Got a new box of Scruples

July 5, 2014

Very exciting.

The Little Man and I enjoy walking around the neighbourhood on weekends looking for garage sales and today I struck gold with a mint 2nd edition copy of A Question of Scruples, still with the original 1986 Wool-co price tag on it, $19.99 reduced to $12.50. A real garage sale bargain at $3, let me tell you. Mint be damned, this was opened as soon as I got it home. The Man and I spent many an hour pondering how to answer the questions posed in the 3rd edition. It was nice to find another box of what ifs.

I think the bulk of the writing I’ll do for this blog will, quite frankly, focus on answering questions out of this box as if this were an “Ask an Atheist” Q&A. Saves me doing a lot of extra reading to get a post ready, and anything that will speed me up and get me back in the swing will be the “easy” stuff.

Other topics and ideas may crop up again in time. Until then, feel free to post your own answers to the questions posed, should the mood suit.

A heavy first:

Your teenage son tells you in strict confidence about a friend who is taking cocaine. You know the parents are not aware. Do you warn them?

My first instinct is to promote Kids Help Phone. I remember the ads from my youth and all they promised in terms of a compassionate ear and anonymity.

In terms of what I would personally do, hell if I know. I guess it would depend on a few factors.

How well do I know the parents and the kid in question? If it’s a case where I don’t know these people and only my son’s close with the family, I would feel strange taking this to the parents. If I were friends with the family, I’d still feel weird bringing it up.

Is it “just” cocaine or has this kid been getting deep into the crack, as it were? What sort of addiction fears would we be looking at? An article out of the Guardian from 2009 reported on a study regarding cocaine and how it was never published in the States because it:

descended into outright heresy. “Occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems … a minority of people … use casually for a short or long period, and suffer little or no negative consequences.”

And finally: “Use of coca leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive, therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations.”

At the point where mild cocaine use was described in positive tones the Americans presumably blew some kind of outrage fuse.

Not to say I’m saying to this hypothetical kid, go nuts, science is on your side…

I mentioned to the Man this first not so easy question and read it out to him. He wondered immediately about level of use, as in, was this friend confessing his/her first ever use of coke to our kid, or admitting to a problem spanning several months? Good point. And, he also said he’d definitely tell the other parents whether he was close to the family or not. Vital information about their kid and his/her possible downward spiral, after all. And, he mentioned, he’d hate to be put into a position where the family (if we knew them well or not) later asked us how and when we knew their child had a problem. It’d hardly make us look good to say we’d known for half a year or something. Too true.

I still like the anonymity route, myself. Encourage our kid to help his friend find help, through some kind of crisis service program or intervention. Get the parents involved, obviously, but maybe try to make the friend be the one admitting help is needed? Having the parents run ripshod over this kid’s life might be part of why he or she turned to drugs in the first place.

Well, that’s the best answer to the question I can come up with at the moment. Thoughts?

EDIT July 6: I see why journalists record all their conversations before writing things. I goofed the paraphrasing of my Sweetie’s thoughts on the matter. He’d definitely want to tell the parents if we knew them well, but it would depend a bit on where the kid’s at in terms of use. If it’s just been a couple times and the kid can be encouraged to seek out better alternatives to drug use for problem solving then maybe the parents wouldn’t necessarily need to be made aware of the usage.

One of the reasons I like writing posts based around Scruples questions is because I’m a fan of thought experiments. I also like to use them to fight the fallacy that atheists are moral vacuums because we don’t have a god pointing out what’s right and wrong.

“Teens see this film, they walk out and throw their razor blades away”

January 29, 2010

So I guess beards will be in fashion now? It’s out of World Net Daily – a new film in theaters that is supposed to change the minds of suicidal teens and make them more hopeful people. It’s called To Save a Life:

Jim Britts’ “To Save a Life” debuted at No. 15 on the box office charts, topping $1.5 million in ticket sales on opening weekend (which already puts it on pace ahead of another church-produced film, “Facing the Giants”) in 441 theaters nationwide.

The film’s story is about an all-star athlete and his girlfriend, who find their lives spinning out of control when Jake loses a childhood friend to suicide. Breaking out of the patterns of peer pressure and popularity to reach other hurting students, however, proves a life-changing challenge.

“Some people are just dying to be heard,” states the film’s tag line. “The movie asks, ‘How far would you go? How much would you risk? How hard would you fight … to save a life?'”

Teenagers themselves are raving about the film…

Anything willing to deal seriously with the serious issue that is teen suicide is generally fine by me. It’s nothing I went through, and I had no close friends that experienced this either (that I know of). If it has to peddle a religion in the process, well.. it’s better to be a pain-in-the-ass god botherer than dead. At least there’s the possibility of growing out of it. Dead is just dead.

New Song’s website for teens to share their reactions and stories attests to lives being changed:

“I am a cutter, and I could really relate to Jonny in this movie and how he felt,” writes Marisa. “I even thought about taking my life a few times, but now I’ve learned that there’s so much more to life than what I thought it was. God gave me a reason to be on this earth, and I am now seeing what I’m here for.”

Marisa and others who wrote in apparently needed a dose of hope and an increased feeling of purpose. I don’t know that a two hour movie would ever be enough to actually change a life but if it’s helped her express her reason to be around and encourages her to be a role model for other troubled teens, then good for her. And good for them, as well.

From Variety:

elements of Jake’s spiritual dilemma ring true, and in less compromising hands, an examination of the wedge that religious conversion drives into existing relationships could have yielded great insight. But the film’s invocations of faith’s knottier issues are defanged by its easy answers (teenage pregnancy? Just let the youth pastor handle it) and many supplemental dramas that swell the running time to a bloated two hours.

The missionary impulse is an essential element of Christian faith, so to fault a Christian film for proselytizing is ultimately a meaningless criticism. Nonetheless, “To Save a Life’s” agenda is proclaimed so loudly that it tramples all over the film’s quieter elements, and often seems designed less to steer viewers toward salvation than toward a very specific (and at times borderline cultish) type of suburban youth ministry

While I can’t offer much advice on the suicide aspects, I think it is worthwhile pointing out that church-run youth groups aren’t the only options for kids who want to make new friends or make a difference in their communities. Check with your schools, check at a library. There are all kinds of groups out there. Hobbies, books, music, sports, volunteering — whatever. There are kids that come to a mall here in town every Sunday just to play Magic-the Gathering, or whatever card-based RPG is in style these days. At least a dozen of them set up at a game supply store and play. Just get involved with something positive and fun. Find the fun. And if you can’t find one, start one.

Children are better off today.. well, kind of.

January 3, 2010

I don’t have kids. I don’t even know if I want kids. I think if I did have kids, I’d consider raising them like in The Village, away from the hustle and bustle and crazy tech crap and money woes and gangs and drugs. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to invent monsters and a superstition around the colour red to keep them in line, mind you. A little bit of lusting for the simpler times, is what I’m getting at.

Anyway, saw this article at WORLDmag recently, where Anthony Bradley claims it’s a much better world for children today than any other time in history. He goes all the way back to Greeks and Romans to illustrate how unimportant kids used to be but it’s not even necessary to look that far back. Considering child labour practices of the past (and even in other countries today), sure, Western kids have got it pretty good. He writes,

In a Western culture like ours that worships children and idolizes youth, the low social status of children in antiquity seems foreign.

What I bold there is a problem that needs dealing with. Kids should not be worshiped. Kids should be kids who know their parents will be making their decisions for them — to a point. For example, kids have way too much purchasing power now and parents who had to do without seem loathe to let their kids feel the same angst. But kids who get everything they want in life are going to have a hard time when they’re on their own. Whether in university or working for a living, when they discover they have no idea how to deal with problems because their helicopter parents take care of everything for them, how will they ever mature into independent people?

Also, a lot of kids are on pills for depression and other mental issues. Why in the hell should any kids be depressed if they’re living in the best time kids have ever had? Some statistics:

One in five children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. And up to one in 10 may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance. Seventy percent of children, however, do not receive mental health services (SGRMH, 1999). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in children, affecting 3 to 5 percent of school-age children (NIMH, 1999). As many as one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents may have depression (CMHS, 1998). Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds. The number of attempted suicides is even higher (AACAP, 1997).

I doubt numbers have gotten lower over the past decade. And even living with a bummed out mom increases the risk of depression in teens (her own or adopted), too.

A growing number of studies demonstrate difficulties that depressed mothers have in interacting with their children, remarks psychiatrist John Markowitz of Columbia University. Tully’s study “bolsters the evidence that maternal, more than paternal, depression meaningfully affects children through home life, not just heritability,” he says.

And if you look at the indicators of teen depression, small wonder it often goes undiagnosed:

* Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
* Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
* Irritability, restlessness (What teen isn’t?)
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
* Fatigue and decreased energy
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions (isn’t that nearly the definition of a teenager?)
* Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping (yeesh)
* Overeating, or appetite loss (talk about opposites)
* Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Now, let’s bring technology into this. I quote from a study done on American employees and stress levels.

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration has declared stress a hazard of the workplace. And it is no wonder that workers feel overwhelmed and overworked; the average American office worker sends or receives about 201 messages a day in the form of e-mails, voice mails, faxes, and memos (Eisinger, 2001).

Today, how many does the average kid get, I wonder? Last April it was reported that a teenage girl racked up a $4800 cell phone bill on text messages alone. Ten thousand text messages sent and around the same number received. Never mind the fact they didn’t have a texting plan with Verizon, that’s still more than 300 in a day and, according to the article, mostly within school hours. That’s insane. No wonder her grades fell into the toilet.

The pressure to be constantly connected and informed must be intense. I’m from a generation where internet and cell phones and that kind of stuff weren’t vital to popularity and teen survival. I just had to make sure I was begging for the right music to stay in step with my peers. I never was one for telephone talking day and night, either, and a summer away from school friends was never filled with sturm und drang, it was the norm.

I think kids are better off in terms of health, education and welfare, but better off mentally? I think not.


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