Cosmetic Neurology – Designer drugs, Social Effects, Cultural Disaster

April 25th, 2010

CBS and 60 Minutes aired a show recently on a topic named Cosmetic Neurology. It is also known as cosmetic pharmacology. This is the idea that a person could use a drug to temporarily improve their mental performance (not to be confused with Nootropics). Katie Couric interviewed a group of college students who discussed their use of prescription medications to, in their opinion, improve their performance in school. The students purchased, almost always illegally-distributed drugs that were designed to aid other students with behavior issues such as attention-deficit syndrome, hyperactivity and narcolepsy. The students claimed the drugs aided their ability to concentrate, remember the material and focus longer with less rest and with higher precision on their exams. I found this reporting to be flawed and irresponsible, even while I found it fascinating, because the interview likely without intending to, normalized the behavior without explaining the more complex aspects of this controversial subject.

History

Modern medicine supports two basic ideals, that it should do no harm and that medicine should do what it can to improve the lives of people who utilize it. Within those ideals, there are two camps. One says that medicine should be used to repair damage and provide therapy from the ravages of disease or dysfunction. A second camp proposes another idea; medicine should be used to improve, augment or enhance the human condition. It is this second camp that my article will attempt to address. Enhancement Medicine asks the question: If we have the ability to help people recover from injuries or genetic issues, as Primary Medicine suggests, it stands to reason that we could apply that technology to people who are well and make them better than normal; and if we did not violate the tenet of “Do No Harm” why shouldn’t we then do so?

For almost all of human history, the struggle for medicine has been to use it to cure injury and disease, first external issues, later internal ones and recently genetic diseases have come under the auspices of medical study. But as each realm of study gained ground and medical practitioners  gained new understand of the human body, experimental technologies began their encroachment on the human experience. But strangely enough, medicine seemed to draw the line at creating technology that would potentially augment humans outside of anything beyond the human norm. And just as perverse, humans have taken many opportunities, to study and learn as much as they could about these very topics, often led by military leaders and their scientists seeking an advantage on the battlefield. Many of these ideas have been discredited, disproved or are completely disapproved of at a societal level (i.e. eugenic engineering of human beings, Aryan Superiority or human genetic engineering).

With this in mind, I propose that as a culture, we disapprove of anything that gives an “unfair” advantage to any single person or group. Otherwise, you would not be able to explain the cultural distaste for the use of anabolic steroids in athletic competition. We may not always punish the users, but in certain sporting events (the Olympics, for example) if you are caught using any form of performance-enhancing substance, you are banned and your medals are stripped from you. In the common parlance, it’s called juicing or doping. And while our understanding of the human condition has improved, our ability to create new ways of improving human performance has as well. And yes, there are numerous issues with steroid use, including deleterious long-term physical effects, mental stability and emotional issues to name just a few. Yes, you become, in the short run, stronger and faster, more capable than your unaltered counterpart. But you pay a price for this enhancement at some point in the future. This brings up ethical issues in the nature of the competition, as well. In general , society disapproves of using chemically-induced medical enhancement because it cannot be done well without causing harm to the user, even if that harm can be delay in its onset.

Strangely enough, humans have a less rigid viewpoint toward the altering of the mental state. Indeed many of our common foods have the potential to alter our mental state, albeit in a mild and temporary state. These drugs include the alkaloids found in chocolate, tea and coffee, and nicotine and to an even greater extent the use of ethanol as a form of intoxicant has been allowed in almost every major culture on Earth since Neolithic times. There are also many other known intoxicants in a variety of plants and animals all over the world. Humans have also created a variety of artificial variants on these substances in an effort to harness the mind’s influence and control of the body. One of the most well-known attempts was the adoption of amphetamines during World War II to help soldiers resist fatigue and increase alertness during the war. This was ultimately deemed a failure as it had unexpected side effects and they were later banned and relegated to the ranks of controlled substances in the early 1970’s. Primary medicine experimented with other mind-altering substances in an effort to combat mental disorders and have had limited success with behavior-modifying substances such as Adderall (racemic amphetamine aspartate monohydrate) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) which are used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.

