I have come to believe that one can learn more about on the ground social realities from personal stories than the news media or researched academic books. In fact, one could take this argument farther and suggest sometimes true reality may be more hidden in fiction or comedic insights than it is in the cultural delusions of propagandized consensus realities.
This is partly an expose the cultural delusions that persist in spite of research and media; and partly, stories about the way politics, egos, and notions of progress distort policy and research to harm the vulnerable.
It will shed light on the way cultural delusions associated with race, mental illness and the prison industry conspire to put many invisible individuals out on the streets. But, also, it is a story about how I have witnessed a political machine.
Many of us trust the news media, reporters, and academic researchers to understand what is going on in the world. They are supposed to be properly educated and conduct reliable research with integrity. However, one could read them all day and not realize how delusional one is becoming. And so, in the later part, I share story.
It’s true aspects of my career as a social worker has been about demystifying my own cultural delusions about myself. I wrote a memoir about surviving a schizophrenia diagnosis in which I learned not to let cultural delusions turn me into a statistic.
This one is eventually the story of how despite my vision and best efforts, I am watching cultural delusions harm the community that sustained me in my recovery.
How Knowledge About Cultural Delusions Becomes Part of Recovery from Psychosis:
Once Bruce Springsteen wrote, “Man, the poets out here don’t write anything at all, they just stand back and let it all be.” I pose that he was depicting a reality that afflicts many people, the reality of black-market America that just isn’t supposed to exist. People don’t typically write about it because if they out people, they will be killed, or blacklisted. Hence public figures like the rapper, Tupac, the investigative journalist, Gary Webb, and the author/pimp, Iceburg Slim, do not survive.
Cultural delusions aren’t supposed to exist. And yet I’d argue that recovery from mental health challenges, in particular recovery from psychosis and trauma, often involve insights into aspects of black-market, covert intelligence, abusive systems, and gaining psychological and spiritual (multidimensional) insight into reality.
Learning when and where to talk about these realities versus when to keep silent is a lot of what mental health survivors must learn. Getting these things right is kind of what parents and their family’s go through trying to maintain the secret of Santa Claus for a six-year-old-child. You’ve got to keep the mainstream sheltered like you have to shield the child.
So, many of us are left to investigate: what came first, the doobie, or Scooby-Doobie-Doo? We wake up at some point and realize that the Dodge Ram brand on our American automobiles is really a picture of fallopian tubes!
I must admit I often feel like I am the last one to get these jokes. I am the kind of guy (brought up to respect the banjo) who never realized that the Mummer’s parade can function thematically as a clan rally. It took me forty-seven years, the comments of a co-worker, and a quick look-see on Wikipedia to put that one together.
Not only must people in mental health warehousing learn to observe and make sense of these realities, they must learn to accept all that they have perceived isn’t safe to talk about. Instead, they must learn to manage their behavior in entry-level jobs where they may earn slave wages. Building social skills in such settings is so hard that many give up.
I know because I went through it. I imagine it is a lot like what people who get out of a prison gang go through. I was a piece of human traffic working in an Italian Delicatessen under mafia surveillance. I had to learn to mix with adolescent kids who disrespected and targeted me. Until I adjusted, I could not move on to bigger and better things.
Reflections on How the Marriage Between the Black-Market and Law Enforcement Works:
Many can learn about how powerful black marketeers operate by studying the trial of South Boston’s Whitey Bulger. The simultaneous cooperation of FBI agents and black marketeers is necessary for information and crime reduction. So many Netflix series are about this very conceivable reality. And yet the idea that this need for information marries law enforcement to criminal enterprise is reserved for conspiracy theorists. Still, way back in the 60’s, in an attempt to kill Fidel Castro, JFK turned to Chicago mafia hit men to do the job. This wasn’t declassified until 2007. Imagine what is going on now!
I also believe this happens with prison gangs. I believe prison gangs are a means of surveillance that help control the black market and reduce killing. Though lifetime members must comply or have their families killed, though many must endure lock up and slavery, it is functional as long as the mainstream remains deluded and doesn’t understand.
