Saturday Matinee: The Andy Kaufman Show

SAVE PBS! AFTER ALL, IT RAN ANDY KAUFMAN’S BRILLIANT, DEMENTED ‘TALK SHOW’ IN 1983

By Martin Schneider

Source: Dangerous Minds

Holy moly! In 1983, just a year before his death of lung cancer—an event some people dispute ever happened—Andy Kaufman was given the bountiful gift of an hour of PBS programming time in the form of a segment of the music series Soundstage.

It’s a revelation.

Kaufman used his hour to create a mind-boggling critique of talk shows and the entertainment complex writ large. The show is presented out of phase: we see the inexplicable final, hysterical moments of the program, perhaps holding out the promise that we’ll find out what the fuck was going on at the very end. Kaufman sings an inane farewell song and credits roll—then the program starts up again.

One of the first things Kaufman does is ask the home viewer to go get a piece of cellophane from the kitchen—and then sits on the lip of the audience bleachers and waits 30 seconds in ballsy silence while that task is accomplished. (Just in case there are any stragglers, he then briefly jacks the volume and shouts at the home viewers to hurry up.)

You don’t need me to tell you all the gags in advance, but boy, they are beautiful. What’s sometimes forgotten about Kaufman is that for all of his daring experimentation, he was almost always very funny. Nobody had better mastery over the mirth that could be extracted from an awkward turn of phrase or an uncomfortable pause.

In Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman, Bill Zehme writes:

They gave him an installment of the PBS concert series Soundstage, for which he was invited to fill an hour as he saw fit and, since this was public television and no serious money was involved, he saw fit to contrive the most elliptical and surreal refraction of existential realities that he had ever attempted. He spent the better part of June working at the WTTW production facilities in Chicago, where the series was produced and where he plotted strategem as he went along, with George and Lynne Margulies and Elayne Boosler as his sounding board. He would begin the show at the end and start again near the middle and utilize ideas learned as a child from watching Winky-Dink and You, wherein viewers were instructed to put cellophane on the television screen and draw on it to help him out of jams. He would have himself arrested and thrown into television court (all with cartoon backdrop) and defend whatever broadcast transgressions he had so far commited on the program. He would have an interviewing desk that was now seven feet high (calling no attention to this) from which he would imperiously interview Elayne, wherein they (candidly, no, really) traversed what had gone wrong with their relationship—“Sometimes I would wake in the morning,” he told her, “and I’d think I’d like to tell you that we’re gonna break up. I’d say, Well, I gotta tell her tonight—we’re gonna break up!” The Clifton puppet would meanwhile stalk the desktop and serve as sidekick.

If you have any yen at all for the outer reaches of experimental comedy, this is a must-see.

Oh—since it’s Kaufman we’re talking about here, don’t take anything for granted. Make sure you watch the program to the very end.

 

Posted in Art, culture, Humor, Saturday Matinee, Video | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Racket of Rackets

By Charles Hugh Smith

Source: Of Two Minds

If you thought banking in our time was a miserable racket — which it is, of course, and by “racket” I mean a criminal enterprise — then so-called health care has it beat by a country mile, with an added layer of sadism and cruelty built into its operations. Lots of people willingly sign onto mortgages and car loans they wouldn’t qualify for in an ethically sound society, but the interest rates and payments are generally spelled out on paper. They know what they’re signing on for, even if the contract is reckless and stupid on the parts of both borrower and lender. Pension funds and insurance companies foolishly bought bundled mortgage bonds of this crap concocted in the housing bubble. They did it out of greed and desperation, but a little due diligence would have clued them into the fraud being served up by the likes of Goldman Sachs.

Medicine is utterly opaque cost-wise, and that is the heart of the issue. Nobody in the system will say what anything costs and nobody wants to because it would break the spell that they work in an honest, legit business. There is no rational scheme for the cost of any service from one “provider” to the next or even one patient to the next. Anyway, the costs are obscenely inflated and concealed in so many deliberately deceptive coding schemes that even actuaries and professors of economics are confounded by their bills. The services are provided when the customer is under the utmost duress, often life-threatening, and the outcome even in a successful recovery from illness is financial ruin that leaves a lot of people better off dead.

It is a hostage racket, in plain English, a disgrace to the profession that has adopted it, and an insult to the nation. All the idiotic negotiations in congress around the role of insurance companies are a grand dodge to avoid acknowledging the essential racketeering of the “providers” — doctors and hospitals. We are never going to reform it in its current incarnation. For all his personality deformities, President Trump is right in saying that ObamaCare is going to implode. It is only a carbuncle on the gangrenous body of the US medical establishment. The whole system will go down with it.

The New York Times departed from its usual obsessions with Russian turpitude and transgender life last week to publish a valuable briefing on this aspect of the health care racket: Those Indecipherable Medical Bills? They’re One Reason Health Care Costs So Much by Elisabeth Rosenthal. Much of this covers ground exposed in the now famous March 4, 2013 Time Magazine cover story (it took up the whole issue): Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, by Steven Brill. The American public and its government have been adequately informed about the gross and lawless chiseling rampant in every quarter of medicine. The system is one of engineered criminality. It is inflicting ruin on millions. It is really a wonder that the public has not stormed the hospitals with pitchforks and flaming brands to string up that gang in the parking lots high above their Beemers and Lexuses.

There are only two plausible arcs to this story. One is that the nation might face the facts and resort to the Single Payer system found in virtually every other nation that affects to be civilized. There is no other way to eliminate the deliberate racketeering. The other outcome would be the inevitable collapse of the system and its eventual re-set to a much less complex, cash-on-the-barrelhead, local clinic-based model with far less heroic high-tech interventions available for the broad public, but much more affordable basic care. Both outcomes would require jettisoning the immense overburden of administrative dross that clutters up the current model, with its absurd tug-of-war between the price-gouging hospital “Chargemaster” clerks and the sadistic insurance company monitors bent on denying treatment to their sick and hapless “customers” (hostages). Be warned: these represent tens of thousands of supposedly “good” jobs. Of course, they are “good” because they pay middle class wages, of which there are fewer and fewer elsewhere in the economy. But, they are well-paid because of the grotesquely profitable racket they serve. They’ve turned an entire generation of office workers into servants of criminal enterprise. Imagine the damage this does to the soul of our culture.

My suggestion for real reform of the medical racket looks to historical precedent:

In 1932 (before the election of FDR, by the way), the US Senate formed a commission to look into the causes of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and recommend corrections in banking regulation to obviate future episodes like it. It is known to history as the Pecora Commission, after its chief counsel Ferdinand Pecora, an assistant Manhattan DA, who performed gallantly in his role. The commission ran for two years. Its hearings led to prison terms for many bankers and ultimately to the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932, which kept banking relatively honest and stable until its nefarious repeal in 1999 under President Bill Clinton — which led rapidly to a new age of Wall Street malfeasance, still underway.

