Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 25 March 2018: Happy Defectors

This evening at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square, the Seattle chapter of the worldwide Food Not Bombs movement once more shared, with homeless individuals and others and ourselves, donated food.

Free soup

40-plus aid recipients enjoyed hot soup for no cost. The vegan, glutenfree meal contained cauliflower, carrots, beans, and more — perfectly good food that otherwise would have been thrown out by the donor restaurant. Guiding this action was the principle that quality food is a human right.

Four volunteers had lots of fun implementing a better world. Two guys, two gals. We played guitar, sang, danced. Some discussed the possibility of going train hopping in the near future. Others petted the leashed cat a passerby randomly brought. Each week, creating a Food Not Bombs reality is probably my happiest time.

Various aid recipients seemed really happy as well, especially when talking a bit. One guy said he might go to New Mexico soon, or Louisiana (he wasn’t sure), by bus I guess. Another told us the warmer weather was cheering them up. It seems when people have little, the food tastes better, ordinary things matter more.

The sign

Lots of people are still lodged in the bombs life, wherein they’d much rather gaze upward at the death-dealing leaders to pick one of them to promote in their rivalrous battles with each other, but to those people I’d like to say, there’s still time for you to do something different. Find a Food Not Bombs chapter in your area or start one. Defect from bombs and make good food a human right!

Creative Commons License

Seattle Food Not Bombs sharing report: 25 March 2018: Happy Defectors by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Two surprising statements at Washington’s March 2018 Behavioral Health Advisory Council reveal dehumanization of the vulnerable, show need for solutions

This agency oversees the Council

Last week at the March 7, 2018 meeting just outside Olympia, two surprising statements were made that showed how dehumanization of the vulnerable is normalized within this body of the Washington state government. One was by a DMHP (designated mental health professional) for King and Pierce counties, Robert aka Robbie Pellett; the other by Dr. Caleb J. Banta-Green of the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute. Especially as this Council engages with mental health and substance abuse block grants that affect the lives of vulnerable human beings in the Pacific Northwest, the disregard revealed by the two statements should elicit urgent concern that leads to tangible action.

Input from the success stories? “I don’t know.”

The first surprising statement came from Pellett when he was presenting about the changes going into effect on the first of next month for “Ricky’s Law,” the involuntary treatment act for substance use disorders. According to a Department of Social & Health Services flyer passed out at the Council meeting, “Involuntary treatment for substance use disorders had been historically a planned admission process with a court order. As of April 1, 2018, designated crisis responders will be able to immediately detain a person who meets the criteria for involuntry treatment due to a substance use disorder to a secure withdrawal management and stabilization facility, if there is space available.” Pellett addressed councilmember questions — such as, how will first responders distinguish between an individual in crisis due to substance use and an individual in crisis due to (so-called) mental illness — and I, attending the Council as a member of the public, had a good opportunity to ask him a question myself.

I asked Pellett, “What input on this involuntary treatment act change has been heard from individuals who have overcome substance use disorder?” and he said, “I don’t know.” This Council meeting wasn’t the first time Pellett has presented on the upcoming change to Ricky’s Law, so I think it’s safe to say he should know the answer to the question (and if not, why not?) — and that the answer may well be “None.” Pellett walked over to me later and told me such input would be welcomed.

What’s likely happening here is straightforward: salaried folks in the Washington state government are imposing lockups and forced treatment on a vulnerable population without procuring the input of those who have succeeded in fixing the vulnerability — and that’s dehumanizing because it probably isn’t helping long term, it’s treating the vulnerable as impersonal products for the medical industry. Given withdrawal risks, danger presented to others, and additional issues, it’s understandable that unpleasant measures may have to be taken by those around a person with substance abuse problems — but that doesn’t mean bureaucrats and cops dictating from above have the answers. I find it hard to believe that individuals who have overcome substance abuse would advocate for confinement as “medicine,” but maybe they do. The point is, their input, like that of psychiatric survivors, has likely not been sought by the government/medical establishment, which makes money by compelling “treatment” rather than addressing the widespread social, environmental, nutritional, trauma/abuse, and other conditions that are among the root causes of such problems to begin with.

Research about the unusual? “Science is for most people.”

The second surprising statement came from Banta-Green during his presentation on opioid addiction. Among other things, he advocated for opioid replacement medications, which I’ve heard from individuals with a history of drug abuse is a good step. But, a scientist himself, he also said something very illuminating about the nature of the science industry.

Banta-Green said (I’m quoting from memory): “Science is for most people; it’s to find out what works most of the time in most cases.” He didn’t say this principle is problematic; he said it as if it’s an inexorable fact that everyone on the Council must learn and hew to. But those who differ from the masses are also valuable and entitled to support — they should not, through being ignored, be dehumanized.

