Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Social Neurosis

People living in the so called "developed" world have access for the most part, to food, clothing, shelter, education and health care, and thats great, but even so, there are still some serious problems. It's hard to understand why so many of us who live in a society that is pretty well off tend to be apathetic, self centred, shallow, depressed, ill, unfulfilled and some of us are just plain assholes. There seem to more and more children with mental illness and allergies. The developed world even produces rapists and serial killers. So, the question arises: why? Contrary to popular belief, these problems are not inevitable in human nature, they are a direct result of our social environment. I am going to propose a series of reasons why "well off" societies still produce antisocial people. There will be some generalizations in here, but I'm sure that at least some of these issues mentioned will have effected the readers of this blog.

Prenatal development, or what happens when one is in their mother's womb, has major effects on one's psychological and physical well being later in life. Stress levels, nutrition, and many other things effect the fetus during development. There are many reasons why women would be stressed during pregnancy other than the usual reasons of hormonal changes or nervousness of the experience of birth: money shortages, a shitty job, job loss, neglectful spouse, abusive spouse, fear of terrorism and/or crime which is highly exaggerated by the mainstream media and hollywood are just some examples. Right off the bat, many people are brought into this world with high levels of stress being communicated through their mothers.

Once born, many babies sense stress from their environment. 80% of brain development happens in the first 3 years of life. This shows how vital the environment is for humans early on. Inequality and poverty are linked with substance, and physical abuse and many people grow up in relative poverty, especially in the United States. It must be said that the developed world's version of poverty doesn't even come close to what the developing world's poverty looks like, but it still causes stress and violence. If the developed world's poverty causes violence, it should be no wonder why there is so much violence and crime in the developing world where poverty and inequality is even more extreme. These circumstances are exactly those needed to create mentally unstable individuals. James Gilligan has worked with some of the worst murderers and rapists in the United States and he claims that people who become violent and mentally ill, consistently have themselves experienced serious trauma. He claims that the most violent phenomenon in human history is poverty which is widespread in the world today.

Added to this, most consumer goods on the average store's shelf have all kinds of horrible shit in them and people consume these products daily. It's shocking what one finds when one starts to understand what some of these long scientific words mean in the ingredients list for cosmetics, processed foods, baby toys etc. In North America, most cosmetics have a number of toxic chemicals in them of which scientists know little about their effects in the long term. Europe has banned certain toxic chemicals while North America has not, so companies make two kinds of the same product for each market; one made cheaper with more toxic chemicals for North America and one with less toxic chemicals for Europe. Processed foods have all kinds of pesticides, hormones, anti-biotics, and unhealthy sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup in them. Many people, especially those who live in the suburbs, live in food desserts, meaning that they live far from healthy food choices. They are surrounded by Starbucks' and McDonalds. Lack of nutrition has been known to cause a number of behavioural problems. Even toys are usually made with some kind of toxic material that babies end up putting in their mouth. North American tap water has fluoride in it which has consequences for our bodies. If one lives in the city, they inhale countless amounts of gasoline. To sum up, most shit that is made in this society - is shit. One has to take it upon themselves to study which companies actually give a shit about their customers enough to not make cheap, harmful products. What are the cumulative and synergistic effects of all of the above on people's mental and physical health? It's very hard to know to know for sure, but my guess is its probably not very good.

Unlike Alex Jones, I don't believe this is some "illuminati" conspiracy to depopulate the planet by making us all sick, but rather a natural product of this economic system. It is the result of the profit motive. For the simple reason of cost efficiency, companies will cut corners on environmental regulations, workers rights, consumer safety and product quality. The profit motive is a major reason for people cheating, scamming, defrauding, corrupting, lying and exploiting one another. War is profitable, disease is profitable, extortion is profitable, corruption is profitable, scarcity is profitable. These are clear signs of how sick our societal organization really is. The profit motive worked well enough to get us to this point in history, but now we have outgrown it. We no longer need to compete for resources because we have the ability to distribute them equitably. We have the technical ability and knowledge to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide health care for all of the world's population, but we don't do this because of our scarcity, competition based economic model. We are the only species who pays to live on this planet.

