all, half the shrinks take them too

Numb the symptoms, ditch the therapy,
Support the pharmaceutical industry
Deny the traumas that caused the misery
And pass them all on to your kids.

There's a green pill
And a pink pill
and a blue pill
and a yellow pill
And they're all made out of chemicals
And they make you feel good.

“Little Bottles” is very sad… It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with that simple rhythm guitar in the background (now mostly in 3/4 time), a singer singing of something he’s very experienced with and passionate about, and that repetition of There’s a green pill / And a pink pill / and a blue pill / and a yellow pill. When all is said and done, when all the fancy corporate science studies and voted-into-existence diagnostic codes and abusive legal jargon are over with, once we’ve finally finished hearing the multisyllabic vocabulary from above, then the traumatized person is left alone in the bathroom with a bottle of green pills, pink pills, blue pills to swallow… a ritual that says, You can’t take care of your mind without these, plus all the adverse side effects and no understanding of why extreme, altered emotional experiences are happening to the patients and increasingly more and more of humanity. Continuing to “Deny the traumas that caused the misery” will have really bad long-term consequences for everyone. Thankfully via Twitter and other sources, everyone can see people really risking themselves to improve the world, from climate activist Greta Thunberg to the numerous examples amplified by @YourAnonCentral (see also @yaccreate for solely good news). We can learn things to try out ourselves; we can empower ourselves.

7. Daniel Johnston’s “The Story of an Artist” from his 1982 album Don’t Be Scared. Genre: Lo-fi, outsider

(I don't know.
It's like when you go to read your own poetry
And you get all choked up.)

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

Everyone and friends and family
Saying, "Hey, get a job!
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?"

"We don't really like what you do
We don't think anyone ever will.
It's a problem that you have,
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old.
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

The artist walks alone
Someone says behind his back,
"He's got his gall to call himself that!
He doesn't even know where he's at."

The artist walks among the flowers
Appreciating the sun.
He does this all his waking hours
But is it really so wrong?

They sit in front of their TVs.
Saying, "Hey, this is fun!"
And they laugh at the artist,
Saying, "He doesn't know how to have fun."

The best things in life are truly free.
Singing birds and laughing bees.
You got me wrong, says he.
The sun don't shine in your TV.

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old.
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren't so bold.

Everyone and friends and family.
Saying, "Hey, get a job!
Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?"

"We don't really like what you do
We don't think anyone ever will
It's a problem that you have
And this problem's made you ill."

Listen up and I'll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others just like to watch the world.

“The Story of an Artist” is the only song I know by Daniel Johnston. He died in 2019; he was diagnosed with manic-depression and spent time in psychiatric hospitals. There’s a documentary about him that I haven’t seen. The lyrics are great. They make me want to spend more time outdoors instead of at my day job… The music, well, it reminds everyone that technical ability — so often prioritized to the exclusion of everything else by music teachers, music schools, etc. — is really not that important compared with creating/performing from the heart.

8. The Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist” from their 2000 debut album Since I Left You. Genre: Electronica

(Mr Kirk:) Is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill, is Dexter ill today?
(Ms Fishborne:) Mr Kirk, Dexter's in school.
(Mr Kirk:) I'm afraid he's not, Ms Fishborne. Dexter's truancy problem is way out of hand.
The Baltimore County school board have decided to expel Dexter from the entire public school system.
(Ms Fishborne:) Oh Mr Kirk, I'm as upset as you to learn of Dexter's truancy.
But surely, expulsion is not the answer!
(Mr Kirk:) I'm afraid expulsion is the only answer.
It's the opinion of the entire staff that Dexter is criminally insane!

That boy needs therapy, psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy, purely psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy
Lie down on the couch! What does that mean?
You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!
What does that mean? That boy needs therapy
I'm gonna kill you, that boy needs therapy
Play the kazoo, let's have it tune
On the count of three.
That, that, that, that, that boy...boy needs therapy
He was white as a sheet
And he also made false teeth

Avalanche is above, business continues below

Did I ever tell you the story about—
Cowboys! Mi—mi—midgets and the Indians and frontier psychiatrist
I, I felt strangely hypnotized
I was in another world, a world of 20,000 girls
And milk! Rectangles, to an optometrist, a man with a golden eyeball
And tighten your buttocks, pour juice on your chin.
I promise my girlfriend I'd—the violin, violin, violin

Frontier Psychiatrist.
Frontier, frontier, frontier, frontier
Frontier, frontier, frontier, frontier

That boy needs therapy, psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy, purely psychosomatic
That boy needs therapy
Lie down on the couch, what does that mean?
You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut!
What does that mean? That boy needs therapy
I'm gonna kill you, that boy needs therapy
Ranagazoo, let's have a tune
Now when I count three
That, that, that, that, that boy...boy needs therapy
He was white as a sheet
And he also made false teeth

Frontier Psychiatrist

Can you think of anything else that talks, other than a person?
Uh um, uh um, a bird? Yeah!
Sometimes a parrot talks
Ha ha ha ha ha !!!!
Yes, some birds are funny when they talk...
Can you think of anything else?
Um, a record, record, record?

“Frontier Psychiatrist” is an electronica collage of surreal samples and lyrics set to a hypnotizing drum beat and a repetitive chromatic progression (up and down a single half step) with various melodies coming and going on top of it. Kind of like how in psychiatric hospitals, patients are recommended to create collages with glue sticks, infantilizing, as if they’re elementary school students. The song, especially with the extremely surreal music video (be sure to watch it!), captures the weird insanity of Freudian philosophy. The video shows old white psychiatrists in suits jabbing their pointing fingers and saying over and over “That boy needs therapy!” while bizarre mental health memes float by: patients lying on a couch, odd references to sex, the repetition of “What does that mean?” (something you must pay a psychoanalyst to find out), depictions of legal power (expelling Dexter from the school system), and more. The song sounds like the internal world of someone dreaming or being psychoanalyzed. Regarding the infectious music (see what I did there), it’s amazing what artists can create when they follow their own curiosity instead of others’ expectations. This song isn’t something generic you’d expect from commercial radio or similar safe sources, but surprisingly, the song did well commercially, including on radio.

9. Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” single from their 1982 album Call of the West. Genre: New wave

I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older.
I turn the switch and check the number
I leave it on when in bed I slumber.

I hear the rhythms of the music
I buy the product but never use it.
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can't understand, just what does he say?

I'm on a Mexican radio
I'm on a Mexican radio
I dial it in and tune the station
They talk about the U.S. inflation.
I understand just a little
No comprende--it's a riddle.

I'm on a Mexican radio
I'm on a Mexican radio

I wish I was in Tijuana
Eating barbequed iguana.
I'd take requests on the telephone
I'm on a wavelength far from home.

I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
I dial it in from south of the border
I hear the talking of the DJ
Can't understand, just what does he say?

Radio radio…

It might be a little off (deviant, abnormal) to consider Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio” an antipsychiatry song, but to me it counts as one somehow. The singer’s radio tuner-like vocal modulations, the persistence of the hyped-up electronica beat (resembling radio equipment or medical machinery), and the mind-bending bleeps at the start and following the choruses, sound like a depleted mental state feels, everything stressed, tense, and crazed… The lyrics express the info-junkie’s addiction to unusual sources of information, whether the border blasters (unregulated radio stations) that inspired this song, or the less known corners of the Internet today; and, some degree of that info-addiction appears common in people with severe mental health problems, in my experience. Perhaps too much of our technology just makes our mental lives worse. That being said, “Mexican Radio” is a very fun song, and without strong conduits to important knowledge (including contemporary samizdat), people just stay stuck in the default corporate/military echo chamber. The character in the lyrics is “on a wavelength far from home.” That’s similar in feel to the pursuit of unusual interests often wrongly categorized as characteristic of mental problems instead of as healthy curiosity. I guess the question is, will the character’s hobby/passion hurt or help the person? The character remains dedicated to radio regardless.

10. Nujabes’ “The Sign” from his 2005 album Modal Soul. Genre: Nu Jazz

Do we wanna watch it fall apart?
Every time I walk, I watch
I look, I notice, I observe, I read the signs
And the signs are pointing in the wrong direction
The signs are not naming the streets
Or leading me to the highway
The signs are naming names.
Tombstones to mark the death of children not even born
And I don't mean abortion, I mean what is to come
The signs are telling me to turn back around
The signs are telling me to research my past
The signs are telling me to learn from my mistakes
The signs are asking me questions.
Do you wanna watch it all fall apart?
Do you have any control?
Is there anything that you can do?
Time is not a nice person
I know because the sign said it
Time can be generous but ultimately time is indifferent
Time does not give two damns or a fuck
So what will you do?
What will we do?

So I'm in the middle of the street talkin' to the signs
And people are lookin' at me pointing and laughing
Like, "This mothafucker's crazy!"
But do they not see the signs?
Do you not see the signs?

