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An Unsurvivable Crash

by geezer in Paris Wed Oct 27th, 2010 at 06:06:56 AM EST

A header caught my eye the other day, and opened up an entire closet full of carefully stashed and locked knowledge. A closet that I had decided to defer sorting till a later time. Perhaps the time is now.

Epidemic? Half of US teens `meet criteria for mental disorder'
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, October 14th, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Around half of US teens meet the criteria for a mental disorder and nearly one in four report having a mood, behavior or anxiety disorder that interferes with daily life, American researchers say.

front-paged by afew


It needs repeating:

Epidemic? Half of US teens `meet criteria for mental disorder'
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, October 14th, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Around half of US teens meet the criteria for a mental disorder and nearly one in four report having a mood, behavior or anxiety disorder that interferes with daily life, American researchers say.
Fifty-one percent of boys and 49 percent of girls aged 13-19 have a mood, behavior, anxiety or substance use disorder, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In 22.2 percent of teens, the disorder was so severe it impaired their daily activities and caused great distress, says the study led by Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
"The prevalence of severe emotional and behavior disorders is even higher than the most frequent major physical conditions in adolescence, including asthma or diabetes," the study says.
------------------------------
Teen mental disorder rates mirror those seen in adults, suggesting that most adults develop a mental disorder before adulthood, say the researchers, calling for earlier intervention and prevention, and more research to determine what the risk factors are for mental disorders in youth.

"Intervention" is code for treatment with drugs.

Like so many other insights, the understanding precedes the documentation. We chose to leave the United States because the above trend and some of its implications and precursors was apparent to us twenty years ago.  The following simply added more evidence to the box :
From "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the astonishing rise of Mental Illness in America", by Robert Whitaker, Jan.  2010,  pp 8-9

This plague of disabling mental illness has now spread to our children, too. In 1987, there were 16,200 children under eighteen years of age who received an SSI payment because they were disabled by a serious mental illness. Such children comprised only 5.5 percent of the 293,000 children on the disability rolls-mental illness was not, at that time, a leading cause of disability among the country's children. But starting in 1990, the number of mentally ill children began to rise dramatically, and by the end of 2007, there were 561,569 such children on the SSI disability rolls. In the short span of twenty years, the number of disabled mentally ill children rose thirty-five fold. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children, with the mentally ill group comprising 50 percent of the total number of children on the SSI rolls in 2007.13
The baffling nature of this childhood epidemic shows up with particular clarity in the SSI data from 1996 to 2007. Whereas the number of children disabled by mental illness more than doubled during this period, the number of children on the SSI rolls for all other reasons-cancers, retardation, etc.-declined, from 728,110.
(It should be noted that during the time period from 1955 to the present, the criteria for inclusion on the rolls of the disabled have been made more exclusive, and the bureaucratic side of that process has been rendered positively byzantine in it's complexity.  As a result, the real numbers of eligible, as judged by earlier standards, are probably much greater).
"In sum, there were 56,000 people hospitalized with anxiety and manic depressive illnesses in 1955. Today, according to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) there are at least 40 million adults who suffer from one of these affective disorders. More than 1.5 million people are on SSI or SSDI because they are disabled by depression, anxiety or bipolar illness, and according to Johns Hopkins data, more than 14 million people who have these diagnoses are severely impaired in their ability to function in society. That is the astonishing bottom-line result produced by a medical specialty that has dramatically expanded diagnostic boundaries in the last fifty years, and has treated it's patients with drugs that perturb normal brain function."

-----------------------------

"A Scientific Inquiry
The puzzle can now be precisely summed up. On the one hand, we know that many people are helped by psychiatric medications. We know that many people stabilize well on them and will personally attest to how the drugs have helped them lead normal lives. Furthermore, as Satcher noted in his 1999 report, the scientific literature does document that psychiatric medications, at least over the short term, are "effective." Psychiatrists and other physicians who prescribe the drugs will attest to that fact, and many parents of children taking psychiatric drugs will swear by the drugs as well. All of that makes for a powerful consensus: Psychiatric drugs work and help people lead relatively normal lives. And yet, at the same time, we are stuck with these disturbing facts: The number of disabled mentally ill has risen dramatically since 1955, and during the past two decades, a period when the prescribing of psychiatric medications has exploded, the number of adults and children disabled by mental illness has risen at a mind-boggling rate. Thus we arrive at an obvious question, even though it is heretical in kind: Could our drug-based paradigm of care, in some unforeseen way, be fueling this modern-day plague?"

Whitaker goes on to document in chilling detail a social disaster- the results  of applying a market-profit (predatory) model to mental health. He shows us relentlessly what should be easy to see without him- that there is a loop here- or more precisely, a downward spiral:

  • of redefining disruptive or non-standard behavior as disease,
  • of "discovering" disease, so to speak,
  • then finding a pharmaceutical that can be convincingly marketed as being effective in "treating" this newly discovered disease, and, best of all, produces the "need" for more drugs,
  • and then reaping enormous profits by selling vast quantities of these newly-discovered "Magic Bullets".
He also documents thoroughly, using the very best source, the "outcomes" literature, the results of such treatment. What do these drugs really do in the long term?
It's a nightmare.
For only one example, take Ritalin therapy.

What about that group who seem to benefit, at least in the short term, from moderate drug therapy??

 A good-sized subset of those children who initially responded, which generally means that they displayed more "appropriate" behavior and learning patterns, suffer "remissions" and are moved up to a drug cocktail that includes but is not limited to Prozac and Zoloft. Outcomes literature shows no long term benefit, and in fact shows great potential harm.

 Since this diary is not about ritalin therapy per se, I will recommend you read his very well researched book, and summarize a single example of Whitaker's findings:
Here's his careful, conservative assessment, --from outside the commercial community:

"The drugs alter a hyperactive child's behavior over the short tern: in a manner that teachers and some parents find helpful, but other than that, the medications diminish a child's life in many ways, and then may turn a child into an adult with a reduced physiological capacity to experience joy-."

And what about the other group- those whose parents pursue drug therapy more determinedly?

There is one other area of heartbreaking risk with such therapies that remains to be explored in detail. It often works like this: A child who shows mood swings- emotional volatility that, in an earlier time would likely have been accepted as a normal personality trait that would likely moderate with age is treated with Ritalin, to temporary good effect, from the point of view of the parent and teacher.  The effect fades, old behavior reappears, in spades, Prozac is used, then other symptoms appear, and he or she is diagnosed as bipolar, bringing on yet another batch of mind-altering drugs. Several years of this, and this child may well be diagnosed as " Bipolar, Rapid-Cycler", a pernicious variety of bipolar disorder for whom the outcome is quite grim, and quite permanent, and will produce a lifetime of drug therapy with no good outcome.

So do we now know why there is such an epidemic of mental illness in the US?
Whitaker thinks so. I think he has only one piece of the puzzle. He's seeing a symptom, instead of the disease. Whitaker and the NIMH, Agence-|France-Press and others now belatedly see --only a part of the picture.

I think the "disease" is American society as a whole.

The structural-functional sociologists see as the central explanadum of society the notion that an institution or coherent cultural element's structure has an intimate relationship to, and can be best understood by what it actually does, not necessarily what the popular mythology says it does. Thus, if one dons their glasses, one might say that for much of American history, newspapers and media in general defined, among other things, crime- who commits it and what the risks and costs were. And prisons in America were there to, of course, make criminals. And the two together compose a loop that creates a class of untouchables-a class of "black Hats", disobedient semi-human motes, for us to hate. A process hardly unique to the US.
The deeply human tendency to latch onto a single perspective and demand that it explain everything always rears it's head in  searching for explanations for the complex ways of mankind. I suggest it's good to think of such notions as this, and of theories involving market functioning, as sort of thought bubbles in a grand cartoon of near-universal oversimplification. Reductionism is in our blood. It runs our media, friends, and is dangerous. But, within limits, the structural-functional point of view is useful. For example:  

The New World Consumer Culture is an entire package that was largely made in America, and has, at it's core, little to do with wealth. It capitalizes on several human frailties, atavistic and self-destructive, and manipulates them to render the popular mass powerless. "Stuff" is the most effective technique for social control ever invented.
Self-reliance
Begin with the notion that emerged early in our history that self-reliance was good, and that competition, whether personal or economic, "improves the breed", as if we were motes in some vast experiment in eugenics. The notion is vapid. It ignores the conception behind Leaky's eloquent "People of the Lake" that what elevates and empowers humans is our ability to cooperate to achieve an abstract, imagined goal. We dream. We build.
Making dreams real is a cooperative enterprise.
But self-reliance was a useful notion to push a lot of dreamers into a Conestoga wagon and to a desperate, often deadly existence on the frontiers of barbarism in the Great Move West(tm).
But- ask yourself if you could, if necessary, produce a light? By yourself? Or a hamburger, or a pencil, or---
---the grand dream of Apollo Project? Or the Concord?
And we need our dreams. Without them, humanity does not prosper. We sicken, we grow cynical and bitter, we turn inward and self-destructive, we savage our own social body.

The process of crafting these notions into a means of social control unequaled in human history was decentralized and almost inchoate, and did not require any great conspiratorial machine, though I have no doubt there is an element of conscious cooperation. A structural-functional perspective might say that the necessary element was a simple confluence of common needs - by the industrial magnates, the railroad barons, the economic elite who always wish to remain in their elevated aeries. But the long process of the creation of "Stuff Culture" has some obvious components:  

--Human and environmental predation redefined as "victory". A popular, cartoon-like mythology of good guys, bad guys, white hats and black. We like it simple. Particularly when it's not. Hence the "conquest"- of nature, of enemies, of the hemisphere. With sporting overtones.

