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Trying to Deal with 'Official' Nonsense

Recently I was asked to be a guest speaker at one of our local universities, Harvard. My father-in-law-to-be is friends with a Harvard professor who is well-respected in the field of neurochemistry and who led a three-day seminar called, I think, 'Psychoactive Drugs and Neurotransmitters.' The seminar was attended by about thirty college science teachers from around the country. I was asked to offer the perspective of someone who had worked professionally as a counselor with people who had substance abuse problems. I felt underqualified but agreed to do it, knowing it would be an opportunity to publicly offer a rational position on the whole issue of drugs and be listened to as at least some sort of authority.

The idea I offered was that all drugs-legal, illegal, and psychiatric-were an attempt to simulate, by manipulating the body's chemistry, the beneficial physiological effects of emotional release (discharge). I stated that all of the drugs were 'necessary' only because of societal confusion and prohibition against discharge, especially crying. I was scared as hell, and bungled a couple of questions that confused me, but I held a firm line in the face of questions like, 'What about things like obsessive-compulsive disorder, which seem to be physiologically based and aren't caused by traumatic experiences?'

The only reference source I brought with me was a copy of an article by Judy Burrell called 'The Value of Crying,' from a 1992 issue of the magazine Mothering. It is an excellent article and quotes the biochemist William Frey II, whose research has verified the physiological benefits of crying (the article also quotes Harvey).

It was only after having a session about what I had done that I realized why I had felt scared: I had spoken out publicly, as a man, against one of the key aspects of men's oppression (the prohibition against showing our feelings) and as a 'mental health' worker against 'mental health' oppression (particularly against the popular concept of 'mental illness' as a real phenomenon caused by a 'chemical imbalance'). After my hour of leading the seminar I found myself wishing I had said certain things differently, but that evening the professor in charge called and told me he was quite pleased with how it had gone. I not only survived my first foray into academia as an 'authority,' but apparently succeeded.

My next challenge will be a June 5 talk I am going to give to the Boston chapter of the National Space Society, a society dedicated to creating a 'true spacefaring civilization.' The title of my talk will be 'What We Must Do to Get Space Exploration Really Moving: Speculation About the Social Forces That Are Slowing the Space Exploration Effort, and Ideas About What Each of Us Can Do.' My basic point will be that the pro-space community must become more socially aware and active if they want their programs to be supported by non-white, non-middle-class, and non-scientist people. I will submit the idea that capitalism, and its ever-present profit motive, is one of the main forces that is slowing the human space effort, that the current structure of our society will not support a program of vigorous space exploration.

I expect my position will quickly restimulate feelings of discouragement and powerlessness in the society's members, who have, I think, convinced themselves that it is alright to pursue the one goal of space exploration without figuring out how to address humanity's many current problems. I will have to be creative about ways to handle the distress that may come my way.

Paul Beich
Arlington, Massachusetts,

Last modified: 2020-07-01 19:14:07+00