Friday, December 31, 2010

Charles Michael Benjamin–In memorium 2010

Earlier this month, one of my first (and more influential undergraduate college professors from my days at Bethel College, KS) passed away after a battle with cancer.
Like most obituaries, this one just scratches the surface. Charles Benjamin also tauight a lot of muti-disciplinary courses and seminars over his years at BC. Charles taught us multi-tasking skills for making long-term and short-term decisions through options analyses and questioning of status quo news we are inundated with. He taught courses on the international political economy of grain. (Later, I would do my second MA with a focus on International Political Economy.) Charles also had the gumption to run for state representative of Kansas–a state that too often turns its back on progressives, like him. However, Dr. Charles Benjamin left progress in Kansas–despite what the neysayers always said.

Obituaries Charles Michael Benjamin 1950 – 2010 Reno, Nevada

Charles Michael Benjamin, former Lawrence resident, died December 13, 2010 in Reno, Nevada, after a valiant battle with cancer.
He was born in Miami, FL, September 3, 1950.
For 20 years, before moving to Nevada, he was the lobbyist and attorney for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. His career in environmental law included a law practice representing more than 25 neighborhood associations across Kansas on a variety of land use and zoning issues. He was also a political science professor at Bethel College in Kansas, where he taught courses in environmental studies, American government and international relations, and served 16 years as a county commissioner in Harvey County, Kansas. Charles earned a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California, and a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of Kansas.
During his time as Western Resource Advocates Director of the Nevada office, Charles continued the work begun in Kansas to tirelessly promote clean energy by developing and strengthening relationships with key Nevada stakeholders, including utilities, the state’s consumer advocate, legislators, the governor, business interests and the environmental community. He was sought out by Senator Harry Reid for his advice on energy questions. He was WRA’s point person on energy matters at the Nevada state legislature; and he tracked regulatory proceedings relating to WRA’s issues.
Charles enjoyed working with environmental groups, politicians, attorneys and policy wonks, and fought the good fight on all fronts. He made friends easily and charmed everyone with his zest for life. Charles was an avid cyclist, enjoying 75 to 100 miles bike rides in Nevada and California. He loved movies and Jewish delicatessen food, and could talk about any subject with gusto and authority.
Western Resource Advocates plans to remember Charles in Las Vegas on January 24th. Senator Harry Reid’s office is planning to read remarks about Charles into the congressional record. Further plans for a memorial in Lawrence are ongoing and will be announced at a later date.
Charles is survived by his wife Christine, Carson City, NV, and family members in Lawrence. Son John and daughter Anna Hershey-King and grandson Cole, Kansas City. Sister Sandra O’Leary and mother Terry Benjamin and extended family, Tucson AZ. Brothers Mike Moss, Miramar FL, and Ed Moss Philadelphia PA.
Contributions to the American Cancer Society or Sierra Club are suggested in memory of Charles




By Kevin Stoda

Outside of European tradition, multiple calendars have been in vogue and practice through-out the millennia.
This thought comes to mind as Taiwan is planning and carrying out many 100-year celebrations due to its “Republic of China Calendar”. According to Taiwanese lore, “The ROC was founded by the Kuomintang (KMT) on Jan 1, 1912, after party founder Sun Yat-sen orchestrated a series of revolts that overthrew the Qing dynasty in the winter of 1911. It has become synonymous with Taiwan since the KMT's exodus to the island after losing a civil war on the Chinese mainland to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
Since I moved to Taiwan late last August, I have observed that the country runs on three calendars simultaneously. There is the aforementioned “Republic of China Calendar”. (By the way, this is the more controversial calendar in Taiwan and East Asia.) It is called the Minguo calendar.
Officially, it should be said that “[t]he Republic of China uses two official calendars: the Gregorian calendar, and the Minguo calendar. The latter numbers years starting from 1911, the year of the founding of the Republic of China.
That is, on the one hand, the politicians and cultural leaders of Taiwan are busy gearing up for this big centennial. Mean“[w]hile [other] scholars and politicians are deadlocked in a debate on whether the centenary is politically correct,… [Nevertheless,] there is no doubt that even though the past 400 years were dominated by a succession of colonial administrations, changes in the recent 100 years have been the most substantial and dramatic for Taiwan and its people.”
The third calendar, which remains unofficial in Taiwan, but is followed openly by many peoples of Chinese descent in East Asia, is the so-called Chinese Calendar. This is a semi-Lunar Calendar.
“Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are often numbered from the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year 2010 "Chinese Year" 4708, 4707, or 4647.”
For the last 4 or more centuries, the 12th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar has been set to end around the first week (or so) of February , i.e. according to the Western or Gregorian Calendars. “Chinese New Year [celebration] is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.” In Taiwan the festivities usually last about 7 days. Some other locations celebrate the Chinese New Year several days longer.”
Of course, many other religions and cultures celebrate continue to have separate calendars, too. For example, the Islamic lunar calendar is now over 1430 years old.
Even older is the Buddhist calendar. “The Buddhist calendar is used on mainland Southeast Asia in the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma (officially known as Myanmar) and Sri Lanka in several related forms. It is a lunisolar calendar having months that are alternately 29 and 30 days, with an intercalated day and a 30-day month added at regular intervals. All forms of the Buddhist calendar are based on the original version of the Surya Siddhanta.”
In South and Southeast Asia, there are also the Hindi, Sakar, and Javanese calendars in rotation. “The Hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar.”
“The Javanese calendar is used almost exclusively by the people of Java [largest island of Indonesia] including the main ethnicities of Java island: Javanese, Madurese and Sundanese- primarily as a cultural icon, a cultural identifier and as an object and tradition of antiquity to be kept alive. The Javanese calendar is used for cultural and metaphysical purposes of these Javanese peoples.”
We shouldn’t ignore the fact that prior to European colonialization, multiple lunar and semi-lunar calendars were used by the native peoples in the Northern and Southern Americas.
Recently, by the way, the Mayan calendars have been making a comeback. Solstice watchers and astrologists are looking at multiple Mayan calendars to gain a fuller view of our world in the 21st Century.
Naturally, the Hebrew calendar is also among one of the oldest ones [if not the oldest] still in usage world wide.


Many westerners, too, are not really aware that over recent decades, around the globe different countries have been changing their work-weeks and work calendars as part of a process of globalization. That was, for example, what occurred as I was living in Kuwait 4 years ago. At that time, the country reestablished its weekend from Thursdays and Fridays. An created a new weekend starting on Fridays and ending Saturday night.
This change was undertaken so that 4 work-week-days in Kuwait coincided with the Western 5-day work week. This meant, following the change of the weekend in Kuwait, that approximately 80% of the time the stock and oil markets around the world would coincide during the same week (instead of only 60% of the time) as had occurred in the decades prior to this.
Because of religious reasons, the country of Kuwait was not willing to give up taking Fridays off. Interestingly, the state of Israel also runs on that same 7 day cycle—with many Jews closing their shops--and professionals taking off--on Fridays and Saturdays, too.
It is important to note that in most of the less developed corners of the globe, , unlike in the West—which became clearly adhered to the Gregorian calendar and the 5-day work week quicker than many of the more traditional parts of the planet, many Asians and Africans peoples had never really had developed an affinity for or a tradition of “taking more than a half-day or single day off every 7 to 10 days”.
This imbalance in relationship to work had alarmed the Western countries as Asian states began to catch up with the West developmentally two decades ago. It is one reason that the United States foreign officials complained to the Japanese ministries in the early 1980s. They specifically asked the Japanese nation and its people to take more days off each week —and go on more holidays.
NOTE: When I was working in Japan in the early 1990s, the school system included a 5 1/2 or 6 day-school week and until that time many Japanese had had a 6-day workweek. The government of Japan acquiesced to the outside pressure (known as gaiatsu) to “internationalize” its economy. IThe government pushed to have more workers take more time off--and for more students to stay home on Saturdays playing—rather than studying. Similarly, in the mid-1990s, Western hegemonic globalizing pressures soon persuaded the 4 Little Tigers of the Asian economy (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong) later.
Meanwhile, in other less-developed Asian states, the trend seems to continue to be one of tradition--whereby the worker works as many days as possible each week—i.e. without much regard to taking any particular day off each week. This is likely to due more to poverty than due to culture. However, since the farmer-like mentality of living in and near ones work and shop is very common in less developed parts of the globe, society and culture do have influence on the norms of society—and those norms are related to which days in a week or month one works and when one tries to rest.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Part 3: making a movement this FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS

The Magi, The Massacre, Feasts of the Holy Innocents, CHILDERMAS, & mass movements needed this December 28

By Kevin Stoda

Since we are still in the midst of Christmas season— a season which continues well into January for many Orthodox and African churches—it is appropriate to ponder won of the more beloved and more fearful tales of Christmas Tide. On the one hand, it is the story of the so-called Magi, three mysterious wise men (or kings) from the East. The Magi make the Christ child’s humble arrival on earth into a royal affair. On the other hand, in response to these three Magi fleeing the dominion of one King Herod following the birth of a baby Jesus in the town of Bethlehem, a massacre is called out.

According to Matthew 2:16-18, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:”
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[
Reports of the God-child’s coming had been prophesied of for centuries. Therefore, as in political families today, the mafia types and King Lears of Jesus’ day sought to end his story on earth rather short. As with modern mass-murderers today, like Osama bin Laden, or similar to addicted American warrior-addicts, such as Dick Cheney, the full-appreciation of deaths of hundreds of innocents did not detour King Herod away from his pursuit of protecting his own legacy on earth.


According to Herodotus (I, ci). “ At the time of the birth of Jesus, the Magi were an ancient priestly caste dwelling within the Parthian empire, a large area to the east of the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. These priests practiced astrology, which at the time was a hybrid of astrology and what we now call astronomy. They were adept at interpreting dreams (which we possibly get a flavor of in Daniel 2). At the time just prior to the birth of our Lord, the Magi formed the upper house of the Megistanes council, whose duties included the election of the king of the Parthian empire,

Strabo explained (XI, ix, 3), “Thus, the Magi at this time were possibly "kingmakers."

According to Chuck Missler, “The ancient Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (known today as the Kurds) credited with profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. After some Magi, who had been attached to the Median court, proved to be expert in the interpretation of dreams, Darius the Great established them over the state religion of Persia. (2) (Contrary to popular belief, the Magi were not originally followers of Zoroaster. (3) That all came later.)”
Missler adds, “It was in this dual capacity, whereby civil and political counsel was invested with religious authority, that the Magi became the supreme priestly caste of the Persian empire and continued to be prominent during the subsequent Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods.”
Missler also claims that one of the prophet Daniel’s names in Babylonia and Persian times was “Rab-mag, the Chief of the Magi.”
More importantly, in a way, through his leadership role in both the Hebrew Diaspora and in these Eastern Kingdoms, Daniel also played the role of Kingmaker—as well as prophet. “His unusual career included being a principal administrator in two world empires--the Babylonian and the subsequent Persian Empire. When Darius appointed him, a Jew, over the previously hereditary Median priesthood, the resulting repercussions led to the plots involving the ordeal of the lion's den.”
Missler summarizes one important legend as follows, “ Daniel apparently entrusted a Messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a "star") to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment.”

