Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Making Me "American Nervous"

My friend Kris (she and her husband Scott have been helping me get the We Do Too website off the ground) and I were talking the other day. We got off on the topic of how stressed we'd been. She and Scott were surprised to hear this on public radio's Speaking of Faith:

George M. Beard was a well-known 19th-century neurologist and electrotherapist who identified stress as "nervousness." Beard wrote in his 1881 book, American Nervousness, Its Causes and Consequences, that "American nervousness is the product of American civilization." In a chapter entitled "Causes of American Nervousness," Beard attributes nervousness to five causes:

"The chief and primary cause of … [the] very rapid increase of nervousness is modern civilization, which is distinguished from the ancient by these five characteristics: steampower, the periodical press, the telegraph, the sciences, and the mental activity of women."

I pray no therapist of mine ever has the prefix "electro" in his or her title. My favorite "causes" are the second, fourth, and last ones. I can just see this guy writing surrounded by piles of unread Scientific American magazines. And haven't we all wondered why women can't be as mentally inactive as their ancient ancestors? I suspect the "mental activities" of anyone who decides they're tired of being oppressed are likely to stress someone out.

Evidently the two women who host Speaking of Faith found modern day connections to the first four, but managed to ignore the last one.


Anonymous Sally said...

All I can say is my mental activity has caused nervousness in many a man!

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first reaction to hearing this was "Wow, women thinking were as powerful as the steam engine and telegraph! Powerful enough to cause nervousness in the general American public!" I was deverted from thinking about what happened to our enormous power and how we might get it back and channel it for the common good by the ignorance of the two women talking about Dr. Beard on the radio. Apparently their mental activity was so shallow that they failed to see the huge implications of Dr. Beard's theories. Am I making anyone nervous?

6:05 AM  

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