Letters

Letters

Analyze This; Neglectful Memory; The Great Wall; Bull’s Eye; Stompin’ Mad

Illustration by Jenn Kitagawa

Analyze This

Anyone familiar with Freud’s therapeutic methods might wonder how he escaped being charged with malpractice (“Mind Games,” May). He advised one patient to leave a troubled marriage and marry a rich mutual acquaintance, lest he become a hopeless homosexual; and he judged as suspicious a young woman’s negative reaction to sexual advances (since she was fourteen years old) from the cuckolded husband of her father’s lover. These are not necessarily the most outrageous of his cases, but they demonstrate the tenuousness and potential danger of psychiatry, which should be considered an art at best and not a science. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders pathologizes a range of normal human emotions, reactions, and peccadilloes, and is bound to make an already confused field fuzzier—especially within a highly lucrative pharmaceutical setting. Let’s hope there will be more insider analysis and intelligent criticism like Kwame McKenzie’s.

Doris Wrench Eisler
St. Albert, AB

Kwame McKenzie’s review of the DSM-5 mirrors my own relationships with psychiatrists, and the new understanding of those relationships that I gained throughout recovery. Childhood conditioning led me to acquiesce to doctor–client interactions as god–victim ones, which dehumanized us both. Psychiatrists combined a lack of professionalism with inadequately explained diagnosis, while I accepted the debilitating side effects of drugs for years.

Drug free since 1984, and having resolved my psychosis core’s sexual trauma, I now recognize when healthy relationships are lacking, and I find them missing in McKenzie’s analysis—where “we” implies a collective of healthy, knowledgeable (godlike) care providers split off from an illness-prone “they.” Such a doctor–client relationship is all too common. Truth and reconciliation should trump another edition of the DSM.

Susan Schellenberg
Toronto, ON

Neglectful Memory

Indigenous peoples of the Americas have certainly not forgotten smallpox (“The Lost Plague,” May). Recall British general Jeffery Amherst’s instructions to a Colonel Henry Bouquet in July 1763: “You will Do well to try to Innoculate the Indians by means of Blanketts, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them Down by Dogs could take Effect.” Previously, Bouquet had written Amherst, “I would rather chuse the liberty to Kill any Savage that may come in our way, than to be perpetualy doubtful whether they are Friends or Foes.”

Many First Nations believe that blankets infected with smallpox were deliberately introduced in British Columbia and elsewhere to facilitate the colossal land grab known as Canada. Historical biological warfare remains a controversial issue, denied by many scholars, but it surfaces again and again in the history of Canada’s residential schools, where Native children were exposed to infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis. In 1922, medical inspector Peter H. Bryce, who had been hired to assess conditions in residential schools by deputy superintendent general of Indian Affairs Frank Pedley, described the death rate as “a national crime.”

If smallpox has been forgotten by some, it is an example of national amnesia—or selective memory.

Gary Geddes
Thetis Island, BC

The Great Wall

In “Breaking News” (May), Shelley Page explains that the Globe and Mail “is using [its] paywall to build a rich database of online readers’ ages, preferences, income, and location, because advertisers want to directly target potential consumers.”

So will the paper’s news just eventually represent the interests of those most likely to buy something from the advertisers? I suppose that’s a better model than the one expressed to me by a storied journalist about one of his early papers: “All the news that fits, we print.”

Anonymous (online)

 

Bull’s eye

Four of the seven Zellers stores in Winnipeg have closed (“Final Sale,” May), and I understand the other three will be converted to Target stores. One of the closed stores housed our only central supermarket. Its closure has inconvenienced thousands of people, many of them elderly, disabled, poor, or students who do not have cars—not to mention Zellers employees. The supermarket was renovated just a few years ago, and was accessible through a system of covered walkways, a boon in Winnipeg winters and an important factor in encouraging people to live downtown. Others who shopped there were office workers popping in for groceries on their way home.

The purchase of the Hudson’s Bay Company by an American, and now the takeover of most of its former Zellers stores by Target, is part of the broader wholesale of Canadian companies and businesses to foreigners, mostly American. When will it stop? Does anybody care? Or will we only care when it affects us personally?

Hilda Wagstaffe
Winnipeg, MB

Stompin’ Mad

Who peed in John Macfarlane’s cornflakes the morning he composed his Editor’s Note (June)? Stompin’ Tom Connors was an entertainer. His attraction may not be obvious to the highbrow crowd that regularly reads The Walrus, but I don’t remember someone like Al Purdy ever giving readings in some backwater bar or arena toward the end of his career. Macfarlane says Stompin’ Tom represents a Canada that is “predominantly rural, morally certain, and inward looking.” His point? What’s wrong with a musician bringing his plywood plank, his guitar, and an amp onto a stage and letting the audience revert to kids and just enjoy (very) simple poetry set to music?

Ian Byers
Toronto, ON

This appeared in the July/August 2013 issue.