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How Stupid Is Too Stupid?

Psychologists Scamper to Create A Syndrome

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 03, 2000.

I read to you from the newspaper today. This is an advertisement.

"How Shy is Too Shy?"
"Does your child avoid or appear uncomfortable in social situations or public gatherings? Is your child easily humiliated or embarrassed? Does your child blush or sweat while being the focus of attention? Your child may be suffering from Social Anxiety",
which is capitalized.

And, it goes on, if your child is between the ages of 12 and 17 and suffers from these horrible and so rare afflictions now helpfully entitled Social Anxiety - apparently for Emergency Room ease of care - you can get him into a program for medicinal research. This ad is paid for by the Denver Center for Medical Research, which offers psychiatric evaluation and medication, Alan J. Levine, M.D., principal investigator. And, by some sort of osmotic genius, I am willing to predict that a major drug company is funding this research. I know, what brilliant insight. Why would I think that? Well, peasantry, listen and learn.

The term "ethics" has long been noted to have no mailing address within any time zone that houses advertising, and it has become rather boring to beat up on psychologists, whose very discipline has evaporated from under them, and psychiatry was a joke long before Scientology thought it a threat to their own bovine synapses. Recently, a spate of investigations into hospital, drug company, and medical doctor relationships and procedures has resulted in revelations that would make The Simpson's Dr. Nick blush with shame, not limited to the removal of the wrong limb, sewing up tools in the body cavity, sending Clorox rather than actual medicine into the hitherto living body of a patient from a slow drip. Newborns have been lost, stolen, and mislabeled. Elderly patients wander away. We've all read this sort of stuff and it ceases to amaze or affect us. On the one hand, a litany of medical arrogance and malpractice that defies civilized comment. On the other hand, ER. The Great American Plantlife has chosen which template to retain. But what about a nonexistent disease, the symptoms of which describe 99.9% of anybody who is a teenager and recalled as such by all who lived through those gruesome years. Social Anxiety. First Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever; now this. My God, My God, why have you forsaken us?

Chris Rock, one of the best comics, has pointed out the extreme unlikelihood that Ethiopia has clinics for lactose intolerance. On this particular, I'm willing to bet that nobody else in the world, including the so-called First World, has medication for social anxiety, or could with a straight face try to sell medication for it. Or, given a gene that refrigerates facial muscles and allows such nonsense to continue, I am willing to bet that nowhere else on earth would such an operation make money.

This, however, is the United States, where well-educated people act like idiots, where doctors exhaust themselves to no known purpose and much detrimental decision making, where parents have children they don't want around once the first sign of personality is detected, where a momentary twinge is a disease, and where the plague of growing up requires research and medication. How shy is too shy? Jesus.

Given that there is a very minimal percentage of a percentage that is in need of some medication and help for chronic withdrawal, the percentage is so small that general advertising won't find them. The ad is designed to appeal to crappy parents who aren't capable of instilling social skills to their children or who, in any case, won't. Mass advertising is designed to appeal to mass audiences.

I suggest that teenagers always and constantly reevaluate what they just said and did and wonder if it was okay, or maybe cool, or maybe idiotic and nobody will ever talk to them again, or maybe they just revealed they didn't know something, or maybe, you know, somebody thinks I'm funny looking. This is the burgeoning conscience of childhood on a test run with the real world. It's painful, and you don't get a whole lot of help. But you outgrow it, you get comfortable, and in most cases provides very funny stories for the distant future, generally in college when junior high seems far, far away. In the case of some doctors and drug companies, it's too bad they outgrew it.

For a doctor, a medical firm, a profession to claim or imply that this very basic and common series of events is both an affliction and one for which medication is available, and for a newspaper that panders to anti-drug hysteria to run such an ad, is the very height of hypocrisy. It's bad enough we have a generation of children on Ritalin and its variants rather inflict upon them the horror of a swap on the buttocks or some actual adult attention and hugs when they act like a loud-mouthed jerk. It makes all the sense in the world that millions of kids suddenly have Attention Deficit Disorder, doesn't it? Out of nowhere. Of course, its that television that somebody bought for them and forces them to watch. But if your child doesn't have the social climbing cachet of ADD, than you can still excuse your poor parenting skills, your poor classroom control, by getting the traumatized child on another medicine as soon as he enters high school. Hey, glad to help.

This is dangerous, dangerous nonsense, because we are addicting our society to drugs and the concept of physical recourse to every emotional situation and trying to profit from the discomfort of adolescence. So get to work. Ridicule it. Abuse those who seek to profit from this. Make them shape up.

And if you have a second, address young people as human beings and value their opinion and discuss things of importance to them and make the effort to learn. Be civil and not condescending, an attitude they can detect immediately at a distance of miles. This could take simply hours every year. Most people spend more time preening in a mirror every year.

But, if this is too much trouble, even if they're your own children, get them into a program and on legal drugs ASAP. You know. What the hell........