The Alt Health newsletter is published periodically by and for the Gainesville community. With resources specific to our town about herbal medicine, massage therapy, and other alternative treatments for mind and body. Alt Health exists to highlight affordable, alternative, and community-oriented health care options in our town, as well as to educate the community about alternative ways of viewing health and health care. 

Issue #2:

Contributors wanted!

Theme: Affordable and Accesible Healthcare

Article ideas: local options for low-income folks, home remedies and DIY treatments, preventative care- (foods, herbs, lifestyle, etc), stress-related illness, info about affordable local health events, the politics of healthcare, or whatever you can think of…

Each contributor also needs to send a short blurb about themselves, including info about their practice, that will be included as a small “advertisement.”

Also send information about local alternative health-related events that you are aware of.

Send me your topic ideas by Monday, Dec. 19th

Articles and money due by Dec. 31st.

Publishing date: January 6th, 2012 (if the world hasn’t ended)

 

Send info to busyrusty@gmail.com

Healthy Transitions

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

There is a least one family doctor who understands the confusing transitions that adolescents are forced to make during puberty. Adolescence is a process of assimilating into your assigned gender, and for some kids, this is an impossible task. This story shows the bravery of one family and one doctor as they embark on a journey to discover the true identity of Nicole. Health issues of transgender folks are often forgotten. This is a very inspiring tale…

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/12/11/led-child-who-simply-knew/SsH1U9Pn9JKArTiumZdxaL/story.html

Description: Originally published in Profane Existence issue 52/53. Introduction to holistic thought and life-ways and their relevance and application to the anarcho-punk movement.

Smashing States of Mind on Inner Battle Fields

Hippie, wu-wu, crystal worshipper, new-ager, wing-nut, health nut; for most of my life these damning labels shaped my attitude towards the holistic movement. It wasn’t until recently that I became passionate about many things I was so intent on laughing off in the past. My declining mental and physical health brought me to the brink of collapse a few years ago and drove me to develop a deeper understanding of health and wellness.

I’d been treating my whole being like most people treat their cars: it’s a vehicle of your will, it’s not sacred. You don’t know much about it, what it’s made of, or how it works, and you only wish you did when it breaks down. Most people take their body and mind ‘in’ somewhere to “get fixed”. When money doesn’t allow, you have to do-it-yourself.

I had the good fortune of happening upon a radio program while at work called the Aware Show. The hosts interview cutting edge researchers, authors, healers, masters, and gurus of all types. Of course at first I xenophobically sneered at some of the far-out subject matter. I, like the Tibetan temple destroying communist Chinese, had fallen prey many years ago to the Marxian fear and disdain of all that was other-worldly.

While am quite certain that all organized religions are tools of enslavement, I’m no longer as quick to assume that the totality of the cosmos can be confidently explained by pure scientific rationality. No, I didn’t have an epiphany or Vision, but as I laid suffering in fetal position on lunch breaks or drove endlessly in the delivery van my heart and mind opened up to the content of this show.

The topics ranging from metaphysics to quantum physics, cellular biology to eco-psychology equipped me with powerful modern and ancient tools to restructure my physical and mental state, and thus my destiny. I feel that as would-be warriors, it’s essential that we anarcho-punks develop a deeper and healthier connection to ourselves, each other, the Earth, and the cosmos by utilizing all the tools in the 3 million year old tool box of human cultural experience. This means integrating modes of thought, practice, art, science, diet, healing, etc. that we have either overlooked or not taken seriously enough to make as popular in our scenes as d-beats and rare records. Now’s the time, while the Information Age lasts, to really sample the world’s cultural database and get excited about an experimental existence. For some of us, creative experimentalism may be the last hope. For some, healing and empowerment is a life or death situation in which anti-biotics, Prozac, and mind-numbing partying offer little true medicinal effect. Consciousness I’ve learned is an ideal path to growth and healing, unconsciousness keeps us stagnant and ill.

Let me introduce the concept of holism. In the strictest sense it’s the theory that the parts of any whole cannot exist and cannot be understood except in their relation to the whole. The significance of this ancient axiom’s emergence in modern society is great because it subverts the dominant paradigm in shattering ways. It has re-introduced the sacred wisdom that every traditional culture and wild life-form honors daily: interconnectedness is the underlying truth determining the health and balance of all within a unified field of being.

