Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Resconstructing ourselves

A reader gives an update on the child with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) who was featured in the documentary, Child of Rage, discussed previously on this blog here. I always avoid using her name, but you can read the details on the link (and it's always a little shocking to me that they used her name in the "documentary" featuring her, a minor, in what seems a pretty exploitative way, showing her actual therapy tapes? How did her parents allow this?).

There is a happy ending! She recovers from the reactive attachment disorder in a big way and becomes a happy and contributing member of society. The link for the update on her life is here. The quick summary is she is a nurse, she seems to still have a good relationship with her family, and she seems like just a normal person living a normal life.

As I was looking for the documentary I stumbled upon some other child mental disorder documentaries that seemed just a little less exploitative, and then finally a clip of a "news" show interviewing a young, attractive teacher that got busted for sexual relations with a 14 year old student. She was saying that it was a mistake and she had done it because of a troubled past, including mental illness, but scrolling through the comments -- every single person continued to vilify her. Out of the millions of views, not a single one would accept her apology, either as being sincere or as her being capable of change or worthy of forgiveness.

I know that the urge to ostracize and shame others runs deep in humanity's evolutionary past, but (and I've said this literally dozens of times before, including the penultimate post) society's willingness to let self-righteous feelings to dominate their rational capacity and/or empathy to continue to persecute people for something that they did or said in the past... I just struggle to understand why it's still such a problem, and one that is rarely discussed as such. As much as you hear about anti-bullying campaigns, there seems to be an unspoken understanding amongst most people that bullying is absolutely ok if the person you're bullying is a bad person. I hear even intelligent people whom I respect defend the shaming and the shameless poor treatment of their fellow humans for real or imagined wrongs. What society does with its social undesirables is basically one step away from tattooing them with their convict number and hounding and persecuting them through the rest of their lives.

But I sometimes think, what if we talked about more examples of recovery and more stories of people being dynamic and capable of change, maybe we could educate the evolutionary impulse a little so it's not so prone to mob mentality and see our fellow humans a little more accurately -- people that weren't really the same person decades ago and won't really be the same decades from now. Like NPR's Invisibilia piece on the myth of the static personality featuring the story of Dan, a rapist turned good guy: "I'm forever going to be a criminal," he says, "which I'm not. I've become a completely different human being at this point." "I have to atone for my crime. But I realize now I'm just paying for someone else's debt. The person who committed the crime no longer exists." How can we adjust the way we deal with people who we don't want to associate with (for whatever reason) so there can still be an appropriate level of accountability or precautionary measures while also more accurately reflecting the dynamic nature of who humans are?

"Maybe we're not thinking right about who we are and what we could be," says Walter Mischel [author of the famed marshmallow study]. "People can use their wonderful brains to think differently about situations," Milgram says. "To reframe them. To reconstruct them. To even reconstruct themselves."

(The Invisibilia piece oddly excepts sociopaths from this ability to change, assuming the myth of sociopathy to be incurable without questioning it as most do. But baby steps.)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Baby Boomers = generation of sociopaths?

I have expressed my prejudices re baby boomers before (i.e. generation of narcissists), but someone wrote a book about how they're sociopathic. From the Huffington Post:

In his new book, A Generation of Sociopaths, writer and venture capitalist Bruce Gibney puts forth the controversial hypothesis that baby boomers ― specifically the large subset of white, middle-class boomers ― are, both individually and as a group, unusually sociopathic. Gibney cites mental health data showing boomers have significantly higher levels of antisocial traits and behaviors ― including lack of empathy, disregard for others, egotism and impulsivity ― than other generations.

As a result, boomers have used their substantial voting power to create a society and government that don’t work very well. Or, as Gibney puts it, boomers’ “private behaviors congealed into a debased neoliberalism.”

The author regarding the impact of boomers' dogged self-interest:

There’s obviously been a substantial deceleration of economic growth. The Great Recession arguably began in 2001 and we’ve never entirely recovered ― so that’s 16 years of lost opportunity. 

The second big thing on the economic front is the intergenerational passing of burdens, and the most salient one is the debt. Gross debt to GDP 40 years ago was 34 percent, and today it’s around 105 percent. It’s projected by [the Congressional Budget Office] to exceed the World War II highs by the early 2030s. When boomers start taking control and influencing policies, the policies get worse on the debt, so that now we haven’t seen these levels of debt in more than 70 years.

There are consequences to these levels of debt. ... But that’s not really relevant for the boomers. This is not their problem and they have not been serious about it. The debt wasn’t discussed as a serious issue during the 2016 presidential election, but Social Security was ― because we know that this program is going to be partially insolvent by 2034. And this is the only thing that Trump and Clinton could agree on: Social Security ― untouchable. Medicare ― untouchable. These things are sacred. They couldn’t even agree where to stand on the stage together, and they agreed on Social Security.  

People who know me personally know I rarely pass up an opportunity to take potshots at baby boomers. It's not even the selfishness that gets on my nerves, because really everyone is selfish. It's the delusional self-aggrandizement. Boomers all think they're self-made success stories, just because they happen to have been born perfectly timed to profit from one of the biggest economic booms in known history. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats, but a lot of boomers credit their success to being a particularly skilled captain. I think it's great (for me) when these people apply that hubris to their trades in the stock market, but it generally makes them boorish dinner companions.

Sociopath, though? No, I stick by my initial assessment of narcissists. I'd like to think that the average sociopath is much more self-aware than the average baby boomer.
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