Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What did we do to the children? (In the category of Want What You Have.)

Soul-searing news out of Wisconsin this Tuesday morning – two twelve-year-old girls lure a third girl, their best friend, into the woods with a game of hide-and-seek. Pouncing on her from behind, one girl holds her to the ground while the other girl stabs her 19 times in the arms, legs and torso. Her attackers then walk away, leaving their BFF to seek help from strangers, bloodied and terrified. I can only imagine the vision that greeted the bicyclist who finally rendered assistance. The assailants, fans of a horror Internet character named Slenderman, had been planning the crime for months, working through various scenarios before settling on the park and a friendly childhood game to carry out their attack. Apparently, the girls had concerns about blood clean up that drove their decision.

Another day, another horrific act of violence committed by a child in America – gun advocates everywhere breathe a collective sigh of relief. “It was a knife! See, we told you guns aren’t dangerous,” as if the conversation was a contest about which weapon is deadlier. (It isn’t. If it was, guns would win, though, but I digress.) Another opportunity for media pundits to blame cartoons, video games, and the parents for leading children down the path of destruction, but let’s remember that the media exists solely to perpetuate its own salary and has decided that babbling incoherently, regardless of facts, best achieves that goal.

Another day to ask the question: What did we do to the children?

I am most terrified by the seeming lack of empathy, not just in these two girls, but in so many of the children that murder their peers. I don’t believe poor parenting is completely to blame for creating “soulless monsters.” No doubt abusive parents contribute to socially ill-adjusted children, but in many cases, parental abuse plays no role in the child’s desire to kill. In many cases, the kid has had a long history of problems coping with peers and societal norms, as if they had been born that way. Born that way...what did we do to the children?

I fear we poisoned them, with the food, with the water, with the air, that we polluted in our haste to grow more crops faster with fewer weeds and bugs, and apparently I am not the only person who worries about this. A handful of large corporations, intent on controlling the global food production market, have dictated a paradigm for mass production that includes a long list of nasty chemicals (most of which they, themselves, manufacture) being sprayed in our air and on our food; it then flows into our water. We and our children ingest them all. Perhaps these chemicals alter us fundamentally, change how our brains develop and how they work, the same way they interfere with bee colonies. We didn’t think it mattered how we grew our food and treated our water, but it does.

Take autism for example, a disorder that science now believes begins in the womb, which explains why the movement to prevent autism by shunning childhood vaccinations has not reduced the incidence of autism, merely created a resurgence in long-cured diseases such as measles and whooping cough. At the same time, studies show that the rise of autism can be linked to pesticide use. (Here’s a second study for good measure.) I don’t mean to suggest that autistic children are violent, although aggression is certainly prevalent in many cases. But I am curious about the connection between the use of toxic chemicals EVERYWHERE and how it might impact brain development in our children in and out of the womb. Because best I can tell, the children aren’t the same. They are scarier, meaner, less feeling, more violent.

As early as 1999, researcher, Robert Hatherill, from University of California, Santa Barbara called for more studies on the connection between increased youth violence and increased pesticide use, ironic given that UCSB was the setting for most recent mass killing. A young man, only 22, whose brain wiring told him violence was the way to handle his anger, stabbed and shot at girls who spurned him and boys who attracted girls. He then killed himself and left a community reeling. The 1999 article concludes with a suggestion from Hatherill. “Rather than directing all our attention to bitter debates on gun control and the violence in the entertainment industry, let’s also consider the pressing need for a cleaner environment and more nutritious food.” Fifteen years later, the debate continues, and the giant food/chemical producers are winning.

And the children kill.

What have we done?

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