all meaning is relative

map of Africa —
meaningless because drawn by
white men — a sense of
futility attaches
— and yet the borders remain

I spent a couple of hours last night writing a talk in which I say that, even though schizophrenia doesn’t exist, we might as well work with it — i.e. both with the word itself and with the people who think it refers to an actually-existing disease of the brain. I’m happy enough that my dream last night of a map of Africa — must relate to this idea of working with what already exists (whether linguistic terminology like schizophrenia or the random territorial borders of Africa) no matter how brazenly unjust the system of oppression embodied in the existing structures. And yet, and yet, and yet. It’s all too easy somehow. In the dream, I was shamefully ignorant of where on the map to locate a certain African country. Surely the true message of my dream is to do with my own ignorance. What I’m getting at is that it’s too easy to be right — about Africa or about psychiatry. In the dream I felt personally challenged by my own ignorance, whereas in the poem I am basically lecturing the reader from a position of superior knowledge and insight — whether as to the invalidity of psychiatry/imperialism, or whether as to the wisdom and inevitability of having to work within the existing system. To have moved like that from the personal to the pontifical is a serious loss and a serious failure.

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