Somebody messaged me about my last blog - Stigma - A childhood legacy. I'm grateful it was read, and I am pleased that it's generating some thought. But the reader contacted me to draw my attention to something they felt was significant. Since others may too, I felt I would respond via this post.
The issue? The blog contained a video clip. The clip had been made by an organisation funded largely by the Church of Scientology. It seemed as though I was being asked to make other readers aware of this fact. I was also given a link to an article about how the Church of Scientology deals with psychiatric illness. True, it wasn't pleasant reading, but even so, I wasn't sure what I was meant to do with the information.
Was the video brought to my attention because it could be inferred as anti psychiatry (which the CoS is very public about), and therefore reflected badly on me? Was I being asked to consider advising people that due to its financiers, the clip should be viewed with "caution"? Was the subtext one that implied I should not have used it? Or at the very least, put a disclaimer next to it?
I chose the clip because it gave me goosebumps and it supported my stance. This reaction though, has got me thinking.
Is any offending item only offensive because of the value judgement the reader/viewer places upon it? For instance, would the same clip still discomfit if produced by the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry? Should it really make a difference?
If the item in question has merit in terms of its capacity to illustrate a point, doesn't it stand alone as a thematic emblem for the piece? That was why I used the clip. I am not sure whether this is right or not. But I am sure that I would not have degree in English Literature if I hadn't been able to support my arguments by manipulating the insertion of a poem's line here or a quote from Shakespeare there. According to the academics, that was the point: "Have an idea? Well support it then - in a way that resonates with me". Lines can be drawn between most things and without too much effort.
If the blog/story/article references something that is produced by a religious/spiritual/fanatical/ideological group, is the author and the content by default an advocate/supporter/member of that group? And again, should that make a difference? Do I have to declare I am not a member of the Church of Scientology in order for folks to deem me legit? Does belief make an opinion unworthy of mention or to be taken with a pinch of salt? Does it mean that even if pertinent or wise, we are to ignore and disparage a belief as crackpot religious theory?
Whenever beliefs and faith are raised, people become suspicious. I understand why; humankind has a CV-full of genocide in the name of belief or religion. But it is impossible to state objectively that none of these beliefs have had any benefits at any time in history. What worries me is that left unchecked, this suspicion can add another layer of stigma to a world already grappling with a truck load.
I am not comfortable putting disclaimers all over the place at times like this - they imply fear of judgement, they acknowledge there's prejudice. They perpetuate the problem. No, I would rather someone thought I was an idiot.
And there is also a lot of irony to this subject of belief and what's "worthy" belief and what isn't. Up until the 1970s, it was the belief of Psychiatry that to be homosexual was to be "mentally disordered". Gay men would be hospitalised and the treatment was called "aversion therapy for sexual deviation". Yikes. Its description reads a lot like torture. Suicide after this sort of treatment was common. But it was the BELIEF of psychiatry that to be gay was to be sick and no one questioned it. So I wonder, is psychiatry not open to the same sort of criticism as the CoS when we study its mistakes past and present?
Nevertheless, just in case a Church of Scientology funded advertisement is too much for some to stomach, I've included a brilliant documentary by the wonderful Louis Theroux. In this film called America's Most Medicated Kids, Louis tackles the debate of labelling and medicating children. He just does it with a lot more finesse! God bless you Louis.
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