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Wednesday 16 May 2012

NEW YORK TIMES FREE ARTICLE- psychological policing - rejecting ritalin

February 20, 2012, 11:18 am
Rejecting Ritalin With the Power of Hindsight

In The Art of Distraction on the Opinion Pages this weekend, Hanif Kureishi — a successful playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, novelist and short-story writer — admits to being, as his title suggests, distracted. His son, too, suffers (or doesn’t, as you’ll gather from reading the whole of his piece) from a lack of focus — but, Mr. Kureishi argues, there is nothing “wrong” with his son. Or with him. Distraction, he suggests, is a gift, and focus overrated. From that point of view, he offers this indictment of Ritalin and other drugs designed to help those who can’t find it:
Ritalin and other forms of enforcement and psychological policing are the contemporary equivalent of the old practice of tying up children’s hands in bed, so they won’t touch their genitals. The parent stupefies the child for the parent’s good. There is more to this than keeping out the interesting: there is the fantasy and terror that someone here will become pleasure’s victim, disappearing into a spiral of enjoyment from which he or she will not return.
It’s hard to argue with someone as successful as Mr. Kureishi when he says he’s done rather well without “focus,” and in a sense he’s offering a personal take on an oft-made argument against treating mental differences with drugs: would you wish that Mozart, Einstein or even van Gogh had been medicated into a more standardized childhood? For Mr. Kureishi, and perhaps many others, “some distractions are more than useful; they might be more like realizations and can be as informative and multilayered as dreams. They might be where the excitement is.”
But even as Mr. Kureishi conveys his gratitude for his distracted life in elegant prose, it has to be said that if he had sat down and applied his finest concentration for weeks, he could scarcely have come up with a statement about Ritalin more calculated to offend those who depend on it for themselves or choose it for their children. Coming on the heels of “Ritalin Gone Wrong,” and the flurry that followed it, Mr. Kureishi’s work could be said to add insult to injury. Can we find a way to discuss a collective fear that we’re overmedicating a generation of children without such polemics, or is it too late to frame the argument in a less combative way?

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