So, the government works the black-market trade. Hence, it’s conceivable that a great deal of our nation’s surveillance and control is wrangled that way. Like rapper KRS-One suggests in the early nineties, “with all this technology above and under, humanity still hunts down one another.”
Getting out of a prison gang means you have to give up your connection to power and money and go protective custody. This means you run the risk of getting hurt once you are freed. You must passively see and understand what could happen to you and have faith that you will not be killed. You have to be strong enough to be called a snitch or a pedophile and get no respect to get out of the machine. You will be isolated and suffer and when you get out all you have in the world is family support. Many who get out of prison end up homeless once free.
One of the “delusions” I had at the Italian Deli was that people thought I was a pedophile. Then one day I learned that that very rumor was being spread about me far and wide. One day a police man tailed me all the way to my psychotherapy appointment. This continued for several years. Not everyone in the Italian Delicatessen was in the know, but to this day, I believe that some were. I was left to connect the dots.
Here you see the way I have connected them since.
I eventually resigned to take medication to calm my emotions so that I could cope. Until I did calm down and make friends with my bullies, I was unable to find other work.
So often, those of us who must share housing and jobs with people who are connected to black market realities, need to understand how to integrate their cultural experience with cultural delusions. There still are Eurocentric notions of a fair and just society that must be maintained.
The Challenges of Researching Invisibility:
As I’ve already inferred, there are the challenges that come up when people try to research black market realities. Before we delve into stories of political corruption in statistics and in social programs, I am going to shed light onto an aspect of this challenge that might sound paranoid.
Secret government testing can become a legitimate concern in an invisible community. It is not just the Tuskegee covert syphilis experiments on innocent African Americans! Consider more intelligence released about the sixties, that under JFK secret syphilis tests were given to Honduran prisoners. This not only means that other countries may use our social institutions for testing it means that black markets and government surveillance can too. These are things many Americans would think sounds paranoid. But I want to point out that it’s easy to say these concerns are paranoid until you get incarcerated into them with your habeas corpus suspended.
Consider the Rosenburg experiments. Volunteers without psychosis lied and said that they heard innocuous voices. They got admitted and came out with real schizophrenic delusions. Then, consider how the famous study has been discredited. The research, we later find out was created to amplify Rosenburg’s personal experience in the mental health system.
It’s amazing the things we believe when they come from research. Meanwhile, real experiences on involuntary units paint a different picture of institutional authority and justice.
I believe people who are buried as such wouldn’t chance to answer a questionnaire for an ivy league research project. They wouldn’t trust the study enough to fill out the questionnaire. I sure wouldn’t have when I was incarcerated in Montana State Hospital.
When I was in Montana State Hospital, I would have said anything that would have led to my release. For example, I told staff that I would never toque refer but that I would sniff heroin and smoke crack. I was so turned around with the cast of characters I was surrounded by, I thought that the admission might get me released.
Eleven years later I would try to conduct such research on a shoe-string budget from an Innovations Grant I wrote, during a side gig. The majority of the program participants—many were people in psychosis on the streets and in board and care homes. The majority also refused to complete the paper work. I found this to be most noteworthy though admittedly not statistically significant.
I point this out before I tell my stories of politics and corruption in research. Remember, research and media is the stuff we trust in lieu of the black market. Distorted and warped studies from academia seem to drive all the funding.
How Legal and Illegal Crimes of Humanity Conspire to Put the Invisible Out on the Streets:
When I suggest cultural delusions conspire to put people on the streets, I am not only talking about black market crime. There is so much more to crime than the pipeline to prison. There are many different kinds of money for nothing enterprises
Many privileged-folk get to lead “productive” lives in which they take in more than they give. Many grow up and realize there is the whole phenomenon of easy money and class entitlement is ruled by stock brokers and family inheritance.
I have learned to accept that people who turn to fast street cash are making a very similar ethical decision than people who accept family money from capital gains. However, fast street money leads to violence, death, jail, stigma, and slavery rather than delusions of superiority and entitlement.
Let us not forget that there are a lot of businesses illegal and legal that deal with issues of human bondage, arms, crime cleaning, and sex, and drug trafficking etcetera.
