FREE WILL IN THE AGE OF NEUROSCIENCE

Photo Illustration by Buckner Sutter http://intao7.wordpress.com

IT WAS LARGELY A BOOK ABOUT EVIL, the Holocaust and one man’s decades-long obsession with finding the most genocidal tyrant to ever walk planet Earth. In 1982, literary critic and essayist George Steiner took his fixation with Adolph Hitler and delivered The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H., a daring and disturbing philosophical fantasy about one man’s belief that Hitler had survived World War II and the destruction of Germany. In the novel’s opening pages, the Führer is discovered in the jungles of South America. He is an old man and looks a lot like the images we recall of a wild-eyed Saddam after he emerged from his subterranean existence and was forced into the arms of his American captors.

While I have not read Portage for over 25 years, the most memorable passages of the book explore German sensibilities during the war itself, in a time when Nazism began to eviscerate human rights and human lives. The Germany Steiner richly details is one of societal dualities; on the one hand, the nation had been considered among the most culturally rich societies on earth; yet from this beauty, there existed a dark and inescapable brutality that was evident for all to see.

As we know, Germany offered the world the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the late Middle Age art of Albrecht Dürer, and technological achievements such as automobiles with gas-powered combustible engines. They even developed one of the finest university systems in the world, so how, Steiner asks, did these people — rich with wealth, culture, education and technology, allow this horror to occur?

In one very powerful chapter, Steiner meticulously paints a portrait of the country’s elite, perched at windows far above a popular theatre, as they witness the extermination of commoners and Jews on the streets below the playhouse. The same people who “shed tears during a tragic play,” Steiner wrote, displayed an odd ambivalence to the tragedies of real people crying for help as the Nazi atrocities unfolded.

I am reminded of Steiner’s work once again because as I approach the two year anniversary of my documentary GENERATION RX — a film about the wanton use of psychotropic drugs among children and teensI realise that the same indifference abounds as it pertains to the health and futures of our young people. Every day — for two years — I have been bombarded with horrifying letters and tales of real people affected by the trauma these powerful drugs have caused. . .and they keep coming. . .from parents and teachers and students and loved ones.

Yet, there is silence — from doctors who should know better, from educators, from elected officials , government agencies, and yes, most horridly of all, from the media.

In the wake of this realisation, I will admit to be absolutely stunned at how little North Americans understand about the drugs they are forcing down the throats of so many young Galileo’s. For reasons of public politeness, we bow before profit-based science and ignore the journalistic cowardice which surrounds us. This “disconnect” between what medicine has told us about ADHD, bipolar and the “plague of mental illness” — and the reality of the life-changing harm these drugs often inflict, is a gulf so wide that it is, well, maddening.

JUST THIS MORNING, I received a phone call from a health food storeowner and nutritionist. Every day, she is approached by parents who are desperate to find help for their beloved children as the side effects of ADHD drugs, antipsychotics and antidepressants take their toll. They have tried every drug the “experts” have recommended, only to see their loved ones slip further away. . .drunk with dark images and in need of help.

She told me the tragic tale of yet another teenager whose health has been stolen from him by the deadly thief called methylphenidate, or Ritalin. One year ago, the young man apparently possessed the good looks of a soap opera star, and teenage girls swooned as he walked the halls of his high school. He was a superior athlete and student, but that was all prior to him being diagnosed with ADHD.

Ten months later, his weight has dropped to around 100 pounds and there is a real possibility he could die while under a doctor’s “care.”

Since Methylphenidate was classified in the U.S. under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances as a Schedule II drug, we can’t say we didn’t realise the dangers. Many times since that seminal report, methylphenidate has been characterized as “Speed” — as highly addictive and risky. In 1971, despite the warnings, psychiatrists and MDs began using speed for the pre-ADHD condition called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.” By doing so, they ignored the potential for abuse, for addiction, and of atrophy of the vital organs, especially the heart.

