UK carers 'schizophrenia' and Norfolk's suicide rate (Commemorating the BBC's 2015 'Democracy Day' )

Intelek Int'l By Intelek Int'l, 20th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Politics

To commemorate the BBC's "Democracy Day", I'm launching a "sprawling novel-like" analysis of mental health provision in the UK and elsewhere.

These articles offer a holistic view of my past and on-going interactions with various Norfolk and Barbados-based individuals and organizations, including Domino's Pizza, Care UK, Norwich City Council, BBC Norfolk, the British Royal family (especially the Queen) and UK and Barbadian politicians.

Fundamentally, they explore what "a duty of care" means.

Setting out my sprawling stall

In 'The Creative Use of Schizophrenia In Caribbean Writing' (2001, Intelek International) Caribbean Afrocentric educator and feminist activist Dr Viola Davis emphasizes the social dimension of schizophrenia, which is often viewed as a purely individual affliction.

Davis quotes Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet Derek Walcott, who commenting on his own creative process and output has stated:

"...and the only way to recreate this language was to share in the tortures of its articulation. This did not mean the jettisoning of 'culture' but, by making creative use of his schizophrenia, an electric fusion of the old and the new."

Davis says that in her effort to understand this statement she has found that Walcott has imaginatively arrived at a concept of schizophrenia, albeit literary which is corroborated by psychiatrist R.D. Laing.

Davis writes "Laing believes that the schizophrenic must be seen in relation to his social context, he felt that the schizophrenic was reacting to the conflicts and stresses in his society, and had to adopt special strategies to live in what he perceived as an unliveable (sic) situation."

My more than 8 years residence in England, and especially my localized presence in Norfolk has given me a deep appreciation of "the conflicts and stresses" that the Eurocentric part of Walcott's heritage have yielded.

In addition to this English "input", the French's legalistic, seemingly schizophrenic, ambivalent understanding of "freedom of expression" that has come to the fore since the Charlie Hebdo tragedy may also offer some insights into Walcott's creative crisis and opportunity, given the French colonial origins of and connections to his native St Lucia.

Notably, it was in St Lucia, on December 31, 2001, that extremist Rastafarians launched a deadly attack on the Roman Catholic community which is in some ways comparable to the Charlie Hebdo extremist Muslim offensive.

But my concern here, first and foremost is with the crises and opportunities of the English psyche.

It is in Norfolk, and in Norwich in particular, that I have encountered bits of the socially schizophrenic best and worst that England can show I and other immigrants.

It therefore comes as no surprise to me that while Norfolk has produced talents and personalities the likes of Princess Diana and singer James Blunt, the county also has the highest rates of suicide in the east of England, especially among men under 50 in the UK.

Sadly, many males and females find life in this largely rural county unliveable literally.

Tragically, Norfolk's at times understated, other times breath-taking natural and built beauty (and beauties) are not always enough to relieve the psychic, inner-schism or sense of separation that can make both those born here and others moving here from other English counties or further afield feel desperately isolated and lonely.

People of all races, classes, genders, sexualities and religions can attest (if they survive it) to what I have previously called 'Norfolk's deep frieze'.

This phrase was inspired by the stunningly beautiful yet lethal snowfall that characterized the extraordinary winter of 2013, which first impacted England via Norfolk, then other eastern counties.

On the surface, it twins, couples and compares artistic, and especially architectural beauty and the freezing that winter inflicted on Norfolk that year, disrupting and "freezing out" school attendance, the regular flow of traffic, and other routine, worldly warmth that many in Norfolk take for granted, especially the elderly.

At a more profound, penetrative linguistic level, 'Norfolk's deep frieze' is about the marginalized, native-born and "immigrant" who have experienced the coolness of some Norfolk residents: the capacity of some people here to "freeze out" others, seemingly on the basis of appearances, religious or political affiliation, gender and other personal whims, fancies and fantasies.

At that level, the "deep frieze" expression is about the seemingly opportunistic behaviour of white, black, Indian, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight and other Norfolk residents, of recent arrival or distant-past-pedigree settlement who consciously or unconsciously think of Norfolk as their little fiefdom and themselves as particularly privileged proxies of Sandringham House's illustrious owner: Her Majesty, the Queen.

Royalist rigor mortis

Those familiar with my first Open Letter to Her Majesty Elizabeth II may recall me attributing a certain "coolness" or aloofness that some Barbadian elites demonstrate to her influence.

Explaining the concern for my safety I sometimes feel when I think of visiting Barbados, because I insist on speaking truth to power I wrote,

"So determined is their resistance to the truth: so substantial is their emotional, social and even financial investment in a perverse stoical denial of reality – a shadowy stoicism that has arguably been modelled by their view of royalty; modelled, in fact, though unintentionally, by Your Majesty."

I expect to be citing that letter repeatedly in this series of articles because of the firm yet empathetic tone I manage to achieve in its composition.

