The Courage for Conflict by sociologist, Angela Kennedy
In response: M.E. and Political Conflict by William Bayliss
Shortlink for Post #4: http://wp.me/p7FYk-3a
The Courage for Conflict
By Angela Kennedy | 29 October 2004
AIDS advocacy is probably one of the greatest examples where courage to stand up and say “This is morally wrong”, and brave conflict and accusations of personal attack, has worked effectively for patient rights. Movements for social justice have historically only become effective when they have adopted adversarial positions towards those depriving them of that justice.
The issues around when does criticism become “personal attack” have not been tackled in either of these posts. What constitutes “healthy” disagreement (or “unhealthy” for that matter) has not been clarified either. The question (unanswered in these posts) also arises: when people who are supposed to be fellow advocates are sabotaging important progress, how do you refrain from conflict without acceding to the sabotage? Majority rule can become mob rule: put three Wessely proponent psychiatrists in a room against an ME/CFS sufferer and they will win the point that ME/CFS is a mental and behavioural disorder: it does not make them correct.
Kimberley McCleary cites another who claims that: “Communities of suffering (COS)* (and those at risk) deserve to have a “seat at the table” of research and public health policy decision making. There needs to be greater sensitivity to the etiological understandings of COS. On the other hand, communities of suffering also need to recognize that their etiological understandings may not be correct.”
The question is, how is “correct” decided? And by who? What happens is the “COS” AREcorrect, (as, for example, in the ME/CFS community’s critique of the inappropriate generalising of psychiatric/behavioural causation to the neurological disease ME/CFS WHO ICD-10 G93.3, by psychiatrists who have been researching on heterogeneous groups) and they are ignored by policy makers anyway?
There are some real problems with these posts. To conflict theorists (broadly those who study how unequal power relations work in societies, but out of concern to reduce the social and material inequalities of such power relations) they would appear very naive and extremely functionalist (broadly supporting of unequal power relations in society, believing they perform a necessary function). A façade of respectability and striving for harmony is being constructed in these posts: but even, for example, British and North American government politicians are allowed to be adversarial! How realistic is it to expect deep conflict and anger to be suppressed in the ME/CFS community, especially considering how deeply oppressed its members remain?
I think the ME/CFS community has some very hard questions to ask itself about power relations, both within the community itself, and those directed against the ME/CFS community. We have STILL not had the successes we desperately need: how long are people prepared to continue to be denied of these? These are important issues to consider: they are not rhetorical questions. Adversarial positions have arisen, not because we all want to be ‘rivals’ or enjoy conflict, but because our situation is so desperate. There is, unfortunately, a real need to be adversarial. It takes courage to be so.
While people continue to encounter personal oppression, exploitation and misconduct, there will be conflict. The way to reduce such conflict is to work towards righting the wrongs, and this needs to be done as a matter of urgency: strategies for strong, effective political advocacy that does not shy away from assertive claims for the rights of ME/CFS sufferers and, where necessary, conflict with those whose actions are blocking such strategies, are our greatest hope of preventing our rights as a community from being further eroded, and ensuring that those rights are met, promptly.
Angela Kennedy [At the time, director ONE CLICK Group]
THE ONE CLICK GROUP
29 October 2004
M.E. and Political Conflict
Response by William Bayliss | 2 November 2004
With regard to University Lecturer Angela Kennedy’s article entitled The Courage for Conflict – posted on the ONE CLICK Group website on 29th October 2004. I am the spouse of an M.E. sufferer and a social-science graduate: majoring in social history/economics and with many years of experience working for social justice & environmental responsibility. I probably know more than most how human agency and chemicals are bringing our planetary biosphere to the point of nightmarish precipice.
The environmental situation is somewhat analogous to the extremely urgent situation now faced by M.E. sufferers – in that matters are very much coming to an ugly head. In this case, the myopic human agency responsible is that of deceitful corporate-backed psychiatrists – who are presenting dangerous cost-saving ‘treatments’ to budget-conscious Government Ministers. Evidence for and the agenda of corporate backers has been amply set out by – amongst many other authors – Martin J Walker in his book entitled Skewed: “Psychiatric hegemony and the manufacture of mental illness in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” [Slingshot Publications, August 2003, ISBN: 0-9519646-4X. Available for £12.00 including p&p from: Slingshot Publications, BM Box 8314, London, WC1N 3XX].