IN THE HEALTHFOOD STORE, the young man was extremely sick by the time his parents finally decided they needed another opinion. Worried to death about their son — and saying they were not sure if he would live to see his next birthday — they pleaded to speak with the owner and nutritionist. They had followed the advice of their doctor and psychiatrist , they told her, but their son continued to decline.

The owner explained to the parents that her store could be shut down by Health Canada for simply speaking with them about ADHD, pulled them into her office and then continued in whispered tones. The methylphenidate, she said, had taught the boy’s body not to eat. “This child is starving,” she told the mom, noting that Ritalin, with its cocaine and speed-like properties, was the obvious culprit. “But the psychiatrist diagnosed his lack of appetite as depression,” the mother said. “So they added an antidepressant to his regimen.”

A few weeks after taking antidepressants, the mother said between sobs, the young man uttered aloud, “I just don’t want to live like this anymore.”

The parents stood before the health food store owner with tears streaming down their cheeks. It is a scene she has witnessed innumerable times since the 1990s, and each time she discusses disease conditions like this, she never knows for sure whether the people standing before her are undercover agents for Health Canada. . .or just what they appear to be: people in distress. . .people in need of answers.

When I produced Generation RX, I did so to arm parents with the facts they need in order to make a fully informed choice about healthcare. I produced the film to amplify the ‘cries from the street’ — to give a voice to those who are being ignored by society at large, and to provide the tools to enable parents to fight back if necessary.

But I wonder — in this age of neuroscience — if we haven’t brought George Steiner’s commiserations to life? Whether we’d shed tears watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but not for real the traumas of a tortured child or his parents?

Will futurists ask, “How did these people, rich with culture, education and technology allow this horror to occur?”

I wonder.

Like Steiner’s book, though, one thing is very clear: citizens of this planet must choose — whether to exercise our freedoms in ways that do not conform to the wishes of those in power — or whether to take part in a history from which we avert our eyes. . .away from the horrors on the streets below.

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A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY

A screen shot from Kevin P. Miller's film A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY

We must vigilantly stand on guard within our own borders for human rights and fundamental freedoms which are our proud heritage. The experiences of many. . .make it clear that we cannot take for granted the continuance and maintenance of those rights and freedoms.
—John G. Diefenbaker, 1960

THERE WAS A TIME, early in my life, when everything I knew about Canada emanated from the people I met in a small town on the banks of the Trent River in Ontario. Every summer I made the annual trek to the same humble cottage outside Peterborough to be with my Canadian friends. We fished, soaked up the wilderness which lined the river, threw baseballs, played horse shoes and read comic books until we were forced to separate at bedtime, only to begin the cycle all over again upon sunrise the next morning.

Even though I was not yet in my teens, my parents recognized their son’s cultural curiosity and my appetite for news and current events. They both encouraged me “as a visitor to Canada” to absorb as much I could about Canadian life. I remember my Dad underscoring that it was a sign of respect to the nation and its people, and more directly to our hosts whom he befriended until the time of his death in 2008. Part of that ritual entailed listening to the CBC on radio and watching “Canada’s Walter Cronkite,” anchorman Lloyd Robertson, but we also spent time contrasting and comparing the Parliamentary system of government with the U.S. Congress.

In a way, my recent documentary A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY was drawn directly from the experiences of my youth. The film returned me to the age of John Diefenbaker and John Turner — to an age of integrity and activism. . .and to a time when I thought that Canada, not the U.S., was the greatest nation on Earth.

But all of that is in danger now, as steady streams of unconstitutional legislation like Bill C-51, C-6, C-17 (the “anti-terror bill), and the latest affront to Canadians, Bill C-36, keep getting sent to Ottawa. Even though these bills violate basic civil liberties and clearly flaunt language that could make Canadians subject to the dictates of foreign authorities, few seem to have noticed, let alone sound the alarm bells for their neighbors.

A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY has been described as a “patriotic and sentimental” film. I believe that’s true, and I hope my brothers and sisters in Canada seek it out (it’s online for free here ), and take a long and sober look at where the nation is headed. For, if the trends I outline in the film continue, our beloved Canada will not only lose its identity, but its sovereignty — and could become virtually undistinguishable from the United States.