“In Jerusalem, the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with all imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by an adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem.” Missler reports.
Analyzing the political facts on the ground at the time of Christ, Missler notes,“It would seem as if these Magi were attempting to perpetrate a border incident which could bring swift reprisal from Parthian armies. Their request of Herod regarding the one who "has been born King of the Jews" was a calculated insult to him, a non--Jew who had contrived and bribed his way into that office.”
“Consulting his scribes, Herod discovered from the prophecies in the Tanach (the Old Testament) that the Promised One, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem. Hiding his concern and expressing sincere interest, Herod requested them to keep him informed.” However, “[a]fter finding the babe and presenting their prophetic gifts, the Magi "being warned in a dream" (a form of communication most acceptable to them) departed to their own country, ignoring Herod's request.”
According to Missler, “The [magi’s] gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were also prophetic, speaking of our Lord's offices of king, priest, and savior. Gold speaks of His kingship; frankincense was a spice used in the priestly duties; and myrrh was an embalming ointment anticipating His death.” In short, the tale of the Magi in the Christ-child legend, detailed in the New Testament book of Matthew, included recognition of the fact that that particular baby, who had been born humbly in a manger, was to be known as the savior, the priest and of royal lineage.
Feast of INNOCENTS Murdered—Part of the Christmas Theme
The Catholic Church recognizes December 28 each year as a cyclical date of remembrance of “the church’s first martyrs”. “The Latin Church instituted the feast of the Holy Innocents at a date now unknown, not before the end of the fourth and not later than the end of the fifth century. It is, with the feasts of St. Stephen and St. John, first found in the Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485. To the Philocalian Calendar of 354 it is unknown. The Latins keep it on 28 December, the Greeks on 29 December, the Syrians and Chaldeans on 27 December. These dates have nothing to do with the chronological order of the event; the feast is kept within the octave of Christmas because the Holy Innocents gave their life for the newborn Saviour.”
Orthodox church literature claims that 144,000 were massacred by Herod’s zealous forces. Other sources claim that as few as a dozen infants were executed in Herod’s quest to kill the “Christ child. The actual number of victims is not so important to the Christian tale as is the (offering or) shedding of innocent blood. This massacre is what gives believers a premonition of Christ’s own sacrifice some three decades later. Later martyrs of the church in centuries to come soon come t make up most of the rest of the Latin, Orthodox other church calendars.
However, by placing the so-called Feast or Mass of the Holy Innocents directly within the Christmas season, all Christians are asked to remember innocent victims—anywhere and everywhere, even as we celebrate the gift of Christ’s birth.
In recent years, many Catholics have tied the day of remembrance directly to abortion deaths, but that has not been the historical focus. A typical mass would have included these words,
“Since the sixth century, on December 28, the Church has celebrated the memory of those children killed because of Herod's rage against Christ (cf. Mt 2:16-17). Liturgical tradition refers to them as the ‘Holy Innocents’ and regards them as martyrs. Throughout the centuries Christian art, poetry and popular piety have enfolded the memory of the ‘tender flock of lambs’(125) with sentiments of tenderness and sympathy. These sentiments are also accompanied by a note of indignation against the violence with which they were taken from their mothers' arms and killed.”
Especially, “[i]n our own times, children suffer innumerable forms of violence which threaten their lives, dignity and right to education. On this day, it is appropriate to recall the vast host of children not yet born who have been killed under the cover of laws permitting abortion, which is an abominable crime. Mindful of these specific problems, popular piety in many places has inspired acts of worship as well as displays of charity which provide assistance to pregnant mothers, encourage adoption and the promotion of the education of children.”
Finally, “[a]s recorded in the gospel of Matthew … after the visit of the Magi, Herod, in rage and jealousy, slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem and surrounding countryside in an attempt to destroy his perceived rival, the infant Messiah. These ‘innocents’ are honored by the Church as martyrs.”

As noted above, abortion-opponents have tried to take over this particular memory of the slaughter of children, i.e. as shared in Matthew. This has been only partially-acceptable appropriation of a day that should be meditative and contemplative for all in this planet who could do much more to stop innocent blood from being shed—any where, any time, any place.
The real focus of the Masses for the Holy Innocents has historically been on all the innocent youth in all countries where they are daily being slaughtered—regardless as to whether or not this slaughter is from saturation-earth bombings, lack of nutrition, abortion, or simple rejection by family or society.
I first was made aware of this wonderful Christmas-tide focus in December 1983 while I was living and working in Europe for the first time.
If you recall, that was the year of the arms-race run-amok. Many of us marching that autumn 1983 against the deployment of Pershing Missiles in the forward areas of the European theater were certain that if we did not stop the insanity, a billion people—including millions of children, would die.
Luckily, the Soviet Union went broke faster than the USA did… but that is another story.
Both during major anti-missile demonstrations in autumn and winter, I visited U.S. military installation near Vaihingen.
My first visit was to take part in the humongous human-chain between Stuttgart and Ulm in October. There were over 200,000 participants holding hands in a long line between two major cities in Southern Germany that October 22, 1983
Later, I returned during more somber Christmas-tide protests led by future-thinking “how-do-w- proceed-now?” Christians who were against having any more senseless wars in Europe
On the evening of December 27, many of us went to a Childermas—the traditional masses said (or even sung) at protestant gatherings remembering the Holy Innocents in Europe. The next day, December 28, thousands of more individuals joined our small church gathering to walk around the local U.S. military base. During our two-hour prayer walk, we put pictures drawn by children on the wire fence around the base. We also hung up dolls and toys.
The participants in that FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS reminded themselves and the soldiers occupying the base that day that innocents die—either due to war or due to military arms-build-ups, which misuse our earnings or savings and then impoverish us all.
In my entire life, I have never again perceived (or internalized) a clearer connection to how my nation (the USA) wastes so much money annually on things that go BOOM—than as in those hours when a few thousand of us hung up these various symbols of childhood on that U.S. military fence near Stuttgart, Germany on December 28, 1983.
On that day, I came to remember the deaths of innocent youth every Christmas season. In this way, I put my head on straight and demand right priorities for myself, my family, and my nation into the New Year. I would like you to consider joining and building on these thoughts this Christmas Tide.

As I sat down to write this article on the Feast of the Holy Innocents and other symbols of Christmas across space-and-time today, I came across an older letter from Desmond Tutu (which was written in 2006) for the FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS. I will conclude this writing by having you recall that great man-of-the-clothes’ CALL TO THE WORLD.
It is a call for an ongoing mass-movement revitalized cyclically through calendars with commemorations of victims and innocents who need a hand from you. Here was Tutu’s conclusion:

“Recently a painting by one of the Dutch masters called Massacre of the Innocents was sold for a record-breaking price at an art auction. It is puzzling why "a violent painting, depicting Roman soldiers knee-deep in butchered babies, carrying out King Herod's edict" would fetch $116 million at a London auction, a record high for an Old Master and one of the top ten largest prices ever paid at an auction? Especially in a world where innocents are dying in their millions of AIDS! Of the 26 million people who have already died of AIDS (more than all the wars of the 20th century combined), 5 million were children. If we put our treasure where our heart is, then something has gone desperately wrong, somewhere...
When God pitched his tents and dwelt among us, he became a baby - fragile and vulnerable. Escaping Herod's despotic regime, he grew up as a refugee - in Africa. "A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Here is a bold and unprecedented suggestion... especially for those who are protestants and have a tendency to steer away from the "bells and smells" of high church tradition. Just out of solidarity, then, couldn't we set aside Thursdays in some special way, between now and December 28th? Not just to remember the dozens who were slain in Bethlehem by a despot, but to remember millions who are dying in our time because of various factors - including state indifference and recalcitrant leaders who do not role-model what it takes to stop the spread of HIV infection and thus of the AIDS pandemic.
Here are some ways to do this:
• pray on Thursdays for children, orphans, and especially infants dying of AIDS
• every Thursday, do some special reading about this (start with Googling "Orphans" and "Africa" and you get quite a few items from CNN, BBC, the World Bank, etc.)
• make every Thursday the day that you engage at least one other person to raise awareness about this issue
• go without lunch and instead make a gift to a ministry for OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) like C4L's
• dare it be said? What about fasting on Thursdays? This is more than solidarity - it engages the powers
Volunteering is a mode of giving that has to be encouraged more and more, in the light of "capacity shrinkage" in Africa, and the increasing need for "capacity replenishment". But it is concentrated intensely around a trip overseas, at a particular season...
Observing Childermas could be a complementary strategy; a "long war" to borrow an all-too-familiar phrase. Are you ready to take action that is on-going and proactive? In favour of innocents who are either orphaned when their parents are taken by a pandemic through no fault of their own, or worse yet, born with AIDS? When top political and cultural figures promote behaviours that fail to dampen the spread of infection, and behind it the death phase of the pandemic, and the deluge of orphans.There are more and more people who want to do something more substantial than just making a donation, but they don't know how. Here is one suggestion - choose a way to observe Childermas, and stick with it.

Wouldn't it be great if this became a mass movement!


Monday, December 27, 2010


Part 2By Kevin Anthony Stoda

This is the second part of a set of FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS remembrance articles (i.e. a show of support for the poor and innocent victims of mindless war-economics) and a protest roll-call
& for,
military families in the USA and abroad.
American’s need to begin to mourn and roué their predicament.
Then they need to demand change.
In yesterday’s piece, I focused on the fact that better education has its role in improving critical thinking and prioritizing in America—by demanding that American families and schools demand a greater debate of a system that is bankrupting us morally, physically, and financially.
Now, I want to reveal how the rush to keep up a military industrial complex and neo-liberal status quo of neo-colonialism is wasting the chance to implement long-term development and peace making strategies.
This waste of human capital has been reflected more-than-ever in 2010-2011 as run-amok homeland security goes after peacemakers left and right.
“The FBI’s probe into antiwar activists is growing. In September [2010], FBI agents raided the homes and offices of activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Subpoenas that were withdrawn have been reactivated, and a new subpoena was served to a Palestinian solidarity activist in Chicago.”

Another part of the closing down-of-the-American mind is reflected in recent news that the military’s Tricare insurance concept for veterans and their family is leaving many brain-victims unaided in the years following combat or combat arenas. Tricare is using the same head-in-the-sand pseudo-science that the anti- Prevention of Climate-Change Folks have used so well over the past decade.
“Tricare, an insurance-style program covering nearly 4 million active-duty military and retirees, says the scientific evidence does not justify providing comprehensive cognitive rehabilitation [to American war veterans). Tricare officials say an assessment of the available research that they commissioned last year shows that the therapy is not well proven.”
“But an investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that internal and external reviewers of the Tricare-funded assessment [had also] criticized it as fundamentally misguided. Confidential documents obtained by NPR and ProPublica show that reviewers called the Tricare study ‘deeply flawed,’ ‘unacceptable’ and ‘dismaying.’ One top scientist called the assessment a ‘misuse’ of science designed to deny treatment for service members.”

