Mad In America
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Mad In America

Involuntary Obedience:

Rituals of Humiliation Disguised as ‘Care’

By John Herbert

Man is a social animal. His survival depends on the genuine social bonds he is able to make throughout his life.

Psychiatric diagnosis creates an abyss between authentic social bonding and fake, make-do social interaction. This is one of the most serious crimes committed against the most vulnerable amongst us. Those of us who are unfortunate enough to receive a diagnosis of this type are, in my experience, destined to become outcasts from family, workplace and friends. The white-clad ‘carers’ are bound by a deontology that denies them the possibility of becoming emotionally, sentimentally or amicably attached to those so diagnosed. This is unnatural and illegitimate. The morbid outcomes are legion for those exposed to this unjustifiable discrimination.

The laughing of some of the white-clad ‘carers’ happens only between themselves; laughing that reaches your ears and reminds you of the mocking crowing of ravens, which reminds you of your transience, mortality and age. To hear the full-throated hilarity of these white-clad ‘carers’ in the restroom inflicts on you the reality of your situation here in this hospital: subordination and servitude. Their feelings, if indeed they have any, are so well guarded they are as if invisible, palpably empty. And you, you play the part of an obliging victim with a long apprenticeship.

You provoke the sneering smile of one and the smiling remarks of another in a milieu as artificial as the relations they maintain with those of us in servitude. Certain ‘carers’, when asked how they are, reply: oh, l’m always well. You are certain that this is a downright lie, notwithstanding the mask of her trade that allows us to see her immaculate teeth, like a steel-cutting guillotine press; she doesn’t ponder anymore, it’s automatic like the movements of a robot. That’s what she’s paid for. And the inevitable, “how are you?” from the slaves and ‘carers’ alike, as if we needed to console ourselves constantly that it’s okay, when we know that nothing is okay. If you speak of sadness they speak of depression. If you speak of happiness they speak of exaltation or mania. These are the chains that hurt us so when we try to get up and walk. The fetters that remove the skin from our ankles , the handcuffs that give us open sores on our wrists. You hear a reproach: “and if you knew how to cry, what would you cry about?” Indeed, we no longer cry, but not because we don’t want to.

This is the biomedical approach. Everything must be ‘clean’, we don’t engage in human trafficking with dirty hands… Profit is vital for those in the know. On their level the ‘carers’ (always clean) see themselves allotted cars, sometimes houses; their collaboration is paid for by material resources, the bribes of a mafia.

Of course as a ‘carer’, there is the unthwarted safeness of an indefinable lassitude. This pain comes from their intrinsic uselessness and seeing their ‘care’ fail incessantly. When in fact they exercise social control in places where the deprivation of liberty for all is practiced, but we call them hospitals, not prisons; where there are bedrooms, not cells, even though some ‘bedrooms’ are locked; and where all access to the outdoors is condemned. For some ‘carers’ there is the boredom of being at the service of uninteresting people. If interest there is, then it is purely ‘professional’ — each day brings its batch of pain but hugs and other such physical demonstrations of affection are shunned and forbidden. The dismay of thoughts that they (the ‘carers’) can dare is to say that they have no power, that they are not responsible; they leave the decision making to the elites in order to give themselves, once again, a clear conscience. The possibility that you could have free and enlightened relationship with one of these white-clad carers is a bird that has left the sky a long time ago.

You remember the first time, they brought you in an ambulance, in your native country. You saw the immense Victorian building, solid, built of brick. You asked yourself what are they going to do to you in such an enormous structure. The reply becomes rapidly clear: they inject you with chemicals, pulling your trousers down whilst four white-coated men constrain you on the floor of the ward. Rape is not estranged to this scene. The shame, the humiliation, the hate that this event provokes in you causes tears in your eyes. The complicity of your family is an abominable treason and very painful. In writing these words your memory is tainted with anger, sadness and humiliation. Your work is interrupted often because the words flowing from your pen are like arrows in your flesh, as deadly and remorseless. While it’s true that your cognitive functions have diminished and that your concentration has suffered the most, that you have been damaged by the chemical torture, your resolution to tell your story has never flinched — the need to tell of the horrors that go on in ‘developed’ countries all over the world is stronger now than ever; harder than concrete, more ardent than a prayer.

The scenery is not exceptional for such places. It’s like a small village with pavilions dotted around a small park. The ‘carers’ scuttle to and fro under the winter sun, burnt by the icy wind. A woman with keys in her hand opens the door of the unit; her artificial smile is ignored by your prescience. Everything here is previsible. The interior of the concrete box is lit to enable the hunt of every conceivable bacteria in every corner of the passages — an aggressive light, blinding.

