Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bullshit Mountain Explained: Why You Can't Reason With Republicans - Part III

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain, is they act like their shit don't stink. If they have success, "they built it". If they failed, the government ruined it for them. If they get a break, they deserve it. If you get a break, it's a "handout" and an "entitlement". It's a baffling, willfully blind, cognitive dissonance ... - Jon Stewart

My previous two posts (one and two), based on Chris Mooney’s illuminating “The Republican Brain,” summarizes the science and circumstances behind Bullshit Mountain and why these days it is impossible to reason with a Republican. Today, I woke up to validation from a surprise source - JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she said:

We all know that pleasurable rush that comes from condemning, and in the short term it's quite a satisfying thing to do, isn't it?

Ah, dopamine.

Rowling is about to publish her first novel for grown-ups, “The Casual Vacancy,” that, according to the Guardian, “satirizes the ignorance of elites who assume to know what's best for everyone else.” Says Rowling, who has experienced poverty and not forgotten about it:

How many of us are able to expand our minds beyond our own personal experience? So many people, certainly people who sit around the cabinet table, say, 'Well, it worked for me' or, 'This is how my father managed it' – these trite catchphrases – and the idea that other people might have had such a different life experience that their choices and beliefs and behaviors would be completely different from your own seems to escape a lot of otherwise intelligent people. The poor are discussed as this homogeneous mash, like porridge. The idea that they might be individuals, and be where they are for very different, diverse reasons, again seems to escape some people.

So, can one recover from Republicanism? Yes, but it’s not easy. An eye-opening article by Jeremiah Goulkin in The Nation makes it clear that nothing less than a willingness to confront your comforting illusions is involved. According to Goulkin:

The more I learned about reality, the more I started to care about people as people, and my values shifted. Had I always known what I know today, it would have been clear that there hasn’t been a place for me in the Republican Party since the Free Soil days of Abe Lincoln.

He goes on to say:

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in. Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal. For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets. Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people. ...

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality. To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way. ...

Last but not least:

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful. I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned. I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

As discussed in my two previous pieces, shifting one’s thinking is far more difficult for conservatives than liberals. To quickly review: Our brains were not built to dispassionately sift through facts and come to reasoned conclusions. Rather, we think with our emotions. This applies to all of us, but there is a fatal twist with conservatives, namely they score low on “openness to experience,” which translates to extreme discomfort with change and uncertainty and ambiguity.

Conservatives, then, are far more inclined than liberals to remain locked into unsustainable positions, in complete defiance of the facts. Yes, there are extreme liberals, too, but there are far fewer of them and they tend to get relegated to the margins. The very opposite has happened in the Republican party, where the extremists have taken over.

As Mooney explains, conservatives are afflicted by “conscientiousness,” a very desirable personality trait but fatal in the context of misplaced loyalty, particularly to a tribe or in-group at the expense of the greater good. This is why moderate conservatives would rather remain silent than speak out, even in full knowledge of the consequences of their acquiescence.

We can’t leave this without something about Fox News. Mooney devotes a lot of attention to this in his book, but fails to mention that conservatives are far more inclined than liberals to pick their news - just compare the ratings of Fox News to MSNBC. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

Back to Bullshit Mountain, to Republicans: No need to explain yourselves. I've already done that for you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why You Can't Reason With Republicans - Part II


Last week I posted why you can’t reason with Republicans. This has to do with the “smart idiot effect,” laid out in Chris Mooney’s illuminating book, “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.”

First you start with the proposition that the thinking part of the brain is designed to rationalize our emotions rather than override them. The emotional part of the brain was there first, and - like it or not - it still calls the shots. We have to work with what we’ve got. I’m sure if God decided to start over, He would be outfitting us with Vulcan brains. That’s more or less the evolutionary biology take on it. As to why God doesn’t start over - that’s a theological discussion.

If our brains were truly built for dispassionately sifting through information, making reasoned decisions, and adjusting beliefs in response to new facts, we wouldn’t be exposed to such spectacularly stupid dogma as man coexisting with dinosaurs and humans having nothing to do with global warming.

