Monday, October 25, 2021

Comments by McB18

Showing 28 of 28 comments.

  • One more thing: “Uprising is correct in saying that oppression in the family IS very much connected to overall oppression in society.” What does this even mean??

    Does it mean that only those adults who are subject to oppression mistreat their children? Because that’s complete nonsense. Or does it mean that oppression of adults and oppression of children are fundamentally connected in some way? Because I have a problem with that too.

    What DOES it mean?

  • Well, I have been offline for several days. I didn’t imagine that you had put down your “shovel” when you didn’t respond to my comments for weeks on end, though evidently you were hopeful that I had when I didn’t comment for a few days. Ha ha!

    “So McB18 wishes to self identify as a ‘troll’ (what does that say about one’s character)…”

    Uh, nooo. This was sarcasm. The meaning of my comment was that, contrary to the definition of “troll” people think they’re using, it’s actually an accusation they throw out the minute someone outs them as not knowing what they’re talking about. (This is a knee-jerk reaction on Facebook, and it’s just as lame there.)

    What does it say about your character, Richard that your mistaken interpretation of my comment and my question about “uprising” drinking heavily offend you more than his using the F word and calling me a troll? (And you must admit it took me a while to resort to sarcasm, but “uprising” repeatedly making it clear that he was determined to be offended by my comments while not even understanding them burned through all my patience. At no time, however, did I curse at him or trot out the ridiculous tactic of calling him a troll.)

    As for the rest of this, I would say that “half-baked” is a pretty helpful description of talking about addiction without talking about shame. Or of writing two lengthy essays about psychiatric abuse without ever mentioning Alice Miller. You insist that I defend myself against your charge that I negate class analysis, blah, blah, blah, but I won’t do it. I don’t agree that capitalism, per se, is the evil you believe it is, and I find the failure to carefully distinguish between capitalist societies like Sweden and the United States to be absurd. Maybe I would support the creation of a socialist society and maybe I wouldn’t, but I believe one would be hard-pressed to construct a system as progressive as what Scandanvia enjoys. That is a capitalist society where spanking is illegal, for God’s sake!

    You say in one of your comments that “Uprising is correct in saying that oppression in the family IS very much connected to overall oppression in society.” I don’t buy this. The abuse of one’s children overrides powerful imperatives installed by Mother Nature, and I believe that, at the end of the day, it’s only committed by people who have themselves been damaged by their parents or other adults when they were young and vulnerable, regardless of what society they live in. Achieving socialism is not going to fix this. Any society can treat its children like shit, and any society can treat them like precious human beings. I don’t see it as being dependent upon who owns what and who’s in and who’s out, though I will certainly admit to needing more education on the history of the family and various political and economic systems.

    The problem, as far as I can tell, is not with capitalism but with any society that does not have awareness of children’s unique experience of life and their vulnerability, and–yes–which puts undue stress on parents. This is certainly an ignorance that is rampant in our predatory capitalist culture, but I don’t see capitalism itself as an inherent culprit. (See my previous comment about Sweden, where children probably enjoy the most enlightened experience available throughout human history.)

    I did not say that you deny child abuse, I merely remarked on your EMPHASIS. Two completely different things. I stand by my remark about your emphasis; do you really want me to comb through your comments and prove how much more you talk about class oppression and societal dynamics than you do about oppressive families and child abuse? I can do so if you like, but I’ll need to make the time to do it. (I would also be on the lookout for how many times you mention the school system, which is wildly supportive of the drugging of the nation’s children for the crime of being too energetic and talkative. If ever there was an oppressive system, that’s it.)

    Finally, I completely disagree that we have to have a revolution to fix some, most or any of this. I believe that Americans coming together in multi-generational homes would be a radically constructive thing that would scare the crap out of the establishment for reasons I’ve already gone into. Home-schooling is another thing the 1% doesn’t want us doing, as education is a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S. (A business, by the way, that makes its fortune through the auspices of a public agency, presumably the reason that many of those of leftist persuasion are so squeamish about criticizing it. This is a schema I don’t mindlessly subscribe to: public good, private bad.)

