Selfies and Narcissism

square832Notice how people with no clue of the personalities of the people who post selfies jump to the conclusion that they must be narcissists? Appreciation of the complexity of motives driving self portraiture lies beyond the capacity of their minds it seems. I, however, believe the problem is ignorance which fuels too hasty judgements.

I have taken selfies for several years now. Many artists and photographers do. For most of us it is an exercise in our art, an experiment in composition. For many years, I did not like having myself photographed. It was a shock to see how people saw me or how I presented myself to the world. My wife, for example, seemed to include my then-ample-belly in every one of her photos of me. When I was young, I did not like my lanky frame. When middle-aged my stomach. Now in my late fifties, I don’t care about these things so much because I have spent a lot of time desensitizing myself to my own face and body. This isn’t narcissism: it is self-experiment and rehabilitation.

What about the young woman who shows her cleavage or her legs? I have to ask why the obsession with how young women choose to present themselves? I will grant you that there are narcissists among them, but the focus on young women in particular rankles of sexism. There are men who like to present their six-packs. And men and women who are not so pretty and fit who still show their faces and bodies. Are these narcissistic or are they merely trying to show the world that they, too, are attractive?

It is no sin to like your face and body. Calling others ugly or narcissistic because they don’t measure up to your standards of beauty or privacy strikes me as more contemptible. I have come to like my face and I like the faces that others post, too. It’s not all about me, but about the comeliness of the human race. Instagram, Snapchat, and Dailyboother when taken as a whole celebrates us for what we are. Human beings are meant to be seen.

Thoughts on Models

Models need to understand that they are part of the creative process and photographers need to treat them as creative peers.

Halloween Glamour and Special Effects Shootout

square774I’ve gone to two photo-shoots with models in the last two months. It’s a new world for me, he who has practiced most of his photography on hiking trails in the Santa Ana Mountains. 1 I’ve found the world of glamor photography to be quite different from what I have expected. The women are treated well. One professional photographer I know includes a morality clause in his licensing agreement. This prevents him from reusing the photo in venues that might harm the model’s career such as politics, religion, hate, and pornography. 2 I think this kind of respect is essential, but there’s another kind of respect that needs to be practiced as well.

Models have a reputation for being dumb. I think that what we perceive as imbecility is often reserve and self-protection. Youth also plays a part. You don’t want to say anything that will irritate your prospective employer. So if you ask a model her opinion on a photo, she will either tell you it is wonderful or she will tell you that what is important is what you like.

Models have successfully dictated some reasonable restrictions on what their images may be used for. It’s disturbing when a photographer takes a picture of a woman and then grafts her head onto a nude body for use in the skin trade or when he uses a woman who agreed to pose in a bikini as a barker for more meretricious web traffic. No modeling contract should allow for that and no one should be held for ransom when they find their photos appearing in career-killing places.3

It is the timidity which is bred into models that disturbs me. I was taking photos of one young woman. I was having particular trouble because she was black and I don’t have much experience shooting that skin tone. Which was why I chose to work with her. But as I showed her my photos, her answer always was “Whatever you like.”

Now, I like to do justice to a person. I think the problem was she had been conditioned to always go along with the photographer. When one asked her for input, she didn’t know what to do except go into the broken record the modeling school taught her. Which I find tragic.

More experienced models have no trouble responding to this, at least the ones I have met. But this might be because they have been lucky to meet with progressive photographers who see their models as human beings. These models are wonderful to work with. I’d like to see more modeling schools and more photographers promote the idea of a creative interaction between models and the other creative persons who engage in a photo shoot. There’s this idea of photographer as mad genius who must be appeased that I think can and should be done away with. Working with a model should be something more than shouting out positions and moving her body around.4 It should be a synthesis of the kinetic and the visual.



  1. Don’t worry. This will continue. []
  2. Note that just because a model does nude work does not mean she wants her image to turn up on a porn site. []
  3. Show up in a porn site and it is goodbye to Vogue. []
  4. You should never touch without the model’s permission, BTW, even if it is your girl/boyfriend. []

What the Koch Brothers Can Do & Dare Not

square716The Koch Brothers are on the defensive with a bright new campaign describing all the charitable causes to which they are giving money. “How can you possibly say we are inhumane (even though we financed the Tea Party which is now out to destroy Medicare and Social Security along with collective bargaining and unions?)” You’re giving part of your millions to help others while investing more to make yourself more money through lobbying efforts and hot houses like the Cato Foundation and the Foundation for American Growth is how.