--An overarching economic analysis, a prayer book to fill the market for a quasi-academic justification for such predation.  Hayek, Uncle Milty and the rest of the fig leaf makers, bringing with it it's concomitant political analysis.

--The emergence of cultural myths for the non-academic, embodied best by Ayn Rand, but present in solid form in a hundred other writer's screeds. Heinlein's imaginings, which included the idea that those who could not afford to pay for air ought fairly to be left to suffocate, and their heirs, if any, charged for the cleanup costs, to endless equally vicious but unremarked pronouncements from our late, great heroes of the White House, from Reagan, the Bushes with their endless list of enemies, or-- but you get it. And then, just when we knew who to hate,

--The loss of easily villainized or fabricated enemies with its resultant turning within in the search for replacements, turning a preexisting tendency into a veritable flood. A huge prison population with degrees in criminality, producing a yet greater surge in the prison population, producing an entire new privatized prison industry depending, very much like medicine and psychiatric medication, on amplifying the problem that created it, rather than reducing it. All  participants, outside and in, must tell themselves patently unbelievable stories about how we're all good guys here, and how it all makes sense.

--And now, we have created a whole new panoply of evil doers, a rogue's gallery so inclusive, so sweeping in its scope as to justify endless war almost everywhere.

Consider how the components above might play out over the recent historic past, from the point of view of the ordinaries like myself.

     Emerging slowly from the Great Depression, my parents sought victory over the black hats, on whom we projected our fear and anger, our desperation after a decade of failure, and they sought also a bit of material security. WWII seemed to bring that. A generation of psychologically traumatized veterans (WWII was no picnic. Bataan, Corregidor,, Hiroshima, etc.) landed in the rich humus produced by the world's greatest (impossible) command economy: the US after WWII. Their enthusiastic participation brought a bountiful crop- a vast tsunami of doodads, and thus more good jobs plundering  and ploughing the remains of the continent and then the rest of the hemisphere in the quest to produce and then sell all that stuff. And then, of course, we needed a lot of that shit to defend ourselves from the Communist Russian evil, then the evil empire, then the drug war, then the Axis of Evil, then the Global war on Terror, then--

It's an unsurvivable crash, composed of life stories that we as atomized and isolated people tell ourselves, stories of the evils of others, violence saturated, endless, with no good outcome, stories where victory is always bought at the cost of another's defeat, stories where the kind are losers, compassion is someone else's job and hopeless cynicism is the hallmark of my son's generation (or so he says) requiring that we drug ourselves with a new I-pod, canned dreams and then, ultimately, powerful psychotropics, to numb our capacity to feel, to suffer, and above all to feel the pain of others- that pain machine that is at the heart of our national "business model".

Our own pain, fear, sense of failure.

A world of wounded, hurt and angry victims.

No dreams for a better future. Few dreamers. It's all done for us, so we live their dreams- the ones they give us.

As good as he is, Robert Whittaker has only one piece of the puzzle. The drugs are a symptom. They are there to respond to, to soften the realities of an otherwise unsurvivable national culture.
That culture has made huge inroads into Western Europe, and the same human frailties that were exploited to impose it on my country have proved powerful here too. I came to Europe with many hopes, among them the hope of pointing out this fact to some, and was eventually dissuaded by the sometimes thinly veiled contempt of those who saw me as just another sour expat, or loser at the great game of life. And by my fear of being seen as the crackpot on the corner with the sign saying, "Repent, for the end is near!"

I no longer care if you see me as such a one, because I am not alone. There are millions who see a lot of what Whittaker, from his position in the belly of the beast, cannot. Perhaps I was arrogant to think I needed to say it at all.
The question Whitaker did not ask is this:

Why would such draconian application of powerful, poorly understood drugs be felt to be necessary? For children, as well as for adults?

Remember the huge strike over the CPE? They said to the world,
"We are the future of France! We are not disposable!"
"Ni Pauvre, Ni Soumis!" (Neither Poor, nor Submissive!)-A different view of wealth?
My heartfelt thank you to the many, many people of France who can see what Bob Whittker cannot.

It's not just mental illness, or retirement.
It's life itself.

Fifty percent!

Display:
During the 70s Quaalude became a widely abused sleeping pill. By 1981, 80-90% of world production went into illegal drug trade - the 'drunken sleepy high'. 20 million pills on the street in the US.

By 1984 Quaaludes - legal and illegal - had disappeared. How?

The key chemical involved was methaqualone. Its manufacture required sophisticated equipment, so there were not that many manufacturers worldwide. The DEA convinced these countries to stop production. Congress banned domestic production. Reagan signed it into law in '84.

The DEA hoped to use the same persuasive techniques to limit availability of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - which also required sophisticated production and came from only a few major manufacturers. These drugs were part of the recipe for Meth. Meth production in Mexico started to escalate at the same time Quaaludes were being shut down in the Eighties.

But by the mid-Eighties the pharmaceutical industry had learned how to effectively lobby Congress - loads o'money. Meth exists because of that lobbying. The Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America put over 26 million dollars in the hands of US lawmakers last year. And subverted the DEA and thus regulation.

For Big Pharma, the pain of following the American Dream is very, very profitable. Profits they are unlikely to ever forego.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 04:26:31 AM EST
correction: 80-90% of world methaqualone production went into the illegal drug trade

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 04:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure do remember the 'lude times. Never my drug of choice. There is/was no creature so pathetic, so helpless as your typical ludehead, in his or her "cups", so to speak..
My friend Hal was an expert- he knew how to manage 'ludes better than anyone I ever knew. No food-empty stomach- no alcohol whatever. He could modulate his high quite well, but was still a figure of pity as far as I was concerned.
I'm writing here not so much about the rapacious manipulation of the drug companies- that is a permanent fixture of the American scene, though the neurotransmitter package does seem to have hit a new low even for them. I got into the reading because I take one every day for neurologic pain, and am afraid. Even my pharmacist looks askance at me when she fills my prescription, and feels obliged to warn me about the long-term side effects. I'm really busy editing a bunch of really good audio stories, but the story just hit me hard.
50% is a scary number.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 06:07:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
slamming diary, this one hit home and then some. not easy to write, yet exceptionally well expressed.

sort the quality of food out, so many of these problems would evaporate.

the sheer amount of toxic junk the average 'cornsumer' intakes during the most precious growing years has led to this.

health and sanity are only so robust.

everything we put into our bodies should be as fresh and clean as possible, or all hell breaks loose, either slow, for the stronger constitutions, or swift for those for whom too many generations have gone by since the advent of petrochem farming, not to mention all the other smogasbord of evil shit, from nuclear 'oopses', coal smog, and the long tawdry list we all know and love, as they worm their way through our overloaded bodies.

it's a miracle we're still around, and in my case only because i had to figure out a plan B early, and have had the time now to see the huge, incremental difference filtering out as many undesirables as possible outside the body, rather than relying on the interior ones to always do their job efficiently, especially with the diminishing ROI of aging kicking in.

i have a client who turned 94 today. when i cslled her to wish her happy returns she sounded light and bubbly with contented joy.

raised in a theosophist family, on a vegetarian diet, with generous side helpings of krishnamurti.

coincidence?

thanks geez, brilliant diary. it brings up way more stuff, but i have to fly to pick up someone at the station...

over and out

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 08:56:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically, one can still obtain pseudoephedrine in the US, by signing for it, but not in Mexico. The stricter rules in the US governing this useful OTC drug, as a component of the antihistamine/decongestant "Actifed", caused the manufacturers to reformulate "Actifed" to, in my opinion, produce a much less effective alternative product of the same name.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 11:32:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree about the new "Actifed".

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 11:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It isn't unusual for these things to be reformulated, either theyre  altered  to reduce the chance of idiots finding ways to kill themselves intentionally, or to reduce the chance of long term side effects.  The fact that this frequently reduces the effectiveness for their primary users is an anoying side effect of avoiding  lawyers.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 08:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see a slightly different nuance to the same overall picture.

I strongly doubt that actual incidence of mental disability has risen very greatly. That's one of those conclusions people tend to make without looking at the diagnostic criteria, which, for almost all extant conditions, have been significantly broadened over the past few decades (the trouble one has to go through to obtain disability benefits may have increased, but if the number of diagnoses has exploded that is unlikely to be enough). I'd like to see some actual epidemiology is produced that explicitly controls for increased screening and broader diagnostic criteria and still gets this result before concluding that there is an actual increase in the underlying pathologies.

So until and unless we see some fairly robust epidemiology on this, I think the take-home point here is that the criteria for what is considered pathological are too wide (or, conversely, the normal range is too narrow). With the inevitable result that healthy Americans are horrendously over-medicated with drugs that should really only be used for people who suffer from serious illness. Anti-depressants are not toys. They really should be restricted to cases where there is a genuine disability, or a credible risk of one, rather than being given to ameliorate inconvenience.