The science industry’s glorification of the majority and erasure of the unusual is not acceptable. If you have a rare condition that’s killing you, you won’t agree that because your problem isn’t popular it doesn’t merit research. Each person’s life is meaningful. It’s unjust to devote resources only to those who are in the box of being common. The scientific establishment provides the rationalizations for industry, so of course in favor of those who are cogs in the machine it ignores the irregular humans who might jam up the wheels of profit.

Normalization: Polite, well-paid people permit dehumanization

Councilmembers at the meeting were positive and pleasant throughout the day, and I think Pellett and Banta-Green both sincerely want to help others. Banta-Green was endearing when he talked about how he learned to put away his wonky charts of statistics when meeting with communities who requested concrete solutions. Pellett took initiative to speak with me about how the input of substance abuse success stories would actually be welcomed (who will gather that input?). The problem is, while vulnerable people are suffering and dying, we cannot afford to ignore the dehumanization that’s taken for granted in behavioral health committee conversations, that no one much speaks out about any longer because they’re so acclimated to it.

The political circus, which teaches the conservatives in the United States to laugh and joke about launching bombs and the liberals to normalize the lesser and increasingly worse evils, trains the population in these norms of dehumanization, such that smiles go hand in hand with disregard for human beings. For instance, hearing USians’ responses to Obama over the years showed me that many in this country are quite willing to see his victims as the mere eggs one has to break in the quest for the omelette of lower health insurance premiums. This is the idea that some lives are expendable. Just as USians shrug about those still captive in Guantánamo whom they rarely hear about, so the success stories aren’t on Pellett’s radar, so the outliers aren’t subjects of Banta-Green’s science. When you advocate for dehumanization at the countrywide political scale, expect no immunity from it in the medical system when your own health tanks.

Readers might say, “This is all well and good, and I more or less agree, even if I don’t go into such detail or say anything publicly — But what, after all, is anyone supposed to do about it? Can’t fight City Hall. And just look at those Occupy people: idealists, radicals went into the streets, and the cops stomped them. How can you reasonably expect me to take action, when I’m yelled at by my boss all day and just want to come home to consume corporate entertainment before going to sleep and beginning again?”

Actions you can take

People have a range of abilities, interests, and time available to dedicate to making the world a better place. Below are some strong suggestions for what you might consider doing about the issues exposed by the two surprising statements documented above.

  • Attend such government meetings, take notes, speak out there, publish about it afterward. In Washington state on the topic of mental health, there are Behavioral Health Advisory Board and Mental Illness and Drug Dependency meetings in King County as well as these state Behavioral Health Advisory Council meetings. They’re all open to the public. There are probably similar meetings across the country. Much of the actual governance takes place in these unelected ministries/agencies, rather than exclusively that political circus which receives corporate airtime.
  • Where there’s weakness, there are predators. For example, poverty is a problem (which can be addressed by debt jubilee, basic income, changing the economic system, and more); accordingly, predatory lending agencies swoop in to make the problem worse for their own gain. Mental health is no different. Since the predators aren’t interested in helping, take matters into your own hands and strengthen yourself by overcoming addictions (for example: alcohol, porn, caffeine) and building community and undertaking the work necessary to improve your own health. This lightens the load on others and gets you into a clearer state from which it is easier to take effective action.
  • Speak out against dehumanization and stop celebrating Omelas. If you don’t want presidential candidates to kill your own children, why do you glorify them knowing full well that they’re killing the children of others? It may be just you and a few people having a conversation, but fighting for hearts and minds to alter beliefs is necessary for any dramatic change to happen.
  • Pursue further, better documentation of the issues surrounding the two surprising statements. How would we confirm that no input from the substance abuse success stories has been heard by those altering Ricky’s Law? What would Banta-Green say if challenged about his statement that science focuses on the average? Is there a way to calmly, rationally document what’s happening here and encourage people to devise their own strong solutions instead of begging the authorities to change?
  • Building a better world requires knowledge that’s both trusted and worthy of trust. Corporate social media platforms, small one-person websites such as this one, and the bottlenecks of academia and journalism all sometimes produce good information but not well enough to overcome the global problems facing us today, for the reasons explained here among others. Funding, programming for, and sharing information about the global data commons project would allow everyone to own public information to create knowledge resources that would sustain movements establishing alternatives to the current systems.

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Creative Commons License

Two surprising statements at Washington’s March 2018 Behavioral Health Advisory Council reveal dehumanization of the vulnerable, show need for solutions by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It does not affect your fair use rights or my moral rights. You can view the full license (the legalese) here; you can view a human-readable summary of it here. To learn more about Creative Commons, read this article. License based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@riseup.net.