Amazingly, intelligent people actually support such rubbish, and this leads to the “smart idiot” effect, namely the more informed we are, the more elaborate our rationalizations. According to Mooney, Republicans are particularly adept at this. I can cite Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comment as Exhibit A, but I’m not about to change any minds on this, which is exactly my point.

It’s only likely to get worse. One reason, Mooney explains, is that conservatives (read Republicans) rank low on “openness to experience” (part of standard personality tests).  These are people uncomfortable with change and challenge. Liberals tend to be the opposite. Here, Mooney contrasted two default positions: Conservatives with global warming and liberals with nuclear power. According to research cited by Mooney, conservatives (particularly informed ones) failed to moderate their positions over time while the opposite happened with liberals.

So, liberals, rather than being smart idiots, tend to suffer a surfeit of open-mindedness, which can be a fatal affliction. Whereas conservatives are totally sure of themselves, irrespective of the facts, liberals can’t seem to make up their minds, can’t make decisions.

This is why thinking with our emotions can be good. I have written extensively on this, citing Jonah Lehrer’s eye-opening “How We Decide.” When our thinking and emotions align, the brain tends to make the right call. We need to pay attention to what is going on in the back end of the brain, but - likewise - we also need the wisdom to veto where our emotions want to take us.

It may feel good believing that half the citizens of the US are victims who don’t pay their taxes, but is this any way to run a country? Really, seriously.  

But still, extreme liberals are as looney as extreme conservatives, right? Of course, but if we go with Mooney’s analysis there aren’t as many of them. Liberals - you will recall - are more likely to change or moderate their default positions on particular issues. The ones who don’t get relegated to the fringe. Mainstream liberals may wind up despising them as much as Rush Limbaugh, but for much more intelligent reasons. I ask you, who listens to Helen Caldicott these days?

This is not the case, says Mooney, with conservatives. Another personality trait is at play here - “conscientiousness,” which conservatives score high on. These are people who, among other things, exhibit fervent loyalty to their tribe, which can be a great character strength but also a sign of malignant xenophobia.

The eleventh commandment, said Ronald Reagan: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Party first - pretty scary stuff, especially if the lunatics have taken over the asylum. This explains why you don’t hear principled conservatives or moderates speaking out against the extremists in their midst. It also explains why - with virtually no outcry from principled conservatives and moderates - the extremists have taken over. Try to imagine Eisenhower - or, for that matter, Reagan - finding a home in today’s Republican Party. 

With liberals, it’s a whole different ball game. Says Mooney:

For these folks, it isn’t about obedience, or group solidarity, or sticking up for those on your side of the aisle - it’s about getting it right, dammit.

Getting it right, of course, is always a work in progress. Which is why we need everyone helping out. Principled conservatives and moderates have a lot to contribute. Too bad they have rolled over and are currently playing dead. Too bad they have dropped out of the conversation.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Smart Idiot Effect: Why You Can't Reason With Republicans




Two years ago, I posted a piece here, Is Republicanism the New Stupid? The short answer, I concluded, is yes. The long answer is more involved. You can write a book on it. Journalist Chris Mooney has: “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.”

It’s not like our genes have predestined us to vote for a specific party or believe in a particular ideology (often in complete defiance of the facts), but it’s something like that, and the topic is now the object of intense research across a wide range of disciplines - from how we think (or don’t think), to heritable personality traits, to how we behave, to environmental factors. But we begin with the fact that the Republican Party has been taken over - occupied - by the lunatic fringe.

It wasn’t always this way. Indeed, poll any Democrat today and you are likely to find he or she (myself included) is very comfortable with Eisenhower Republicanism. Indeed, Ike - a former university President who championed science, who got the troops out of (rather than into) a foreign conflict, who expanded social security, and who worked with Democrats across the aisle - had no place for extremists in his party. To wit:

Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Those were the days of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, which appeared to have a strong moderating influence on the politics of the era. Over the years, that changed. Conservatives gravitated to one party and liberals to the other, with a predictable polarization affect. Fine, dandy. We can still talk, right? May the best ideas prevail, right? Everyone benefits, right?

