300 years of it and as long as I can still count
the painful steps of slippage upon life's rocky mount
They mined my way with razors that should have been
used to shave a psychiatry so unclean
Merely calling all this a label
is outrage sandwiched between obscene
You Told Me
(Dedicated to my many shrinks.)
you told me i was ill
so i felt sick
what if it was you
who was too goddamn thick
to tolerate a soul in turmoil
from all the forces
here at play
in this crazy world
someone has to say
that narrow minded bigots
practicing thought control
with drugs and shock
can put you in a hole
from which there's no retrieval
till you're also in one of dirt
my hand is reaching up
to pull you in
you'll 'help' no more
you quasi-medical pervert
Used with permission
In his review of a book by Marty Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel in the January 13, 1993 Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirsch claims that Abbie died "the victim of a mental illness that may have prompted his many pranks in the first place," and describes him as suffering from "bipolar disorder." Thus, the political activist who was once Abraham Maslow's student and the court jester of the counterculture is explained away by the medical model. I must confess that I suffer from the same disease. But there is a cure, as the following poem reveals.
I have a vexing problem with
a dread disease that is no myth.
I get upset by world events,
by suffering and sad laments,
by children starving in the east
while richer folk carouse and feast.
Genetically I am impaired
and far too often have despaired
about our inhumanity,
thus showing my insanity.
My saner friends don't sadly dwell
on how the earth resembles hell.
Their biochemistry is fine,
while mine is more like turpentine.
Their neurons fire the way they should,
while I have never understood
the way the world is organized,
and so I always am surprised
by horrors others take in stride,
by innocence still crucified.
While cheerful folk feel they are blessed,
I'm pathologically depressed.
But there is hope, my doctor swears,
new wonder drugs to ease my cares.
He'll fix my too empathic brain,
he'll make my sick synapses sane.
My mental illness can be cured
and all the anguish I've endured
will no more plague my deranged head,
and my compassion will be dead.
Journal of Humanistic Psychology,
Vol. 35 No. 1, Winter 1995.
I. The Current Conditions
The tropical forests burn, topple.
The bare, stark hills are clearcut,
We are short of oxygen.
The savannahs are barren wastes.
Wild primates are endangerered.
The whales are shadows, half forgotten in a misty dream.
Bones of slaughtered elephants litter the barren savannahs from which alleged homo sapiens emerged determined to plunder and dominate all things animate and inanimate.
Smokestacks spew contaminants into the general air.
The rivers seethe and smoke with offal and carcinogens.
Plutonium rains from the clouds.
Exhaust fumes punch holes in the sky's protective shield.
No wilderness remains untainted.
Even remotest forest trails evidence the ugly traffic of man: used condoms, paper cups, beer cans, liquor bottles...
They have confined nature to a few acres of landscaped greenery along the asphalt highways.
Sad-eyed monkeys in zoos, our next of kin,
Stare through the bars and fences
Incuriously. They are inmates of
what their captors have called progress.
The habitat cannot support diversities of life.
The time of the talking ape presages perhaps the end of all life
On this formerly habitable planet.
II. How Psychiatry Helps Us In this Time of Emergency
You, Herr Pscyhiatrist, are a talking ape.
Your kind, the violent and powerful among us, have brought this ruin upon us
And upon the children yet to come.
You have diguised your purposes under a mantle of authority.
You have silenced the less aggressive of the species.
You have made mourning the earth, our matrix, a shameful act.
You have made madness a thing to control with drugs
Because the mad might talk about the choices we must make
If we are to procreate responsibly...as opposed to
Mindlessly begetting and filling the planet
With more hot, hungry, ever-multiplying flesh
Eager to exploit the dwindling resources.
Who will listen to the mad? You remove their choices.
You remove the choices of everyone in doing so.
Why, some mad prophet might arise to declare
The great ruler of the civilized world is only
A talking killer ape with rape, self-service and domination on his mind...
Of course they are sad, the ones you imprison and drug stupurous.
You put them in cages, too. You say they are dangerous and subhuman,
Alien, because they do not dance to your
Weird music, your vague abstractions, your outlandish theories.
The world is no place for generating children.
Five billion beings called human
Exploit and drain already thin resources
And its leaders move to prohibit birth control
While its doctors move to lengthen life
And its lawmakers declare suicide...
One of the few remaining free-will choices...
Against the laws of this talking ape...
The culture deluded and in denial
Trusting technology or an improbable god from the machines
To intervene before the talking apes
Despoil the habitat beyond the point of no return.
A talking ape with laws:
Not rational laws, reality-based laws...
Laws framed out of dogma and drivel
To promote the immediate welfare of
The most powerful, the wealthiest talking apes
While the weak ones groan under the weight of oligarchical oppressions.
An ape by any other name would behave no differently
Playing out the dominance and control scenarios
Of its ancestors with no thought for consequences.
A talking ape with long-range weapons
Who shuns reality:
This is no world for new children. A few generations hence
Men and women will live like rats in sewers,
Scavenging for scraps...
When the ocean dies, the current life forms, too,
Will fail. Even those your superior genes produce
Will partake of the failure.
Maybe your descendants, Herr Psychiatrists, will be among the creatures foraging for crumbs and garbage to survive in the days when the oceans yield only pollution to contaminated skies.
So, tell me, Herr Psychiatrist,
Who is in denial of reality?
Tell me again, Herr Psychiatrist.
Hearing a talking ape
Utter "should" and "ought" and "will"
And "out of touch with reality"
in an obviously dying world