13.1.10

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children? (No, Seriously)

The other day Casey posted an interesting article on the globalization of American psychological disorders; to which I responded my interest in how contagion can be discursive: "if you word it, it will come?" I was reacting specifically to a story on the rise of anorexia in China: after a particularly public episode, during which news coverage began integrating American terminology for anorexia, China saw a significant spike in documented cases.

Today, I read on Slash.dot of the rise in Youth depression and hypomania. One of the study's principal researchers, Jean Twenge, is the author of The Narcissism Expidemic. A student used portions of this book last semester in a paper critiquing social media websites such as Facebook and MySpace as nothing more than broadcast machinary for the 21st century's increasingly self-absorbed subject. I, expectedly, poo-poo'd the idea since I see these media collectives as more about "us" than "me" (and I say "more"--this is certainly a "both-and" rather than "either-or" effect. But now, especially with the discursive nature of affliction on my mind (and a 2 and 1/2 year old daughter at home), I do worry a bit more about the ideological-cultural world my kid [self-absorbed narcissism alert] will inhabit.

In the article, an undergraduate offers the following response to the study:

The unrealistic feelings that are ingrained in us from a young age - that we need to have massive amounts of money to be considered a success - not only lead us to a higher likelihood of feeling inadequate, anxious or depressed, but also make us think that the only value in getting an education is to make a lot of money, which is the wrong way to look at it.

On a theoretical level, I think of Lacan's notion of symbolic order as an psycho-social membrane--that which articulates subjectivity--is always plagued by the Real that it must include but cannot incorporate. Reflecting here--there is a sharp division between cultural expectation [narrative] and economic reality [scene], and one cannot help but think that a few characters are getting squished in the middle. On institutional and pedagogical levels, I feel particularly close to the student's final line--that "we" [that's "us" people--you know who you are] have to do a better job at re-articulating and promoting [rhetoric] the function of a university. My own research agenda involves doing this historically--to compare contemporary justifications for the University [whether official: i.e., the Modern emphasis on research or unofficial, i.e., the student/societal emphasis on employment] to classical notions. I am currently working on a project with a graduate student that aligns Cicero with early American pragmatists to generate a vision for the University that returns it to its pre-Italian humanist roots (humanist as in "studies how human beings do things" rather than humanism as in "studies THE human being's condition").

Off to the library. The RESEARCH library.