This post in part is a reaction to a phone conference I heard tonight that discussed racism and misogyny in the psychiatric survivor/peer community. That discussion was in part prompted by events of the past week but for many in this movement reflect longstanding concerns. The intent of this post is to describe some ideas that might prove helpful in building a more accountable community.
One core value of this movement is that the exploitation or injury of any person because of the power, status or social standing of another person is wrong. In every instance it is wrong.
There are no “wrong kind of people.” Many of us know first hand what it means to be treated as though we are that wrong person rather it be because of our skin color, our sex, our gender orientation, our ethnic background, our religious faith or any other characteristic or label that someone may attach to us. Many of us know the personal violence of psychiatric diagnosis and labels first hand. We have had the experience of being the “wrong” kind of person and because of that being treated as and told we were less than other people.
It is the fundamental value of this movement that we will not replicate that injury on each other. No one should fear for their safety, their dignity or place in this community. Our intent is to do no harm or allow harm to be done to others. Our conviction is that everyone matters, that everyone has worth and that conviction is the place from which we start not something that anyone must earn or get.
Not only will we not injure each other but we will not accept injury to others. If we should hurt others we expect to be held accountable for our behavior and others should expect that we will hold them accountable for their behavior.
When injury occurs our first concern will be for the safety and well being of the person injured. For any person to be held accountable for their behavior means to accept the obligation to do what they can do to repair the damage the damage done, to restore well being as possible except when that effort is likely to cause additional harm. The restoration of well being is based on the willingness and readiness of the person injured to feel ready to accept those efforts.
All of us have been injured and hurt. We have known trauma. We know what it means to be angry and rageful. We know what it means to be less than the person we hope or want to be. Yet no feeling, thought, or circumstances legitimize the injury of others and we realize that just as no one elses feelings do not legitimize their injury of us.
By the same token no one is a throwaway person. No one’s behavior should be the final verdict on their life. People who take accountability for their behavior should be given the chance to rebuild their trust with others if they wish to make a commitment to doing that.
Some values are antithetical to membership in this community. Racism, misogyny, or any form of prejudice is contrary to our fundamental values and vision of the kind of people we want to be with other people and want other people to be with us. We will not accept them as a legitimate part of this community and will confront them and hold behavior expressing them as inappropriate at every turn. A movement or community that expresses a commitment to human rights has no integrity or value unless the justice and well being of its members is assured and guarded.
Our intention is to build a community that offers each of us the support we need and helps us to give that support to others. We feel the possibility of a better life is real but know part of that is in the quality of the social connections we have with each other. We are human beings and will mess up often and frequently. We hope to build a process that however slowly or however painfully that allows us to build a movement that is a real source of change in the lives of many hurting people and one that helps to bring justice to a wider community that for too long had found it absent.