Blame College Life

Here is where the story starts to get interesting. College students have, likely as long as there have been colleges, sought out things that would help them stay awake longer, to help them be able to remain focused to help carry their extreme school workloads. Coffee, Mountain Dew, herbal teas, No-Doze, Red Bull, Jolt (for their caffeine doses) Reds, speed, or crank (also know as amphetamines) have all been extolled as the way to push past the physical limits and cram longer. And with the except of amphetamines all of these substances have been legal and have limited effects as far as their perceived ability to improve test performance, they mostly allowed students to study longer (not necessarily better), until now.

The frenetic campus life at Polytech Mons in Mons, Belgium

The students in the interview on 60 Minutes claimed, their generally accepted use of drugs Adderall and Ritalin, allowed them to remember more, able to stay awake longer, able to solve more complex equations more elegantly and, to them, with no perceived side effects. They described the relative ubiquity of these drugs on campus, stating that “everyone was using them.” There is an almost blase attitude of everyone interviewed as to the use, ubiquity and overall rightness with the world and the use of this drug. During the broadcast, it was estimated that 30% of the freshman and sophomore classes were using these drugs with the claim of “better memory, better focus and ability to focus longer on the subject, even if it were uninteresting.” The numbers increased as the students stayed in school longer, so juniors were at 40% and seniors better than 50% used these performance enhancers. With the tacit assent of the media, we have told the next generation of college students, they can do whatever they want without any consequence at all. I expect those numbers of these drug users to rise as the difference in grade levels, despite general grade inflation, to continue to rise between those that use and those that don’t.

It is an understatement to say that an entire generation of students is now fast-tracking their educations, their careers, their livelihoods, and ultimately our civilization using non-medically monitored, not legally prescribed medications designed to treat mental diseases that almost none of them actually have, seeking an edge in their highly competitive educational quest which will likely lead them into the most important positions and careers our civilization has to offer. It is not as if these drugs do not have  known side-effects including an addiction profile as potent as cocaine and can cause impair impulse control and decision-making abilities. Prolonged use can also cause psychological dysfunction, neuroses and psychoses over time as well as potentially permanently rewiring the brain’s neural circuitry. There may be physiological damage incurred with long term use as well.

Another unusual and potentially critical consideration is the potential that the knowledge being learned under this influence can only be recovered if the brain remains under the influence of said medications. This is called state-based learning. Once without the drugs, their brains would lose access to any information gained in this manner. To be fair, our society has not made the most effective long-term decisions regarding mind-altering substances, (nicotine, caffeine and alcohol to name three) but that is no excuse to allow an entire generation to believe that their future (and ours) relies upon their continued use of a series of drugs not even designed for them to treat conditions they do not even have?

Complicity

I want to take this even farther than 60 Minutes did and ask a few questions that were not addressed during the interview. No one seemed even remotely interested in asking the question about the ethical concern of fairness, either in the use of the drugs or if they actually did boost performance, in the fact that many students did not use or have access to the drug and the performance boost. When the students were asked about using the drug versus not using it, their response was built around the idea that if others were using it and they were not, they were at a disadvantage that needed to be balanced as quickly as possible. The interview also revealed that the students believed they were a letter grade better performers because of the drug use. Some believed they might have even improved two letter grades.

So here is my question: Is there any reason to believe that people who will utilize any means of getting ahead of the curve will not apply that same mentality to anything they are involved in? Our country’s current economic ills are a direct result of such an ethical conflict of interests between big banks, regulatory agencies, and real-estate finance agencies. It has come to light, some of those agencies were able to make money even when they knew what they were doing or the derivatives they were selling were absolutely without value in the long run, and yet they continued anyway because they would make money whether the market prospered or failed.

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg News

Yes, this is a basic sign of greed, but let’s look at the primary signs of addiction: poor impulse control and poor quality decision-making. When considered under this light, the economic collapse does not look so implausible now, does it? A group of highly motivated, highly intelligent, very capable people with poor decision making abilities and poor impulse control decide they can do almost whatever they want without fear of consequence or retribution. They do not seem to have an ethical compass and decide that the ends justify the means. They do not feel they did anything wrong and do not understand why the rest of us settle for being second class citizens when we have the power to change that. I would expect that behavior from someone who was addicted and needed an intervention. But when these people occupy some of the most powerful seats in the country, who is able to give them an intervention and make it stick? What will it cost to clean up the next series of events caused under similar circumstances?

