by Caleb T. Maupin
Much attention has been paid to the use of “performance-enhancing drugs” by athletes. But such substances flow all throughout our society. Take a day in the life of an average working-class youth.
Working-class youths arise early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4 or 5 a.m. In order to fully awaken a substance is often consumed. Perhaps it is merely coffee. Perhaps it is a can of Red Bull or Jolt. Perhaps it is some caffeine pills called speed. These substances get the heart beating at a high speed. Suddenly these youths get an artificial awake feeling as they go off to school.
Caffeine is known to be addictive. Young people may find themselves having to take this drug every day to just to feel normal. Caffeine is also known to hurt short-term memory and have many other dangerous side effects.
Once at school, the youth will sit at uncomfortable desks and listen to a teacher. Often children have difficulty sitting still in class. This is enhanced by the lack of physical education and elimination of even recesses in many schools.
Three percent to 7 percent of the children in this country are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They are given drugs such as Ritalin to keep them “under control” and at an activity level that is acceptable to their teachers and parents.
A 2005 University of Texas study suggests that Ritalin may be carcinogenic. Of the 12 children they gave Ritalin, every single one had an increase in chromosome abnormalities, which have been linked to heightened cancer risk. (medicinenet.com) But the Food and Drug Administration continues to approve its use, and many schools are now mandating parents to put their children on such drugs.
Ten percent of males ages 6 to 18 are currently using Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs. (News Blaze, Nov. 20) Parents are told that their children need such drugs to get good grades and test scores. Young people are constantly being pushed to succeed, something that grows ever harder with the state of the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, a drug known as Adderall is now being abused by 7 percent of U.S. college students. This drug was made to treat ADD and ADHD, but it is now being used by all kinds of youths who feel it will enhance their studying and focus skills. The drug also causes insomnia, paranoia and an increased heart rate. Too much of the substance can even cause a heart attack or a stroke. According to all reports, the drug is growing in popularity among college and high school students who are looking for anything they can to get an extra edge in the world of competitive academics. (wlns.com, Nov. 30)
After school, youths often find themselves going directly to a job. The education they require to achieve their goals will cost a huge amount of money. Perhaps they need another kick of energy to do this job efficiently after working hard all day at school.
After finally finishing with their job or their extracurricular activities, the young people will come home. They will be tired and worn out, but their hearts will still be pumping. They will need to unwind. They may require a sleeping pill to get to sleep. The market is loaded with drugs that will put them to sleep after they have loaded themselves up with stimulants all day.
Perhaps they will unwind with some of the “youth” programming on MTV and VH1, which dazzle with images of the super-rich. Programs like “Cribs” and “Rags to Riches” keep the young in this desperate crusade, with images of huge estates, diamond-covered iPods, and the “good life” that a slim minority of the U.S. population actually lives.
But it’s always possible, the TV promises, if they just continue to endure the torture of “American” life. Perhaps they will take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications to deal with the stress of trying to get to the top or just get by in this world where so few do. Forty-four percent of people in the United States currently take prescription drugs; 16 percent are currently taking three or more substances prescribed by a doctor. (Badger Herald, Dec. 11)
Perhaps they will crack like so many have before. Incidents like those at Virginia Tech and Columbine should remind us that not all youth are able to withstand this lifestyle.
In “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Karl Marx writes about how “labor not only produces commodities, but the worker himself as a commodity.” Marx also wrote, “The only wheels [capitalist] political economy puts in motion are greed, and war among the greedy.”
This is what human beings, especially the youth, have been reduced to. We are rewarded not for our intelligence or hard work, but for our usefulness as a commodity. How good an employee will we be at a job? How much profit can we turn for some boss down the road? This is what is learned by our academic performance.
This is the world of 21st century capitalism, where everyone in my class is my rival, where I am expected to step on others to succeed, where millions of youths go mad in pursuit of a good life, where just to get by in this society young people need to take potentially deadly chemicals.
This system where human beings are milked for all their worth to make profits for a few until it drives them mad should be abolished.
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