    Yes, I take the left to task a whole lot while barely talking about the right because the left should do better. It talks a good line about oppression but is curiously uninterested in the plight of children as a group with massive common interest. Hmmmm. This doesn’t make me a traitor or a right-winger; it makes me someone who despises orthodoxy, as should everyone, in my opinion.

    That said, I appreciate the left and its work, but I want it to be more consistent and do the work that it is squeamish about doing, especially as so much that we value is under threat from Trump and his buddies. I am alarmed by the predatory nature of the capitalism we have in this country and how much more damage it wishes to inflict, but I do not imagine that changing who owns what and who makes the decisions is going to necessarily benefit children in any way. It might, but I don’t take that for granted, and I certainly don’t believe socialism would usher in some kind of utopia for young people.

    And by the way, it’s interesting that I should be accused here of “negating” the importance of class analysis when I’m the one pointing out that middle and upper-class whites are immune to prosecution for child abuse, while poor and black people are quite subject to it! Huh?! I get that you see me as insufficiently concerned with ending capitalism, but it’s simply false that I dismiss or downplay the importance of class to children’s experience. Evidently I fail your purity test because I don’t ultimately trace the problem back to capitalism vs. socialism, but that’s a different issue.

  • A well thought-out response.

    May I suggest that your kind of reflexive left-wing outrage will not win any adherents to your ideology? I understand the appeal of a stark, black and white world view, but it doesn’t do any good in the world. I saw so much of that perfunctory huffing and puffing when I was an activist, and I was guilty of plenty of it myself, but now–although still a leftist–I reject any and all orthodoxy out of hand.

    I’d rather be all alone in my independence than surrender my critical faculties so I can huddle with my tribe.

  • In the book, Mad in America, Whitaker says this about NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill): “Founded in 1979 by two Wisconsin women, Beverly Young and Harriet Shelter, it arose as a grassroots protest to Freudian theories that blamed schizophrenia on ‘aloof, uncaring mothers and preoccupied mothers who were unable to bond with their infants,’ a NAMI historian observed….the message it sought to spread…was that ‘mental illness is not a mental health problem; it is a biological illness.'”

    And later in the chapter: “…By that time (1990), NAMI had more than 125,000 members, most of whom were middle-class…”

    Reminds me of the False Memory Syndrome bullshit. It’s not enough to attack the medical model, though that’s important; we also have to look at who gathers these kinds of ideas up around themselves like a protective armor, and ask ourselves “Why?”

  • You seem eager to deprecate what I say and how I say it, but I don’t see you offering any substantive critique of it. Complaining repeatedly about my use of the term “leftists” doesn’t really get us anywhere, especially since I explained what I mean by it.

    “The view that children of all backgrounds are vulnerable to abuse is uncontroversial here in the first place.” This is true only superficially, a problem I already addressed. While I’m sure Richard Lewis would wholeheartedly agree with my position in theory, I detect a real emphasis on his part on societal sources of oppression (capitalism, for example) over oppression within the family, much less any real discussion of the universal risks of being a child. I could go through his piece and pull out statements to support this if you like.

    You’re free to think my commentary is “aggressive” and that I’m not really taking any kind of principled stand, but you don’t appear to want to do more than be insulting, unlike Steven McCrea and LavendarSage, who both seem to believe I’m bringing a useful analysis to the discussion. What is it about all this that bothers you?

  • The pleasure has been mine, as I literally can never get anyone to agree with me that middle and upper-class kids are at risk for anything more than being spoiled. There are many who flat out deny that “rich kids” are eligible for real problems, but there are even more folks who can’t refute what I say but nevertheless are uncomfortable with it. (These people are invariably died-in-the-wool lefties, by the way, and despite their vein-popping rants about oppression and disenfranchisement, I’m convinced that all or most of their outrage is just so much virtue signaling. If it weren’t, they would have something–SOMETHING–to say about the disenfranchisement and vulnerability of kids as a group. Alas, it’s just crickets from them on this topic.)

    So it’s been really refreshing to “chat” with someone who gets it. Who gets that it may not be popular to advocate for kids whose parents are affluent, but it’s vitally important that we do so. Thank you for a rare and gratifying conversation!

