Self-Criticism on Mental Health Services

(A self-criticism, for those not aware, is much on how it sounds: a criticism done by the person speaking as part of a ideological “cleansing” of mistaken attitudes, assumptions, and modes of thoughts upon the introduction of new facts which, upon introspection, dramatically alter the previously held conviction. In revolutionary China self-criticism was a manner for revolutionaries to engage in their mistaken assumptions and move beyond their hold, reactionary habits. Following in this manner I will be engaging my attitudes on the state and some of the mental health services offered by the state. This criticism will be terse as I wish to get into the meat of the idea)

This past summer I read through Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness. While the read was a fascinating insight into the Catholic Workers Movement, as well as its terrible politics as far as theism and industrialization was concerned, the one thing which I remember leaving an impression was how the radical Catholics shunned and actively fought against all forms of state aid, state services. At the time I argued against such a persuasion under the reasoning that any aid which assisted the working class in getting-by was something which should be preserved, so as long as the organization surrounding working class politics followed a revolutionary anti-capitalist line, I believed that state aid should be maintained. While I do not uphold the radical Catholic sentiment that humanity should begin a process of “returning to the earth” I have moved towards an embrace of leaving the care of individuals to the community itself, that medical, emotional, and psychological treatment is something best left to (1) a community of skilled professionals unaffiliated with the state apparatus, and (2) to the individual’s own preference on how to seek assistance when in need.

I now know my previous position to be reactionary and false: the existence of mental health services as they exist presently are to oppress and domineer communities of psychologically different persons;that, as odd as it sounds to say, the radical Catholics were correct in arguing against means of state aid which, when examined on the concrete, legitimatizes the state function (oppression, control, dependency, etc). In offering services attached to contracts, insurance, and a whole slew of red-tape and bureaucracy, the state is able to extend their power into the private sphere: re-definition of health, eligibility, and legality mark an intrusion into the personal lying beyond that of merely offering services. Take hospital procedure, as it is a perfect example of what I am discussing: upon evaluation, an evaluation that they create and are enabled to change, the state gives itself the authority to forcefully detain individuals who are deemed a “threat” to themselves or others; a major obstacle to someone who falls under the “needs some help” category but not the “needs a lot of help” category; if you need some help but do not wish to be held against your will and/or have a history which may hinder you in life advancement, then obviously you will not seek treatment. Such a decision will likely impact your happiness but, even so, it is something which must be maintained in order to peruse long-term happiness. Obviously the state is not interested in legitimating neutrals or grey areas. All is acclimated with the guiding principal of numbing control in mind. An alternative which presupposes anti-authoritarianism, as what would be observed in a socialist state, is something which is repugnant to the capitalist and bourgeois-oriented worker shuffling within the power systems of the ruling class.

The alternative, which presently does not exist, is to seek assistance in the community of individuals dedicated not to bourgeois fixations (control, imprisonment, criminalization, etc) but to actual existential, humane, betterment: in both subsistence and living. Therefore I am now able to see why the radical Catholics embraced an absolute opposition to such services on the grounds that these “options” are a thinly veiled disguise for authoritarianism but as well as a means of self-legitimization through propaganda (think of the constant repetition of the high number of “mentally ill” persons in jail and mental wards whenever the issue of prison abolishment is discussed) and control; why they sought to build grassroots communities built from the ground up within a alternative stemming more from use-value (mutual aid, self-determination, co-operative, etc) in opposition to the state’s exchange-value system of the prison-industrial and mental-health complexes.

My previous understanding of the state’s function I now understand to be idealist, reactionary, and counterrevolutionary. With the completion of this admittedly brief self-critique I hoped to have adequately tackled this lurid position. I feel like I have made a qualitative leap in terms of personal dialectics.

Future entries on this blog will build upon this new footing.

This understanding of facts does not alter my fundamental orientation: I still support the erection of a socialist state and I still believe in the necessity of this proletarian state offering the nucleus of such pivotal mental health services as a prelude to the dissolution of said socialist state into communism; the self-criticism here was focused entirely on bourgeois society and its intent on determining working class lives to serve capital accumulation.


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