These young people will graduate from college with advanced degrees and move into the workforce as middle managers or lower level executives. If they are exhibiting any of the less socially acceptable mental conditions from their drug use, they may simply be too far up the food chain for anyone to recognize it until it too late to do anything about what they may be involved in; and if they are successful at whatever they are doing, no one may think to look at what they are doing until it is too late to stop it. We have a responsibility to ensure that young people who are graduating from college are in a state of mind that is relatively whole and undamaged. We should not have to worry that their illegal use of prescription medications has secretly turned them into psychotic or sociopathic individuals without moral compass, ethical behavior, or even a basic understanding of right and wrong and having the power to disrupt entire systems of resources, staff, or information. (Yes, some of them might already be sociopaths, I am aware of that possibility, but this way seems statistically more likely to produce a significantly greater number than the norm.)

There was one other issue that was only briefly addressed in the video. There was a question of the drugs actual ability to improve performance for everyone that used them. In addition to the psychological affects and the physiological addiction, there was mention of a chance that the users would instead of experiencing improvement would over time become less creative, myopic and experience a form of mental tunnel-vision. This affect may not happen immediately but if it were to occur later after years of maintaining this habit, it could be detrimental to any industry employing such people. With creative innovation and creative leadership being two attributes our knowledge-based society will need in ever-increasing supplies, can we risk a sudden lack of that in our future leaders due to their secret addiction to Adderall or Ritalin?

By Any Means

Other anecdotal interviews with recent graduates indicates that most of them continue their Adderall use after college and most of them continue to believe their abilities are improved with their continue use. But this begs me to ask my last and most important question: Since nothing is being done, relatively speaking, are we as a culture condoning this behavior and if so, are we saying that when the eventual side-effects of these drugs; the lack of impulse control, the lack of quality decision-making, the psychological and physical addictions, the damage such drugs have on the bodies and minds of their long-term users, the loss of knowledge capital, the damage to the creative ability, the damage to their physical bodies, (brains, endocrine systems, immune systems, livers, kidneys, stomachs) when these effects come due to our society all at once, and they likely will, because no studies have been done yet, are we prepared for the economic catastrophe that this generation of over-achieving drug-addicted, ethically-challenged youth, who are trying to be the best they can be, will unleash upon a world that should have asked just a few more questions before they turned away and decided that it was worth it, right up to the point when it wasn’t?

One young girl was asked, if she knew she was addicted would she stop using Adderall? Her reply was reminiscent of the responses of the Goldman Sachs executives under interview by Senator Levin: I believe if I knew I was addicted, I would do the right thing and to stop right away. Every addict says the same thing, I can quit anytime I want to. But so few do so before they hit the bottom of their careers, their lives and destroy everything they touch in the meantime. And since, for a while, they will be amongst the best and the brightest, they will touch everything in the world… We might want to start asking what we are going to do about this now, while we still have lights, electricity, computers, food and all of the other amenities of the modern age. One day, they may have access to nuclear weapons and, in a failure of judgment, decide that a nuclear weapon is just the solution needed for the next international incident.

Crying Wolf

If you have read this far, you may feel that this article is a bit alarmist and is very unlikely to happen. You may consider this instead to be a worst-case scenario and you might even be right. But I would like you to consider this; since all of the world’s systems are slowly becoming more and more integrated, we would like to think that everyone who will be participating in their creation, use, management, design and implementation would be of sound mind and body and that they would be working toward making the world a better place.

Knowing that an entire group or generation of students for a period of let’s say five to twenty years will be people like the ones we describe above: 1.5 million basic BA degrees per year multiplied by 5 years is 7.5 million and if only 1% of them experiences conditions like we described earlier that is 75,000 highly intelligent, highly motivated, ethically challenged, drug addicted individuals running your country. Multiply that by 20 instead and you see why this might not be a scenario we even want to contemplate.