You walk into one of two adjacent passages where to the left and to the right are doors of what are euphemistically called bedrooms. Two strips of reinforced plexiglass are inlaid into the doors, enabling the ‘carers’ to look intrusively into each cell. In the cells people are for the most part exhausted, immobile and silent. Like you they have recent souvenirs of needles, like daggers, that have raped and bled them. In the harsh light of the sterile corridors, there are round mirrors fixed at regular intervals to the ceiling that permit vision around corners in case of a hidden threat. In one of the corridors are found two cells with the sobriquet of ‘pacifying bedrooms’, where there is a bed fixed with bolts in the centre of the room, with bars on the window and a recess where can be found a toilet and a shower that is operated by an infrared sensor that cannot be regulated. And that’s it. One recent morning the pacifying of Julian became eternal; the memory of him remains, there where he took a fistful of benzodiazepines before sleeping forever, a boy of nineteen years of age. His life, like so many here, without any hope of recovery. They must be obliging, convincing their jailers of their satisfaction with the hospital and the place they have in it. To do this they must confirm the role of the ‘professionals’ that impose the conditions of the deal. Some, like M., are so affected by their mistreatment that their thoughts have become dispersed; they are unable to understand from where their problems originated, the reasons behind such obsessive paranoia.

The wind whistles through the Scots pine outside of the room where you find yourself, again, alone. The sun is not high in the heavens despite it being mid day; its warmth is quickly chased away by the breath of Aeolus, the Greek god of wind. The furtive cries await you as you pass the autist’s pavilion. It’s rare that you see them in the park. The mortality rate is extremely high here, people die young here with a frequency that makes you worried for your own longevity. The media, transformed into public communications agencies, publish not the merest hint, a situation of shameful collaboration and dishonesty. They are richly paid off in order to render the lives of those who are not ‘ill’ as easy as possible. You think of all the people here enchained, and you know exactly why.

Without you noticing the night has fallen. The agitation in the unit (what a strange word to employ for a prison) returns with your arrival from a period of peace in the ‘therapeutic’ apartment that has been allotted to you, which is, in fact, just another form of seclusion. The conversations turn from delirious to intimate in the wink of an eye, but you prefer this to the illegitimate discourse and artificial rhetoric of the psychiatrists, the elite who haunt the unit but desert it on the weekends. From them you expect nothing apart from psuedoscientific slang that promotes and seeks to reinforce their administrative clout as officers of the state. Your status is the most subaltern that exists in this underworld. You hear the cries of an ‘agitated’ woman and the blowing of the mechanical ventilation in your cell. What a disgusting opportunity for those with power to profit from and take an authoritarian ascendancy over those who suffer.

These slave masters know the value of their merchandise. They know how much a ‘lunatic’ is worth — nothing if not diagnosed, but the treatments are very profitable and destroy the lives of so many. A long-term hospitalisation is worth its weight in gold, several million pounds, euros or dollars. This along with treatment for life means the lives of these psychiatrists are rendered extremely comfortable.

Among the inmates there is an incessant search for news. A grandfather who wishes to see his grandchild for the first time. A father who wants so much to see once more his beloved daughter. These psychiatrists or officers are not concerned with any distance between parents and children, husbands and wives, grandparents and grandchildren. It is a place without hope, this hospital, and how many countless others. A grandfather obtained the permission to leave for the weekend if one of his three children agree to come and collect him; he is still without news.

You think about your daughter — the sun is shining on your birthday, she is incandescent with warmth. You would dearly like to see your first born, left since his studies in law to manage the doubtful fortunes of the very rich. Your thoughts are for them — you have always considered thoughts to be a form of prayer. For your children you wish peace, something that you attain for yourself only with great difficulty. That is perhaps what love is: infinite goodwill, without which your life would be reduced to ashes. Here there is no love or goodwill, just ‘the state’. When the state decides for lives, it’s usually a catastrophe and totalitarian in practice. In the process of enslaving, proprietors often washed and perfumed their slaves, and dressed them richly to please. Here we are thrown in an ‘appeasement cell’ in light blue ‘pyjamas’ that look horrific, without an explanation and in a violent and abrupt manner. The recluses fall like flies here and our only aim is to stay alive for the day. Your grandfather would have been horrified to know of the conditions in which you are held; he survived the First World War.The psychiatric institution is just another form of war, the third world war with so many victims.

You have learnt to pretend that you are satisfied because if you do not and you show your extreme unease at the conditions of your imprisonment, treated as a subject of the laboratories, your life would be even more unbearable and you would be subdued with ever-increasing doses of harmful sedatives, to the point that you would become like some of the long-term patients here, a dribbling wreck. So when an administrator asks you how you are, you have the obligation to say well, or words to that effect. This is involuntary obedience. All dissatisfaction is banned because the diagnostic would only be more serious if you were honest. But the chemicals forced upon you and prescribed by the administrators are major tranquillisers and give you, in the end, cerebral attacks and other more intimate complications. You are 56 years old and you fear to die in their trap. Each day you make the effort to seem unconscious of how lives are at stake for all found between these walls.