If there is one thing in this world
That you can depend on
That you can bet your last dollar on
It's the ignorance of the American people
But still I have faith
And still I read the signs
And they are indeed there
Some of us are lost and will not find our way
No matter what the signs say
Some of us do not see the signs because we are too busy shopping
Some of us do not see the signs because we can't help but stop and look at the accidents and stare
We are in a daze, we are amazed by the world's displays
Some of us do not see the signs because we are giving spare change to the homeless
We are getting gas, we are volunteering for duty, and we are watching television
We are driving around in circles on spinners and we are working eight to six
We are on our way to the club
We are high, we are drunk, and we are sober
And we do not see the signs
We are listening to a moron babble
We are listening to tongues that lie
We give them an ear, we give them a hand, we give them both eyes
So we cannot see the signs.

Slow, there are children playing in the streets
And they cannot read the signs
They are only children.
Stop. Stop!
I fear there is no U-turn
And that this road dead-ends
Because we cannot read the signs
Do you not see the signs?
We must read the signs
And we must turn around
We must turn around
We gotta turn this shit around
And we gotta read the signs

We must read the signs...
We must read the signs...
We must read the signs...
We gotta read the signs...
We gotta turn this shit around...
We gotta turn this shit around...
We gotta read the signs...

The late Nujabes’ song “The Sign” has some really chill music. It’s great to hear an upright bass after all the fretted electric basses in the previous songs on this playlist. The piano is very pretty, and the rain stick (I think that’s what’s used) provides a soothing rhythm throughout. In front of this calming instrumental backdrop, Nujabes collaborator Pase Rock gives a strong, slightly abrasive spoken word performance. The lyrics express frustration with conformity, ignorance, and just going along with things, while at the same time valuing persistence (“And still I read the signs”) and some degree of optimism, that things might could be turned around. The subject of the lyrics is evocative of the delusions of reference experience in altered states, in which everyday perceptions seem to present exaggerated personal meanings, or grandiose personal salience, like supranormal stimuli does in various addictions (e.g., amphetamine seems to reveal that you’re special…but actually you’re just high).

11. A Tribe Called Red’s “We Are the Halluci Nation” from their 2016 album We Are the Halluci Nation. Genre: Electronica

We are the tribe that they cannot see
We live on an industrial reservation
We are the Halluci Nation
We have been called the Indians
We have been called Native American
We have been called hostile
We have been called Pagan
We have been called militant
We have been called many names
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the human beings
The callers of names cannot see us, but we can see them
We are the Halluci Nation
Our DNA is of earth and sky
Our DNA is of past and future
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the evolution, the continuation
Halluci Nation
The Halluci Nation
We are the Halluci Nation
We are the Halluci Nation

The private school, Western philosophy, pro-psychiatry world I grew up in would call it a stretch to suggest that it could have a serious harmful effect on a person’s mental health to walk around where genocide happened while not caring or taking action about it. From all I’ve learned in the last half decade, it’s really obvious such things do have effects on us. Just like savants can memorize mass amounts (or some people can’t forget anything), it’s completely sensible to suggest that regularly driving past First Nation centers or reservations would stir up the subject in people’s minds, even when they try to ignore it. Not in the sense that psychiatrists might accept, as if a little imaginary particle (say) floats from the reservation and penetrating an individual’s barriers and lodging itself into their psyche, causing abnormality. But rather, that we’re all trying to live in this weakened, self-destructive web, surrounded by pollution and other corporate-caused problems, while psychiatrists lecture us about and drug us into showing up for corporate work (or for corporations’ ancillaries) while maintaining a “good work ethic” and being “realistic” and all that, while our human needs are very, very different than our day jobs. If we don’t meet our needs, and instead file bureaucratic paperwork all day in some office job like members of the Imperial Civil Service, we might space out enough to forget our pains, but they’re still there along with the unmet needs, and rear their heads eventually. I like how early on in the song, the lyrics list various insults First Nations peoples have received, and then the song says: “The callers of names cannot see us, but we can see them.” Since their pseudo-scientific justifications are garbage, psychiatrists (after bullying or intimidating patients into not researching for themselves), basically are just name-calling others. You’re an autistic, you’re a bipolar, you’re a schizophrenic, you’re a this, you’re a that. And patients sometimes get so into becoming “consumers” of products produced for their particular label-from-above that they (in one case I saw) tattoo their DSM code on an ankle — the patient I knew who did that, later committed suicide, sadly. People forget the “earth and sky,” the “past and future.” Sure, people might pay some quick lip service to Nature and interconnected, transgenerational history, but when you look at where most of their time/effort goes, psychiatry focuses on maintaining the status quo and telling you it’s “unrealistic” to resist/replace the system in your own life. Ask your psychiatrist/therapist if you should quit your job, sell your possessions, and go defend natural resources with other water protectors as people I’ve known personally have done at great risk to themselves, and see what your mental health professionals advise you to do. So the real hallucination is replacing living in harmony with the environment, with driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic to weekly psychiatrist appointments to find out what you’re permitted to believe to stay “realistic.” And people (for a while anyway) “cannot see” this, but those underfoot “can see them.” And with those underfoot is where “the evolution, the continuation” lies, not in gated communities. As for the music, I like the keyboard’s tone, the reverb and vibrato on the notes. The driven drumbeat is also powerful and declarative.

12. David Rovics’ “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” from his 2007 live album The Commons, originally from his 2004 album Songs for Mahmud. Genre: Folk

Alex is a member of my record label
Teenager though he is
He joined Ever Reviled Records
And the indie music biz
His parents didn't like such turns of events
So they called up a couple of thugs
Send him back to Utah, lock him up
And pump him full of drugs
They say he's got problems with authority
Yes this is what they claim
And their psychiatric analysis
Has even got a name

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

If you think George Bush is a moron
And Tony Blair's a liar
If you fantasize about setting
Your local Wal-Mart on fire
If you don't like Tom Brokaw
And you think he's full of it
If you feel a Rush Limbaugh punching bag
Might be kinda fun to hit
If bombing other countries
Makes you feel appalled
You have got a problem
And this is what it's called

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

If you think school is boring
And your teacher is a fool
If you don't like your Congressman
And you called him a corporate tool
If you were not standing
To sing "Save the Queen"
If you turn down hamburgers
And eat rice and beans
We've got a diagnosis
No matter whether you agree
Just do what the doctor tells you
Thank god for psychiatry

Oppositional Defiant Disorder
I think I got it, too
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
He's sick and so are you

“Oppositional Defiant Disorder” is only the second David Rovics song I’ve known; the first was “I’m a Better Anarchist Than You,” on youtube here live in Seattle 1995. When I used to write music, I’d have multiple parts going at once, threaded together, more than I could play singlehandedly or even with a second bandmate. So I’m very impressed when much is done with little, as in “Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” just acoustic guitar and vocals. The rhythm guitar is pretty straightforward. The lyrics are clever and fun. A little formulaic compositionally, but a nice, enjoyable song on topic.

13. Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” from their 1983 album Metal Health. Genre: Heavy Metal

Well I'm an axe-grinder, piledriver
Momma says that I never never mind her
Got no brains, I'm insane
The teacher says that I'm one big pain.
I'm like a laser, six-string razor
I got a mouth like an alligator.
I want it louder
More power
I'm gonna rock ya till it strikes the hour.

Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad

Well I'm remonstrated
Outdated
I really want to be over-rated.
I'm a finder and I'm a keeper
I'm not a loser and I ain't no weeper.
I got the boys to make the noise
Won't ever let up
Hope it annoys you!
Join the pack
Fill the crack
Well now you're here
There's no way back.

Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Metal Health'll cure your crazy
Metal Health'll cure your mad
Metal Health is what we all need
It's what you ought to have

Bang your head
Wake the dead
We're all metal mad 
It's all you have
So bang your head
And raise the dead
Oh yeah!
Metal Health
It's not too bad, bad, bad

Bang your head! Metal health'll drive you mad
Oh get your straitjackets on tonight, oh
The bad boys are gonna set you right!
Rock on, Rock on, Rock on
Bang your head!
Metal health'll drive you mad
Bang your head!

This anthemic song is pretty cheeky. “Get your straitjackets on tonight”? Rudy Sarzo plays his loud bass lines with massive staccato, emphasizing the separateness of each individual note, the way a lot of ’70s and ’80s metal bassists did. “Metal Health” was probably intended to simultaneously get radio play (it’s easy on the ears, nothing complicated structurally or with the notes) — the album was the first in heavy metal to top the Billboard 200, displacing the Police’s Synchronicity record — and piss off worried parents, thus appealing to “non-compliant” teenagers. The album cover art (shown in the youtube thumbnail embedded above) has a guy in a straitjacket next to the words METAL HEALTH. I think that speaks for itself. Hey, gotta rebel somehow.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Antipsychiatry playlist, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/04/03/antipsychiatry-playlist/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

The battleground of names

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish one blog post per week. Here’s entry 12 of 52.

The image shows simple computer code that asks the user to input their name and age, then stores this data as a name dollar sign variable and an age dollar sign variable, and finally prints the information back out.
Screenshot of a tutorial for QBasic, a Microsoft programming language from the early nineties

In 2004, I began asking others to call me by my first name, Douglas. Before that, I’d been called a variant of my middle name (which I won’t share here for mundane privacy purposes). I wanted a fresh start, because I was just entering my first semester at a university, and also, I was annoyed by the various paperwork hassles seemingly everywhere when your legal name and the name you go by differ. For example, class rosters not specifying how you’re actually called encourage teachers to address you by what appears on the roster. Since many teachers labor under the unfair requirement that they educate very large class sizes, and thus face far too many students to always memorize the preferences of each successfully, try as they might, you as a student can go through months and months of unpleasantly trying to correct a teacher about your name, something that’s supposed to intimately characterize you. The indignity of being called wrongly is even more profound for those whose name changes signal giant shifts in their personhood, such as those who switch names as part of gender or religious transitions. Me, I just thought a fresh start and an end to the paperwork hassles would be nice.