The worst part of it all is that I do not see an easy answer to this problem. We have a society that encourages people, using financial incentives, to do the best they can and not to worry about what happens as a consequence; unimpeded greed is the watchword of the day. The last question I would have to ask is even knowing all of this: Why would they consider NOT using these substances when their perceived fate will be to be, in their minds, less financially successful, considered less effective, less important, have less satisfying careers and to be considered less successful overall? When was the last time you heard anyone value sanity as an asset?

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Steps toward a saner America

The behavior of America’s leaders in this first year of the Obama administration has been less than stellar; name calling on the floor of the Senate, open mockery of the office of the President, death threats made to congressmen are just a few of the more questionable behaviors that have reared their heads in these last months.

More disturbing is that as the deadline for the potential signing of HR3590 drew closer, more vocal rhetoric and in some cases outright slander and overt racism in the case of the Tea Party and the Christian militias (which in the last year went from 180 groups to over 540 groups and growing) continued to grow and spew forth vitriolic venom both on the ground and in the airwaves.

Glen Beck’s screams of “Progressivism” and Rush Limbaugh’s continued polarization of the GOP’s base seemed to fuel a frenzy of national hatred that culminated with the final signing of the health care legislation.

The question begs to be asked: What exactly could cause such a major swing in the overall mental state of the nation that would cause social groups to abandon all sense of propriety and what was once considered to be common sense and human decency? And this transition did not happen overnight.

I can find articles describing this phenomenon years before Obama came into office.  How is it that even children can see the behavior of every adult whether they be “tea-bagger” Republican or liberal “bleeding-heart” Democrat has been a travesty worthy of school yard bullying complete with arguments about policies that no one has read in their entirety and cannot even begin to really understand the ramifications of, for years in the future; each group claiming to be more right than the other and willing to kill to prove it.

Is this what good government is supposed to look like? No wonder our children want nothing to do with the idea of government – its is a regression to the schoolyard of their youth where nothing got solved, everyone was right and no one could apologize for fear of appearing weak and losing face.

So how do we begin to make a transition from this fear-enabled, angst-filled, respect-stunted, violence-prone and civility-impaired nation of fools without the ability to hold even the most basic of conversations without resorting to ad hominem attacks about Progressivism, Socialism, Marxism, conservatism, Nazism, racism, or Communism and get back to a nation powered by ideas, fueled by innovation, guided by clear vision, charged with enthusiasm for the future, and with the idea that only as a nation of real equals do we have a chance to tackle a potentially troubling and very challenging future filled with perils aplenty – a constantly growing need for diverse and renewable energy sources, better food to feed an obese and sedentary nation, a more even educational system providing higher quality education at lower costs, handling a crumbling technological infrastructure in all of our cities, ever-rising debts in the management of said cities, mass transit systems, school systems, prison systems and local governments, a reduction of our nation’s status as the leader in technological innovation, military might, and national idealism, wars all over the globe, some of which we take part in and other we shamefully allow to take place without intervention because our assets are not yet imperiled. Do we not have enough to deal with without the people and particularly the leaders of our nation acting as if we had simply gone mad?

No need to break out your DSM IV

As much as I would like to say that this is a mental health issue, I cannot agree with that assessment. Nor will I say that this is about the Left versus the Right and which has the nation’s best interests at heart. And I will not allow people such as Limbaugh, Beck and Stern (and any other raving media lunatic) the option to say that he has had the power to move the minds of men toward madness.

I say this is a creeping condition. A hidden fungal infection, beneath the veneer of civility, something that has been with this nation since its beginning; an underlying sense of shame, a sense of entitlement, a sense of misplaced anger, and a sense of righteous indignation; stirred together, simmer over four hundred years, add some civil wars, some terrible recessions, stir together in a Dust Bowl, fold in some misplaced ideals (McCarthyism for example), sprinkle on a few pogroms, ladle in laws that denied what we now consider rights, place a few strategically fired bullets at leaders who saw a better, brighter world,  and the add a generous helping of landmines all over the world to deny people of their opportunities year after year.

