A good friend died last year. He would have turned 64 recently (born 1954). His early death got me thinking about the poor health and habits of my generation, and set me wondering about their possible common origin. I dismissed the later life situations such as fighting in Vietnam, drug and alcohol problems and the toxic government; every generation faces these or similar issues. I also dismissed the experiences of those in the minority: the Caesarean births, the pedophile victims and those who suffered harsh child abuse. I was drawn to looking at the most common experiences at the earliest times: womb life and early infancy. My experience is that as we age trauma has a lessening impact on us.
Here’s what I found: While we weren’t the first to experience hospital births, we were still guinea pigs in this regard. The corporatization of America was well underway in the 1950s; there was simply too much money on offer not to bring the healthy event of childbirth into the haven of the sick and diseased. As if to offset the absurdity of surrounding brand new babies with the diseased and infirm, sterile, clinical and human unfriendly operating rooms became the place to bring babies into the world. The rooms were cold, loud and echoing, and rather than placing the baby right atop its mother it was first weighed and measured, given eye drops for an ancient syphilis problem and then, when reunited with the mother, not allowed to breast feed. If the mother was drugged, which was very common, the baby had to be first knocked around so it could wake up and breath.
In line with the corporatization of America, most babies were bottle fed by mothers who had smoked cigarettes and even used diet pills throughout their pregnancies. Most doctors condoned these behaviors. Fortunately, alcohol was not on the approved list, though a minority ignored this. Smoking and diet pills were behind the extremely low birth-weights of my generation. Following the poor womb experience and the nightmare birth experience, these babies were then fed the sludge called bottled milk, entirely missing out on the immunological and emotional benefits of breast feeding. After that, half the babies were circumcised. Male genital mutilation was and is widespread in the US.
Lastly, in line with the anti-syphilis eye-drops, the child began a series of vaccinations. Until late in 1955 there was no valid anti-polio vaccine, but every child was given whatever passed for the best at the time. Many of these polio vaccinations resulted in polio like symptoms. The impact of other vaccinations, and also the common removal of the tonsils, remains unclear.
The amount of unprecedented, guinea pig experimentation during this period is astounding. Our ancestors, over hundreds of thousands of years, had not one of the experiences I have mentioned. We had them all. And each new generation continues to have most of them plus a few others.
Is it any wonder our civilization is dying? Forget for the moment all the cancerous tumors we call institutions, from the AMA to the public schools to Congress. These institutions are not so much the cause of the problem as the result and reflection of a wrong-headed attitude towards the unborn, babies and children. It’s a perennial problem, but the widespread embracing of progress, the urge to novelty, and the eagerness to disconnect from past traditions, has accelerated our high-risk behavior.
Some assume we are at the end of a 5000 year cycle of degradation called the Kali Yuga. That is all too plausible. Surely our downward trajectory will soon bottom out.