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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Prozac, Paxil, Pathetic

In case you haven't been reading or watching the news, the latest
scandal to hit the air waves is all about drugs. Seems as if we've
become a nation so completely devoid of ethics and character that now
we don't solve our way out of problems, we prescribe our way out.

The news item that's making the biggest news concerns kids taking
drugs like Prozac and Paxil, mind-benders that are supposed to cure
depression. Only problem is that in some cases, the cure ends up
being suicide. Of course, it's only a matter of time until the
pharma companies hire some spinmeister to legitimize their position
("we only said it would end depression, we didn't say how"). But
even so, the media is totally missing the boat on the real question:

Why the hell do kids need these drugs in the first place?

Oh, I know what the knee-jerkers are going to volley back. They'll
say that there are legitimate uses for Prozac and Paxil and all of
their ilk. They'd be right. It's not the legitimate uses that
concern me. It's the illegitimate uses. Like prescribing these
drugs for kids.

You don't have to go all that far back in history to identify the
demand for these kinds of problem-solving drugs. Heck, Mick Jagger
sang about it decades ago in the Rolling Stones' infamous "Mother's
Little Helper." Remember?

"Doctor pleeeeeeease....
Some more of theeeeeeeese.
Outside the door,
she took four more...."

While Mick goes wailing on about Mom's self-centered issues, the
essence of the song is based in that haunting refrain, "she goes
running for the shelter of her Mother's Little Helper." One pill
does it all. Were it only that easy.

One of the funniest men in America is Chris Rock, who has the courage
to ask his audiences, "We have special kids and challenged
kids....Hey, whatever happened to just plain stupid kids?" Rock
knows of which I speak: two, maybe three generations of
politically-correct Americans have grown up with the notion that for
every problem, there's either an easy solution or someone else to
blame.

My money says that while drugs like Prozac and Paxil may stick
band-aids over deeper, more lasting emotional issues, they're
certainly no cure for the anxieties that plague people of all ages.
Sometimes, the only real cure for the problem is to work your way
through it, and in my experience, this is especially true of
children. Facing and solving problems is a critical part of the
growth process. After all, if you never perceive of yourself as
improving in your problem-solving skills, how else do you gauge your
growth as a thinking human being?

The answer, of course, is that you can't. But since we live in an
age where burgers are served up in 30 seconds or your money back,
people are given to thinking that's how human nature works, too.
Here's a news flash: it took several thousands of years for men to
lose their tails. Human nature isn't going to change overnight,
either. Even though technology pushes the pace of life to its
limits, we still are, after all, warm-blooded animals roaming the
terrain. Strip away the bling, turn off the power and what you've
got left is a human that's basically no different than the guys with
the spears and the furs.

The real issue here isn't what these drugs are doing to kids; it's
that these drugs are prescribed to kids at all. Well-meaning but
ignorant doctors and parents think they're doing their kids a favor
by patching over adolescence, arguably the most tortuous years any
human ever has to face. In fact, what they're doing is handing these
kids a dangerous crutch, robbing them of their chance to face and
overcome challenges on their own, crippling them for life.

In my book, the cruelest thing an adult can do to a kid is deprive
him of a healthy self-image. If the pharma companies really were
concerned about their brand, this is their chance. The media is
completely missing that story, though. They're limiting their
coverage of child abuse to circus performers like Michael Jackson.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bush wins the election, because he won the debates

Well, that was some party. The largest turnout in American history
for a national election that may rank as one of the nation's most
important referendums, pitting a conservative George W. Bush against
a more liberal John Kerry.

Now that it's all over, you can bet that the media is going to spend
the next three weeks performing a post-mortem on John Kerry, John
Edwards and their campaigns. What worked? What flopped? Why didn't
they win?

I'll tell you why they didn't win: the media screwed them - and not
the way you think.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the way the election
turned out. As I've written here before, I thought Kerry blew it big
time by not having a clear, concise message he could deliver to the
American public. If he had just presented himself as "the only
solution to America's problems," he might have squeaked this one out.

But Kerry never developed that message. Instead, he allowed the
media to carry him forward, thinking that if the media loved him,
that's all he needed. And that, ultimately, is what cost him the
election.

Let me give you an example. There were three presidential debates.
In the first, Kerry looked graceful; Bush looked pathetic. In the
second, Kerry looked commanding, Bush looked disconcerted. In the
third, Kerry looked forceful, Bush looked around the room. The
media, relying on their polls, immediately pronounced Kerry the
winner of the debates. The talking heads regurgitated second-hand
data fed to them by newswires, recounting how alert and well-informed
Kerry appeared.

What the media completely missed was Bush's performance. They
totally wrote off the fact that Bush's main appeal is his humanity.
They mistook his perceived nervousness as ineptness, when in fact,
millions of Bush supporters related all too well to him: they saw a
human being in front of millions of TV viewers and thought to
themselves, "I know just how he feels."

Throughout the campaign, Bush had a clear (and from the looks of
things) somewhat unpopular agenda. But at least he had an agenda
that anyone could recite. Neither John Kerry nor John Edwards could
claim the same. In the end, the Anti-Bush strategy couldn't - and
didn't - hold up, proving once again that most people choose what
they know over what they don't know.

This afternoon, Bush did the right thing by appealing to Kerry
supporters, acknowledging their dissent and pledging to work for
their trust. Once again, millions of TV viewers thought to
themselves, "I know just how he feels."

And that's why George W. Bush is president today.