Bruce-Levine

Young people often ask me why psychiatrists and psychologists don’t understand that it is normal for kids to rebel against being controlled. The answer, I believe, is that many psychiatrists and psychologists are not in touch with how extremely obedient they are.
— 

-Depathologizing the Spirit of Resistance, Bruce Levine, Z Magazine, Oct 2005


i read this article for school and it kinda changed my life. i can’t really find it anywhere on the internet. i would like totes re-type it if anyone is interested in reading it.

In every generation there will be: 1) authoritarians, the passionate of whom are fascists, 2) bourgeois/ yuppies, who enjoy anti-authoritarian books, music, and movies, but don’t act on them, and 3) genuine anti-authoritarians, who are so pained by exploitative hierarchies that they take action. Sometimes anti-authoritarian action is obvious, more often it is subtle, and too often it is futile. Only rarely do anti-authoritarians take effective direct action that inspires others to revolt, but every once in a while a Tom Paine comes along. So control-freaks take no chance, and the state-corporate partnership criminalizes anti-authoritarianism, pathologizes it, markets drugs to “cure” it, and financially intimidates those who might buck the system.
—  Bruce Levine, “Depathologizing the Spirit of Resistance”, Z Magazine, October 2005
Depathologizing the Spirit of Resistance, by Bruce Levine (Z Magazine, Oct 2005)

(re-typing this article by popular demand! can’t find it anywhere on the internet) (also i DEFINITELY don’t agree with everything stated here, but i think it’s an interesting article.)

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in step with the election of Ronald Reagan and the US right-wing shift, proclaimed a new mental illness: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Today ODD has become an increasingly popular diagnosis for a young person who “actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “argues with adults”–symptoms according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM), the APA’s official diagnostic manual. While those once labeled juvenile delinquents are now diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD), ODD is applied to those doing nothing illegal, just bucking authority. 

Two ways of subduing anti-authoritarianism are criminalizing it and pathologizing it, and U.S. history is replete with both. In the same era of John Addams’ Sedition Act, which criminalized criticism of US governmental policy, Dr. Benjamin Rush, “the father of American psychiatry” (his image adorns the APA seal), pathologized anti-authoritarianism. Rush diagnosed those rebelling against a centralized federal authority as having an “excess of the passion for liberty” that “constituted a form of insanity.” He labeled this illness anarchia.

Historically, both direct and indirect resistance to authority have been medicalized and diseased. In an 1851 article in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright reported his “discovery” of drapetomania, the disease that caused slaves to flee captivity, and dysaesthesia aetiopis, the disease that caused slaves to pay insufficient attention to the master’s needs. As with anarchia, few took drapetomania and dysaethesia aethiopis seriously–but this was before the diseasing of anti-authoritarianism was accompanied by Big Pharma drugs and marketing blitzes. 

While drapetomania has given way to ODD and CD, dysaesthesia aetheopis has given way to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The vast majority of kids “with ADHD” are capable of paying attention and being cooperative in environments that they are comfortable in. Studies show that they will pay attention to activities that they have chosen, that they find stimulating, or for which they are getting paid. They routinely pay attention to what interests them but tend to blow off school, especially homework. In 1992 the then-director of the APA proudly described the relationship between the APA and pharmaceutical corporations as a “responsible, ethical partnership” and, in 2001, the Journal of the AMA estimated that four to six million ADHD-labeled US kids were taking Ritalin and Ritalin-like drugs. 

Young people often ask me why psychiatrists and psychologists don’t understand that it is normal for kids to rebel against being controlled. The answer, I believe, is that many psychiatrists and psychologists are not in touch with how extremely obedient they are. Acceptance into medical school and graduate school requires lots of A’s, and achieving a PhD or MD means jumping through many meaningless hoops, all of which require much behavioral and attentional compliance.

When compliant MD’s and PhD’s begin seeing noncompliant patients, many of these doctors get uptight and anxiety is often a prelude to diseasing that which is quite normal. (Homosexuality was a DSM disease until 1970’s gay rights activists forced its removal.) In the institutions where I trained, there were a small minority of medical and graduate students who challenged authority, but they were commonly labeled by higher-ups as “having issues with authority” and were pressured to seek psychotherapy for that condition.

Many substance users, while routinely destructive to themselves and others and not to be romanticized, are often anti-authoritarians. Researcher Craig MacAndrew developed a scale that distinguishes alcoholic and drug user personalities from “normal” subjects. The most significant “addictive personality types” had discipline problems at school, were less tolerant of boredom, were less compliant with authorities and some laws, and engaged in more disapproved sexual practices.

Among anti-authoritarians, some prize only their own liberty, but many care so strongly about social injustice that its absence can overwhelm them. They feel alienated and their greatest desire is to connect with like-minded souls. But it is not the 1960’s or the 1890’s and there are no well-known “scenes” where they can find others in “the movement” or “the cause.” So they get depressed and become self-destructive, and some seek treatment.