The image shows Jim Carrey as Truman in the movie. He's standing atop steps and before a door. He has his arms and hands spread wide, and he's looking up, smiling.
Image from The Truman Show

It’s strange how names characterize us, isn’t it? Consider the eponymous name of the protagonist in the 1998 movie The Truman Show: unlike those around him pretending to be his neighbors, Truman is a true man. But names, at least when initially given, actually characterize the parents/caregivers, their aspirations for the infant who’s receiving some particular name in the first place. A sense of this reality is frequently missing from fiction, when authors pick a name to symbolize or allude to something about a character, rather than about that character’s parents or environment (including economic class). In other fiction, such disparities between a character’s true self and their name are portrayed, especially if the story involves a name change. While authors spend lots of time thinking over the given names characters go by among their peers, I think surnames in fiction don’t receive much scrutiny, particularly in terms of migration. If an author is writing a story set in 2030 in Nebraska, and currently in 2021 nearly all people alive with surname X live only in France, should the author provide backstory for why someone with surname X is living in Nebraska just nine years into the future? Or are surnames freebies for authors and readers alike? As long as it sounds good and plausible enough, maybe no bulletproof backstory is required. You could reduce such realism problems to absurdity by requiring an author depicting a coffeepot in a story to know how it got there, tracing it all the way back to the specific particles emerging from the Big Bang. On the other hand, books too often expect readers to assume narrators are white and show WASP-y names as the norm, presenting anything else as exceptions in need of explanations.

Since 2004, there’s been a certain discomfort with my first name, for many of those using it and me alike. I’m regularly asked the same question when meeting people: “Do you prefer Doug or Douglas?” The question stumped me for a very long time. Whenever I looked within, I discovered I legitimately don’t have a preference. Either is cool with me! So I couldn’t advise the question-askers, who as far as I could make out, wanted to be caring and accommodating. Just about every time I replied that I have no preference, the question-asker became frustrated. They said I should have a preference. But I didn’t. Maybe I hurt their feelings, as though they were going out of their way in offering to remember my preference, and my not having one stung like a rebuke, in some transactional world they exist in. Only this past month have I finally figured out something more about the question. I’ve been doing core strengthening in physical therapy to help with one of my legs (two surgeries on it in my life so far), and the physical therapist is extremely knowledgeable and competent. I like him, and I’m really grateful to have his excellent help. He told me he has a thing for trying to remember the best names to call people by. We were both a bit flummoxed by my lack of a preference between Doug or Douglas. I thought it over. I think the fact I get along well with this superb physical therapist enabled me to see something more about the question and my lack of a preference.

Here’s the answer, what’s been the answer all along: Doug and Douglas are the same name — just at different diction levels. Doug is informal; Douglas is formal. Compare “What’s up, Doug?” with “Listen, Douglas, we need to have a talk.” They’re the same name in two different forms. I don’t want to micromanage which level of formality my interlocutor picks for any particular conversation. I trust the appropriate diction level can just emerge naturally, simply from both parties’ interactions and the environment at large. Because I realized all this just a few weeks ago, I haven’t had the opportunity to test it out in real life yet. But the next time someone asks me, Do you prefer Doug or Douglas?, I’m going to tell them one’s for informal, the other’s for formal, and that they can select between the two as they think proper. I wonder what will happen. As long as they don’t call me Doogie.

The image shows a black book cover, with the title More Than Human at top, and at bottom, the author's name plus "The provocative novel of six people who became--together--a new form of humanity" and in reference to the author, "whose work is increasingly being called a classic of its kind"
Original hardback cover of Sturgeon’s best-known novel

A common thread in the above — asking others to use my first name (revealingly, sometimes frenemies from the past still don’t, pointedly refusing to honor my request); trying to justify to readers a surname’s presence in a geographic location and time period; attempting to explain to strangers that the two forms of a single name are for different diction levels — is a sense of individuals having to legitimize their names, and perhaps themselves, to others. Names are usually social, bestowed upon us and by us as we pass life down through generations. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel The Dispossessed, each character on an anarchist moon has but one name, handed out by a central computer registry to keep things organized. In contrast to this socially-focused system, in Theodore Sturgeon’s 1953 novel More Than Human, there’s a gripping moment when the first character we encounter, a lonely outsider, finally names himself. Initially, “Men turned away from him, women would not look”; however, after roughly five years living and working with the Prodd farming family, he learns to speak, though “always he preferred not to.” Eventually the farmer Mr Prodd asks him for his name (get it? Prodd as in prodding him). Because he has come to trust Mr Prodd, he’s able to fulfill this request. He thinks that a name “is the single thing which is me and what I have done and been and learned.” Despite his growing connection with the Prodds, he picks the name Alone, which he can manage to pronounce merely as a single syllable, Lone. That seems very individualist, but he chooses a name only when someone else asks him for it, so it’s an event both personal and social. (The book later follows Lone gathering what Sturgeon calls a gestalt, kind of a chosen family, from other outlier outsiders.) Does a person living on a desert island like a castaway need a name at all? Might they forget their own name? Finally, look at the concept of true names in Le Guin’s Earthsea fiction. Characters and objects in that univese have two names, a common one that’s safely shareable, and a second, secret, true name that empowers them and gives others power over them if it’s discovered. In neither case, however, are the names chosen.

The image shows an Internet Relay Chat window, with the user having typed "Hello to all you good people!" with a smiley emoticon. To the right of the image is a vertical list of various handles for users, such as Jolo and herbie and sat.
Internet Relay Chat, what I was doing in the nineties

Online, as in certain types of radio communication, users choose handles, also known as pseudonyms or simply nyms. These lessen tendencies in conversation/debate toward the logical fallacies of personal attacks and arguments from authority, where interlocuters waste time saying “You only believe that because you are [insert identity attribute here]”, as in, because you’re tall/short/rich/poor/white/of color, etc. With nyms, individuals can choose personally meaningful ways to describe themselves, and the handles can become so meaningful that among those heavily involved in computers (or perhaps simply involved in online chatting), it’s common to go by the handles even in face-to-face conversation, rather than by legal names. Some users, in contrast, choose random characters (for example: ang) to identify themselves, not wanting to give their personal story away to strangers. And some change nyms frequently, rebooting their name over and over, trying to prevent others from assuming things based on what might have been past interactions with the person. When I play around with it, this aspect of computing (akin to writing under a psuedonym) can feel very liberating.

At top, the image has text saying "If I was the teacher, i'd give this kid an A." Below that, the image shows a schoolwork assignment, which reads: Defend your answer. Rather than follow the assignment (for whatever it was, perhaps math or English Language Arts), the student has drawn a fort around the word answer, and drawn a solider with a machine gun saying "Sarge, I don't know how much longer we can hold them!"
Must everything be so stressful?

It seems names should be a touching aspect of life, and fun to ponder, but they’re commonly just another battleground. Picking a name can feel empowering (because how could an unchosen name really represent/express who you are?), while keeping a name bestowed by others can offer connection linking the past, present, and future together. Maybe, like successful accounts of trauma that provide healing, names need to be simultaneously personally meaningful, and effective and connecting in social contexts. Really thinking names through, as opposed to dissociation from life (“it’s all a blur”), as well as good relationships for experimenting with names, seem very helpful for individuals trying to determine what might be their own best path.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, The battleground of names, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/03/26/battleground-names/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

How I addressed a trauma anniversary that psychiatrists weren’t curious about

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish at least one blog post per week. Here’s entry 11 of 52.

Image shows a small gray notebook. On its front, the notebook says "notes" and "Cambridge edition."
The journal I use for logging my day. Available at that bastion of high culture, Tarjay, at least here in Seattle.

I used to not believe in trauma anniversaries, the distress a person can experience when a calendar date lines up with a past violation of their well-being. To my perspective back then, steeped unawares in the default corporate values, trauma anniversaries seemed too fantastical: how could a person’s nervous system remember all that, and how could it be tipped off that the fateful date was approaching? More importantly, multiple well-paid psychiatrists for decades, their corner offices fancy with diplomas and oak desks, never mentioned trauma anniversaries to me a single time, and consistently portrayed the mania I sometimes experienced as a meaningless, causeless brain fart. But during every April and May for seven straight years, indeed usually on the very date of May 31, I’d experience severe, hospitalizing mania. Despite the timing being as dependable as the Old Faithful geyser, the psychiatrists displayed zero curiosity about it, whereas friends would sometimes ask natural questions (“Why do you think it happens then?”). Unanimously, the psychiatrists told me (not so forthrightly of course): Just take these tranquilizers (“medicine”), these dopamine antagonists, pay up, and you might be able to have some sort of meager life over there in the corner, if you’re lucky. They didn’t say, while the psych pills shrink brains and tardive dyskensia looms at your door.