What I'd like to see is a comparison of the criteria used in different areas to determine whether someone is given a  prescription for these things. That might be enlightening.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 06:37:54 AM EST
That seems to be the modal response to the data- the definition of "Illness" is too broad. If you want to know the best analysis of the  criteria I've seen, it's Whittaker's book. Not being a complete fool, he considers this issue in detail, right away. So did I, for the same reason. In my diary, I point out the cycle of disease invention (er, discovery), diagnosis, drug invention, etc. etc.

I think a part of the increase can be explained as a broader diagnostic effort and a looser standard (illness is money, not health), but the lesser part. Whittaker thinks the larger part can be traced to the drugs themselves,. It's a positive feedback loop. But there remains a huge residue of damaged psyches who are not now nor have ever been medicated in a significant way. It's these that need--what was it-- "prevention and intervention"?

Whitaker's book is far from the only one on the subject, and he's a bad smell from the inside of the "Drug Biz". The consensus from the inside of the drug business is, of course, that it's real. The growing consensus from the outside is also, sadly, that it's real. Whitaker has the numbers, the case histories and above all, the outcomes data. If you are interested, read him.

From conversations and personal experience my non-professional opinion is that traits of personality, of social and emotional functioning that, not so long ago, would have been considered borderline or clearly pathological now fall within the "normal" zone. Warrior cultures like ours drift in that direction, out of necessity. So if I'm right, this works in the other direction.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 08:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is impressively confirmatory is the manner in which the drug industry assured themselves of a reliable funding source for childhood psychiatric drugs via SSI funding and the manner in which they assured that most of this money flowed to "disorders" for which they had a putative cure, which can be controlled by selective lobbying of agencies and politicians. This, of course, requires the parallel effort to prevent self medication via "recreational drugs".

I also share melo's concern about chemical contamination of our food chain and environment. The National Centers for Disease Control just revised their estimates for rates of diabetes by 2050 from 30% to 50% -- great news for drug companies and far more profitable to treat the symptoms than to prevent them, so much so that it somehow seems very difficult to get funding in the USA to investigate links between BSPa,  phthialates and other chemicals present in the distribution chain and environment and the various conditions whose incidences have increased. Even when there are confirmatory studies, there are always a greater number of dis-confirmatory studies and regulatory bodies can never decide between them.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 10:47:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it somehow seems very difficult to get funding in the USA to investigate links between BSPa,  phthialates and other chemicals present in the distribution chain and environment and the various conditions whose incidences have increased

That actually makes sense.

If you just go on a fishing expedition in a big database, you'll mostly get spurious correlations. You need to have some sort of reasonably plausible biological model for how compound N could cause condition X before you cast your net - that's the only way to get a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 10:56:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it was better science that has enabled the EU to have tighter regulations on the impacts of such chemicals? And this science was not available in the USA?

There are good biological models for the effects of BSPa. It is estrogenic and in high concentrations has been shown to convert male tadpoles into functioning females. It has also been shown to cause feminization in mammals. There is also significant evidence on the effects of phthialates. This evidence has been sufficient for WalMart to put in place its own BSPa standards for baby bottles, out of a concern for possible liabilities. But lots of exposure comes from products that are imported by shell companies that have no significant exposure in that they can and do just go out of business in case of trouble.

I believe that the standard for chemicals allowed into our food chain should be that they have been demonstrated to be safe to some reasonable standard, not that they have not been demonstrated to cause harm. This is especially true for chemicals that have been introduced in the last 70 to 80 years. Given that this has not been the standard, consideration has to be given to a process of expedited review, especially of chemicals that have been shown to be problematic. This has been thwarted in the USA by political pressure from the chemical industry.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 12:31:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are good biological models for the effects of BSPa. It is estrogenic and in high concentrations has been shown to convert male tadpoles into functioning females. It has also been shown to cause feminization in mammals. There is also significant evidence on the effects of phthialates.

I am well aware of the fact that phthalates have hormone disrupting effects. And I think that this is sufficiently problematic to warrant strong restrictions in their use.

But you were complaining about a lack of studies of their effects on all "the various conditions whose incidences have increased." And that's a fishing expedition, unless you have a good reason to believe that these conditions are related to hormonal disruption.

That is not to say that it is a silly hypothesis that hormonal disruptions may cause mental diseases. Investigating that possibility strikes me as a lot more fruitful than going on a fishing expedition through every chemical out there. Because if and when we establish that such an effect exists, we can zero in on which classes of chemicals are prime suspects for further investigation.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 01:32:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not to say that it is a silly hypothesis that hormonal disruptions may cause mental diseases.

It's a fact neuro-hormones, blood borne neuro-transmitters such as glutamate, pass the blood/brain barrier invoking unwanted affects.  It is known some chemicals, such as mono-sodium glutamate, have the ability to invoke glutamate neural pathways triggering unwanted and inappropriate somatic activity, such as falling down when trying to walk after overdosing on MSG laced Chinese food.

There is a high correlation <insert usual caveats> between increased female hormones in the water supply associated with "hormonal therapy" and earlier, from historic expectations, onset of puberty in young girls.  

[See Introduction to Behavioral Endrocrinology, which I am planning on buying and reading Real Soon Now   ;-) for more exposition and the underlying science.]

In the US research money for this area is scant as findings are running a'cropper of the pharmaceutical, agricultural, food, chemical, & so on industries.  With hundreds of billions of profit at stake nobody wants to know.  

I have been told, by people who follow this more carefully than I, things are different in France and there is solid work being done there.  Since I don't read French ...

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 02:10:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you just go on a fishing expedition in a big database, you'll mostly get spurious correlations.

Of course! I had not realized my total lack of specificity. So a reasonable person would think from my comment that I advocated what you describe? I do think that a survey of trace levels in the blood of various chemicals that have been introduced into the environment in the last 70 to 80 years followed by a survey of the literature for known effects of these chemicals on biological systems is in order. Where possible biological models are found further study would be in order. But I do not believe there is significant appetite for such work in the USA for reasons I stated. Many such effects, such as for Volitile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, atmospheric particulates, and ozone are reasonably well established but mostly are studiously ignored in public discourse in the USA.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 02:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So a reasonable person would think from my comment that I advocated what you describe?

Well, it's what I thought. Whether it is reasonable is something I'll let the reader judge.

Going on fishing expeditions is a quite common mistake even among trained scientists. And it sounds so very reasonable - after all, why should we trust that these chemicals are safe? On the chemical industry's say-so? Because that industry has such a stellar record of honesty and diligence when it comes to ensuring the safety of its products...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 07:04:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And would you have any recommendations on whether or how such an investigation should be conducted? Can I presume you would favor identification of possible biological processes?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 10:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not a biologist, nevermind a doctor of medicine, so I may be going about this the wrong way. But I'd start with looking at how much over-medication is taking place. This is the most urgent task. (Half the population on psychoactive drugs? That simply has to violate the rules of medical ethics.)

Then I'd look at what the literature says on the disease(s) you want to investigate. Since they can be treated with chemicals, there has to be some sort of literature on the biochemistry behind them. Unless, of course, they're just being treated with a shotgun cocktail of whatever seems to relieve the symptoms (in which case getting the subclinical cases off those drugs becomes even more urgent). If that's the case, working back from the chemistry of the drugs that make the symptoms go away might be possible.

This is where you'll start getting data, so planning beyond this point is somewhat premature - if we could plan beyond it, it would mean that we already knew what the data would say. But assuming that you get some sort of plausible hypothesis for the biochemistry of the disease(s) in question, you can search your database of the structure of chemicals approved for industrial use, and their common byproducts, impurities, metabolic products and so on (you'd be amazed at how good a competent chemist can be at predicting what a molecule will do to you just by looking at its structure). Your industrial health and safety bureau and your environmental protection agency should have such databases - if they do not have such databases, then they need to wake up and start doing their jobs.

This should give you some idea of which chemicals should be investigated for possible connections to which diseases, thus greatly improving your signal-to-noise ratio.

Now, that's not to say that you can't start gathering incidence data and data on the environmental exposure to various chemicals at the same time you're doing the other legwork. Those things should be monitored anyway, and gathering the exposure and incidence data in parallel with your literature search will speed up the investigation after you've got your first batch of suspects.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:13:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is partly the work of The European Medicines Agency

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For a good number of chemicals that have been introduced into the food chain in the last century or so there is already significant evidence, complete with verified biological models, of damage to human ontogeny. These include phthialtes and BPA, to correct my erroneous earlier abbreviation, as well as VOCs, Ozone, etc. The Obama Administration set up a process to review those that have entered the food chain or home environment in quantities sufficient to impact human health, but that process has been grossly underfunded.

Given the foot dragging, non-governmental support for research documenting the effects of these chemicals on the health of the US population could conceivably increase the pressure to respond. But the structure of our political system makes this very difficult. So you hardly need worry about "fishing expeditions" when we cannot even get money to autopsy the beached whales on our public beaches, as it were.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:09:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Obama Administration set up a process to review those that have entered the food chain or home environment in quantities sufficient to impact human health, but that process has been grossly underfunded.

Running an industrial society is expensive. Who would'a thunk?

Not Timmy Geithner, apparently.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Money for fishing expeditions will be reserved for the MIC, I strongly suspect.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 03:16:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When the social or economic evolution produces more loosers than winners, there is something not quite right.
by das monde on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 09:57:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting diary, geezer. I tend to share Jake's cautiousness. Unless we have an in-depth study addressing the change in criteria and methods, it is difficult to say that there was such a huge increase in mental illness.