  • Phoenix: I did not and do not advocate forcing anyone to live a certain way. I merely suggested to Richard that if he wants to see radical change in the United States he should start a little closer to home than the project of dismantling capitalism and patriarchy, namely by encouraging people to take back the power to birth and educate their children at home, as well as by resurrecting the extended family. These would, in my opinion, do much to shore up Americans’ mental health, undermining the power of Big Psychiatry and Big Pharma in the process.

    As for your statement, “In your specific case I find it a bit confusing why you assume that in general people think well-off educated people must be good parents by definition,” I will say this: I have been paying close attention to how people talk and write about child abuse for several decades now, and it is indisputable that white, middle and upper-class, educated whites are held unofficially as the very definition of good parents. The fact that this demographic almost never has its children taken away by child protection agencies is just one proof of this.

    Whatever people feel or know about the inability of money to buy happiness simply does not have any influence on this bias, period. People will also tell you that child abuse knows no demographic bounds, but their deep beliefs belie this. They will also say they believe that black and white people are equal and the same in every significant innate way, but we have proof that ER doctors give white people stronger painkillers than they do black people. The list goes on of ways in which our gut contradicts our heads where race and class are concerned.

    We live in a racist culture. Many people have transcended racism in their overt beliefs and behavior, but racism bubbles up from a deep spring in ALL of us. I am trying to educate people as to how it infects the way we think about child abuse and about education, for I was badly harmed as a kid by the belief that white, well-off people are incapable of depravity in general, much less toward their children. If you pay attention to media coverage and every day conversation on this topic like I do, I’m sure you’ll begin to see what I’m talking about.

    As for the issue of forgiveness, the comment of “uprising” speaks quite well for me.

  • I might have been unclear with that last sentence. I meant to say that, since white middle and upper-class people are, by definition, good parents in this country, the explanation for any depression, anxiety, etc., on their part must be something other than childhood trauma. As a result, when white educated folks started coming out as having depression in significant numbers, the idea that brain chemistry or genetics is the culprit took off in a big way among this demographic, a huge boost for the medical model.

    I don’t have stats on this, but I bet I’m right. If anyone has any evidence to support this connection, please share!

  • Not to move the conversation too far afield or make it too long, but another big reason white middle-class people don’t want to question their treatment at the hands of their parents is because, if their parents were eligible for having been abusive, then they are eligible too. (Same demographic, right?) Of course, most lefties would be quick to say they support scrutiny of all parents and their treatment of their children, but it’s undeniable that white privilege is nowhere greater than in the fact that if you’re in a certain demographic, you have nothing to fear from CPS. This is a big comfort to white, materially well-off people who are lousy parents. I know it totally enabled my parents to be severely negligent for 8 long years; a black couple would have been seriously screwed if they’d done what my parents did.

    As for my statement about Eldridge Cleaver’s take on American racism toward the beginning of this thread, I wanted to put out there some statements from a column by David Brooks several years ago:

    “Both blacks and whites subtly try to get a white partner when asked to team up to do an intellectually difficult task. In computer shooting simulations, both black and white participants were more likely to think black figures were armed. In emergency rooms, whites are pervasively given stronger painkillers than blacks or Hispanics.”

    Indeed. Proof positive that Cleaver was right that the black man is seen as the heart and the white man as the head. Anyone who believes that liberals have transcended racism should remember that it’s only highly educated people dispensing painkillers in emergency rooms. Ha ha! There really should be no mystery as to why we take black children from their homes but never white middle-class ones.

    We can talk about the role of nature versus nurture in psychological suffering, but we cannot discuss anything productively until we confront the deeply bigoted way we think about black people. In fact, I have a theory I would put money on that the increase in people believing in brain chemistry and genetic explanations for depression, etc., has occurred in response to more and more middle-class people coming out of the closet as depressed. Since white educated folks are by definition good parents in this country, the explanation must lie elsewhere! Uh huh…

  • Steve McCrea: “My observation is that ‘conservative Americans’ overall like to pretend that differential privilege doesn’t exist at all.” This is my experience as well, which is why I wonder if the folks LavendarSage refers to didn’t think the way they did largely because they were social workers in training. (It seems to me that conservative political views and social work are like oil and water.)