Though it is nominally a research trial into M.E., the Medical Research Council’s current ‘PACE’ trial has been very cleverly designed to exclude most true M.E. sufferers and include sufferers of mental illness. As such, the trial is a deceitful national scandal and a gross abuse of taxpayer’s money. When the skewed results of this trial begin to be used by Government, the NHS and the DWP, M.E. sufferers should be under no illusions as to what it will mean.
They will face forced and increasing physical exercise programmes at the hands of psychiatrists in the twelve new regional ‘M.E. Treatment Centres’. Patients’ negative response to such programmes will be viewed by these psychiatrists as evidence of mental illness – thereby presenting an appalling no-win situation to physically vulnerable people.
There is now much international research evidence demonstrating why patients with M.E. (ICD-10 G93.3) will respond negatively – suffering long-term damage and disability as a direct result. However, these (Simon) Wessely-School Psychiatrists ignore such hard science because they are working to their own corporate-backed agenda.
In opposition to good science they simply assert that M.E. is not a real physical illness and is only ‘an errant belief’: i.e. a mental illness. Unfortunately, this perverse psychiatric view is fast capturing the minds of Ministers, NHS Doctors and Managers at the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions).
The impending results of the PACE trial will no doubt set the seal on this cancerous doctrine. In the not too distant future, persecution of M.E. sufferers, benefit withdrawals and the number of families with child M.E. sufferers subject to child ‘protection’ and ‘care’ orders will all skyrocket. Should readers believe that such an assessment is over-the-top fear-mongering by amateur M.E. campaigners I would direct them to document entitled The Mental Health Movement: Persecution of Patients by the eminent UK Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Malcolm Hooper.
I fully endorse the general thrust of Ms Kennedy’s article with respect to courage and conflict. If M.E. sufferers and their families do not wake up and confront the forces ranged against them now, the ‘conflict’ they will face at the 12 new (psychiatric) ‘M.E. treatment’ centres in the near future will be diabolical by comparison. The proverbial writing is well and truly upon the wall. The well-intentioned but wholly misplaced attempt to dialogue with and influence these corporate-backed psychiatrists has not only failed to secure progress, it has led to the extremely dangerous situation now at hand.
All this pussyfooting about has been tried for years by the ME Association and Action for ME and has been pointless and damaging to our cause. Members have said as much for years, but their ‘representatives’ have not been listening. It is the view of many that this has led to the corruption of these two organisations, both of which emphatically do not now represent the best interests of true M.E. sufferers.
The situation is analogous to that of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis. Chamberlain wasted years trying to negotiate with Hitler when any cursory reading of Hitler’s copious words would render it obvious that conflict was unavoidable. Chamberlain’s time wasting was doubly foolish because it gave the Nazis time to gather strength and gain allies.
Some in the M.E. community may find such an analogy distasteful. In response I would direct them to just a cursory reading of the equally copious words of ‘Wessely-School’ psychiatrists (for example, Dr Michael Sharpe’s statement that: “Purchasers and Health Care providers… are understandably reluctant to spend money on patients who are not going to die and for whom there is controversy about the ‘reality’ of their condition [and who] are in this sense undeserving of treatment.” [Hooper – op cit. page 75.]).
I would also add this: what is really distasteful is that, as were the Nazis, Wessely-School psychiatrists are hell-bent on using pseudo-science to persecute physically ill people because they are a costly inconvenience. Such persecution is causing untold misery and has, in the opinion of many, contributed to the desperate suicide of physically ill M.E. sufferers. I for one am very angry about this scandalous situation and plan to do something about it. What are you going to do about it?
I would solemnly caution the M.E. community to beware of people attempting to persuade us not to confront and politic against corporate-backed psychiatrists. Carefully examine the motives, loyalties and sponsors of these foolish souls. History most definitively shows that human-rights and justice are never given; they have to be fought for against powerful vested interests.
The M.E. community are not the instigators of politicised conflict, the Wessely-School are. These people are not open to reason, they are the enemy of good science and they are the enemy of M.E. sufferers. Enough already, the time has come to sadly disassociate with MEA, AfME and other appeasers – they are part of the problem not the solution.
We did not start the fight with the Wesselyites but we MUST now take courage and fight fire with fire. The one thing we have on our side that Wesseleyites do not is science. It is time to expose bad science and vested interest.
William Bayliss, University Member
2 November 2004