The image shows a black-and-white page from an academic catalog. It's a full page photo of six old white men in garb that is religious or academic or both: black robes, large crosses on necklaces, and so on. They are walking in a line, most of them smiling.
Page from UD catalog back then. Pies Iesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Also.

It wasn’t fun. The stigma has been perhaps worse than the mania. I’ll give two examples of hundreds. In 2000-2001, I attended the University of Dallas on a full scholarship to study philosophy and classics (Latin and ancient Greek). It was a small Catholic school, and I was an atheist fish in the wrong, small pond. U.D., as it was called for short, made it a selling point of their school that students would all take a trip to Rome together sophomore year, and I was really excited about it. After mania prevented me from participating in classes for roughly three weeks — this was two decades ago, before psychiatric diagnoses were so common that universities created more explicit policies for mental health emergencies — U.D. informed me I wasn’t going to Rome with everyone else. (Not long after, I dropped out.) Their decision made some sense: what the hell would you do practically with a student suffering manic psychosis, in the hotel, in the airport, etc.? In some cases, it makes sense to give a manic person a tiny bit of benzodiazepine, to help them sleep, and once they wake up, everyone together figure out what’s going on using a process like Open Dialogue; but, colleges weren’t and aren’t prepared to intervene that substantially (although you can imagine it someday, what with K-12s employing special staff to attend to some students’ medical needs, and now campuses outfitting themselves for the horrible idea of in-person classes during coronavirus). Undergraduates in their twenties, with private school backgrounds, haven’t lately been expected to be adults capable of handling themselves. The whole setup was paternalistic to begin with: the U.D. authorities were to watch out for our well-being in these scary foreign lands filled with terrorists or whatever. Bottom line, they looked at me and said No. Just as my K-12 considered kicking me out for the same reason (manic episodes), in a dramatic meeting with my family. The unfortunate “help” I was given for the whole dilemma, the answer from Texas in general was, go to psychiatrists, who will say there are no causes you can do anything about, and take your piece off our game board, get out of everyone else’s way. A very few years later, one of my best friends was going to Japan to teach English (and then went to India for six months); I was going in and out of psych hospitals. It was really discouraging, and I routinely used an imaginative, puffed-up, hypomanic grandiosity to sustain myself, to not think about (to dissociate from) my problems and keep writing music/words and pursuing all my other interests in rude opposition to “having a good work ethic” since I didn’t want to go along with seemingly everyone else’s philosophy of Don’t think too hard, don’t care too much, get a job any job.

Example number two. Here in Seattle, I went to a party for Clarion West Writers Workshop (which I completed in 2008), sometime between 2016 and 2019, honoring an author whose name I can’t remember (she was writing fiction about presidential assassinations, if anyone recalls…to be clear, that is people assassinating presidents, not presidents assassinating people). A random party guest was an employee at Navos, a greater Seattle mental health clinic, as a therapist or some related occupation. I happened to be standing in the small group to whom she was talking, merely happenstance party conversation, people holding drinks and the like. She asked if anyone was familiar with her workplace, this entity called Navos. I said yes. She blinked and said, “Wait, you volunteer there?” And I said, “No, as a patient.” She then literally raised up her nose in disgust and turned away from me. The other surrounding partygoers followed suit, showing disgust and turning away from me also. The look of disgust is a common expression made at someone slotted into a negative image role. Before the pandemic, once patients were called up the stairs from the waiting room at brick-and-mortar Navos, where the security guard watches them from his desk, the therapists would use key cards to let them through locked doors, under the rarely correct assumption that these medicalized humans might act out dangerously. It felt like being a zoo animal. A zoo animal in the social services, mind-twisting, smiley face version of a prison.

Reasons for admission to the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, 1864-1889. (Source)

It’s taken several years, but I’ve made a deep study of the extensive decades of literature disputing the genetic theory of manic-depression, how the twin studies are used, the chemical imbalance theory, and other falsehoods, plus participating in a Hearing Voices Network chapter and devouring multiple books, podcasts, and documentaries detailing the success stories of psychiatric survivors (the secret that people have made full recoveries from repeated bouts of psychosis and tapered off their drugs is slowly becoming more widely known). I’m still studying this material and related helpful information, much of it published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, not that practicing psychiatrists read those (they’re busy going on ski trips with the money, possibly bringing their manipulated patients along for sex, too). But for those who might be unfamiliar with this vast literature, let’s just take the chemical imbalance theory briefly, a widely advertised theory which lately mainstream psychiatrists have had to start backpedaling. Millions upon millions of people in the United States today swallow psychopharmaceuticals daily, often antidepressants or sleeping pills; taking “meds” for the psych diagnoses considered less severe has become ordinary, a recommended way to survive the impossibilities of paid-work, while those with the harsher labels (schizophrenia, psychosis, etc.) are considered an abnormal, bad underclass. These millions and millions of people, whether with the “normal” labels of depression etc. or the more severe ones, are commonly told they “have” chemical imbalances. Which I suppose is like “having” a pet rock, only it’s invisible. The mystique of the doctor in the white coat can take over, preventing patients from asking obvious questions. How often do we hear, in place of evidence and logic, about a doctor, politician, or other idealized figure: I trust him; he’s a good guy? Yet we don’t need to feel an affinity with a prescriber; we need to ask the prescriber questions obvious to an impartial observer and verify what’s going on. Which chemical is imbalanced? How much of that chemical per microliter is too much? How much of that chemical per microliter is too little? What’s the safe range, per microliter, for that chemical, whichever one it might be? Who invented the chemical imbalance theory? When was it invented? Was it initially published in a scientific journal, and if so, what’s the citation for that article (and obtain a copy)? These very basic who what when where why and how questions are too often not asked, among other reasons because patients sometimes outright fear their doctors, their legal powers, and their way of snapping back at questions they dislike. The patients’ brains are being dramatically altered without enough questioning from the patients, as if psychopharmaceutical treatment is simply taking clocks to repair shops, to use sociologist Erving Goffman’s analogy in his 1961 book Asylums. With no time or motivation for curiosity, customers taking broken clocks to repair shops do not ask the repair-workers, Who invented clocks? Why do clocks need springs? The customers simply expect the gadgets to be fixed, then they pay the fee and bring the clocks home. People treat their own brains just like that. The error is supposed to be from birth — but sorry, there are no blood tests to prove it (no answers to the microliters questions), and all the vaunted genetics has persisted at a research level for a very long time, scrutinizing without holism people crammed into pidgeonholes, nothing definitive found — and you are to take the pills to remediate your inherent wrongness and then get back to the miserable paid-work for evil corporations and their ancillaries. Mental health suffering is increasing, understandably because humanity, in big picture terms, is seconds from self-caused extinction; watching humanity kill itself and many other species, psychiatrists do not have much to offer for explanation or success stories, but their industry does have criminal convictions at Nuremberg for enabling genocide, and see also the American Psychological Association’s more recent participation in CIA torture. Trusting these people to make dramatic alterations to your brain without asking questions isn’t a good idea. It isn’t mental health.

The image is a popular meme of Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It shows him in his captain's chair, hand on forehand, exasperated. The image has text at the bottom reading: So much fail.
Shy? Correct that chemical imbalance, too little alcohol, by drinking daily!

The chemical imbalance theory came about because scientists began noticing that when people were given certain pharmaceuticals for unrelated physical conditions, they would also act in different ways, so if it was considered good for them to act in those new ways, then they must, the scientists thought, lack enough of that chemical supplied by the pharmaceutical, and therefore they need to swallow some of it regularly to act right. In other words, if you aren’t doing such-and-such, but this other thing makes you do such-and-such when you swallow it, you must have a deficiency of that other thing. This is very bad reasoning. It’s like saying, imagine a shy person. The shy person is at a bar, they’re nervous about their clothes and hair, and they don’t know what to say to the other patrons, to the bartender, etc. But when at the bar we give them alcohol, they suddenly start talking more! Therefore they must need alcohol supplementation, a bit of booze each day, to correct their alcohol imbalance and act with the proper gregariousness. This specious reasoning — X makes you do Y so not doing Y must be caused by a lack of X — fits multiple types of causal logical fallacies. Imagine a psychiatrist in a critical reasoning class! You’re not lying on the floor currently, however when I punch you in the face, you fall to the ground; so, if you need to lie down, the obvious solution to your postural imbalance is to have me regularly punch you in the face a little bit each day for ongoing maintenance against your being-punched deficiency!

