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MSU ‘Taboo’ Writing Event Bashes Capitalism, Calls Competition “Internalized Shame”

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Author: Sergei Kelley

A presenter at a MSU event designed to discuss “taboo” topics called neoliberalism, capitalism, along with competition, “internalized shame.” He also called for collective political action on mental health.

The event, “Emotional Literacy Through Teaching Taboo Topics,” hosted by multiple language departments and others, aimed to discuss “taboo” topics in “non-judgmental and inclusive ways by utilizing literary, philosophical and artistic works,” as stated in an event ad.

It began with the first speaker recognizing his privilege. “I want to recognize my own privilege as a white man...also straight and able bodied,” in addition, “how I’m situated I have a lot of advantages...permits me to tackle taboo topics in a very different way.”

[RELATED STORY: MSU Places “Everyday Feminism” White Privilege Guides]

Dr. Scott Boehm went on to discuss the “generational trauma” and repression of women during war and dictatorship of Franco in Spain. Further, the lack of justice after the government’s collapse in 1975. He went on to criticize Spain’s “Pact of Forgetting,” a pact made by both leading parties in an attempt to move forward.

“Structural changes are needed for personal healing,” Boehm stated prior to mentioning Spain’s 2008 Occupy movement, a collective push of “personal feeling[s] of shame and internalized guilt,” against neoliberalism or capitalism.

He later mentioned structural change needed completion via the “political realm.”

Next he targeted universities as businesses, containing internalized neoliberalism which has brought adversary effects such as “treating students as consumers...institutionalized racism,” along with “internalized shame.”

This shame comes from competition among institutions, peers, and “oneself,” which he called “these all negative things,” bringing feelings of “not being good enough.”

The next presenter, Dr. Ellen Moll, is assistant director of the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities.She discussed how institutional power of mass media and the university promotes mental health stigmas.

She posed looking at stigmas around mental health, who is disadvantaged, but also advantaged by them. She handed out a worksheet related to “culture construct of identities,” which included harmful “horrible media myths” of disabled persons.

[RELATED STORY: Prompts in MSU Survey State Blacks as “Monkeys,” Use ‘N’ Word Repeatedly]

Following the activity was a discussion about institutional power, where an attendee cited the dangers of interacting with police, arguing, “statistically speaking if you interact with a police officer it’s very likely that something harmful will happen, regardless of the nature of that interaction.”

Moll concluded her presentation by claiming, in order to better address the institutional power and mental health dynamic, that faculty would prefer more “inclusive and transformative assignments so it’s more about the process than the final products.”

Dr. Jonathan Ritz, an affiliate of MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) and an assistant professor discussed briefly the College of Arts and Letters “Culture of Care” Task Force to help support a wellness model to address mental health concerns and stigmas previously addressed at the event.

The “Emotional Literacy Through Teaching Taboo Topics,” ended with a presentation by CAPS on current services and ways to get more involved to help promote their reach on campus.

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