While ego creates the illusion of separateness as we go about our neurotic modern lives like lone rain drops, the old ways kept us rolling through time in the waves of an oceanic state. While the drop is isolated and alone, when re-connected with the ocean it becomes whole again, complete, free, equal, and boundless.

Modern western civilization has been built on the concepts of “reductionism” and what’s called the “mechanistic world-view.” Sixteenth century English philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon set out to “torture nature for her secrets.” Around the same time French scientist, Rene Descartes was an early vivisector who while cutting open live animals described their screams as analogous to the grinding of gears in a machine.

The sterile exploitative world-view of these men, and countless others before and after, laid the philosophical foundation of the modern techno-industrial death culture. Empire, while having destroyed and enslaved continents for thousands of years, had never known the vile power that would be unleashed as the Earth was declared dead under a single god. As Empire’s masters moved from the church to the laboratory the world would be forever broken apart piece by piece, only to be resurrected into the searing, cutting, and caging technologies of dominion.

As spirits, goddesses, and shaman were killed with the assimilation and enslavement of autonomous tribes worldwide, we’ve lost much of the magic, mysticism, and healing arts and sciences of the ancestors. The circular interconnected world was violently subsumed by logic and the myth of ascending progress from savagery to barbarism to civilization. It was once called “The Great Chain of Being” atop which stood the civilized European Man, at the bottom lay animals and the earth. The feminine was no longer of any grandeur, and all people of color were godless heathens.

God, so it was thought, had crafted this Earthy laboratory to test his male children’s will to ascend to his might. He hid his powers of love inside the atom, to be split open with more grace than the lower primates splitting nutshells with rocks.

The Never-ending Story, Fern Gully, The Dark Crystal, and Princess Mononoke all fantasize this process of eco-spiricide telling the same story: there is more to reality than meets the eye, the essence of the universe is chaotic and enchanting, peaceful, loving, and egalitarian. There is more magic and meaning than one god and a story of humanity’s Earthen exile can account for.

Whether my curiosity for transcendence applies to the nature of mind, matter, or spirit, I’m now open to explore and use my own scientific methods to distill fact from fiction. I feel that it would benefit all victims of spiritual disembodiment to seek truth in the spirit of total rejection of the Western monotheistic monopoly of thought, experience, and imagination.

I used to be totally cynical about spirit, oneness, interconnected consciousness, the continuum between mind and matter, Gaian intelligence, etc.; though I think I’ve had it backwards all along. The natural backlash against Christian dogma is to throw the baby out with the holy water. Our gut reaction to the trauma of perverse spiritual abuse is to completely cast any form or conception of it out of our lives for good. But let us not forget, it was our peaceful tribal ancestors’ pagan myths and spirits who were stolen and transmogrified under the blade and the flame. All throughout the world the sacred became the scarred. The stories that enlightened and empowered were re-written in blood and ash. Old characters were corrupted in new stories that made slavery on Earth seem bearable with the slight hope of eternal afterlife. Of course how good a slave you are determines where that eternity will be endured.

In my experience in anarchist and punk circles, we’re highly intellectually developed, but we leave much to be desired in less rational realms. Our backlash against the unknown has done the work of the rulers for them. The witch trials have changed venues to our own minds. Our own denial of transpersonal energy and intelligence has locked us in the cold, hard, meaningless, nihilistic prison of reality. What fun is that? If for no other reason than to just want to believe that a more playful and infinite universe awaits behind our eyes, why not learn about and practice a few things.

Whether you eat mushrooms, meditate, stretch, fast, vision quest, dance, trance, drum, ohm, mosh, head-bang, whatever, try taking Tyler Durden’s advice and “just let go” once in a while. No one can tell me that raising the claw during a wicked black metal riff doesn’t channel powers of inter-dimensional sorcery. Simple occasional awareness of the fact that we only perceive a billionth of reality with our untrained 5 senses might just be all it takes for doors to swing open. Perhaps they’ll lead to “super-scientific” as opposed to “super-natural” pathways of healing, insight, power, strength, wisdom, grace, love and peace.

