Shmuely.jpgThe Muffti can’t help but chuckle at the irony: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a dude who likes to go around excoriating people (especially men) for being shallow and then manages to routinely give the most shallow ‘analyses’ and advice one could hope for. For all Muffti knows, Shmuely may be a talented therapist. But that’s very different from a general talent for fixing things wrong in a culture, or giving remedies to social problems.

The latest helping of unsurprising, self aggrandizing ho-hum-ness is in Jpost, where you can find some fine examples of what the Muffti is saying. For example, consider this fine example of clever social exploration (emphasis Muffti’s):

Feeling constantly tired as they crumble under the burden of having to work both in the office and at home as well as the lack of emotional support due to the sad state of the American marriage is part of the explanation. Women feeling that their children don’t listen to them exacerbates their feelings of worthlessness and failure. But while these factors contribute to the despondency of the American woman, the greatest cause of her depression is how society is geared toward making women feel inadequate.

Genius! Years of study of female depression has revealed that women feel depression at roughly twice the rate that men do, and one striking feature of women neurophysiology is the relative tendency towards hormonal imbalance compared to men. Another finding contends that women are 3x as likely to respond to stressful life events with depression as men. Genetic factors have been isolated, relative povery levels of men and women, tendency to suffer mental and psychological abuse at early ages and even teh greater tendency of women to engage in ‘ruminative’ thinking than men have been studied. A nice overview of some of the cause of depression can be found on the American Psychological Association Website in a study on the depression in women. But, trust Shmuley to simplify things so you don’t have to engage in messy empirical research. Why bother when you have perfectly qualified speculator to tell you what the real problem is? Of course, Muffti isn’t saying that obsession with beauty isn’t a contributing factor: that’s an interesting matter for study. But simplifying the problem is destructive to finding solution, not constructive. At the very least, he could have given a nod to feminists he is ripping off who have given this issue and at least paid attention the empirical data.

What is Shmuley’s advice for solving the ‘greatest factor in depression’:

It is time for us to emphasize to women and girls from the earliest age that they are good enough, their eyes are bright enough, their minds are sharp enough, their bodies are shapely enough and their personalities charismatic enough. We simply need to allow women to feel good enough so that the nurturers in our culture can be restored to us whole and unbroken.

That is some brilliant advice, Shmuley. The Muffti isn’t advocating not doing this: of course it is a generally a good idea to make people feel better about themselves. Few people in their right mind could deny it! That’s the essence, after all, of a triviality! (Q: ‘Rabbi, what should one do?’ A: ‘be good!’)

What Muffti really can’t stand about this kind of thing is that, in standard Boteach form, he has taken a complex, multifaceted problem such as depression and boils it down to the most trite, bland level that one could hope for. Not to make the solution outshine the diagnosis of the problem, a platitude is offered as the real solution to the problem.

But, Muffti supposes, this should be no surprise from someone whose training is religious rather than empirical study. One might just have wished that someone versed in studies that are truly penetrating, pervasive and reasoned such as the Talmud would carry over such general principles to the study of other phenomenon. Guess this should teach us a lesson in cognitive science: competence isn’t always transferrable.

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