The trauma anniversary I was experiencing was combined with dissociation. Dissociation is tuning out in the face of overwhelming emotion. For instance, families in hospital rooms of a dying family member will too often largely, or almost completely, ignore the dying person, and stare at their phones to distract themselves and prevent themselves from experiencing the intense emotions and meanings regarding the impending death. After all, why say goodbye to grandpa when you can scroll instead? Anyway, I did many things to help overcome dissociation to some extent, mainly noticing when I was doing it and then slowly testing out feeling and expressing the emotions instead, which by the way, has physical analogues: feeling and expressing emotion isn’t just rearranging your internal world (like most of psychoanalysis is), but action-y, doing things outwardly, like cursing and kicking a trash can across the room if you’re really, really upset. This took me several years to get comfortable with; I still have a lot more to go. Further, the mania was dissociative in itself: escaping from overwhelm into delusional, grandiose fantasy. Sometimes it seems many people do not even know when they’re overwhelmed, since psychological education is insufficient or nonexistent, not to mention people understandably have blocks against considering what these terrifying topics mean for them. Even though for years and years, April and May meant mania for me, especially May 31, the calendar date of May 31 would roll around and I wouldn’t even know it was May 31. You would think, this most consequential date in my life, that sent me to in-patient lock-up over and over, would register on my radar as it neared. But it was too overwhelming, so I by habit didn’t even realize when it was coming. Among PTSD there are two types (I didn’t learn this from any psychiatrist): the popularly known one where you can’t stop thinking about the trauma, and the other type there’s less awareness about, mine, where you don’t think about the trauma at all. Not being able to find what was causing the trauma anniversary was as habitual as putting one foot in front of the other while walking: something I later was able to focus on starting a little at a time (baby steps), but for decades was more comfortable just going about on the autopilot approach, not thinking about it. Even if I tried to think about it, I could never pin down any specific trauma that happened to me during any long-ago April or May. My mind wouldn’t surface images or facts about any long-ago events in connection with the April/May period. Plus, it somehow didn’t seem “scientific” that something might have happened during those months in my past, a specific example of corporate propaganda (corporate portrayals of science) obscuring a person’s life from him. To top it all off, psychiatrists repeatedly found nothing about any of this worth talking about, same as the instance when an orderly physically assaulted me in a hospital, knocking me to the floor violently just for making a sarcastic comment, and multiple psychiatrists (attending and out-patient alike) said not a damn thing when I mentioned it. In fact, they used what educators call extinguishing. This is the classroom management technique where you ignore a student’s minor misbehavior, not reinforcing it, hoping it’ll disappear on its own, as it usually does (if indeed it is misbehavior; why should students be compelled to sit in cramped desks all day and penalized for “misbehavior” if they refuse?). Whenever I brought these reasonable topics up to psychiatrists, they used extinguishing. They’d just be silent. And then they’d change the subject to something comfortably medical in vibe, like dosages or the side/adverse effect of hives I got from neuroleptic. The psychiatrists felt far more comfortable talking about little checkbox algorithms for physical symptoms. Like eliminative materialists in academic philosophy departments insisting that minds don’t even exist, the psychiatrists kept diligently away from topics such as dissociation, which are actually decently understood by trauma experts. But again, practicing clinicians don’t read that material; that’s why they bully you instead if you ask too many questions, a trick they probably pick up from grand rounds questioning in medical school among other sources. In Fort Worth around 2002 or so, I once saw an orthopod with a sign in his waiting room that said something to the effect of, Any material patients talk about from the Internet will be ignored. Before the widespread adoption of the Internet and especially social media, medical professionals could easily tell each other at conferences how much their patients loved them (perhaps mistaking fear for respect or love), but now I think they’re slowly seeing the pitchforks approaching their insular world. Though some of them still talk blithely on youtube’d recordings of their conventions, making fun of their patients (accustomed to what they are doing, the psychiatrists might consider it merely analyzing their patients for their colleagues’ benefit), maybe unaware that those outside their myopic cult hear them and disagree. If you show your psychiatrist recent articles like this one from earlier this year — “What I have learnt from helping thousands of people taper off antidepressants & other psychotropic medications” by Adele Framer/Altostrata, the founder of SurvivingAntidepressants.org, published in the peer-reviewed Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology journal — it’s not like the psychiatrist is going to say Thank you, and I think we all know that. Maybe it’s time for people to stop identifying so dogmatically with psychiatric labels (voted into existence by psychiatrists at conferences) and obsessing over the band-aid commodities sold for those labels (marketing categories), as if it’s the patients’ fault rather than corporations’ for wage-slavery, widespread pollution, and the rest.

The image shows a page from my logbook. The page shows my writing as described in the post, and the month and date circled. A portion of the page is redacted for privacy.
Captain’s log, stardate March 8, 2021.

Trying to figure this stuff out, I went to a Seattle psychologist who was very knowledgeable about alternative views, and understood that emotional distress is a human problem, not a chemistry set or test tube problem. I gained some very good information from him, although I wasn’t really ready for it until later in my life. One thing he did with me was called brainspotting, an offshoot of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I’ve heard the psychologist Daniel Mackler (different person) describe EMDR as a way to helpfully shortcut someone toward discovering what might be causing a traumatic reaction, though not something that heals the psychic injury on its own. A discovery tool, not the cure. So this other, Seattle psychologist pointed a red light at my eyes in accordance with the brainspotting procedure. It caused me to blurt out a single word. I won’t specify it here for the privacy of myself and others, but it was a proper noun, let’s call it R. A few years went by before I recognized the significance of it.

In the meantime, I decided the best way to engage with this mysterious trauma anniversary was to always know the calendar date, so I’d be prepared to use grounding techniques and anything else I needed when April, May, or May 31 arrived. I found a very helpful type of journal, pictured above left and at the start of this post, that lets you circle the date and month. That physical action (as opposed to, say, the endless musings of psychoanalysis) of finding the month and the day on the horizontal lists and circling them helps me always know the current calendar date. Before the logbook, when I was picking out a box of fresh spinach at the grocery, I’d have to check its expiration date against the date on my wristwatch. But now I always know the date and no longer need to do that. Whereas previously, the April/May, and/or May 31, time period would stay in my subconscious, below awareness, too scary to be confronted, I was now bringing this feared problem into my awareness every single day, and I still do this daily. (Makes me think of Jung’s shadow concept or Le Guin’s novel A Wizard of Earthsea.)

I also use the logbook for other purposes too, most importantly to center my life on my calling of writing, which I’ll get to in a moment. I use the logbook to record my dreams each morning, if I remember them, and each night I use it for two exercises psychologist Terry Lynch recommends (his psychology courses are the most helpful material, bar none, that I’ve come across for understanding mental health issues). The exercises are writing down three things I did well that day and three things I’m grateful for from that day. The did-well exercise definitely makes me less susceptible to angry thoughts about how I’m supposedly no good at anything and the like; the exercise encourages me to have my own back, to defend myself from occasional automatic thoughts that are really internalized oppressions, not truths. The gratitude exercise makes me more optimistic in general. However, the benefit from both exercises has started to wear off somewhat, because over time I’ve reached the point that, seeking to go to bed quickly, I just scribble down the six things quickly like rushing through a crap homework assignment. I’ve started reading the six things aloud to combat the unthinking, rushed behavior. Finally, I use the logbook to check off certain foods I try to eat each day for nutritional purposes (a large navel orange for myo-inositol, pumpkin seeds for zinc, and so on), plus certain tasks, a.k.a. areas, I attempt to work on daily: writing fiction (it’s set in 2036), nonfiction (a book about hacktivism), and self (journaling and reading psychology stuff or books that teach practical skills). In years past, when I tried to keep a record of what I was up to, I’d give up after a day or three. But now I’ve been using the logbook consistently for months and months (and I always know the date!).

Two principles have helped me stay consistent with using the logbook daily. One I call “focusing.” I looked at myself and thought, what do I really want to focus on with my life? Do I really, truly want to be investing free time in playing Dungeons & Dragons with online friends, or rehearsing Spanish vocabulary flashcards? Those would be nice to do, but I’m actually here to accomplish various specific writing work. Thus I made a powerful commitment to spend my time actually doing that, not distracting myself with secondary goals that might be nice someday (such as more Spanish skill). Implementing that helps with mental health, too, because I’m not hiding from the challenges of writing by doing something I deep down know is less important to me. I vigilantly circumscribe who I spend (very limited) time with, because all sorts of friends and frenemies habitually criticize me and how I spend my time, or tease me at length as to why I should be playing Dungeons & Dragons with them or coming to this or that offline event, maybe because what kind of weirdo writes longform blog posts anyway, who does that? But I have to protect my availability, especially since writing is exceptionally time-consuming work, particularly when I prefer a thorough and research-intensive style. Second, I jettisoned the idea of deadlines or pressuring myself to write however many words daily. Instead of trying to fit those perfectionist demands, I decided to follow my own curiosity and work on the projects however that curiosity leads me. I still task myself with, besides my day job, spending at least an hour a day on three writing areas — fiction, nonfiction, self — plus doing some form of exercise, so four or five hours total, but since all that is frequently not possible every day (yet), I came up with a simple solution, a way to look at the situation with compassionate objectivity (to borrow Hillary Rettig’s phrase). My real task every day is just to to write on different lines in my logbook Exercise: Fiction: Nonfiction: Self: in case I complete any of the areas and can check it off. That simple chore, which takes perhaps 15 seconds, means that I’m still focusing on these three/four primary areas of work. I’m still caring about and trying to do them, even if it’s just writing down those four words in my logbook. If I don’t work on, say, fiction some particular day, well, life is life, just do the best you can. So I jettisoned all the crazy stress about deadlines and words-per-day, which really came from other people’s expectations, like a lady who once randomly lectured me for not writing as fast at a writing workshop as she thought I should, even though she wasn’t even part of the writing workshop! (She was there hunting for business intelligence for her company, I think.) When you really look for it, and aim to stick up for yourselves and others consistently, you realize there are many people circling around the world, prodding for weaknesses that they can mock you for if you’re vulnerable like a sitting duck, not skilled with firing back counter-insults or leaving the situation. I’ve learned to try not to ask others for their thoughts on these provocative topics too much offline, because bringing up a trouble or curiosity or passion I have all too often gives them an opening to mock or assert superiority without providing any sort of expertise to justify it. So over hanging out, I much prefer writing down the four areas in my logbook, working on them if I can (longhand feels so much more connected and channeling than typing!), and then checking them off one by one. If you’re thinking about trying this logbook technique, it might help to recall that you don’t have to do it the exact same way as I do. Over time, you can learn to trust yourself and your judgement, if you don’t already (many people with mental health problems don’t, though they might not admit it, not even to themselves, like political radicals asking their psychiatrists for permission, or oh excuse me, if the psychiatrist would think it’d be a good idea, before becoming a water protector or the like). You can vary the logbook as you see fit.