Life is a trip, life itself is psychedelic, drugs are optional. Altered states can be more real than reality and some would argue and prove that higher plains of empowerment can be reached through “the closed eye experience.” Consider Shaolin monks walking on coals, breaking boards, and bending bars.

I used to be into all this stuff when I was kid. I was a martial arts freak with an associated affinity for Buddhism. No one could have told me that breaking stuff with invisible life-force energy wasn’t the coolest idea in the world (until I got into punk and puberty from whence coolness took on a whole new character). But seriously, stopping bleeding though focused breathing! And what about Mr. Miyagi?! The scene took away my self-discipline, the “porcelain god” replaced the punching-bag, and my once agile and flexible body and mind began to atrophy in a toxic blood stream.

Unfortunately the followers of Christ and the vices of punk aren’t the only enemies of our holistic liberation. I think of Garth Algar mocking Wayne, “You’ll never afford it, LIVE IN THE NOW.” And the SNL caricature Stuart Smalley’s self-affirmation talk, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gonnit, people like me.” More recent and less cynical is the “Dharma and Greg” show. These light pop-culture jabs at holism shape our attitudes towards it. And our closer-to-home counter-cultural fore-bearers aren’t much less ridiculous.

The laughable lack of strategic resistance on the part of the “Dead Head” movement has justifiably made us skeptical towards the offerings of their neo-tribe. My trusted second hand knowledge tells me that at its best at the Rainbow Gathering and at its worst at Dead shows, the hippie culture has cultivated some invaluable memes. It has spawned an archaic revival of communalism, free love, love of nature, and (sometimes respectable) use of sacred transpersonal intoxicants among other things. But gathering intelligence from beyond the tie-died curtain is more difficult than simply bridging the generation gap. There’s often a wall of elitism and condescension that we stand behind, unknowingly cutting ourselves off from many streams of thought, bodies of knowledge, and fields of research. Some such endeavors when found beyond the VW and school bus contingents are actually not flaky at all and worthy of serious attention on our part. Noted contributors Judy and Stu Albert, Timothy Leary, and Terence Mckenna exemplify both rock-solid and ethereal anarchisms that are a joy to rediscover.

I could take this in a million directions but I hope I’ve established in this scroll of zealotry the urgent need for us to re-think and re-feel our orientation to reality. One of my most highly respected friends and fellow experimentalists said to me once during the height of my clinical rationalism, “You know, the system has the monopoly of power over the physical plain, so doesn’t that mean the only way we can destroy it is to master what lies beyond?”

Somewhere between Yoda and Yoga I think we may find some astonishing wellsprings of power and peace that should be precious to those who believe in the spirit of total resistance.

The aptly titled eco-feminist anthology “Re-weaving the world” illustrates the concept of holism as a call to action. We must re-weave the world faster than it is being violently unraveled. To do this we must harvest fibers that lie beyond our knowledge and sometimes perception. The clarity, strength, and resolve that such a project will entail will come from holistic approaches to our health, our diet, our thought-scape, our land-base, our communities, and all our relations.

As eco and health conscious anarcho-punks we stock our energy efficient freezers with vegan Tofutti Cuties from the local co-op or corp-op. We love mock meat brands, Braggs aminos, Dr. Bronners soap, and many other now mainstream fruits of the commercialized holistic movement. But what about the fruits of holism that manifest more as practices than products?

The sophistication of holistic lifeways is lost on most anarcho-punks. When was the last time you saw a Myspace bulletin about chakra balancing or vermiculture? Thanks to some of my heroes such as Mike Antipathy, Sasha Scatter, Jeremy Clark, Oi Polloi, Ayahuasca, and Submission Hold, not all is lost for our subculture. But much more awaits to be gained.

I’d like to continue this column as a digest of my inquiries into these colorful inner and outer realms of thought and practice. My hope is to establish a trend of interest in and integration of a vast array of beneficial holistic memes.

Break on through!