Tricares’ treatment of American veterans of war is just the tip of the iceberg for the total lack of progressive peace and positive developmental consciousness required at the state federal, national, and international levels.

As a lifelong progressive for peace (with great leanings towards non-violent action rather than war to solve conflict issues), I have been concerned for decades as to how one-sided or biased both the American family and its educational communities ARE WHEN IT COMES TO TEACHING YOUTH ABOUT THE REAL COSTS OF WAR.
This disgruntlement needs also to include the super-ignorance promoted by mass-media for not mentioning most every real human and capital cost, i.e. when reporting on war. (Most of the time, American media has simply served as a propaganda arm for the powers that be---i.e. brazenly glorifying America's military power and its ability at times to put pressure on less blessed nations around the globe.)
Naturally, my concern has turned to dismay at times, especially, as in 2008, I received a copy of an AARP's article entitled dated that told America’s growing numbers of retired citizens that they would soon have to care for younger American generations—who are victims of political and global bullying or war-mongering.
That article was entitled,"When Wounded Vets Come Home".


I have shared elsewhere how in the months leading to the Coalition Gulf War with Iraq in 1991, I was astounded that my own high school students were being recruited in the hallways and cafeteria of one large Kansas high school (where I taught 1990-1991) to join ROTC as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Meanwhile, other students' (of mine’s) parents, who had already been serving/training in the Kansas National Guard over the previous decade, had already been mobilized themselves and sent to Saudi Arabia by October 1990. (NOTE: Yes, one national guard center was headquartered across the street from that same high school.)

I had been raised in America during the Vietnam era, and I knew how heavy a toll that that particular war had had on culture, community, economy, and our family's. I had come to learn later, that still other youth whom I had grown up with were still suffering because their own parents had been untreated following war-related trauma during that so-called police-action in the Koreas in the early 1950s, i.e. now referred to as the Korean War.

From early 1980 through early 1981, i.e. in the days immediately after President Jimmy Carter and his administration activated mandatory selective service enrollment for males in the USA (Selective Service Act), I spent my own high school senior year (1980) considering:
(1) whether I could or should join the military and
(2) still be able to carry out (or live out) my democratic ideals
(3) and make sure that no My Lai massacres ever occurred again in my lifetime.
Note: Carter's call to have selective service started up in the USA in January 1980 came only weeks after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.

I finally decided to enroll in the USA Selective Service only under pressure from my family in January of 1981. However, I continued to ponder and rue my decision to enroll under family pressure for at least 2 months. Finally, in March 1981, I wrote the Selective Service and asked that my name be taken off the selective service registration list.

By writing that particular letter, I knew that my desire to one day work in the U.S. state department or as an ambassador for peace (working with my own government) had become very limited. (In short, I have always wanted to serve my country and make it more of the Beacon on the Hill that history has at times has called it to be. Asking for my name to be taking off the roll-call list for Selective Service in March 1981 made that next-to-impossible.)

The Selective Service agency did not answer my letter in the affirmative, but the staffer who did, in fact write me, did declare that they recognized receipt of the document. (They discouraged me from having other Americans make a similar request.) In short, although I have studied pacifism and non-violent action, including Gandhi's Satyagraha techniques, I have permanently separated myself from potential employment of these skills in a job with the U.S. military or with the U.S. state department because I felt any young person had to do what he could in 1981 to keep things like those that followed from happening, i.e.

- A decade of USA- covert-sponsored wars in Latin America (in the 1980s).
-Bombing deaths of over 200 marines in Lebanon in 1983
-Horrible lack of prioritizing on national spending, via the largest amount of military spending seen in the history of man over the subsequent 3 decades
-The misguided Privatization of American military and intelligence agencies
-The Invasion of Panama in 1989
-The Coalition War with Iraq 1991
-The war on Serbia and Kosovo in 1999
-The expansion of NATO into the heart of Asia, threatening again long-term stability with Russia.
-Military quagmires & boondoggles in Somalia (1991-1993), in Afghanistan (2001 to Present), and in Iraq (2003 to Present)
-Bad management of Peace in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East in general from the Reagan administration onwards (since 1981).

Alas, the state department and U.S. government agencies find me-and others like me-to be unemployable. Millions of young people would rather be making peace in the USA and abroad rather than serving in the armed forces (and, for example, costing the nation over million dollars to finance each dying soldier in Afghanistan in 2010) half-way across the planet as is the status quo today.
America, give your peace-makers real options to serve and stop persecuting generation-after-generation.



Story of John Feal—A Real 9-11 hero who suffered and then later gave away his kidney and helped three more people.

I came across this snippet of an interview with an amazing humanitarian—an amazingly giving man—this Christmas season. I want to share it with you.—KAS


AMY GOODMAN: You set up the FealGood Foundation. Your last name is spelled F-E-A-L, the FealGood Foundation.
JOHN FEAL: Yes, ma’am. Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: And you have helped many people very personally. You gave your kidney to who?
JOHN FEAL: It was a no-brainer. I get about two or three hundred emails a day on average. And somebody emailed me back in 2006 and said, "I think what you’re doing to help people is great. Can you link me to your website, because I need a kidney?" And he was responder. And I said, "No, you could just have mine." And he’s like—he used a bunch of curse words, saying, "Don’t fool around and kid like that." And I still got the email on—taped to my refrigerator. And a couple weeks later, we went and got tested. And I wasn’t a hundred percent match, but I could have gave it to him, but there was a chance of rejection. So the hospital said, "Well, why don’t you give it to somebody? We’ll make sure he gets a better one." We wound up doing a six-person swap. So, in essence, I got to help three people. And listen, I’ve never won Lotto, but that was the best feeling in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Truly remarkable, John.
JOHN FEAL: And August 30, 2007—no, I’m just an average guy who believes that you’ve got to help people less fortunate. You know, as Americans, we have extra money, we have extra food, and basically we have extra body parts. And if—I don’t know what happened after 9/11, because everybody was so united. This country came together, and you could smell, not only feel, the love and patriotism in the air. Somewhere along the line, this country lost that loving feeling. And I think it’s because of poor politics and leadership and reckless politics that this country is going in the wrong direction. And this great nation, the tenacity and the resolve and the testament after the worst horrific attack ever, came together, and I’d like to see that happen again. And it’s up to the White House and the Senate and the Congress to start behaving themselves and doing what’s right by the American people, so the American people can once again get on track with their lives and start helping each other.


Sunday, December 26, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, lifelong American Educator and Patriot

I came across this recent article and topic on how the U.S. government, the USA military leadership, and Americans in general continue to neglect American veterans—while failing to educate its populace about the real costs of wars.

The articles was in Stars and Stripes and on several NPR news programs. It is entitled, “Brain Wars: How America’s Military is Failing its Wounded”. It was written/compiled by ProPublica’s T. Christian Miller.

A few years back, I wrote a lengthy blog on how the USA always fails its youthful soldiers and then asks the future, current, and older generations to keep paying the costs—over and over. That article was called, “SOME PARENTS OF VETERANS COMING HOME FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARE HAVING TO GIVE UP RETIREMENT TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR BRAVE OFFSPRING.”

My piece was originally a four part piece that I spliced together to create a sense of connectedness—where I, as a lifelong educator—have found society, media, and schools—and even America’s AARP--failing to connect issues properly as costs and burdens of war incapacitate my homeland.

As part of the run-up-to the annual FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (December 28), I will reprint the 4 parts in more bite-size pieces. Then I will ask you if things have improved or gotten worse over the past 2 1/2 years, America!

If you do not know what Childermas or the Feast of the Holy Innocents is, just recall that at the time of Jesus’ birth day--as these legends and the Bible note--there were killed 2000-plus children and babies by one King Herod and his military lackeys in and around the town of Bethlehem in Judea.

The day of December 28 is when the mass is under taken and it is a good day to march around military bases and ask soldiers and their family to rethink their life choices. As Americans are part of a tribal family, we need to reflect and educate ourselves to think differently.

This becomes more-and-more pertinent as there has been a war on good educators for the last few decades. (I reveal part of this story in my own biography, but it will revealed in coming weeks as school districts lay off teachers to pay for our war-economy again in 2011.)


In one 2008 from American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on the burdens that veteran victims of war are importing home to their families, the author, Barry Yeoman, notes that it is "estimated 10,000 recent veterans of these conflicts now depend on their parents for their care. Working unheralded, these parents have quit jobs, shelved retirement plans, and relocated so they can be with their injured sons and daughters. Many have become warriors themselves, fighting to make sure this new wave of injured veterans gets the medical care and rehabilitation it needs."

In this main human interest tale—which introduced the topic of war burdens falling back on the older generations of America—the AARP author shares the frustrating tale of a women name Cynthia and her son.

In the AARP piece, it was noted that the main character's son had entered the military only because in the two years prior this signing-up, the economy in her family's region of the USA was doing so poorly, i.e. jobs were lacking, the young man had little choice.

I understand this.

My own brother joined the navy during the Reagan recessions of the 1980s.

On the other, I came to understand decades ago how many American young unemployed (or underemployed young Americans) will be coming home from America’s endless wars injured –and often injured for the long-term.

I also wonder how many of those still entering national military service in 2010-2011 will feel that between (1) joblessness, (2) entering the U.S. military or (3) joining its private military contractor, signing the recruiter's paperwork is a no-brainer?

In short, acceptance of a bad American economic system seems to be teaching American youth that they have no option but to die or suffer, like the infamous Lt. Dan in the movie FORREST GUMP.


The AARP article (mentioned above) stated, the "Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, has [or had] a 96 percent chance of survival. He or she can sometimes be stateside within 36 hours of the injury. As a result, there are just 6 deaths for every 100 injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 28 deaths per 100 in Vietnam, and 38 in World War II, according to Linda Bilmes, a researcher at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government."

This means that many more vets will be making it home alive-albeit in bad condition in the hot wars America has volunteered to send its sons and daughters into this decade-and for decades to come according to Republican leadership in the White House and in Sen. John McCain's camp.

A lot of American and international press have shown interest in recent weeks as to the topic of how many mental and brain related injuries Americans will have suffered since 2001, i.e. till all the troops come home, i.e. after all the Wars on Terror end in Afghanistan or wherever. In April 2008, the RAND corporation put out a monograph on psychological problems cause by armed conflict. One recent document was entitled Invisible Wounds of War," Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008.