In every generation there will be: (1) authoritarians, the passionate of whom are fascists; (2) bourgeois/yuppies, who enjoy anti-authoritarian books, music, and movies, but don’t act on them, and (3) genuine anti-authoritarians, who are so pained by explosive hierarchies that they take action. Sometimes anti-authoritarian action is obvious, more often is it subtle, and too often is it futile. Only rarely do anti-authoritarians take effective direct action that inspires others to revolt, but every once in a while a Tom Paine comes along. So control-freaks take no chances, and the state-corporate partnership criminalizes anti-authoritarianism, pathologizes it, markets drugs to “cure” it, and financially intimidates those who might buck the system.

These days the managed-care police are working feverishly to speed patients out of treatment. Along with pressuring me to refer my clientele for drugs, these cops—more benignly—often demand that I assign homework. And so for clients who I believe would identify with Emma Goldman, I “assign” her autobiography.

In the first 50 pages of “Living My Life,” Goldman tells how in the late 1880s the Haymarket martyrs gave her unhappy life a cause and how that cause energized her to leave her boring husband and move from Rochester, NY to New York City, where she quickly hooked up with a lover, a mentor, and a community of like-minded souls. I am happy to report that “Living My Life” provided instant self-help for one middle-aged female client of mine, an anti-authoritarian previously diagnosed with substance abuse, depression and several personality disorders. She has a passion now for reading and forgoes booze when captivated by a good book, and so the 993 pages of Goldman’s epic provided a longer detox treatment than provided by many insurance companies. Now this woman is fairly certain that she would not have become depressed or abused alcohol if she, too, had a cause and community. She has become energized, in her search.

What’s impossible to ignore is how many of the individuals diagnosed with mental disorders are essentially anti-authoritarians. This was potentially a large army of anti-authoritarian activists that mental health professionals are keeping off democracy battlefields by convincing them that their depression, anxiety, and anger are a result of their mental illnesses and not, in part, a result of their pain over being in dehumanizing environments.
—  Bruce E. Levine
What’s impossible to ignore is how many of the individuals diagnosed with mental disorders are essentially anti-authoritarians. This was potentially a large army of anti-authoritarian activists that mental health professionals are keeping off democracy battlefields by convincing them that their depression, anxiety, and anger are a result of their mental illnesses and not, in part, a result of their pain over being in dehumanizing environments.
—  Bruce E. Levine

Historian Bruce Levine explores the destruction of the old South and the reunified country that emerged from the Civil War in his new book, The Fall of the House of Dixie. He says one result of the Emancipation Proclamation was a flood of black men from the South into the Union Army:

“By the end of the Civil War, nearly 200,000 black men had served in either the Union army or the Union navy, and that alone was an enormous military assistance to the Union at a time when volunteering had fallen drastically and when there was a great deal of hostility to the draft. So these 200,000 men significantly contributed to giving the Union army the volume, the bulk, the size that they needed to cope with their Confederate opponents, and that gave the union the power, ultimately, to overwhelm the opposition.”

photo via slideshare

Bruce Levine on the reaction in the African-American community to Union recruitment efforts during the Civil War:

There were at least some slaves who still believed what others had been telling them during most of the war, namely … ‘This is a white man’s war, stay out.’ … And others, because having just been freed and finally given the opportunity to live the life of free men and women, didn’t relish the prospect of immediately being separated from their families and possibly killed before they could realize the benefits of that freedom. But very, very large numbers responded very enthusiastically to the chance finally to, in great numbers, take organized collective action in pursuit of the freedom of their people.

200,000 African-Americans fought for the Union.

Unidentified African-American soldier in Union corporal’s uniform via the Library of Congress.

Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War by Bruce Levine

Confederate Emancipation offers an engaging and illuminating account of a fascinating and politically charged idea, setting it firmly and vividly in the context of the Civil War and the part played in it by the issue of slavery and the actions of the slaves themselves.

[BOOK LINK]

Book jacket for Random House  |  Art Director: Robbin Schiff  |  Designer: Christopher Sergio  |  Published 2013

Among anti-authoritarians, some prize only their own liberty, but many care so strongly about social injustice that their pain over its absence can overwhelm them. They feel alienated and their great desire is to connect with like-minded souls. But it is not the 1960’s or the 1890’s and there are no well-known ‘scenes’ where they can find others in 'the movement’ or 'the cause.’ So they get depressed and become self-destructive, and some seek treatment.

In every generation there will be: (1) authoritarians, the passionate of whom are fascists; (2) bourgeois/yuppies, who enjoy anti-authoritarian books, music, and movies, but don’t act on them, and (3) genuine anti-authoritarians, who are so pained by explosive hierarchies that they take action. Sometimes anti-authoritarian action is obvious, more often is it subtle, and too often is it futile.

—  Bruce Levine, Depathologizing the Spirit of Resistance, Z Magazine, Oct 2005
So, I went into private practice, where I received many referrals for teenagers diagnosed with ODD from colleagues who were uncomfortable with these kids. As I worked with the kids, I found that not only did I like most of them, but I also respected the vast majority of them, as they had real courage. They don’t comply with authorities whom they consider to be illegitimate and, most of the time, I concurred with their assessment. If they do respect an authority, they aren’t obnoxious and usually they clamor for adults whom they can respect and who genuinely respect them. Not only are these kids not mentally ill, many of them are what I consider to be the hope of the nation.
— 

Bruce E. Levine

How Psychologists Subvert Democratic Movements