Back to the trauma anniversary and R. The idea for the self area — for journaling every day for some 30-90 minutes — came largely from Daniel Mackler’s thought-provoking youtube videos and Terry Lynch’s amazing book Selfhood. I won’t here describe how precisely I do my journaling, as that’s enough to fill a whole separate blog post. The point is, when I first purchased my blue journal (pictured below to end this blog entry), I immediately had the thought come to mind that I should use the journal to write about R. A powerful felt sense told me that doing so was going to be extremely helpful, and I no longer needed anyone else to confirm this for me or debate it. As Lynch says in this hour-long video on recovery from bipolar disorder (where he also mentions how important it is to take baby steps out of comfort zones; and, how important it is for people with manic-depressive tendencies to notice when, in a precursor to psychosis/delusion, they start using grandiose fantasy, such as daydreams of being a superhero, as a coping strategy for avoidance anxiety / putting off addressing problems), when people have severe mental health diagnoses, a crucial piece of their trauma history might not be the big trauma everyone’s looking for, the really obvious horrible thing that happened to them that everybody knows about and talks about. It could be some event that seems small in comparison, or even mundane from a very macroscopic perspective, something that commonly occurs in most people’s lives. But that “small” traumatic event could still be very meaningful yet unresolved for the particular person; usually, it’s events in childhood or adolescence, through which later life can be filtered. That’s how it was for me with R. Over the next several months, working diligently and just about daily, I filled up the entire blue journal with my thoughts and feelings and notes, almost completely about R, sometimes using investigative journalism techniques, researching public records and maps and so on to ensure accuracy (it needs to be a story with personal meaning, but also a story with factual currency in the social world).

Guess what I discovered! The boiling point of the R situation happened in April 1997, and just days later, I exhibited strange emotional distress, something I’d never done before. (I obsessed over packing and unpacking a bookbag and couldn’t respond in conversation with my family, as if I couldn’t even hear them, when they were asking me from across the bedroom what was wrong.) I was that exact month sent for the very first time to a mental health provider. Putting together these pieces wouldn’t be challenging for an impartial, outside observer with skill; in fact, they could probably do it in just a few minutes if presented with enough raw material about a client. But because I had/have the form of PTSD where I tended not to think in any detail about the trauma (except perhaps to haughtily dismiss its relevance), and because psychiatry was of no help (and in fact, with their extinguishing and their dodging subjects like dissociation and abuse by orderlies, psychiatry made matters worse), solving this has taken me decades. It’s no longer difficult for me to acknowledge that people remember, even if only subconsciously or somatically, what happened to them long ago (see savants’ feats of memory for instance, or the fascinating book The Woman Who Can’t Forget by Jill Price), and that something like glancing at the clock at the corner of a laptop screen might inform the subconscious that the date is May 31, even while the conscious mind is running madly away from the trauma anniversary. There’s actually another trauma anniversary for me in August, of lesser strength; on August 24th, 1998 came my second incident of psychosis. It was August 24th 1998 that got me put on psychopharmaceuticals. Second only to the April and May months, August has statistically been the next most common time period for the mania episodes. Tomorrow I’ll start filling up my new, second journal about that August trauma anniversary, and that August 24th 1998 event, whatever it was: I currently and for the last decades have had only a single image of it accessible in my memory. So I’ll have to piece it together, with investigative journalism-type research, looking at archived computer files, finding old school yearbooks in libraries, and so on, as well as by describing and narrating that one single accessible memory-image in such immense detail that additional memories begin surfacing. I’m glad I filled up the blue journal about R; now I no longer fear the April and May time frame, and indeed, I’ve made it through April and May unscathed recently, with the seven year nightmare stretch receding into the past.

Rather than psychosis, we should actually say extreme emotional distress. Whereas the word “psychosis” makes a person seem different, nonhuman, a deserving target of stigma and shunning, extreme emotional distress can happen to anyone, and it does. The handwaving about genetics and chemical imbalances, from which no conclusive evidence or tests have ever been provided, papers over the reality that millions upon millions of people are diagnosed with psychiatric labels and put on mind-altering brain-shrinking drugs, some of which already went into shortage during the pandemic and might go into shortage again (there will come a day when these pills are no longer readily available in this or that region, and patients are left to dangerously cold turkey off them), that elders are being force-drugged with neuroleptic in nursing homes (to make them easier for staff to manage), and that any calamity, from another coup attempt in the United States to a hurricane or an earthquake to the loss of a beloved pet, can be the last straw that causes your mind to snap if you don’t know how to address the psychic violation, and sometimes even if you do. You’re not immune from humanity, and along with so many other psychiatrized people, I am not excluded from it, try as some might.

I hope this post helps someone else suffering from trauma anniversaries and/or the PTSD where you don’t or can’t think about, where you dissociate from, can’t even remember, the specifics of the trauma.

The image shows a blue hardback journal. The cover has impressionist-style art flowers, a tree, and a bay of sea.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, How I addressed a trauma anniversary that psychiatrists weren’t curious about, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/03/20/trauma-anniversary-curiosity/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post one on one? Please email me: dal@riseup.net

Check out SpookyConnections.com

Note: In 2021 I’m going to publish at least one blog post per week, ideally on Wednesdays. Today is a day late, but hey. This is entry 2 of 52.

“Name names! Name names!” That’s what an older gentleman, an autodidact and FDR-style liberal, told me from across the table at a Fort Worth coffeeshop a few years ago, before Jeffrey Epstein became known to average households. I’d been talking about vague criminal forces and their slippery control over our world. He wanted specificity, but it can be hard to remember who did what, each precise molecule of data, when drinking daily from the firehoses of books and social media. For me at least, if I’m not in the process of studying something or preparing a presentation, all that information becomes a blur, a mood or zeitgeist rather than the articulated facts of a rap sheet. Thankfully for both the forgetful and everyone else, the new website SpookyConnections.com delivers dossiers of top wrongdoers the planet over, and the site is steadily adding more and more.

This is a screenshot of the front page of SpookyConnections.com. It shows the faces of eight millionaires or billionaires, along with their names, nationalities, income level, and occupations.
Screenshot of SpookyConnections front page

Their About us page says Spooky Connections is a research project and “an independent international open source investigation to probe transnational organized crime. We operate using open source information from established news outlets and primary sourced documents to graph, map, and document a clear understanding of organised criminal networks and activities.” SpookyConnections.com is also currently linked in the bios of three major old school Anonymous twitter accounts: @YourAnonCentral, @OpDeathEaters, and @OpCanary.

The URL derives from the slang term spook meaning a spy or other espionage agent. While a president enters and leaves office in the space of a few short years — maybe a single term or less — the unelected often spend decades, no matter which party is in power, at agencies such as Central Intelligence, implementing war crimes and then implementing their celebration via propaganda, pulse-pounding TV shows and movies, or other seductive coercion manipulating the emotional responses of populations. This unfortunate truth about the architects of our (un)societies is well documented in books such as Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, James W. Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, and Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William Arkin. See also Heather Marsh’s blog post “The intelligence mafia.” Reading these texts remedies an archaic “how a bill becomes a law” view of our governance.

In the boxing ring’s other corner from the spies, the Spooky Connections website mainly consists of two features or areas. First, the profiles. The front page is illustrated with the faces of eleven (at the time of this writing) repulsive VIPs, much like a deck of cards spread out for inspection. Clicking one of them takes you to a page dedicated to exposing that single individual, using reputable sources including investigative journalism reports and court documents.

Let’s take Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev as an example for what the Spooky Connections drill-down on one person looks like.

The image is a screenshot of the beginnings of the Dmitry Rybolovlev dossier. Subheadings are Introduction, Murder Allegations, The Maison de L'Amitie - Donald Trump deal. That information is on the right. On the left is Ryboloviev's face, an expandable table of contents, and a list of his connections to others, including family.
Screenshot of the beginnings of the Dmitry Rybolovlev dossier

The image above is Spooky Connection’s profile of Russian billionaire and art investor Dmitry Ryboloviev. Below the picture of his displeased face, users can expand the table of contents or a list of his connections to others, family among them. The write-up is straightforward and readable, in the familiar format of an encyclopedia entry. Yet this one is custom-made to focus not on PR fluff but on credible accusations and criminal connections. The text includes subheads for easy reading: Introduction; Murder Allegations; The Maison de L’Amitie – Donald Trump Deal; The My Anna yacht and parties with young girls; Holdings; FC Monaco; Monaco-gate; Citations. This last, Citations, is particularly important so that readers can find the sources for the dossier. The write-ups beneath each subhead reveal plenty of unsavory information on the man. For instance:

Dmitry Rybolovlev remains close to the Kremlin, as evidenced by his friendship with Yuri Troutnev, one of the right arms of Vladimir Putin. [18] Donald Trump Jr., invited in September 2008 to a real estate conference in New York, had explained that “the Russians” now constituted “a rather disproportionate part” of the assets of the Trump family empire. [19]

And also:

during divorce proceedings it was revealed he took a vacation on his yacht off Croatia with “young girls whose passports said they were born in 1988 and 1989 but they looked much younger in photographs that were taken on this occasion,” according to court papers. They partied on his yacht “My Anna,” named after his daughter. [20] According to court proceedings Dmitry Rybolovlev admitted to sleeping with his butler, his assistant, and students which he happily shared with other oligarchs. He said “he appreciated only teenage girls, younger than his own daughter”. 