That RAND monograph declared, "Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments - many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations - may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. In the face of mounting public concern over post-deployment health care issues confronting OEF/OIF veterans, several task forces, independent review groups, and a Presidential Commission have been convened to examine the care of the war wounded and make recommendations. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With the increasing incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise."
In 2008 that was the case. Since 2009, President Barack Obama has upped-the-anti (overall cost to Americans and other victims of war) by increasing the USA commitment in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, there are other long lasting physical wounds from these Wars on Terror that will become—if they aren’t already-- the main cause of stress for families and the soldier's care-givers for decades to come. There are paralyzed veterans. There are those who have lost eyes and limbs-not to mention certain potential job prospects and earnings in certain areas of the global and US economy.


As many young people did during the Vietnam War-era, I (as I was a high school student) once picked up the then-classic WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE. JOHNNY was written by the Coloradan, Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the original 10-blacklisted writers in Hollywood history.

Trumbo had written the work, WHEN JOHNNY GETS HIS GONE, in 1939, i.e. prior to America's entry into WWII. Trumbo later rued his decision to publish it as he came to support the USA-UK-Soviet Union and their fight against fascism in 1941-1945. (Later, Trumbo eventually was sent to jail in the midst of the early 1950s anti-communist hysteria as he later refused to name names or tell on others who had joined the Communist Party during the WWII period-i.e. when the USA and the Soviet Union were allies.)

JOHNNY was later made into a film (1970) during the hey-day of the anti-Vietnam War mobilization in the USA.

According to one recent reviewer, Tom Joad, WHEN JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN "is the story of a young man, who like many others, goes to war because he is told by the leaders of his country to go to war. He is injured in that war as a bomb explodes next to him. He has lost both his legs. Both his arms. His hearing is lost, his eyes cannot see, his mouth cannot speak. He has no face. But, strangely he lives, if it can be called that, in a military hospital. The nurses pump the food into a hole in his stomach, they clean him, and he exists in his own world for years with no real communication with anyone. He then comes to realize he can communicate by Morse Code. By moving the stump of what is left of his body he can communicate to the world in dots and dashes. And finally there were people who understood what he was doing. A message is tapped on his stomach; he is asked "what do you want?" After reflecting on how he can have a meaningful life outside the virtual prison of this hospital, he comes to realize he has a special mission."

I say--if readers want a taste of this book on line--, they should go to this web pages and take some notes (before buying the book):

One interesting thing about Trumbo's didactically-well-written anti-war monograph is that it has two main tales:

(1) The horror of war mixed with the sweet memories of youth and family and
(2) a messianic vision of a world where war is over---possibly due to a major global bloodbath of a major war killing off all of us.

As an educator who grew up in the Cold-War era, I can fairly accurately claim in 2010-2011 that most of our American youth do not have a grip on the possibility of global annihilation and the fact that soldiers do not always die in battle (or come home heroes alive).


Turning toward the military industrial complex and those leaders, like the former U.S. President, George W. Bush, and Vice-President, Richard Cheney, who would calmly send thousands or millions to their deaths (or to their dismemberment), the main messianic victim-protagonist in Trumbo's book JOHNNY, says to American readers and the powers-that-be:

"We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a no-mans-land that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it."

Unlike the more famous, RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane , which is required reading in American schools (and an important novelette, like JOHNNY), Trumbo’ JOHNNY leaves the readers clearly running away from war, rather than joining in a final battle of potential death, global annihilation, or dismemberment in a long and bloody series of battles that make up longer (so-called endless) wars.

The RED BADGE OF COURAGE is almost always universally read in high schools around the world as an example of American literary genius. This is because schools look to American educators for making such choices. This is where I advocate more globally and important options, such as Trumbo’s JOHNNY for American youth in this generation—and in generations to come. (An alternative might include Ron Kovic’s autobiographical, BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY.)

In other words, parents and educators across America (and even on DOD bases around the globe) need to begin demand a more balanced view of war in school than they are currently receiving now-from both social studies, history, and in their English courses.


Obviously, another area where both parents and youth need to be educated is in the political economics of war—as well as in political economy and economic financing in general. Such an area of focus in political economy should be on American families and the real costs to any family and the whole societies posed annually by the USA’s dependence on the intelligence & defense industries in the USA and active around the globe--as well as the financial and human costs posed by decisions made by & in life in America's DOD (Department of Defense).

There are now millions--or even tens of millions of Americans who are rather directly dependent on either the U.S. military or on the intelligence communities for jobs for them--and salaries for their families.

There are many multi-generational military families across the continent (and stationed around the world), such as was the case for the former USA presidential candidate, John McCain, and his father's war-dependent family. (This was also certainly true for Jim Morrison of the Doors a contemporary of young John McCain. Mr. Mojo ‘Risin was the son of America’s youngest admiral and went to 20-plus different schools before graduating from high school due to his father’s drive to take America into war territory, like in Southeast Asia.)

This means that many generations of Americans have grown up in a military-muscle-flapping world all-their-lives and think relatively little of it. (This nebulous world-view usually only changes when a loved one comes home in a box, severely traumatized, or is dismembered in war. )


Many of you know the legacy of such military families. The image of them was tragically (and comically) portrayed by the figure of Lt. Dan in the film, FORREST GUMP. ( A member of Dan’s family had fought and died in every American War dating back to the mid-18th Century.)

I know fairly well one such multigenerational military family—one who finally persuaded their son to finally signing up for a military career in the midst of 1990s. Let me explain, 8 years earlier that same son had left the military family's base home in Georgia at 18 and had rebelled against signing up for the Army (and following the path of his parents). That son had no desire to follow the footsteps of his military dependent Ft. Benning family and neighbors.

His family was able to persuade him to do this within a year after the 1991 Gulf War. This was partially—of course--due the George Herbert Walker Bush recession of 1990-1992. (The family was also successful in persuading their rebellious son to join the USA military because of the cultural and educational contexts within which many Americans have been cocooned or embedded for nearly 7 decades, i.e. since WWII. The family refrained, “You have no choice. You have a wife and family to take care of. This is America, for Gods-sake.”)

Now, however, with nearly 96 percent of America’s home-grown victims of war coming home alive from major war-theater hospitals in this epic of history, America's traditional military parents (and non-military families) of brave- and dependent- American soldiers stationed around the globe must for-the-first time plan to take care of their children who didn’t come home in a box.

That is, both older and younger Americans need to ponder the possibility that they will one day have to take care of their soldier-kids and their soldier-loved ones for years. This will be the case if we refer to head injuries, PTSD, amputations, and other long-term issues.

LESSON VII: Let's count the costs Americans!

What kind of future do we want for ourselves and children?

The (aforementioned) AARP article ends with a touching tale and photo of Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip and his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48. The author reveals, "Before he was injured in Al Anbar, Iraq, Marine Sergeant Shurvon Phillip told his mother, Gail Ulerie, 48, not to worry about his safety. 'Everything is gonna be all right, Ma,' he told her. 'I'm reading my Psalms. ‘“

"Then, in May 2005, Shurvon's Humvee hit an IED. The resulting brain injuries left him quadriplegic and unable to speak. Gail, an immigrant who came to the States from Trinidad, had to quit her two jobs so she could take care of her 27-year-old son. Initially, the work overwhelmed her. "Lord, I don't think I can do this," she cried out one day while bathing Shurvon.

Now the mother, Gail, says,"But today, having coped with his many surgeries and infections.”

Gail, who should be retired, ”has accepted her new life caring for her son. Her time is now spent ferrying Shurvon between hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and their home in Richmond Heights, Ohio. She keeps him clean and helps exercise his arms and legs. And because he is prone to frequent vomiting, she always stays near him to make sure he doesn't choke. The VA pays for eight hours a day of home health care. The rest of the time Gail is on her own. As many parents in Gail's situation find, the stress can be crushing. Gail struggles to concentrate; occasionally she binge eats. She wears a hairpiece to cover the thinning hair on her scalp. Without a job, she cannot afford treatment for the cataracts doctors say could blind her. But she continues to resist moving Shurvon into a long-term care facility. 'Nobody can take care of Shurvon like I can.’"

The more disturbing thing is that many American military-dependent families are not currently physically- and economically- able to take care of their injured veteran offspring over the long haul. The Depression is crushing many already

More importantly, please, Americans!!! From both the perspective of a family and the perspective of real-world economic costs, who will take care of these elderly parents when they too need help?


Invisible Wounds of War," Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, 2008.


Yeoman, Barry, "When Wounded Vets Come Home".


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Start early writing letters to America’s prisoners this holiday season!!

Why do so many bad things come from Ft. Benning, Georgia? The letter below explains why.

Part of the letter comes from a political prisoner. We are encouraged to write and support such noble practitioners of peace and love.

I sat down after reading the letter and wrote 4 political prisoners in the USA this holiday. I encourage you to do so, too.


Dear Kevin,
Hope this email finds you well. We just received the letter below from prison from Father Louis Vitale. Fr. Louis was arrested together with David Omondi, Nancy Smith and Chris Spicer by the Fort Benning military police during the November Vigil when they carried the call to close the SOA onto the military base. Father Louis and David were sentenced immediately to six months in federal prison. Nancy and Chris are currently preparing for their federal trials on January 5, 2011. They will use the courtroom to put the SOA itself on trial. Several others are also still facing charges after having been arrested by the Columbus police following the rally on November 20, 2010. Support the SOA Watch Legal Defense Fund with a contribution today. You’ll find addresses to write to the prisoners below.
Letter from Father Louis Vitale, SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience:
Two weeks have passed since David Omondi and I began our sojourn here at Irwin County Detention Center in southern Georgia. Some may say, “Vitale has protested himself back into the pokey below the Mason-Dixon line” and “He has been jailed again in an effort to bring peace and social justice.” SF Chronicle 11/28
Many ask, “Why do you keep doing this?” We try to respond: “Because the oppression goes on and our nation is a major participant in that oppression of the poor and of all creation.” Specifically this manifestation of mourning focuses on the School of the Americas (WHINSEC) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where U.S. military have taught counter-insurgency techniques, including torture and disappearance, to Latin American military. It still goes on, as recently observed with the outrageous coup in Honduras carried out by graduates of the School of the Americas. In fact, our involvement in oppressive militarism extends throughout the world!
But why so many times at Ft. Benning (my fourth arrest and incarceration, and so far from my home base)? The School of the Americas is an icon of our intrusion into developing countries over many years and the source of horrific massacres including religious leaders and thousands of peasants. Also Ft. Benning is a major military base feeding vast numbers into the war machine. Thousands gather annually to mourn the victims and to call for an end to our war machine that continues to grow into more bases, nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities, even into space war (and the new X-37B militarized version of the space shuttle).

Are we ready to declare peace and act in its presence? Let’s call – with all our energy – for nonviolent solutions now, transforming many peoples’ lives and our world. Our work is cut out for us as we must be vigilant and active with nonviolent resistance. May we move towards peace in the new year.