Jesus set a high standard for charity:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”((The full passage is Mark 10:17-31))

Everything. Not just a piece of a vast empire, but everything. Then we can start talking salvation. Christians, take note and do not be fooled by the Koch Brothers. They are nowhere near meeting the level of commitment that is expected of this passage.

But let’s take a kindlier tack. What could the Koch Brothers do to start meriting a little more respect from the average American? Not God, — certainly not one of their paid lobbyists — but a member of the 98%:

  • Stop giving money to self-aggrandizing “think tanks” like Cato.
  • Support free speech and the right to make up one’s own mind about one’s vote. Stop interfering in your employees’ decision about who to vote for, ending the cycle of threats that you resorted to in the last election.
  • Come clean about your role in buying the Citizens’ United decision and call for a rehearing with Scalia and Thomas recusing themselves
  • Stop taking the glory for cancer research with your board membership in the [[American Cancer Society]] while supporting government efforts to cut it.
  • Give a substantial amount of cash to some less glamorous causes like literacy and research into mental illness
  • Improve your employees’ health benefits beyond Obamacare.
  • Leave Medicare and Social Security alone unless you have a plan to make conditions better for those who rely on them without privatization.
  • Support the funding of the [[Environmental Protection Agency]].
  • Support [[OSHA]] so that your employees’ lives will be safer.
  • Let the Tea Party fend for itself. Be honest about how you started this pretense of a social movement.
  • Be honest. You’re no libertarians. Stop calling yourself ones.
  • Publicly repudiate [[Ayn Rand]] and those who follow her.
  • Sell off your gold and give the shares to charity.
  • Give your tax rebate to the government to help fight the deficit like able Patriots should.

Do this, Charles and David Koch, if you want to rescue this country from the economic crisis and the shadow of fascism that you have cast upon it.

And if they don’t, America, vote them and all their candidates down down down to the hell of powerlessness.

Rand, Anthem, and Genocide

square708[[Ayn Rand]]’s Anthem is included in many summer reading programs these days. It tells a story of a young man who is trapped in a world where there is only “We”. He escapes and finds an ancient library where the books are filled with this wonderful new word whose concept he embraces passionately: “I”. It was, for the teenager that I was, a heady perusal. All my life I had felt locked into what was “good for the family”. Rand offered a way out of this, but I did not see the future and the full implications of Anthem.

One thing that her hero declares his independence from are “the halt and the lame”. Now I realize that he meant people like me — someone who lives with [[bipolar disorder]]. I can only ask just what did Rand want to do with all the people who didn’t measure up to her “heroic” ideal?1 I hear here an echo of the [[Nazis]], who took people like me and, first, sterilized them, then “euthanized” them to cleanse the gene pool. When I see Rand devotee [[Paul Ryan]] promulgating a Medicare/Medicaid scheme that will leave the disabled with precious little insurance, I can only recall Rand’s paean to selfishness. Despite my education and my intelligence, I am one of her “halt and lame”.

This “I” feels life. But the years and the illness have taught me a larger lesson: that “we” is also essential because we do not exist alone. I see a language without either first person pronoun desolate and untrue. I see a nation unwilling to cherish its people regardless of their infirmities doomed to incompleteness.



  1. Never mind the heroism that it takes to live every day with this disease. []

Walking the Flat Track

square702Guilt is the mainstay of some of us who struggle with bipolar disorder. I saw my mind disintegrate during the nineties. At the same time, I was mocked for my ferocity and klutziness in writing, an irony because I scored a 5 on the AP English examination. Where others hitchhiked nude down the freeway, I had the Internet. And there is a record out there of all my episodes for the world to see.

From time to time, I get reminded of this. Once someone sent me an email by accident. He meant to warn his friends that “it” — meaning me — was back. I wrote him a pointed note about his insensitivity, but that didn’t help. The affair shuttled me into this shell that I made to avoid negativity. This is not the only incident, just one of the most painful. I have stopped mentioning them to my wife. She only knows that my spirit is mostly broken, that I live mostly just to keep myself walking the flat track that loops endlessly around my being. I dare not run.