The US Senate needs to set up an equivalent of the Pecora Commission to thoroughly expose the cost racketeering in medicine, enable the prosecution of the people driving it, and propose a Single Payer remedy for flushing it away. The Department of Justice can certainly apply the RICO anti-racketeering statutes against the big health care conglomerates and their executives personally. I don’t know why it has not done so already — except for the obvious conclusion that our elected officials have been fully complicit in the medical rackets, which is surely the case of new Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, a former surgeon and congressman who trafficked in medical stocks during his years representing his suburban Atlanta district. A new commission could bypass this unprincipled clown altogether.

It is getting to the point where we have to ask ourselves if we are even capable of being a serious people anymore. Medicine is now a catastrophe every bit as pernicious as the illnesses it is supposed to treat, and a grave threat to a nation that we’re supposed to care about. What party, extant or waiting to be born, will get behind this cleanup operation?

Posted in Corporate Crime, culture, Economics, Financial Crisis, Health, History, Law, news, Privatization, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Washington’s Chaoskeeping in Syria

By Martin Berger

Source: New Eastern Outlook

What is the US up to in Syria? – This question is not simply bugging the Arab world, as the whole international community has been trying to find an answer to this puzzle. This matter became especially relevant after the so-called “chemical attack” in the Syrian Governorate of Idlib that occurred on April 4 and the subsequent cruise missile strike against the Al-Shayrat air base that followed a few days later.

The initial false-flag attack, which immediately resulted in a stream of accusations against the Syrian army and the allied Russian troops, was abused by the so-called Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, which has repeatedly participated in spreading fake reports, along with unreasonable and unverified accusations against the Syrian authorities over the years. Then, in accordance with a clearly pre-planned scenario, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini along with France and Britain joined the action thriller, quickly switching the blame mode on. There can be no doubt that a stream of accusations being voiced against Damascus prior to any sort of preliminary investigation, let alone a thorough one, was what the Washington coalition was aiming at.

Why bother trying to provide any sort of evidence, when previously Washington managed to bring down an unwanted regime by simply handing over a tube filled with unknown substances that was handed over to Colin Powell for him to shake it in the air in front of the UN Security Council. Sure, it was a cheap trick but it worked due to the fact that nobody expected Washington to fall so low, using a dubious pretext to invade and destroy Iraq.

Once Washington, London, and Paris went under a wave of public outrage for their baseless acusations against Damascus, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on April 26, acting in accordance with the instructions that Washington provided him with, rushed to present the world a “declassified report of the French secret services,” that were allegedly convinced that Damascus used sarin nerve agent to launch an attack against the town of Khan Shaykhun.

But one could remind Western powers and Jean-Marc Ayrault in particular that six days before the release of this so-called declassified report Australian doctors fell victims of sarin gas in Iraq. Should we hold Damascus responsible for that attack too? Or would we be better off admitting that ISIS militants have repeatedly used sarin and other nerve gas agents both Syria and Iraq, along with their own drones!

By the way, one would not be out of line by demanding how the blood thirsty ISIS radicals that are supposedly surrounded by the US coalition forces and cut off any outside forms of support are not simply continue using nerve agents from the warehouses that remain in their control, while Damascus has officially destroyed all of its chemical stockpiles which has been officially confirmed by the representatives of international community, but are building their own drones. Any drone production operation is something that can hardly be done in the field, especially under the nose of the vigilant French intelligence services, that chose to get engaged in a propaganda war against Damascus instead. As for their British counterparts, they are sending the so-called White Helmets in the contested areas of Syria without the slightest concern for the security of these propaganda heroes in territories occupied by ISIS.

In short, Washington’s actions and the steps taken by its loyal servants in Paris and London with a theatrical performance with “Assad’s chemical attack” and their unwillingness to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident bears a strong resemblance of the events of 2003 in Iraq, which resulted in in the complete destruction of the country and the emergence of ISIS that Washington is allegedly fighting today.

Therefore, it is hardly worth explaining once again what sort of dangerous developments on both the regional and international levels can be triggered by the repetition of the reckless scenario when Washington first makes a political decision, and then creates a political excuse to go along with it. This is how armed conflicts were started not only in Iraq in 2003, but Yugoslavia and Libya, with the so-called Western humanitarian intervention, and Afghanistan too.

Provocations like the one that occurred in Khan Sheikhoun, without a doubt, demand a professional investigation conducted under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by a team of international experts from various regions of the world. There can be no doubt that such an investigation must be open and transparent. The current attempts to block this approach only confirm the doubts about the sincerity of those who are trying to use the incident to push forward their own agenda, in a bid to bring down the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, going along with a time-tested regime change tactics instead.

As for the United States, it is still very difficult to say what plans Washington can try to pull out in Syria in a bid to bring Damascus down. However, Washington’s policies in the region conducted through the last two decades can be briefly described as #chaoskeeping.

 

Posted in CIA, Conspiracy, culture, Deep State, Dystopia, Empire, False Flag, Geopolitics, History, Neocons, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, war, war on terror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Controls The Government?

By Scott Lazarowitz

Source: Activist Post

It is quite ironic that the previous Drone-Bomber-in-Chief, Barack H. Obama, has been given the “profile in courage” award, which is being presented to him this week by the JFK Library Foundation. But how much courage did it take for Obama to order the bombings of several different countries, killing mostly innocent civilians, when those countries were of no threat to us?

How insulting to President John F. Kennedy, who promoted peace after recognizing that the post-World War II Cold War and national security state were destructive and unnecessary, and who wanted to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

In a June, 1963 speech promoting peace, nuclear disarmament, and diplomacy, Kennedy stated, “No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find Communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements — in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.”

The hard-core Cold Warriors probably didn’t like that. Their existence as “security” bureaucrats and their little fiefdoms in Washington were dependent on the fear and paranoia of those “commies,” just as the modern day bureaucrats are dependent on post-9/11 fear-mongering.

And the corporatist cronies back then also probably didn’t like Kennedy’s assertion that “the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need them is essential to the keeping of peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles — which can only destroy and never create — is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.”

The hard-core Cold Warriors probably didn’t like that. Their existence as “security” bureaucrats and their little fiefdoms in Washington were dependent on the fear and paranoia of those “commies,” just as the modern day bureaucrats are dependent on post-9/11 fear-mongering.

And the corporatist cronies back then also probably didn’t like Kennedy’s assertion that “the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need them is essential to the keeping of peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles — which can only destroy and never create — is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace.”

The narcissistic arrogance could be seen in the military bureaucrats when they consciously and knowingly pursued continued aggressions in Vietnam despite their knowing by the mid-1960s that the war could not be won, as revealed by the Pentagon Papers. Those “leaders” contributed to the deaths of a million innocents and tens of thousands of American soldiers who died for no good reason but to serve the deranged egos of the military bureaucrats.

And Iraq in 1990-91, the decision by President George H.W. Bush to start a whole new war and bombing campaign against a country, Iraq, that didn’t attack us and was of no threat to us, was not just an act of incompetence, but a criminal act.

Bush approved of the U.S. military’s bombings of civilian water and sewage treatment centers and electric service facilities, followed by sanctions and no-fly zones that were continued by President Bill Clinton throughout the 1990s which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian Iraqis. It was an intentional policy of sadism and psychopathic cruelty, that perhaps involved more sinister long-term goals than just to do with oil.