And when you say:

My heartfelt thank you to the many, many people of France who can see what Bob Whittker cannot.

you must remember that France is world's number one for antidépressants consumption

Les Français sont les premiers consommateurs d'antidépresseurs au monde. Plus de 5 millions de personnes consomment des antidépresseurs et psychotropes en France, dont plus de 120 000 enfants et adolescents. La consommation de tranquillisants et d'antidépresseurs en France est trois fois plus élevée que celle des autres pays de l'Union Européenne. Et cette surconsommation augmente chaque année. Des centaines de milliers de personnes, dans des périodes de vie difficiles mais ne souffrant d'aucun trouble psychiatrique, se voient prescrire ces médicaments sur de longues durées, sans être averties de leurs effets secondaires ni bénéficier d'un suivi régulier.


"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 10:52:09 AM EST
A tidbit for ARGeezer, Melo and others (I seem to be the raven at the door, intoning "Nevermore!" today):
Cancer 'caused by modern man'
Yahoo!7 October 15, 2010, 10:39 am

A study of ancient remains by University of Manchester scientists has strongly suggested cancer is a man-made disease caused by modern life.

Professor Rosalie David, a biomedical Egyptologist at the University of Manchester and colleague Professor Michael Zimmerman, looked for evidence of the disease in hundreds of mummified bodies dating back to 3,000 years, along with fossils and ancient texts.

The researchers identified cancer in only one Egyptian mummy, proving the disease was very rare in ancient times.

Prof Zimmerman said: "In an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases.

"The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity, indicating that cancer causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialisation."

It was not until the 17th century that they discovered descriptions of operations for breast and other cancers, with the first reports in scientific literature of distinctive tumours only occurring in the past 200 years.

The experts have attributed this increase to lifestyle factors including poor diet and pollution.

"In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. In ancient times, it was extremely rare," said Prof Rosalie David.

"There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle."
She said they were confident enough to make the assertion as they looked back 3,000 years, not just 100 years.

And at this point, no one has tried to deal with the fundamental question, which is
the genesis, the implications of a culture that drugs it's children in such a pernicious and systematic way.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 12:19:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is such a silly study.

First of all, stone age people didn't get very old, because they were killed by disease, unstable food supplies, violence and accidents long before they reached old age. How many people have detectable cancers in their forties today? Answer: Not many. Now compound this by removing all the organs and preserving them separately (were the organs checked as well? Most cancers don't start in the muscle tissue). Then compound it even further by drying out the corpses and leaving them around for a couple of thousand years.

You might as well look at dinosaur fossils and conclude that reptiles are not naturally disposed to get cancer.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 01:16:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if it was silly, but certainly some of the press' interpretations are pretty silly. Can't seem to find a copy since it was mentioned on ET a week ago...every copy seems to be behind the curtain of internet secrecy unless you pay.

It seems one of the author's made some 'too general' statements.

But there are ways to increase cancer, and decrease the age at which it becomes more prevalent. Japanese who start eating more meat, Mediterraneans who leave the Med diet, people who smoke more, people who sweep chimneys (it's not cancer of the eye balls that they get cancer of...), carcinogens in the drinking water, and other 'modern' actions.

All this to say that the study may not be silly, though how the conclusions are made or stated may be.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 05:28:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cancer is not a new diagnosis, so it should be possible to do historical study using archives (controlling for historical causes of death that might been cancer).

I think cancer is fairly well understood and while oxygen remains the single largest contributor, every additional factor adds to the probability of cancer developing and thus to cancer cases in the population. And we know that we have added factors, so it is reasonable that we have more cancer cases (controlled for age) then pre-industrial people. On the other hand we also have some treatment methods.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 10:28:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is such a silly study.

Well, the press coverage was sensational and the statements of one of the (young?) authors seem over broad and a bit breathless, but I fear we don't really know enough about the study to call it silly. Perhaps there is some description of methodology in the Nature article, if someone has access.

I must note that I tend to agree with the idea that much cancer is the result of industrialization, but that is a working surmise, not a scientific conclusion. None of the available sources I have found for this story have included a discussion of research methodology, but anyone who has access to thousands of Egyptian mummies is likely to be supervised and work with archeologists who are fully aware of what ever practices were used in the mummification, which has varied over time and place. Practices for royalty may not be typical for lower orders. But for high ranking individuals the internal organs were usually preserved in canoptic jars that were also in the tomb. It should be possible to determine association of organs and mummies where both survive.

The real question is if the survey controlled for age at death and how this was determined. People did get old in antiquity, despite low average ages. And anyone who was mummified was likely of some social standing, even if only a servant. If age at death can be accurately determined these mummies hold the potential to say something about the issue at hand, whether or not the paper at hand succeeded or not.

There was also a 1990s large find of desert burials 300 kilometers west of the Nile in the Valley of the Golden Mummies at Bahariya Oasis from the Greco-Roman period. I have seen estimates of the possible number of burials in the thousands for this area, but don't know what the current number of recovered mummies is.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 11:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your restraint is admirable, ARGeezer.
One of the reasons why it grows less pleasant to post ideas on ET, and why I spend less time doing so is the occasional need to suffer disparagement, even clumsily veiled contempt, from commenters who have clearly not read either the matter under discussion, or really thought through the other comments..

Jake, twenty minutes reading the work and the peer review would have shown you that your criticisms of this study (and the original ideas and the book referred to in the original diary) are unfounded. It may have other flaws, but the ones you ascribe to it--aint there.
I welcome criticism- it's at the heart of why we are here- but your arrogance spoils the learning opportunity that your considerable knowlege might otherwise offer.

Life's too short to waste it on dominance games.

 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:19:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, GiP, I have purchased a copy of Williamson but not yet read it. At the same time I purchased the new edition of Polanyi, as I no longer have the one I read so many years ago, and I have been distracted by that and other subjects. Williamson does look interesting from the preface and the comments on the cover.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 10:20:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since we're solving more and more causes of death, and yet the death rate is still 100% of the population, there have to be new causes of death which replace the old ones and thus show an increase over time.

That cancer kills more people today kind of follows the fact that cholera and dysenteria and the flu kill fewer.

We have to die from something. The more we solve some causes of death, the more new ones will pop up, and this will have very little to do with our environment.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 05:04:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since we're solving more and more causes of death, and yet the death rate is still 100% of the population, there have to be new causes of death which replace the old ones and thus show an increase over time.

No, because 100% of the population could die of old age.

'Dying of [medical condition]' is synonymous with 'dying prematurely of [medical condition].'

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 05:38:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Everybody is required to die of a known entity, by order not only of the [US] Department of Health and Human Services but also of the global fiat of the World Health Organization. In thirty-five years as a licensed physician, I have never had the temerity to write 'Old Age' on a death certificate, knowing that the form would be returned to me with a terse note from some official record-keeper informing me that I had broken the law. Everywhere in the world, it is illegal to die of old age.

S. B. Nuland, How we die



You're clearly a dangerous pinko commie pragmatist.
by Vagulus on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 06:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, 'senility without mention of psychosis', also known as code R34, is the official catch-all classification.

And 'premature death' has a standard definition that is used in WHO statistics and actuarial tables.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 08:35:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have had at least two aunts die in their '90s of stomach cancer. And many people die with cancer but not of cancer. A good number of those die from multiple organ failure in a context of ongoing treatment for cancer. Others die of acute inflammation, whether or not a complication of cancer. Given the increasing incidence of diabetes, more and more deaths will be due to "complications of diabetes", which could well swamp the "complications due to cancer" category, if these are, in fact, the formal categories. Nor is there reason to believe that there is an extremely high standard for the precise cause of death in many of the frail and elderly many of whom may have no really obvious cause.

But this is not to say that nothing could be determined from a study of a large number of well preserved mummies 2000 years and older, whether that has or has not been done in the reported study. The real problem would seem to be the determination of the age at death. So I remain agnostic about this report.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 06:35:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my own naive way I opine feeding kids massive amounts of sugars: sucrose, fructose (notably derived from corn (zea mays,) relative to their body weight impacts on ADD.  If the physiology of the kid is racing away this will "fuel," in more ways than one, "inappropriate"¹ behavior.

I understand, from limited reading, pre-natal food intake by the mother also has affects.  What those affects are and how they are invoked I can only write, "Duh?"

Masking underlying causal processes with psycho-pharmaceuticals where the understanding of their long and short range effects are dubious, at best, seems, to me, to be the height of folly.  Certainly providing children with a nutritiously balanced diet seems a More/Better initial intervention. (?)

Of course if the goal is to make schools a "profit center," children a "pre-adult consumer," all of the previous can be ignored.

¹ meaning "what authority figures and others who have to deal with the hyperactivity, e.g., teachers don't want to deal with"

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 at 02:31:03 PM EST
My thoughts also.

I am very interested in the mindset that allows the culture-wide adoption of a business model that effectively (and schizophrenically)labels what are one instant well-loved children and the next instant "pre-adult consumers" -and therefore fair game for the most venal manipulation.

For another non-drugster example, the astute observation that most parents are capable of shows most parents that a high sugar diet negatively impacts their child's life and behavior.
 So then, how could one personally participate, as an ad executive, animator or or producer, for example, in the marketing of the vastly sugared breakfast cereals that begin our children's daily plunge into the buzz, the sugar rush that fake food brings?

Like, a child predator all day, then home to sweet laughter and snuggles with the poppets? To do the birthday party for sweetie?

