Ultra Vires


Because We Know Better

“When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.”

– Martin Niemoller

white lotusI had imagined that my first article for UV would be something funny, but this article is not funny. It’s about mental health and Movember. I have not grown a moustache, but I intend to foster awareness about mental health issues in an alternative manner.

I want to talk about them.

I, like many of you, had my share of laughs at Mayor Ford’s expense. However, recent events have alerted me to the possibility that the mayor may have personal problems that ought not to be ridiculed as mere boorishness. I’ve tried to talk friends into having some sympathy for the man, but my efforts have left me feeling like a frustrated child throwing ice cubes at the sun. Something I saw on the internet today disturbed me and has encouraged me to change the tone of my voice. I saw an article about Charlie Sheen, a man similarly dehumanized by the media, reaching out to Mayor Ford in support. The readers’ commentary was a tidal wave of calumny and consternation. It broke my heart. While the stigma associated with mental illness inhibits so many people from exposing the dangerous externalities that these negative stereotypes inflict, the world laughs in what I hope is innocent ignorance of the harm produced by this derision. Mental health issues are a silent plague. Like prostate cancer, mental health and drug problems often cause preventable casualties. Unlike sufferers of prostate cancer, people are often very understandably reticent to accept the ugly label that has become part and parcel of our society’s attitude towards mental health. To twist the words but maintain the message of Eduardo Galeano, the mentally troubled are our invisible nobodies.

Who don’t speak from the heart, but rather from the throes of mania.
Who don’t subscribe to lofty ideals, but rather suffer from delusions of grandeur.
Whose hands are not to be shaken, but watched,
Who have no personalities, but rather diagnoses.
Who aren’t interviewed in Time Magazine, but are impersonated on Jimmy Kimmel Live,

The Sammy Yatims of this world,
The ones who are valued less
Than the bullets that kill them.

Rather than ignore Niemoller’s admonition, we should practice what he preached. The mentally troubled and the substance-affected are my brothers and sisters. When they are trodden upon and trampled, my bones break. I am taking it personally and I must speak out.

You are also taking it personally and I am speaking out on our behalf.

We speak in solidarity with ourselves, whom we have made the least of our brethren, and we have enough self-respect to seek redress for our self-inflicted wrongs.

We were some of the world’s most beautiful minds in maths and science. We gave the world brilliant musicians beauty distilled from violent emotion through ““The Wind Cries Mary” and “Nevermind”. We painted Starry Night. We made the world laugh, not as buffoons but as the insightful social critics Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. We painted captivating literary portraits, coloured with metaphor and passion, such as “The Old Man and the Sea “, “The Bell Jar”,Mrs. Dalloway”

…and the most beautiful book of all time, “I’ll Love You Forever”,

We laboured not for wealth, glory or fame, but for psychological minimum wage. We wanted to touch the world around us. We wanted to share experiences so we could quench our thirst for that basic human necessity of emotional exchange that the volleyball Wilson couldn’t give us on our downtown desert islands.

…and, in exchange, we spit on them.

When our brothers self-medicated on dangerous illusion after we denied them over-the-counter compassion, we accused them of moral turpitude and tweeted our righteousness to feed our addiction to social approval.

We parade as white knights not slay to the dragon, but rather to chase it.

When they wept and reached out for a helping hand, we scowled at the tracks on their wrists and saw through only the yellow of their teary eyes.

We told them they needed professional help, but refused them an OHIP number.

We saw some of the greatest minds of our generation destroyed by madness, while the others faded away out of sight under a highway ramp.

We claim to champion “mental health” because we enjoy it, but we say that someone with mental illness should not run for public office because they’re not equally privileged.

We say that the Mayor Ford did not care about social justice, while we chanted

“Go to Rehab; Don’t Come Back!”

Ford didn’t embarrass Toronto. We did.

We embarrassed our city with our ulterior motives of soothing our insecurities. We joked loudly about our fallen brother and implied even more loudly what we thought of his ilk, knowing that our quirky little brother and sister (who only got into law school because somebody felt sorry for them) could put two and two together and convince themselves that they’ll never live up to the reasonable fantasy. We used deductive reasoning as a telepathic weapon,

“Ford got elected because nobody knew he was fucked in the head. We don’t like people who are fucked in the head.”

Someone with Ford’s problems isn’t meant to have responsibility.

Someone with your problems isn’t meant to be a lawyer.

Someone with Terry Fox’s problems isn’t meant to run.

Someone with Helen Keller’s problems isn’t meant to read.

Someone weaker than we are isn’t meant to do things we don’t think we’d be strong enough to do.”

This is oppression. It is cruel and it is mean.

Our mental health assures gives us comparative safety, but we fear the perseverance of the mentally ill. We find them threatening and unpredictable. We thought they were weak and we incurred reliance accordingly. When we learned they were strong, we hit them where we knew it hurt most.

We abandoned them. We knew they needed us and we intentionally left them to die. We distanced ourselves from them entirely, gifting them a knife so that they could cut their own path to peace rather than die a thousand painful and repetitive deaths of isolation and loneliness.

We attack the mentally ill when they leave their assigned seats. When they sit too close to us, they remind us that the virtuous behaviour that earned us a self-bestowed merit badge is really a consequence of our privilege of mental health. Their existence questions our credibility as amateur psychologists.

But there is hope for us yet.

There is hope for us in our loving parents and family, who would dig to China and back to find us the help we need to be happy and healthy.

There is hope for us in our teachers, who treat us with dignity and who go an extra mile outside the scope of their job description.

There is hope for us in our friends, who without hesitation drop what they’re doing to split the bill on a terrifying experience so that we do not have to test whether our backs are broad enough to bear it alone.

These people have earned they place in heaven. Will we?

But there is also hope in ourselves. We can master our fears and cease with our cruelty.

Because we know we are not frightened animals who mechanistically bite strangers.

Because we know we are people. Because we know we are good people.

Because we know that another’s loss does not translate into our gain

Because we know that the human race is not a competition run on a track, but a daily exercise run on individual treadmills.

Because we know there’s no point in tripping each other up.

We know all of this, but when will we act accordingly?

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

So MoBros, please find enclosed the first step of a lifelong challenge.


See if you’re man enough to accept that, despite what his waist tells your eye,

Rob Ford ain’t heavy.

He’s our Mo-Bro.

With Love & Compassion,


*(and Mo-Sistas, who are equally wonderful)

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