“In the age of Snowden, humanity is now redefined. We are not citizens, we are subjects to be monitored. We are not humans beings, we are resources…”

CHistrue’s video “Remaining Human in the Age of Snowden Part I”:

“Remaining Human in the Age of Snowden Part 2”:

“Remaining Human in the Age of Snowden Part 3”:

“Cover-ups in Modern History”:

Love this man’s channel. CHistrue is also on Google+. (Looks like his videos currently have embedding disabled, so click on the links to watch them on YT.)

The folly of science-worshiping

A number of people today are science-worshipers.

Now, what do I mean by that term? A science-worshiper is someone who places a tremendous amount of faith in science and scientists to save humanity from itself. What do I mean by that? Well, have you been listening to people out and about in our society? Many seem to be laboring under the illusion that scientific advancements automatically should be equated with “progress.” Many of these same people can go on and on about all the innovations and luxuries we enjoy today that wouldn’t have been possible without science, arguing that scientific exploration has wrought more benefits than harm and always will.

When I interject to say it’s unwise to assume future success will automatically follow past successes, this is dismissed. When I question whether these advancements have truly, aggregately, done more good than harm, I’m considered a loon. Why is that? Because people are blinded by science. The latest in technology. Some people apparently can’t handle their precious adoration of all that is scientific being scrutinized by “Luddites” like myself who wonder if it isn’t such a good idea to run headlong into the future without any pause to ponder what it is we’re trying to do here exactly. The science-worshiping attitude seems to be that all problems that will arise can and will be remedied by the application of newer and better scientific innovations. Cased closed. Luddites everywhere be damned.

But no, the case is not closed simply because some folks choose to approach the vast topic of living in a decidedly scientific era through a largely uncritical lens. That is their blind spot, which they can’t see because they’re in attack mode and out to ridicule anybody and everybody who isn’t as madly in love with all that is scientific as they are.

I do love scientific exploration. Always have. BUT, doing so doesn’t require me to be devoted to defending all that is scientific as if we have some sort of war on. The war’s already been won. Didn’t you get the memo? Science won out. It’s here to stay, folks, assuming we don’t somehow knock ourselves into a new Dark Age. There’s no need to defend it tooth and nail against anyone who wishes to critique what technologies are being used to do and how they’re altering our world in ways that aren’t uniformly positive.

I, for one, pay attention to how our technologies have come to alienate us from one another (in conjunction with other cultural realities, including population density, globalized communication and trade, grand economic imperatives that all are subjected to, etc.). The swift transitioning of life at this point in time is mind-boggling for nearly everybody, because we’re having to learn so much for our own selves, the old ways being on the way out and rendered obsolete in the new world we’re helping co-create. Wisdom of old stands no chance in a topsy-turvy age that has us redefining our values and tolerating lifestyles that are basically imposed upon us.

So where does the new wisdom come from then? From one another, from the wider collective, from the greatest number of people capable of reaching some sort of consensus. People like to bat around the term “democracy,” but what they’re really getting at is majority rule. On one hand people will argue that we each have rights and voices that deserve to be respected, YET when it comes to what impresses most on us, it boils down to what the majority of people have come to expect from one another.

And this leads back to my criticism of science-worshipers. Many of these people seem incapable of comprehending how much they’re accepting as if it’s granted. And how do they know so much? Because they read it in a journal somewhere, or in the newspaper, or saw it on television or in a documentary, or learned it in school. Where else would they get all this information that they claim to know?

See, we’re relying on what others tell us, yet again, this time scientists and so-called “experts.” And who are they? Employees of institutions mostly, which can and does lead to conflicts in interest. Because scientists, like everybody else, are trying to earn a living here. And like everybody else, they aren’t impervious to personal biases or being ego-driven or simply being wrong at times. They are human beings, not superheroes. Scale ’em back down to reality and have a closer look. Take notice of how the FDA actually operates and how much overlap there is within it and corporations backing research tied in to the economics game. How much truly independent research do we think is really going on out here?

And even if most scientists prove to be decent, upstanding people with sharp minds and boatloads of integrity, they aren’t oftentimes in control of how they’re findings wind up being used by others, namely the institutions they work for. So you see this isn’t simply about bashing scientists or science here, not for me; it’s about following the money and trying to remain realistic about what’s actually happening within the realm of scientific exploration, rather than just focusing on some idealized set of events we wish were taking place.

Now, here’s the real kicker. We common laypeople (some of whom may be “experts” or scientists in one field or another, but all of us are laypersons when it comes to everything outside of our own individual focus) are trusting information handed down by scientists. Which scientists? Typically the ones backed by their peers. But what if the majority of persons—all persons, including scientists—are laboring under popular illusions?