Learning that this is who your rulers are is much like when some children have to confront the grim facts that their caregivers are actually incapable of nurturing them, or do not love them, or are dangerous to them. Usually in such a horrible situation, those kids’ selfhood/personhood diminishes; rather than acknowledge their caregivers, whom they can’t escape and who rule their lives like gods, are ongoing active hazards, it feels safer to blame themselves as not good enough, and withdraw, too afraid to express themselves fully, take big risks, or put themselves out there, choices that might draw attention in a hostile universe. In adulthood, the child then stays on the recliner, tuning in only to the familiar and predictable pabulum of corporate TV programming or ineffective by-the-book solutions, blaming themselves instead of the system and not willing to look their leaders in the eye to pursue answers based on their true natures. Expecting politico predators to arrest themselves isn’t going to work; to get different results, we have to try strategies that are different, such as strengthening ourselves and launching independent, international, victim-led inquiries/tribunals into the trafficking industry, an option I discuss here.

Spooky Connections’ other big feature is the graph. By clicking the button on the side (which consists of three hexagons resembling biological cells clumped together), users can easily access the graph at https://www.spookyconnections.com/graph.

A graph connecting various very important predators.
Screenshot of graph view at Spooky Connections

The graph, similar to images from crime shows where police detectives combine clues on the wall to track down a suspect, can tell you quite a bit about these individuals’ relationships. For instance, the way I clicked the tool, shown above, suggests Donald Trump does not access the United States Mafia through Allen Weisselberg (CFO of The Trump Organization), but could through lawyer Roy Cohn. Because Spooky Connections is adding more VIPredators regularly, the tool should become more powerful in time. I’m not sure what the “Play” button is supposed to do; perhaps I am using it incorrectly. Clicking “Graph Commons” at the bottom left takes the user to a Spooky Connections page on graphcommons.com, where the “Play” button supplies various visualization features that I need to experiment with more to understand. In a few places, typos or notices such as “Work in Progress” alert the reader to the unfinished nature of the Spooky Connections website. The site also has a “Support Us” button leading to a donate page on donorbox.

One of Spooky Connections’ huge advantages is its global nature. Especially as international news bureaus have shut down due to lack of funds, corporate newspapers teach audiences that they are to be concerned with the news of their own country, not the news of other countries. (This is because countries are primarily segregated economic markets.) But the VIPredators travel all around the world, do business all around the world, commit crime all around the world. Closing your eyes to what they’re doing in the other 190-odd countries is obviously going to present an incomplete picture. Yet Spooky Connections offers a full view, one that will eventually become the status quo as more and more are accustomed to chatting with and befriending strangers abroad thanks to social media, email lists, etc.

Why clique up with and empower your opponents — I’m thinking of authors wanting to “picked” by corporate publishers, or citizenries silently accepting the crimes of the “lesser evil” in exchange for bread and circuses; in short, remaining infantilized rather than achieving greater and greater autonomy — when a handful of independent researchers can accomplish this and point the way forward?

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Check out SpookyConnections.com by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL:
https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/14/check-out-spookyconnections/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Running as exploration and adventure

Note: In 2021 I’m going to publish at least one blog post per week, on Wednesdays. Last year I didn’t quite make it, but this year I will. This is entry 1 of 52.

Note: The off topic photos of salad bowls are here to update readers familiar with the post where I introduced that regular meal of mine. Here’s how the dish is getting made these days. I introduced this salad for my first post of 2020, so I think it’s fitting to bring the bowl back for the beginning of 2021. The images show the salad bowl that was made adjacent to mine a few days ago by someone who really knows what she’s doing; hers was much more visually appealing; my meal, with ingredients strewn together haphazardly, simply disappeared into my happy stomach unphotographed.

A chalkboard at a gym reads: Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.
Great message for an indoor gym; but, time to step outside

I used to go to the gym regularly and run on the treadmill with a portable MP3 player keeping me company. COVID-19 nixed the gym habit, and rain nixed my little music device. Now I’ve learned to pound pavement hearing the various songs of the outdoors, something I’d wanted to try for a long timebut did not have the strength of self to dare do.

Jogging without headphones places me much more in touch with the environment. Every little sound that comes my way reminds me I’m an animal taking part in a very physical world. It’s like camping, but each and every day. Usually, at least in the WEIRD world (Western Educated Individualistic Rich Democratic), the car and the cubicle lock adults into a zombie state; they forget, for instance, that their vehicle is thousands of pounds of metal hurling down the highway thanks to explosions, and treat the ride as a no-thought-required luxury cruise where they can eat and scroll their phone. Humans: from hunters persistently chasing prey to hunching over glowing screens with backaches and, above all else, predictable, safe, risk-free routines that keep them infantilized. It’s easy to understand how the treadmill fits in here: the runner watches another titillating screen, wears isolating headphones, and times the run on the machine’s complicated computer. Its flashing lights replace the jog in nature with something as scientifically managed, rigorous, and efficient as an assembly line. You don’t even go from a Point A to a Point B.

A well-known image which shows an amusing take on human evolutio. At the left, a monkey walking with four limbs on the floor. By the time evolution reaches the midpoint, it's a man standing with a spear and good posture. By the time evolution reaches the far right of the image, the man is hunched over again like the monkey,  two limbs on the floor and two limbs on a computer keyboard.
Makes me think of the Alexander Technique

Since I’ve been running outdoors with no headphones for a month or so, what other differences have I noticed? It’s amazing how much you learn about your surroundings when daily you run around them, any which way, not necessarily sticking to a planned course. Think of all the things that might be going on in your town that you don’t know about. Just today I saw that Seattle, whichever government department it was, placed a sign threatening a shockingly steep $1,500 penalty for anyone dumping waste in a cul-de-sac near me. For years I’ve seen sofas, scrap metal, chairs, and other junk dumped there, and now the story continues with escalating stakes and conflict between the cost-saving polluters and the neatnik authorities. What will happen next? It’s a miniature story right outside my doorstep.

Salad bowl as described in caption.
Incomplete salad bowl, so far with spinach, kale, red cabbage, and cucumber

At that cul-de-sac, there’s a somewhat rickety and certainly steep staircase climbing a hill; by the top, a wood fort stands, like one that might stand in a backyard for kids to play in. Whenever I run past it, I wonder what its function is, who built it, what its story is. Once you’re on the other side of the hill, it’s possible to walk a little bit and then take a trail circling around to, from another direction, the base of the staircase. Bigger infrastructure nearby inspires wonder too. I live by the “Low Bridge,” also known as the Spokane bridge, where the Duwamish River empties into Elliott Bay. (So come at me, bro!) When I was in zombie mode in my car, heavy metal blasting, I’d just assume the Spokane bridge was a drawbridge, even though I’d never seen it raise up to let ships through. It has a sidewalk for pedestrians, so nowadays I run across, a friend of the bridge, so to speak, getting to know it a little bit more each time. One day, before I could progress far across the bridge, a guard rail along its sidewalk came down and stopped me in my tracks. Next to me, vehicles were also stopped by a separate guard rail. Then the bridge very slowly swung in horizontal arcs to let the boat through. Finally it arced back together into one piece. Who controls all this? Does the bridge have a mind of its own? There’s a creepy tower by it that I can see from my apartmentperhaps the bridge boss is therein?

The West Seattle High Rise, the Low Bridge aka the Spokane bridge, and the mysterious guard tower
Scary tower + 2 bridges

My friends and I joke about this tower, because it looks straight out of some paranoiac novel. A different day, I was running across the bridge and happened to see a man come out of the top of the tower, the little room up there, onto the tower’s balcony area to gaze around the cityscape. I don’t know if he was satisfied or dissatisfied with what he saw, but he quickly vanished back into his lair. What’s his story? He some kind of wizard? What’s the tale of this tower? None of that does the driver typically see or think about, too busy zooming past while stressing over traffic. The treadmill gerbil in the gym definitely doesn’t take in all these unusual experiences either. Think of the multitudes of buildings you drive past routinely, the architectures and plants unobserved, the mysteries of who owns them and what they are doing with that ownership unbeknownst to you. Yet running outside, you feel part of the same highly active, physical world as the buildings (as opposed to a cerebral or deadened world), and might be inspired to research a particular structure you encountered next time you come to a computer.