Gestalt Therapy

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized
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The Gainesville Icarus Project is a monthly mental health support group that I am a part of. In my preparation for a meeting a few months ago, I came across an article on Gestalt Therapy that is beautifully articulated. Gestalt Therapy is really complicated  anarchistic, egalitarian, and experiential model of mental health therapy. This article does a good job of explaining it. Here’s an excerpt:

The patient comes to the therapist because he wishes to be changed. Many therapies accept this as a legitimate objective and set out through various means to try to change him, establishing what Perls calls the “topdog/under-dog” dichotomy. A therapist who seeks to help a patient has left the egalitarian position and become the knowing expert, with the patient playing the helpless person, yet his goal is that he and the patient should become equals. The Gestalt therapist believes that the topdog/under-dog dichotomy already exists within the patient, with one part trying to change the other, and that the therapist must avoid becoming locked into one of these roles. He tries to avoid this trap by encouraging the patient to accept both of them, one at a time, as his own.

The analytic therapist, by contrast, uses devices such as dreams, free associations, transference, and interpretation to achieve insight that, in turn, may lead to change. The behaviorist therapist rewards or punishes behavior in order to modify it. The Gestalt therapist believes in encouraging the patient to enter and become whatever he is experiencing at the moment. He believes with Proust, “To heal a suffering one must experience it to the full.”

The Gestalt therapist further believes that the natural state of man is as a single, whole being — not fragmented into two or more opposing parts. In the natural state, there is constant change based on the dynamic transaction between the self and the environment.

Kardiner has observed that in developing his structural theory of defense mechanisms, Freud changed processes into structures (for example, denying into denial). The Gestalt therapist views change as a possibility when the reverse occurs, that is, when structures are transformed into processes. When this occurs, one is open to participant interchange with his environment.

If alienated, fragmentary selves in an individual take on separate, compartmentalized roles, the Gestalt therapist encourages communication between the roles; he may actually ask them to talk to one another. If the patient objects to this or indicates a block, the therapist asks him simply to invest himself fully in the objection or the block. Experience has shown that when the patient identifies with the alienated fragments, integration does occur. Thus, by being what one is–fully–one can become something else.

Authors:

This work is an edited version of one section of the extensive Anarchist FAQ (frequently asked questions), byThe Anarchist FAQ Editorial Collective: Iain McKay, Gary Elkin, Dave Neal, and Ed Boraas, with assistance from a virtual team of anarchists from across the world, www.infoshop.org/faq. The purpose of the piece is to sketch one vision of how universal health care might be achieved in a society not dominated by profit-seeking hierarchal corporations or run by coercive states, but organized into self-managed communities, workplaces, and cooperatives.

Full Article:

 Most anarchists argue that a privatized health care system is only able to meet the requirements of those who can afford to pay for it, and so is unjust and unfair. The need for medical attention is not dependent on income, and a civilized society would recognize this fact. Under capitalism, profit-maximizing medical insurance sets premiums according to the risks of the insured getting ill or injured, with the “riskiest” consumers unable to find insurance at any price. This is hardly a vision to inspire a free society, or one compatible with equality and mutual respect.

Capitalist Healthcare is Inefficient

Social anarchists point to what happens under capitalism when discussing the benefits of a socialized system of health care in an anarchist society. Competition, they argue, harms health care provision. According to Alfie Kohn:

“More hospitals and clinics are being run by for-profit corporations; many institutions, forced to battle for ‘customers,’ seem to value a skilled director of marketing more highly than a skilled caregiver. As in any other economic sector, the race for profits translates into pressure to reduce costs, and the easiest way to do it here is to cut back on services to unprofitable patients, that is, those who are more sick than rich….” [No Contest, p. 240]

As Robert Kuttner notes: “By their nature, universal systems spend less money on wasteful overhead, and more on primary prevention. Health insurance overhead in the United States alone consumes about 1 percent of the GDP, compared to 0.1 percent in Canada…. Remarkably enough, the United States spends the most money on health care, but has the fewest hospital beds per thousand in population, the lowest admission rate, and the lowest occupancy rate — coupled with the highest daily cost, highest technology-intensiveness, and greatest number of employees per bed.” [Everything for Sale, pp. 155-6]

Therefore, most anarchists are in favor of a socialized and universal health care system for both ethical and efficiency reasons. Needless to say, an anarchist system of socialized health care would differ in many ways from the current systems of universal health care provided by the state.

