Reached out a hand to try again

by Israel Malachi

These are times that try men’s souls. A sense of hopelessness and despair permeates the culture. Everybody feels as though they are a victim of something, be it racism, ageism, feminism, male privilege, white privilege, privilege privilege, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, communism, capitalism, anarchism, oligarchy, heresy, fibromyalgia, even nostalgia. According to sidran.org, an estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

An estimated 5 percent of Americans—more than 13 million people—have PTSD at any given time.
Approximately 8 percent of all adults—1 of 13 people in this country—will develop PTSD during their lifetime.

An estimated 1 out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.

These statistics paint a grim picture of a beaten down, broken populace. Where America was once the land of the “can-do” attitude, it is now the home of the “can’t-don’t” rationale. Sickness and weakness are celebrated. In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. The vast majority of people on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.

The rise in disability applicants seems to coincide with the elimination of traditional welfare during the Clinton presidency in the 1990’s. General Assistance programs, which previously provided cash payments to anybody who applied, were phased out, so if you didn’t have dependent children, you got no check. Social Security Supplemental Income was available to those who could get a medical professional to declare them disabled, due to a mental or physical ailment, including being a heavy drinker, being unable to handle authority, being a drug abuser, and on and on. In times prior, people would have been held to a standard that would not reward them for poor choices and self-destructive behavior. But I guess, Jack, these are different times.

In 2015, a researcher from New York’s Mount Sinai hospital, Rachel Yehuda, conducted a genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the Second World War.
They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.

Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” - the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.
The idea is controversial, as scientific convention states that genes contained in DNA are the only way to transmit biological information between generations. However, our genes are modified by the environment all the time, through chemical tags that attach themselves to our DNA, switching genes on and off. Recent studies suggest that some of these tags might somehow be passed through generations, meaning our environment could have an impact on our children’s health.

Of course, not everybody agrees with the results of Yehuda’s study, citing factors such as too small a sample, and the study would have to extend 4 generations to prove a genetic link. In fact, the week after the study was published, the blog of the Center for Epigenomics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York called it the “over-interpreted epigenetics study of the week.”

John Greally, professor of genetics at the college, wrote: “The story being told by the Holocaust study is indeed fascinating as a scientific possibility, and will no doubt prompt others to pursue similar studies. Unfortunately, the story is typical of many in the field of epigenetics, with conclusions drawn based on uninterpretable studies.”

If PTSD is proven to be inherited, you can be sure that many millions more “victims” will apply for SSI benefits. There is nothing wrong with having a safety net for the truly disabled, but at the rate we are going, the entire country is going to qualify as disabled, then where will we be?

The Duluth City Council is currently considering a proposal to require paid sick leave be paid by all employers in the city, public and private, pending the results of a task force’s report. This will just be another avenue of abuse of the system for unscrupulous freeloaders, I fear, and at some point, this is going to have to stop. Let’s hope the Council doesn’t enact this onerous wrong!