In more recent times, I sensed that some people use the fact of my bipolar to shove me away from participating in anything interesting. I don’t feel that I can attend my wife’s Quaker meeting, for example, because I am the husband who suffers from mental illness. There’s a forced kindliness that I feel there when they get me to talk (I mostly listen) and a rush to the assumption that I will lose control if I am not stopped now.

To cite an example of this (and it happens elsewhere, too) I ran into some members of the meeting while we were taking a trip to the Mojave Desert. They were on their way back from Death Valley, so I mentioned that we had just been to the national preserve just across the highway. One of these “Friends” told me “We don’t have time to go there.” I just blinked at him. Where had this come from? Had I insisted that we do this? We spoke a little more. I mentioned the volcanoes just down the road. Again the insistence that they didn’t have time.

There was a third person, not a Quaker, who picked up the conversation. We discussed the many things that remained to be explored in the preserve, how we loved the place. This person made no assumptions about my intentions and we had a good talk. It made a difference in how I felt about him and about myself. This man made me human again.

Other incidents have troubled me. One woman told me of her awful childhood living with a bipolar sufferer. I did not dispute this — we can have a painful effect on those around us when we do not take our medications. But at the same time I felt a devaluation of all of us who struggle with this illness. The implication I received from this woman was that we should be abandoned. And I, who am nearly alone except for my wife, dread that possibility.

Quakers believe in the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In 1992, I felt led to go to former Yugoslavia to help the peace movement. It was a crazy time in my life and I made a reputation for myself that isn’t sound. At least I think so because people aren’t seeking me out to see what I think on matters 20 years later. I have spoken of this in Quaker groups. When I do, the Friends suddenly become uneasy with me because of my present distrust in myself of these feelings.

Do not think for a moment that the Friends are alone in this. There are plenty of people who put down the mentally ill, often in strange places like Alcoholics Anonymous whose Big Book describes manic-depression as one of the causes of their illness. Here, like in the Friends, they just don’t want to hear about that — perhaps because many “dry-drunks” are undiagnosed or because of the obsession of some AA members that you do not take any chemical aids to help with so much as a headache. Witness, too, the predators who offer prayer as an antidote to the panics, the mood swings, and the hallucinations. Some go so far as to offer faith healing that will “erase” the condition altogether. These, too, bear stigma: if you still feel the symptoms then you must not be praying hard enough.

From all of these, I withdraw. I hear it said by members of the Quaker Meeting that I should not judge it by a few people, but I feel that an organization is known by what they tolerate. And when they say this, I feel that my feelings are merely written off as more deliriums. So this is why I stay close to home on Sundays, showing only now and then for a luncheon or a talk. If I were a better Quaker, I would take it as a leading of the spirit to address these prejudices. But too much do I dread the clash with the uneducated and the prejudiced. Too much do I fear the rejection of my claims. What is clear to me is subtle to others who do not have my illness. If I tell my wife, she just sighs.

It is better to just prevent a relapse, to stay out of the world. And that sucks.

Nietzschean Christianity

square698Forms of American Christianity prove endlessly creative when it comes to combining affirmations of faith with worldly life. Consider, for example, the new fad of “pole dancing for Jesus“. The thing that makes this possible isn’t a biblical text (and never let it be [[The Letter of James]] which says that you shall be judged by your works!), but a variety of existentialism that has been attached to it.

[[Frederich Nietzsche]] wrote of two kinds of morality. One of them he called Slave morality. The statement which exemplifies this is “I did it because it was right.” The other he called the Master morality: “It was right because I did it.”

Christians who practice what [[Dietrich Bonhoeffer]] called “cheap grace” hold, in part, that all you need to do to be held as a Christian is to say that you are one or that you accepted Jesus into your life and that’s that. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it. It is these so-called Christians who have so neatly combined Nietzsche with Christ (and in the end denying Christ) by introducing a new morality: “It is right because I am saved.” There’s no costly grace involved, no Christ of the Gospels who calls for more than mere declaration that the light bulb of salvation has lit up in your soul and moved you to put a bumper sticker on your car. You don’t have to help the poor through your vote or your words. You can be just as mean and obstinate as you were before because one thing has “changed”: how you describe yourself spiritually.

