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Learned Helplessness in America; Bruce E. Levine Author of Get Up Stand Up; Uniting populists, energizing the defeated and battling the corporate elite

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Broadcast 5/20/2012 at 03:07:04
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About Bruce Levine: 

Bruce E. Levine writes and speaks widely on how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His latest book is Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (2011). Earlier books include  Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (2007) and Commonsense Rebellion: Taking Back Your Life from Drugs, Shrinks, Corporations, and a World Gone Crazy (2003).

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A practicing clinical psychologist often at odds with the mainstream of his profession, he is a regular contributor to CounterPunch, AlterNet, Truthout, Z MagazineOpEdNews, and the Huffington Post. His articles and interviews have been published in Skeptic,Adbusters, The Ecologist, High Times, and numerous other magazines, and he has contributed chapters to The Military Industrial Complex at 50 (2011), Writing without Formula (2009), Perspectives on Diseases and Disorders: Depression(2009), and Alternatives beyond Psychiatry (2007).

Dr. Levine is on the editorial advisory board of the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, and he is an editorial advisor for the Icarus Project/Freedom Center Harm Reduction Guide to Coming off Psychiatric Drugs. A longtime activist in the mental health treatment reform movement, he is a member of the International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry as well as MindFreedom. Dr. Levine has presented talks and workshops to diverse organizations throughout North America.

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About the book: Get Up Stand Up

Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. Many Americans have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible, and Get Up Stand Up explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism sets in, truths about economic injustices and lost liberties are not enough to set people free--something else is required. For democratic movements to get off the ground, individuals must recover self-respect, and a people must regain collective confidence that they can succeed at eliminating top-down controls. Get Up, Stand Up describes how anti-elitists can unite and recover dignity, confidence, and the energy to wrest power away from the ruling corporate-government partnership (the "corporatocracy"). Get Up, Stand Up details those strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have successfully employed to gain power.

Interview Notes; primarily questions I've asked

Rob: You've written a book addressing how a lot of people are depressed, defeated and not acting, when they should be.

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Bruce- what you see is something that goes on in subjugated societies.

learned helplessness-- what Bob Marley had called mental slavery. 

if you don't have the energy to do battle---

Mental health profession is one of the spokes in the wheel

Rob: What is learned helplessness?

People get learned helplessness with the electoral process"  Obama, third party" 

if you have real democracy, the opposite of real democracy is learned helplessness. 

rob: Learned helplessness can be overcome, right?

Occupy embraced his book.

Electoral process is controlled by money, so IT is susceptible to learned helplessness, but other areas of activism"  Occupy. Got heard, got message on national media. 

Occupy people will not have learned helplessness. 

Rob: So, if you are focusing on the electoral process, which is dominated by money,  you're going to be at much higher risk for learned helplessness, despondency".

Rob; so what else can they do? 

occupy, work, writing, 

psychologists, school systems, educators, people taking control over their workplace, a lot of areas where people can have that sense of control over their life.

Rob: There are diagnoses that pathologies and literally define people who are defiant, who are anti-authoritarian as mentally ill, through DSM4, and next year, DSM5. Can you talk about that?

ODD Oppositional defiant disorder-- symptoms: often argue with adults, often refuse to follow rules-- look at greats in history-- Einstein, Saul Alinsky, Emma Goldman-- they refused"

Psychiatrists are the ones who least question authority. 

For the people at the top,  this is fabulous-- people identifying anti-authoritarians who are challenging the status quo. 

Rob: People with ADD, ADHD, depressed". also drugged by psychiatry. 

Everybody in america who bucks authority pays a price-- usually being marginalized economically. 

Authoritarian Mental Health Professionals:

Rob: Do liberals have an attitude towards mental health and psychiatry that stabs themselves in the back?

NPR liberals will not talk about psychiatry used as social control. There's a whole left anti-authoritarian world. 

Rob: You said, "One of the reasons there are not as many self-described liberals out there?" What do you mean?

Rob: I think of libertarianism as liberalism with narcissism. 

Rob: Healing from Corporatocracy Abuse? You shift people from libertarian to not liberal, but what?

School systems have subdued Americans-- student debt. 

Rob:You've talks about emancipation from student loans.

Bruce: Why is it that young people, who are getting most screwed, are so little involved in resistance? One reason is the huge student loan debt that they're carrying. 

Rob: You wrap up your book with a chapter, Winning the Battle--  How do we win the battle?

Bruce; Withdrawal of cooperation

1-withdrawing power-- strikes-- there were more strikes during great depression that there have been in the last 15 years. That's the big issue. How do you get back your courage, guts, energizing authoritarianism. 


Create your own alternative economy-- great populist movement-- 1880s, 1890s

Rob: Is it buying into the democratic party or the two party electoral system. 


Rob:  You discuss in the book Combatting social isolation and building community.

Bruce: 25% of people don't have confidants in their lives. It was 10% 25 years ago. The dream for the authoritarian society is people disconnected-- no solidarity.  Anything that builds connectedness is good, doesn't have to be political 

Rob: so, depression, loneliness, feeling disconnected-- are symptoms of a top down, political authoritarian effort to disconnect people?


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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 


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