It's partly the real "junk science"- science that creates a language, an argot, a vocabulary of rigid exclusion, a cult of the expert, which is in reality a dominance game, and a method of burying understanding, rather than fostering it.

But there's more.

 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:48:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comment is irritating and annoying.

It forced me to sit and think.

:-)

The Quick and Dirty answer: they make bad decisions.  An answer little better than hand-waving since it immediately sparks two other questions:  Why are bad decisions made and How are bad decisions made?

Don't know all that much about "Why."  "That's the way people are" is yet more hand waving however much it's the best I can do in 100 words or less.  

More comfortable with the "How" question.  In my view people privilege their educations - cultural, social, academic, etc. - by continuously "Falling Back to a Previous Solution" instead of using CID: Critical Thinking, Innovative Thinking, Divergent Thinking¹.  The range of Small Groups, Large Groups, Societies reflect and project the individuals comprising them so, in a way, we can say bad decisions are made by "society" by and through the same thing; these larger groups don't have a Central Nervous System and, in fact, don't even exist if all the individuals Go Away; however, social and cultural continuity of society means bad decisions are institutionalized, thus, handed down through the centuries.  

Unfortunately, even good decisions can have a 'sell-by date' and grow rancid over time.

Obviously if one is making bad decisions based on bad decisions or good decisions that have gone bad not much good is going to result; the good decisions plopping out being as much a matter of Chance and Luck, than anything else.

¹  See Sven's RSA link, below

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:37:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am flummoxed.
I honestly don't know what to say without--- (Strangles himself, stuffs sweater in his mouth) seeming--er, dismissive?

A "bad decision" implies faulty process or faulty data. The data is there, as a component of daily life, as apparent to a huge number of parents who see their child's behavior deteriorate with the sugar blast.
As for the other part---
I don't think it's really either of those at all, unless you label self-deception as a faulty decision-making process.
I think people have learned to compartmentalize their lives and to label instead of think, as a part of their culture- a culture reduced to numbness, stripped of any clear sense of evil, or the imperative to oppose it, to not participate.

The ad executive knows. He or she is not a fool. They may tell themselves stories to justify actions-- perhaps they are economists from the Theological Seminary in Chicago-- but they know.

You intellectualize to death a process of simple observation, and a subsequent reaction from the heart.
That's what seems to be broadly  missing.

But not entirely missing. Here's a better way to say it:
The Anthem of a Generation

Some of us are still out here.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:17:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to imply compartmentalization and self-deception are cultural traits. I think they're basic human cognitive processes.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:27:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
perhaps they are economists from the Theological Seminary in Chicago

Now, now, no need to be nasty. I know several very nice theologians who do not need to be smeared by implied association with the Chica(r)go cult economics department.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 12:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, well I also apologize to all those witch doctors, palm readers, seers, and grifters who resent the apparent association.
Really I do.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 04:46:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am flummoxed.
I honestly don't know what to say without--- (Strangles himself, stuffs sweater in his mouth) seeming--er, dismissive?

Dismiss away.  :-)

We are talking about a complex process impossible to "explain" in a simple blog post.  Be surprised if there weren't objections to my post.

A "bad decision" implies faulty process or faulty data.

Yes.  Also need to add "faulty environment."

The data is there, as a component of daily life

Depends.  The data maybe there; the data may be, for a multitude of reasons, inaccessible; the data may not be there.  

... as apparent to a huge number of parents who see their child's behavior deteriorate with the sugar blast.

Data does not equal Information, nor does data equal doing/not doing.  I have observed kids bouncing off the walls from a sugar blast and the parents giving them a candy bar and a soda "to keep them quiet."  (!?!)  Before I learned to keep my mouth shut I would inform the parent(s) the affects of sugar on their kid's behavior; I would then be told, "I didn't understand children."  Early onset diabetes, from too much sugar consumption, is rampant in the US, the news media occasionally reports on the problem, the link with sugar consumption and childhood diabetes is well established and disseminated, and people keep shoveling sugars down kid's throats.  

What is apparent to you and me is apparently not apparent to parents or it is apparent enough to stop them from continuing to poison their children.

I don't think it's really either of those at all, unless you label self-deception as a faulty decision-making process.

I do.  

I think people have learned to compartmentalize their lives and to label instead of think, as a part of their culture

That too.  Possible to get people to do some horrific things if you put them in the right compartment, under specific stimuli.  That's what the famous, and depressing, Obedience to Authority experiments showed.  

... a culture reduced to numbness, stripped of any clear sense of evil

Food companies spend billions every year advertising their sugar-laced crap to their target market (kids) and the purchase decision makers (parents.)  Sugars they have to put in to make their products eatable.  Rancid grain oils, stale rotting fruit, and dehydrated everything taste like they sound.  (The food companies also have to add fats ... but we're not talking about that.)  Giving rise to a situation where one hand washes the other: billions on advertising to make the products appealing and sugars to have the product taste appealing makes the products fly off the shelves.  The fact it's killing children is an "externality" nobody wants to get into.

And it is evil; reflecting, or as a necessary part of, a culture which has raised greed to the summa bonum of human existence.  

... or the imperative to oppose it, to not participate.

I think so.  You think so.  The people who read ET think so.  The unfortunate fact is we're a small minority, lost in the sea of people who don't operationally agree.  Oh, sure, they will blah-blah about it but very few will get off their fat asses and make the modicum of effort needed to DO something.  It's much easier to feed their little rug rats and themselves PopTarts® than scramble a couple of eggs.  

And if those eggs come from a CAFO the nutritional value of those is highly questionable.

sigh

It's a mess.

The ad executive knows. He or she is not a fool. They may tell themselves stories to justify actions-- perhaps they are economists from the Theological Seminary in Chicago-- but they know.

Granting your premise for the sake of winding this post up, "knowing" isn't the same thing as "caring."  They may know but they do not care.  Enough.    

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:17:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great post, burned off the screen...

it's the greatest mass wave of unconscious cruelty known to man, for all the downriver manifestations, ramifications, ignorance loops, pain and sorrow that ensue from this vilely hyper-driven, conscienceless market.

this greed to profit from inciding into peoples' lives with chemical (and surgical) means, when they are small, and uninformed as they are unformed, staggers the mind.

that's why eating consciously, and helping others learn how (that it can be delicious)is such a powerful personal decision to make. it doesn't get more basic, or more political, ultimately, incrementally.

it's about sharing...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 07:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
Like, a child predator all day, then home to sweet laughter and snuggles with the poppets? To do the birthday party for sweetie?
Yes, Nazi extermination camp commanders presumably loved their children, too. And they were fond of fine wine and string quartets.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:25:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But not everyone does that. Many, many people refuse.
For every Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Erin Watada, there are a million unsung heroes who also do their small part to oppose such things, and often pay the big price. These are the people who, for a long, long time, kept humanity from slipping into barbarism.

My interest is in what I see as a shift in balance. They seem to me fewer in number, and the unashamed predators are growing in number. I hope I'm wrong- I certainly could be.

These heroes were once seen as role models by many, Mig- I was there and growing in a time when even those who thought Ellsberg was a dingbat still admired his courage, and principle. Even the media of the day remarked on that.

Today the impression I get from my small contact with American young people (mostly through my son) is--a shrug at best, perhaps shallow pity for a loser. Sometimes contempt for a fool who has failed to understand the realities of life- be the big dog, or lose your dog food.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 05:03:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diet must be a factor I agree, but this presentation has an interesting take....



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 07:19:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent. Won't disagree with any of that.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 08:34:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yes I do! The brain has not evolved in 200 years - the sensory environment 200 years ago was just a complex to those living in it, as ours is today. As an 'analytical engine' it hasn't really changed. What has changed is that the biochemical system (the meta on top of the analysis) that reinforces behaviour, is stimulated far more often by an environment that has been 'programmed' to be sensorily efficient (e.g. media)

So it is behaviour that has been changed, in that I agree. And this behaviour is creative - until the education system slowly knocks it out of them.

The more insidious change in the learning brain of today compared with 200 years ago, is the vast number of synthetic materials that now pass through it via blood.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 09:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree the brain hasn't evolved all that much, if at all, in the past 200 years.

Our means of communication HAVE.  In Japan a popular TV show was driving kids into fugue states by the way they presented the images.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:47:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed, but do these fugue states (for example) improve or reduce learning/understanding? Or do dissociative disorders better equip kids for the fragmented multitasking world they are growing up in? I'm not being flippant, I'm just not convinced that neuropsychological processes set in train by constant media exposure are all bad, as opposed to merely different.

They are most likely to be bad, but since we haven't yet had a generation grow up from this intertoobz environment, it's hard to predict.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 03:03:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A Fugue State is a psychiatric disorder.

There's a raft of studies, going back to mid-60s, about the effect and affect of TV on just about anything one cares to name.  I have perused little of it, even less over the past 20+ years.  

"Multi-tasking" is a good way to make lots of quick decisions badly.  Case studies show severe adverse impacts on human Decision Making and Critical Job Performance.  There is a reason brain surgeons don't carry their cell phones into the operating room.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And yet the bit of my brain I can't get access to is multitasking and making 'decisions' all the time. Quite successfully. And mostly tirelessly. Weird.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:13:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe kids today need to get in touch with this multitasking apparatus in order to survive our new Cubist environment (which doesn't look to be going away any time soon)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:20:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Weird and fascinating.