Wrong. For one, the brain is not wired to rationally sift through the facts and make smart decisions. Any casual reader of this blog knows that the brain science is coming in loud and clear on this. Our “thinking” is emotions-driven. We respond first, think later. Too often, our “thinking” is deployed to rationalize our emotions.

We’re all guilty of this. We buy stuff we don’t need, we fall in love with the wrong person, we put up with awful abuse. Do we learn? Sometimes. The rest of the time - well, that’s a different story.

Basically, we have two brains: a sophisticated processing unit retrofitted atop a primitive responding device. When things work right, our emotions give meaning to the flood of information bombarding us, which helps the “thinking” part of the brain make smart choices. When things go wrong, we do a lot of stupid things. This is why we are human, not Vulcans.

The big mistake our Founding Fathers made was that they, as children of the Enlightenment, assumed that reason would prevail. An educated public, with access to the facts - so they thought - could be entrusted with the reins of government.

Had they only known about the “smart idiot” effect.

Chris Mooney begins his book with the example of Conservapedia (see top image), which bills itself as “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia.” You can trust Conservapedia to inform you that evolution is not real, that global warming is a hoax, that homosexuality is a choice, and that abortions cause breast cancer.

On today's front page of the site, in the news section, reads the heading: 



What lunatic, you might ask, is responsible for such nonsense? The answer will surprise you. He is Andrew Schlafly (son of Phyllis), a Princeton-educated engineer and Harvard Law graduate. 

How can smart people (a lot of this stuff is mainstream Republican dogma) possibly believe such rubbish? We start with the proposition that emotions decide and that emotions are housed inside personalities. Thus, if you are the type of person who feels comfortable in a world of certainties and is threatened by change, your natural tendency is to reconfigure the facts (even making up your own) to sync with your world view, however out of touch with reality it may be.

And how do you FEEL after reconfiguring the facts? Much better, thank you very much. You may be in total denial of reality, but - very ironically - the smarter you are, the more proficient you become at deluding yourself. Your arguments become ever more sophisticated, your beliefs grow more rigid. By now you are absolutely certain of yourself. Nothing is going to change your world. Check this out, from a Pew report cited by Mooney:

For Republicans, having a college degree didn’t appear to make one any more open to what scientists have to say. On the contrary, better-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated brethren. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans.

What about liberals? “Are liberals ‘smart idiots’ on nukes?” asks Mooney. According to Mooney, the natural liberal impulse to distrust nuclear energy “puts them at odds with the views of the scientific community on the matter (scientists tend to think nuclear power risks are overblown, especially in light of the dangers of other energy sources, like coal).” Mooney cites study evidence showing that on further reflection, liberals  “moved in the opposite direction from where these initial impulses would have taken them.” 

According to Mooney: “This is not the ‘smart idiot’ effect. It looks a lot more like open-mindedness.”

What gives? No surprise, liberals love facts, they are comfortable with change. On personality tests, they score high on “openness to experience” and low on “conscientiousness.” Loosely translated, liberals have messier houses with more interesting things in them.

Loosely translated again: You can reason with most liberals. But, ironically, because liberals are open to reasoned discussion, they are blind to the fact that others are not. You can’t reason with a Republican. I gave up trying years ago.

Much more to come ...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rerun: My Good Friend Kevin

In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day ...

Eight years ago, I was facilitating a DBSA support group in Princeton, NJ. In walked Kevin, exuding a goofy charm, baseball cap on backward. But there was something about his presence that indicated he was no mere goofball. The others in the room felt it, too.

Over the weeks, I couldn't help but be impressed by the way Kevin carried himself. He would walk up to newcomers and introduce himself and start up a conversation. In the group, he was a great listener, dispensing the wisdom of a sage, leavened by a keen sense of humor.

