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Tracey Clifford
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Watch and learn!
Watch and learn!

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"Of course, the death penalty proper isn’t the only way that the state employs death to punish transgressors. One need only look at the innumerable examples of cop abuse, which often involve death, to see a plethora of other ready examples. Indeed, it is in the nature of the state itself to punish those who resist its power (and many times those who don’t, just as a sadistic show of strength), and to escalate that force, given the resistance continues, up to the point of death in order to establish its authority.

Obviously, the threat isn’t usually so overt. Psychopaths who frighten people into compliance with them, until the people they traumatize into submission develop an advanced case of Stockholm Syndrome, have had eons to perfect their performance and persuasion skills in the face of open resistance and folk not hesitating to fight to the death for their freedom. Instead of brazen shows of force against citizenry, the threat is made implicit and buried behind ceremonies, cloths and monuments, oaths to protect, layers of bureaucracy, social programs, voting rituals, social media interactions, and public debate forums, all to give that veneer of individual choice and a magnified common good. But the behemoth of political hierarchy which cannot humor any affront to its authority is still behind all of it, and a threat is a threat is a threat.
Of course, Negan is the perfect exemplar of a modern politician (with a mixture of the enforcer, of course) — a lethal, unrelenting tyrant who yet has all the urbane charisma and charm to evoke the kind of admiring fandom to gloss over his truly heinous negan laughingnature. That enamoring personality that people love to hate, that keeps them coming back for abuse time and time again. Insert almost any of the most popular politicians you like, whether Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

Indeed, it is quite telling that long-time fans of the show are so fascinated by and enthralled with him, despite his being such an unveiled and wicked threat to the kindred clan many have affectionately grown to feel are almost their extended family. We seem to just love to love power and being lied to — and the smooth operators who deceptively sell it all to us.

Some say that tax doesn’t have a threat behind it because rarely will you see IRS enforcers dragging somebody out of their home, or their guns blazing. But that’s because, of course, most people are too cowed or prudent to try to resist. The process usually stops somewhere in the paper filing and mail sending phase, and well before the arresting and possibly gun firing phase. Rarely does it end up with somebody slowly dying in jail, as it did with the courageous Irwin Schiff.

But make no mistake: beyond the layers of fluff and rhetoric, the threat is very real.

Just to re-emphasize this point, the reason that the state doesn’t immediately put resistors to death is because its agents and those who benefit from the coercion and extortion would rather swipe a hearty helping of the cream off the top of the wealth being produced under their watchful eye. Much like how a rapist who will keep his female victim alive despite her squirming and resistance because he’d rather have his way with a warm body than a cold one; except the relationship that the state has to society is more long-term and relatively more distant. This is due not only to logistical issues involving numbers, but because the leash must be just long enough to allow its captives to produce, though not so long that they can become powerfully resistent."

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"According to the most authoritative recent data, approximately 8% of children in the United States, aged 4 to 17, have been diagnosed as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).[1] The same reports note that the disorder is about three times as frequent in boys as it is in girls, so this means that roughly 12% of boys and 4% of girls have received the diagnosis. Think of it. Twelve percent of boys--that's approximately one boy out of every eight--has been determined by some clinical authority, using official diagnostic criteria set out by the American Psychiatric Association, to have this particular mental disorder! [Note added in June, 2015. Now things have gotten worse. According to the latest data, now 20% of boys are diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their school career.

ADHD is Fundamentally a School Adjustment Problem

What does it mean to have ADHD? Basically, it means failure to adapt to the conditions of standard schooling. Most diagnoses of ADHD originate with teachers' observations.[3] In the typical case, a child has been a persistent pain in the neck in school--not paying attention, not completing assignments, disrupting class with excessive movements and verbal outbursts--and the teacher, consequently, urges the parents to consult with a clinician about the possibility that the child has ADHD. Using the standard diagnostic checklists, the clinician then takes into account the ratings of teachers and of parents concerning the child's behavior. If the ratings meet the criterion level, then a diagnosis of ADHD is made. The child may then be put on a drug such as Adderall or Concerta, with the result, usually, that the child's behavior in school improves. The student begins to do what the teacher asks him to do; the classroom is less disrupted; and the parents are relieved. The drug works.

How convenient that we have this official way of diagnosing kids who don't sit still in their seats, often fail to pay attention to the teacher, don't regularly do the assignments given to them, often speak out of turn, and blurt out answers before the questions are finished. They used to be called "naughty"--sometimes with a frown, sometimes with a smile of recognition that "kids will be kids" or "boys will be boys"--but now we know that they are, for biological reasons, mentally disordered. And, wonder-of-wonders, we even have an effective treatment. We can give them a powerful drug--a preparation of methylphenidate or amphetamine, both of which have effects on the brain similar to those of cocaine (but without the euphoria) and are, for good reasons, illegal to take unless you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and given a prescription. The drug works. The children become more tractable and classroom management becomes easier.