If we couldn't "multi-task" we'd be dead.  (How often does anyone decide© their heart should beat?)  Yet playing tic-tac-toe while talking on the telephone is beyond us.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 02:23:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yet some complex multitasking is possible. Are the acts of playing noughts and crosses and talking on the phone so dissimilar that the one precludes the other? Could the physical location of the networks that handle these acts in the brain have a bearing?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:47:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My mother used to comment on how my father's family could carry on several conversations simultaneously, if not talking over each other, and keep track of each AND the plot for what was on the radio or TV, depending on the timeframe. My paternal grandmother was known for responding to a conversation after thought and long after everyone else had moved to different topics, sometimes amusingly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 12:21:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's called Attention Excess Disorder.

We're about to put that one on the book, and of course we have medication for it.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 02:17:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wake me when they figure out how to teach arithmetic and basic algebra so it sticks without rote drilling.

Without algebra, you don't have engineers, and without engineers, you don't have an industrial civilisation (not for long anyway). So rote drilling will have a place in any working school system for some time yet.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Memorizing stems from repeated exposure to the information over a short amount of time with continual reinforcement over longer periods..  Rote drilling is only one, and not the best actually, means of "repeated exposure."  Example, if you REALLY want to teach a kid something, make a game out of it.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 01:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Math is a game.

It's just not all that funny until you can do equations. And it doesn't really hit its stride until you can do differential equations. That's a pretty steep learning curve.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:13:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He, I can envision a tetris-like game where basic tasks fall down with increasing speed:

3*5

3*5

<15>

poof

8/2

8/2

Of course if it hits bottom before you type the correct answer, or if you type the wrong answer, you loose a life. Level one is just addition but the higher the levels the more advanced. Done right, it could become addictive.

I once had a silly brittish quiz-game that thought me the right answer to questions like "who was the first to score twelve widgets in one inning?". Never mind that I do not even know enough cricket to write the question, but if I found the game again I bet the answer would come to me.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:44:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.

Math is also fun.

Maths teachers spend a good deal of energy obscuring both facts.

Math is also hard and presenting it in a boring, dull, tedious manner does nothing to make it easier.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And learning is a process that requires biochemicals. Games are one way to supply that input, threats of physical punishment are another.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 03:07:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're looking for parrots regurgitating set texts  physical punishment (negative reinforcement) is the way to go.

If you're looking to educate to promote CID (Critical, Innovative, Divergent) Thinking use games.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes - and the definition of game should be very wide - any symbolic simulation with the potential for positive reinforcement.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:23:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I'd have been much smarter now if they'd had these things when I was at school ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:16:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not smarter, exactly, more edimucated, certainly.

:-)

I didn't learn how to use menomics until I was 15.  Criminal malfeasance on the part of the earlier teachers.

"Mother Very Easily Made a Jam Sandwich Using Nutrena" is a quicker way of learning the order of the planets than dully repeating "Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune," "Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune," "Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune" until you lapse into catatonia from boredom.

"A Slow Exception Seldom Passes.  I Neither, O Pshaw" is the menomic for the valid distributive Middle Terms for the Aristotelean syllogisms:  

A (proposition) Subject
E (proposition) Subject and Predicate
I (proposition) Neither
O (proposition) Predicate

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see where it all started to go wrong for you ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:36:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mind you, SWALK stalked my early teenage years. I was desperate to get a letter from a girl with the acronymic on it. Things started to go wrong for me fairly early.

But by the time I'd mastered the secrets of NORWICH, I'd rather got over SWALK.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:41:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the torsion parameters of a LK?  

Always thought it was inept security for personal communications sent via a public institution, meself.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:49:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was on the outside of the envelope, silly - meant to be seen. Do I have to teach you everything?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then it wasn't sealed with a kiss then WAS it?

Why did you want to get letters from liars?  

(All too confusing.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 07:40:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A seal can be a proclamation of priority rather than a description of hermeticalness.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 07:57:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A seal can also balance a ball on its nose.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 02:30:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is also true.

They're slippery little buggers.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:53:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Honk!

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:35:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To desperate lovers lies are sweet.

(Have you never lived?)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 02:31:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I WAS going to post my poem for remembering the 25 most common Informal Logical fallacies and how to detect them.  

But now I won't.

sulks

:-D


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:44:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, go on! You know you want to...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:55:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like this one from a short story by Isaac Asimov:

"Many voters earn money just showing up near polls"

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char

by Melanchthon on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 05:50:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But pluto isn't a planet.
by njh on Sat Oct 30th, 2010 at 07:31:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the International Astronomical Union decided to demote Pluto, but the grounds for doing so are hardly immune to criticism.  

For example, if the Earth were located at the distances of Sedna or Xena (since renamed Eris), it too would fail to clear its orbit and would thereby no longer qualify as a planet.  

The whole process of choosing definitions and qualifications seems strange.  

The ancients had seven planets, decided it was enough, and quit looking for more although Uranus was certainly a possible naked-eye object for careful observers.  

With a bit of rearrangement, we moderns have decided that eight planets are quite enough.  No new planets, please!  

All such shall be banished as "dwarfs" to the outer darkness!  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Oct 30th, 2010 at 11:37:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bees' tiny brains beat computers, study finds

The insects learn to fly the shortest route between flowers discovered in random order, effectively solving the "travelling salesman problem" , said scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The conundrum involves finding the shortest route that allows a travelling salesman to call at all the locations he has to visit. Computers solve the problem by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the one that is shortest.

Bees manage to reach the same solution using a brain the size of a grass seed.

How many neurons does it take for motivation to emerge?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 06:12:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
42

The answer to life the universe and everything.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 07:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More a question of adaptation through successful mutation?

(When will ill-adapted computers start dying before they can reproduce?)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 02:09:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting presentation. I agree with a great deal of it. Two things, though.

It overlooks one of the central problems- the purpose of education was quickly subverted from those (mythical?) enlightenment ideals.
It has been for a long time now twofold: Custodial, so mom and dad could go off and work their ass off, and preparatory, in that the learning was not there to actualize the potential of it's victims, but to mold them into non-disruptive thinkers and well behaved workers. There have been breakouts by the inmates, in my lifetime- Paris in '68, and a lot in the US around then, etc. but they have been contained, and the institutions redesigned to prevent such disruptive behavior in the future.

The point of sensory overload with information is spot on, though. It's not "information" in any real sense, it's noise. And noise numbs.
The drugs are there to, in a sense prevent creativity, because the gem of thought is usually hidden in chaotic behavior (or what is defined as such). They also may ameliorate for a time the symptoms of a diet loaded with things that change behavior and health outcomes.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:44:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
It overlooks one of the central problems- the purpose of education was quickly subverted from those (mythical?) enlightenment ideals.
It has been for a long time now twofold: Custodial, so mom and dad could go off and work their ass off, and preparatory, in that the learning was not there to actualize the potential of it's victims, but to mold them into non-disruptive thinkers and well behaved workers.
Yes, but what is there to do if this is the society we find ourselves in?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:50:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can actually answer that, at least in part. To a real degree, it's what we are about doing here.

  1. Begin by understanding the nature of the system and it's structure, it's real function. That's why I brought up the Structural-functional perspective a la Talcott Parsons, etc.--it's a useful tool to pick out the threads from this sort of worn cloak.

  2. Decide whose interests are served, at least on the surface. (in the long run, no one benefits from crippling young thinking).

3)Devise an alternative system that meets the needs of real people, long term, and can be adapted to the political realities.

4) If there IS no such system, which is to say the political policy machine is so broken that it cannot adapt to supplying real educational  needs, burn it down.

Personally, I think it's time for the matches, in the US.
Enterprise Village would sure look good in red and yellow.

Yes, yes, there are encyclopedic caveats and pitfalls, but at some point, nothing would be better.

My girls attend a public school where the dear little things celebrate the arrival of spring in a blatantly pagan ritual, a bacchanalian revel complete with music, costumes and dance. Thanks to the courage of one old dingbat, the directrice. They are out to get her in spades, and when she is forced to retire, we go. But here there are yet a lot like her.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:34:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to go back there again (though geezer is doing so), but that was one of the fundamental questions, or so it seemed to those involved, that the post-'60s counter-culture worried about. Perhaps because we had experienced rapid change in the '60s, we were optimistic about changes in schooling, either within the school system as it stood, or via new structures we could create, accompanied, of course, by a different ethos in the way children were brought up at home.

I'm not a specialist on the way this worked out across different countries and cultures, but it doesn't seem to me that anything is left of the efforts of the time. Perhaps those efforts weren't determined enough. No doubt there has been reaction against attempts to create new structures or change teaching methods. I think peer group pressure is more important several times again than structures and methods, and the peer group relays the dominating myths of surrounding adult society. Right now, the notion of changing society through changing schooling seems way back, and false. It's society that determines schooling and not the reverse*.

What's left? To me, the painful point is how strictly to draw a line between the home ethos and the broader peer group the child is sensitive to. Painful because it can be so above all to the child - too strict a separation and we're on the road to sectarian folly of the kind I suffered as a kid and would wish on no child. What can we do, but attempt to teach the children well without disturbing their socialisation and apprenticeship of the wider world. It's a fringe position. It's where we're at.