Who would purposely cause a whole population to be vulnerable to disease and death? Who would do that?

But now we have President Donald Trump, who campaigned with anti-war, anti-imperialism rhetoric, but is now the Happy Warmonger. And Trump’s civilian cabinet advisors include military general graduates from West Point or other top military academies but they aren’t exactly trained in the ideas of restraint, diplomacy, the rule of law, and the U.S. Constitution.

No, post-World War II  military people are trained to suppress their consciences, their moral scruples, in order to rationalize their invasions of other territories and the deaths of innocents they cause.

And oh how happy the Trump-advising generals and the other higher-ups in the military must be that Donald Trump is so easily manipulable and spongy. Their psy-ops are working on him like a charm.

It used to be that psy-ops were used by the military and CIA on foreign agents, to manipulate the enemy’s emotions and their decisions. And then the military saw how useful such a technique had been on their own U.S. senators, as reported by the late Michael Hastings in Rolling Stone.

Which is apparently illegal, under U.S. law. Unless they view their own fellow Americans as the “enemy.” Hmm.

Foreign policy analyst Gareth Porter recently tweeted: “Military now seeking permanent US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Time to say loud ‘No’ to permanent war.”

So it’s getting worse now.

Some theorists believe the zealous bureaucrats of the military need permanent war and occupation abroad in order to achieve such a takeover at home. (There may be other reasons, however.)

When the military controls the government, and then there is some kind of emergency or economic collapse, of course they will not think twice about imposing martial law, legal or not, constitutional or not. They will also not think twice about disarming law-abiding Americans.

In Revolutionary times, the early Americans were rightfully wary of militarism, because they knew that would lead to tyranny. But the immoral and incompetent bureaucrats of the modern U.S. government long ago abandoned any concern for the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.

 

Scott Lazarowitz is a libertarian writer and commentator. please visit his blog.

 

Posted in Authoritarianism, black ops, CIA, Conspiracy, Corporate Welfare, Corruption, culture, Deep State, Dystopia, Economics, Empire, Geopolitics, History, Militarization, military spending, police state, propaganda, Psy-ops, Revolution, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, war, war on terror, wasted taxpayer dollars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two for Tuesday

Martyn Ware

Poor Lily

Posted in Art, culture, Music Video, Two for Tuesday, Video | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Russian Hacking Fiasco

By Mike Whitney

Source: CounterPunch

There’s no proof that Russia hacked the US elections.

There’s no proof that Russian officials or Russian agents colluded with members of the Trump campaign.

There’s no proof that Russia provided material support of any kind for the Trump campaign or that Russian agents hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails or that Russian officials provided Wikileaks with emails that were intended to sabotage Hillary’s chances to win the election.

So far, no one in any of the 17 US intelligence agencies has stepped forward and verified the claims of Russian meddling or produced a scintilla of hard evidence that Russia was in anyway involved in the 2016 elections.

No proof means no proof.  It means that the people and organizations that are making these uncorroborated claims have no basis for legal action, no presumption of wrongdoing, and no grounds for prosecution. They have nothing. Zilch.  Their claims, charges and accusations are like the soap bubbles we give to our children and grandchildren. The brightly-colored bubbles wobble across the sky for a minute or two and then, Poof, they vanish into the ether. The claims of Russia hacking are like these bubbles. They are empty, unsubstantiated rumors completely devoid of substance. Poof.

It has been eight months since the inception of this unprecedentedly-pathetic and infinitely-irritating propaganda campaign, and in those eight months neither the media nor the politicos nor the Intel agents who claim to be certain that Russia meddled in US elections, have produced anything that even remotely resembles evidence. Instead, they have trotted out the same lie over and over again ad nauseam from every newspaper, every tabloid and every televised news program in the country. Over and over and over again. The media’s persistence is nearly as impressive as its cynicism, which is the one quality that they seem to have mastered. The coverage has been relentless, ubiquitous, pernicious and mendacious. The only problem is that there’s not a grain of truth to any of it. It is all 100 percent, unalloyed baloney.

So it doesn’t matter how many Democratic senators and congressmen disgrace themselves by lighting their hair on fire and howling about “evil Putin” or the imaginary “threats to our precious democracy”. Nor does it matter how many hyperbolic articles appear in media alleging sinister activities and espionage by diabolical Moscow Central.  It doesn’t matter because there is have absolutely zero solid evidence to support their ludicrous and entirely politically-based claims.

Whether Russia was involved in the US elections or not, is a matter of pure speculation. But speculation is not sufficient grounds for appointing a special prosecutor, nor are the lies and misinformation that appear daily in our leading newspapers, like the dissembling New York Times, the dissembling Washington Post and the dissembling Wall Street Journal. The call for a special prosecutor is not based on evidence, it is based on politics, the politics of personal destruction. The Democrats and the media want this tool so they can rummage through whatever private information or paperwork anyone in the Trump administration might possess. So while they might not dig up anything relevant to the Russia hacking investigation, they will certainly gather enough sordid or suspicious information to annihilate the people in their crosshairs. And that’s precisely what the special prosecutor provision is designed to do; it provides the  administration’s rivals with the weapons they need to conduct a massive fishing expedition aimed at character assassination and, ultimately, impeachment.

But, why?

Because Donald Trump had the audacity to win an election that was earmarked for establishment favorite and globalist warmonger-in-chief, Hillary Clinton. That’s what this witch hunt is all about, sour grapes.

But why has Russia been chosen as the target in this deep state-media scam? What has Russia done to deserve all the negative press and unsupported claims of criminal meddling?

That’s easy. Just look at a map. For the last 16 years, the US has been rampaging across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Washington intends to control critical oil and natural gas reserves in the ME, establish military bases across Central Asia, and remain the dominant player in an area of that is set to become the most populous and prosperous region of the world. It’s the Great Game all over again, only this time-around, Uncle Sam is in the drivers seat not the Queen of England.

But one country has upset that plan, blocked that plan, derailed that plan.

Russia.

Russia has stopped Washington’s murderous marauding and genocidal depredations in Ukraine and Syria, which is why the US foreign policy establishment is so pissed-off.  US elites aren’t used to obstacles.

For the last quarter of a century– since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union– the world had been Washington’s oyster. If the president of the United States  wanted to invade a country in the Middle East, kill a million people, and leave the place in a smoldering pile of rubble, then who could stop him?

Nobody.  Because Washington owns this fu**ing planet and everyone else is just a visitor.

Capisce?

But now all that’s changed. Now evil Putin has thrown up a roadblock to US hegemony in Syria and Ukraine. Now Washington’s landbridge to Central Asia has been split in two, and its plan to control vital pipeline corridors from Qatar to the EU is no longer viable. Russia has stopped Washington dead-in-its tracks and Washington is furious.

The anti-Russia hysteria in the western media is equal to the pain the US foreign policy establishment is currently experiencing. And the reason the foreign policy establishment is in so much pain, is because they are not getting their way.  It’s that simple. Their global strategy is in a shambles because Russia will not let them topple the Syrian government, install their own puppet regime, redraw the map of the Middle East, run roughshod over international law, and tighten their grip on another battered war-torn part of the world.