The most common subtype of ADHD is the Predominantly Inattentive Type. This is the disorder that used to be called just ADD. A highly respected pediatrician at Yale University who treats (with drugs) many children diagnosed with this disorder made this interesting confession: "A disproportionate number of children labeled ‘ADHD without hyperactivity' are exceptionally bright and creative children. I've often thought that these kids find their own inner theater much richer and more interesting than the outer theater of the classroom and, so, naturally, focus on it at the expense of classroom attention. . . The proper fix for this problem would be done at the school level, a place where I am unlikely to have any significant effect. I can, however, help these children concentrate and return their attention to the classroom."

School is a place where children are expected to spend most of their time sitting quietly in chairs, listening to a teacher talk about things that don't particularly interest them, reading what they are told to read, writing what they are told to write, and feeding memorized information back on tests. As I have detailed in previous essays, during the entire course of human history until very recently, children were in charge of their own education. They learned by following their own inner, instinctive guides, which led them to ask countless questions (their own questions, not someone else's), to converse with others as equal partners, to explore their world actively, and to practice the skills crucial to their culture through self-directed play in age-mixed groups.

From my evolutionary perspective, it is not at all surprising that many children fail to adapt to the school environment, in ways that lead to the ADHD diagnosis. All normal children have at least some difficulty adapting to school. It is not natural for children (or anyone else, for that matter) to spend so much time sitting, so much time ignoring their own real questions and interests, so much time doing precisely what they are told to do. We humans are highly adaptable, but we are not infinitely adaptable. It is possible to push an environment so far out of the bounds of normality that many of our members just can't abide by it, and that is what we have done with schools. It is not surprising to me that the rate of diagnosis of ADHD began to skyrocket during the same decade (the 1990s) when schools became even more restrictive than they had been before--when high-stakes testing became prominent, when recesses were dropped, when teachers were told that they must teach to the standardized tests and everyone must pass or the teachers themselves might lose their jobs.

Why do some kids adapt to school better than do others? The answer to that does lie in biology--normal biology, not abnormal biology. For good evolutionary reasons, members of our species vary genetically in ways that create diversity in personality.[6] People have always lived in communities, and communities--as well as the individuals within them--benefit from diversity. It is good that some people are relatively restrained while others are more impulsive, that some are relatively passive while others are more active, that some are cautious while others are bolder, and so on. These are among the dimensions that make up normal personality. In situations where people are free, they find ways of behaving and learning that fit best with their biological nature, and through those means they make unique contributions to the communities in which they live. Normal human environments always have a variety of niches that people can occupy, and people who are free naturally choose niches where they are most comfortable and happy, the niches that match best with their biological nature.

But school, especially today, does not have a variety of niches. Everyone is expected to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. Everyone must pass the same tests. Some people, apparently most, have a personality that allows them to adapt sufficiently well to the school environment that they pass the tests and avoid behaving in ways that the teachers can't tolerate. School may take its toll on them, but the toll is not so obvious. The toll may manifest itself as diffuse anxiety, or moderate depression, or cynicism, or suppression of self-initiative and creativity; but the school system can absorb all that. Those characteristics become viewed as "normal." Unless they become really extreme, they don't get DSM-IV diagnoses. It's the kids whose personalities do not allow them to go along with the system who get the ADHD diagnoses. And most of those are boys.

One of the biological characteristics that predisposes for ADHD in the school environment, obviously, is the Y chromosome. For evolutionary reasons, boys are, on average, more physically active, more adventurous (in the sense of taking risks), more impulsive, and less compliant than are girls. A normal distribution of such traits exists for both boys and girls. The distributions overlap considerably, but are not identical. The cutoff on the distribution that gets you a diagnosis of ADHD in our present society happens to be at a point that includes about 12% of boys and 4% of girls. In another setting, where they could choose their niches, most of those kids would do just fine.

I'll conclude with a true story to illustrate all this. It pertains to a young man whom I have known well since he was thirteen years old. Throughout his school years he was funny, playful, extraordinarily impulsive, and a huge pain in the neck to essentially all of his teachers. He rarely completed a school assignment and was constantly disruptive in class. He truly could not focus on any of his school lessons and he seemed unable to prevent himself from saying what was on his mind rather than what he was supposed to say. His parents were regularly called in for conferences. When school officials asked his parents to take him to a clinic for ADHD diagnosis, his mother--a physician who knew that the long-term brain effects of the drugs used to treat ADHD have never been tested in humans and have proven deleterious in laboratory animals--refused to do so. The boy had all the characteristics of ADHD Combined Type, and I have no doubt that he would have received that diagnosis had his mother consented. Thanks to a relatively lenient and understanding assistant principal, he was passed along from grade to grade, even though he did almost none of the assigned work and failed most of his tests. He graduated from high school at the bottom of his class.

Then the good part of his life began. Clearly unfit for college, he did a year in an internship program and discovered that he enjoyed cooking and was good at it. After working in a restaurant for a while, he received recommendations that got him into a culinary school, where he loved the work and excelled. Now, at the age of 22, he has an excellent job as assistant to the chef in a very busy, very successful restaurant. In this setting, which requires constant, active, hands-on work and the kind of mental brilliance that involves attending to and responding to many competing and immediately demanding sources at once, he shines. He has found his niche. He learned nothing from his 13 years of public schooling, but, because of his buoyant personality, school did not destroy him. When he was finally out of school, free to pursue his own interests in the real world, he found his niche and now is thriving there. The real world, thank goodness, is very different from school."
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