 * So the answer is, change society and school will change. No less.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 06:33:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
 * So the answer is, change society and school will change. No less.

chicken and the egg innit.

there's a familiar complaint about steiner or krishnamurti schooling, that they don't prepare the child for the world as it is.

their claim is that a better world will not ensue from that, but rather to inspire the child to realise inner potential for a life extraordinary, and enough 'seed-people' like that and society's forms will curve upward.

i sent one daughter to a steiner school, and she chose to leave it, because the fact that the uppermiddle class students were cliquey and a bit on the snobby side.

which opens another kettle of fish, because no schooling philosophy can overpower the original social conditioning of peers and family, it can modulate it is all. if alternative schools are only for the children of the rich, you have a skew right there, in that the child is likely to be better travelled, have higher intellectual input at home etc etc.

i have a deep issue with whether children, in the peak of their physical growing period, should be parked indoors on hard, unergonomic chairs and told to obey strangers uncritically the best hours of the days.

and that's just for starters...

better both/and than either/or.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 07:58:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I no longer think it is really a chicken and egg dilemma. As we generally thought in the '70s, to change society we should start with education, I now think that society moulds education, and that we should start with society.

So much easier... ;)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 08:09:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is it?

i don't think you can only address one horn of the dilemma, they have to synchronise, cognitive resonance!

how to achieve this is the crucial question.

right now they are acculturated to become obedient prey or pirate predators...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 10:06:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tough question, afew, Melo.
I too have undergone some shift in my position there- I once thought that the example of a privileged class of students like the one I belonged to could, as a result of honest inquiry and good drugs, change the world.
I have not changed that view. We did it.
What has changed in my mind is how I see the difficulty of "keeping the change".
Ohio State University went from having no student participation in any decision or policy-making at all, to full student inclusion, in effective form, on every major body. Lasted about six or seven years, then student disinterest killed it.
Of course, one could say it's just the wider culture exerting it's irresistible influence. Perhaps. But the lesson I take away isn't so much about making change happen. That's a bitch, but do-able.

It's about keeping it.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 05:20:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
good sacraments and honest enquiry changed a small percent of a small percent.

much of the reverberation from that is still unfelt, and even if felt, unacknowledged and dishonoured by co-option and 'value extraction', commodification.

up easily becomes down this way, as orwell predicted, and we see with our own lyin' eyes.

many in the west have almost entirely slipped through the membrane into a virtual, rootless world, where fame is yardstick of worth, and notoriety a Good Thing, TV and movie characters, soap opera plots and sitcom chirpings are referred to as if real, reality for the rest of the world is mediated both ways, so starving africans gaze at images of actresses strolling the Via Veneto and we stare back at them in Nat Geo land.

people are aching for authenticity, and the best they can aspire to in the main is to look like brangelina, sing like ricky martin and shake it like ...whoever the bimbo-du-jour is.

this is what happens when entire societies lose their collective mind, step by rational step.

as an anthropological fishbowl, it's a metahistorical opportunity. as a humanitarian humanist human, it's a colossal clusterfuck in (ever less) slo-mo.

i always wondered how Herman Hesse felt as he watched the insanity of that zeitgeist building.

now i'm beginning to understand. a little knowledge is a terrible thing, they say, once you take the first bite...

no wonder so many seek oblivion.

on that merry note, time to eat some lentils.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 08:00:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mig:
Yes, but what is there to do if this is the society we find ourselves in?

Do what we must. Save what we can. Help where we can.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 12:29:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Define not sitting still as an illness.

  2. Feed children sugar.

  3. Drug the children that sits still the least.

  4. Goto 2.

Run until children are all grown up or all children are on drugs.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 02:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Half of US teens `meet criteria for mental disorder'    By Agence France-Presse

So "mental disorder" has become culturally normative -- at least in certain age groups?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 04:14:21 PM EST
Amazing, isn't it?

A cynic - nobody 'round here, of course - would say if 50% of the age-defined test population has a "mental disorder" perhaps the "mental disorder" is more likely with the people doing the diagnosis.  Our cynic, deploying the highly honed cognitive skills of the average hillbilly in Tennessee after consuming 20 liters of moonshine, might conclude teenagers acting weird are being teenagers cuz that's what teenagers do.

Ain't gonna get no NIH grant or sell a bazillion tons of "cures" for a gazillion-trillion dollars by being a cynic.  So ...

WOW! It's a EPIDEMIC!!!! Let's pump 'em full of DRUGS & that'll cure 'em.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 02:06:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian roulette with birth defect meds

Many women inconsistently take their birth control pills even when taking drugs that can cause birth defects, according to a new study. Researchers found inconsistent use of oral contraceptives among a worrisome 40 percent of women taking birth control pills along with so-called "Category X" medications.

... "A shocking 6% of U.S. pregnancies occur among women receiving medications that are known to cause birth defects."

by das monde on Sun Oct 24th, 2010 at 09:55:47 PM EST
More shocking is the thought that instructing women to take the pills regularly and explaining the consequences would be adequate to insure compliance.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 12:22:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this study brings up frustrations over insurance companies' stinginess when it comes to letting women stock up on birth control pills
Pro-life insurance companies, presumably...
by das monde on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 03:18:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - An Unsurvivable Crash
nearly one in four report having a mood, behavior or anxiety disorder that interferes with daily life, American researchers say
Maybe "daily life" is what's dysfunctional and makes them moody or anxious.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:29:44 AM EST
My point exactly.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:46:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer's old signature used to be If sanity be culturally normative, then by the norms of this culture I claim insanity.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:49:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is key:

An Unsurvivable Crash

The drugs alter a hyperactive child's behavior over the short tern: in a manner that teachers and some parents find helpful, but other than that, the medications diminish a child's life
This "treatment" is not at all about helping the "treated".

But since when has the management of mental disorders been about helping the patience rather than remove the annoyance to others?

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:33:04 AM EST
It's not "help" at all. It's a draconian application of dangerous drugs to children whose behavior is --inconvenient to disruptive.
A technique of social control that is not just inconsistent with the welfare of the child, but contemptuously ignores it.
And most parents are complicit. That's the scary part.
Lots of studies around, lots of info as to risks, yet I personally know several families who continue to escalate the drug cocktail, even when their beloved child's behavior has already become clearly psychotic.

They know, as well, because I've told them. With references- generally unread, I fear. I bought a copy of Whitaker's book and gave it away twice now.

I am the disruption. What shakes their sureness is-- dangerous. And they live in a lake of fear.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:01:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'm doing what I think is best for my child" is a powerful excuse.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not for the paediatricians who are writing the prescriptions.

In a democratic society, any dumbass who manages to live to the age of fourteen can become a parent. Prescribing drugs, on the other hand, requires a licence. So while parents have no legal obligation to be noticeably smarter than a pile of rocks, doctors are supposed to know better than prescribing hard drugs on such flimsy grounds.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 01:25:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It stopped me from doing what I thought would best help my brothers son -- playing to his strengths, which included strongly focused interest in specific subjects. He was interested in history and I wanted to give him, at age 7 or 8, a pictorial history of Great Britain from Roman times to the Present. I had read it to my son when he was not much older, but they were concerned that it would encourage him in "problem" behavior, so I dropped it.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 12:38:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sad. It's hard to know, to be truly SURE, and then harder to oppose the parents.
Been there,

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 05:23:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
I am the disruption.
Don't advertise that too loudly or they'll prescribe you with Ritalin.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Thorazine is the drug of choice in those situations.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 03:29:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in very large doses too.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 03:43:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A political and social movement that can start by recruiting affiliation from alienated, intelligent teens and that provides them with survival skills for their psyches could turn into a powerful movement. South Park and The Simpsons, to varying degrees address this audience and that is a reason for their success. What is needed is the next step.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 03:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Millman posted this in the Open thread last week with the quip the onion delivers reality a decade ahead of time.
7-year-old Douglas Castellano's unbridled energy and creativity are no longer a problem thanks to Ritalin, doctors for the child announced Monday. "After years of failed attempts to stop Douglas' uncontrollable bouts of self-expression, we have finally found success with Ritalin," Dr. Irwin Schraeger said. "For the first time in his life, Douglas can actually sit down and not think about lots of things at once." Castellano's parents reported that the cured child no longer tries to draw on everything in sight, calming down enough to show an interest in television.

Also, South Park editorialised Ritalin as early as April 2000. From Wikipedia: Timmy 2000

Timmy is then freed from all homework, leading all the other kids in the class to claim that they also have ADD in an attempt to get out of their homework. They are all promptly diagnosed with the condition using a similar method as Timmy, and they are all prescribed Ritalin as a result.

...

The other boys have actually started to take their Ritalin medication, making them very calm and rather boring. Cartman develops a side effect that causes him to see pink Christina Aguilera monsters (one of which causes him to accidentally kill Kenny). The adults are uncomfortable among them, but accept their new kind and obedient children when they also start taking Ritalin. Chef and the pharmacists are the only people left who are not under the drug's influence.

...

In the meantime, Chef tries to convince the parents that there are other methods to fight ADD than medication, but as the parents are all taking Ritalin too, he does not get any help. After the boys come in and tell Chef that they want to go to the festival to see Phil Collins perform, Chef decides to go confront the pharmacist alone. As the pharmacist and doctor who prescribed the Ritalin are counting their profits, Chef angrily tells them that they are responsible for the children liking Collins. Horrified that they are responsible for this, they make a plan to distribute an antidote called "Ritalout" by mixing it into free drinks at the Lalapalalapaza festival.