So now Russia must pay. Putin must be demonized and derided. The American people must be taught to hate Russia and all-things Russian. And, most of all, Russia must be blamed for anything and everything under the sun, including the firing of a completely worthless sack of sh** FBI Director, James Comey, who– at various times in his career– “approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration….including  torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention.” (ACLU)

This is the low-down, good-for-nothing scalawag that the Democrats are now defending tooth in nail.

It’s pathetic.

Russia has become the all-purpose punching bag because Washington’s plans for global domination have gone up in smoke.

The truth is,  Putin’s done us all a big favor.

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Posted in black ops, CIA, Conspiracy, corporate news, Deep State, Dirty Politics, Empire, Geopolitics, Hackers, History, media, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Forbidden Questions? 24 Key Issues That Neither the Washington Elite Nor the Media Consider Worth Their Bother

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Source: TomDispatch.com

Donald Trump’s election has elicited impassioned affirmations of a renewed commitment to unvarnished truth-telling from the prestige media.  The common theme:  you know you can’t trust him, but trust us to keep dogging him on your behalf.  The New York Times has even unveiled a portentous new promotional slogan: “The truth is now more important than ever.” For its part, the Washington Post grimly warns that “democracy dies in darkness,” and is offering itself as a source of illumination now that the rotund figure of the 45th president has produced the political equivalent of a total eclipse of the sun. Meanwhile, National Public Radio fundraising campaigns are sounding an increasingly panicky note: give, listener, lest you be personally responsible for the demise of the Republic that we are bravely fighting to save from extinction.

If only it were so.  How wonderful it would be if President Trump’s ascendancy had coincided with a revival of hard-hitting, deep-dive, no-holds-barred American journalism.  Alas, that’s hardly the case.  True, the big media outlets are demonstrating both energy and enterprise in exposing the ineptitude, inconsistency, and dubious ethical standards, as well as outright lies and fake news, that are already emerging as Trump era signatures.  That said, pointing out that the president has (again) uttered a falsehood, claimed credit for a nonexistent achievement, or abandoned some position to which he had previously sworn fealty requires something less than the sleuthing talents of a Sherlock Holmes.  As for beating up on poor Sean Spicer for his latest sequence of gaffes — well, that’s more akin to sadism than reporting.

Apart from a commendable determination to discomfit Trump and members of his inner circle (select military figures excepted, at least for now), journalism remains pretty much what it was prior to November 8th of last year: personalities built up only to be torn down; fads and novelties discovered, celebrated, then mocked; “extraordinary” stories of ordinary people granted 15 seconds of fame only to once again be consigned to oblivion — all served with a side dish of that day’s quota of suffering, devastation, and carnage.  These remain journalism’s stock-in-trade.  As practiced in the United States, with certain honorable (and hence unprofitable) exceptions, journalism remains superficial, voyeuristic, and governed by the attention span of a two year old.

As a result, all those editors, reporters, columnists, and talking heads who characterize their labors as “now more important than ever” ill-serve the public they profess to inform and enlighten.  Rather than clearing the air, they befog it further.  If anything, the media’s current obsession with Donald Trump — his every utterance or tweet treated as “breaking news!” — just provides one additional excuse for highlighting trivia, while slighting issues that deserve far more attention than they currently receive.

To illustrate the point, let me cite some examples of national security issues that presently receive short shrift or are ignored altogether by those parts of the Fourth Estate said to help set the nation’s political agenda. To put it another way: Hey, Big Media, here are two dozen matters to which you’re not giving faintly adequate thought and attention.

1. Accomplishing the “mission”: Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia.  Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well.  Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs?  To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home?  And if it is incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity, how should momentous changes in the international order — the rise of China, for example, or accelerating climate change — affect the U.S. approach to doing so?

2. American military supremacy: The United States military is undoubtedly the world’s finest.  It’s also far and away the most generously funded, with policymakers offering U.S. troops no shortage of opportunities to practice their craft.  So why doesn’t this great military ever win anything?  Or put another way, why in recent decades have those forces been unable to accomplish Washington’s stated wartime objectives?  Why has the now 15-year-old war on terror failed to result in even a single real success anywhere in the Greater Middle East?  Could it be that we’ve taken the wrong approach?  What should we be doing differently?

3. America’s empire of bases: The U.S. military today garrisons the planet in a fashion without historical precedent.  Successive administrations, regardless of party, justify and perpetuate this policy by insisting that positioning U.S. forces in distant lands fosters peace, stability, and security.  In the present century, however, perpetuating this practice has visibly had the opposite effect.  In the eyes of many of those called upon to “host” American bases, the permanent presence of such forces smacks of occupation.  They resist.  Why should U.S. policymakers expect otherwise?

4. Supporting the troops: In present-day America, expressing reverence for those who serve in uniform is something akin to a religious obligation.  Everyone professes to cherish America’s “warriors.”  Yet such bountiful, if superficial, expressions of regard camouflage a growing gap between those who serve and those who applaud from the sidelines. Our present-day military system, based on the misnamed All-Volunteer Force, is neither democratic nor effective.  Why has discussion and debate about its deficiencies not found a place among the nation’s political priorities? 

5. Prerogatives of the commander-in-chief: Are there any military actions that the president of the United States may not order on his own authority?  If so, what are they?  Bit by bit, decade by decade, Congress has abdicated its assigned role in authorizing war. Today, it merely rubberstamps what presidents decide to do (or simply stays mum).  Who does this deference to an imperial presidency benefit?  Have U.S. policies thereby become more prudent, enlightened, and successful?

6. Assassin-in-chief: A policy of assassination, secretly implemented under the aegis of the CIA during the early Cold War, yielded few substantive successes.  When the secrets were revealed, however, the U.S. government suffered considerable embarrassment, so much so that presidents foreswore politically motivated murder. After 9/11, however, Washington returned to the assassination business in a big way and on a global scale, using drones.  Today, the only secret is the sequence of names on the current presidential hit list, euphemistically known as the White House “disposition matrix.” But does assassination actually advance U.S. interests (or does it merely recruit replacements for the terrorists it liquidates)?  How can we measure its costs, whether direct or indirect?  What dangers and vulnerabilities does this practice invite?

7. The war formerly known as the “Global War on Terrorism”: What precisely is Washington’s present strategy for defeating violent jihadism?  What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case?  How is it that the absence of strategy — not to mention an agreed upon definition of “success” — doesn’t even qualify for discussion here?

8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom: The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history — having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict?  When might Americans expect it to end?  On what terms?

9. The Gulf: Americans once believed that their prosperity and way of life depended on having assured access to Persian Gulf oil.  Today, that is no longer the case.  The United States is once more an oil exporter. Available and accessible reserves of oil and natural gas in North America are far greater than was once believed. Yet the assumption that the Persian Gulf still qualifies as crucial to American national security persists in Washington. Why?

10. Hyping terrorism: Each year terrorist attacks kill far fewer Americans than do auto accidents, drug overdoses, or even lightning strikes.  Yet in the allocation of government resources, preventing terrorist attacks takes precedence over preventing all three of the others combined. Why is that?

