“What do you mean, it was dysfunctional! As long as you did exactly what she said, exactly how she said to do it, everything was fine!” We laughed, talking about happy community, reminiscing. Yes, those were the days.
I was daydreaming about other futures. We were thinking about where it would be best to live, when society collapses more.
Yuck, it’s a depressing topic. I’d prefer society didn’t collapse, in a way. I’m an anarchist and am supposed to be scheming for the revolution, but you know I’d rather it not happen all collapse-y.
So much I’ve been thinking how community gets controlled. I never wanted to run a radical mental health collective–I wanted to have a group of brilliant, very devoted, responsible people who wanted to share the work mostly equally. But that’s never happened.
There are three people right now, running it–me, Ming, and our friend B. B works full time and has a lot going on in her life. I deeply appreciate her help. She and Ming do certain things, but the power and responsibility are far from equally shared.
I’m an anarchist–I don’t believe in hoarding power. But it’s been more than four years, the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective has been going. It’s a thing–we meet twice a month over zoom, lately. It’s valuable to me and many people. I’m holding the vision well and show up–it’s my dearest project. So far, I know what I’m doing, to keep this valuable thing alive.
keeping community real
It makes sense I wouldn’t want to hand it over to someone who will change it into a regular, NAMI-style support group meeting. Then what’s the point. Someone could have gone to a NAMI meeting to be told “mental illness is a brain disease–we need to listen to doctors and take our medicine.”
Radical mental health can look similar to any other kind of support group meeting, for a moment or two. But the whole premise is empowering ourselves and one another, and doing creative community interdependence–that we are good like this, not necessarily broken and needed to be fixed by mainstream medicine. No one’s going to tell you you’re sick and need to get well so you can get a high paying job and have a normal life. Some of the people there might want a normal life, but that’s not a given. There are way more choices than that. The whole mentality of choices, diy, and “friends make the best medicine” is powerful, underneath, and vital to what we’re doing.
Likewise, if someone wanted to change our radical mental health collective over to a cult, or use it as a tool in his elaborate plan of utopian world domination? Not a great idea! That’s something to dodge too. I wish I could say I don’t know much about needing to evade nasty dysfunctional would-be world domination people.
More likely, I don’t want to hand it to someone who will flake, and it will quickly or slowly disintegrate senselessly. Sometimes things need to end, but irresponsibility isn’t a reason to let something crumble that’s helpful to many, in a special way. Especially when we have part of the format down and these cool stickers.
spirit of its own
A group can take on a life of its own or have a spirit of its own. Ours does, but the work of setting up meetings and holding the vision and knowledge is almost entirely mine. At least others facilitate more often now, which I love.
But I see most groups and orgs and businesses mostly run by bullies. The shit floated to the top. Yes, that person gets a lot done, but at whose expense? It’s hard to hold everyone’s needs at once. Getting grumpy, requiring that the bananas get scrubbed in a specific way…that can happen! Or the person running it loves to grab the mic and push his personal agenda at the expense of everyone else.
To me, being an anarchist is about love. Not wanting to have it all your way and do whatever you want–actually enjoying to learn, share, and do the give and take. There are many ways to be an anarchist–some people are destructive with it. But the anarchists I’ve know have mostly wanted to feed people, do harm reduction, redistribute resources, and make a better world.
Thank you for listening to my thoughts about dysfunction in groups and how groups are led. I wanna stay kind and real, and have balance between having everything my way, vs handing it over to someone who will turn it into a thing that’s more commonplace or more dysfunctional or just let it crumble.
I’ve heard there’s a cycle. The first year or two of an org can be vibrant and real, but then it gets bureaucratic. Or becoming a non-profit, a group turns into self-perpetuation and exists to continue existing. No longer passionate about the problem they formed to solve–getting grants and doing business as usual. Or predators rip it apart, or some organizer is holding too much, gets burnt out or has a crisis, takes a break, and never starts it up again.
With art, humor, skillful communication, collaborating with new groups, pulling in new life, and change, an org can stay vibrant. Right? I hope so.
It’s good to maintain an infrastructure and make a stable place for new people to come find this amazing thing and bring their unique gifts. But it’s hard work, to continually create happy community.
My mom told me, “All I ever wanted was a happy family.” The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, because what I most want is happy community.