Thursday, November 29, 2018

Life with the Lizards

If you’re looking for a great non-fiction read, may I recommend A GENERAL THEORY OF LOVE? Published in 2000 by three doctors (Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon), it is a perfect combination of engaging writing joined with important information about the science of human emotion. I was flipping through it the other day and stopped to notice two passages:

Reptiles don’t have an emotional life. The reptilian brain permits rudimentary interactions; displays of aggression and courtship, mating and territorial defense.

This quote is in the context of discussing our own reptilian brain (a term coined by Paul McClean that is not used so much these days). It is the brain stem that controls our vital instinctive functions of breath, heartbeat, swallowing, etc. It is the part that will react when confronted by danger with the three F’s—fight, flight or freeze. (Some have added feed and another “F” word, but this is a Family Blog Post, so I’ll just use the above three). J When fear is purposefully manufactured as an ongoing threat, it blossoms into three more F’s—Fundamentalism, Fanaticism, Fascism. When observing the arrested emotional development of our Toddler-in-Chief, one can see only the most rudimentary of social interactions—aggression, dubious courtship with hookers, forced attempts at mating from Supreme Court justices, a country run by reptiles. And it gets worse:

Mammals bear their young live; they nurse, defend, and rear them while they are immature. Mammals, in other words, take care of their own. (emphasis by the authors) Rearing and caretaking are so familiar to humans that we are apt to take them for granted, but these capacities were once novel—a revolution in social evolution. The most common reaction a reptile has to its young is indifference; it lays its eggs and walks or slithers away. Mammals form close-knit, mutually nurturing social groups—families—in which members spend time touching and caring for one another. Parents nourish and safeguard their young, and each other, from the hostile world (emphasis mine). A mammal will sometimes risk its life to protect a child from attack. A garter snake or a salamander watches the death of its kin with an unblinking eye (emphasis mine)

None of this should be surprising to anyone. But keep reading.

In Michael Meade’s book THE GENIUS MYTH, he tells how he once was brought in to mediate a truce between rival teenage gangs. He wisely ended up telling them a story, an old Native American tale in which a tribe moves to a new place in search of “greener grass” and leaves behind two children. The abandonment of the children, their reaction to it and the reconciliation that takes place further down the line is the crux of the story, but along the way, the troubled youths could find examples of all the things that had happened to them. The white flight to the suburbs, the broken schools with federal funds slashed under the lie “no child left behind,” the feeling of adults interested in them only as future consumers addicted to their corporation’s product— the actual true story of how we have abandoned our inner city children. And now the epidemic has spread to the suburbs. School shootings where the adults let the NRA continue unchecked and the national head of schools suggests arming teachers (more profit for the NRA), the presence of drugs everywhere, music and art programs cut, families raising their children with electronic devices. Meade remarks:

“Increasingly, the symptoms of mass societies appear in both the violent acts, depression and suicidal tendencies of young people who feel abandoned and not invited into the village of life.”

And so. Here I am reflecting on these parallel quotes from two books and then this comes across in my e-mail:

“Right now, Congress is considering a funding bill that would increase the already-bloated budget of the Department of Homeland Security. DHS and its sub-agencies ICE and CBP are President Trump's key tools for terrorizing immigrants. Just this week, they fired tear gas at children seeking asylum at the border.”

Connect the dots here. Adults with the capacity for mammalian nurturing and caring are lowering themselves into their reptilian territorial brain (the border) and firing tear gas at children!!!! As they earlier separated children from their families with the full blessing of the Head Reptile.

Friends, this is the crossed line that should have all mammals up in arms. When a culture starts attacking its own young— now physically with tear gas and tearing them away from families, along with abandoning them to their entertainment devices, drugging them to pay attention at school, disempowering the children’s caretakers (called teachers)—we have taken a giant de-evolutionary step backward into our reptilian past. Mammals are meant to take care of their own and both the mammalian brain and the neo-cortex make it clear—all children are our own.
Only a monster would purposefully harm them and another kind of monster purposeful excuse and ignore it from some Party loyalty and profit-making (NRA) incentive.

There is no question that this symptom of our contemporary sickness goes way beyond two-party politics. But only a fool would not notice which group is mounting and sustaining the attack while we sit calmly by. And then have the gall to ask the taxpayers for more money to keep harming children. When will enough be enough?

Is it time for a new bumper sticker? I’M WITH THE MAMMALS!

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