What is the catalyst for this Orwellian legislation? The answer is ‘Free Trade,’ the very thing John Turner tried to warn his countrymen and women about 25 years ago. Turner knew that there would be a terrible price to pay if former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was able to pass what Turner called “the sale of Canada act.”

Like so many visionaries, he was scoffed at. But decades later, with 20/20 hindsight, we see he was right. Free Trade deals have punished Canada — and pulled the nation into a whirlpool filled with multinational sharks. Canada has suffered, and stands at a tipping point with dangerous legislation like Bill C-36.

But it doesn’t have to be. Canadians can stand and be counted. . .and just say no.

PROPONENTS OF MODERN FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS have long opined that global trade and commerce would transform the social, economic, and political landscape of world. This “new global commerce,” they argued, would be the vehicle of unprecedented economic growth for the poor, and prosperity for the rest of us. When the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was presented to the world in 1994, media “insiders” hailed it with glowing reviews, calling it a “breakthrough trade agreement” that would finally liberate global capital and third-world economies.

The modern multinational mantra for a new era of free trade agreements began when the GATT treaty was signed and the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born to replace it. In the years that followed, NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) continued the cavalcade of free trade agreements between Canada, Mexico, South America, the United States, and now, the European Union. The latter is particularly troubling, as the EU continues to cede authority to international bureaucracies like the World Health Organization, the WTO, and another mysterious international body called Codex Alimentarius.

Is this Canada’s future?

The cycle of ‘free trade’ agreements has increased exponentially: the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement mimics many others like it, and the proposed CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, awaits Parliamentary approval in Canada.

Rather than heralding a new day for the poor, as promised, chaos has increased in Mexico and South America, where millions have been protesting the effects of the treaties since their inception. The biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA were multinational corporations who, after shutting down small farms and businesses that were the lifeline to their communities, have used the trade agreements to create new monopolies on everything from water to food to energy. The Council of Canadians, led by Maude Barlow, has been a vocal opponent of CETA and many free trade deals, wisely pointing to the massive unemployment they have caused, particularly in the manufacturing workforce.

In Canada, NAFTA has decimated the textile industries in Ontario and blindsided non-corporate agriculture as well. The National Farmers Union concluded in 2002 that free trade agreements, “may increase trade, but much more importantly, they dramatically alter the relative size and market power of the players in the agri-food production chain. Free trade helps Cargill and Monsanto, not farmers.”

Each trade agreement signed by members of the World Trade Organization ties each nation closer to the WTO and it’s bureaucratic backroom decision-making process. It’s problematic for many reasons. As the WTO becomes judge and jury, it usurps more power to regulate healthcare, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, and indeed, what is “allowable” in foods and chemicals of all kinds. Since the sunshine of public scrutiny is not allowed in this elite club, Canada and the U.S. face unfathomable hardships if these trends continue unchequed.

With each ‘Free Trade’ agreement Canada signs, it loses more sovereignty to another international trade body, which have become bureaucratic sledgehammers for Big Food and Big Pharma to further exert their will over the masses. One group, called Codex Alimentarius (Latin for ‘Food Code’), now threatens to control the food and medicine supply worldwide, backed by the enforcement power of the WTO. When Codex was spawned back in 1963 as a creation of two arteries of the United Nations — The Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization — nearly everyone endorsed their two major goals: to provide nutritious foods for developing nations — and to shape guidelines for dangerous industrial chemicals in the food supply. Within the past decade, however, Codex Alimentarius has altered its’ mission dramatically to include a wide swath of products including dietary supplements, pesticides and genetically modified organisms.

How does this affect Canada, you might ask? Simply put, language in Bill C-36, like its predecessors Bills C-51 and C-6, allows for bypassing something called Canada’s Statutory Instrument’s Act. The Statutory Instrument’s Act was instituted to protect citizens from runaway bureaucratic agencies (like Health Canada, who wrote the language of these Bills). The Act was put in place so that if Health Canada introduced unlawful regulations and policies, Parliament could scrutinize them and revoke them if necessary.