    As for using the term “calling out” (someone for privilege), that choice of words reflects my observation that the word “privilege” is being used very frequently these days as an accusation. It’s clear that those using it believe that the people they deem to be “privileged” enjoy unearned advantages in life, whether it’s the choice to stay above the political fray, outsized influence on the politics and economics of the country, cushy lives they don’t deserve, etc. I don’t have a big problem with that use of it if limited to adults, for there is certainly such a thing as privilege, and it’s really important to talk about white privilege, for example. That said, the term is badly overused and, quite often, very simplistically applied.

    What I also object to is any application whatsoever of the term “privileged” to any human being under the age of 18 or so. For one thing, it’s extremely hypocritical for adults to pin that label on youth when the former is universally privileged relative to the latter.

    Secondly, unless you know all the intimate details of young people’s lives, you cannot possibly know if they are fortunate across the board, or whether they’re outwardly so but privately the victims of abuse, exploitation, neglect, etc. (This is why child abusers shame their victims, like was done with me: because it keeps the focus off the guilty adults. Of course, it’s not hard to shame children, for they naturally blame themselves for horrible adult behavior, as they are not at liberty to understand that their caregivers, for example, are unloving or dangerous.) And yet the word “privilege” is tossed around casually because, as we’ve been saying, Americans believe material deprivation to be the only hardship young people face. It’s clueless and cruel.

    Your experience in Oregon doesn’t surprise me, but I appreciate your sharing it. May I cite it elsewhere?

    And thank you for this: “Again, I agree that kids are disempowered in our culture, whatever level of financial privilege their parents may have, and I would encourage others commenting on this thread to make that important distinction.” I would qualify your statement only by observing that children are disempowered everywhere and throughout history, though in some places more than others. But your sentiment is as basic and important as it is rare. It does my heart good to know someone else gets it!

  • Thank you for that, and for opening my eyes to an example of conservatives doing this. To my mind, it’s significant, though, that they were social work students.

    The social work profession, on the whole, heavily promotes this idea that material poverty is the only kind. It also, as you probably know, will never take a child from a middle or upper-class home; they only ever take children away from parents who cannot easily get a lawyer. You are more thoughtful than most social workers, fortunately, and the profession needs more people who see through this ridiculous bias.

    That said, it is well worth studying the attitudes of conservative Americans toward the ideas of advantage and disadvantage.

  • Uprising, you are not adding to the conversation or even asking helpful questions. I gave a general definition for the left previously. If there is nothing that can be called “the left,” then what is your take on politics in the U.S. and elsewhere? Is there no ideological affiliation at all and, if not, what do you make of all the handwringing over political polarization?

    As for people meaning material poverty when they speak of “poverty,” that’s exactly what I said and what I object to! There is such a thing as emotional and social poverty, and when we disregard, and even fail to see, these afflictions in young people, we are being cruel and pushing them further into risk for suicide and addiction. The people who do this have blood on their hands, just as surely as Big Pharma does.

    If you don’t believe this, please explain specifically how you see it as wrong instead of saying things like “Privileged people generally hate to be told that they are privileged.” Do you believe there are young people we should call out as “privileged,” and if so, how do you answer my comment that we should never do this because of the very unique and profound vulnerability of all children to exploitation and abuse?

    I grew up in a town so wealthy my public high school had a planetarium in it, yet I lived for 8 years, because of medical neglect, without adequate oxygen or sleep (you can’t sleep when you’re gasping for air), making me worse off than some hefty percentage of political prisoners. Was I “privileged” because I didn’t go hungry? Fuck no! We need to stop abusing the word “privilege.” It’s utter nonsense that deepens the misery of large numbers of young people growing up in emotional poverty.

  • Thank YOU. And thanks for your remark about the different groups left and right project on to. It’s a good point that I hadn’t given any thought to.

    As for the unique difficulties “privileged” people face in validating their mistreatment in childhood, I can speak very authoritatively to that, having been neglected in a big house in a wealthy town in New Jersey. The message is implicit but unmistakeable: you had everything handed to you. There’s nothing to see here, folks, because her parents were white, middle-class and educated. The result of this kind of thinking is that there are no social workers for my demographic (quite literally), and no other advocates, since we are thought to not need any. My parents would have had to shoot or stab me in public to risk having me taken from them by CPS.

