Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Affluenza Virus

The clinical psychologist Oliver James has always been critical of conventional psychiatric approaches toward mental health. His methods and views have been highly criticized in the past. Such was the case in his 2005 piece in the Guardian concerning how many people find the thought of climate change too depressing to think about, and therefore find it easier just to pretend it doesn't exist. Oliver states that most people live in a world of unreal positive illusions.

Oliver wrote on the myth of prosperity in Moving the Goalposts. He notes that most of the time most people are at best not unhappy. And the truth is that we've been deceived into believing that our pursuit of happiness and fullfillment is meaningful. Happiness is very transient and is quickly replaced by the feeling of unhappiness and unfullfillment. By placing happiness as our primary goal, we set ourselves up for depression because our feeling of happiness is short lived and we must constantly set new goals for other forms of happiness. What a frickin vicious circle!
Despite our astonishing technological advances and far higher average standard of living, when I looked at the statistics, they revealed that we are dramatically more likely to be depressive, compulsive and violent compared with in 1950. All mainstream political parties make economic growth the central tenet of their electoral manifesto. "It's the economy, stoopid," we are told - except that, as far as psychopathology is concerned, it's not.

The World Health Organisation did a study of fourteen different nations' health. From their study they found that Americans were six times more likely to have a mental illness than people in Shanghai or Nigeria. According to Oliver, we're all sick with a middle-class virus which is brought on by material envy. He calls this illness Affluenza, which just happens to be the title of his new book. Through media advertising onslaughts, we tend to get hooked on the earn more, spend more, want more cycle of consumerism. Once hooked, our mental health deteriorates and there isn't much chance of any extended happiness and there is a much greater increase of mental illness.
I named it the "affluenza virus" and its symptoms are characterised by the placing of a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame. It results in an obsessive, envious keeping-up-with-the-Joneses state of mind that increases our vulnerability to emotional disorders, and is responsible for rising levels of depression, addiction, violence and anxiety in the developed world. It is, I believe, a contagious disease of the middle classes.

So are we doomed to just keep repeating this consumerist cycle over and over until we basically destroy each other? Once we have been infected with this epidemic mindless consumeristic virus, can we hope for a cure? In Oliver's words, "An epidemic of mindless consumerism is sweeping the world with the compulsive pursuit of money and possessions making people richer but sadder." And not just sadder, but much more self destructive it seems! I truly want to believe the people will come to their senses in time, but my depression over the direction we've taken keeps telling me there is not a chance!


Blogger sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





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Thursday, 25 January, 2007  
Blogger atuuschaaw said...

Thanks for the post sushil. I love what you're saying and being an old timer and coming from an agricultural background, I've always leaned towards the 'back to the land' idea. As a matter of fact at one point in my life I dropped out of the mainstream and gained independence. But the pull of the force is strong!

I think it's impossible for the majority of the people here in the U.S. to transition from a complete consumeristic lifestyle into a complete 'grow your own' world. That doesn't mean that every little bit helps, even if it's not possible to do a complete life altering transition! A lot of people doing small things can have a very big impact.

I think it's a social awakening and change begins with that first step. It begins with "one" and spreads to the many. Keep up the work sushill and I'll spread your links around Brother!

In Solidarity,

Friday, 26 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's as simple as the old saying about walking in another's shoes isn't it? One cannot possibly fully be aware of something by merely thinking about, one has to actually feel it, experience it, to be fully knowledgeable.

The difference between book learned and hands-ons IMO. While both have value, the hands on provides an earthy connectedness, an opportunity to learn (grow) from mistakes, evolve - while a book has but mechanical value. We've become a mass without real life experience and there seems no end, given our lust for and the rewards for sterile intellectualism.

You do have to eat your own pound of dirt before you're truly qualified to speak about it's flavour. And you cannot lend your experience on the subject to anyone as a whole lesson, only part thereof - your version.

I'm not sure how many times an experience can be passed on before it's completely awash, but I doubt many. I'm almost positive we've lost a whole bunch between the year of the land dweller and the year of the tower dweller. That's decades and decades of incomplete person to person data transfer. No wonder we don't know which end is up!

It's not like we'll revert back to some ancient civilization if we return to the earth in some fashion. I don't imagine any advancements that have been made will simply vanish from the face of the earth if we cease to worship them and only them.

If I understand correctly, then I have to agree and add that not only have we limited ourselves by our own thought, we may have delayed or back-burner_ed even more exciting evolution. Too bad, we have the knowledge, we have the ability, we have the advancements, now what?

Hi AT :)

siggy (I still haven't mastered the blog post, I'm not sure if I'm a blogger, other or anonymous)

Sunday, 28 January, 2007  
Blogger atuuschaaw said...

Hiya siggy! As always your wisdom is showing! :) Puts me back to the place where, "I wish I'd said that!" And the $64 question is "Now What?" It all comes around in the little pieces and parts you mentioned. One little bit at a time. I'm just not sure how long it will take. Or if it will happen by a voluntary initiative or out of desperation and as a last resort. But if there's one thing for certain, change is inevitable and I hope we have the wisdom to "choose wisely"!

Tuesday, 30 January, 2007  

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