I believe that the mental health industry is just one of those machines that deals with bondage because of the false medicalization of its illnesses and the trauma that it imposes. Consider the salary of top administrators who decide how to disperse funds with academic statistical research. Through layers of bureaucracy, each well-to-do layer of management ends up wrangling the person below them. If you don’t think this sounds realistic, read on and you will get a feel for how cultural delusions, slander, and politics distort statistics.
At the bottom, the often poorly paid entry-level master level social worker takes home the majority of the funds that trickle down. The poor are left homeless or in board and care homes. They are the ones who are the most nickel and dimed.
At the top sit educated people with six-digit salaries. They may be there because they endure mental health struggles. They also may not have experienced the same playing field as those they nickel and dime. At the bottom, many want to work but many are too intimidated by the amount of paperwork and organization it takes to maximize the income. They often are taught they can’t do it by people who profit off them. They hate the machine and find other ways to make ends meet.
Zoning creates culturized class, race, and sex wars. Those who live by stocks and bonds instead of violence get the ability to protect and insulate themselves with very different kinds of compassionate police forces. Then, there is this ridiculous notion of a work ethic that persists. Those who work hard are supposed to get more? Is that a joke? Those who aren’t so fortunate must live within task force zones that are less entitled and lawful.
Personal Stories that Speak to the Power of Corruption in Research and Policy:
So now I shift from expose to personal stories about politics, bureaucracy and corruption in community mental health.
The Outpatient Unit where I work is one of those places about which the poets don’t write about. Academic books, and the news media just don’t capture the level of oppression that I see on a daily basis. These stories end up being among our national secrets. Many people would just presume they are delusional.
Many of the people I work with have been homeless and are now housed in substandard circumstances. Many use the program to deal with how things improved from times they were on the streets. Others endure these realities with the support of their peers who they call their family. Still some others stay stuck in those dilemmas and endlessly “yes” the staff just to keep us off their backs. All are accepted and given a chance to socialize. Some do it by sharing shorts (cigarette butts) on the sidewalks. It is illegal to smoke on the campus.
These are the stories I’ve studied over eighteen years. And, yes, I do believe all of them to be real to a certain extent. Indeed, there has been a shift in my understanding of the world.
I am working with all the people we all agree shouldn’t have guns: the whistleblowers, the scapegoats, the burned mafia spies, the substance abusers, the bullied and abused, the saints, the orphans and the prophets. Most are just plain broke and stranded.
Twelve years ago, once properly credentialed, I started using my own story of “psychosis” in my work. I started to notice a shift in the way I serviced people on the unit. I went from providing services that seemed to be going nowhere, to introducing the concept of recovery to participants. I went from boring and flat interactions to live and industrious ones.
As time wore on, I started to develop a different vision for what it should mean to participate in mental health services. For those participants really buried in institutionalized circumstances, participating in mental health services needs to also lead to opportunities for a better life. It needs to lead to money and purpose.
The Man Who Warned Me Not to Go:
It may sound sorry, but I’ve always felt extremely guilty with the salary I make. Although I initially had to work seven days a week with side gigs to get out of my homeless financial hole and get my license, I did get my weekends back within four short years.
Once I started to get away from work, I found myself struck with guilt. I was able to backpack and meet my wife and have a social hiking hobby while the people I worked for remained confined in their board and care homes in the inner city.
My conflict escalated to the point where I decided to take a new job at a lower salary.
I still remember one of the men who particularly benefitted from the groups I entitled Special Messages. These were groups that collectively explored the content and varieties of experiences that lead to psychosis. He would tell his story weekly in the crowded room and always said my adding and reframes were helpful. He pleaded with me not to leave.
You’ve got a good thing going here,” he said “Why leave?”
I felt he didn’t understand the way he was getting sold short. The facility I would be moving into was beautiful and clean. No more urine stains from the urinal to the bathroom drain to step over for those of us with mental health challenges. No, we can work and bring each other along to the point where we can get back off the streets.
But even though the owner of the new company that would be underpaying me brought her Doberman in to the interview with me, I really didn’t understand the bee hive I was stepping into.
