Here is my itty-bitty contribution to Channel 4 Goes Mad season. 4Thought asked the question: 'What is Madness?' I could have talked for hours on the subject, but if fact the producer didn't want me to answer it but tell my story in a minute and a half. I would have liked longer to qualify some of what I said, but here it is www.4thought.tv/themes/what-is-madness/dolly-sen.
What has been interesting about the 4thought this week, when it poses that question is the debate it has brought up amongst people who use mental health services themselves. Earlier on in the 4thought week there was a woman who talked about angels, and some people who use services didn't like it, that it showed hearing voices as a positive thing. What is really shocking is that so many people who hear voices and stuck in the system don't know that most voice hearers are not in the system. Romme and Esher did a study on it and they found the difference between the two groups was that those not in mental health services felt they were in control of their voices, whilst those who use the mental health sytem didn't feel in control.
Here is the angel lady's contribution www.4thought.tv/themes/what-is-madness/rosemarie-moore--2
I know this slot of the lady talking about angels would be very useful in my training around mental health to explore: What is mental health? Because this woman is probably mentally healthier than most people, in that she may be happy, contented, and feel connected to the world. It would start a discussion around hearing voices, and the fact most people don't know that most voice hearers are not in the mental health system, and most voice hearers have helpful, supportive voices. So when is the point that mh professionals deem it pathological? Because the evidence shows pathologising it is a sure way of people suffering more because of it. In societies where voice hearing is acceptable, it has a higher 'recovery' rate. It also opens up the question: what is delusion? Because a Gallup poll in 1995 found 70% people believe in aliens and 31% believed in ghosts. This is an unusual belief but a socially acceptable belief, which brings up the question: how much of psychiatry is based on judgment and social policing than on 'illness'. Believers of God think atheists are deluded, and it is true the other way round. The discussions out of that minute and a half clip can inexorably change and make people questions their beliefs around mental health. And that is a good thing.
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Powerpoint is probably one of the most unsubversive mediums around, it is used 40,000 times a day to tell people what to do, I thought I would reverse the trend a tiny bit by creating a subversive powerpoint.
It all came about when I was part of the Sync Leadership www.syncleadership.com and coaching scheme. It really helped me find my focus regarding my arts practice. I was asked to do a presentation at a conference on my subversive career, and Sarah Pickthall, my coach, loved the idea of the powerpoint to accompany it, because she knew I would think it my moral duty to subvert such a dull medium, so here it is!
Well, have been away a while, but this is the year my soul felt like it was dying. By virtue of having a job and the expectation of me to be 'normal', when normality feels like a barbed-wire enema, is sucking the soul out of me. It just grinds on my values. Of course, not all mad people are sensitive, free-thinking people, but I think quite a few are and are being punished for their reactions to a venal, judgemental world. To me, someone yelling to people in a bank that they won't find their souls in there isn't cause for a Section 136; it is a truth people don't want to look at, lest they go mad.
So to counteract that world, I have come up with an alternative set of commandments. There was no burning bush to inspire, but some burnt toast as an outcome of scribbling this down.
The Mad 10 Commandments
1. Thou shalt not kill free thought
2. Do not worship the ratrace
3. Keep Black Sabbath on your turntable
4. Do not make meds your idol
5. Do not fuck people over
6. Honour your soul and the souls of others
7. Do not steal these commandments; they are copyrighted ;-)
8. Do not lose your sense of humour
9. Do not covet normality
10. Do not follow commandments
Dolly Sen is a visual artist, writer, film-maker, and performer interested in non-consensual reality, outsidership, empathy, authenticity and absurdity.You can find her website at http://www.dollysen.com
I actually don't like mind normal people, I just don't like normal fundamentalists. I published this a few years back, and the hatemail I got because of it astounded me. How dare I make fun of normal people, although these labels of 'mad' and 'normal' are invented labels and human being is good enough for everyone. Or that I am satirising the unthinking tenets of what normality seems to be.
What is Mad Culture?
It is a celebration of the creativity of mad people, and pride in our unique way of looking at life, our internal world externalised and shared with others without shame, as a valid way of life.
It is an acknowledgement that we are reacting to a society that is scared of us and will hijack our art and literature once our artists and writers are dead and therefore deemed safe and easy to control, corrupt and capitalise.
Our culture is that we have control of our lives without being brutalised by a psychiatric system that wants us to conform to an ideal of normality that doesn’t exist anyway. It is challenging the idea that madness is something to be hidden; it realises that visibility counts in order to break the stigma that has a stranglehold over every single mad person alive today. Mad Culture is saying, ‘Yes, yes!” to life even if embarrasses the ‘normals’.
Mad Culture is saying: I won’t hold your sanity against you. My reality is good enough. Is yours? Not all mad people are artistic, some are quite happy to be accountants, and I don’t think mad accountants should be discriminated against.
We are already an alienated sector of society, in fact the most alienated sector of society. We are not full members of this society or culture and that is not going to change without us changing it. Because why is it in their interest to change what makes them feel comfortable and superior. So in that sense we need to create our own culture in which we feel comfortable in. Some would argue that leads to separation, but we are separate. Where does madness fit in ‘normal culture’?
We are the untouchables. Only fit enough to work in sheltered workshops, to be cleaners, media scapegoats and to paint multi-million pound masterpieces. Put simply, in this present culture we have victim status; in our culture, we are just ourselves. WE want a culture that doesn’t produce a suicide every 40 seconds.
Why have pride about suffering distress, some may say? It’s not about that. It is pride in our strength to survive that distress and what it teaches us, and not to feel like lesser beings because of it, and to question why we feel lesser beings because of it, to question that madness is an illness and not a human response to a sick society, a sick upbringing.
Can you imagine a world without music, art, dance and drama? It would be an empty, bland place. So why is the world without your music, art, dance and drama? If life is a stage, is yours worth watching? What would make the show better? Can we change the ending? Or make it a better story? Culture is letting us tell the story not them – it is as simple as that.