11. Deaths that matter and deaths that don’t: Why do terrorist attacks that kill a handful of Europeans command infinitely more American attention than do terrorist attacks that kill far larger numbers of Arabs? A terrorist attack that kills citizens of France or Belgium elicits from the United States heartfelt expressions of sympathy and solidarity.  A terrorist attack that kills Egyptians or Iraqis elicits shrugs.  Why the difference?  To what extent does race provide the answer to that question?

12. Israeli nukes: What purpose is served by indulging the pretense that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?

13. Peace in the Holy Land: What purpose is served by indulging illusions that a “two-state solution” offers a plausible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?  As remorselessly as white settlers once encroached upon territory inhabited by Native American tribes, Israeli settlers expand their presence in the occupied territories year by year.  As they do, the likelihood of creating a viable Palestinian state becomes ever more improbable. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of thinking that one day President Trump might prefer the rusticity of Camp David to the glitz of Mar-a-Lago.

14. Merchandizing death: When it comes to arms sales, there is no need to Make America Great Again.  The U.S. ranks number one by a comfortable margin, with long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Israel leading recipients of those arms.  Each year, the Saudis (per capita gross domestic product $20,000) purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. weapons.  Israel (per capita gross domestic product $38,000) gets several billion dollars worth of such weaponry annually courtesy of the American taxpayer.  If the Saudis pay for U.S. arms, why shouldn’t the Israelis? They can certainly afford to do so.

15. Our friends the Saudis (I): Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis.  What does that fact signify?

16. Our friends the Saudis (II): If indeed Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing to determine which nation will enjoy the upper hand in the Persian Gulf, why should the United States favor Saudi Arabia?  In what sense do Saudi values align more closely with American values than do Iranian ones?

17. Our friends the Pakistanis: Pakistan behaves like a rogue state.  It is a nuclear weapons proliferator.  It supports the Taliban.  For years, it provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.  Yet U.S. policymakers treat Pakistan as if it were an ally.  Why?  In what ways do U.S. and Pakistani interests or values coincide?  If there are none, why not say so?

18. Free-loading Europeans: Why can’t Europe, “whole and free,” its population and economy considerably larger than Russia’s, defend itself?  It’s altogether commendable that U.S. policymakers should express support for Polish independence and root for the Baltic republics.  But how does it make sense for the United States to care more about the wellbeing of people living in Eastern Europe than do people living in Western Europe?

19. The mother of all “special relationships”: The United States and the United Kingdom have a “special relationship” dating from the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  Apart from keeping the Public Broadcasting Service supplied with costume dramas and stories featuring eccentric detectives, what is the rationale for that partnership today?  Why should U.S. relations with Great Britain, a fading power, be any more “special” than its relations with a rising power like India?  Why should the bonds connecting Americans and Britons be any more intimate than those connecting Americans and Mexicans?  Why does a republic now approaching the 241st anniversary of its independence still need a “mother country”?

20. The old nuclear disarmament razzmatazz: American presidents routinely cite their hope for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.  Yet the U.S. maintains nuclear strike forces on full alert, has embarked on a costly and comprehensive trillion-dollar modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and even refuses to adopt a no-first-use posture when it comes to nuclear war.  The truth is that the United States will consider surrendering its nukes only after every other nation on the planet has done so first.  How does American nuclear hypocrisy affect the prospects for global nuclear disarmament or even simply for the non-proliferation of such weaponry?

21. Double standards (I): American policymakers take it for granted that their country’s sphere of influence is global, which, in turn, provides the rationale for the deployment of U.S. military forces to scores of countries.  Yet when it comes to nations like China, Russia, or Iran, Washington takes the position that spheres of influence are obsolete and a concept that should no longer be applicable to the practice of statecraft.  So Chinese, Russian, and Iranian forces should remain where they belong — in China, Russia, and Iran.  To stray beyond that constitutes a provocation, as well as a threat to global peace and order.  Why should these other nations play by American rules?  Why shouldn’t similar rules apply to the United States?

22. Double standards (II): Washington claims that it supports and upholds international law.  Yet when international law gets in the way of what American policymakers want to do, they disregard it.  They start wars, violate the sovereignty of other nations, and authorize agents of the United States to kidnap, imprison, torture, and kill.  They do these things with impunity, only forced to reverse their actions on the rare occasions when U.S. courts find them illegal.  Why should other powers treat international norms as sacrosanct since the United States does so only when convenient? 

23. Double standards (III): The United States condemns the indiscriminate killing of civilians in wartime.  Yet over the last three-quarters of a century, it killed civilians regularly and often on a massive scale.  By what logic, since the 1940s, has the killing of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Afghans, and others by U.S. air power been any less reprehensible than the Syrian government’s use of “barrel bombs” to kill Syrians today?  On what basis should Americans accept Pentagon claims that, when civilians are killed these days by U.S. forces, the acts are invariably accidental, whereas Syrian forces kill civilians intentionally and out of malice?  Why exclude incompetence or the fog of war as explanations?  And why, for instance, does the United States regularly gloss over or ignore altogether the noncombatants that Saudi forces (with U.S. assistance) are routinely killing in Yemen?

24. Moral obligations: When confronted with some egregious violation of human rights, members of the chattering classes frequently express an urge for the United States to “do something.”  Holocaust analogies sprout like dandelions.  Newspaper columnists recycle copy first used when Cambodians were slaughtering other Cambodians en masse or whenever Hutus and Tutsis went at it.  Proponents of action — typically advocating military intervention — argue that the United States has a moral obligation to aid those victimized by injustice or cruelty anywhere on Earth.  But what determines the pecking order of such moral obligations?  Which comes first, a responsibility to redress the crimes of others or a responsibility to redress crimes committed by Americans?  Who has a greater claim to U.S. assistance, Syrians suffering today under the boot of Bashar al-Assad or Iraqis, their country shattered by the U.S. invasion of 2003?  Where do the Vietnamese fit into the queue?  How about the Filipinos, brutally denied independence and forcibly incorporated into an American empire as the nineteenth century ended?  Or African-Americans, whose ancestors were imported as slaves?  Or, for that matter, dispossessed and disinherited Native Americans?  Is there a statute of limitations that applies to moral obligations?  And if not, shouldn’t those who have waited longest for justice or reparations receive priority attention?

Let me suggest that any one of these two dozen issues — none seriously covered, discussed, or debated in the American media or in the political mainstream — bears more directly on the wellbeing of the United States and our prospects for avoiding global conflict than anything Donald Trump may have said or done during his first 100 days as president.  Collectively, they define the core of the national security challenges that presently confront this country, even as they languish on the periphery of American politics.

How much damage Donald Trump’s presidency wreaks before it ends remains to be seen.  Yet he himself is a transient phenomenon.  To allow his pratfalls and shenanigans to divert attention from matters sure to persist when he finally departs the stage is to make a grievous error.  It may well be that, as the Times insists, the truth is now more important than ever.  If so, finding the truth requires looking in the right places and asking the right questions.

 

Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, now out in paperback. His next book will be an interpretive history of the United States from the end of the Cold War to the election of Donald Trump.