    I have spoken to a young, middle-class woman who was hit with depression in her college years, only to be asked by her counselor if she wasn’t just blue because she didn’t make dean’s list. A mom I talked to 2 weeks ago–also white and middle-class–was talking to his high school counselor about his depression. Mom said he was at risk for dropping out, but for the counselor this literally did not compute: But he’s not homeless, etc. These sound like small indignities, but they are actually dangerous trivializations of the suffering of young people deemed ineligible for real problems. I have zero doubt that many people of my demographic have committed suicide for lack of empathy and validation. At the very least, it takes us sometimes decades longer than necessary to heal because of the vacuum in which we must do this.

    I would urge everyone who understands this to stop speaking in such a way that precludes the many ways in which a human being can be impoverished. Emotional and social poverty are very real and very pervasive in this country, and they put people at serious risk.

    When I talk about poverty I do so specifically: “material poverty,” for example. Americans, and particularly leftists, need serious education on this point, and we can play a small but important part in this education. It starts with how we talk about these things. NEVER use the word “privilege” to describe anyone under age 18. Ever. We simply don’t know what a young person is going through or went through in childhood; looking at their zip code and sniffing that they’re “privileged” is an appalling case of profiling, and tells us much more about the person doing the labeling than about the labeled person.

    Thanks for indulging me. No need to respond unless you want to. I appreciate the opportunity to have this exchange!

  • And now for my response to Richard.

    You say “I would like to hear what solutions you would propose for political activists in today’s world.” Here’s my suggestion: Get your own house in order first. Don’t go ranting about outside sources of oppression and trauma until you are very clear on the oppression you yourself suffered in your own family and likely at the hands of adults outside it as well. It’s very disingenuous for people to point the finger at other sources of oppression when they cannot speak authoritatively about how they themselves were damaged and then blamed for that damage by a group whose privilege is so deep and so invisible that even the left wing cannot see it: adults. As if that is not systemic injustice!!

    You want systemic change? Do something radical and help dismantle the practices that make child abuse and neglect so likely: the disenfranchisement of the family through institutionalized schooling and the medical-industrial complex. In other words, birth your babies at home, homeschool them, and don’t run off to the doctor for every little problem. Encourage mamas to breastfeed instead of feeding Nestle, because breastfed babies are more likely to be spaced more like Mother Nature intended than a year apart, a disastrous crowding that makes abuse inevitable. (And of course, we have to dump religion. My parents were Catholic and slaves to 1950s and 60s detachment parenting, which is why they had five children in seven years, and my mother had four C-sections in four and a half years. If she had been black and/or poor, someone would have realized she was in way over her head on that basis alone. Alas, we were white and middle-class.)

    Why is the American family such a basket case, where neglect and horrible judgement are so likely? Because big institutions (which certainly exist outside of capitalist societies) have taken all authority away from it. The school system took over the family’s job of educating its kids. The medical system decimated folk and holistic medicine, and on and on. An institution (the family) with no more responsibility than to house people at night will not act any better than a hotel! And this discourages bonding and attachment (which medical birth and scientific parenting led the way on), making abuse and neglect inevitable. (I don’t suggest that child abuse can be eliminated from human societies, but it is clear that the circumstances I am describing to you are much more conducive to it than traditional societies are. Fortunately, we can take back some of the features of those societies.)

    The most radical thing an American can do, from where I stand, is to gather together into multi-generational homes again, with biological or non-biological family. Take back the children from the school and take back the elderly from the nursing home, where the young and the old are systematically drugged. We can strengthen our families and communities in this way and lessen our dependence upon the industrial school system, corporate America, and other homogenizing and uncaring behemoths. Nothing would do more to frighten the establishment, while discouraging the development of depression and anxiety, than this. It’s not only a wonderful end run around the oligarchicization of the United States but the very best thing we can do for children, who are as necessary and important an object of political activism as anyone.

    When you humanize the way children are raised, you create lifelong environmentalists and humanitarians. These people will transform not only their own prospects under the tyranny of Big Pharma, but the world.

  • Another point, Steve McCrea: the left is happy to embrace the medical model instead of looking for the source of depression in family experiences because, as I indicate above, that would require them to question their own families (especially as more and more middle-class and educated people have been “coming out of the closet” as suffering from depression and anxiety).