From my point of view, it is a simultaneously forgiving and forthright treatment of matters that need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity - rather like the matter of images of the prophet Muhammad, abortion, gay marriage and others that can test our moral and spiritual sensitivities and maturity.

There as in this series of articles and indeed as in my book "The Bible: Beauty and Terror Reconciled", my goal is a frank, fair and constructive engagement with the issue of human fallibility.

But I will let readers judge for themselves by publishing that letter here imminently.

For the time being, I have simply reproduced a few extracts from it, below.

Extracts from my open letter to the Queen

I would prefer that my first approach to Your Majesty via this or any other forum was solely a matter of good tidings or - as I am at times inclined to be grave, given my reflective temperament - a less direct, potentially distressing discourse (perhaps on the merits or otherwise of constitutional monarchy as a form of government).

However I believe that because Barbados is so highly regarded as a beacon of good governance - not only in the Commonwealth but around the world – the problem of systemic corruption on the island is of as much consequence and concern to Your Majesty and her United Kingdom subjects (among whom I number, as a foreigner residing in England) as it is to Barbadians at home and abroad.

I believe that given Barbados’ standing as the world’s smallest developed country, according to the United Nations Development Programme, any suggestion of systemic, historically entrenched corruption of its governing mechanisms warrants serious attention by the developed world.

And I believe attention at the highest political, commercial and other institutional levels is warranted globally not merely because systemic or endemic corruption may tarnish Barbados’ international reputation, but fundamentally, because it may cast a shadow over the reputations of political, commercial and other institutions of all countries in the supposedly “developed” world.

It may please Your Majesty to note that in last November’s annual UNDP Human Development Report Barbados was given the 5th highest rating of countries in the America’s, behind only the United States, Canada, Chile and Argentina.

Your Majesty may also find it useful to note that in this very forum, I have previously initiated an account of the deeply damaging and injurious consequences of systemic corruption – or institutionalized degeneracy - in Barbados as specifically experienced by another Commonwealth citizen, retired Canadian diplomat Isaac Goodine, a long-time acquaintance of mine (here; and here; and here ).

In the last link above (report 5g in that series of articles), I contrast Mr. Goodine’s dismal view of Barbados’governance with the more congratulatory views of another distinguished, retired diplomat’s: American civil rights veteran Andrew Young.

I note that Mr. Young, who marched with the late civil rights icon Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, attributes Barbados’ supposed sound governance to the influence of its British-derived education system.

Now at the time that I made that comparison, Your Majesty, I had no idea that I would be entreating the Queen of England on Barbadians’ behalf as I am now.

But the more I think about the matter, the fraught course of this public appeal for Your Majesty’s intervention upon which I am set, does not only seem like an appropriate strategy by which to address the problem of systemic corruption in Barbados: given the extraordinary historic ties between Barbados and England – rivalling the UK and US’s “special relationship” even – it seems the best possible strategy.

And I believe that my comparison last year of Mr. Young’s and Mr. Goodine’s contrasting views of the soundness of Barbados’ government confirms this.

I wrote “Where Young speaks of the advances Barbadians have made through a ‘tremendous educational resource contributed to by Great Britain’, Goodine paints a more complicated picture of a country where corrupt practices are enshrined in a culture of systemic silencing and control that is part of its British slavery and colonial legacy.”

I could have written – perhaps should have written – that Goodine is merely pointing to a pattern of human degeneration that afflicts not only British or Barbadian, slave or free, colonial or colonizing but all societies.

I suppose I took as a given that persons familiar with my views on British-Barbadian inheritances and relations would understand that at my most Pan Africanist, I am guided by my Pan Humanism, fundamentally.

Your Majesty, if the only thing I achieve by this open letter to you (or others that I think will follow subsequently) is some reflection by Your Majesty, members of Your Majesty’s Court or other influential citizens of your Realms on the manner in or methods by which the good purposes of a British education could be perverted to facilitate the kind of entrenched, systemic corruption that Mr. Goodine laments – the very entrenched corruption that I too have witnessed and which has rendered me an “exile” of sorts from my beloved country – I would consider the difficulty and grief that the writing of it imposes on me no imposition at all.

If by this initiative, I could convince Your Majesty that inherent in the process of elitist education upon which the British colonizers of Barbados embarked - virtually from the island’s settlement in 1627 – there is a character corrupting germ of arrogance (the root and fruit of an invidious sense of impunity) that perpetually undermines the bonds of empathy between governors and the governed, I would consider that I have given Your Majesty a diamond jubilee gift of good-natured, well-intentioned counsel that no other subject or servant in Your Majesty’s Realms could rival.

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author avatar GenkiWorld
21st Jan 2015 (#)

i have always found myself fassinated by such studies of the mind, mental condition of a ctulture and what motivates their suiside acts. this was truly insiteful and enjoyable to read.

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