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10 Life Lessons I Learned as a Psychiatric Nurse – and Patient

By Cortland Pfeffer

Source: Wake Up World

Over the past 25 years, I have been immersed in the mental health and addiction system as a patient, later as staff, as a Registered Nurse (RN), and eventually as a supervisor. My time in the mental health system officially began at age 17 when I was first hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. This preceded further hospitalizations, a number of treatment episodes for alcoholism/addiction, along with multiple stints of incarceration in jails. Eventually, through this experience, I was able to embrace recovery and ultimately gain employment at some of these same facilities in which I was treated.

Often I am asked about how I went from being a psychiatric patient and homeless drug addict to being a registered nurse and a supervisor at some of these facilities. While there is no magical answer to that question, there certainly have been some valuable life lessons learned along the way. These are 10 of the life lessons I have learned over time, which allowed me to continue on this journey.

1. If you are naturally different than the majority, you will be labeled.

It is our nature to want to try to fit in with the tribe. It can be lonely when you feel like you are different from other people. When you are not like the majority, others will notice this and try to get you to fit in to this box of normality. But defining “normal” is an impossible task. It is defined as conforming to a standard. However, this standard changes with different cultures and time periods. What was once normal, is now insane. Today we clearly live in an insane society – one in which we favor materialism over that of our fellow man; one in which there is more public uproar over a sporting event than the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. To be “normal” in this type of society would actually make one insane. Yet, when you don’t follow the mold of a brainwashed culture you get labeled as different.

This can be quite destructive as Erich Fromm points out in his 1941 book “Escape from Freedom” as he highlights how people are drawn to authority as it is safer to go along with the pack than to think independently.

We go along with the societal norms for harmony, acceptance, and belonging – which are also innate human desires. Each human has a desire to feel a sense of community and purpose. However, when we go along with the group – even when it is violates our personal beliefs just for acceptance – it causes us to believe that something is wrong with us for thinking differently.

Solomon Asch tested human’s conformity in an experiment in 1951. Over the 12 critical trials approximately 75% of participants conformed at least once; and 25% of participants never conformed. In the control condition, the participants were asked to write down the correct match between the lines without sharing their answers with the group. The results showed that the participants were very accurate, giving the correct answers 98-percent of the time. This is one of many studies that show most people will go along with a crowd, even if it is not what they believe. So what happens if the tribe has decided that there is something “wrong” with you? Science will show that most of us will go along with that.

However this is a mistake. Take a look at the bell curve, which is used to show “normality distribution.” The bell curve is used in many areas of life and can be used here. In many bell curves, you see that 95-percent are within two deviations from the mean, or average. On the very end you will always see 5-percent of people. They are at the extreme end and do not fall inside the box of “normal.” It doesn’t make you bad to be outside the norm, and it also doesn’t make you crazy or sick. In fact, I would argue that those on the extreme ends are the ones that have changed the world.

For example, Mahatma Gandhi did not fit inside that box. The “norm” of his time was to accept the British imperialism in his home country of India. He saw the injustices and spent his life trying to free his people from oppression. He was imprisoned and survived many assassination attempts (although one finally killed him). Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. also saw the injustices of African-Americans were facing in the United States and stood up to the oppression. They both went against the norms, were labeled, judged, and eventually lost their lives for speaking against the status quo. They both ended up dead, but years later we realized they were speaking the truth against an insane society.

Other people’s labels of you are just that — other people’s labels. It is out of fear and ignorance. Do not adapt to other people’s expectations. The world needs people of all sorts. We need diversity.

If you closely take a look at the criteria for someone who is gifted versus someone who has ADHD, Bipolar, Aspergers, and many other mental health diagnosis you will see that they are almost identical. So whether you are called bipolar or gifted doesn’t depend on you, but rather on the so-called expert assessing your life. It is all about perception and none of it matters. All that matters is that you are your most authentic and true version of yourself.

2. We as a society create mental health and addiction.

There have been numerous studies that have exposed the fact that trauma as a child leads to neural chemistry changes in your brain. Childhood trauma has been called the smoking of mental health. The same way smoking can cause or invoke many physical diseases, childhood trauma and maltreatment does the equivalent for mental health and addiction.

There are higher relapse rates for hypertension and heart disease than there are for addiction and mental health. However, we often treat the addict like they are a bad person or making bad choices. So we are taking someone who has been traumatized and often did not receive treatment for their trauma and we punish them by locking them up. This creates more shame, exasperating the trauma and causing the cycle to repeat itself. Additionally, the patient is not going to be readily willing to seek help in the first place due to the aforementioned shame.

What if we had a cancer drug that works 10-percent of the time and made people sicker? We would throw the drug away! However if a treatment center has a 10-percent success rate for addiction or mental health they’re considered successful. What other business could be 10-percent successful and would continue to exist?

The addiction and mental health industry continue to grow, despite this complete lack of success. There are extremely high rates of recidivism in these fields. Speaking from personal experience, more often than not the patients get sicker while in treatment.

The staff then blames this lack of success on the patient. They point fingers and say that the patient “was not ready” or that they have “poor insight.” The site that failed to provide adequate treatment blames the victim and takes no responsibility for their failure.

This system only continues because too many people are making too much money off keeping people sick. The staff tends to be undertrained, under-qualified, and lack any meaningful or diverse life experience. They are trained to believe that their patients are bad people that are making bad choices instead of a sick person who has been traumatized. This obviously results in receiving much different treatment.

Now there are some absolutely wonderful people in this field. That is a fact. However, in general there is an overall lack of humanity and compassion in the way this population has been treated. We are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind and most of these prisoners are there for harmless drug offenses.  Due to this influx of incarcerations, we have created for-profit prisons which rely on mass incarcerations for profit. They set up contracts with governments to guarantee high occupancy rates and spend millions of dollars lobbying to congress to make tougher prison laws to ensure they stay profitable. In turn, members of congress then hold stock in these private prisons – meaning that the people that make the laws are making money off the laws they sign into action.

We are locking up people who have a disease to profit the rich. Punishment does not work for this disease – it never has and it never will. If it did work, we would not have a this astronomical recidivism rate in jails for drug offenses.

3. Be true to who you are.

We run from who we truly are because we are told to by our environment. We are told that it is not okay to be our true self from the time we are young and we begin to believe it to be true. We spend our whole lives living for other people and living based on other people’s expectations. We eventually lose ourselves and create a false persona (or false self) – This is what I refer to as “The Mask”.

The longer we wear the mask, the more we forget who we are underneath. We start to think that we are our masks – the character that we present to the world for acceptance. As this continues, we grow to dislike our mask because it is not our true self. This leads to depression, self-hate, or even suicidal ideation. We think we hate ourselves, but in reality we hate this false self that we have created. When we go against our own nature, it will always create depression.

If you have forgotten who you are, it’s easy to remember. You know the truth by how you feel. If you want to remember what that feeling is like, simply go do something that is pure, genuine, and has good intentions and see how that feels. If you can do something for somebody that can never repay you, you will remember this feeling – that is the feeling you are seeking.

Some of us may not even know who we really are because we’ve been wearing this mask for so long. In that case you get to explore and try new things. You get to discover who you truly are and what makes your soul feel alive. This can be viewed as an obstacle or an opportunity. You can now try everything – writing, dancing, singing, etc. – try anything you desire and you will find your true self in the process.

