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Therapy culture.

There are plenty of ways to abuse children, as Canadian author Douglas Copeland demonstrates in his latest novel Hey, Nostradamus, based on the Columbine shootings in which several American high school children were shot to death by fellow students.

"Stillness is what I have here now wherever here is," Cheryl Anway, the last girl to be shot, tells the reader. "I'm no longer a part of the world and I'm still not a part of what follows. I think there are others from the shooting here with me, but I can't tell where." Cheryl is one of several narrators recounting the killings, prompting Coupland, the gifted author of Generation X, to ponder the existence of God and wonder why such evil is allowed to happen.

In the film Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore attempts to answer the latter question by blaming the so-called American gun culture and American religious fundamentalism, which he says supports it, for the massacre. It never seems to occur to him to take a deeper look at the joyless, Jerry-Springer-watching generation that perpetrated the crime.

I blame Dr Benjamin Spock ... who begat Phil Donahue ... who begat Oprah, for nurturing a culture of child abuse so subtle and so spiritually lethal that most kids, if they're allowed to be born at all, now need therapy to counter the therapy culture that ruined them in the first place.

Are your kids badly behaved? No problem. There are new clinical diagnoses to explain why they're so spoiled, so undisciplined and so rude. They have attention deficit disorder. They suffer hyperactivity. So drug them with ritalin. Teachers are stressed too because they're too busy disciplining badly behaved kids to actually educate them.

In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, the late social critic Dr Neil Postman blames television for stunting the minds of children and adults by turning all facets of life, the weighty as well as the trivial, into a form of entertainment. Television, he argues, also conflates what should be the separate worlds of adults and children, with destructive results. With the secrets of adulthood including sex, illness, and death--now open to children, cynicism, apathy, or arrogance replace their curiosity, shortcircuiting their education and moral development.

Equally odious is the cult of self-esteem which, as it is now being promoted by the current generation of 'child experts', amounts to self-worship.

But children aren't the only victims. Parents too are being damaged by talk show gurus who spout child-centric theories, lulling parents into believing that bad behaviour is the norm.

"If I ask her to do something, she'll say no, throw herself on the floor, and tell me I'm not her mummy anymore," wrote an anguished mother to a British advice columnist recently. "I've raised her to express her feelings, but have I gone too far?"

Unfortunately, as the twig bends, so grows the tree.

High-demand babies grow into temperamental toddlers who refuse to accept routine and resist potty training well past the age they are capable of it, necessitating the manufacture of a new, previously unknown, product--disposable diapers for nursery school children.

Eventually, toddlers become teenagers who, through years of unchecked tantrums, have long since turned their parents into servants, deserving of their contempt. No wonder Generation X is so confused and so unhappy.

At the heart of Jerry Springer: The Opera, still playing here in London's West End, is this question: what will happen to our society if we continue to allow "therapy culture" to erode our lives?

In the hit musical, a string of dysfunctional guests express a need to appear on Jerry's show to validate themselves. "This is my Jerry Springer moment," trills Baby Jane. "I don't want this moment to die."

And so it goes. As the guests try to make sense of their troubles through televised confession, they begin to view themselves as hapless victims of external circumstances, becoming less willing to take responsibility for themselves. Even God, when he appears in the second half, is allowed to define himself, not by his omnipotence but by his vulnerability, as he appears half-Liberace/half-Elvis to sing: "It ain't easy being me."

In the end, as Jerry attempts to arbitrate between Jesus and Satan, declaring "nothing is wrong and nothing is right"--encapsulating perfectly the emptiness of therapy culture--he is consigned to Hell.

"There is no boredom or misery to equal the pursuit of distraction alone," Adlai Stevenson once said. "A nation glued to the television screen is not simply at a loss before the iron pioneers of the new collective society. It isn't even having a good time."

Postman would say it's worse than that. He'd say our kids are amusing themselves to death.

Paula Adamick is the publisher of the monthly paper, Canada Post out of London, England.
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Title Annotation:Columnist; American gun culture
Author:Adamick, Paula
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Previous Article:Shroud of Turin.
Next Article:Chief Justice Brian Dickson.

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