Are younger people getting smarter?

‘You’re so clever!’ – That’s something common that I hear the older generation telling the younger people. And perhaps that’s why I think that we’re always getting smarter. We talk about the education system getting harder – adults are unable to do math questions meant for 12 year olds. I thought I was more intelligent than the previous generations. But when I went to university, I realised that all the ideas that I had were all thought of before, by people many, many, many lifetimes ago. Centuries. We have not really progressed in thinking, not TOO much, have we? We’ve only progressed in math and sciences. Philosophy remains more or less the same? Expect that ideas spread more easily now, more variations of the same thing.

My mom reminded me that we’re not really ‘cleverer’ than previous generations. (Of course, the debate of intelligence is something to be considered here as well. How are we defining intelligence) But I want to highlight that we’re not really smarter, not at all. It’s just that we’re raised in different circumstances. I have a better command of language. I can do math better. That’s all because that’s what I learnt in school. That’s what I was taught and she was not.

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The medicalisation of deviance/criminal activity against free will

(Just something to think about: this concept has been written about by others)

Breaking it down: in the past, people with mental issues were locked up, away from society, thought of as being different. Now, people who are different are seen to ‘have problems that need to be solved’. We think that this is a nicer, more humane way of treating people. Instead of locking up people with mental issues, we put them in hospitals, give them medication to treat them in hopes that they can integrate into society and be happy and ‘normal’. People who have murdered, who have stolen (kleptomaniacs) or done other criminal activity can be excused if they have committed crimes under the influence of ‘depression’, ‘mental disorders’.

(My thoughts) but the ‘patients’ are left without free will. They do not have a choice whether or not they want to be treated. If they deny treatment, they do so because they are unwell, they do not know what’s best for them.

I think of ‘Addition’ by Toni Jordan, the ending was surprising for me, but it was thought provoking too. Spoiler: Jordan didn’t give the protagonist the happy ending of ‘recovering’ from her mental disorder. Instead, she wrote about the effects of taking medication for OCD: weight gain, having multiple voices in her head, not being completely lucid? Eventually the protagonist decides to forgo ‘treatment’/doesn’t try other forms of treatment but goes back to dealing with her OCD, she goes back to obsessively counting and not leaving her house much. Is the cure really better than the illness? Is there really a cure in the first place? Or are you trading one issue for another – with medication she can go out into the world without counting, but she isn’t fully present. I think about the talk which was given in college: a palliative doctor said that ‘no one ever wanted to die’. They simply want to be put out of their pain. Once they don’t feel pain, they won’t want to die. Hence he doesn’t believe in euthanasia, he thinks that the only reason why people want to die is because they want to be put out of their misery. Misery of pain, of costing the people they depend on, etc. I think about Equus by Peter Shaffer (the play is quite interesting!). What if the ‘patient’ simply doesn’t want to get better? What if they are mistreated in the hospitals simply because ‘no one can control them’; they are restrained, force fed medicine? ‘Passion cannot be taken away by a doctor’: it’s merely repressed, it makes people boring.

I don’t have answers, merely more questions: how much responsibility do we have to help someone to get well? How much pressure should we apply on them to try new ways to get better? Are they sick in the first place? It is great if they do indeed get better, they will thank us for not giving up hope on them, to allow them to lead ‘regular’ healthy, happy lives. But of course there are many other failures as well, others who curse us for putting them in such institutions, where they aren’t free, where they feel worse off than before. A friend reminded me that homelessness has many facets: to us it may be shameful, but to others it is empowering, dignifying, a choice. Perhaps they were made homeless because they have some mental issues, they cannot get along with families, they don’t like being institutionalised. They choose to be on the streets, to be free, despite our occasional discomfort when we have to interact with them, our momentary discomfort/mistreatment of them is preferred over being locked up and unhappy. It’s between their comfort or ours? Who is more important?

Perhaps this is my conclusion: looking at the big picture, society has progressed. It’s like how I don’t think anyone would say that modern medicine has worsen in comparison to the past. Lots of small problems still exist but we admit that things are getting better. While new problems surface and many issues remain unsolved (like AIDS, cancer, superbugs, epidemics). The solution/cure/medicine has gotten better. (We need to differentiate the effectiveness of cures against the rise of new problems: just because new problems surface doesn’t mean that the cure has gotten worse). Overall, people are living healthier, longer, better lives. People who have mental issues are at least seen in a kinder light? That they can be helped, cured, we do not need to be afraid of them?

Medicine is still very flawed. It is estimated. Each and every pill we take, should technically vary because of the plentiful variations in each and every patient. Our current health, our weight, our diet, our genetics, our gender. But the dose is generalised: adults VS children. It is better to generalise than to not prescribe any medicine at all?

While we work towards a better, more perfect world, let us not be overly obsessed with small problems and destroy the whole imperfect system. Some still suffer and are greatly unhappy, but we continue to try and believe in progress, not mere change. That gives us hope.