Friday, October 21, 2016

Capitalism is Killing Us


You may have already read that Guardian piece on how neoliberalism is creating loneliness, and as neoliberalism has surged in many Western, white-dominated nations, mental illness among the young has drastically increased. It's important to note that psychology is a relatively new science and more young people may be being diagnosed rather than being left undiagnosed, but the piece really spoke to something I'd been feeling in the past couple of years.

Neoliberalism is a complex term, but to me it means a new form of liberalism that embraces capitalism and many philosophies that were once considered to be conservative. The Guardian piece in particular mentioned this intense definition of "individualism" that many people have embraced, particularly in the U.S. This is absolutely a thing that came from capitalism and the reactionary fear and hatred of socialism/communism, or anything that emphasized a collectivist ideal.

Many people have said before that we can't be completely individualistic. We can't only care about ourselves and maybe our families. If a society attempts to function that way, it will fail. People need to care about the health of the society that they live in. And it helps a lot to care about the society for reasons other than its effect on oneself.

Instead, there's been an increasing trend of hostility toward the government and isolation from one's neighbors and community. This is not an accident. Capitalism demands competition and thrives on ignoring or profiting off of other's suffering.

I agree with the author in his belief that humans are social animals and emotional isolation from one another creates suffering. You can see this not only in the rise of mental illness that's accompanies the rise of individualism, but in the fact that the happiest countries in the world are the ones that emphasize family and community. These include countries often called "socialist" (even though they're not really, but much closer than the U.S.).

The piece does a fine job of pointing out just how damaging social isolation is.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

This needs to be emphasized over and over and over.

In the past few years, since graduating from college, I've struggled on and off with depression related to entering the "adult world" - obtaining and retaining steady employment, getting my own place, and becoming "independent." I've been living in a small one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend for four and a half years now, and though having my own place to live with the person I love is amazing in a lot of ways, I have found myself far less happy than I was in college. This is due to a number of reasons, not the least of which is general stress from worrying about money and having to work 30-40 hours per week. But I've noticed something else.

I feel isolated. As much of an introvert as I am, and as much as I need my alone time, it's clear that my depression is alleviated by spending time with friends and family. If I engage in a lot of socializing, I'll find myself feeling good emotionally. The problem is that being away from home drains me as well, and anxiety issues makes this much worse. I need a lot of time to recharge. But thanks to the 40-hour work week, there's not a lot of spare time to fit in both socializing, recharging, and everything else that needs to be done in adult life.

But it's got me thinking. How much happier would I be if I lived in some kind of communal environment? I of course want my own space, but I've read about these communities where everyone lives in a small area, like a neighborhood only everyone's home is closer, and all the people in the community regularly interact through the making of communal meals. They take turns making a large amount of food and serving everyone in a dining hall type thing where everyone interacts. It's like one giant family. It sounds lovely.

I wish there was a way that I could get all the people I like together and live like that. I've long wished I could have a friend in the apartment next to mine, and we'd have our own space but be able to easily pop over and just chill. But apartment and general housing prices make this nearly impossible. And the idea of sharing a house with a group of people is scary, because what if we don't get along? What if money becomes an issue?

If in the future, somehow, money is no longer an issue, I hope to find a place to live like that. Maybe some kind of duplex building that I can buy and fill with friends. I don't want to live in an unnecessarily big house with just my boyfriend, cut off from the rest of my community.

And that's all well and good for me. But we're having a serious crisis right now. And by "we" I mean people who are generally much more oppressed than I am.

Ten-year-old Aboriginal girl latest in rash of suicides in Canada

Her death follows three others in the province this month, Cameron said, adding that he did not have any further details. 
Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about 4 percent of the country's population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

This is horrible all by itself, but also illustrates how mental illness - and by extension, neoliberalism/capitalism - is harder on severely marginalized communities. Indigenous populations tend to get the worst of it, and the fact that little children are committing suicide should shock people into action. Apparently the Canadian government is sending three therapists once a week to the area where these suicides have occurred, and I can tell you that it's not going to be enough.

Capitalism needs to be ended. Before it kills us, or makes us all kill ourselves, starting with aboriginal girls.

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