Bake until there are competitors for the world’s apparently diminished resources, bring to a boil over a burning building that collapses strangely when a plane with zealots deny three thousand of their lives and couple that with the retaliation that deprives millions more of theirs and you have a recipe for a madness that encompasses the country and poisons the world, a sickness spread through the airwaves, leaping from televisions, repeated on computers, stained to newsprint and by contagion in hidden office arguments and you have one of the most virulent plagues known to humanity, a loss of hope.

Hopelessness, of a future less promising than the one your parents had made even more futile by the actions of an elite few who want for nothing except for a connection to the human billions who do without that which their  financial billions could make right. Can we doubt that this is the recipe for madness? A sense of rage that would drive men to take up arms, kill their brothers, to sacrifice, like Abraham, anyone or anything that might make the world return to the Promised Lands of their religions.

Is it any wonder that people would strap on explosives filled with nails and shards of broken glass and blow themselves to bits on the promise that the next life, which none of us could technically be sure exists, would be better than the life they were leading the day they died? Our real goal is to return people to that hope, to a future that has the potential to be better than the one they see when they look up, whether it be out of their homeless shelter or their mansion window, a future that will not improve if we cannot admit that we are wrong about the present.

So if you want to improve the future, say it with me: I was wrong.

I don’t know what it was that I was wrong about and it does not matter. Did I misinterpret what was said? Did I assume when I should have asked? Did I know what Marxism, or Socialism or Communism really meant before I said those things I said in a meeting when I might have been a bit incensed? How much do I really know about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the Federal Reserve or about my credit rating or how the stock exchange really relates to me or whether Windows 7 really is the operating system for my computer?

A need to be right?

Why are we so insistent that we must be right? My religion is the right one. My God told me. All other are wrong enough that I must die to prove it, unless I can kill them first. My government is the right one, because it has held power for a few days longer than the one before it, or has historically proven to be the one that raised fewer taxes or managed to make more changes that helped people or because business thrived under my government and languished under yours? That the Atkins diet is better than Weight Watchers?

STOP! Just stop!

History is great but its weakness is everyone remembers what is most convenient and important to them (relativism run amok). So when history gets people in a killing mood it is time to look toward the future and ask how what we are planning will affect the lives of people once we are gone. Yes, let’s get back to the idea of planning for a future that we will never get to see. That will make us think a little bit harder, plan a little bit better and teach our children well enough that they can have a chance to make that future happen for themselves once we are gone. Let’s go back to providing our children a legacy that will make them proud of us and still prouder of themselves for planning a better future for their children.

Enough shame to go around

You raging pundits, go home. Find something useful to do with your amazing oratory skills. Perhaps some poor neighborhoods of your choice could be inspired to greatness with those powers you currently wield without thought to their effects on the nation, on the future or most importantly on yourself. Could you live with yourself if you were to wake up in the future of your making only to find out it was the worst of all worlds, a hellish nightmare from which there was no awakening? Or are you so out of touch you would find a way to blame it on the other party, even while you were having your sandwich of Soylent Green?

You politicians, do your job. The one we hired you for. The one that, if I have my way this letter will incite people to replace you with someone who can read, who will write laws that they are not afraid to live under, who will create a responsible future that benefits everyone, not just the rich and powerful and who will consider every man woman and child under his or her constituency as precious as every drop of water is to a man lost in a desert, each drop coveted, beloved, needed and considered as important as the drop before it. Be responsible, be conscientious, be vigilant, be valiant, be leaders of men.

You media distributors, grow up. We know your secret, if it bleeds it leads. Sensationalism sells papers, video, commercials, and other advertising, continuing to make you the most powerful force for influencing the minds of men and women. We know you will do or say anything to be at the top.  But remember this too: scum floats to the top, too. We know who you are and you are wondering why no one is happy with newspapers? Less and less in newspapers matters to people anymore. You grow irrelevant to the common man and he knows this.

Continue in this pattern and you will be assured of one thing. In ten years, there will be ten newspapers for each time zone in the United States (currently there are 1,400 daily newspapers nationwide and thousands of local weeklies but that number is dropping fast). And do not think that the Internet will save you. The need for relevancy will follow you there. Find the heart of America and give it what it really needs which is hope for a future. Lead them with words that inspire as well as inform. You can let the printed word build the future or you can watch from the sidelines as “citizen journalism” replaces you with its imperfect writing styles, less than stellar grammar and polarized, biased views. But those views will be relevant to the people reading it and yours won’t be.