Is it implausible that these have set their moral compass to the Tea Party? Should it surprise us that they have gone directly against the Bible and declared that their wealth and prosperity makes them paragons of Christian virtue? Speak of community to these and they accuse you of communism. Speak of hope and they rage against you. Give them the Beatitudes to sign and they accuse you of being subversive. Respect a Muslim and they wail about your undermining religious freedom. They have abandoned Christianity for modern megachurchs that thrive on their donations and the publicity they earn through the awe of the numbers they attract rather than genuine acts of charity.

They are the eternal opposites of Christ because they read the Bible for loopholes past its jeremiads against greed and contempt for the weak. It is easier to stick a rope through the eye of a needle than for these to do real good. God calls on them to be servants, but they want to be the overlords.

Cheap Love

square670As an agnostic, I can allow myself to trolley back and forth between atheist and religious thinkers. I’ve been reading a biography of [amazonify]1595551387::text::::Dietrich Bonhoeffer[/amazonify], paying special attention to the notion of “cheap” versus “costly” grace.

Just as in the years before Hitler’s rise, we see a lot of cheap grace in our Christian community. All you have to do is say “Jesus has saved me” and you can go on being the same person you always were. You can continue to be selfish; vote for right-wing candidates; hate women and minorities of all stripes; and generally live a life against the principles of Christ because God loves everyone and it doesn’t matter what you do. You bought a Bible, said you were saved, and so you are.

Costly grace is based on the Epistle of James where it is said that it is your works that count the most. You won’t worship the rich as the epitomes of Christian life in the world, you won’t turn your back on the poor and the sick, you won’t twist the words of and declaim against those attempting to build a compassionate society. Costly grace entails sacrifices including being less than wealthy, being seen as unheroic by a society obsessed with violence, and working in your spare time to help others.

I think a fine example of cheap grace is the line “I don’t like what {group x} does, but I still love them.” Yes, just sit back in your easy chair and insist on your love. It’s easy to come by: you just say that it is so. But how many people in America “love” the poor and then vote for politicians who raise taxes on the underclass and solve their health problems by incarcerating them? How many people say that because of their Bible they can’t allow homosexuals to marry, but they still “love” them?

The Bible tells us to do many things, but Biblidolators love to overlook the stuff that it downright vile and barbaric when it comes to their own lives and impose the worst on others. How many of them apply the repeated Biblical mandates against greed to their own lives? I think one of the functions of the űber-rich for middle class Americans is to give themselves the feeling that they are poor — even though by the standards of most of the rest of the world they are wallowing in specie. “Blessed are us,” they say and “blessed are those who allow a little to trickle down to us.” The rich are, to us, idols.

But cheap grace and the cheap love that comes from it allows them to say “I’m on my path, so I can be forgiven for what I do. I’ll get into heaven without any effort on the greed front.” So they go on despising the poor, Muslims, homosexuals, women confident that no matter how egregious and unChristian the spirit of their actions, they can just call it love and be forgiven.

God help them if there is a God. God help the rest of us whether or not there is one.

Goy on the Wall

square685Last week, I attended a film festival held in conjunction with a Jewish Genealogy conference at the L.A. Live Marriot. No, despite my eminently semitic name (Joel Sax), I am not Jewish. Lynn was there because she has long suspected that she has [[Sephardim]] ancestors from the vicinity of [[Constantinople]] or [[Thessaloniki]]. Wednesday was rich in workshops on the subject, so she paid for a one day conference pass and bought a film festival ticket for me.

I saw only four of the movies during the eight hours I was around. The only fictional piece was a short about a Hungarian Jewish mother in hiding who rescued the son of another Jew from a firing squad. The standard Holocaust theme done in black and white caught the heart. The contents of the next film were forgettable. After it, I ate lunch and took a walk down to the L.A. Public Library and back1 before the next two.

A film about [[Felix Mendelssohn]] and his descendants raised the question raised the question “Can there be anything especially Jewish about his music? I laughed aloud when I heard a Nazi claim that he lacked depth and soul. That his music could be considered “Jewish” caused one man to vocally argue against it. How can music be measured as Jewish or not, he cried. Music is music. The whole concept struck him as ludicrous.

There was also the question about the many German Jews who converted during the 19th Century. This had made no difference to the Nazis who rounded up Mendelssohn-Bathory family descendants wherever they could find them, but it also annoyed many Jews who saw this as treasonous and uncalled for.

