Self-help in the "Irren-Offensive" (Lunatics Offensive) Berlin
How do we minimize the reproduction of suffered repression?

Lecture at the self-help day of the Regional Organization Psychiatric Survivors North-Rhine/Westphalia
(Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener NRW) in Bochum on 9th April 2005

The sub-title is chosen with care because, as Adorno rightly says, "There is no true life in a false one." Therefore we can only try to minimize the power structures and the intrinsic repression exerted by it.

The focus of our actions
Here I would like to digress a little, in order to explain the background of our actions.
One can understand the Irren-Offensive if, and only if, one sees it as a political group. The moment one relegates it into a self-help group, one would not only make it violent, but would misjudge its substantial characteristic. The fact that in this political concept we limited ourselves to the psychiatric survivors as active subjects has tactical reasons, not fundamental ones. The idea behind this is that, with regard to psychiatry, the legal system reverses itself. That is why the public prosecutor does not recognize the crimes which are systematically committed there, let alone press charges. Instead, it is the victim of psychiatry who must press charges. Charges can therefore above all only be seen as figurative. This charge should be made strongly, if it is raised by the psychiatric victim.

However this approach does not take into account a fundamental paradox: the moment we complain, we also define ourselves as the victim. This role is however exactly the one into which psychiatry wants to bring us: We should be the aggrieved party, we are the ones to be broken and therefore the charges are for the offenders firstly and above all a confirmation of the success of their psychiatric measures. This was exactly their goal: to intimidate us, to insult and to slander us, to silence and lame us. In order to escape this paradox, our basic approach must be a different one: we must act politically, thus probably (for good or bad) become - mind you not criminal - "offenders" and thus develop an initiative so that only two different reactionary choices remain for the defenders of the coercive system: to become either openly repressive, as is the case with e.g. the Federal Association of Psychiatry Survivors (Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener) as a compliance helper of psychiatry against the regional organization Psychiatry Survivors Berlin Brandenburg (Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener Berlin-Brandenburg), by taking away the regional organizations statutory right to vote. The other reactionary reaction is to undertake integrative steps. With the integrative reaction two versions are to be differentiated:

A) The pure appearance of integration,
only in order to dazzle and lame those who are active. That is the method to which social psychiatry has committed itself: completely inconsequential positions and meetings are held, by which the appearance is created that the victims have a say; yes, even a psychiatrist allegedly "would listen" to them. That then actually becomes the pure derision of the victims, if they let themselves be duped in this way. They thereby once again fall victim to the central strategy of the psychiatric offenders, who operate by individualizing and thus depoliticizing the victims: individual diagnoses are made, there is an alleged individual "defect" in the person, be it in their history, or even in their biology, their brain metabolism etc. which leads to their psychiatric slandering and abuse. Exactly this individualizing, separation, was successful, if the victims, as a reaction to it want to prove that they were nevertheless personally not "ill" (all the others however very probably) or by preserving vague hopes of being freed by a psychiatrist from the reputation sullying document, by being once again recognized as a human being just because he held a conversation with them. That is e.g. the trick, with which in my opinion Dorothea Buck was fooled into, who with all her commitment for "dialogue", in the trialogue lie, misjudges the fact that "they", on their own initiative, could always have spoken with her. The physicians could speak with her just as naturally as with Jews, before they murdered them in the gas chambers. This approach unfortunately systematically misjudges the fact that they do not want to talk with her and us. Because they see us as through an aquarium window, the aquarium window of power through which Primo Levi was looked at by Dr. Pannwitz, when he was examined in Auschwitz by Dr. Pannwitz. Because coercive psychiatry is the negation of the subject, the comprehensive indignity of a person, the distinction between humans and sub-humans, that is their program and that is why a "dialogue" can once again only cover up the true relationship of power in an illusory dialogue. Behind this façade, pure neo Nazi eugenic again raises its head. It is psychiatric genetics, the modernized genetic hygiene. The co-operation of the Federal Association of Psychiatry Survivors with the German psychiatrists exactly on this point, their German congress about psychiatric genetics, is the special iniquity, which the Federal Association of Psychiatry Survivors with its active participation committed at this congress.

Briefly back to the aquarium view, in order to explain this point for the uninitiated:
In his book Ist das ein Mensch ("Is that a human") Primo Levi describes, how he is questioned by Dr. Pannwitz, chief the chemical department of Auschwitz. Levi was chemist by occupation. Perhaps a job at the chemical department could protect him from extermination. As he stood in his concentration camp uniform on the other side of the desk, Dr. Pannwitz looked at him as if he was looking at a fish in an aquarium. Never before had Primo Levi been looked at by someone in this way and he never forgot the meaning of this look. Here a meeting by two humans took place as if they were two completely different species.

b) What would be a really integrative reaction?
Although this step would naturally have to proceed from the side of the offenders, not from the injured party and the abused, we did make another effort from our side. The substantial question, in order to decide whether there are actual steps towards integration or if only a smoke screen has been created for confusion, is the question of coercion in psychiatry: ONLY when the psychiatric oppressors as a precondition have accepted the removal of their coercion, can integration efforts no longer become part of the problem, but rather part of the solution of the problem. Then, and only then, can communication take place as a discussion, as a dialogue, for all I care even a trialogue, because a discussion and commands are mutually irreconciliable: Commands are part of military communication and typically in this field it deals with the destruction or at least the threatened destruction of others.