You will find out who you were, before the world told you who you were supposed to be.

This concept can be frightening, especially if we have become too accustomed to the mask. Some will do anything and everything to put the mask back on for safety, security, and possibly they are benefiting from pretending to be their false self. Although, in the long run it will create more inner dissent.

The world needs you to be you. Your true self fits into the world exactly how it should. When we go against this, we are robbing humanity of the gifts our true selves possess. Albert Einstein said, “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

It can be scary to finally be yourself. You will likely start feeling rejected and you will lose some people. But those are the people that you want to lose. You will also gain people in your lives – the ones that love the true you and not the false you.

This is a change that is painful and it causes most people to go back into their false self (ore put their mask back on). However, this is an essential struggle that you will encounter on your way. It will turn your world upside down and your relationships will change.  But as the old saying goes, “it is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.”

You are only doing a smidgen of what you are capable of doing by being your true self. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you embrace who you are and you will be blown away by the results.

4. Fear destroys us; and makes others money.

When we are not ourselves, then our lives are being lived and based on fear. When we are always afraid, it is from remembering pain or trauma. Just like any animal, when we are afraid we will hide. We live in a society in which many people benefit of us being afraid.

We are evolutionarily programmed to remember the negative experiences at a much higher rate, more clearly and more intensely, than positive experiences.

Many businesses profit off of our fear. The news gets higher ratings when they show fights, violence, and all the things that are wrong with the world. So that is what they show and that is what we see. They are not showing a true representation of the world, but a sample size that spreads fear and increases ratings. This is paid for by commercial advertisements that spend millions of dollars by spreading fear into your mind in an effort to buy their product. They will tell you might get bitten by a snake, so you need to buy a fence to keep the snakes out. They tell you to buy material items to fit into society or you will be left out and not included. When the fear does not go away, we continue to consume more. And it never goes away until we realize that we are being played.

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business?” – Dr. Gail Dines

Our insane society has created these masks and then they profit off these masks they created. Then you are labeled as insane if you don’t want to wear your mask anymore. Because when we take off our masks, they lose business.

What goes into your brain will affect your subconscious mind. If you feed it with fear, it will seek fear. If you feed it with love, it will find love. The opposite of living in fear is living with love. Love is the antidote to fear.

When you live with love, you will be faced resistance from those still guided by fear. But remember, in the end, throughout history, every single time love always wins. There may be a time it seems this is not true. But it becomes a crucial point in your recovery when you decide to choose love over fear if you are going to succeed. Every person going through a true recovery will come to this stage and it is scary, it is lonely, and it is supposed to be. It takes immense strength to love when everything inside of you tells you to run away. Once you make it through this stage, you have reached a turning point and the mask begins to crumble.

5. Love, acceptance, and truly listening is far more powerful than any advice you can ever give someone.

We have all seen someone struggling and we want to fix it. Usually we want to fix it the way we would fix it for ourselves if we were in the same struggle. We tend to go in and tell people how to change. Although well-intentioned, when we do this, we begin to lose them. Everyone is different, and every recovery is different. Every mask is unique, and therefore every mask removal must be unique.

Relationships are the single most important thing to someone going through a recovery. You can have the cure for them, but if they do not trust you, they will not hear it. They do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Accepting people for who they are and where they are at in their life will go further than any piece of advice you can ever give them. Giving someone love and a hug when everybody else is kicking them is what I call “psychological life support.”

I had two people that did this for me and they saved my life. Not those who criticized me and tried to force me into treatment. It was those who offered unconditional love and acceptance who kept me alive. Unconditional, meaning without conditions/judgments, but just loving them and accepting them in their entirety with no desire to change or point out their flaws. When I was ready to change, I went to the same people because I had gained their trust.

Relationships come first. If you cannot build a relationship, a trusting relationship, then you will only do damage. I believe many staff in this field are well-intentioned, however they make these problems much worse and the patients get much sicker simply because there is a lack of acceptance, love, and an overabundance of advice giving and fixing.

Trust me, if there was an easy-fix, the person would have already done so. In rushing to fix a person, you are sending the message that they are incompetent and could not think of this on their own. A broken person doesn’t need to be fixed, they need to be loved, then they are able to heal themselves.

When I say listening, I mean being present completely with that person. This means not checking your phone, not looking at the clock, and not even thinking about anything else. This is referred to as active listening. The ten people I think are the best in this field all do this. They make the person they are with feel like they are the most important person on earth in that moment. When the person can feel heard, the magic begins.

6. Embrace your struggles, they are gifts.

When I see a patient walking around a treatment center saying “everything is fine,” “everything is ok,” or “I’m doing great,” this becomes a giant red flag. You should be struggling. Muscles do not grow without struggle and the same goes for our soul.

Since we were young, we were trained to believe that admitting to a struggle is a sign of weakness, but in fact it is a great strength. We are all going through a struggle. We should be working on the thing that is the most difficult for us for optimum growth. The thing that you are most scared to do is probably the thing that is most essential to your recovery.

If you are in pain, if you are crying, if you are scared, then you are growing. If you are questioning why you are there, or why you are going through this, or questioning your own sanity, then you are growing. If you are angry, if you are tense, if you are isolating, then you are growing.

If there is no struggle, there is no growth. If there is no growth, there is no recovery.

Everything in my life in which I thought would be my demise, ended up being the very best things in the long run. We see a small portion of the big picture and act like that’s the reality, when it’s not. We must trust the process and trust in the bigger picture. Without the illusion, there would be no enlightenment.

There will come a time that you will think this is not worth it and feel like giving up. This means you are getting close to breaking through. We usually give up right before the miracle happens.

There is not one magical moment where you reach some mountaintop. It usually takes two steps forward, followed by one step back. It is a continuous, non-linear process. It is like a newborn baby deer trying to learn to walk. Their feet are wobbly and they fall down often. Falling down is not the issue, it is the learning process that makes you stronger and not having shame about the fall. It is about being around people that do not judge the fall.

The only way through the pain you have is to deal with it. There are many things we have hidden inside ourselves through the years because of fear and using the mask. Sometimes it may be for years, or decades, but all things eventually rise to the surface and all your pain is revealed. But that is the only way that it can be healed is for it to come to the surface. It cannot be healed when it is buried.

Let the storm come. After the storm comes the rainbow.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

7. Our subconscious is what drives us.

We have two parts of our mind – the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious is all of which we are aware. The subconscious is the part that we are not aware, but all the millions of things we process daily and store away.

Our brain cannot tell if what is in our subconscious is true or not. It takes everything in as fact. It is like a hard drive that receives commands and stores everything as fact. It is built by other people and society – parents, siblings, teachers, television, pop culture, advertisements, etc. If we grow up being told that we are “bad,” our subconscious processes it to be true.

Everything is a perception and not reality. However, as different things start to play out in our conscious mind, then the subconscious files come to the surface to back it up as “evidence.” This creates stronger files in our subconscious mind. These files in our subconscious mind are what drives us; not what we are consciously aware.