The plight of South American [[Crypto-Jews]] also touched on this theme. To be a Jews in these times — especially in Catholic-dominated Latin America — invited discrimination, hatred, and even violence. The biggest hurdles for the handful of men and women who wanted to recover the religion of their ancestors, however, were not set in their path by Catholics but by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who had come to South America to escape the ultimate pogrom. Whose Judaism was more authentic? asked the [[Reform_Judaism|Reform]] rabbi who performed the conversions: the ones who had been given it by birth and only perfunctorily lived a Jewish life or these who had embraced it with passion? The worst discrimination the new converts — who were the descendants of men and women who had lost their faith in the aftermath of the Inquisition — came from other Jews who did not want to recognize their conversions.

I didn’t stay for very long afterwards, but I made these observations. First, I found myself moved by the story largely because as one who had been raised a Christian, I accepted the idea of being drawn to a religion and affirming a connection to it by an act of faith. Second, though it annoyed me at the time, I have since come to realize the source of the hurt that led some in the audience to lash out at the aspersions of Kansas City based Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn2 . “I’m only a Jew by birth”, one woman prefaced her attack during the question and answer period led by the filmmaker.

Every one of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — experiences among its own controversies as to who is a member and who is not. Many of the Jews who the rabbi criticized spent all of their lives struggling to be good people by learning to read Hebrew, reading tracts on theology, and living the life of charity that the religion calls for. Are they less authentic because they have not undergone a conversion experience? It has been part of their lives all along. Yet I continue to feel compassion for those whose families were cut off by political matters, who are only now finding it safe to learn about the faith of their fathers and return to it. I don’t think racism is the word I would use to characterize the attitudes of those reared as Jews, but it has a similar effect in bringing down the person. You are damned because of the choices your ancestors made is the way some Jews interpret rabbinical law. There is no going back no matter how deep the longing, how appropriate and authentic the faith. I kept my mouth shut in the room, but I am opening it here. Like the other religions, some of the concepts driving traditional Judaism are just plain wrong and are in need of reform. Ties broken by centuries of persecution should be reforgeable.

So speaks a goy.



  1. I was frustrated all the way because I did not have my Nikon to catch the street scenes. My d40 had died and I was waiting for a new d60 to replace it. What photos I did capture were taken with my Droid camera phone. Some interesting material resulted, but I was limited by my battery’s power. []
  2. The film showed Rabbi Cukierkorn conducting a mikvah in an Ecuadorean river. The symbolism of this is so close to baptism that I can appreciate the audience’s nervousness. []

Tired Pity

square647Every day, nearly, I meet a disturbed person, either online, in a support group, or, rarely, out in the world. The easiest, for me, are the hurt and disappointed by love: in their desperation the good in me can reach out and encourage them to pay no attention to the absence of affection in their life, to live life and know that they are likely to meet another. Harder are those who are suicidal, but not impossible. A good ear helps.

The worst for me are those whose lives are undeniably, completely screwed up either by an addiction which is killing them or codependency. It becomes clear that they are addicted to the drama in their lives — to the products of their highs and lows. Often these possess unacknowledged mood disorders. They will talk to you at length about the disaster that is their life. And you find that there is absolutely nothing you can say because being in the place you are — maybe a happy marriage, temporary financial security, a house free of dangerous family members or other violent residents — places you almost in affront. To these you listen and say nothing. They’re as difficult as the people who sometimes show up in a support group, whose manias spill over and flood the room.

I feel left only with only a tired pity. I suspect they hate me for it.

Wise Divides, Foolish Unities

….religious right fundamentalists are playing the victim card, decrying an anti-Christian decision, really telling teachers they can’t use their position and authority (in a health class!?!) to preach to other faith and none christian students is anti-Christian? This video is anti-Christian, and represents a fundamentalist literalism no student should have to be subjected too. I doubt the irony is lost on students of faith. — Bene Diction

square436This hasn’t hit the atheist blogs yet and I can guess what will happen: it will be cited as yet another example of Christian oppression. That can’t erase the fact that this first came to my attention via a set of leftist Christian blogs who all say that they don’t like what Michael Nider did from both theological and secularist grounds.