After the distribution of the chemicals, the meal is served by the ‘carers’. At the beginning of each meal one of the ‘carers’ invariably barks, “Have a good meal!” This is done with such unerring regularity that the unease of the interned is palpable. It is really twisted because the regularity and the way she delivers the phrase makes her sound like an automaton. Some reply; you remain silent. You think that this ‘carer’ is as twisted as one of the interned who insists on having the last word on everything, no matter what the subject. One woman is what they call ‘agitated’. A day later she is so sedated she cannot feed herself.

What is most difficult to live with is the fact that the diagnoses are so much more traumatic than the symptoms. There are three criteria to describe a schizophrenic: dangerous, unpredictably dangerous and irresponsible. The stigma of such a diagnosis is crushing. There is nothing worse than to be confronted with the reaction of people to this label.

You ponder all of the people who have passed through here, with outstretched hands; most of them have seen themselves given a ‘diagnosis’. Your thoughts turn to Sandrine or Caroline and you are pleased to have known them. Caring and sensitive people. Would it be possible that someone treats your dossier with the same care? Or will you be forgotten as ‘psychotic’ or ‘schizophrenic’ for the rest of your life? Your very soul is opposed to this abuse, slavery and torture. When the collective conscience sees the tyranny of such practices, surely it must rise and put a stop to them.

Like slavery took such a long time to be ‘officially’ forbidden, psychiatric hospitals will be with us for some time yet. Their masters, the doctors or administrators, no longer give beatings with their hands but with the far more treacherous chemicals that allow them to keep a good conscience and distribute what are beatings nevertheless. The blows caused by these chemicals can come without warning and your consciousness is diminished by the poison’s action on your frontal lobes. The first psychiatrists to use these substances called them chemical lobotomisers — the first of these poisons was called Largactyl in 1955. You receive blows such as these regularly: every 14 days you are forced to take an injection. You are made to understand that if you do not acquiesce, you will be injected with 6 ampoules of Loxapac, an even more seriously toxic neuroleptic. So your reaction is entirely involuntary obedience.

Stamina is the key to live through such a situation. God knows that the patients here have stamina, even though many die. In a few days' time this grotesqueness will happen again. The abominable ritual of humiliation and enslavement with a hypodermic needle in the butt exists so the ‘carers’ can have peace in their corrupt consciousness. They have no suspicion of the terrible toll the deep sedation has on you. This mutilation is called ‘health care’. They justify themselves in forcing it upon you by the delirium in their minds, and they call it ‘professional’.

The lucky ones are exhibited like beasts in a cage, their mutilated brains serve to show the efficacious injury inflicted by these lobotomists. You seek always the light of dawn in your sleep, at all costs to survive this torture. People here wait for nothing, they ask themselves what is the point of their lives, at the same time resigned and tired.

The idea of progress resounds strongly in this damned place. As if the teachings of our ancestors were all false, even evil. To advance in life is not a collective effort but personal, even intimate. If there is progress, let it be to promote peace and tranquility of spirit for every man. You realise that psychiatry does the opposite in the name of progress, of which there is none. When you read Whitaker, Gøtzsche and Read you were filled with peace, a profound assurance that your symptoms are the very expression of an ailment that goes beyond your intimate universe.

The false redhead, after her debauchery of the evening before, comes back invariably to the scene of her crimes where she ‘cares’ for the ‘ill’ with the suitably soft voice of an assassin. You can’t help wondering how a voice can be at the same time so soft and so violently malevolent. Her authoritative airs are as visible as her artificial sentiments. You stay and are forced to be a lunatic. You are, to her, a recluse, on the back of whom she makes a small salary. If we complain it is to have more money or more ‘means’. These ‘means’ are destined to permit the ‘carers’ to denigrate you better whilst smiling at you all the more.

You remember your mother, again and always she accompanies you during your reclusion. You recall that she dressed you and you remember the warmth of her hands and her presence. This is a precious souvenir, before she was dragged off by the ‘mental health’ executioners when you were only six years old, a trauma engraved forever in your psyche. After that, you saw her very little. You would like so much not to be denigrated permanently, looked upon by the artificial psychiatric rhetoric as ‘unpredictably dangerous’. The hoards of ‘carers’ unclothe you, leaving you frightened and shameful.

