“ If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they’d have to bring out the tanks to control you.”
– Dick Gregory
In my previous career, when I’d go to a training conference I would try desperately to stay awake as I listened to some monotoned Scientist make make a presentation on diabetes. While it might of made it more exciting, there was never an abrupt interruption from another Scientist, interjecting with their own data for treating irritable bowel disease. I was never daydreaming about lunch during a lethargic presentation on the importance of preemptive treatment of cardiovascular disease when suddenly, the kool-aid man burst through the wall wearing a lab coat screaming “arthritis treatment matters!” That’s what a lot of y’all sound like right now. Parrots that have been locked in an echo chamber, dying to get out. Squawking rehearsed, broken statistics and numbers – irrelevant to the situation at hand. I’ve seen so many red herrings lately, that I’d think y’all were dynamite fishin’.
It’s my belief that people use numbers to avoid the truth of a situation. Personal bias and fears can keep us from understanding the environment and perspectives of the subjects that you present yourself to be an expert on. Ad hominem attacks are incredibly common now and it’s easy to see where they are being learned. I’ve never subscribed to a political party in my life. My ideals are about principles to me, not politics. Yet, I get called a “leftist” or communist or socialist on a regular basis, meant as an attack. The lack of original thought is disheartening. So, I disregard almost any conversation these days when it’s interjected with stats from someone who isn’t qualified to present them. Especially in lieu of being able to relate your own personal experiences, doing so from a place of honesty and humility.
Empirical; based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.
My experience working in clinical research gave me perspectives on statistics and data that I otherwise would of never had. I am not a Scientist, nor am I qualified to analyze data. I was a Clinical Research Coordinator and managed a research site for some years. My main job was to protect the safety and welfare of the trial participants from pharmaceutical companies who are seeking approval for their billion dollar investments. There’s an impersonal approach to research that I could never get with. It’s understandable from a science standpoint, but from a clinical standpoint it was, at many times infuriating. We have a broken healthcare system where people get stuck using clinical trials to seek medical treatment and also use them as a source of income. That shouldn’t be a thing, but it is. There’s a lot I could say on this subject, but that’s for another time. I’ve been gag ordered before and that’s not the purpose of this blog anyways.
Working with schizophrenic patients during my last year in the field was changing for me. The research being conducted was fine for what it was, but nothing much was made about treating the root of the problem. And why would they? These pharmaceutical companies are in the business of illness, not cures. I looked around everyday at the neighborhoods that these folks came from and listened to their stories and it wasn’t too hard for me to start connecting the dots of what had gone wrong. Years of extreme poverty, lack of access to proper healthcare and education, over-policing and mass incarceration all fuel the cycle of broken homes, mental illness and alcohol and substance abuse. More Black men are diagnosed with schizophrenia than any other demographic by far. Many of these cases are thought to be misdiagnosed. Some are not. The general public certainly has a misconception of what schizophrenia is. I speak from firsthand experience that psychosis is scary, misunderstood and sadly misdiagnosed. I’m lucky I made it back. Many do not.
The second serious mental break in my life landed me in a mental hospital in New Orleans in 2016. Understandably, I was misdiagnosed as having schizoaffective disorder. The Psychiatrist I’ve worked with the last few years helped me to understand that suppressed childhood traumas lead me to develop clinical depression from a young age. I hid from my past and feelings with drugs and alcohol since adolescence. Along my path I lost control of whatever “responsible” drinking or using is supposed to be. My inability to handle stress, face my past, take responsibility for my own mess and my addictions lead me to snap mentally. Twice. This last time my family was told I would not recover, yet I did. I thank God everyday that I’ve been able to piece my mind back together. Again, many do not and they are not given the opportunities to do so.
I don’t claim to know how the brain works. I am an advocate for therapy and medications can help. I personally think we need more social programs and therapists across the board in underserved communities NOW. I feel that the systems in place are intentionally designed to keep this cycle going and we have to be honest about that. I know that for me personally, being honest and working constantly to reconcile the damage I created is how I keep from splintering my mind again. Creating avenues for others to be able to do the same is imperative. As is breaking these cycles.
Truth and Reconciliation.
So, what the hell does this have to do with why I only trust comedians and artists?
Art is an expression of ones heartfelt emotions through lived experiences. Sometimes it’s even done subconsciously. Many of the illustrations I’ve done over the years I can look back on now with a deeper understanding. There’s symbolism in some of them that I didn’t even understand when I was creating them. But, I created freely and from my heart. Using all emotions. Joy, anxiety, anger, sadness, lust, love, pain, peace. To name a few. It tells my story, even at the most manic of times. And I know this is true: I don’t even have to ask when I look at another artists work to know that it comes from their heart. It’s easy to tell right away. I know that they are speaking their truth. This isn’t hard to decipher. It’s something everyone can feel. And everyone has some kind of art they create. If you are expressing your feelings through some kind of skill then you are making art.
Comedy is almost like a survival instinct to me. Through all my lows, I’ve always judged where I am by my sense of humor in the moment. If I can’t laugh, then I’m in serious trouble. It’s a guidepost. Satire is often the best way to point out the errors in society and politics. It’s one of the oldest forms of storytelling. Ridicule of our leaders is a pastime in this country and should be encouraged. We need to be able to joke about the absurdity that is U.S. politics and lifestyle. I’ve learned more about life, history and principles from comedians than I ever have from any tv news personality. Controversial views help move the needle for issues that otherwise may go unnoticed. Brash jokes have sent me on lines of inquiry I wouldn’t otherwise go on. Dave Chappelle told the story of Emmett Till in a recent special that was very thought provoking. It wasn’t that I didn’t know who Emmett Till was, but I didn’t know the extent of the story about the deathbed confession of his accuser. It lead me to research it for myself more. He used tragedy to make informative jokes – which is the ultimate level of comedy.
So, when wanting to understand the story of a community and it’s heartbeat, I look for the stories of the artists. Anyone who tells you the truth of their heart is an artist. I choose to ignore the cold calculations of selected stats, those lie. Instead I go toward stories of those who have lived lives. I’m much more interested in human interest stories theses days than I am in hearing someone behind a desk tell someone else how their shoe is supposed to fit. A comedic overview on societal issues is much more palatable than fear based mass media anyways. And it’s almost always more based in reality.
- the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea if them.
- the state or quality of having existence or substance
“ we have problems all over the world today, because men cease to be individuals. We like to identify with everything other than ourselves. We like to identify with groups, races, religions, you hear it every day. “I’m Italian!” “I’m German!” “I’m Negro!” “I’m Jewish!” So what? Do you realize that when you identify with anything other than yourself, first as an individual, you have a cheap way out a lot of your own shortcomings?”
– Dick Gregory
Tell your own story before you tell someone else’s!!