This point is most clearly demonstrated when we turn to the pseudoscientific realm of psychiatry. It’s come to receive widespread support within American society, going so far as making people out to be lunatics who speak out against what it’s doing. This is a field that donned a scientific veneer so as to be taken as seriously as medical science, but without actually curing a thing and possessing no diagnostic tests that clearly tell us much. So the MRI scan shows the brains of these children to light up in places that differ from the “normal” majority of other kids? So what? That still doesn’t tell us much. Techniques of this nature are being used to lend credence to a field that makes money through aiming to “correct” non-conformists, whether that be active children or adults unwilling to slap on a smile and perform for others in this collective delusion pretending life is dandy, just peachy keen.

Because a field of study utilizes scientific techniques, that still doesn’t qualify it entirely as a full-fledged science. Anyone can make up a scheme and set about trying to find evidence to support it, but if the evidence is incapable of being falsified (either because there’s not enough information available to go on or because the wacky scheme was hatched rather as an attempt to garner support for what’s ultimately being used as a social engineering project), it isn’t science. Not if that word is to maintain any value.

On the topic of psychiatry, I’ll link to external sources that can break down the situation in greater detail:

Let me say briefly that my own attitudes toward the fields of psychology and psychiatry were shaped growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, witnessing people around me taking these prescribed psychotropic drugs and learning how easy it is to get them (even general practitioners hand them out like candy). So my viewpoint on this has been shaping up for a long time on its own, but then a few years ago I stumbled across the works of Dr. Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who was critical of his own field. And what I find when I talk to people on this subject is they are quick to dismiss Dr. Szasz because he was a voice pushed to the fringe and drowned out by the vast majority who work in the field and sing its praises. Why overlook the concerns of that man? Simply because his views ran counter to what the majority wants to believe. I speak his name and promote his books because they provide a very interesting way of understanding how the psychiatric field has come into being and what it has historically been used for. His arguments strike me as very compelling. But why would they compel someone who’d prefer to believe the opposite is true?

And this is the crux of it, folks: oftentimes we believe what we want to believe. We tend to seek out sources that bolster beliefs we already have and to be resistant to contradictory evidence and arguments. Many, many people go along to get along. They will accept what the majority is up to, uncritically. If this many people believe something is true, it’s not likely to be wrong. Right? Wrong. And history has shown us this again and again. People are wrong all the flippin’ time, even scientists (and decent ones are willing to admit this). Life involves trial and error. Human biases have a tendency to get in the way. Plenty of the most influential seekers of truth up through history were viewed as heretics in their communities, and some were killed as a result. We know this. And yet many continue fallaciously making appeals to the majority. Why? Probably because it feels like the safest bet. And it requires less legwork out of us, because information corresponding with popular viewpoints is pasted everywhere.

People believe what they want to believe. And they also believe who they want to believe. Based on what? Personal biases. Conformity pressures. None of us are immune to this. But it still comes down to beliefs, because we laypersons aren’t conducting these experiments for ourselves — we’re trusting what others claiming to be more knowledgeable put forth. We’re placing faith in them to use proper methodology and to not be biased by political and economic pressures. We’re placing faith in them to know better than we do because they claim access to information the vast majority of us aren’t privy to. That is a form of faith. What is faith but an enhanced level of trust?

People can argue all day that this and this is verifiable, but if we can’t personally verify it for ourselves, it’s just chatter. It’s big talk that we can’t back up. Because, in reality, most of us just don’t know. We trust the doctors and scientists to know what we don’t know and to act on that knowledge in our best interests. How is that not a leap of faith all unto itself? Especially when it comes to the latest findings or highly abstract subject matter. How does this differ all that significantly from people centuries back placing faith in priests who also claimed to know on matters that the common people couldn’t access and comprehend for themselves (in the times before the advent of the printing press)? People today will argue that “one is true while is the other proved false,” but hindsight is 20/20, folks. How can you be so certain that what you strongly believe today won’t prove false someday as well?

And what reason is there to assume that scientific exploration alone can provide the full picture? What does science teach us about morality and philosophies? How far can it really go in helping us create lives infused with meaning?

With modern life in hyperdrive and new technologies being spit out daily, how can we pretend to know so much? When I contemplate it seriously, all of this demonstrates to me is yet another way in which we humans are growing increasingly dependent, in this case on “experts” and the explanations and arguments they hand down.

This blog entry was read and recorded and then uploaded as a video on YT:

A comparative look into the history of the mental health field — excerpts from Dr. Thomas Szasz’s book “The Manufacture of Madness”

Following are transcribed tidbits from a book by Dr. Thomas Szasz titled The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970), beginning with pages 13-15:

With the decline of the power of the Church and of the religious world view, in the seventeenth century, the inquisitor-witch complex disappeared and in its place there arose the alienist-madman complex.

