The Real Alternative


‘Reverse’ Sexism Is A Thing – Just Like Hypocrisy (My highlighting of the story. Link to full article is embedded).
Twitter and Zemanta are momentarily down where I am. So instead of fretting away about not being able to post the link through Twitter or get new images, I thought I’d just post the link and an old image here. Not quite as pretty but the same info.

I have to admit that I have seen all kinds of sexism. Men dissing women, women dissing women, men dissing men, and yes, women dissing men.

When I began my PhD there was a woman faculty member who was in a position to significantly help or hinder my success in obtaining the degree (not a few candidates “wash out”). There I was, fresh in a new town, a bit nervous, especially since I had completed my M.A. in the organic splendor and chaos of India. Coming back to Canada and the cold, sterile city of Ottawa was not easy.

So what’s the first thing this person said when she met me?

“Oh… a MAN…” in a derogatory tone.

Gee, that really made me feel confident that we’d have a constructive academic relationship.

I didn’t say anything, of course. Because grad studies is all about power. And she had considerable power over me.

At least two other women were present when this comment was made. And nobody, including myself filed a complaint.

I felt it was better to suck it up and get the PhD rather than risk sticking my neck out at such an early stage of the game.

Turns out this woman did fight pretty hard for me when other political complications arose several years later. There was another person who was so difficult and uneducated that even the aforementioned woman had to take my side. I guess, also, that over the five year period she’d gotten to know me a bit better and realized I was an exceptional student and that I try to be fair with everyone I meet.

So playing the game worked to a degree. But for the record, I did absorb some pretty severe reverse sexism at the outset.

Likewise, on the Canadian TV news I’ve heard women anchors joke about ‘hunks’ and make other really sexist comments about men. But this never flares up. It’s okay for women to objectify men. It’s all just in fun… right?

Perhaps some women and men feel it’s okay for women to broadcast sexual innuendos in the media because women have been oppressed for so long. I understand that argument. Sort of like a pendulum swinging back to the other extreme. But really, isn’t it time things leveled out in a more mature manner?


If someone called me “the most dangerous person” I don’t think I’d like that very much

So why is “nasty woman” getting all the attention? Is this a kind of reverse sexism?

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Updated – Article on “Remote Viewing”

Just updated my entry at about the controversial idea of Remote Viewing. Perhaps not a literary masterpiece, I do think my entry is more balanced than the Wikipedia entry. The Wikipedia entry reads like an airplane repair manual or something. But those sympathetic to psi say that the “subtle science” of these alleged phenomena doesn’t work that way. So who knows.

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Today’s Top Tweets – I hate to say “I told you so…” but I really did

Today’s top tweets all have to do with psychiatry, which is a good follow-up to yesterday’s post.

The first tweet points to an anthropological critique. The second to a mainstream psychiatric piece that begs some intelligent reflection; specifically, could some gene mutations be a part of human evolution? And the third to an almost laughable tract by a writer, who not unlike a cleric in the medieval Church, is offended by the very prospect of dialog.

I find that surprising and, frankly, a bit disquieting in the 21st century.

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Psychiatry and Spirituality – Even professor “night” can’t stop the sunrise

While doing my PhD at the University of Ottawa, I wrote a paper in 1992-93 that examined the psychiatric diagnostic system, known at the time as the DSM-III-R. I looked at the extraordinary claims of mystics and saints from different religious traditions. Would some historical spiritual figures be viewed as “mentally ill” today? I asked. To ground my paper I offered a summary on postmodern ideas about truth and power. After all, this was a graduate seminar in methodology.

Sadly, it seems the professor hosting the seminar was more interested in getting a paycheck than in trying to open his mind and encourage new research in uncharted territory.

English: The Communist States

The Communist States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was the type of guy who said in class that it was “hopeless” talking about feminism. I guess he feared that, whatever he said, he would be jumped on.

I wasn’t writing about feminism, per se, for this particular paper. But the professor’s unwillingness or inability to probe anything but his own small, esoteric field in religious studies made him a dreadful brick wall to run into.

I say “brick wall” because for some reason this incompetent, intransigent man had a lot of power at the university. Most everyone seemed to shrink in administrative offices whenever his name was mentioned. I still can’t figure it out. But I had serious problems with him later on when trying to get letters of recommendation (outlined here).

For a while I thought it had something to do with his immigrating to Canada from a communist country. But I have met many immigrants from communist countries who are an absolute delight. In seeming contrast to professor “night,” as I will call him, psychologically healthy immigrants from communist regimes can see both mindsets – authoritarian vs. authoritative – and consciously choose which they like better.

So immigrating from a communist country, alone, wasn’t it. There must have been something else to this man that made him so difficult and, in my case, authoritarian.¹

Published by the American Psychiatric Associat...

Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-IV-TR provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By way of contrast, I wrote a similar paper for another professor at Trent University back in the mid 1980s. He was the “day” to the University of Ottawa’s professor “night.”

The Trent professor was a true humanities teacher. He was a PhD in psychology but also up on literature dealing with the subtle nuances of the psyche. His reading list included works like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Long Day’s Journey into Night and that old psychological classic, Macbeth.

Professor “day” clearly understood where I was coming from and what I hoped to achieve. He also wrote a glowing letter of recommendation that helped me to win a graduate scholarship.

We need more well-rounded professors like that. And hopefully the University of Toronto and Ryerson will continue to encourage quality thinking on this topic. Otherwise, too many people, imo, will be compromised by the system. And they might not even know why.