It was amazing to observe him with people much older. At once, he was deferential, compassionate, and exuding great authority. You simply forgot you were talking to someone much younger. You simply wanted to be around him, laugh with him, seek advice from him.

He had his setbacks, his dark moments. Yet, over time - in group, over coffee, over sandwiches, hanging out - I watched him blossom. With his extraordinary people skills, the sky was the limit.

In late 2006, my marriage broke up. Kevin was the first to offer me support. He also reached out to my then-wife.

Suddenly, I had my life in seven or eight FedEx cartons and a one-way ticket to San Diego. I popped into the DBSA group one last time. Kevin was facilitating. He gave me a heartfelt tribute. I felt the goodness in the man. Goodness, true goodness. That was the last time I saw him alive.

He had so much to live for, so much to offer. Yet, on a miserable muggy New Jersey morning - almost exactly three years ago today - his brain tricked him into believing otherwise. He was 28. Three years later, all those he left behind are still dealing with it.

I've been suicidal. So have a lot of us. We fully understand, yet - we totally don't understand.

Kevin, you still shine a light on the world. Nothing - nothing - is ever going to extinguish it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fort and the Three-Leaf Clover


Book III in the series ...

In the land of Ar, on the eve of day of the Festival of the Indecisive Moon of Indeterminate Phase, Fort Maker of Fine Hardwood Didgeridoos hastened into the village, breathless with excitement.

“A three-leaf clover!” he shouted exultantly. “I found a lucky three-leaf clover!”

The villagers, although evincing postures of apostolic confusion, smiled knowingly. The wise Fort, Sage of Ar, was up to his old tricks. Festival-goers from afar, however, unfamiliar with the ways of Fort, only saw a raving old fool.

“A lucky three-leaf clover, petunia feathers!” declared Arigoth of Bor, employing the term of utmost disdain of his land. 

“Indeed,” responded Fort in apparent agreement.

“Everyone knows that it is the four-leaf clover that is lucky,” Arigoth persisted, extending his arms in a great clatter of jewelry.

“Hmm,” responded Fort, scratching a sore on his flesh through a hole in his garment. A crowd now gathered about the two men.

“Is that all you have to say for yourself?” mocked Arigoth, with a great rustling of silk.

“I beg your indulgence,” Fort responded with utmost deference. “You are a man of high import. Alas, I am a man of little account.”

“For once, you speak with great veracity,” Arigoth replied, feeling very proud.

“If only my words could serve me as admirably all the time,” allowed Fort. “Perhaps you can take pity upon this babbling old fool, and we can settle this matter amicably and expeditiously.”

By now, a considerable crowd had gathered.

“Proceed,” said Arigoth, feigning great magnanimity.

“If you would be so kind,” said Fort, holding up his three-leaf clover, “as to show me your four-leaf clover?” 

***

The wise man knows when to quit while he is behind. So said Fort on many occasions, and the crowd, knowing this, turned expectantly to the man from Bor. But Arigoth, hailing from afar and thus unfamiliar with the Sage of Ar, pressed his case: “What four-leaf clover?” the man expectorated with great contempt. “Everyone knows that four-leaf clovers scarcely exist.”

“Yes, yes,” Fort readily agreed. “Why then, do we pin our hopes on that which scarcely exists?”

The crowd politely roared with approval. The man from Bor, however, set his face in a grim countenance, demanding an explanation. The Sage of Ar was happy to oblige. “Behold the three-leaf clover,” he exclaimed, holding it aloft, “abundant and available. Behold my luck.”

This was too much for the man from Bor. “Lucky?” he erupted, unable to contain himself. “You, lucky?”

The crowd turned expectantly to Fort.

“Perhaps,” Fort acknowledged in a quiet voice, “I have not used my three-leaf clover wisely.” He plucked an abundant and available three-leaf clover from the ground and offered it to the man. “If you would be so kind as to show me how to make proper use of this?”

The man expressed puzzlement. “You mean make a wish?” he asked, accepting the clover.

“Yes,” said Fort. “Make a wish.”