In the new Bill C-36, Health Canada has proposed that the powers provided to Parliament should be forfeited so that Canada can “honor its international agreements and commitments.” If Bill C-36 and similar Bills are adopted, foreign entities, multinational corporate interests, Codex, WTO and WHO would be free to write self-serving laws that affect Canadians — and they could do so by bypassing Parliament completely.

Perhaps this is what they mean by ‘Free Trade’ — ‘free’ of oversight by elected officials.

As I say in A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY, “the bold mention of C-51, C-6, or C-36 circumventing public debate and surrendering sovereignty to an international body should send shivers up the spines of Canadians.”

According to Canadian Trade lawyer Steven Shrybman, “The best evidence of what lies in store for governments is provided by claims now proceeding under the NAFTA dispute regime,” which featured a dispute by Centurion Health, a US health service provider, for $160 million because it claims that Canadian governments prevented it from establishing a chain of private health clinics. Next came Dow AgroSciences, who sued for millions because Quebec is banning the use of their herbicide 2, 4 D. The notorious defoliant and herbicide Agent Orange, used widely in Vietnam, contained 2, 4D, which is highly toxic to the liver, has caused male reproductive problems, and more. Yet the Quebec government stands before an international tribunal “accused” of the awful crime of trying to protect its citizens from Dow’s madness.

Because Canada signed NAFTA, however, Dow, Centurion and hundreds of other multinational corporations can demand compensation through the WTO dispute resolution process because of what they term “unfair trade practices.”

This is one of the “big lies” of what has been termed as “Free Trade.” As we now know, there is nothing “free” about it, save for the handouts being given to Big Food, Big Pharma, and the rest of the petrochemical industries.

Canada is at a tipping point. Unless we use our democratic mechanism to oppose what agencies like Health Canada are doing, legislation like Bill C-36 and its twin, the infamous Bill C-51 (waiting in the wings to be relaunched) will go far beyond being just a nuisance. This is not hyperbole—this is fact.

For those who rely upon natural products like dietary supplements, Health Canada has hired PR hacks to infiltrate social media like Twitter and Facebook to push the notion that Bill C-36 does NOT apply to Natural Health Products, or Drugs, or Cosmetics. They are, as usual, only telling part of the story. Health Canada continues to intentionally delay the approval of safe herbs, amino acids, and mineral/vitamin formulations for no legitimate reason whatsoever, thereby restricting the legitimate use of these supplements by Canadians.

As I have described, the language in the Bill itself—like Bill C-6 and Bill C-51 before it— is so dangerous that it literally threatens Canadian life as we know it. If Dr. Eldon Dahl can be raided over B-vitamins, if Truehope Nutritional Support and health food stores and pharmacies can be raided before these bills are passed, what does the future hold for Canada after this unconstitutional legislation makes it through Parliament? If inventories can be seized on mere “suspicion” of illegal activities, if citizens are allowed to be terrorized in guns-drawn raids over some of the safest products on the planet, what will Health Canada do with the increased powers they would be afforded through Bill C-36?

Make no mistake: we have already seen the future, dressed in the guise of Free Trade Agreements and multinational corporate control…and it’s not a pretty sight.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

I choose to believe that Canada can still become the world leader I envisioned in my youth, but as my film points out, the nation’s entangling alliances have seriously endangered that boyhood vision. This silent coup could happen in a matter of years — not decades — if Canadians refuse to act. Bill C-36 — and all other unconstitutional legislative efforts must be defeated.

It’s a question of sovereignty.

Kevin P. Miller is an international award-winning Writer/Director. His latest film is called A QUESTION OF SOVEREIGNTY. This is his first column for Agora News, a Canadian monthly magazine, which can be found at http://www.AgoraNews.org. His other blog can be found at http://www.KevinMiller.com

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