Having said that, I don’t believe strident, one-sided anti-psychiatry tracts are the answer, as we sometimes see, for instance, at Mad in America. The reality is that the psychiatric system is in place. It has legal power over other perspectives, probably in large part because psychiatric drugs can effectively subdue potentially violent or suicidal individuals (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

In some ways psychiatry does a lot of good. But it does need tweaking. And that’s why today’s tweet is highlighted.

¹ When I asked professor “night” why he changed his mind and would not provide a letter of recommendation perilously close to scholarship application deadlines, he answered that his letter would be “weak.” Perplexed and traumatized, I reminded him that he gave me an “A” in his course and that my academic future was at stake. At this he snapped “I GAVE YOU MY REASONS.” And that was it. End of an otherwise promising academic career.


Today’s Top Tweets – At one time considered part of psychiatry’s dark history, ECT is on the rise again

English: Portrait of Mary Shelley

Portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was an undergrad student taking psychology courses in the mid 1980s, ECT was portrayed as something from one of the dark chapters in psychiatric history.

“We know better now” was the general message put out by psychology textbooks.

So when I recently heard that ECT was on the rise again, I was truly surprised.

Actually, ECT never entirely went away, despite what those psychology textbooks claimed.

I understand that only those who are severely depressed undergo treatment. But surely there’s a better way.

Scientists don’t even know why it works. Some theorize that it temporarily blunts the emotions by decreasing blood flow to a region of the brain.

Critics say that ECT usually causes disorientation and memory loss and when the treatment wears off, things are even worse.

To me, the whole thing sounds like something frightening out of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle era or perhaps further back to Mary Shelley.

Sociologically, statistics show that late middle aged women receive this treatment significantly more than men.

No wonder I abandoned psychology as my undergrad major and switched to sociology. As one sociology professor put it while I was contemplating the change, “psychology is hindering your intellectual development.”

Of course, sociology fell short too. As did philosophy and, as you may have read yesterday, the academic study of religion.

That’s why I like to talk about the issues. Nobody has everything all figured out. And anyone who emphatically thinks they have are probably insane, naïve, brainwashed or fanatical.


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Is university still a place to question and explore?

As far back as 1992 in a graduate studies methodology course I questioned the psychiatric model – not dismissing it, mind you, but questioning it. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to do in academia, right? University is not a church or a political party. It’s a place where the mind can explore new possibilities and critique existing conditions.

Sadly, the professor who hosted the course was a capricious, cynical stooge. He is alleged to have said that “a university is a place where a professor can get a paycheck.” And after initially agreeing to write letters of recommendation for post-doc scholarships, at the last minute, just before application deadlines, he changed his mind and literally shafted me.

“Shafted” might sound like a harsh word but it’s the very word the Department Head at the time used to describe what happened, later on, when I was also not given the chance to teach a course, which is important to your CV.

Sensing that my academic future was on the line, I went through every legitimate government agency, asking for help. Everybody just passed the buck and I didn’t get a fair chance to compete for a post-doc scholarship. (I had a fantastic track record for getting funding before running into this professor).

I suppose there is some value in seeing the dark side of life along with the sunny side. Until meeting this professor, I was the apple of just about every professor’s eye. I’d hear comments like “It’s Michael Clark and all the other students.” Or “She is not as good as you.” (“she” being a leading student). “What would we do without you, Mike!” Michael Clark is “stellar,” “outstanding,” and I could go on. But when I encountered this dishonorable professor, the dynamic changed.

Let’s not fool ourselves. University is as politically charged and potentially corrupt as any other social institution. The higher you go, the more you see it. I was naïve at the time and could not understand why one crummy professor’s actions could seemingly influence so many others. But that’s what apparently happened. Many professors who once glowingly supported me suddenly did not return my emails. Some had integrity and hung in there, and for that I am truly appreciative. However, the ones who did try to help were mostly undergraduate professors. And that just doesn’t cut it when you need several letters of recommendation for post-doc funding (My Masters professors were all in India, which in the 1990s was still a difficult place to communicate with, and I was not given adequate time for snail mail).

The professor who shafted me would have known all this. In his jaded, cynical way, he was clever. He tried to slough me off by suggesting I go see my “Peterborough people” after changing his mind about supporting me. (Peterborough, Ontario is where I did my undergraduate studies).

Weird? Not really. I see it more clearly now. But I don’t like to use overly nasty words at this blog. It would alienate readers and get the site designated as mature, which would only hinder any chance of getting a more positive message out there.

Anyhow, today’s tweet brought back a lot of memories. I wrote about the DSM-III-R from a cross-cultural perspective back in 1992-93. I was moderate and didn’t romanticize things. I recognized that people with mental injury or differences often do suffer.

But it only took one creepy professor with a bit of imo questionable power to put me in the academic trash can. He was the kind of professor who was often seen volunteering in the department mail room when the mail room secretary wasn’t around. But he would rarely, if ever, show up at colloquia and graduate presentations. It seems he liked to sift through the mail more than talk about intellectual issues, which in retrospect seems pretty strange to me. No time for academic debate? Lots of time to play mail boy?

Little did this enigmatic professor know, however, that out of the ashes, | would arise. So even though I’m not getting paid for doing this blog, at least the internet has provided a forum that one lousy, authoritarian professor tried to shut down.

I mean, this guy may have had power in Religious Studies within the Canadian system. But he couldn’t shut down Google. And Google US recognized the value of Earthpages well before any search engines north of the border did. A little nod to my American friends.🙂