[Louie, serving a 6 month sentence for trespass at Ft. Benning, was moved from the Irwin County Detention Center on December 15, and is currently in transit. We will let you know as soon as he reaches his final destination.]
Write the the Prisoners of Conscience
To write to Louis, please direct correspondence to: Fr. Louis Vitale, c/o The Nuclear Resister, P.O. Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733


Saturday, December 25, 2010



By Kevin Stoda

Now, about Christmas! I interviewed Taiwanese educators here and they all agreed that this was the most over-the-top Christmas celebration year in their lifetime. A colleague of mine on a neighboring island even noted a rise in the number of Christmas carolers in this predominantly Buddhist and Taoist nation

So, the question is why--this year?

One colleague felt it was blatant commercialism. Christmas cheer promoted by advertisers and media used the idea of Christmas to continue and stoke the thriving Taiwanese economy in 2010-2011.

On the other hand, I have a different perspective. Last night, on Christmas Eve, I had 20 Christian carolers of all ages--including 4 students--come by my humble dormitory room last night. These Taiwanese appeared to all have come from the local Christian community here on Beigan Island. This group of authentic Christian carolers really made my Christmas Eve—as my wife is stranded with baby in the Philippines. (I know they are Christian from having bumped into them as they went to church one Sunday three weeks back. Christians only make up 2 or 3 percent of the population in Taiwan.)

I really believe that, instead of viewing the phenomena of Christmas in Taiwan as a simply an advertising ploy, we should observe that schools and society are succeeding in promoting the idea of giving and sharing at the end of the year. I saw this often amongst children, i.e. in a lot of the small and thoughtful gifts given me and their classmates—including the important giving of mittens and emergency hand-warmers.

In summary, a Christmas spirit (mixed with Winter Solstice fair) has been promoted as the cold northerlies of winter have blown onto Matsu Island during the last school week.

All the school windows at my various elementary (and junior high) schools were covered by students and staff with many Christian and non-Christian symbols of “Christmas Tide”, e.g. Santa, gifts, Christmas Trees, and stars. My fourth grade class at Tang Qi even went caroling to the other classrooms while playing their block flutes quite well. (I was asked to hand out chocolates as gifts to students in the other grades, i.e. as a sort-of stand-in for Santa.)

Meanwhile, every evening for 3 evenings, I was invited out to celebrate the season’s change of Autumn to Winter within rooms garlanded with Christmas décor, including Christmas trees. It made my Christmas Eve. (I know they are Christian from having bumped into them as they went to church one Sunday three weeks back.)

So, perhaps the common theme this year in Taiwan is a growing tolerance for different religious and cutlural practices in Matrsu--plus all the wealth of the Taiwan economy improving.

NOTE: This Christmas Tide experience did not exist with any spiritual sense in Japan in 1992-1994. (Christians in Japan make up roughly just over 1% population. But, the idea of giving Christma Cake at that time always seemed to be little more than an economic motive behind Christmas day.)

In summary, In contrast to rural Japan approximately 2 decades ago, in this rural part of Taiwan, I really have sensed a generous spiritual element on-occasions this 2010 as some kids have exhibited in school a clear sense of joy in giving their presents to me and to others. It was a joy and appreciation that I had experienced on teachers day and on grandparents day back here Ban Li Elementary School back in September when I first arrived.

In short, the big lesson for our students was on “joy and giving” for some of our youth. This helps the eclectic Taiwanese to integrate the idea of Christmas and winter solstice celebrations.

P.S. ANOTHER NOTE; Chinese New Years used to start on Winter Solstice --until several centuries ago--but the entire holiday was moved to February due to the terrible cold Beijing sometimes experienced in late December. (Yes, that change was made by Imperial decree.)


Taiwan-living Tibetans Confirm Nepal’s Collusion with China

Tibetans confirm WikiLeak
By Loa Iok-sin / Staff Reporter at Taipei Times

Tibetans living in Taiwan yesterday confirmed WikiLeaks’ revelation that the number of Tibetans that escape from Tibet into India has fallen sharply in recent years because China is paying Nepal to arrest Tibetan refugees.

According to cables sent by an unnamed officer at the US embassy in New Delhi and made public on the WikiLeaks Web site on Sunday, the Chinese government “rewards [Nepali forces] by providing financial incentives to officers who hand over Tibetans attempting to exit China.”

“Beijing has asked Kathmandu to step up patrols … and make it more difficult for Tibetans to enter Nepal,” the released cables say.

Regional Tibetan Youth -Congress-Taiwan president Tashi Tsering said that he was not surprised at all by the news in the leaked cables.

“This is actually not news, we’ve all heard stories of Tibetans being arrested by Nepali police and sent into Chinese hands,” Tashi told the Taipei Times via telephone. “The Chinese pay the Nepalese police to do so, they also put political pressure on the Nepali government.”

Tashi said that China is gaining more influence in Nepal because it provides a large amount of financial assistance to the Himalayan state.

Dawa Tsering, chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the de facto embassy of the exiled government in Taiwan — said that while arrests of Tibetan refugees by Nepali authorities have always happened, the number of such cases has increased dramatically since the Maoist government took office in 2008.

“Before, there were between 3,000 and 4,000 Tibetan refugees crossing the Himalayas into India through Nepal each year,” Dawa said. “However, since the Maoist party took office, the number has reduced to about 500 to 600 each year.”

He said that China is behind the dramatic decrease in the number of refugees.

“China has gained so much influence in Nepal that now Nepal is like a province of China,” Dawa said. “Many Tibetan refugees said that they saw officials from the Chinese embassy behind Nepalese police officers when they arrested Tibetan refugees.”

Dawa said that although the refugee reception centers set up by the Tibetan government in exile in Nepal are under UN jurisdiction, “the Nepalese police have nevertheless raided the reception centers several times to arrest specific Tibetan refugees wanted by the Chinese government and turn them into Chinese hands.”


The Best and Most Important Interview for North American Parents from 2010

I consider this to be the most important interview of 2010. It links economic and government or social policy in North America with the development of children, and cyclical social and individual problems that we all face in this second decade of the millenia.

“From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Dr. Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing. “

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté. From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Dr. Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.

Dr. Maté is the bestselling author of four books: When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection; Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It; and, with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers; his latest is called In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

Today we bring you all three of our interviews with Dr. Maté in 2010. In our first conversation, Dr. Maté talked about his work as the staff physician at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, a residence and harm reduction facility in Downtown Eastside, a neighborhood with one the densest concentrations of drug addicts in North America. The Portland hosts the only legal injection site in North America, a center that’s come under fire from Canada’s Conservative government. I asked Dr. Maté to talk about his patients.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, but according to all studies in the States, as well, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. And the commonality is childhood abuse. In other words, these people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development, they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again.

And that’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the title of your book mean, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, it’s a Buddhist phrase. In the Buddhists’ psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through, all of us. One is the human realm, which is our ordinary selves. The hell realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The animal realm is our instincts and our id and our passions.

Now, the hungry ghost realm, the creatures in it are depicted as people with large empty bellies, small mouths and scrawny thin necks. They can never get enough satisfaction. They can never fill their bellies. They’re always hungry, always empty, always seeking it from the outside. That speaks to a part of us that I have and everybody in our society has, where we want satisfaction from the outside, where we’re empty, where we want to be soothed by something in the short term, but we can never feel that or fulfill that insatiety from the outside. The addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, is that there’s no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There’s just a continuum in which we all may be found. They’re on it, because they’ve suffered a lot more than most of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the biology of addiction?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: For sure. You see, if you look at the brain circuits involved in addiction—and that’s true whether it’s a shopping addiction like mine or an addiction to opiates like the heroin addict—we’re looking for endorphins in our brains. Endorphins are the brain’s feel good, reward, pleasure and pain relief chemicals. They also happen to be the love chemicals that connect us to the universe and to one another.

Now, that circuitry in addicts doesn’t function very well, as the circuitry of incentive and motivation, which involves the chemical dopamine, also doesn’t function very well. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, nicotine and caffeine, all elevate dopamine levels in the brain, as does sexual acting out, as does extreme sports, as does workaholism and so on.

Now, the issue is, why do these circuits not work so well in some people, because the drugs in themselves are not surprisingly addictive. And what I mean by that is, is that most people who try most drugs never become addicted to them. And so, there has to be susceptibility there. And the susceptible people are the ones with these impaired brain circuits, and the impairment is caused by early adversity, rather than by genetics.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “early adversity”?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the human brain, unlike any other mammal, for the most part develops under the influence of the environment. And that’s because, from the evolutionary point of view, we developed these large heads, large fore-brains, and to walk on two legs we have a narrow pelvis. That means—large head, narrow pelvis—we have to be born prematurely. Otherwise, we would never get born. The head already is the biggest part of the body. Now, the horse can run on the first day of life. Human beings aren’t that developed for two years. That means much of our brain development, that in other animals occurs safely in the uterus, for us has to occur out there in the environment. And which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input.

When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple. And unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, it takes people off the hook?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, if people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies, we don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women, we don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, so that, you know, most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age on because of economic considerations. And especially in the States, because of the welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day. Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to.

And so, if it’s all caused by genetics, we don’t have to look at those social policies; we don’t have to look at our politics that disadvantage certain minority groups, so cause them more stress, cause them more pain, in other words, more predisposition for addictions; we don’t have to look at economic inequalities. If it’s all genes, it’s all—we’re all innocent, and society doesn’t have to take a hard look at its own attitudes and policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this whole approach of criminalization versus harm reduction, how you think addicts should be treated, and how they are, in the United States and Canada?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the first point to get there is that if people who become severe addicts, as shown by all the studies, were for the most part abused children, then we realize that the war on drugs is actually waged against people that were abused from the moment they were born, or from an early age on. In other words, we’re punishing people for having been abused. That’s the first point.

The second point is, is that the research clearly shows that the biggest driver of addictive relapse and addictive behavior is actually stress. In North America right now, because of the economic crisis, a lot of people are eating junk food, because junk foods release endorphins and dopamine in the brain. So that stress drives addiction.

Now imagine a situation where we’re trying to figure out how to help addicts. Would we come up with a system that stresses them to the max? Who would design a system that ostracizes, marginalizes, impoverishes and ensures the disease of the addict, and hope, through that system, to rehabilitate large numbers? It can’t be done. In other words, the so-called “war on drugs,” which, as the new drug czar points out, is a war on people, actually entrenches addiction deeply. Furthermore, it institutionalizes people in facilities where the care is very—there’s no care. We call it a “correctional” system, but it doesn’t correct anything. It’s a punitive system. So people suffer more, and then they come out, and of course they’re more entrenched in their addiction than they were when they went in.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m curious about your own history, Gabor Maté.


AMY GOODMAN: You were born in Nazi-occupied Hungary?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, ADD has a lot to do with that. I have attention deficit disorder myself. And again, most people see it as a genetic problem. I don’t. It actually has to do with those factors of brain development, which in my case occurred as a Jewish infant under Nazi occupation in the ghetto of Budapest. And the day after the pediatrician—sorry, the day after the Nazis marched into Budapest in March of 1944, my mother called the pediatrician and says, “Would you please come and see my son, because he’s crying all the time?” And the pediatrician says, “Of course I’ll come. But I should tell you, all my Jewish babies are crying.”

