Recovery From a Near Death Experience:
Apathy, Education, Power and Rhetoric

Randal G. Tonks
Camosun College
Victoria, B.C.

In Publishing this issue of Psybernetika some almost insurmountable hurdles were overcome and it feels this the journal has been on the brink of death. OK well maybe not, but it felt like it from time to time. The biggest struggle was against the post-modern busy-ness that we all find ourselves immersed within. Following the publication of our last issue the editors got too busy with the business of getting their degrees, an issue on the minds of so many students during this post-modern era. Gone are the times when students could explore essential features of what psychology is or can be. Concern over timely progress and streamline production of students and their publishable materials has taken over. Getting into the game requires mainstream publications, they think, so they have little time for marginal publications like Psybernetika.

This editorial was also delayed for a year as I took a position at Camosun College in Victoria, B. C. in August 2000. With the move to the island and starting at a new institution, Psybernetika was pushed aside as my acculturative transformation took over. Now, a year later I'm moving into new duties at the college, but keeping Psybernetika going is still paramount to my interest. Over the years of publishing Psybernetika we have attempted to give students a voice on their field and a place to get some experience publishing and thinking critically about psychology. Many of our past contributions have come from SFU classes on the history and theory of psychology. Students develop their critical skills so well through these courses and practices that sometimes they show faculty a challenge that make them want to cancel the courses in which students learn the luxury of thinking critically about their discipline. Cancel the courses in which students gain deep insight into the practice of psychology because those insights shake the foundations of power.

Kurt Danziger is often implicated as an architect of the demise of foundationism in psychology, not unlike Socrates who was corrupting the minds of the youth. Charles Tolman compelled Canadian Psychologists to read Kurt's 1990 book Constructing the Subject which lead a large number of people to read it a get excited. As a graduate student I was energised to experience Danziger's laying it all out so clearly. His work gave raison d'être to our underground student discussion group on philosophy of science. Kurt's book lead a lot of people to see the smoke and mirrors that made up much of 20th century psychology. After watching many people (including tenured faculty) read Kurt's book and experienced a Kuhnian gestalt shift, a reorganisation of one's world of psychology, some people took offense and lashed back to protect the "Normal Science" they were doing. In Kuhn's (1970) terms, they were conserving their faltering paradigm even though it was at the cost of open discourse. Silencing their critics through power wielding rather than engaging their adversarial insights into dialectical exchange. The result is foot soldiers, at best, all that a student could possibly think to achieve; merely a drone of the scientific general at war. Conquer the alternatives and win great fame having a law named after you.

Is there a scientific revolution afoot? Or is there more of the same fact gathering and puzzle solving that Sir Karl Popper (1970) called dangerous? Critical psychology is the best model of science says Popper, not the dogmatic verification of normal science. It is not so much that maintenance of the status quo makes good science, but through Bold Conjectures and Refutations that one can gain the greatest scientific insights. Without the critical perspectives gained through discourse and dialectics are we not left talking to ourselves in agreement, forming "Pickwickian worlds" (Kuhn, 1970b)?

 The question remains whether or not students have given in to the paradigmatic indoctrination tactics of others. Are there any students who wish to question the discipline and its lore of the day? Are there students who wish to think critically about the political and institutional nature of psychology? In the past there have been, in the future will there be? Who knows? Who knows the fate of Psybernetika and psychology?

Whether or not this will be the last issue of Psybernetika will not presently be of concern, but the themes of this issue are: Canadian women, social responsibility, defense from the state or hegemony of the day, history and the helping of others, and standing up to the ethics of control.

 This issue starts off with Alison Foley's biographical history of Dorothea Dix, a real Canadian Heroine. Alison provides and traditional historiography of Dorothea Dix who over-came abuse and disadvantage, she was self-educated against the hegemonic forces of her time. She presents Dix as a champion of social responsibility and women's rights and tells how she was instrumental in the founding of Nova Scotia's first mental hospital in 1844 and a pioneer in the fields of community and clinical psychology.

Keeping up with the themes of clinical psychology and women's rights comes Rebecca Godderis' witty account of "Pink Freud" that provides a sober look at Freud, Psychoanalysis and women. Her account considers classical psychoanalysis and the role of women during the early years and beyond. She also considers accepted feminist critiques of Freud and resists falling into politicised idols of the theatre. Rebecca instead draws from contemporary Canadian Feminist writers in providing her own critique of the critiques of Freud. Here she examines power, social factors, contradictions as well as the collusion of patriarchy. Drawing from Freud's own words about women she closes with his confession of his own ignorance of women.

Kathleen Stephany also continues along the theme of mental health and wellness as she provides a lucid and rich historiographic account of counselling psychology. Drawing from philosophy of science, she grounds her critical history in the context of the emergence of counselling psychology. In doing so she focuses on Carl Rogers and the major trends during the mid to late 20th century. In closing, she provides a strong evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the profession built around the insights of Rogers the "Great Man".

 Erin Flynn, on the other hand takes a more traditional approach in her history of the "Great Man," Wilder Penfield. She provides a chronological account of his training with Sherrington and Cushing and in the war. She also reveals his personal drive to help others (including his sister) through psychosurgery, something he did so well as he placed Canada and McGill on the map.

Closing this issue with a Canadian connection is Michael Charron's critical history of Ewen Cameron's work that took place down the street from McGill on the side of Mont Royal at the Allan Memorial Institute. This essay reveals one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history where the CIA and ECT came together with LSD along with an idea about reprogramming people into what ever one wants. Perhaps like Freud, Cameron was an ambitious man, interested in unconscious processes and "psychic driving." Charron reports the facts of Cameron's destruction of human minds and families and lives through his programme for control of the mind. The Canadian government later took minimal responsibility for their part, but today psychologists and psychiatrists still use ECT extensively and other drugs to calm their patients down.

In the next issue we hope to present papers on: Publish or Perish the never ending game, Power at the Margins a better game to play, History of Hermeneutics and its relevance for today as well as a biography of Anand C. Paranjpe as a rebel with a cause. Stay tuned for more to come . . .

Randal G. Tonks
August 2001
Victoria B.C.


Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kuhn, T.S. (1970b). Reflections on my critics. In I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Popper, K. R. (1970). Normal science and its dangers. In I. Lakatos & A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.