There are plenty of other fascinating surroundings I’ve checked out since switching to jogging outdoors. To get certain places, it behooves me to run alongside train tracks. The gravel beneath my shoes there is so uneven that in spots, I have to really pay attention, which makes the exercise almost like a hike. These days I know that the trains near my neighborhood are usually the BNSF company’s; when did I ever notice and think about things like that before? I didn’t, just a drone on the unchanging treadmill. I’m grateful for my current newfound ability to run, listening, through grassy parks, down dirt paths following the Duwamish River, as close to the Seattle shipping terminals as their defenses will allow (Hi Homeland Security!), on sidewalk trails to their ends and then continuing alongside long streets leading into downtown, scrutinizing as I pass by the shops and other buildings I never knew were there. It’s like being an adventurous kid, exploring on a bicycle.

Salad bowl as the caption states.
Added avocado, sesame seeds, and edamame.

Why didn’t I do this before? Seattle is a gorgeous city with plenty of walkable (and runnable) paths, whereas North Texas, where I’m from, consists of unappealing corporate parks, car dealerships, tract houses, and strip malls. But it’s much more than that. A person has to have a sufficient measure of strength to hurl themselves, panting hard, through the cold pouring rain and dark, down paths that aren’t yet paths. Where no one has planned for someone to run, where the person is creating the trail beneath their sneakers as they go, creating the idea. It requires engagement and participation with the world with all its detailswatch your step on the uneven gravel! look that building up when you get home!instead of withdrawing, giving up, and hiding in bed with unhealthy but comfortable habits, often grandiosely reassuring oneself falsely that one is achieving greatly.

I’d better get to bed. Getting up before dawn to run somewhere that’s just miles from my door, and I’ve never even been there before!

Complete with dressing and quinoa cooked in turmeric, ginger, and coconut milk

p.s. If you like the thoughts in this post, you might enjoy the videos of the vlogger shiey, aka illegal freedom. The artistic videos, a type of travel journal, show off his athletic, even daredevil, exploits exploring urban jungles, particularly restricted areas.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Running as exploration and adventure, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/06/exercise-exploration-adventure/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Oops I missed Week 18

Note: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, released on Mondays or so…except when I’m not because reasons, life, pandemics, etc. This is a placeholder ‘oops’ post for Week 18, where in theory there would have been a post for roughly Monday 4 May 2020. Thanks for your patience!

The image is a simple style comic strip with three panels. It shows a stick figure sad with messy kitchenware, then cleaning it, then happy with sparkling kitchenware. Just a picture for fun and mood.
The above art by pignuna

Good news: Today I got my kitchen super clean for the first time in weeks. Also today, I refreshed my trash cans and recycling bin (I mean offline; I’m applying the virtual verb metaphor to the offline noun phrase molecular entities), I scheduled multiple video chats with multiple friends for this weekend, and I put in a lot of research work into my forthcoming freelance pitch regarding how pre-covid19/ongoing activist movements in Seattle could use current and proposed open science systems to improve their own efforts during novel coronavirus (commission this with an email to me: dal@riseup.net). Got a lot more done than usual, as has been the case for me lately, since in my life these days, aboard this mysterious dreamship I’ve recently found myself on (yes I’m vaguebooking a little), 1 and 1 make 11!

Bad news: This week, no promised post for you here—but thanks for bearing with me! I’ll really try to get something up here for Monday the 11th, Week 19.

Truly though, my routine of typing up “oops” posts to keep track of my blog, and keep up my project of posting once a week for 2020, has been an amazing anti-perfectionism measure. Of everything I’ve ever read about how to evolve past perfectionism, the single most helpful text has been Hillary Rettig’s book (aimed toward writers but applicable for all) The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: How to Overcome Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block, and her related 2011 blog post, “Perfectionism is Rooted in Grandiosity.” In the past month, several of my writer friends have told me that with the wild covid-19 changes, they’ve been unable to write at all, so really, I’m glad I’ve kept these oops posts going — a useful lesson there!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Oops I missed Week 18, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/05/06/oops-i-missed-week-18/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

How To Reduce the Need for Affection

What do you want?

Googling “how to reduce the need for affection” doesn’t turn up all that much, and if you ask your friends, they’re just gonna laugh at you. Until weeks later, after they’ve been ditched by whomever it was for them that month, and they come to you, tail between legs, asking “Hey…did you ever find out how to reduce the need for affection?” This has happened to me multiple times!

In researching reducing the need for affection, I’ve come across plenty of articles that try to dodge the issue by avoiding the word “affection.” They claim people are seeking “attention” or “prestige” or “approval” or some other medical-sounding reward. But I think the situation is a lot hotter than that, and by hot I mean a warm fuzzy HUG — get your mind out of the gutter.

A lot of the search results you DO get (YGMV*) are content-farm articles on how to spay or neuter your pet (…so that’s what they’re calling it now?) or y so srs/pitiful pieces in the Huffington Post about how to make your man show you more affection (…she really hasn’t figured that out yet?). I lost the very few useful links I came across. But here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • Get busy working on an idealistic project(s).
  • Get a pet (this is more of a hack: route around humans).
  • Get lost. Aloneness becomes a more comfortable habit given time.

And keep in mind this Theodore Sturgeon quote from his novel Godbody, which the character Britt Svenglund ascribes to the character Dan Currier: “any person who cannot be by himself, it’s because when he is by himself he thinks he is not in good company.”

In the last year, I’ve been in a totally unprecedented situation: I’ve had lots of friends! And I’ve conducted a lot of socializing. (Mostly at this excellent coffeehouse & computer repair shop in Fort Worth.) The whole experience startled me. “Wow, so this is what all the people I hated in high school were doing!” It gets so thoroughly, disgustingly addictive. You wake up one day, and your emotions are beseeching the universe to deliver you affection from others. Your long-lasting contributions to humanity? Yeah, screw those. WAIT NO!

You have to consciously pull yourself away if you get addicted. (Twitter, I’m looking at you.)

Now, you might not want to become a recluse. Currently you gotta interact with people to get where you want to go in life, and it turns out social skills are useful for that. Plus, a good social space generates good random. You encounter people who give you knowledge and paying gigs and culture. This happens in cyberspace, too, but it happens differently in meatspace; I’m not sure how to describe the difference, or why both are valuable.

Brain in a Vat Doesn’t Need Your Meatspace (Pic stolen from here).

A pickup artist is going to look at people with alleged affection-deficits and offer to teach them how to acquire more affection. Which, when you think about it, is not unlike a nicer (or at least nicer-sounding) Thrasymachus, who (according to Plato) taught that justice is nothing but “the advantage of the stronger.” (In the fifth century BCE, in ancient Greece, you could buy teachings from sophists such as Thrasymachus. Early-day Tony Robbins.) Pickup artists have a term: One-itis. Urban Dictionary as usual has the best definition:

Often confused with love, this is the feeling that a particular woman is actually special. This is just an illusion; she is the same as the other three or so billion. “Go fuck ten other women” is the most commonly prescribed treatment for this “disease” (hence the “itis”), as it tends to show quite quickly how very alike people are.

But everyone is a special snowflake, dammit (srsly, you are. And aren’t at the same time, too. Paradox WOAH!). Anyway, it is just remarkable, the difference in perspective, when faced with the question: “What do I do about my affection-deficit?” 1) Become more skilled at manipulating people into giving you affection; or 2) Reduce the need for affection. I’ll take option 2.

Not so fast, the psychiatrists are here. They describe “the self-effacing solution” of wanting too much affection, and the resignation solution of (among others) schizotypals wherein you want too little. Oh, good, the psychiatrists left. Continuing on.

Once I was chatting online with someone, importuning the person for attention affection, and found myself rebuffed; instantly my mind generated epic narratives about how they were full of shit and one day, despite my anger and bitterness, I would triumph before all! AT THE EXACT SAME TIME in another chat window someone was importuning me for attention affection, all plaintive, and I was like, geez, this person’s annoying, won’t they go away, like srsly. Humans are up to here in this affection-acquiring attention-economy business. It’s the pits.

So you want the golden mean of affection and social interaction that suits your purposes and not the purposes your addictions or inexperience define for you. (A golden mean is not necessarily in the middle of the continuum, and not necessarily any sort of average.) On the other hand, maybe you’re such an awesome mystic that you flat-out don’t need to interact with others at all. In which case … can we meet?

INTERLUDE. Let’s take a break for a second.

* YGMV: Your Google May Vary, depending of factors such as your IP address. Which is one reason why proxy networks such as Tor are fun: “Today I’m gonna Google from the point of view of someone in the Czech Republic. Podívejte!

Writing this I found out there’s a now-defunct Swedish goth metal band called Beseech.

They appear not to want my affection…but is it a reverse psychology trick?

Beseech covered ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” which is both awesome and horrible, and most fitting for this post.

Half past twelve / And I’m watching the late show in my flat all alone / How I hate to spend the evening on my own! … [Yeah I can’t take any more of this either.]

END INTERLUDE. Back to srs bizns.

I should point out that killing a social addiction is most conducive to creative thought. Which is much more useful to the world and (less important) much more happiness-producing than nightlife. What other people think really gets into you and mucks with your invention wellspring. Of course, not so good to invent something without people in it, so at least say hi to somebody today, okay? Or maybe just this week. (Even if just online ;-)

Creative Commons License

How to Reduce the Need for Affection by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.