Now infants don’t know anything about Nazis and genocide or war or Hitler. They’re picking up on the stresses of their parents. And, of course, my mother was an intensely stressed person, her husband being away in forced labor, her parents shortly thereafter being departed and killed in Auschwitz. Under those conditions, I don’t have the kind of conditions that I need for the proper development of my brain circuits. And particularly, how does an infant deal with that much stress? By tuning it out. That’s the only way the brain can deal with it. And when you do that, that becomes programmed into the brain.

And so, if you look at the preponderance of ADD in North America now and the three millions of kids in the States that are on stimulant medication and the half-a-million who are on anti-psychotics, what they’re really exhibiting is the effects of extreme stress, increasing stress in our society, on the parenting environment. Not bad parenting. Extremely stressed parenting, because of social and economic conditions. And that’s why we’re seeing such a preponderance.

So, in my case, that also set up this sense of never being soothed, of never having enough, because I was a starving infant. And that means, all my life, I have this propensity to soothe myself. How do I do that? Well, one way is to work a lot and to gets lots of admiration and lots of respect and people wanting me. If you get the impression early in life that the world doesn’t want you, then you’re going to make yourself wanted and indispensable. And people do that through work. I did it through being a medical doctor. I also have this propensity to soothe myself through shopping, especially when I’m stressed, and I happen to shop for classical compact music. But it goes back to this insatiable need of the infant who is not soothed, and they have to develop, or their brain develop, these self-soothing strategies.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think kids with ADD, with attention deficit disorder, should be treated?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, if we recognize that it’s not a disease and it’s not genetic, but it’s a problem of brain development, and knowing the good news, fortunately—and this is also true for addicts—that the brain, the human brain, can develop new circuits even later on in life—and that’s called neuroplasticity, the capacity of the brain to be molded by new experience later in life—then the question becomes not of how to regulate and control symptoms, but how do you promote development. And that has to do with providing kids with the kind of environment and nurturing that they need so that those circuits can develop later on.

That’s also, by the way, what the addict needs. So instead of a punitive approach, we need to have a much more compassionate, caring approach that would allow these people to develop, because the development is stuck at a very early age.

AMY GOODMAN: You began your talk last night at Columbia, which I went to hear, at the law school, with a quote, and I’d like you to end our conversation with that quote.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Would that be the quote that only in the presence of compassion will people allow themselves—


DR. GABOR MATÉ: Oh, oh, no, yeah, Naguib Mahfouz, the great Egyptian writer. He said that “Nothing records the effects of a sad life” so completely as the human body—“so graphically as the human body.” And you see that sad life in the faces and bodies of my patients.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He’s a bestselling author. He’s a physician in Canada.

In that first interview, we touched briefly on his work on attention deficit disorder, the subject of his book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It. Well, just about a month ago, we had Dr. Maté back on Democracy Now! to talk more about ADD, as well as parenting, bullying, the education system, and how a litany of stresses on the family environment is leading to what he calls the “destruction of the American childhood.”

DR. GABOR MATÉ: In the United States right now, there are three million children receiving stimulant medications for ADHD.


DR. GABOR MATÉ: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And there are about half-a-million kids in this country receiving heavy-duty anti-psychotic medications, medications such as are usually given to adult schizophrenics to regulate their hallucinations. But in this case, children are getting it to control their behavior. So what we have is a massive social experiment of the chemical control of children’s behavior, with no idea of the long-term consequences of these heavy-duty anti-psychotics on kids.

And I know that Canadians statistics just last week showed that within last five years, 43—there’s been a 43 percent increase in the rate of dispensing of stimulant prescriptions for ADD or ADHD, and most of these are going to boys. In other words, what we’re seeing is an unprecedented burgeoning of the diagnosis. And I should say, really, I’m talking about, more broadly speaking, what I would call the destruction of American childhood, because ADD is just a template, or it’s just an example of what’s going on. In fact, according to a recent study published in the States, nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria or criteria for mental health disorders. So we’re talking about a massive impact on our children of something in our culture that’s just not being recognized.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what attention deficit disorder is, what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, specifically ADD is a compound of three categorical set of symptoms. One has to do with poor impulse control. So, these children have difficulty controlling their impulses. When their brain tells them to do something, from the lower brain centers, there’s nothing up here in the cortex, which is where the executive functions are, which is where the functions are that are supposed to tell us what to do and what not to do, those circuits just don’t work. So there’s poor impulse control. They act out. They behave aggressively. They speak out of turn. They say the wrong thing. Adults with ADD will shop compulsively, or impulsively, I should say, and, again, behave in impulsive fashion. So, poor impulse control.

But again, please notice that the impulse control problem is general amongst kids these days. In other words, it’s not just the kids diagnosed with ADD, but a lot of kids. And there’s a whole lot of new diagnoses now. And children are being diagnosed with all kinds of things. ADD is just one example. There’s a new diagnosis called oppositional defiant disorder, which again has to do with behaviors and poor impulse control, so that impulse control now has become a problem amongst children, in general, not just the specific ones diagnosed with ADD.

The second criteria for ADD is physical hyperactivity. So the part of the brain, again, that’s supposed to regulate physical activity and keep you still just, again, doesn’t work.

And then, finally, in the third criteria is poor attention skills—tuning out; not paying attention; mind being somewhere else; absent-mindedness; not being able to focus; beginning to work on something, five minutes later the mind goes somewhere else. So, kind of a mental restlessness and the lack of being still, lack of being focused, lack of being present. These are the three major criteria of ADD.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to this point that you just raised about the destruction of American childhood. What do you mean by that?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston—University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense.

So what’s really going on here now is that the developmental conditions for healthy childhood psychological and brain development are less and less available, so that the issue of ADD is only a small part of the general issue that children are no longer having the support for the way they need to develop.

As I made the point in my book about addiction, as well, the human brain does not develop on its own, does not develop according to a genetic program, depends very much on the environment. And the essential condition for the physiological development of these brain circuits that regulate human behavior, that give us empathy, that give us a social sense, that give us a connection with other people, that give us a connection with ourselves, that allows us to mature—the essential condition for those circuits, for their physiological development, is the presence of emotionally available, consistently available, non-stressed, attuned parenting caregivers.

Now, what do you have in a country where the average maternity leave is six weeks? These kids don’t have emotional caregivers available to them. What do you have in a country where poor women, nearly 50 percent of them, suffer from postpartum depression? And when a woman has postpartum depression, she can’t be attuned to the child.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about fathers?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the situation with fathers is, is that increasingly—there was a study recently that showed an increasing number of men are having postpartum depression, as well. And the main role of the father, of course, would be to support the mother. But when people are—emotionally, because the cause of postpartum depression in the mother it is not intrinsic to the mother—not intrinsic to the mother.

What we have to understand here is that human beings are not discrete, individual entities, contrary to the free enterprise myth that people are competitive, individualistic, private entities. What people actually are are social creatures, very much dependent on one another and very much programmed to cooperate with one another when the circumstances are right. When that’s not available, if the support is not available for women, that’s when they get depressed. When the fathers are stressed, they’re not supporting the women in that really important, crucial bonding role in the beginning. In fact, they get stressed and depressed themselves.

The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents. In this country, that’s less and less available. Hence, you’ve got burgeoning rates of autism in this country. It’s going up like 20- or 30-fold in the last 30 or 40 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Say what you mean by autism.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, autism is a whole spectrum of disorders, but the essential quality of it is an emotional disconnect. These children are living in a mind of their own. They don’t respond appropriately to emotional cues. They withdraw. They act out in an aggressive and sometimes just unpredictable fashion. They don’t know how to—there’s no sense—there’s no clear sense of a emotional connection and just peace inside them.

And there’s many, many more kids in this country now, several-fold increase, 20-fold increase in the last 30 years. The rates of anxiety amongst children is increasing. The numbers of kids on antidepressant medications has increased tremendously. The number of kids being diagnosed with bipolar disorder has gone up. And then not to mention all the behavioral issues, the bullying that I’ve already mentioned, the precocious sexuality, the teenage pregnancies. There’s now a program, a so-called “reality show,” that just focuses on teenage mothers.

You know, in other words—see, it never used to be that children grew up in a stressed nuclear family. That wasn’t the normal basis for child development. The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.

AMY GOODMAN: Canadian physician Dr. Gabor Maté, his book, Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It. We’re going to go back to this discussion in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to our hour-long special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author, Gabor Maté. His books include Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It and, with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the drugs, Gabor Maté, affect the development of the brain.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: In ADD, there’s an essential brain chemical, which is necessary for incentive and motivation, that seems to be lacking. That’s called dopamine. And dopamine is simply an essential life chemical. Without it, there’s no life. Mice in a laboratory who have no dopamine will starve themselves to death, because they have no incentive to eat. Even though they’re hungry, and even though their life is in danger, they will not eat, because there’s no motivation or incentive. So, partly, one way to look at ADD is a massive problem of motivation, because the dopamine is lacking in the brain. Now, the stimulant medications elevate dopamine levels, and these kids are now more motivated. They can focus and pay attention.

However, the assumption underneath giving these kids medications is that what we’re dealing with here is a genetic disorder, and the only way to deal with it is pharmacologically. And if you actually look at how the dopamine levels in a brain develop, if you look at infant monkeys and you measure their dopamine levels, and they’re normal when they’re with their mothers, and when you separate them from mothers, the dopamine levels go down within two or three days.

So, in other words, what we’re doing is we’re correcting a massive social problem that has to do with disconnection in a society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting, and we’re replacing that chemically. Now, the drugs—the stimulant drugs do seem to work, and a lot of kids are helped by it. The problem is not so much whether they should be used or not; the problem is that 80 percent of the time a kid is prescribed a medication, that’s all that happens. Nobody talks to the family about the family environment. The school makes no attempt to change the school environment. Nobody connects with these kids emotionally. In other words, it’s seen simply as a medical or a behavioral problem, but not as a problem of development.

AMY GOODMAN: Gabor Maté, you talk about acting out. What does acting out mean?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, it’s a great question. You see, when we hear the phrase “acting out,” we usually mean that a kid is behaving badly, that a child is being obstreperous, oppositional, violent, bullying, rude. That’s because we don’t know how to speak English anymore. The phrase “acting out” means you’re portraying behavior that which you haven’t got the words to say in language. In a game of charades, you have to act out, because you’re not allowed to speak. If you landed in a country where nobody spoke your language and you were hungry, you would have to literally demonstrate your anger—sorry, your hunger, through behavior, pointing to your mouth or to your empty belly, because you don’t have the words.

