Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Capitalism = Mental Illness = Profits

by Richard Mellor
Afscme local 444, retired

America is not known as a human friendly society.   It is money friendly, but that doesn’t mean human friendly. It is an extremely fast paced society that will leave you behind very quickly.  It doesn’t matter if you are a war hero, a Vietnam veteran, have worked steadily all your life contributing to the wealth of society---if you have no money in this country, you’re on your own baby,

A friend from Sweden who had spent considerable time here described the difference between the two societies this way: “In Sweden, if you fall on hard times there is this safety net that catches you, prevents you from falling all the way to the bottom.  In the US, not only do fall all the way to the bottom, then they stomp on you with their feet.” He showed by example twisting his heel in the dirt like he was stubbing out a lit cigarette. You can be homeless, broke, go from what appears to be a comfortable middle class life in short notice. Whatever you do, don’t get sick. Ion many ways, we get the worst bang for the buck when it comes to public and social services.

We are not a happy society. It is a stressful existence the rat race, and as public services and jobs, which tend to be somewhat more humane are privatized, the insecurity and fear of losing everything will intensify.

A recent Gallup Poll found that 70% of Americans hate their jobs Bruce Levine writes at AlterNet pointing out that US society “…has become increasingly alienating, isolating and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, ass-kissing, shit-eating, and inauthenticity.” And this has resulted in a huge increase in mental illness; what he refers to as an “epidemic”.

Levine quotes Marcia Angell who wrote a piece in the New York Review of Books:

“The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from 1 in 184 Americans to 1 in 76. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades.”

And here’s another interesting statistic:
In 2011, the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44 years. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants.
The CDC, on May 3, 2013, reported that the suicide rate among Americans ages 35–64 years increased 28.4% between 1999 and 2010 (from 13.7 suicides per 100,000 population in 1999 to 17.6 per 100,000 in 2010).
This should come as no surprise given the insecurity and ever-present fear of falling through the cracks wears people down.  The intense ideological war aimed at convincing Americans that life is what you make it, that the rich all pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and that the individual is in control of their own destiny has a very powerful influence on thinking.  Day in day out we are bombarded with ads in the media selling us something, more than any other country in the world we live in a twenty four hour marketplace.  My mother used to complain about paying for a TV back home until she got a taste of US TV, 200 channels, nothing to watch.  Ads every three or four minutes during late night movies and sometimes the same ad repeated. How insulting.  It’s not that Americans have gotten used to it. We kid ourselves that it doesn’t affect us, that we just ignore it. But it does, it contributes to the alienation that exists in US society although there is a strong urge to deny it. If one believes one can get what one wants in society, it’s up to you and you alone, when you fail, you blame yourself with devastating consequences.

As I have pointed out before, another major factor is the view that there’s nothing we can do about it.  “It is what it is” is a common phrase or “You can’t change city hall” and similar resignations.  There is reason for this as there has not been a mass movement in this country for years.  The Occupy Movement received tremendous support from many layers of society but didn’t know what to do with it. The trade Union leaders are pretty much absent form people’s lives and if given any thought at all are distrusted, even hated, down there with Congress when it comes to popularity contests.

There is nothing worse than victimhood.  We all know the feeling when we stand up to a bully or our abusers even if it costs us a black eye.  But US workers have seen wages, benefits and working conditions that took decades to win stripped from us by the capitalist offensive. We have lost homes, jobs and witnessed increased surveillance and interference in our private lives as the TV blasts out 24 hours a day messages contradicting this objective reality adding to our frustration.  We can’t travel to half the countries of the world because of the actions of our government murdering and slaughtering people from Pakistan to Yemen and if not directly involved in such practices, supporting ruthless dictators who do their dirty work for them.

There is no significant objective force in US society that the masses feel they can turn to. As I have pointed out, the heads of the Labor Movement with 12 million members, a huge budget and full time staff not to mention physical structures, could transform this situation but instead appeal to the very politicians whose policies are at the root of this crisis.  In the absence of a real mass movement that can challenge the offensive of capital, drive it back and organize an offensive of our own, millions of Americans simply bury their heads in the sand, party themselves to death or escape in to mental oblivion to avoid the pain.  But inequality is on the rise, the bosses will not stop in their efforts to place the US workers and middle class on rations and at some point the eruption will come. It will be messy and confused and contradictory but come it will.

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