Atheists have a hard time fathoming Christian division. When it suits them, they ignore it to cast blame on every Christian for every dastardly deed done by the Fundamentalist Right. When not, as here, they attack it as the sign that Christianity is about to fall apart and they will triumph as Hemant from Friendly Atheist does here:

We’re still at a point when the “leaders” in both camps are on speaking terms and can work together. In the religious world, the two sides don’t ever seem to interact. (Can you envision Jim Wallis working alongside James Dobson on a frequent basis?)

He’s talking about the Rational Response Squad, a group of atheists who act pretty much in the fashion of cult recruiters. They find a likely target and bomb him/her with “reason”. It’s a trick that the Moonies and others have used ad nauseum and to see Hermant brush it off as just a difference in methodology is disturbing:

….we atheists need to make the best of this opportunity. We can criticize the tactics the others use. But for now, we’re still in this together. We need the mutual support of each other.

And Brian should at least be commended for saying just that.

So where Christian diversity allows the left to come out and say that the Letter from Hell incident/video is offensive and destructive, Hermant for one is stuck when it comes to challenging the tactics of the RRS. He’s too afraid of the whole atheist community coming apart if he says one little word of approbation against this cultic programming. One must ask, in Hemant’s case, where is the atheistic sense of morality, compassion? When you feel pressed to become a fellow traveller of a group like the RRS, these evidentally fall by the roadside. Clunk.

For Christian comment/condemnation on the Letter from Hell video/incident, check out Connexions and Bene Diction. Division isn’t a bad thing when at least one side bases its conviction on the right principles.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bipolar or Just Spoiled?

`Oh, don’t bother me,’ said the Duchess; `I never could abide figures!’ And with that she began nursing her child again, singing a sort of lullaby to it as she did so, and giving it a violent shake at the end of every line:

`Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.’
CHORUS.
(In which the cook and the baby joined):–
`Wow! wow! wow!’

While the Duchess sang the second verse of the song, she kept tossing the baby violently up and down, and the poor little thing howled so, that Alice could hardly hear the words:–

`I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!’
CHORUS.
`Wow! wow! wow!’

square430 Columnist John Rosemond thinks he knows what is best for toddlers and that is the rod. If his children have not yet escaped him, Rosemond may well be a good candidate for a Social Services intervention because he believes that there is no such thing as “Early Onset Bipolar Disorder”, just spoiled kids.

Especially intriguing is the Papolos’ list of “very common” symptoms for EOBD, including separation anxiety, tantrums, defiance, hyperactivity, inattentiveness and mood swings. Those “symptoms” will be familiar to anyone who has lived with a toddler.

Seemingly, the Papoloses would have us believe that behaviors associated with toddlerhood are actually manifestations of a disease that should be treated with drugs that have pronounced negative side effects (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, severe drowsiness, significant weight gain) as soon in the child’s life as possible….

In nearly every case (I actually know of no exceptions), these kids were cured of their criminal tendencies in short order by parents who did not suffer this abuse, parents who administered not drugs but quite old-fashioned discipline.

Rosemond runs his own little website called “Traditional Parenting” and you know what that is all about. His thought for the day (December 16, 2007) states:

Parental authority must be clearly established before the full potential for affection within the parent-child relationship can be released. Unresolved disciplinary issues create stress in a family. Resolve them, and relationships will be more relaxed.

Rosemond has attracted his critics including Cambridge Center for the Behavioral Sciences writer W. Joseph Wyatt. Wyatt at first admired Rosemond, but then noticed a troubling tendency on Rosemond’s part to romanticize “Grandma’s” use of the wooden spoon and worse implements as well as a decided obstinance when it came to recognizing the value of current research on child-rearing. A choice example:

a parent wrote to Rosemond that her 12-year-old son was generally unmotivated to do schoolwork. Restrictions had not worked. The parents had attempted none of the frequently effective positive strategies such as allowing the boy to earn points toward a desired item or activity by doing good schoolwork. Rosemond, after suggesting that medication might help, seemed out of ideas. He could only suggest to the parents that they stay the course, that they resign themselves to continuing the same efforts that had already been tried and had failed. He advised the parents to “…remember what Grandma said: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I’ll take a guess that the boy’s parents were disappointed with that advice.

A real whopper that Wyatt discovers is Rosemond’s theory about what causes ADHD:

What is Rosemond’s theory of its cause? It is the “flicker” of the TV screen which he contends (in the absence of any research evidence) “…compromises the brain’s ability to properly develop the structures necessary to a long attention span.” He deduced this “fact” after recalling the decade of the 1950s, when fewer people had TV and nobody was diagnosed with ADHD. This is absurd.