Such a system of socialized health care could be built from the bottom up and based around local communes (self-managed communities or cooperatives). In a social anarchist society, “medical services . . . will be free of charge to all inhabitants of the commune. The doctors will not be like capitalists, trying to extract the greatest profit from their unfortunate patients. They will be employed by the commune and expected to treat all who need their services.” Moreover, prevention will play an important part, as “medical treatment is only the curative side of the science of health care; it is not enough to treat the sick, it is also necessary to prevent diseaseÉ.” [James Guillaume, Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 371]

How might an anarchist health service work? It would be based on self-management, of course, with close links to local communes and federations of communes. Each hospital or health center would be autonomous but linked in a federation with the others, allowing resources to be shared as required while allowing the health service to adjust to local needs and requirements as quickly as possible.

Anarchist Health Care in Practice

The Spanish Revolution of the 1930s provides us one example of an anarchist health service in practice. In rural areas local doctors often joined the village collective and provided their services like any other worker. Where local doctors were not available, “arrangements were made by the collectives for treatment of their members by hospitals in nearby localities. In a few cases, collectives themselves built hospitals; in many they acquired equipment and other things needed by their local physicians.”

For example, the Monzon federation of collectives in Aragon maintained a hospital in Binefar, the Casa de Salud Durruti. By April 1937 it had 40 beds, and departments which included general medicine, prophylaxis, and gynecology. It saw about 25 outpatients a day and was open to anyone in the 32 villages of the district. [Robert Alexander, The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, vol. 1, p. 331 and pp. 366-7]

The socialization of health care took on a slightly different form in Catalonia but was organized on the same libertarian principles. People were no longer required to pay for medical services. Each collective, if it could afford it, would pay a contribution to its health centre. Building and facilities were improved and modern equipment introduced. Like other self-managed industries, the health service was run at all levels by general assemblies of workers who elected delegates and hospital administration.

Thus, all across Spain, the workers in the health service re-organized their industry along libertarian lines and in association with the local collective or commune and the unions of the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (the anarcho-syndicalist National Confederation of Labor).

[Editors’ note: Recent examples of anarchist health care provision in the United States include: the Chicago-based Jane Collective, which provided safe abortions to women from 1969-1973 while abortions were banned; the Common Ground Collective (their slogans: Solidarity Not Charity – social justice is the foundation of community health) , which sprung up to provide health care in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (see “Military in New Orleans Requests Help from Anarchist Relief Project,” Peacework, October 2005), and the Anarchist Black Cross, which provides health care to demonstrators (see “How to Deal with Pepper Spray at Protests,”Peacework March 2008).]

Self-Management

In a future anarchist society, workers in the health industry would organize their workplaces, federate together to share resources and information, and formulate plans to improve the quality of service to the public. The communes and their federations, the syndicates (self-managed workplaces) and federations of syndicates, would provide resources and effectively own the health system, ensuring access for all.

Ultimately, the public services that exist in a social anarchist society would be dependent on what members of that society desire. If a commune or federation of communes desires a system of communal health care, then they will allocate resources to implement it. They will allocate the task of creating such a system to, say, a special commission based on volunteers from the interested parties such as the relevant syndicates, professional associations, consumer groups, and so on. The running of such a system would be based, like any other industry, on those who work in it. Functional self-management would be the rule, with doctors managing their work, nurses theirs and so on, while the general running of a hospital would be based on a general assembly of all workers, who would elect and mandate delegates to decide the policies the hospital would follow.

Non-workers who took part in the system (patients, for example) would not be ignored and would also have a role in providing essential feedback to assure quality control of services and to ensure that the service is responsive to users’ needs. The resources required to maintain and expand the system would be provided by the communes, syndicates, and their federations. For the first time, public services would truly be public – not a statist (or corporate) system imposed upon the public from above.