“That’s easy,” said Arigoth, twirling his clover. “I wish for a twelve-fold increase in my wealth.”

“And your wisdom?” asked Fort.

“If you persist, and my wisdom,” said Arigoth.

“And a larger - ahem - personal endowment?” asked Fort.

The man made a gesture to strike down this impudent fool, but then, assaying the sentiment of the crowd, decided otherwise. “The size of my personal endowment is fine,” he responded with a great lack of authority.

“Indeed,” demurred Fort with great sincerity. “I have no reason to question either your endowment or your credibility. Please, allow me to continue.”

“Granted,” said Arigoth, with a great rattling of jewelry.

“Perhaps you can clear my confusion. Even in men of substantial personal endowment, is it not natural to wish for - a little bit more?”

“A little bit more,” the man conceded. “That is a perfectly natural wish.”

The crowd nodded in sympathy. Yes, they agreed. A little bit more was a perfectly natural wish.

“Let me see if I got this right,” said Fort. “You are wishing upon your three-leaf clover for a twelve-fold increase in your wealth, a proportionate increase in your wisdom, and - a little bit more?”

“That is correct,” said Arigoth.

Fort affected to ponder the matter. “That is asking a lot of a clover with but three leaves. You already appear to be a man of substantial wealth and wisdom. Perhaps you would choose to limit yourself to one wish?”

“So be it,” said the man impatiently.

“A little bit more?” prompted Fort with great delicacy.

“A little bit more,” the man acknowledged.

“Ah” said Fort. “A wish very worthy of a person of your stature. Woe is me, for I fear I wish most unwisely.”

“Judging by your appearance, I have no reason to dispute you,” the man responded. “Do, pray tell, satisfy my curiosity,” he continued in a mocking voice. “What would be your wish?”

Fort did not hesitate. “A crust,” he responded with great enthusiasm, holding up his clover. “A crust from the loaf in your sack. Would you be so kind as to indulge an old fool his wish?”

“What kind of a stupid wish is that?” replied the man, flinging him a crust.

Fort nibbled on his crust, head down, affecting deep thought. Then he stopped nibbling, and looked up, eyes staring straight into the seat of the man’s endowment. “My wish has been granted,” he said in a voice that carried into the far reaches of the crowd. “Do pray tell, satisfy my curiosity. How did your wish turn out?”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Didgeridoo Festival!

I recently returned from three weeks off the grid. Four days of it was spent sharing a tent with my special someone at a didgeridoo festival deep in the Oregon woods.

In the film business, they call this an establishing shot.

We woke up to the sounds of this babbling brook running past our tent - and to didgeridoos and drums. We fell asleep to same.

Another establishing shot.

Chad Butler, cool didge guy, who has been organizing this event since 1996.

Will Thoren, another cool didge guy, pioneer of the drop octave/multi-drone technique.

Beneath the didge tree, merrily honking away on my didge.

More cool didge guys, trying out sticks. On the second-to-last day of the festival, I went on record as resolving not to buy a new stick.

Famous last words. The next day I buy this new stick.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scenes From the Pacific Northwest

Above, McMan Central, off the grid. Below, surrounding evergreens, near Mt Shasta.
Below, water close-up, near Mt Shasta.
Below, two of Mt Shasta.
Below, two of the Oregon Coast

Below, four of the giant redwoods.



Below, tree close-up, Mt Lassen.
Below, waterfall, northern CA.

Back on the Grid



Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir

I'm back from three weeks of being off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. Here I am, in the vicinity of Mt Shasta, playing my didgeridoo in the mountain stream I camped out by for five days. Then up the coast to Oregon and inland into the forest primeval for four days of a didgeridoo festival, then down to northern CA for some redwoods.

One of the most profound experiences of the trip was my first night in the woods, 8,000 feet up in the Sierras, listening to pure silence. No wind, nothing. Not even the footfall of an insect.

Nature does not change us so much as help restore us to our true essence, uncorrupted by the craziness we mistake for reality. The challenge in stepping back into the craziness is to keep intact at least a piece of what we know is real.

