Icaria: The Land of Resistance – Dispatches from Mad Spain


There’s a really good story behind this poster image, and I look forward to telling you all about it, but the  very short version is: there’s a group of anarchists in Southern Spain that managed to get money from the Andalusian government to bring me and my old friend Will Hall across the world to inspire some radical mental health mutual aid support organizing and nuanced resistance to the neoliberal Recovery model.


Really, I swear, I’m not making this up. I’m writing this post from a fluorescent lit social work classroom in East Harlem, New York City, trying to imagine getting off the plane in Barcelona in a few days.

I plan to blog here about my travels, so if you’re curious: these are some things to understand about it from my perspective that feel important.  Last Spring, after 12 years, I actually officially stepped back from being part of The Icarus Project national organization. It was just time to move on: I’m in social work school because I’m determined to creatively radicalize the system from the inside, I want to do my own new things and not be the cranky old Icarus founder guy (which I was feeling like a lot), and there are other folks way more excited about the project with fresh movement connections and energy.

Ironically, one of the pieces I was passionate about putting into place before I left the project was a more solid structure for national organizing. Icarus was always an anarchic network of groups that ebbed and flowed with the seasons, all based on a rough model from our support manual, Friends Make the Best Medicine. This was because we started as a group of anarchic radicals basing our organizing model on Food Not Bombs as opposed to anything looking like the Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

Unfortunately, we learned that it’s much harder to start a network of peer-based mental health support groups than it is to start a network of groups to cook food and feed homeless people. So many intense emotions, so many identity issues (are we all peers? are we all mad?), so many moving parts. The current Icarus National is still wrestling with developing a viable new model that can hold the complexities. And I left them to figure it out without me.

Meanwhile, enter Martín Tellez, Spanish anarchist who somehow finds The Icarus Project message boards and is inspired to start an Icarus inspired network in Spain. We send a series of long emails back and forth and it is clear we are some kind of anarchist bipolar soul mates, we even both spent time locked up in the same fucked up psych hospital in the Caribbean (!) amidst our life adventures.

The Spanish anarchist group Martín has started is decidedly not part of the current national Icarus network based in the United States, technically neither am I, nor is Will (who was one of the founding Icarus collective members,) but we’re part of a larger Icarista community that has deep roots in Global Justice Movements leading all the way back…to the anarchists of the Spanish Civil War.

So it feels only appropriate to return.

Meanwhile, there is so much interesting political ferment happening in Spain. And the housing organizers who are now in government in Barcelona and Madrid, the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages) have their own version of mutual aid emotional support groups I learned about from watching this documentary. I’m reaching out to as many contacts as I can to build bridges and make new friends.

So my sense is that I will be learning a lot more than I’ll be sharing on this trip, but hopefully I’ll be a part of some useful cultural and political exchanges.

First I’ll be in Seville, then in Madrid at the Hearing Voices Congress, and then in Barcelona at another Hearing Voices event. November 1 to 11. Let the adventure begin…




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