Witnessing Confabulation of Tabulation in A Real Government Experiment:
A year-and-a-half later, I would return to the old backward publicly disgraced and outed as a schizophrenic. Previous to this, I really didn’t understand that politics, ego trips, and personal vendettas result in cooked-book-research.
Politics too will distort any effort to research what the poets can’t even dare to write about. I will also demonstrate how little research matters when it comes to policy towards our society’s vulnerable.
The job for was an expensive government study involving all county agencies. My efforts to examine the result have been fruitless. I suspect the info got classified. At least, it’s not available online. This government experiment used three evidence-based practices to transform the county into the recovery model.
We all agree it didn’t work. I personally felt there were a lot of stubborn non recovery attitudes to disrupt recovery. There were also a great deal of politics and people fighting to keep their jobs.
Sure, the clients answered the questionnaires, provided by peer counselors. They had to because they gained housing subsidies. They were gently coaxed into it, but it is not clear they felt safe to tell the truth.
I wasn’t interviewed about the lies and corruption I witnessed.
I worked sixty-hour weeks and believe the lady with the Doberman had my head on the chopping block from the get go because we didn’t agree about race. I refused to side with her and say that race doesn’t matter.
Despite what I believe to be high level of productivity in the statistics, my role in the project was targeted.
The lady with the Doberman was supposedly removed from the scene by her husband, the CEO; but she clearly kept the program director in her pocket. The program manager let me know that she was doing this with a crooked smile. “Jeez you’re running this whole department for so long, why don’t they just hire you into the position,” she once snidely suggested.
I was hired as a second administrator but shortly after I started the top administrator stopped coming into work. It’s true I never ceased to lobby that our workers should get paid more due to the cost of housing in the area. The company was a corporate model, aimed to extract money, not bring justice to any locale.
Meanwhile, the director had repeatedly gone after me. She appeared to judge many of my experiences. One day she called me Stuart Smalley. I didn’t know who he was yet. Everyone laughed. There were signs of this bullying all along, but I pressed forward.
One day I was called away for a supervision meeting and I heard her exclaimed in multidisciplinary training that the learning center was not safe under my leadership.
I failed to hospitalize a client. At a certain point I did call the cops, but he split. I pressed on with the supervision meeting feeling things were rotten in the state of Denmark.
In the meantime, she was setting me up behind the scenes with Ph.D. workers. I had challenged them that taking psychiatric medication was more complicated than insulin for diabetes. I guess they found that to anti-science. They conspired and cooked up the false accusations that I was antipsychiatry without knowing that I in fact take medication.
Not long after, a whole table of providers conspired and confronted me. It wasn’t the first time I was confronted in a terrifically irrational manner under the director’s leadership. Before, she suggested that I let myself be bullied. But this time the one worker who disagreed with how I was being scapegoated got written up and eventually fired.
The program director would eventually suggest that I wasn’t well enough to work with the public. It was more appropriate for me to work just auditing charts.
But before I knew this, my power was taken away by a new supervisor, a company hack. She started challenging all things I said in front of the frontline workers. She micromanaged, but wouldn’t respond to phone calls. I couldn’t even send a sick person home.
The peer workers stopped being productive and the stats tanked. Then, they could justify demoting me.
Back in the Community with The Man Who Warned Me:
When I returned to the unit, my proud friend would refuse to return to my group. I just hadn’t realized how much I broke his heart with my effort to lead a more just and equitable existence. I think I just hadn’t understood that I was telling him that he didn’t matter by leaving.
His primary belief about himself was that he was a safe vigilante who went to great lengths to use his premonitions to bring safety and prevent crimes. He was the most beautiful singer. All I did for him in the end was tell him he didn’t matter.
Maybe in a sense, he had just been trying to save me.
Years later the man ran away from his board and care. He stopped taking his medication and returned to the streets. It was the Trump presidency. There was a massive increase in Oakland homelessness. Tech-company-tent-encampments dominated the meridians throughout the city.
One morning, I found him posturing out in front of the hospital on my way to work. I stayed with him for over a half an hour hoping he would crack and acknowledge me. But I had broken his heart and he would never forget it.