If only this were just a joke...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 05:13:56 AM EST
I haven't seen this noted in the many comments so far here, but the situation described in this diary may also be a problem outside of just mental health and include all health care and health outcomes in general. After all, there is a reason that health care is so expensive in the US -- there is so much more of it prescribed there, for everything, much of it of marginal value to patients but of significant economic value to market-oriented health care providers of all kinds.
by santiago on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 04:49:47 PM EST
We can say with some confidence that it's the case for antibiotics. As a Scandinavian, I am regularly shocked by how generously they are prescribed. To be fair, though, that's also the case in much of Europe in the absence of market-based health care, so that may have more to do with a failure to educate doctors in the art and science of determining when they are not indicated.

There is also, beyond a shadow of doubt, a significant overuse and abuse of over-the-counter painkillers in most first-world countries. And while that would probably be the case anyway, I can't imagine all the ads for painkillers help the matter any.

Even so, I think mental health is special, for three reasons:

  1. The aetiology of most of the conditions falling within its purview is poorly understood. Knowing the root cause makes prevention a lot easier and greatly simplifies the process of diagnosis and treatment. Conversely, if you don't know what to look for in terms of cause-and-effect explanations, you're reduced to treating the symptoms. Which almost always results in a somewhat scattershot approach.

    Poor knowledge of the mechanics of a disease also makes it possible to mistake a side effect from the treatment for a symptom of the disease. This can potentially lead to circle medication, where medication A is given to suppress side effects from medication B, which is given to suppress side effects from C, which is actually no longer needed, but which happens to suppress the side effects of medicine A.

  2. Mental health is insidious in that people can have reduced disease awareness. If you're not actively feeling miserable, you can safely conclude that you probably don't have the flu, a cold or a broken leg. If you're being screened regularly, you can feel reasonably confident that you don't have a venereal disease. But you can be clinically insane and never notice it yourself. This makes it a lot harder to tell when the symptoms have gone away, let alone whether the absence of symptoms means that the underlying disease has gone away or simply that the symptoms are being successfully suppressed.
  3. Many mental conditions are spectrum disorders conditions, which are only clearly pathological at the extreme end(s) of the spectrum. Indeed, for those conditions that are defined purely in terms of their symptoms, without reference to any biological anomaly, it is possible that everybody is somewhere on the spectrum simply as part of the human condition.

    Is a person with high-functioning Asperger's at the low end of the disease spectrum, or at the high end of the subclinical spectrum? Is a high-functioning sociopath mentally diseased and in need of treatment, or is he simply at the less principled end of the normal spectrum? The answers to those questions are partly social conventions (and hence political decisions). Contemporary society calls the former a disease and the latter a career option. I'd hazard a guess that most here on ET think it should be the other way around.

    By contrast, the flu is reasonably clear-cut: Either you play host to detectable levels of the parasite, or you don't.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 08:34:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hard to do good mental health care without a good model of mind.

Without objective criteria mental health can only be defined behaviourally, which means that it immediately becomes politics.

So definitions of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour are inherently political evaluations, created by those who have power over the individual being evaluated.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 10:45:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and no.

A person suffering hallucinations clearly has a handicap, in much the same way as a person who does not perceive some sensory input completely (say, a colour blind person). Yet hallucinations are normally considered a mental health issue. And some mental diseases have known biochemical causes (schizophrenia being the best known example).

Of course, one could define schizophrenia to be normative and declare the rest of us to have an anomalous brain chemistry. But that's no different from declaring measles to be normal and healthy, and considering all us vaccinated people unhealthy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 11:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A person suffering hallucinations clearly has a handicap

Unless they're economic or political hallucinations, in which case they can be a positive advantage.

And in practice paranoid schizophrenia isn't so much hallucinatory as overly literal. When someone says the CIA is beaming signals into their brain via the TV, it's not so much that they're wrong, it's more that they're confusing symbolic reality with physical reality.

You also miss the point that hallucinations are perfectly acceptable as long as they have a critical mass of believers - see also religion, banking, marketing, etc.

In fact, it's perhaps not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that politics, economics and industries like PR and marketing boil down to the creation of useful hallucinations in large populations.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 25th, 2010 at 11:49:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think TBG's point was that the definition of "normal" is fluid, and is essentially political.

My point, which I perhaps blew in the diary, is that it really does not matter whether or not the diagnostic window for "normal" has shifted per se, what matters is that 50% of American children no longer fit in it.
And that we are quite willing to take heroic, destructive and dangerous measures, to cram them into a shape to fit the window.
Measures that fail.
How have WE changed, that we would do this?
Same analogy applies to the prison system.
A lawyer friend once showed me, in his library, the shelf space for the US criminal code in pre-Reagan days. Three shelves.
In 1993 it was seven shelves.
Now THAT'S a crime wave. And a moving window for socially "normal".

WE have changed.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 05:48:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WE have become no longer WE. There is no people any more. Not even in France, however better France may appear at times.

(We) live in factured, splintered societies in which people are too concerned with survival or fighting their way to an illusory upwards for there to be any cohesion or social consensus. While we may believe we have gained individual "lifestyle" freedom, the authoritarians of the APA and the profiteers of Big Pharma have in fact gained huge freedom to shrink the field of normality.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 06:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that we are quite willing to take heroic, destructive and dangerous measures, to cram them into a shape to fit the window.

Oh, no, it will succeed at cramming them into the range of tolerated behaviour. It's the collateral damage that I'm worried about.

The more I think about this, the more I come to believe that some people in the American medical profession need to be stripped of their license to practise, and quite probably go to jail. I can't imagine any sane version of medical ethics that lets you prescribe hard drugs to fully half a youth cohort. And medical ethics is sort of important, like most of the institutions we inherited from the cleanup effort after the first half of the 20th century.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 10:49:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The more I think about this, the more I come to believe that some people in the American medical profession need to be stripped of their license to practise, and quite probably go to jail. I can't imagine any sane version of medical ethics that lets you prescribe hard drugs to fully half a youth cohort. And medical ethics is sort of important, like most of the institutions we inherited from the cleanup effort after the first half of the 20th century.

Playing devil's advocate, he says,
"Get real. The whole thing's a business model that works. In fact it's a huge success in terms of cash flow, and in a Randian world where it's every man/woman/child for himself, you just gotta be smarter than the other guy."

In the course of this discussion I have come to see that the disintegration of rule of law is one of the things that's near the heart of the problem, whether we are talking about the criminal code expanded so grossly it's trivialized, and becomes just a weapon,  or professional and ethical standards internal to a professional group discarded.

The American Psychologicasl Society had to be dragged kicking and screaming into court to get it to take action (however feeble) against members who build careers on building a technology of torture.
 Screw the oaths. Window dressing for public consumption. We're with the high command.

I tell you, we're seeing the zeitgeist of the warrior culture ascendant.
 

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Oct 28th, 2010 at 12:53:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
R.D. Laing wrote several books on that subject, following on from The Divided Self (and, yes, I know that schizophrenia has a neuro-chemical basis.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 12:51:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
There is also, beyond a shadow of doubt, a significant overuse and abuse of over-the-counter painkillers in most first-world countries.

Which is a suspected contributing factor to migraine. Take enough headache pills and you get serious headache.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 07:09:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Enlarging the definition of deviancy as a money making scheme.

See the War on drugs and the Jail industry for a similar phenomenon.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Oct 26th, 2010 at 06:07:47 AM EST
It's the parents and the doctors who are fucked up, not the kids.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Oct 27th, 2010 at 09:01:28 AM EST
Geezer in Paris
Thank you for this diary.
I totally agree with you.
Similar here in Australia as in USA...madness.
Poor children...I am totally frightened for their future...if they have one.
Everything is shifted, twisted, they live a hellish childhood (high percentage with no real immediate family/high divorce rate, no friends/they live inside a house in front of TV and computer, high demands at school and not wiliness from the teachers to deal with different characters and their problems, confusing social messages...you name it).And the only answer is medication? Because it's so profitable. You made a great picture of the society that does not care about anything (not even their own children) but profit...but that's worldwide disease...and probably irreversible one.
And yes it's unsurvivable...
Thank you again.
PS I have one "spirited" granddaughter and lots of trouble with teachers for 4 years now. They asked that she see school psychologist and she had seen two by now. Luckily they said that there is nothing wrong with my granddaughter and actually both were very impressed with her spirit (all tho we wouldn't medicate her even if she needs to be homeschooled). Robots...that's what modern society needs...their wish just may be answered in the future...and that will be the end.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Oct 27th, 2010 at 10:25:44 AM EST
vbo,
You're welcome.
I also have a daughter who is different, who does not fit the mould well. I'm glad she's here. Not perfect here, Linca, I know, but better.
From experience, I know how the system would react in the US, but not in Australia--
I'm getting to feel like the main character in Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven".

When rodents make me salivate, I'm quitting.

Actually, I see several patches of daylight breaking through the overcast from time to time. It's a joy to be right up close and see rational cooperative action here in Paris. Lep has chronicled a lot of it, and there's more to come, I hope.
And most importantly, your love for your granddaughter leads you to act, to oppose that which does not "feel" right, healthy.
There are many others who act-, symbolized by those I mentioned before-
Julian Assange
Erin Watada
Noam Chomsdky
Howard Zinn
Daniel Ellsberg

And many, many more, unsung, who did change things for the better, and are still at it.
We can all do our bit.
Do it. Be an actor, even if it's an unsung one.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Oct 28th, 2010 at 01:14:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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