In the new—secular and “scientific”—cultural climate, as in any other, there were still the disadvantaged, the disaffected, and the men who thought and criticized too much. Conformity was still demanded. The nonconformist, the objector, in short, all who denied or refused to affirm society’s dominant values, were still the enemies of society. To be sure, the proper ordering of this new society was no longer conceptualized in terms of Divine Grace; instead, it was viewed in terms of Public Health. Its internal enemies were thus seen as mad, and Institutional Psychiatry came into being, as had the Inquisition earlier, to protect the group from this threat.

The origins of the mental health hospital system bear out these generalizations. “The great confinement of the insane,” as Michel Foucault aptly calls it, began in the seventeenth century: “A date can serve as a landmark: 1656, the decree that founded, in Paris, the Hôpital Général.” The decree founding this establishment, and others throughout France, was issued by the king, Louis XIII: “We choose to be guardian and protector of said Hôpital Général as being of royal founding . . . which is to be totally exempt from the direction, visitation, and jurisdiction of the officers of the General Reform . . . and from all others to whom we forbid all knowledge and jurisdiction in any fashion or manner whatsoever.”

The original, seventeenth-century definition of madness—as the condition justifying confinement in the asylum—conformed to the requirements for which it was fashioned. To be considered mad, it was enough to be abandoned, destitute, poor, unwanted by parents or society. The regulations governing admission to the Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière—the two Parisian mental hospitals destined to become world famous—put into effect on April 20, 1680, provided that “children of artisans and other poor inhabitants of Paris up to the age of twenty-five, who used their parents badly or who refused to work through laziness, or, in the case of girls, who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched, should be shut up, the boys in the Bicêtre, the girls in the Salpêtrière. This action was to be taken on the complaint of the parents, or, if these were dead, of near relatives, or the parish priest. The wayward children were to be kept as long as the directors deemed wise and were to be released only on written order by four directors.” In addition to these persons “prostitutes and women who ran bawdy houses” were to be incarcerated in a special section of the Salpêtrière.

The consequences of these “medical” practices are described by a French observer after the Salpêtrière had been in operation for a century:

In 1778, the Salpêtrière is the largest hospital in Paris and possibly in Europe: this hospital is both a house for women and a prison. It receives pregnant women and girls, wet nurses and their nurselings; male children from the age of seven or eight months to four or five years of age; young girls of all ages; aged married men and women; raving lunatics, imbeciles, epileptics, paralytics, blind persons, cripples, people suffering from ringworm, incurables of all sorts, children afflicted with scrofula, and so on and so forth. At the center of this hospital is a house of detention for women, comprising four different prisons: le commun, for the most dissolute girls; la correction, for those who are not considered hopelessly depraved; la prison, reserved for persons held by order of the king; and la grande force, for women branded by order of the courts.

Surveying this scene, George Rosen bluntly states that “the individual was committed not primarily to receive medical care but rather to protect society and to prevent the disintegration of its institutions.”

As recently as 1860, it was not necessary to be mentally ill to be incarcerated in an American mental institution; it was enough to be a married woman. When the celebrated Mrs. Packard was hospitalized in the Jacksonville State Insane Asylum for disagreeing with her minister-husband, the commitment laws of the state of Illinois explicitly proclaimed that “Married women . . . may be entered or detained in the hospital at the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian . . . without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.”

In short, it is only a relatively recent rationalization in the history of psychiatry that a person must “suffer” from a “mental disease”—like schizophrenia or senile psychosis—to justify his commitment. Being an unemployed young man, a prostitute, or a destitute old person used to suffice. “We must not forget,” remarks Foucault, “that a few years after its foundation [in 1656], the hôpital général of Paris alone contained six thousand persons, or around one percent of the population.” As a means of social control and of the ritualized affirmation of the dominant social ethic, Institutional Psychiatry immediately showed itself to be a worthy successor to the Inquisition. Its subsequent record, as we shall see, has been equally distinguished.

The French hôpital général, the German Irrenhaus, and the English insane asylum thus become the abodes of persons called mad. Are they considered mad, and therefore confined in these institutions? Or are they confined because they are poor, physically ill, or dangerous, and therefore considered mad? For three hundred years, psychiatrists have labored to obscure rather than clarify this simple problem. Perhaps it could not have been otherwise. As happens also in other professions—especially in those pertaining to the regulation of social affairs—psychiatrists have been largely responsible for creating the problems they have ostensibly tried to solve. But then, like other men, psychiatrists cannot be expected to act systematically against their own economic and professional self-interests.

