I was once asked at an interview what I thought were the causes of crime. While I rummaged in my mind for my completely non-existent degree in criminology, another answer popped up. Buddhism has its own answers away from studies of criminology for the underlying causes of crime which will be one of three things: greed, anger and foolishness. Whatever is the latest horror reported in the papers, it will have as its base one of those lifestates.
We live in an increasingly fragmented and complex age but sometimes things are not as complex as we would like to imagine them. If we believe that everything is too specialist; every thought requires an ‘expert’ opinion, every action requires a full risk assessment. That way of thinking can lead to a form of lethargy and paralysis which affects the mind, the willingness to engage with problems imbuing everything with a sense of hopelessness.
Hopelessness is becoming pervasive and driven on by a cynical media obsessed with the most shallow issues. While it is worrying to consider the many and conflicting problems that adults in society face, even more worryingly statistics are that these damaging mindsets are now affecting children.
Buddhist Philosopher Daisaku Ikeda has published a dialogue with Professor of Philosophy Lou Marinoff. (The Inner Philosopher Dialogue Path Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2012))
In a discussion about health and in particular the health of children Marinoff states:
Overexposure to visual media coupled with institutionalised inattention to the written tradition have produced a generation of cognitively impaired children, millions of whom are drugged daily with stimulants.
American Psychiatrist Bessel Van der Kolk in his book on trauma The Body Keeps the Score (Penguin 2014) confirms the statistics coming out of the US.
The number of people under the age of 20 receiving Medicaid funded prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs tripled between 1999 and 2008… Half a million children in the US currently take antipsychotic drugs. The percentage of children, the author states, receiving antipsychotics increases to 12.4% of children in foster care, compared with 1.4% of Medicaid eligible children generally. This implies that foster children are being given drugs to make them more manageable.
I do not know what the statistics are for the UK but the word ‘malleable’ seems appropriate to describe what our education system is doing to our kids. Churning them out to fit the needs of some tech firm somewhere – a tech firm which may have gone under by the time todays youngster graduates with his/her £40,000 debt.
Some of us use the expression ‘first world problem’ if the washing machine needs fixing or we have mislaid our cinema tickets, but in fact the first world is facing the most significant and desperate problems – a demographic timebomb – a whole generation of traumatised children.
Ikeda quotes Arnold Toynbee: Human dignity cannot be achieved in the field of technology in which human beings are so expert. It can be achieved only in the field of ethics … and ethical achievement is measured by the degree in which our actions are governed by compassion and love, not by greed and aggressiveness.