And what’s crucial is that dissent without disobedience had no value for the victim.
Dissent is not the same as disobedience, as a person may voice protest with an authority but still obey. People who are capable of dissent but incapable of disobedience are often uncomfortable challenging the very legitimacy of that authority to wield power. In contrast, genuine anti-authoritarians are comfortable with both dissent and disobedience when they deem authority to be illegitimate.
Dissent alone may be effective in a genuinely democratic society, but authoritarians—be they Milgram’s experimenter authority or U.S. corporatist government—ignore dissent. Authoritarians realize that simply ignoring dissent is often an effective way to marginalize it, even when that dissent comes from the majority of the people.
As I describe in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, within the human family there are anti-authoritarians-people comfortable resisting illegitimate authority; but at present, for reasons that I discuss, there are not enough of them.
Why are there greater mental health stresses on autistic people from gender-minority groups? To quote from the research paper,
“The increased rates of mental health problems in these minority populations are often a consequence of the stigma and marginalisation attached to living outside mainstream sociocultural norms (Meyer 2003). This stigma can lead to what Meyer (2003) refers to as ‘minority stress’. This stress could come from external adverse events, which among other forms of victimization could include verbal abuse, acts of violence, sexual assault by a known or unknown person, reduced opportunities for employment and medical care, and harassment from persons in positions of authority (Sandfort et al. 2007).”
When I first heard the term liberation theology (in opposition to a theology that fosters compliance with the status quo), I thought there should also be a liberation psychology—a psychology that doesn’t equate a lack of adjustment with mental illness, but instead promotes constructive rebellion against dehumanizing institutions, and which also provides strategies to build a genuinely democratic society.
liberation psychology is about looking at the world from the point of view of the dominated instead of the dominators.
Whether they realize it or not, mental health professionals who narrowly treat their clients in a way that encourages compliance with the status quo are acting politically. Similarly, validating a client’s challenging of these undemocratic hierarchical modes is also a political act. I believe that mental health professionals have an obligation to recognize the broader issues that form a context for their clients’ mental well-being, and to be honest with their clientele about which side of this issue they are on.
A minority of the anti-authoritarian kids I have worked with are aware of anarchism and identify themselves as anarchists, perhaps having T-shirts with a circle drawn around an A. However, even among those adolescents who know nothing of the political significance of the term anarchism, I cannot remember one who didn’t become excited to discover that there is an actual political ideology that encompasses their point of view. They immediately became more whole after they discovered that answering “yes” to the following questions does not mean that they suffer from a mental disorder but that they have a certain political philosophy:
- Do you hate coercion? Do you love freedom?
- Are you willing to risk punishments to gain freedom?
- Do you distrust large, impersonal, and distant authorities?
- Do you reject centralized authority and believe in participatory democracy?
- Do you hate powerful bigness of any kind?
- Do you hate laws and rules that benefit the people at the top and make life miserable for people at the bottom?
Source: Toward a Liberation Psychology
Although people are often pathologized and shamed for feeling hopeless, hopelessness is sometimes a natural reaction to an oppressive political climate. George Carlin and other artists show how embracing hopelessness can serve as motivation to create social change.
“Carlin was a far better therapist for critical thinkers than are the vast majority of my mental health professional colleagues. Shaming hopelessness as some kind of character flaw or, worse, psychopathologizing it as a symptom of mental illness only adds insult to injury. Hope missionaries ignore the reality that pathologizing hopelessness does not make critical thinkers more hopeful, only more annoyed.
I know many mental health professionals who espouse hope but who are broken and compliant with any and all authorities. In contrast, I know anti-authoritarians who, like Carlin, express hopelessness but who are unbroken and resist illegitimate authorities. Carlin modeled a self-confident rebellion against authoritarianism and bullshit, and he provided the kind of humor that energizes resistance.”