My point is that, yes, a lot of children are acting out, but it’s not bad behavior. It’s a representation of emotional losses and emotional lacks in their lives. And whether it’s, again, bullying or a whole set of other behaviors, what we’re dealing with here is childhood stunted emotional development—in some cases, stunted pain development. And rather than trying to control these behaviors through punishments, or even just exclusively through medications, we need to help these kids develop.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned you suffered from ADD, attention deficit disorder, yourself—


AMY GOODMAN:—and were drugged for it. Explain your own story.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, I was in my early fifties, and I was working in palliative care at the time. I was coordinator of a palliative care unit at a large Canadian hospital. And a social worker in the unit, who had just been diagnosed as an adult, told me about her story. And as a physician, I was like most physicians who know nothing about ADD. Most physicians really don’t know about the condition. But when she told me her story, I realized that was me. And subsequently, I was diagnosed. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And what was that story? What did you realize was you?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Oh, poor impulse control a lot of my life, impulsive behaviors, disorganization, a tendency to tune out a lot, be absentminded, and physical restlessness. I mean, I had trouble sitting still. All the traits, you know, that I saw in the literature on ADD, I recognized in myself, which was kind of an epiphany, in a sense, because you get to understand—at least you get a sense of why you’re behaving the way you’re behaving.

What never made sense to me right from the beginning, though, is the idea of ADD as a genetic disease. And not even after a couple of my kids were diagnosed with it, I still didn’t buy the idea that it’s genetic, because it isn’t. Again, it has to do with, in my case, very stressed circumstances as an infant, which I talked about on a previous program. In the case of my children, it’s because their father was a workaholic doctor who wasn’t emotionally available to them. And under those circumstances, children are stressed. I mean, if children are stressed when their brains are developing, one way to deal with the stress is to tune out.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about holding on to your kids, why parents need to matter more than peers.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Amy, in 1998, there was a book that was on the New York Times best book of the year and nearly won the Pulitzer Prize, and it was called The Nurture Assumption, in which this researcher argued that parents don’t make any difference anymore, because she looked at the—to the extent that Newsweek actually had a cover article that year entitled “Do Parents Matter?” Now, if you want to get the full stupidity of that question, you have to imagine a veterinarian magazine asking, “Does the mother cat make any difference?” or “Does the mother bear matter?” But the research showed that children are being more influenced now, in their tastes, in their attitudes, in their behaviors, by peers than by parents. This poor researcher concluded that this is somehow natural. And what she mistook was that what is the norm in North America, she actually thought that was natural and healthy. In fact, it isn’t.

So, our book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers, is about showing why it is true that children are being more influenced by other kids in these days than by their parents, but just what an aberration that is, and what a distortion it is of normal human development, because normal human development demands, as normal mammalian development demands, the presence of nurturing parents. You know, even birds—birds don’t develop properly unless the mother and father bird are there. Bears, cats, rats, mice. Although, most of all, human beings, because human beings are the least mature and the most dependent for the longest period of time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the importance of attachment?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Attachment is the drive to be close to somebody, and attachment is a power force in human relationship—in fact, the most powerful force there is. Even as adults, when attachment relationships that people want to be close to are lost to us or they’re threatened somehow, we get very disoriented, very upset. Now, for children and babies and adolescents, that’s an absolute necessity, because the more immature you are, the more you need your attachments. It’s like a force of gravity that pulls two bodies together. Now, when the attachment goes in the wrong direction, instead of to the adults, but to the peer group, childhood developments can be distorted, development is stopped in its tracks, and parenting and teaching become extremely difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: You co-wrote this book, and you both found, in your experience, Hold on to Your Kids, that your kids were becoming increasingly secretive and unreachable.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, that’s the thing. You see, now, if your spouse or partner, adult spouse or partner, came home from work and didn’t give you the time of day and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn’t say, “You’ve got a behavioral problem. You should try tough love.” They’d say you’ve got a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavioral problem, we try and control the behaviors. In fact, what they’re showing us is that—my children showed this, as well—is that I had a relationship problem with them. They weren’t connected enough with me and too connected to the peer group. So that’s why they wanted to spend all their time with their peer group. And now we’ve given kids the technology to do that with. So the terrible downside of the internet is that now kids are spending time with each other—

AMY GOODMAN: Not even in the presence of each other.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s exactly the point, because, you see, that’s an attachment dynamic. One of the basic ways that people attach to each other is to want to be with the people that you want to connect with. So when kids spend time with each other, it’s not a behavior problem; it’s a sign that their relationships have been skewed towards the peer group. And that’s why it’s so difficult to peel them off their computers, because their desperation is to connect with the people that they’re trying to attach to. And that’s no longer us, as the adults, as the parents in their life.

AMY GOODMAN: So how do you change this dynamic?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, first we have to recognize its manifestations. And so, we have to recognize that whenever the child doesn’t look adults in the eye anymore, when the child wants to be always on the Skype or the cell phone or twittering or emailing or MSM messengering, you recognize it when the child becomes oppositional to adults. We tend to think that that’s a normal childhood phenomenon. It’s normal only to a certain degree.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they have to rebel in order to separate later.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: No. They have to separate, but they don’t have to rebel. In other words, separation is a normal human—individuation is a normal human developmental stage. You have to become a separate, individual person. But it doesn’t mean you have to reject and be hostile to the values of the adults. As a matter of fact, in traditional societies, children would become adults by being initiated into the adult group by elders, like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony or the initiation rituals of tribal cultures around the world. Now kids are initiated by other kids. And now you have the gang phenomenon, so that the teenage gang phenomenon is actually a misplaced initiation and orientation ritual, where kids are now rebelling against adult values. But it’s not because they’re bad kids, but because they’ve become disconnected from adults.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Maté, there’s a whole debate about education in the United States right now. How does this fit in?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, you have to ask, how do children learn? How do children learn? And learning is an attachment dynamic, as well. You learn when you want to be like somebody. So you copy them, so you learn from them. You learn when you’re curious. And you learn when you’re willing to try something, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else.

Now, here’s what happens. Caring about something and being curious about something and recognizing that something doesn’t work, you have to have a certain degree of emotional security. You have to be able to be open and vulnerable. Children who become peer-oriented—because the peer world is so dangerous and so fraught with bullying and ostracization and dissing and exclusion and negative talk, how does a child protect himself or herself from all that negativity in the peer world? Because children are not committed to each others’ unconditional loving acceptance. Even adults have a hard time giving that. Children can’t do it. Those children become very insecure, and emotionally, to protect themselves, they shut down. They become hardened, so they become cool. Nothing matters. Cool is the ethic. You see that in the rock videos. It’s all about cool. It’s all about aggression and cool and no real emotion. Now, when that happens, curiosity goes, because curiosity is vulnerable, because you care about something and you’re admitting that you don’t know. You won’t try anything, because if you fail, again, your vulnerability is exposed. So, you’re not willing to have trial and error.

And in terms of who you’re learning from, as long as kids were attaching to adults, they were looking to the adults to be modeling themselves on, to learn from, and to get their cues from. Now, kids are still learning from the people they’re attached to, but now it’s other kids. So you have whole generations of kids that are looking to other kids now to be their main cue-givers. So teachers have an almost impossible problem on their hands. And unfortunately, in North America again, education is seen as a question of academic pedagogy, hence these terrible standardized tests. And the very teachers who work with the most difficult kids are the ones who are most penalized.

AMY GOODMAN: Because if they don’t have good test scores, standardized test scores, in their class—

DR. GABOR MATÉ: They’re seen as bad teachers.

AMY GOODMAN:—then they could be fired. They’re seen as bad teachers, which means they’re going to want to kick out any difficult kids.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s exactly it. The difficult kids are kicked out, and teachers will be afraid to go into neighborhoods where, because of troubled family relationships, the kids are having difficulties, the kids are peer-oriented, the kids are not looking to the teachers. And this is seen as a reflection. So, actually, teachers are being slandered right now. Teachers are being slandered now because of the failure of the American society to produce the right environment for childhood development.

AMY GOODMAN: Because of the destruction of American childhood.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: That’s right. What the problem reflects is the loss of the community and the neighborhood. We have to recreate that. So, the schools have to become not just places of pedagogy, but places of emotional connection. The teachers should be in the emotional connection game before they attempt to be in the pedagogy game.

AMY GOODMAN: Canadian physician and bestselling author, Gabor Maté. Among his books, Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It. When we come back, a third interview with Gabor Maté about, well, When the Body Says No. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to the last part of our hour-long special with Dr. Gabor Maté, Canadian physician and writer. Dr. Maté came on Democracy Now! this year to discuss his book When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection. Based on medical studies and his own experience with chronically ill patients at the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital, where he was the medical coordinator for seven years, Dr. Maté argues that stress and individual emotional makeup play critical roles in an array of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Speaking to us this time from Vancouver—it was actually during the Vancouver Olympics—Dr. Maté began by explaining his analysis of the mind-body connection.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: You know, the traditional medicines of China for 3,000 years, the ayurvedic medicine of India, and the tribal shamanic medicines of all cultures around the world have always taken for granted that mind and body can’t be separated. Now, Western medicine has cleaved the two apart for, really, 2,000 years. Socrates already criticized the doctors of his day for separating the mind from the body. And the irony—in fact, the tragedy—is that now we have the Western science that shows, incontrovertibly and in great detail, that mind and body can’t be separated, and so that any attempt to do so leaves the medical practitioner short of many tools to help clients. And, of course, it leaves patients short of what they need for their own healing.

The point now is that the emotional centers of the brain, which regulate our behaviors and our responses and our reactions, are physiologically connected with—and we know exactly how they’re connected—with the immune system, the nervous system and the hormonal apparatus. In fact, it’s no longer possible, scientifically, to speak of these as separate systems, as if immunity was separate from emotions, as if the nervous system was separate from the hormonal apparatus. There’s one system, and they’re wired together by the nervous system itself and joined together by chemical messengers that they all secrete, and so that whatever happens emotionally has an impact immunologically, and vice versa. So, for example, we know now that the white cells in the circulation of our—of the blood can manufacture every hormone that the brain can manufacture, and vice versa, so that the brain and the immune system are always talking to one another.

So, in short, we have one system. The science that studies it is called psychoneuroimmunology. And scientifically, it’s not even controversial, but it’s completely lacking from medical practice.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, Dr. Maté, by the mind-body—by the Bermuda Triangle?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, the Bermuda Triangle is that the research is done. For example, let me give you a couple of examples. Three years ago or four years ago, a study presented at the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s International Congress on Women’s Health, a study that was written up in the online version of a major North American medical journal called Circulation, showed that women—over a 10-year period, they followed 1,700 women—over a 10-year period, women who were unhappily married and didn’t express their emotions were four times as likely to die as those women who were unhappily married and did express their feelings. In other words, the non-expression of emotion was associated with a 400 percent increase in the death rate. And this study was done in the States, part of a major population study.