Since in the meantime the representation agreement exists, we offered to discuss this with the senior physician of a Psychiatry Department in Berlin and included his acknowledgement of this new legal rule as a condition of resuming any discussions in the future. How mendacious psychiatrists are and that in principle one should actually never believe a torturer at all, we then experienced: He gave to us in writing that he would adhere to this new regulation and nevertheless six months later he did precisely the opposite: under his direction an expert opinion denied an adult person any legal competency - backdated 4 years - for the only purpose of making that person's representation agreement ineffective and to legalize the torture measures in a court. Further details can be read in the current "Irren-Offensive" (in German).

Another more drastic way of describing this: Psychiatry is a devil's trade, in which in principle none of the bases for creation of confidence has validity. Thus it is logical to have ONLY distrust towards it. So those who want real change should in principle talk with everyone, only not with people from this system of coercion and suppression, because it can be de-legitimized and decomposed ONLY from the outside.

Once again this is an indication of our political agenda: we address ourselves with our actions as a group to the public, NOT to psychiatry. Because in the public area, by political decisions, the laws must be abolished which are incompatible with human rights and by psychiatric attributing turns a certain section of the population into sub-humans. We do not take part in any committees, advisory boards or round table meetings, rather we have now defined ourselves, also in our statutes, as being a human rights group. Different types of activity in the public arena is the emphasis of our actions. Because the media systematically blacks us out and because there is a hushing up system of extreme and systematic violations of human rights in psychiatry, we have created our own media which is closely meshed in with our actions and campaigns, with our newspaper, our internet presence or - as of late - our radio broadcasts, the "Dissidentenfunk".

After this long introduction I now want to explain which rules are the result of our concept and why we regard it as a "grass roots group".

Rules in the Irren-Offensive ("Lunatics Offensive") Association
Since the founding of the Irren-Offensive (I.O.) 25 years ago, the rules have been completely simple: those who come to the weekly plenum and state that they have been psychiatrized, are entitled to participate in discussions, propose resolutions and to vote. Those who consider themselves not to be a psychiatric survivor must either have been invited to the plenum, or justify themselves immediately at the beginning and if they wish to remain, attain guest status. All votings consist of a majority vote, also those about the guest status.

At present there are the following auxiliary rules: At the beginning of each plenum a writer of the minutes is confirmed, who documents the resolutions of the plenum in a kind of log. If too few come (e.g. during vacation time) only "social talk" without resolutions takes place.

In the same way we regularly have "social talk" for approx 30 min. to 1 hour before the plenum. Thus anyone can talk to anyone else as he/she wishes. We do not have a fixed assembly leader. However with large simultaneous exchanges by different participants, someone is certain to feel so disturbed that he/she steps in to lead the discussion, assesses the different arguments and allocates the right to speak. If there is no objection, then this is the spontaneously accepted procedure.

Items on the agenda are noted at the beginning by the writer of the minutes, who then announces them according to the agreed order.

Our aim at the plenum is to create an atmosphere of free speech, thus no restrictive regulation which must again become "policed" against deviations and so that again authorities would have to be created who ensure and/or apply this protection. Instead everyone can express him/herself freely. I observed that people who are not very talkative are listened to whenever they nevertheless do speak up and that on the other hand "loud mouths" are requested by others more or less firmly to be quiet and attentive. The best example of this is Werner Fuss, after whom we called our meeting place: he had a speech impediment and could only make himself heard with a soft and croaky voice. The fact that we named our center after him is also proof that we listen very attentively even to that which is only slightly audible. Because when Werner said something, everyone was quiet and I found that his remarks were always quite remarkable.
Altogether everything follows the principle that everything is permitted which is not expressly forbidden. One thus circumvents the main pillar of domination: pre-emptive obedience, and this creates instead a place for fantasy, deviation, the unusual and unexpected.

Our discussion is usually quite lively, because often chaotic and doesn't try to mutually exclude unusual behavior, or want to "therapize" ourselves but rather to organize ourselves free of violence and we laugh a lot.
A further rule is that we call the police only for serious offences such as inflicted injury or arson, thus not to involve the state in the conciliation of our arguments. This however does creates special difficulties, which I do not want to deal with here.

© Author: René Talbot
Published with agreement of the plenum on 13.4.2005

Original text in German