Any system of public services would not be imposed on those who did not desire it. They would be organized for and by members of the communes. Therefore, individuals who were not part of a local commune or syndicate would have to pay to gain access to the communal resources. However, it is unlikely that an anarchist society would be as barbaric as a capitalist one and refuse entry to people who were ill and could not pay. And just as other workers need not join a syndicate or commune, so doctors could practice their trade outside the communal system either as individual artisans or as part of a co-operative.

However, given the availability of free medical services, it is doubtful they would grow rich doing so. Medicine would revert back to what usually initially motivates people to take up this profession – the desire to help others and make a positive impact in people’s lives.

The Oppression of Every Day Life

Posted: October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

“The wisdom of the fool won’t set you free.”   -New Order

The new paradigm in mental health that we are trying to build must call into question the authoritarian structures of our everyday lives. We cannot separate our health from the society we live in. To do so would be dishonest. Denying the impact of social problems  allows not only for the easy scapegoat of convenient labels and quick fixes, but it also legitimizes bullying. Today I caught myself saying something to the effect of… “Damnit Rusty, you are twenty-seven years old and you still have these problems!” I fell victim to the backwards thinking that life has prescribed stages of growth and development, and that having a career, a steady relationship, and a complete handle on things by the age of 27 is normal and healthy. My point in bringing up this particular situation is that though I absolutely don’t believe any of what I was reprimanding myself for, I was still reprimanding myself! This  bullying, whether coming from oneself or from society, is an everyday reality that is embedded in our subconscious, and is planted right into our language. When we speak of “mental illness” and “functionality” and “human development” we are falling under a harmful paradigm.

When I was a child my mind was a beautiful place to exist in. I saw the beauty in the world. I saw life all around me. Even amidst the green grass of fertilized suburban lawns on sunny summers days playing in the mysterious source of water that flowed endlessly from mechanical sprinklers. I didn’t know about the chemicals in the water, or that my grass was shipped to my house on a truck. I was a satisfied little kid with nothing much to worry about. Once during a spring season baseball game in which I was the chosen right fielder, I ignored a ball coming my way in favor of looking up at the marvelous formations of the ever-shifting snow white clouds. I was five years old. I was allowed to do that. But now people seem to get annoyed if I miss my cues. I’ve learned not to play baseball.

Today I watched a film called Crooked Beauty that beautifully and poetically documents the life story of Jacks, one of the founders of the Icarus Project. (see links above). Jacks is an extraordinary person and a living example of what it looks likes to exist within an alternative paradigm. I found many commonalities between her story and mine. It seems as though we both lived deeply within our childhood fantasies, and found it extremely difficult to assimilate into “normal” society without fear of bullying or being labeled. Though we are both coming from different places and have different and unique struggles, the social reality that we live in normalizes things that we would consider neurotic. Working 9 to 5, saving for retirement, having static careers, caring about credit scores, football scores, and living isolated from our community all seems insane! We must work not only to dismantle oppression, but to dismantle the language of oppression, the philosophical paradigms and social realities that legitimize oppression. It’s a long road ahead, but after seeing the film tonight I am encouraged beyond words by the witness of Jack and the Icarus Project. Thanks for all your years of support, Icarus Organizers!

Suppressing Our Wild Nature

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Wilhelm Reich was a revolutionary psychotherapist of the mid-1900’s. He was revolutionary  in the sense that he brought the destructive factors of society and political life into the realm of his therapy. In what I would call his most influential book, Character Analysis, Reich showed that the suppression of our wild nature invariably causes neurosis- or imbalance. Living within a moralistic culture that teaches to suppress sexual desires, and a political structure that thrives off of class struggle, it is no surprise that we see the kind of fragmentation and mental instability that we do. Suppressing instinctual desires leads to a build up of the accumulated un-used energy, and can manifest in severe anxiety, come out in mis-directed anger, or in time create a whole character structure that acts as a defense mechanism to the outer world. In the United States, puritanism and religious sentimentalism beg us to suppress sexuality, and police, parents and school teachers warn us not to openly voice our discontent. This is the foundation of suppression, which can be seen as the current foundation of our country. The therapeutic process then requires us to break through our hindrances and scream loudly for our freedom. We must create a culture of unhindered expression if we want to live in a healthy society!