I agree that TV has had detrimental effects on child behavior. But the “flicker” isn’t the reason. Hasn’t Rosemond heard of the accumulating research on the influences of violent role models as seen by children on TV? And how would he explain away the 95% of children who are neither inattentive nor overly active? They watch TV too.

Rosemond is against positive reinforcement of good behavior. I find it terribly bemusing that he thinks paying children for doing basic chores such as weeding, mowing the lawn, etc. amount to teaching them that something can be had for nothing! Rosemond does not want to consider that the reverse is true: that when, for example, parents expect children to tend gardens that they have set up for their own pleasure — not the child’s — they are expecting something for nothing!

But let’s go back to the original point of the article. Is this kind of behavior just “normal toddlerhood”?

it’s hard to believe that at age 3, life with Leo was a living hell. His behavior was so bad that day care was not an option.

“The shortest time on record at day care was three hours before they called me and asked me to pick him up and said he would not be welcome back,” says his mother Kristen Massman.

Massman couldn’t understand why her son was so miserable.

“He would break furniture, hit his head against the wall continuously,” she recalls. “He would destroy his bedroom.

“I just did not enjoy being a mother.”

Leo was misdiagnosed with ADHD, which was a disaster as you might imagine.

His doctor [Papolos] believes stimulants caused Leo to spiral out of control, culminating in a horrifying crisis point.

“I was bringing him home from school. I opened the back door to help him out and he just took off and threw himself in front of an oncoming car,” says his mother.

“I remember sitting in the grass and holding him and saying “Why are you doing this? I don’t understood what’s wrong with you.'”

Leo is now on lithium, a mood stabilizer.

“I take these two in the afternoon, (and) all three of these in the morning,” says Leo, showing his pills.

“Keeping him happy now is much more important and could potentially prolong, you know, his life rather than losing him,” says Massman.

His life has turned around. His mother says all because of a clear diagnosis – one many doctors are reluctant to make. But for her and her son it was a lifesaver.

“It feels wonderful. I enjoy him now. I love being a mother. I love being his mother,” says Massman.

Just how many beatings would it take to bring this child into line with Rosemond’s program? I think we have here a non-medically trained pop psychologist who sees his turf being threatened by the new revolutions in medicine. Rosemond is not a Scientologist, but the new-fangled medical model of behavior threatens to take him out of the picture. If we can treat the problems with a pill and make the Leos of this world into happy children, what is there for Rosemond to do?

Rosemond is evidence of the terrible legacy of late nineteenth century Bible salesmen. Ignoring Jesus’s generous reaching out to youngsters when he was tired and Paul’s injunction against “scolding your children lest they lose heart”, he’s dug deep into the Book of Proverbs for his parenting counsel. “This is the only book you’ll ever need,” the Bible salesmen inveighed as they went from door to door. “This book has the answer for everything.” If you don’t like the answers from the real world, just open the leaves of the black book. And if you don’t like what Jesus and Paul have to say, just turn the pages until you find something you do like. That’s the root of the Fundamentalist Heresy which took hold of the popular Christian imagination in the course of the Twentieth Century. And in this age of careful research into the nature of the maturing of human beings, it is becoming the only source for the claims of loose cannons with leatherette-bound hearts.


Further Reading

  • Is Spanking OK? — Rosemond makes it so by saying that existing studies are questionable. Apparently, you can ask any question and the mere asking defeats whatever the findings are. What follows is a variation on the “God of the gaps” argument which Fundamentalists love to employ. You claim to defeat the arguments for nonspanking approaches simply by doubting them and then say “the only thing left over is to spank”.
  • Papolos: The Bipolar Child – I cannot say that I possess full confidence about this book having not read it, but seeing who is against it earns a recommendation here.
  • A recent study shows that close relationships with parents — where there is no fear on the part of the child in expressing her/his views, etc. — means a more independent young adult. Can such a child arise in a Rosemond household? Dare he subject his methodology to statistical investigation? Or will he cry that the deck is stacked?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In related news, check out how a bipolar man who also happened to be an observant Baptist fobbed himself off as a converted atheist; see how Fundie ministries exploited him.