Friday, 10 April 2009

The true terrorists - An open letter to cartoonist Kevin Siers

Yesterday, when I learned about this outrageous atrocity, I wasn't sure if to react to it at all, or not. Things like this can leave one speechless. Nevertheless, today, inspired by Kim, and his own reply to someone's e-mail, I sent the following e-mail to Kevin Siers:

Dear Mr Siers,

let me tell you right away, which I suppose I am not the first to tell You, that Your cartoon in the Charlotte Observer,, is something of the most tasteless and discriminating I've ever seen.

Now I learned from others, who have contacted You, that You are "unsure what else to call that rage and alienation" than "mental illness", and that You wonder, if those "terms would have sufficed".

Let me assure You, they would have sufficed. In fact, they would have been far more to the point, than the alienating concept of "mental illness" ever can be.

In context with this, there's something I can't but have to wonder about: What makes You so certain, as You seem to be, that so-called "mental illness" is a brain illness? If You have any evidence for this allegation to hold true, I'd love to see it, since no one yet has been able to provide this evidence.

This is rather important in regard to Your cartoon, because what Your cartoon does is that it scapegoats a whole section of the population on the basis of a mere theory, in complete lack of any scientific proof, as brain defective individuals, who do not react, but act. Without any ratio involved. While the natural response to terms like "rage" and "alienation" is to question what kind of environmental, societal factors would be likely to cause this rather rational rage and alienation in the individual.

When You choose to make use of the term "mental illness", what You actually are doing is that You contribute to society's enraging and alienating forces, to which some people, very naturally, react enraged and alienated. I am sorry to have to say this, but that is one more assault on people, who've already been assaulted to an extent, that makes it inevitably necessary for them to defend themselves, while the alienating concept of "mental illness" as being a brain disease efficiently keeps these people from seeing through the inhumanity of society, evidently represented by Your cartoon.

You, and everyone else who holds up the idea, that "mental illnesses" would be brain diseases, do society an enormous disservice. So-called "mentally ill" people go on shooting sprees, because they are kept from realizing that the true source for their very natural feelings of rage and alienation are the long-standing assaults, they have been exposed to. They go on shooting sprees, because they are denied a language of their own, that would allow them to hold their abusers, society, accountable. They go on shooting sprees, because they are silenced with the concept of "mental illness". The true gunman, the true terrorist here is a society that prefers to oppress and silence its critics to lending them a voice and listening to them, and it is You.

I am a person, who has experienced what You call "mental illness", i.e. extreme states of mind, caused by trauma. I am a highly functioning, fully recovered person today, because I did not get the "treatment", I suppose You have in mind when You write: "...people also in desperate need of treatment who are not getting it." Instead I was as lucky as to be helped to realize and work through my trauma, and establish a language of my own, which renders going on a shooting spree as an act of self-defence superfluous.

If you want to contact Kevin Siers, Rick Thames, the editor of the Charlotte Observer, and/or the Charlotte Observer itself, here are the e-mail addresses:
Rick Thames, editor:
Letters to the editor:
Cartoonist Kevin Siers:

Hat tip to Gianna for drawing attention to this in the first place.

Reply from Kevin Siers

Update, 04-12-09: Via Kim I got the notice this morning, that the Charlotte Observer obviously has removed the cartoon from its website.


Gianna said...

excellent job Marian!

kim said...

Excellent letter. speechless. thank you.

ozjthomas said...

Thanks, Marian, and thanks for the links as well.

Ana said...

Great Marian!

Alarryyk said...

Awesome job fighting against sanism Marian. Creating the 'other' in society is the only way people are able to turn a blind eye to the daily horrors of our society (i.e. the thousands of kids who die each day due to preventable disease). As long as nobody ever realizes their fundamental connection and interdependence with everyone else then we remain 'good consumers' and can point fingers at entire subpopulations (like the 'mentally ill') as scapegoats for society's problems. I am glad you called this guy on his hypocritical and bigoted cartooning/lampooning.