You elite one percent, pay attention. Your time of reckoning is at hand. This economic collapse that everyone wants to place at the feet of President Obama is not his alone. He may be in charge of the nation, but he just got here a year ago. In the seventies and eighties when lobbyists for big business and deregulation were able to convince the government that you would be more profitable if allowed to be less regulated, you were. But no one was watching you.

No one paid attention to your schemes that allowed you first to run rampant here in the States and then spread your machinations upon a vulnerable yet already scheming world trying to figure out how to get markets in America whilst you set your hungry eyes upon their wretched poor trying to figure out how you could exploit them for less than you were paying your middle class and poorer brethren here in the states.

Rich foreign investors purchased American assets and you moved your factories, your manufacturing, your services overseas and left your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers of circumstance and shared fates without resources to buy your wares. And when your wares returned from their foreign sweatshops, there was no one left here to buy them, except for you and your elite friends who lacked the purchasing power to ignite the economic engine of shame, left under-fueled by your quests for profit. I do not say that your astronomical profits were wrong, just very shortsighted; myopic, indeed.

As for the handling of the economic wealth of our nation, the dealings in land and property that allowed for some financial slight of hand to further increase your wealth and prosperity at the further expense of our brothers in arms and hunger, you suddenly experienced a moment of fear, as you watched your Brothers, Lehman struggle for life and suddenly drown in a frenzy of economic skulduggery.

Capitalists that you were, you claimed that your right to make money made you immune to the vagaries of fate and that you were too big to fail and that it was up to the government and the little people you scorned so many years before to find a way to buoy you up on their backs one more time, whilst you flew in your corporate jets to plead your case before the government for Socialist or are they Marxist handouts?

Your time has come. You will not have the option of being too big to fail. You played that card and then spit in the eyes of your saviors by paying bonuses to your elite, again. You would think you could maintain your charade of contriteness for at least a year while the sting of keeping you rich faded from the memory of the poor and disenfranchised moved out of their homes which you helped them lose, into the shelters that cities can now, not afford to pay for, while your corporate jets fly over those regions who lost their pensions and are now watching their stores, towns, villages, families, and farms shutter their doors and their histories just in time to watch Glenn Beck tell them its Progressivism that is making them poor when you know that its really you. Don’t make any more mistakes, you elite, lest people remember the expression “Eat the Rich.”

And don’t think I forgot you, Average Joe; you too have a part to play in this madness, this contagion that you are spreading with your ignorance of facts, your ignorance of governance, your apathy to your children, to your community, to your own fate. Stuffing your faces full of empty calories and fulfilling fats, you watch American Idol, waiting to see which of these nobodies will get their 15 minutes of fame, 14 of which they will use up on the show and the last no talented gasp will be that 1 minute that you remember them after they leave the show and wait for the next season of unreality television. Your consumption does not stop with bad food and bad television, you enhance it with partisan television, television that is completely under the control of people who only have one mission for you, Joe; stay stupid, stay afraid, stay at work and stay at the store. And while you are at it, drink too much, exercise too little, take these white pills for your headaches, these blue ones for your impotence and be sure to get to the pharmacy for your insulin for your television or computer-induced diabetes.

No Joe, it’s not only your fault that you are subject to these ills. Judging from the fact that most of America is morbidly obese (okay maybe not most, but more than a third), I would say that the plan to keep you fat, crippled, illiterate, and underemployed is working fine; most of your fellow Americans are in the same boat.

So I have to ask you, since you are angry about the things that you know almost nothing about, can you be angry about the things you can be sure of? If you keep eating the way you do, you will die, you will die poor, you will die soon and you will die uncomfortably. You will die leaving your family no legacy because you will spend every penny you have to live as long as you can with as low a quality of life that is possible in our “first World nation” with its inadequate health care and overpriced insurance; so Joe, angry yet?