    But doing this, in addition to challenging their worldview, is also a very lonely road to travel. Examining one’s own family and how it damaged one, even if you have a good therapist, is a long, lonely project. How much more enjoyable is it to jump on a bandwagon where one’s own (leftist) tribe is already assembled, waiting for you? (As I’ve made clear here, I believe that’s something Richard is doing, only he’s railing against patriarchy instead of abusive families and the disenfranchisement of children; I say this even though I agree with him about the medical model, unlike the larger proportion of leftists.)

    So this is a case where left-leaning Americans are following their desire to be among a large group of their fellow travelers instead of joining a smaller tribe like the one here or undertaking the deconstruction of their childhood traumas at the hands of their parents and other adults.

  • Steve McCrea, I’m going to respond to you first, and I’m going to be nit-picky (big shock). You say the oppression of children is “the one kind of oppression that most of us can deeply share and relate to, regardless of what race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin label may apply to us.” You omit social class from that list. Perhaps it was an oversight, but I think it’s a telling and reflexive omission. It certainly reflects American liberal and left conventional wisdom that “disadvantage” (at least in childhood) is defined by material comforts and nothing more. I could go, at length, into why people think this way, but I will spare you, though it’s interesting stuff and very much tied up with the answer to your question….The gist of your comment is one I virtually never hear, in the media, in personal conversation, etc. It simply isn’t out there, so I’m gratified that you get it, and I wholly agree with your sentiments.

    As for your question about the left’s failure to call out psychiatric abuse, I would need you to elaborate on the intersectionality part, but I can comment on that failure in general.

    I believe that one of the big problems is that the left is overcompensating for the tradition of blaming the victims of psychological suffering; you know, “It’s all in your head,” “You’re making this up,” “You have the devil in you,” etc. It’s very keen to embrace a tangible, equal opportunity culprit in cases of depression, schizophrenia, etc. If it has to be in league with the devil to do so, apparently that’s a price the left is willing to pay. So that’s part of it.

    I think, in general, that the left’s failure in this regard tells us much more about what it doesn’t want to face than about the reality of emotional suffering. It doesn’t want to face that child abuse is a vast, unwieldy, uncomfortable fact of life that defies simple understanding and easy solutions. It doesn’t want to face that child abuse defies most of its cherished explanations for how the world works, especially that of class privilege and disadvantage as the key to quality of life.

    It’s also my experience that middle-class leftists are extremely disinclined to believe that their parents could have been sadists, which contradicts the racist conventional wisdom about who is and is not capable of depravity in this country, and which is generally a miserable and very challenging reality to come to terms with.

    We need to understand that left wingers are no less apt to embrace their politics as a means of avoiding personal demons than right wingers are. I was one of these people projecting my anger onto the state and our corporate masters instead of onto my parents, but I don’t do that anymore. Although I am still a leftist, I reject orthodoxy of any kind, departing as I do from many sacred lefty beliefs, and I refuse to take people’s professed motivations at face value.

    So there are lots of incentives for lefties to embrace the medical model, perverse as doing so is. They are clearly not above being fooled by Big Pharma, sadly, though they would never admit that that’s what is going on. (Mental gymnastics, par excellence.)

    Does that help to answer your question?

  • With all due respect, Richard, for a person ostensibly concerned with acute emotional and mental suffering and psychiatric abuse of the sufferers, you appear to be awfully preoccupied with the abstractions of class and political systems. I can assure you that people on the edge of the will to live give not a single fuck who owns the means of production. For the millions of us in this world who were gravely damaged by our parents (vast numbers of them liberals like mine, radicals and hippies), this preoccupation is just more earnest nonsense, ESPECIALLY those of us whose stories violate the conventional wisdom that you, too, appear disinclined to subvert: that “disadvantaged child” means black, brown, and poor white, period.

    Despite my strident tone, I don’t mean to undercut your work fighting the abusive psychiatric establishment, but I despair that even here, where Alice Miller’s name should be frequently invoked and where the topic of shame should be commonplace, people are pontificating about capitalism versus other systems, blah, blah, blah. From where I stand, this is very much a part of the problem and very much a symptom of the blind compulsion to uphold a much greater taboo than advocating for socialism: admitting that adults oppress, exploit and betray children as a matter of course, and that folks from every socioeconomic level do this to their children, not because they are cogs in a patriarchal system, but because they themselves were betrayed, abandoned and traumatized by their parents at an exquisitely vulnerable and dependent stage of their lives.

    Having lost all the years of my pre-adolescence and adolescence to medical neglect, I am not in a position to debate history or political science with most people. What I am in a position to do is tell you how terribly dangerous and deeply alienating it was for me to never see any validation whatsoever of my suffering or desperate need for advocacy in the world at large once I left my negligent family. (In fact, the self-righteous and ridiculous insistence on assigning me to a “privileged” childhood because of the zip code where I grew up is even more pronounced today than it was then, and my heart breaks for the children, like me, that this hangs out to dry. Some number of them will take their lives at some point, as I almost did, for total lack of validation and empathy.)

    Because of that vacuum, I have needed decades to deconstruct what I endured, when it really should have taken just a few years. This is appalling and tragic, on a personal level, of course, but also because that American group that talks the most about the need to dismantle oppression is genuinely uninterested in focusing this passion for “justice” on the most disenfranchised, the most vulnerable, and the most abused part of humanity of all, children. All of them.

  • Steve McCrea, I never said that the left is “racist” toward white or privileged people. I did not want to extend my comment even further, so did not go into this, but the idea that white affluent children are ineligible for real problems arises in large part from the view of black and white expounded upon by Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice, that is, that the black man is the heart (earthy and crude) and the white man is the head (intellectual and antiseptic). This is a dichotomy deeply held by Americans of all stripes to this day, those of leftist persuasion being no exception. It pervasively informs attitudes toward child abuse, education, and much besides.

    “uprising,” please be more specific when you say “In fact most (all?) of the premises in your comment are flawed.” Presumably this means you disbelieve that all children are vulnerable, as well as the notion that babies and children suffer at the hands of callous and self-absorbed caregivers. How about this one: “Like traumatic experiences being sufficient to psychologically disorder a person, with or without any organic predisposition, abusive or neglectful treatment at the hands of those they are DEPENDENT UPON is more than enough to disorder the child of wealthy parents without the addition of racial or class disadvantage.” Is that “flawed” too? And if so, how?

    “oldhead,” I did not “negate the validity of class analysis and class struggle in general.” I do not object to class struggle in any way, which is why I did not even mention that phrase. What I do object to is advocating for certain groups of children but not others based largely if not entirely on a class analysis (the increasingly popular “privilege” argument), as those I consider to comprise the left do. Is “the left” a group that’s hard to pin down, as you claim? Well, it is a pluralistic bunch, so let me put it this way: there are many Americans whose politics warrant describing them as being on the left end of the political spectrum. Though this is a big and diverse demographic, if you will, it generally has in common support for strong government efforts to help those in material need, attention to racism, sexism, and LBGQT issues, or at least a desire that the nation make progress toward economic and social equality. What this group also has in common, in my experience, is a perverse disinclination to apply the word “oppressed” to children and to see children as universally disadvantaged, relative to adults. (Of course, the right doesn’t this, but then the right doesn’t go on and on about “justice” and “oppression.”)

    If “uprising” wants to educate me about class analysis, fine, but I stand by my observation that those of leftist persuasion are extremely comfortable with the idea that various groups of people are oppressed because they are poor, of color, female or gay (a readily defended idea). What they do not appear to have come to in any way is an analysis of ageism or the profound vulnerability that all children of every demographic have in common. Consequently, certain subjects are absent from leftist commentary, the attachment needs of children being top of the list, with the critical concept of shame being close behind. (To discuss addiction without bringing up shame is ridiculous.) I do not believe Richard’s essays represent any kind of exception to this, but if you would like to prove me wrong, using specific statements of his, I would certainly consider them. So far, having read two of his pieces, I haven’t seen any.

    This expansion of the parameters for who is considered vulnerable which I propound should dovetail nicely with a movement in opposition to the medical model for understanding psychological suffering. Alas, that movement appears to me, like psychiatry, to be squeamish about discussing the universal indignities, and often dangers, of childhood in this world.