As young children and even as adolescents, our brains are flooded with gray matter. This is the part of our brain that can be molded and create the person we are to become. This is what shapes the subconscious mind which will determine what drives us for a lifetime. If someone is told they are bad, lazy, incompetent, then they will be driven by this. If someone deals with pain, torture, trauma, and abandonment, they will be drive by this as well.

The good news is we can change the subconscious mind by implanting new messages. It is flexible, but it takes time, practice and patience.

Additionally, some of us will be more affected than others by these messages. Some people are naturally more sensitive, more prone to trauma,  and more prone to take things too personally.

We are all born with an innate temperament that lasts our entire lives. That would be like if a couple people were eating a pizza. One person takes a bite and it tastes lukewarm to them; but the other person burns their mouth and complains as to how hot it is. The others would not believe it to be true.  However when it comes to emotions, we can’t see anything, the scars or burns are invisible. So we are told that it is not real and our emotions are crazy, in which we believe to be true. This only further pushes our true selves down and creates more negative self-talk which creates files in the subconscious.

This leads to the most sensitive, warm, kind people in our society being invalidated and told they are “babies” for feeling and caring more than most. We tell them that they are not right when inside they are going through a trauma.

But if a young boy acts out in anger instead of crying, that is more acceptable in our society. That is one form of a mask that is created and is prevalent among young men. Then with this mask, and all masks, comes depression from not being your true self from going against nature.

That’s the inner voice, it is the subconscious.  It is strong but it may not even be true. The only way to combat this is to start telling yourself positive things (affirmations), surround yourself with positivity, changing your perceptions of the world (cognitive behavioral therapy), focus on the positive things in life (gratitude). This starts to build more positive files in your subconscious which drives you out of despair and into a positive direction.

We all are born pure, and with nothing but love in our hearts. This is often taken from some of us by a combination of temperament, environment, society, and trauma. We eventually believe that we are not good at our core. But we are. We can change our subconscious by what goes into our brain daily. This takes persistence and daily practice, and it is hard when we are used to thinking negatively about ourselves. However, this out of everything is probably the key to sustained long-term recovery- dealing with that inner voice and changing our thoughts.  It will seem foreign at first to say “I’m a good person.” If you are going to make it, you have to start doing on a daily basis. You can replace those files just like your body replaces every cell in the body every seven years. Soon those old files will be gone and the new positive files will be your subconscious.

8. Who you surround yourself with is one of the most important decisions you will make.

I have heard many wise people say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. As I said above, that directly affects our subconscious and what we think of ourselves.

I remember years ago my oldest daughter enrolled in a private school. Everyone in the school was Catholic and she came home and believed in her inner core that the entire world was Catholic. She cried about it at night that she was different because she did not go up to get the fake bread at their ceremonies. Similarly, if you are around five people that smoke pot and you do not smoke pot, then you are the weirdo for not smoking pot. However, if you are with five people that do not smoke pot and you do, then you are considered strange for smoking pot.

At the end of the day, if you are around negativity — eg. those who consider you strange or different — it will eventually influence you.

Now some negativity can be good if you’re an overly positive person and turn a blind eye to all negativity because that is also unrealistic and can actually benefit the person. Also, being angry can help mobilize and motivate you to change. People who are totally happy and content at all times are never the ones that change the world – see Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. It is those that are healthy discontents that create change.

On the flip side, if you only are surrounded by negativity it will suck the life out of you. Likewise if you are around a bunch of people who believe that you are a bad person, be that your family, friends, or relatives, then that’s going to creep right back into your subconscious and you creep right back into old patterns. Soon you believe that pattern as real.

You cannot do this alone. It took many others to help us put the mask on, and it will take others to help remove the mask as well. I came across five amazing people that helped change my life and save it.

Part of recovering is making the effort to be true to yourself. Once you can do this, you will find yourself in others. You start to see that all of life is a synchronicity. You will suddenly be around people who can help you and you have to be willing to accept help and make yourself vulnerable. If you cannot expose yourself and be vulnerable to these good people, then you will fall.

Vulnerability allows others to lift the mask.

You have to start all over sometimes; that may even mean leaving your family and lifelong friends. It is terrifying, but you will find new people that embrace your true self, whereas your friends and family have only got to know your mask and are not ready for your true self. You’ll find that people who you thought were close friends really were not; and people who you thought were not your friends actually were. You find out everybody’s true character when you go through this. It’s a gift in that way as well. Someone you may not have associated with five years ago, you’ll love them when you are your true self. This just means that the transformation is happening.

9. You must learn to truly love yourself or you will not make it.

I wrote earlier about being your true self and that is completely different from loving your true self. There is a reason we wear these masks and have these false selves. It is because we think that at our core, we are not OK. Then we start to be ourselves, but also seek to make changes. We have to 100-percent, truly, genuinely love our true self and embrace it or we will eventually slip back on our masks.

This is the often overlooked Steps Six and Seven of the 12-Steps. We are removing the parts of ourselves that are not true and keeping those that are. However, we get confused at this point because we feel that part of ourselves is flawed.

But, that is impossible! Every single person is perfect at their core. You do not have any flaws. That is a lie created by society. Every person is perfect and once you find your true self you will see this to be true.

Which is why, when you are finally being yourself you are likely going to be mocked, ridiculed, and teased. It begins to seem much easier to revert back to old ways (the mask). It is hard when you have run your whole life and been afraid. Then you start to be yourself and people start teasing you or pushing you away. You must realize that this has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with them. If somebody loves you that usually has more to do with them than you; and if somebody hates you that has more to do with them than you.

I remember when I had to have a psychological test done, I had to have my four closest people fill out a form and I figured it would all be the same answers that they gave. I got four completely different forms with four completely different sets of answers. Others love us based on their perception of us or they hate us based on their perception of us, none of this is reality – but it is reality to them.

What matters is what we think of ourselves. If we love ourselves, we will glow and other people will be drawn to us and some will be drawn away from us.

“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll find peace.’ The spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” – Marianne Williamson

10. Whatever you do, if you do it with love in your heart as your intention, you cannot go wrong.

The world is full of opinions. Everyone has the answers. You can’t do this, or you shouldn’t do that. People can show you evidence about why they are right and why you are wrong. Everyone will tell you how to handle your recovery and how to handle every situation in life. When we are listening to other people instead of our true selves, we are going against our own truth and against our own nature.

There is no right and wrong. We used to think smoking was okay for you and doctors advertised it. We used to think the world was flat. We used to think Columbus discovered America. There is no truth, there is only perception. You must do what your true inner self believes. Your mask is unique so your mask’s removal is going to be unique. The one thing that is common for all mask removals is connection and love. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen, gas, and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.

There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years. This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness became coherent, things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of ones and zeroes. The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion. How is this possible?

Every single thing you can see around you — the rocks, the birds, and the trees — all are comprised of the same atoms. They are just expressed differently — yet intricately interconnected. Whatever you do and whatever decisions you make, if you do it with love as your motive and if your intentions are pure with love you cannot be wrong. So know your intentions and know your truth and embrace it. You were born with a light that others have tried to dim with a mask, let your light shine again and take your mask off. Humanity needs the gift that your true self possess.

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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