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You are here: Home MFI Blog 2008 August 06 Compare two unusual actions on a bus.

Compare two unusual actions on a bus.

According to many media reports, an individual in Canada on a bus committed a horrendous crime, and decapitated a sleeping companion. Reporters say that the murderer even taunted police with the head and chewed on body parts. Now press is saying he may have been in a psychiatric institution, and he's been placed in one for observation.


Compare two acts on a bus. Both unusual. Consider our society's language.


Many in the public will no doubt will call the recent perpetrator of the horrible crime in that Canada bus a 'crazy freak' and more. How can one refute that?

And something dawned on me....

I'm into word origins, and both of those words definitely mean very unusual, different, etc.... but don't inherently mean something negative.

In word origins, long ago, a freak was just something like an unexpected streak of yellow in a red rose. That "freak" of yellow didn't inherently mean bad, sick, negative, defective, evil, etc. In fact, it could be valuable.

Crazy -- same thing. Cracked. But in wabi-sabi, a beautiful crack in a pottery is valued... The 'crack' between chaos and order is where nature lives.... etc.

I could go through many word origins like this, and I have elsewhere.

So let's consider another unusual act on a bus long ago, just a few months after I was born, in 1955.

Rosa Parks -- by sitting peacefully in the front of the bus as part of the civil rights movement -- could, by using word origins, also be called a "crazy freak." She cracked the overwhelming conformity of segregation. Her courageous act literally was a 'freak' of integrative color in a monoculture of dominant sameness.

But of course just about everyone would be offended if Rosa Parks were called a crazy freak, and I would not call her that either given the context. How dare anyone insult her, we may ask?

But Rosa's 'maladjusted' activity does indeed fit with the word origin definitions of those 'neutralized' terms like crazy and freak.

No, it's only when there's a decapitation on a bus that words like crazy and freak come out and are used freely.

But when someone finally sits in the front of the bus for justice in 1955?

Well, MLK at least got it right, "creative maladjustment" is what he called that kind of activity....

All maladjustment is not good, but all maladjustment is not evil either!

Society places people like this bus murderer squarely into the camp of those of us labeled with psychiatric diagnoses. But then why not give us all of those who are very different... including our heroine Rosa and heroes including Martin Luther King, Jr., who said he was proud to be creatively psychologically maladjusted?

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I do not know what happened in that Canadian bus. But do we truly understsand what happened in that Montgomery, Alabama bus? If we truly understood, wouldn't more of us -- and I count myself, too -- be committing nonviolent civil disobedience at this time for justice?

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Lauren Tenney, psychiatric survivor activist from New York State

First involuntarily institutionalized, at 15, Lauren Tenney is a survivor of psychiatry. She has been involved with the user and survivor movement since 1992. Her goal is to help stop forced psychiatric procedures, detainment, and confinement, human rights violations, psychiatric abuse and torture. Of particular concern are the elimination of forced electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) on people of all ages, but particularly children and senior citizens, forced drugging, restraints, seclusion, behavioral interventions, and coercion of any kind. Lauren, a Mad-Activist/ Artist/ Author/ Academic/ Adjunct Professor is coordinating The Opal Project, an outcome of participatory action research she coordinated for field research in the PhD program in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation topic is: "The Institutionalized "Community." She became involved with WE THE PEOPLE when the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights and MindFreedom International needed someone on the ground in Brooklyn, New York to coordinate a response where Esmin Green was murdered-by-neglect. She now lives in Albany, NY with her service dog-in-training and cat. For more info: www.TheOpalProject.org and www.etrash.tv
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