Picking back up on pages 51-53:

We would like our hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people, and we want to be, of course, considered as doctors and not jailers. . . . It is well known that there are legal safeguards against what is commonly called railroading people into mental hospitals, and we contend that people are well protected in all of the States. I have never in 30 years of constant living with this problem seen anyone whom I thought was being railroaded. . . . The opposite is true, however. People are railroaded out of mental hospitals before they should be, because these institutions are so crowded . . .

. . . I wish to point out that the basic purpose [of commitment] is to make sure that sick human beings get the care that is appropriate to their needs . . .

We, as doctors, want our psychiatric hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people in the same sense that general hospitals are so viewed.

If psychiatrists really wanted these things, all they would have to do is to unlock the doors of mental hospitals, abolish commitment, and treat only those persons who, like in nonpsychiatric hospitals, want to be treated. This is exactly what I have been advocating for the past fifteen years.

Lea describes the social function of the Inquisition thus: “The object of the Inquisition is the destruction of heresy. Heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are converted to the true Catholic faith, or when, on being abandoned to the secular arm, they are corporally burned.” This statement is readily converted into a description of the social function of the Mental Health Movement: “The object of Psychiatry is the eradication of mental illness. Mental illness cannot be eradicated unless the mentally ill are eradicated. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are restored to mental health, or when, on being confined in state mental hospitals, they prove incurably sick and are therefore removed from contact with healthy society.”

Perhaps more than anything else, the claim of a helping role by the prosecutors and the judge made the witch trial a vicious affair. “The accused was,” Lea tells us, “prejudged. He was assumed to be guilty, or he would not have been put on trial, and virtually his only mode of escape was by confessing the charges made against him, abjuring heresy, and accepting whatever punishment might be imposed on him in the shape of penance. Persistent denial of guilt and assertion of orthodoxy . . . rendered him an impenitent, obstinate heretic, to be abandoned to the secular arm and consigned to the stake.”

The assumption of a therapeutic posture by the institutional psychiatrist leads to the same heartless consequences. Like the accused heretic, the accused mental patient commits the most deadly sin when he denies his illness and insists that his deviant state is healthy. Accordingly, the most denigrating diagnostic labels of psychiatry are reserved for those individuals who, although declared insane by the experts, and confined in madhouses, stubbornly persist in claiming to be sane. They are said to be “completely lacking in insight,” or described as “having broken with reality,” and are usually diagnosed as “paranoid” or “schizophrenic.” The Spanish inquisitors also had a demeaning name for such persons: they called them “negativos.” “The negativo,” Lea explains, “who persistently denied his guilt, in the face of competent testimony, was universally held to be a pertinacious impenitent heretic, for whom there was no alternative save burning alive, although . . . he might protest a thousand times that he was a Catholic and wished to live and die in the faith. This was the inevitable logic of the situation. . . .”

One of the important differences between a person accused of crime and one accused of mental illness is that the former is often allowed bail, whereas the latter never is.

Moving along to page 58:

The conduct of a society’s business, as that of an individual’s, may be likened to playing a game. The religions, laws, and mores of society constitute the rules by which people must play—or else they will be penalized, one way or another. Obviously, the simpler the games and the fewer in number, the easier it is to play them. This is why open societies and the freedoms they offer represent an onerous burden to many people. As individuals find it difficult and taxing to play more than a single game, or at most a few, at any one time, so societies find it difficult and taxing to tolerate the existence of a plurality of games, each competing for the attention and loyalty of the citizens. Every group—and this includes societies—is organized and held together by a few ideas, values, and practices which cannot be questioned or challenged without causing its disruption, or at least a fear of its disruption. This is why independent thought often undermines group solidarity, and group solidarity often inhibits independent thought. “We belong to a group,” says Karl Mannheim, “not only because we are born into it, not merely because we profess to belong to it, nor finally because we give it our loyalty and allegiance, but primarily because we see the world and certain things in the world the way it does . . .” To see the world differently than our group does thus threatens us with ostracism. Hypocrisy, then, is the homage intellect pays to custom.

[Italicized emphasis his — bold emphasis mine]

Dr. Thomas Szasz really helped me flesh out my understanding on the subject of mental health, along with the writings of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. Both I highly recommend others to check out. Because these are extremely important dots needing to be connected in the minds of people today who naively assume the field of psychiatry, along with the biopharmacology industry, to be looking out for people’s best interests. No, they are agents of something outside of us, namely 1.) the State and 2.) the economy. Even when well-intending people join its professional ranks, this does little to undermine its overarching agenda to press for a new kind of conformity among the masses.

Independent thought is indeed being pushed to the fringes, particularly if it demonstrates no economic value or seeks to undermine the status quo on any level.

Neil Postman on Cyberspace and Technology

This interview of Neil Postman is said to have been recorded in 1995:

Neil Postman discussing his book Technopoly on CSPAN2’s Booktv: