It is certainly surprising to see what people put up with without protesting. I refer to the mystifying, mythological, reductionistic-biomedical language used to postulate the reason Milwaukee is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation, known for its psycho-social-economic turbulence, and moral decay (“To address trauma, Journey House seeks therapists”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by John Schmid, 7/18/2018). To be sure, conditions affect growth & development. A tree that only gets sun on one side will grow to be deformed on the side deprived of sunlight. But to reduce freedom & responsibility to neurology is to make a false claim to knowledge.
"Human behaviour consists of complex, intentional and unpredictable responses to the unique history and circumstances of each individual. Unlike physical systems, including biological ones (i.e. human bodies), it cannot be captured or understood using universal formulae. Human behaviour can be explained and understood, but it is not ‘caused’ by other events in an inevitable fashion, as events follow each other in a mechanical system (see my previous blog on the philosophy of knowledge7). Although there are undoubtedly neurophysiological events taking place when someone feels depressed, for example, it is not clear that we will ever be able to map these precisely and consistently onto the emotional state. Indeed, for all the reams of research conducted on them, we still do not even know the precise functions of neurotransmitters, nor even, for example, the neurochemical basis of something as basic as arousal." (Drug Treatment in Medicine and Psychiatry: Papering Over Important Differences, Joanna Moncrieff, MD June 29, 2018)
The biomedical-reductionistic paradigm has failed to empower and restore people’s grip on life; it’s a “history and science of a failed paradigm of care” ( The History & Science of a Failed Paradigm of Care, Robert Whitaker, April 2016, Psychiatrists Defends its Antipsychotics: A case study of institutional corruption, Whitaker, 5/22/2017, Causation not just correlation, Whitaker, May 2016 ). Such dogma confuses, obliterates, and disempowers human beings.
In order to respond effectively to any problem, one must accurately understand the problem. Personal context matters. So does the socio-political context. Do the conditions associated with Milwaukee’s political system hinder the growth and development of individuals and Milwaukee society? Dr. Thomas Sowell may think so:
“… evasion of responsibility for disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century. . . . You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization - including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain - without ruinous consequences to them and to the society at large. . . . Nonjudgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles are treating people as if they were livestock, to be fed and tended by others in the welfare state - and yet expecting them to develop as human beings have developed when facing challenges of life themselves." ( The Inconvenient Truth about Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown, 5/5/2015, National Review)
There are no simple explanations for complex psycho-socio-economic problems. Few human beings get through life without emotionally traumatic experiences; some people struggle more than others, for different reasons. Extreme experiences and distortions of thought processes belong to the human condition: there will always be suffering. Human beings develop through adversity; suffering can be an opportunity for maturation, an occasion to direct one’s life to what is essential. Human development by way of adversity is a choice that reflects the burden of freedom, and requires responsibility.