The Ongoing Saga: How Clandestine Academic Power Then Trumped Our Community:
Eight years after I returned to work at this community that nurtured me back from my own challenges, it is on the chopping block. Participants are not only losing their community because of COVID, though it clearly has helped leadership.
One day it was announced a year ago that our programs were no longer profitable. This claim was clearly cooked up with a confabulation of tabulation. We fought with the support of our manager.
Management then announced that the programs were going to consolidate. Thus, the majority of our program which is African American, was going to have to integrate with the majority Caucasian program or lose their services.
This announcement caused counselors of color and one of our managers to leave. Though this announcement got retracted, all the therapists who left were not replaced.
Eventually we were taught a new word, “Population Health.”
Instead of serving the more chronically ailing permanently disabled population, “population health” ensures everyone gets equitable health care options. This meant the more chronic population has to lose services, so more chronically normal people can get them.
But the way they got me was that management also wanted to staff the unit with peer counselors instead of clinical therapists
I advocated for years to get peer counselors accepted into the community. For two years I had peer counseling interns and proved to my colleagues the value that working peers could bring. Still the concept of peer counselors was introduced like it was a new idea.
Then, all the upper management had to do was replace the rock-solid manager and they had things their way.
A union battle has been mounted by our sister program, the one that doesn’t serve the inner-city clientele.
Meanwhile the news came that the company manager over behavioral health was hired in the top position over at the county.
Now we hear from our manager that the county is promising to pay for a new population health recovery program.
In the end the story seems pretty clear:
We workers are unionized and the management had to get around the union. It appears all moves were basically are set up to break the union and justify the consolidation of programs.
In the process, the remaining therapists left are white, except for the interim manager. Thus, the African American majority might become replaced.
Throughout, the new decision makers are doctors in ambulatory care, who know nothing about mental health and don’t seem to have consideration for our vulnerable community. They think that they are doing what is best for society.
Was there some other force in the county who set up the take down our program? The confabulation of the tabulation is so clearly delusional yet extremely powerful.
Meanwhile there is a company-wide strike over the union contract.
Our CEO gets removed over this.
There is a presidential election.
Now we are all waiting to see if American Democracy is legitimate anymore or if Trump will incite a coup.
The Impact of Social Change:
The changes in the community with the loss of so many therapists of color caused a great deal of destabilization and many clients quit.
Let’s say they were right! I was making to much money in the old model. Couldn’t they find a way to do this that didn’t harm the community for whom we care? It becomes about political policy and agenda.
I know many people don’t care about the vulnerable. Even though all of thirty percent of the county voted for Trump, cultural delusions are strong!
Where is the media to alert the public on this matter?
Our union representative has depicted our workers as sitting idle while I am to busy working my ass off to engage in politics. They were going to let us talk to the press and I agreed. But then they wanted to coach us. Then, they changed their minds.
The confabulation of tabulation means the city goes to population heath and gentrification.
I sit stupefied, torn and hating myself as I watch this happen. I am a believer in peer services and have been so busy working as a buffer for the clients that I serve, that some may accuse me of looking the other way.
No longer do I get to do my special group. Perhaps it is fitting that all my work gets buried so “progress” can happen. Eight years ago, I taught my client that he didn’t matter and now I am treated like I don’t matter.
Maybe I won’t get fired and rehired at a low wage and without benefits, as I fear. Maybe a majority of our remaining community members will be able to make adjustments after COVID and there will be a smooth transition.
Our managers hold the research and statistically based evidence-based practice information. They might as well own history! When you control history, you can create any policy you want. And the news media is not active or just listening to our union.
Will there be anyone to pay attention to the stories and lives of my clients and the thousands of new invisible faces of people on the streets? The plan for years has been to ship them down to south county.
Oh, how much better the modern world would be if it just listened and learned from the heroic journey of the vulnerable.
The status quo appears to be pouring salt in the wound of the vulnerable until they die. That is what happens when we all fall for the cultural delusions of race, mental illness and the prison industry!
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
That’s a whole lot of truth.
Thanks Bernie, I appreciate you so much. I miss El Cerrito and it’s too bad we never got together. I hope all is well at KP.