12 October 2012

FREE WILL IN THE AGE OF NEUROSCIENCE


IT WAS LARGELY A BOOK ABOUT EVIL, the Holocaust and one man's decades-long obsession with finding the most genocidal tyrant to ever walk planet Earth. In 1982, literary critic and essayist George Steiner took his fixation with Adolph Hitler and delivered The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H., a daring and disturbing philosophical fantasy about one man's belief that Hitler had survived World War II and the destruction of Germany. In the novel's opening pages, the Führer is discovered in the jungles of South America. He is an an old man, reminiscent of the images of a wild-eyed Saddam after he emerged from his subterranean existence and was forced into the arms of his American captors.

While I have not read Portage for over 25 years, the most memorable passages of the book explore German sensibilities just prior to WWII. . .a time when Nazism began to eviscerate human rights and human lives. The Germany Steiner richly details is one of societal dualities; on the one hand, Germany had been considered among the most culturally rich societies on earth. Yet, from this beauty emanated a dark and inescapable brutality that is now infamous.

Germany blessed the world with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the late Middle Age art of Albrecht Dürer, and technological achievements such as automobiles with gas-powered combustible engines, long before America. They even developed one of the finest university systems in the world, so how, Steiner asks, did these people — rich with wealth, culture, education and technology, allow this horror to occur?

In one very powerful chapter, Steiner meticulously paints a portrait of the country's elite, perched at windows high above a popular theatre, as they witness the arrest and extermination of commoners and Jews on the streets below the playhouse. The same people who “shed tears during a tragic play,” Steiner wrote, displayed an odd ambivalence to the tragedies of real people crying for help as the Nazi atrocities unfolded.

I am reminded of Steiner’s work once again because as I approach the four year anniversary of my documentary GENERATION RX, I realize that the same indifference abounds, particularly as it pertains to the health and futures of our people. Every day — for four years — I have been bombarded with horrifying letters and tales of real people affected by the trauma these powerful drugs have caused. . .and they keep coming. . .from parents and teachers and students and loved ones. It has motivated me to release a book, LETTERS FROM GENERATION RX in 2015.

Yet, there is silence — from doctors who should know better, from academics and educators, from elected officials , government agencies, and yes, most horridly of all, from the media.

In the wake of this realization, I will admit to be absolutely stunned at how little North Americans understand about the drugs they are forcing down the throats of so many young Galileo's. For reasons of public politeness, perhaps, we bow before profit-based science and ignore the journalistic cowardice which allows this to perpetuate. This “disconnect” between what medicine has told us about ADHD, bipolar and the “plague of mental illness” — and the reality of what the science really says about these medicines and the life-changing harm they often inflict, is, well, maddening

All we ask is that people be informed of the risks in advance so that people can weigh the evidence and make an informed choice about whether to drug .. or not to drug. But good luck in trying to get any help from the FDA, the AMA, or just about anyone else in the medical industrial complex. They act as blocking backs for the powerful petrochemical forces...those who spend billions in marketing in an attempt to convince us with their facade of caring.

JUST THIS MORNING, I received a phone call from a health food storeowner and nutritionist. Every day, she is approached by parents who are desperate to find help for their beloved children as the side effects of ADHD drugs, antipsychotics and antidepressants take their toll. They have tried every drug the “experts” have recommended, only to see their loved ones slip further away: sicker, more distant .. drunk with dark images .. and in need of help.

She told me the tragic tale of yet another teenager whose health has been stolen from him by the deadly thief called methylphenidate, or Ritalin. One year ago, the young man apparently possessed the good looks of a soap opera star, and teenage girls swooned as he walked the halls of his high school. He was a superior athlete and student, but that was all prior to him being diagnosed with ADHD.

Twelve months later, his weight had dropped to 110 pounds. There is a real possibility he could die while under a doctor's “care.”

Since Methylphenidate was classified in the U.S. under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances as a Schedule II drug, we can’t say we didn’t realise the dangers. Many times since that seminal report, methylphenidate has been characterized as “Speed” — as highly addictive and risky. In 1971, despite the warnings, psychiatrists and MDs began using speed for the pre-ADHD diagnosis of a condition called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.” By doing so, they ignored the potential for abuse, for addiction, and of atrophy of the vital organs, especially the heart and brain.

IN THE HEALTHFOOD STORE, the young man was extremely sick by the time his parents finally decided they needed another opinion. Worried to death about their son — and saying they were not sure if he would live to see his next birthday — they pleaded to speak with the owner and nutritionist. They had followed the advice of their doctor and psychiatrist, they told her, but their son continued to decline.

The owner explained to the parents that her store could be shut down by the FDA for simply speaking with them about ADHD, pulled them into her office and then continued in whispered tones. The methylphenidate, she said, had taught the boy’s body not to eat. “This child is starving,” she told the mom, noting that Ritalin, with its cocaine and speed-like properties, was the obvious culprit. “But the psychiatrist diagnosed his lack of appetite as depression,” the mother said. “So they added an antidepressant to his regimen.”

A few weeks after taking antidepressants, the mother said between sobs, the young man uttered aloud, “I just don’t want to live like this anymore.”

The parents stood before the health food store owner with tears streaming down their cheeks. It is a scene she has witnessed innumerable times since the 1990s, and each time she discusses disease conditions like this, she never knows for sure whether the people standing before her are undercover agents for FDA. . .or just what they appear to be: people in distress. . .people in need of answers.

When I produced GENERATION RX, I did so to arm parents with the facts they needed in order to make a fully informed choice about their healthcare. I produced the film to amplify the ‘cries from the street’ — to give a voice to those who are being ignored by society at large—dismissed as anecdotes—and to provide the tools to enable parents to fight back, if necessary. In the Fall of 2015, I'll be releasing a new documentary addressing these issues.

But I wonder — in this age of neuroscience — if we haven’t brought George Steiner’s commiserations to life? Whether we’d shed tears watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but not for the real  traumas of a tortured child or his parents?

Some day, will futurists ask, “How did these people, rich with culture, education and technology allow this horror to occur?”

I wonder.

Like Steiner's book, though, one thing is very clear: citizens of this planet must choose — whether to exercise our freedoms in ways that do not conform to the wishes of those in power — or whether to allow business-as-usual as we avert our eyes. . .away from the horrors on the streets below. 



5 Comments:

Anonymous Susan James said...

Thank you.

12:23 AM EDT  
Anonymous Meghan Griesemer said...

I can't wait to see the new film!

12:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Middle Child said...

Is it okay if I post this as I think it is incredibly important - okay if not...if okay will of course attribute it to you...
I am horrified by things that are being foisted upon us but to interfere with a child's mind...what worse is there?

2:29 AM EST  
Blogger Kevin P. Miller said...

Yes..

10:11 AM EST  
Blogger Renee Copfer said...

Bless you Kevin...and thank you for your great body of work. You ARE being heard and your work is already helping others...you've helped us and for that we are eternally grateful!

11:12 PM EDT  

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