Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Formula for collapse

            When I started to write a novel Lies That Bind based loosely on my experiences as a social psychologist, I needed a fictitious country with a large number of orphan children.  In order to get my orphan children, I had a choice of a previous civil war, or economic collapse.  I chose economic collapse. 

            I had consulted with some emerging nations earlier in my career.  I knew the formula—control of the economy by a few rich parties and massive corruption.  I wrote from academic knowledge and reports from government officials I was in an e-mail relationship with. 

            When I started the book, I still believed that the US was too diverse, too ethical, and too rich to fall into the economic conditions that cause a collapse of the economy.   We have anti-trust laws.  We have laws prohibiting insider trading.  We have laws prohibiting fiduciary fraud.  We have laws prohibiting trust violations.  The US would never fall into the formula for economic collapse.  We have upward mobility.  We have free elections.  We have three branches of government with a system of checks and balances, or so I was taught in school.

            I use the word formula in the scientific form, A + B + C = Economic collapse.  It happens.  It has happened to other countries.  The question is whether it can happen in the US. 

            Perhaps economic collapse can happen here.  Some people seem to think we are in trouble.  I’ve seen a number of proposals for preventing a collapse of our economic system.  We are starting to see books written about preventing the collapse.  We have a book about smart government (Clinton), and one about getting money out of government (Lessig).   We have a candidate running for president without corporate donations (Roemer).  People are aware of the danger.  Some people are trying to prevent the train wreck.  Other people are fine with the train wreck as long as they have enough money to buy a Caribbean island and leave the country.  Some people watch in fascinated horror. 

            In my novel, I didn’t start out to write about economic collapse.  I don’t want to write about my country.  I want to write about an emerging nation and how one group of people overcame the problems of their society.  Some days I fear that my real country is trying to be my fictional country.

(Please note:  When I say my novel is based loosely on my experiences as a social psychologist, I do mean loosely.  I’ve melded together some of the experiences of about five, possibly six countries.  Also, I’ve never, ever, not ever, had an affair with a foreign head of state, never.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Putin finally agrees with me.

            Vladimir Putin finally agrees with me!  Years ago I wrote an opinion piece for an adoption magazine.  The topic was foreign adoption.  I advocated for helping countries care for homeless children in their own country.

            As a specialist on the topic of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, (FAS) I was alarmed by the influx of adopted children with disabilities related to prenatal exposure to alcohol.  My biggest concern was that people, who will need social and financial support for the rest of their lives, do not fare well in this country. 

            The US is a country that is proud of its independent spirit.  We want our children to be independent enough to ride the school bus.  We send a crying child to their room to “work it out” alone.   We expect adults to support themselves.  We take special pride in the person who comes from a disadvantaged background by “pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

            Along with our independence we expect our youth to be able to handle a great deal of responsibility.  We give our children driver’s licenses when they turn sixteen and expect them to be responsible with the family car.  We give our youth a great deal of freedom and expect them to stay out of trouble.  The mother who drives her child to scouts and stays to supervise him is “over parenting.” 

            In a nation where children are expected to be independent and handle responsibility at an early age, children with FAS do not do well.  They will get into trouble if given the same amount of free time as their peers.  They will get into trouble if given the freedom of the family car.  They are also self aware enough to feel ashamed at needing to live by rules of dependence.

            In my original article I advocated that children with brain damage from prenatal exposure will do better in a nation that accepts the notion that a social safety net is necessary.  The child with cognitive disabilities will do better where it is okay for adults to supervise children.  Children with cognitive disabilities will do better in a community that provides for vocational training. 

            While I am aware that Russia’s economic problems have made caring for their children with disabilities a challenge.  I still think that children with cognitive disabilities will do better in a society that accepts the need for a social safety net and dependence on extended family or family surrogates. 

            It is my hope that Prime Minister Putin will be able to follow through on his comments to keep more of their children in the country.  I hope he will recognize the need for supervision for these children past the age of maturity.  I hope his country will be able to provide the vocational training their youth need.  I think they do have the structure and philosophy to do a great job of including individuals with cognitive disabilities in Russian society.