You have heard of countries of the ‘third’ world where the long-term outcomes for what some call ‘schizophrenia’ are much better than in the west. Nigeria, Colombia and India. You dream of living in peace in one of these countries where one can recover and heal from what is a meaningless word, i.e. ‘diagnosis’. The WHO published a study that affirms this reality. Is it possible to live without being repeatedly raped with neurotoxins? What luck these peoples have to not be seen as irremediably ill!

A strong frost is feared; the apricot trees in this region of France will be affected, they are in flower. Today it is cold, light rain and morning mist that covers the tops of the trees, there, on the hillside above the river. It is time for the melancholic thought of what your life could have been. Before the age of six years old, your life was marvelous. Full of hope and a calm confidence, contained. A plenitude that has never left you. You still feel it in your guts. Being torn from your mother, its violence, has also never left you. Very young you were thrown into an uncertain world, deprived of your emotional bearings. You have sought after, since then, the love of your mother that was so natural and comfortable. Your father was crude, uncouth, and violent; he was a policeman. As such he was able to conceal his violence towards his family, both physical and psychological. The status of your father prevented the social services getting involved. His authority was cumbersome, to say the least, for yourself, your mother and your brother Gerald. From that time your soul has been errant; it’s only recently that you have found some peace of mind.

Some of your memories are of extreme violence. The fact that you report this violence of which you were victim takes on the importance of a sacrament, an obligation, and you will do it with an indefatigable fervor. Thirty-two years ago you left your native land hoping to find liberty in France, not knowing how to pronounce the name of the town where you found yourself. Then the horror, the fear that you experienced and that you provoked in others. The suspicion, the contemptuous looks of those with no understanding, hostile. These words wrapped up in so much ‘scientific’ verbiage which is everything but. You doubt whether this artificial rhetoric is the only reason for your slavery, although it has certainly kept it in place. The curious come and look but you remain dispassionate and at peace. You receive insults but you stay calm, your spirit lit by your interior strength. The words courage and hope resound with the fidelity of your determination. “Happy are those of poor spirit, for the kingdom of the heavens will be theirs.”

To be thirsty and hungry for justice is your fate, a weight forever present in your life. But your discoveries will be theirs also, this Cosa Nostra, a mafia where everything is done to find the failure of another and to get profit and recognition. All they can imagine to say is that they lack means. It’s not material that is lacking but intellectual and scientific acumen. Your psychiatrists are idiots that could not hear truth if it struck them down, so you adapt to their language that is both poor and obscene. The ‘experts’ are invested with a doubtful authority. They traumatise you with their all-knowing judgments, worse than any symptom. You know what it is to be apart. You could have been black or an immigrant from the Middle East; you acutely feel these opinions that categorize you and seal you in a hermetic box. You are not even pitied, just looked upon with curiosity as if you were a caged animal. They observe and then condemn you. They ask you things that have nothing to do with your life. Always they try to inflict upon you chemical straitjackets, metaphorical straitjackets — when they don’t restrain you to your bed so you can hardly breath. They work it so you don’t miss your children too much and so that you don’t reflect on the brute violence that has been your experience. The crux is that they call you ‘ill’ whilst they are completely crazy. You had looked toward France as a place of refuge, somewhere where you would not be looked upon as a broken brain. What deception to find no therapeutic value in France whatsoever.

“Happy are those that cry, for they will be consoled.”

The magnolias bloom profusely.

You admire the work of Joseph Zobel. His words have revealed to future generations the racist foundations of the society in which he lived. You would, like him, inform the future population of what it is to be permanently sedated, a torture unequaled in the annals of modern medicine.

Time is present, butterflies changing from their larval form and the magpies joining together to ensure their longevity. It’s the end of winter and springtime is in the very consciousness of the trees. Its bounty constantly refound, in all its magnificence that you adore so. Your face is white and pale, reflecting the sun’s light at this, the end of winter. Is it luminousness, luminescence or luminosity? It appears charged. The light reveals everything, defines everything: the humiliation, the indignity, the indignation. The faith and the hope.

The sky is cloud-covered on this day towards the end of winter. The sun is luminous. You realise that life is good despite the evil of ‘experts’ and the pseudoscience of psychiatry. The aim is to remain alive so as to tell your story with its multiple ‘secondary’ side effects. Whatever happens, they can’t steal this moment of grace, however brief, even if they kill you. You have had this instant under the sky, the sun, and at night, the stars and the moon. They can’t take away from you your heart of tenderness and care for your fellow man, never!

John Herbert

John Herbert enjoys reading, writing and walking — elements in his life that give him a semblance of peace despite his situation. John militates for alternatives to forced drugging and non-consensual medical protocols. He believes that neuroleptics are a form of torture, and that safe places where people can try to come off these chemicals should be widely available.

Originally published at on November 16, 2019.



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Mad In America

Mad In America

Mad in America’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and around the world.