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A Can of Madness
A Can of Madness is an extraordinarily honest and vivid autobiography on living with manic depression. more
The Naked Bird Watcher
An ingenious account of that explains how psychiatry is based on supposition, by an American psychiatrist. This book will be a pioneering educational tool for the British Mental Health Movement. more

book extract

Eyes Wide Open
Eyes Wide Open:

A Second Manifesto for the 21 st Century

A full three decades ago, I learned something in my class on infant psychology at a major university.

The professor was great—ardent and intelligent, trained at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center, one of the most prestigious university spots in the academic world of child development. He was actively involved in researching infant life and experience. I learned that newborns could not focus their eyes for a while after birth, a couple of days more or less. I accepted this along with all kinds of other valuable information in my quest to understand life, my life in particular.

That was 1974. Twelve years later, on August 31, 1986, I learned that my newborn son was intensely focused immediately upon entry from his mother’s womb into the world of air—eyes wide open, intense, and appearing angry after a very difficult struggle to get his big head through mother’s cervix. I, too, was wide open after one of the most awesome peak experiences of my life.

Eighteen years later, in 2004, I met one of my teachers for the first time, and heard a sentence that gave me a clear way to think about this business of focusing infants and other “things I learned at school.”

Thomas Szasz is the finest master of language and logic that I have met, particularly excelling in the art of creating aphorisms—short, pithy statements of truth. This day I listened to him speak on his chosen vocation, articulating the truth about psychiatry and our so-called mental health system. Dr. Szasz quoted American humorist Josh Billings’ quip that, “The problem is not that people don’t know anything, it’s that they know so many things that ain’t so!” (I have later learned from Leonard Roy Frank, editor of Random House Webster’s Quotationary, that this aphorism more likely came from Artemus Ward, who said that, “It's not so much what folks don't know that causes problems, it's what they do know that ain't so.” )

This essay is an effort to answer the question of how people know so much that ain’t so, and live in denial about what is. It is also a sequel to my first manifesto, written three years ago as a chapter in my book, True Nature and Great Misunderstandings, titled “A 21 st Century Manifesto for Parenting”


.That piece goes into some detail about our distressed society, and exhorts parents to protect their children from various traumas, such as unnecessary prenatal trauma, unnecessary birth trauma, circumcision, in-arms deprivation , unnecessary immunizations, toxic and unhealthy foods , separation from nature , TV and video, computers , a sedentary lifestyle , compulsive busyness, sleep deprivation, adultism, emotional suppression, condescension , chronic hopelessness, competition, militarism, unnecessary medical interventions, all psychiatric drugs, compulsory factory schooling, illiteracy, labels such as learning disabled (LD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a flawed view of human nature, and a parent unwilling to face their own traumas.

This sequel goes a step further, confronting the fact that however much we are able to protect our individual children from harm, it cannot be enough to ensure that they will have a future. Our world is in peril. Life forms are rapidly being extinguished, the environment is in grave danger of complete collapse, and so is the economy. Countless billions of our own human species are already suffering, and continuation of “our civilization’s “business as usual” can only have one outcome, and it is an ugly one.

Sadly, it is not enough to protect our own children. Unless we demand and create significant change at the level of our civilization, even our own loved and privileged children, and most definitely our children’s children’s children, will likely not survive at all. Certainly, they will experience a world of overwhelming toxicity and underwhelming biodiversity. The details to back up this sentence are readily available for those with eyes to see in abundant scientific descriptions. This essay explores the psychology of denial and expresses a call to action on behalf of all our children and ourselves.

On Seeing

I had another great teacher for a few years. His name was Russell Nees, and he was a remarkable man—a small town Texas minister for decades with an active and alive congregation, moving Christianity forward from fundamentalism to a living experience that God is love, and let your yea mean yes and your nay mean no, and other simple teachings of how to live a conscious life. In his later years, after his wife had died of cancer, Russell was part of a very small group that founded the Optimal Health Center, a raw food and juice fasting health spa, outside Austin, Texas. One of Russell’s greatest pleasures in life was to find what he called white crows, the notion being that one white crow disproved the notion that all crows are black. One person who could see at a distance, for example, or read the history of a place from a rock, showed that seeing was not strictly a function of our physical visual sensory apparatus, operating in present time.

Why do you think it was taught that infants couldn’t focus? Was my son, Eric, a white crow?

He was to me, for sure, but I think it had more to do with the fact that the science of child developmental psychology was seriously establishing itself about the time I was born, which was 1952. Part of that scientific process was to establish norms. Child developmentalists are very big on defining average, expected trends in growth and manifestation of body, mind and behavior. The upside of this basic notion is that we are encouraged not to have unrealistic expectations for our children, as in not expecting a baby to understand the logic of conservation of energy. The downside is reflected in rigid age graded segregation and the ubiquitous labeling of children as developmentally delayed and learning disabled because they do not read by age six.

There is another huge problem with the establishment of norms.

Simply put, it is that normal is not necessarily natural. During the Inquisition, it was normal to persecute women because “everyone knew” (at least everyone in power) that they were heretics. In Nazi Germany, it was normal to persecute Jews because “everyone knew” they were an inferior race. Today, it is normal for 15-20% of our population to take psychotropic drugs because “everyone knows” ADHD children need stimulant drugs, and depression is a chemical imbalance requiring serotonergic antidepressants.
How did it get to be normal for 1 out of 5 people to suffer from a biological or genetic defect that causes them to be failures in social adjustment? Someone has observed children and decided that the norm is to sit quietly and do your homework, and that to do otherwise is abnormal.



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