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December 2009

Henry Giroux: Reclaiming Public Values in the Age of Casino Capitalism

In the last decade, the representative functions of democracy have not only taken a steep dive in light of a political system, the policies of which are shaped by powerful corporations and the imperatives of the rich, but also made largely dysfunctional because of a sham electoral system intimately tied to wealth and power. The dominant media largely functions as a form of moral anesthesia and political firewall that both legitimates a ruthless and failed free-market system, while failing to make visible the workings of a casino capitalism that rejects as a weakness any measure of compassion, care, trust and vulnerability.


In the wake of the Senate's vote on health care this morning, Henry Giroux's article helped me organize my swirling thoughts about the state of American politics and culture here in the last days of 2009.

Long article, but a good read.

t r u t h o u t | US Kids Represent Psychiatric Drug Goldmine

The path to child drugging in the US started with providing adolescents with stimulants for ADHD in the early 80s. That was followed by Prozac in the late 80s, and in the mid-90s drug companies started claiming that ADHD kids really had bipolar disorder, coinciding with the marketing of epilepsy drugs as "mood stablizers" and the arrival of the new atypical antipsychotics.

Parents can now have their kids declared disabled due to mental illness and receive Social Security disability payments and free medical care, and schools can get more money for disabled kids. The bounty for the prescribing doctors and pharmacies is enormous and the CEOs of the drug companies are laughing all the way into early retirement.


This is the third article I've seen this week on kids and psychiatric drugs. I'll try to update with some links later today. This is such an important issue. As a psychotherapist I have seen much to be questioned about wholesale drugging of children, especially poor kids and children of color.

Here's some links to recent articles. The first one was published yesterday in the New York Times. The others are older ones from the websites of the Alliance for Human Research Protection and the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology:

Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

Health Risks of Antipsychotics for Children

Pharma and US Government Promoting Assault on America's Children

Children Rx ADHD Drugs 7.4 Times Increased Risk of Sudden Death

U.S. Government Mental Screens/Preemptive Interventions = Eugenics All Over Again

Psychostimulants in the Treatment of Children with ADHD

Freedom to Speak and Power Struggles in the Coalfields

Lots of email today about the inspiring rally to save Coal River Mountain held yesterday in West Virginia. If you were able to see or hear any of it, you may also be aware of a counter-rally aimed at disrupting those speaking against mountaintop removal by repeated blasting from coal truck horns.

Janet Keating of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) sent the following message and photo:

"Those of us who attended the Save Coal River Mountain rally on Dec. 7 were "treated' to the blaring coal truck horns throughout the time we were there.  When one coal truck decided to come down the alley adjacent to our speakers' podium, OVEC's Vivian Stockman saw what was about to happen, and stopped him.  I didn't know this had happened until after event and thought you might want to see this non-violent act of courage.  The police finally intervened and made the truck leave."


Vivian Stockman Just Saying "No" to a Coal Truck (Photo by Linda Frame, West Virginia Citizen Action Group)

I heard some of this honking as I listened to an audio stream of the rally via Head on Radio Network. Perhaps even more awesome than the noise was that fact that one or two of the speakers used the opportunity to interrupt their own speech to say "Honk if you love mountains!" into the mike. It kind of reminded me of various martial arts that teach students to use an opponent's own aggression to disable the attacker.

Thinking about these noise attacks at the rally, I was reminded that many of my coalfield allies -- including many there yesterday -- had suffered similar attempts to prevent them from speaking at public hearings on the proposed suspension of the Nationwide Permit 21 by the US Army Corps of Engineers in October. And beyond the coalfields, of course, we had a whole summer of attacks against freedom of speech in shout-a-thons at town hall meetings across the country.

Reflecting on all of this, I was struck with a fair amount of fascination and curiosity that so many people are choosing to cut off another person's ability to speak and be heard as a primary tactic of opposition these days.

In this moment of questioning, a door seemed to open briefly upon the depths of humanity's collective soul, and I understood that what we're seeing here has very deep roots, and speaks to an ancient fundamental fracture in ways of relating to each other and to the Earth. I know it will take much more time for me to explore this idea, but I have a couple of thoughts to get myself started -- inspired by speakers I heard yesterday and by Vivian's act to defend a space to speak for other citizens gathered at the rally.

In my spiritual tradition, our capacity to speak (as well as our capacity to move) is said to be connected with the throat chakra, our energetic or spiritual center of power. It's no coincidence that when people find their voice and can speak out to others about their life experience, they say they feel empowered. When some people try to shut other people up -- with truck horns, threats of violence or whatever -- what's being enacted is a power struggle of some kind.

This is not some big mystical secret: if you have ever had the experience of being silenced by another, you know in mind, body and soul that it feels like all your power was sucked right out of you. Fortunately, nobody can ever really destroy our spiritual power, and we learn how to protect ourselves or reconnect or recenter ourselves in it.

Power, of course, can be horded and misused. Humankind has a long sad history of this. Part of our collective healing process, I think, will be rooted in development of our capacity not only to speak the truth but to hear all other voices.

Power struggles are interesting. Things are often not what they seem. Ultimately we may discover that it's the folks yelling, screaming and blasting their horns to shut us up that were the most disempowered of all.