Maybe, then, we can deal with the craziness.

My first priority coming back from nature was to change the subtitle of this blog. "Musings in Mental Health," it used to read when I started Knowledge is Necessity at the end of 2008. In the context of what I was writing about back then, the subtitle reflected a shift from my much narrower focus on mood disorders.

But really it was all about "From God to Neurons." Last year, I incorporated the phrase as part of a long subtitle. Now it's a solo act.

Knowledge is Necessity has always been about ruthless self-inquiry. Mental Health is only part of the picture. God to neurons is the true scope. As I wrote in the second piece I posted here:

Life is about first impressions - a voice, a sight, an aroma - and how we filter and ultimately link them. Often, we fail to see how the dots connect. Life is like that. Life, basically, is a first draft.

Over time, we acquire wisdom and insight. We become better people. We learn to find a measure of joy and peace of mind. But we also know that nothing is permanent. That life has a way of reducing us to nothing.

Next thing, we're groping frantically, looking for new dot to connect ...

Here I am, out of the woods, still connecting dots. 

***

Many thanks to all of you who have shared my journey over the years. We're all in this together. Let's keep exploring ...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Forget the Whittaker Sideshow: Tom Wootton is the Main Event

I’m taking a brief time-out from not posting any pieces here to briefly comment on something I just read by Tom Wootton on Psychology Today. As many of you know, Tom is the founder of “Bipolar in Order” and the author of “The Bipolar Advantage” and other short books, one of which I reviewed a couple of years ago as “the worst piece of crap ever assembled between two covers.” 

But what’s a little minor nitpicking between friends right? When Tom actually sticks to writing what he knows, he is the most visionary and astute mind out there. Trust me, Robert Whitaker is a sideshow. Love him or hate him, Tom is the person we need to be paying attention to, and his recent piece Why I Am Against Meds (the title is a gimmick to get you to read the piece) affords a timely reminder.

First, Tom observes what we already know - that the pro-meds and anti-meds positions are poles apart, to the point where everyone is shouting and no one is listening. This can get pretty frustrating, especially if you’re in the business - as Tom is - of shedding light rather than heat on the topic. Listen to Tom:

At the end of my talks I am frequently accosted by members of one camp or both. It is pretty clear that neither side even heard what I said and the only thing they listened for is whether I took their side in the only thing that matters to them. I didn't validate their extreme point of view and they are furious with me.

He goes on to say:

If you visit the sites that are anti-med or anti-psychiatry it is mostly about what they are against and not about better outcomes. They are not talking about getting bipolar in order. They are talking about their opposition to a set of tools. They are fixated on meds and psychiatry instead of gaining understanding about how to function while manic or depressed.

But he doesn’t have very good things to say about pro-meds extremists either:

Medicine can help moderate the intensity during the freedom stage of bipolar in order, but they cannot get you in order by themselves. The role of medication becomes more peripheral as one moves through freedom stage to stability and is largely irrelevant once one reaches self-mastery. There is no point in taking something to lower the intensity when intensity is no longer an issue.

A little background here: Tom is a strong advocate of experiencing the full emotional range of what he characterizes as our “condition.” Imagine being able to enjoy all the advantages of “up” (the creativity, productivity, sociability, etc) without fear of going off the rails. Even “down” has its upside - depression is very conducive to introspection and a lot of deep thinking. So imagine - and this is a tough sell - maintaining a healthy state of down.

In short, if we are seeking “normal” as an outcome, we are squandering our gifts. Instead of viewing bipolar “disorder” as something we wish would go away, we should think of getting our bipolar “in order.” We can have our ups and downs. Expect to struggle with them, but also expect to be challenged to thrive, not just survive.

If you are new to this and are confused, that’s okay. You are probably used to hearing the standard pro-and-anti-meds party lines. Tom, by contrast, is challenging us to think, daring us to grow and become better people in the process. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

The other stuff. It’s a distraction, a loser’s game.