Now, you would think that study would send every physician in North America trying to figure out the mind-body connection. But these studies get published, and they sink without a trace. There was a study two years ago that showed that children of mothers who are stressed and depressed are themselves, the children, are more likely to have asthma. Again, the mind-body connection. You’d think that study alone would send every physician running to figure out the mind-body connection. But again, these studies are done; they disappear without a trace, and they have no impact on medical practice. And that’s what I mean by the Bermuda Triangle, is that we have the research; we just don’t pay attention to it, as like if it never happened.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about emotions like anger sharing with our immune system the same role of defending our boundaries, saying when we repress emotions, we may also repress our immune defenses. How does that play out in various diseases?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, when I looked at the kind of people that would be coming under my care in palliative care, but also the kind of people who would get sick when I was in family practice, a number of salient characteristics presented themselves. One was the repression of anger. People didn’t know how to express negative emotion. They were afraid to do so or did not know when they were angry. People who were pleasers, they tried to always not to disappoint other people. They never knew how to say no. They took on everything without a murmur, because they saw their role as always being the caregivers and the caretakers. And they had an exceedingly powerful sense of duty, role and responsibility.

Now, if you look at the role of healthy assertion of boundaries and anger, for example, it’s actually there to protect you. I’m talking about healthy anger. It’s not there to attack anybody; it’s just there to protect your boundaries. That’s the same role as the immune system have. The immune system also functions like a brain. It has memory, it has reactive capacity, and it has learning capacity. In fact, the immune system has been called the “floating brain.” And it’s in interaction with the brain up in our heads.

Now, women, for example, with breast cancer, who don’t know how to express anger, they’ve been shown to have diminished activity of a group of immune cells called natural killer cells. Natural killer cells attack foreign bacteria, virus and also malignant cells. have been able to increase the natural killer cells. In other words, they protect our boundaries. Women who don’t know how to express their boundaries emotionally, they suppress their boundaries immunologically, and therefore they’re more likely to develop disease. The same is true, of course, of men, so that the immune system is in constant interaction with our emotional responses.

In another study with the immune system, medical students under the stress of examination were found to have diminished activity of their natural killer cells, these immune cells. But those students who were emotionally isolated were most likely to have diminished activity of their immune system. In other words, another fact that’s important is our relationship with other people. And the Los Angeles UCLA psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Siegel, has coined a phrase “interpersonal neurobiology,” to indicate that our biology of our brains, but indeed of our whole bodies, is in interaction with our personal relationships. So how we express ourselves in those relationships, or how we suppress ourselves, has a lot to do with our health.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk particularly about autoimmune diseases and their connection—well, that mind-body connection, like, for example, rheumatoid arthritis.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: A case example I give in the book is a young woman who was preparing Rosh Hashanah dinner one night for the family, Rosh Hashanah being the Jewish new year that falls in September. I called her “Rachel” in the book. And she was working very hard. She was at her mother’s place cooking dinner, and she was in a real hurry, because she had to finish by 5:00, when her brother was going to arrive with his family, and he didn’t like her. He didn’t want to be at the dinner. So she had to finish the dinner and leave before he arrived. And I asked her, “Are you serious? You’re making dinner for a family that you’re not going to take part in yourself? Why?” And she said, “Well, because the family should be together for Rosh Hashanah, shouldn’t they?”

Well, she never finished the meal. Her body said no. She came down with severe inflammation in all her joints, and she was rushed to the hospital with her first malignant outbreak of rheumatoid arthritis. And that self-suppression is typical for people that develop rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s also typical for people that develop ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I talk about the example of Lou Gehrig, if I may tell you about that. Lou Gehrig was this great baseball player, a teammate of Babe Ruth’s on the New York Yankees. And he set a record for consecutive games played that stood for nearly sixty years. Now, Gehrig wasn’t just a great athlete. He was also dutiful. He—it’s not that he was never hurt. At one point, his hands were x-rayed. It turns out his fingers had been fractured seventeen separate times. And his teammates described him as grimacing like a mad monkey in agony when he fielded the ball. But he never took himself out of a game, because he was too dutiful to his own self-image and also to the fans and to the owners. Now, that sense of responsibility, and not looking after yourself, is totally typical of everybody who develops ALS.

And it goes back to their childhoods. Lou Gehrig’s father was an alcoholic, and Gehrig learned very early in life that he had to take care of others, as the children of alcoholics often do. And that then became his pattern until he could no longer drag himself around the baseball diamond because of the ALS, which in North America, of course, is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about children, when it comes to this? And then expand, because, Gabor, a few weeks ago we were talking about addictions, and that’s both, what, heroin addiction, but expanding it to other addictions, as well, and the role of childhood. And in doing this, though you talked about it before, talk about your own.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Well, again, in the book When the Body Says No, I give the example of my visiting my mother one day in a nursing home. My mother had muscular dystrophy, which is a degenerative disease of the muscles. It’s hereditary, runs in our family. And so, she could no longer walk, get out of bed, even feed herself very well, so she was in a nursing home, mentally completely with it and emotionally very strong.

So I’m walking down the hall of the nursing home that day, and I’m limping a little bit. And why am I limping? Because that morning I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee, which I had to have because I tore up cartilage in my knee jogging on cement. So I have a little bit of a limp that afternoon. When I get to my mother’s room, I suppress the limp. The limp disappears. I walk to her bed nonchalantly, greet her, we have a lovely visit. I walk out of the room with a perfectly normal gait, and when I shut the door behind me, my limp begins again.

And only later on did I think, “What am I doing here?” It wasn’t conscious. I didn’t do it deliberately. Of course, clearly, I was trying to protect my mom from the awareness of my pain. Now, my mother, at age 78, did not need to be protected from the fact that her middle-age son had to be with a limp the day of surgery. It was a childhood-ingrained mechanism going back, again, to my first year of life in the ghetto of Budapest, when, as I mentioned in my first visit to your program, we lived under Nazi occupation, a Jewish family. My father was away in forced labor. My mother was a highly stressed woman, trying to do her best to ensure my and her survival, which she was barely able to do. I learned as an infant to suppress my pain to protect her from it, because she already had too much, in order to protect my relationship with her. Now, those emotional patterns are ingrained in children from early on. And although I have no recollection of that time in my life, the memory of it lives in my cells and lives in my brain and shows up in my interactions with people, including in that example of trying to protect my mother.

So, the point is that human beings are shaped very early by what happens to them in life. As a matter of fact, they’re shaped already by what happens in uterus. After 9/11, after the World Trade disasters in those terrorist attacks, some women who were pregnant suffered PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. And depending on what stage of pregnancy they suffered the PTSD, when they measured their children’s cortisol levels—cortisol being a body stress hormone—at one year of age, those kids had abnormal cortisol levels. In other words, their stress apparatus had been negatively affected by the mother’s stress during pregnancy. Similarly, for example, when I looked at the stress hormone levels of the children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD, the greater the degree of PTSD of the parent, the higher the stress hormone level of the child.

So, how we see the world, whether the world is a hostile or friendly place, whether we have to always do for ourselves and look after others or whether we can actually expect and receive help from the world, whether or not the world is hostile or friendly, and indeed our stress physiology, is very much shaped by those early experiences. And that’s then what we act out much of our lives, and that’s then what interferes and affects our health later on.

The implication of this, Amy, for treatment is that when somebody comes in with a first episode of rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis, or even a diagnosis of cancer, it’s not enough to give them pills. It’s not enough to give them radiation or offer them surgery. They should also be talked to and invited to and encouraged to investigate how they live their lives and how they stress themselves, because I can tell you from personal experience and observation that people who do that, who take a broader approach to their own health, they actually do a lot better.

And I know people who have survived supposedly terminal diagnoses simply because they’ve taken their own mind-body unity, and I would say spiritual unity, as well, seriously, and they’ve gone beyond a narrow medical model of treatment. And I’m not here to disparage the value of the medical approach in which I was trained. I’m just saying that it’s hopelessly narrow, and it leaves many people without appropriate treatment and appropriate support.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gabor Maté, you talk about adverse childhood—adverse childhood stresses as ACEs—

DR. GABOR MATÉ: Yes, there was a—

AMY GOODMAN:—and their connection also to addiction, this latest book that you have written, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

DR. GABOR MATÉ: There was a number of large-scale studies in the United States done by very brilliant researchers called the ACE studies, A-C-E, adverse childhood experiences. An adverse childhood experience is a child being abused or violence in the family or a parent being jailed or extreme stress of poverty or a rancorous divorce, a parent being addicted, alcoholic and so on.

When it comes to addiction, these effects are addictive, so that if a child has a number of these adverse childhood experiences, his chance of becoming a drug addict later on, or any kind of an addict, go up exponentially. So a male child with six such adverse childhood experiences has a 4,600 percent increase in the risk of him becoming an injection-using substance addict than a male child with no such experiences—in other words, a 46-fold increase in the risk.

And interestingly enough, those adverse childhood experiences also exponentially increase the risk of cancer and high blood pressure and heart disease and a whole range of other diseases, as well as suicide, of course, and early death. In other words, there’s a real connection between early childhood adversity and how a person lives their lives and a later appearance of addiction and diseases, physical and of course mental illnesses at the same time.

And if we don’t take this into account in medicine—most of the time, people are not asked about these things in doctors’ offices, and they’re not explored. They’re not encouraged to explore their childhoods and the kind of impact that the childhood has on their adult behaviors.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up this part of our discussion, what do you think are the most useful ways people can deal with stress, with the mind-body connection, both people themselves and also what doctors should be telling their patients, or what patients should be telling their doctors?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: The body has many ways of saying no: almost any symptom, a stomach ache, a back spasm, a headache, nausea, dry mouth, poor sleep, muscle tension. I’m talking about relatively minor symptoms. These are all ways of the body saying no. As of course are the more severe conditions, like psoriasis or ulcerative colitis, all the ones that I’ve already mentioned. These are all ways of the body saying no.

We need to, first of all, to say and pay attention to what the body is saying to us. So if we have a symptom, don’t just go to the doctor and say, “Take this symptom away from me”—yeah, ask for help—but also explore what the body is saying no to. Usually you’ll find that in your life you’ve taken on too much, you’re suppressing yourself, you’re trying to please others too much. You’re living life along patterns that don’t express who you really are. So the symptom or the disease ought to be not just something that you want to get rid of; it ought to be the beginning of an exploration and investigation of how you live your life and how you might possibly live your life differently, in a more healthy fashion.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you think modern medicine is dealing better, Western medicine, with this, with the mind-body connection?

DR. GABOR MATÉ: There are encouraging signs. There’s certainly people like Jon Kabat-Zinn, who talks about stress and mindfulness, and Andrew Weil, who talks about the importance of nutrition and a more holistic approach. So there are many people doing great work.

But if I look at the profession as a whole, we’re doing a dismal job. And we’re spending billions of dollars on researches into cancer and so on that are never going to get us anywhere, because we ignore the life stresses that very often, if they don’t by themselves cause, they certainly contribute in a major way to the onset of disease. But we’re not looking at them. We’re not dealing with them. And we’re leaving people without the appropriate tools to restore their own health.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gabor Maté, the Vancouver-based physician and bestselling author of four books: When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection; Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It; and, with Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers; oh, and there’s his latest, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.