  • I have now read your first blog post, Richard, which I take to be an accurate encapsulation of your views, and I stand by my comments in my original message. I call your attention to the following statement from your essay: “Addiction and extreme states of psychological distress can become more humanely treated through some reforms, but they will never be fully eradicated, or even humanely treated on a broad scale, until the MATERIAL CONDITIONS FROM WHICH THEY HAVE EMERGED are transformed in a truly revolutionary way (emphasis mine)” I agree with much of what you say, especially your disdain for the disease model, but you appear to share with the left in general a dismissal–or at least glossing over–of the relational conditions from which psychological distress and addiction emerge, as well as the unique vulnerability of ALL children to damage from abuse and neglect by their intimate caregivers. No doubt material poverty, racism and other forms of injustice run roughshod over one’s emotional health, but, like the medical establishment, you appear to impart little or no importance to the emotional poverty infants and young children suffer at the hands of cruel, detached and/or self-absorbed parents, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Like traumatic experiences being sufficient to psychologically disorder a person, with or without any organic predisposition, abusive or neglectful treatment at the hands of those they are DEPENDENT UPON is more than enough to disorder the child of wealthy parents without the addition of racial or class disadvantage. Alas, the left is instinctively disinclined to see children as an oppressed group above and beyond class and race, a deeply ignorant mistake that throws countless children of materially well-off parents forcefully under the bus. I was one of these children, for whom recovery from trauma took decades longer than necessary for lack of a single soul to validate that my educated, well-off parents were, in fact, horrific caregivers. The left we are stuck with today prefers not to acknowledge, must less discuss, the critical importance of healthy attachment not just to black, brown and poor babies and children but to all of them; the relevation of how orphans who are not picked up and held enough, despite having their material needs met, are at risk for dying seems not to have made any impression whatsoever on the left. Clearly psychiatry, and allopathic medicine in general, are willing captives to a model which requires their constant, lucrative intervention in mental/emotional suffering and addiction. The left is no less a captive to the class model for understanding every problem under the sun, even as this model inflicts its own trauma on the children of materially comfortable classes by denying that those children are eligible for problems deserving of real sympathy. Both models are aloof from reality, cruel, and self-serving. The irony, as I will show in my ongoing work, is that this worldview on the part of the left is deeply racist, even while the left believes itself to be striking a blow against racism and class privilege by throwing materially comfortable children under the bus. It is a fascinating, perverse knot, and I will borrow from your essay to support my description of this warped worldview.

  • Here’s my problem: I hear a lot of talk about the bankruptcy of the “medical model,” but nothing about what Lewis would replace that model with. My understanding is that the general debate is between seeing psychological distress as originating in biochemistry and/or genetics, and seeing it as originating in trauma. (I understand that epigenetics holds both somewhat responsible.) Where does Lewis actually fall on this spectrum? Where does Whitaker fall?

    My general bias is toward nurture, as I was chronically abandoned by my parents and severely medically neglected as a pre-teen and a teen, leading me to be suicidally depressed in my mid-20s. I took Desipramine for a short time (2-3 months or so) during that hellish time (it helped quite a bit), then stopped and continued abusing alcohol and being in despair. Then I met the man who would become my husband. He had been raised in a large, loving family in Mexico, and he came at me with more affection in a month than I had received in a lifetime. It was hard to accept it at first (and I didn’t know how to reciprocate), but after about a year I had come around, I was drinking much less, and I had gotten off my emotional roller coaster. The sun had finally broken through. This was my cure, as I have never had to go through the nightmare of depression again.

    The thing is that I don’t see my experience reflected in any of the talk here. I know what Lewis and Whitaker are against, but I don’t know what they think is the proper way to view depression, et al. (I am in the middle of “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” and have not read Whitaker’s other stuff, though I did a little research on the web.) I hear from Lewis a lot of talk about oppression, but NONE of it refers to the disastrous experiences many children have at the hands of their parents and how this might launch them into depression, addiction, etc. NONE. And this is consistent with my experience of the left: Extremely acute at diagnosing injustice against various groups of adults, but utterly silent on the plight of the most blatantly and tragically disenfranchised class of people throughout human history, children.

    I oppose biospsychiatry for its utter neglect of this massive and critically important ball of wax, but as far as I can tell, most of its opponents do no better.