I know you are, you have lost a job that you had for twenty years and are now being told in your fifties that you need to train for a new career and you better do it before you lose your home to foreclosure the same way you lost your pension to a corporate escapade a few years before. I feel your pain. I would be pissed too if I expected to retire in ten years and now have to work until I die, no matter how soon or how uncomfortable that is going to be. Twenty years, on your feet for eight hours a day saying “would you like fries with that” would make me mad as hell!

I am going to leave you bigots, partisan political sociopaths and religious nuts out of this particular conversation, you are simply too unreasonable to talk to and if I do my job right, no one will listen to you again, anyway.

True Freedom

No one has to be angry anymore because you are now free to be wrong. Your urges to be right have forced you to say things you did not mean, to do things you knew were wrong and take risks that were completely unnecessary. Go to your boss and tell him or her, that you have no idea of anything you said in the last meeting was actually true and that you were likely going to have to do something illegal to make the numbers that you promised. We’ll wait. Now, don’t you feel better?

A huge weight is lifted because you know you will not have to lie tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Lies that compound daily do not lead to a harmonious and stress free life. Lies compounded daily lead to coming to work with a couple of handguns and blowing your boss and likely yourself into the next life. It will now be okay to admit you don’t know anything about black people’s lives in America and the fact that you hate them is really based on the fact that your father hated them and his father before him. You hate them because it is the thing to do, something you know, not something you know anything about. You hate because you don’t know anything else to do.

I say America, you need a time out (I would recommend a spanking but to administer 300 million spankings would take me quite some time). You need time away from your television and those raging pundits, time away from your media and their constant urge to create a fear of everything around you. I want you to take time away from your Blackberries, your iPods, your computers, your twittering masturbation, your media frenzy. Put down your Xbox controller, your PS3, your Wii-motes, remotes, and get up from your sofa.

Stretch. Go outside. If it’s unpleasant weather, bundle up, go anyway. If you have a dog, take it out. If you have a cat, chase it out. Grab your kids, your wife, your husband, your girlfriend. Go to your nearest neighbor and introduce yourself. Then get them to go with you to your next neighbor and do the same. Do that until every house and every door that you can see from your door has a name on it. Then go home, sit with your family and marvel at their tales of their day. Savor the food on your table, if you do not have a table, remember when you did, and visualize the day that you will again.

Let go of the false divisions that the media use to keep us polarized. Those false divisions of race, creed, color, religion, political party, economic status, class, degree, and neighborhood are all created to keep us at odds. They are truly false. Turn off the lights and all people become the same. If you have a problem, close your eyes and put yourself in the place of the person who is asking you for your time, your support, your largess, your succor. You would hope he will be as helpful for you as you will be for him. Ultimately humans are herd animals, seeking shelter in the collectiveness of our cities and towns. But as herd animals if we can be divided we become prey to any unscrupulous predator that happens by. Nearly anyone who provides a major service to you can be a predator in the right light.

None of us will be free of this madness until we remember that we are all in this together. Gene Rodenberry’s fictional but highly logical race, the Vulcans, posited the IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, an idea that promotes that true intelligence promotes and accepts diversity to spur innovation and invention. We would be wise to consider this idea. There are no strangers, only friends we have not met yet. Once we realize that each of us is all of us, we will be able to be angry but only for a moment. The same way you are angry at your husband when he does not take out the trash, but forgive him when he remembers to help with the dishes. We will be able to realize that each of us is imperfect and yet perfect just the way that we are.

We are all bound together through that ultimate equalizer, Time; “it slays kings, ruins towns, and brings high mountains down.” We are all mortal and none of our works will last unless the least of us is as important as the best of us. We have an entire world that is looking to us to be our best. And since we are so fond of claiming that America is the best, shouldn’t we be finding new ways to prove that?

I do not fear the future. I am confident that we can overcome all of the mistakes that have led us to this fork in the road. We can continue down this road we are on, self absorbed, lost, angry, fat and apathetic or we can opt to notice that the Future is coming. Get up, put on your best, think, learn what the future requires and then build it. Grab a friend or two to help you. Hurry up; it will be here before you know it. Who has time to be mad?

Thaddeus Howze © 2010, All Rights Reserved