If you believe that the developed world is doing fine, think about how many people die from cancer annually. The current rates are far from normal. Pre-contact native societies had little to no occurrences of cancer until Europeans stole their lands and put them on reserves. This is a prime example of how stress has a major role to play in cancer (and many other health problems) in addition to exposure to harmful chemicals.

Death is inevitable in life, however much of it in modern society could be prevented. For example preventative treatment for cancers such as good nutrition, low stress environments, and many other methods could prevent deaths from this disease. The replacement of anachronistic uses of technology such as man controlled cars and Ford-ist assembly line production of consumer goods by humans  could help alleviate stress as well. Preventing death is beneficial because people who experience the death of a good friend or relative, can have a hard time dealing with the loss and this can cause any number of psychological problems. The modern profit driven solution in mainstream psychiatry to solve the problems of loss are to give people pills, but prescription drugs cause a significant amount of deaths every year and they have been known to have all kinds of detrimental side effects as extreme as suicide. Another common way to ignore or cope with loss is with mind altering substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs. As discussed in the last post, any substance can be abused and sadly, many people do abuse and/or become addicted to these substances.

When it comes to technical issues that could alleviate stress, our transportation systems are a clear area in need of improvement. Car accidents are a major cause of death all over the world. These problems could be avoided with the use of technology such as maglev trains and self driving cars. If implemented, not only would transport become more efficient and eco-friendly, it would prevent thousands of deaths. Work related deaths in factories could easily be prevented by full automation, freeing up people's time for more important things and preventing people from being in dangerous, stressful, unfulfilling and monotonous jobs. People will point out the flaw in this argument that technology is unreliable, but that is again, a result of the profit motive. Planned obsolescence is a common phenomena in almost all electronics. Products are built to break, fail or become shitty/inefficient enough for people to want to buy new ones. This is done to guarantee cyclical consumption and consistent business. This makes sense in the current economic system, but it is absolutely insane if we want to be sustainable and efficient.

Replacing human labour with technology is beneficial because many people do not feel fulfilled from their jobs. Unfulfilled people may resort to the use of drugs or their stress will build up in their bodies as a response to their problems causing health issues. If an unfulfilling job can be automated, it should be, because many jobs are a waste of human potential. Generally, people want to feel that their life has a purpose. They want to contribute to society, but too often, people are working jobs that they hate, to buy things that they don't need, to empress people they don't like. The idea of jobs becomes obsolete when one considers how much can be supplied by technological automation. People may think that mass automation of labour will make us become lazy couch potatoes, but there will always be things for people to learn, create and experience. Motivational experts such as Daniel Pink have discovered that money, when used for motivation, is only effective for manual labour. Monetary incentive is actually counter productive when it comes to being creative. Mass technological application will make it so that humans can be freed from labour which is unnecessary and often causes harm in the form of stress. We could be free to use - to the fullest extent - our most precious evolutionary advantage: our brains.

Another source of sickness in society is the consumer culture. Advertising on television will often promote consumerism as the solution to unhappiness, however stats show that even though material wealth has gone up in many countries, happiness has not. This is very telling. Consumption is not only environmentally destructive, once it reaches a certain point, it does not improve people's happiness. Yet, this is what our our system is based upon. It is the american dream to have a hot car, wife, a house and endless amounts of material possessions. It has now become clear that this dream has been a failure. An endless pursuit of material wealth is a poor life goal. One of the saddest sights one can see is a depressed person trying to gain a sense of fulfillment by buying expensive cars so that he/she can feel like they are of high status. Some people even go into large amounts of debt just to maintain their status. Consumerism and social comparison is perpetuated by consumer advertising and they use psychological techniques to achieve obedience to their products and a consumer lifestyle. Advertising often promotes shallow ideals and unreal perceptions of beauty. Self centred, self-conscious, competitive, arrogant people are commonplace in this society, and it is no surprise when one looks at pop-culture and advertising. What people really need for happiness and good mental health is strong relationships, time for family, friends, the ability to have good experiences and a sense of purpose. This is not what this society is focussed on at all because people are too busy just trying to get by. Our lives are spent working a job so that we can eventually settle down, retire and then actually accomplish what we want to in life. However, this is only possible if one has an employer who gives their employees a good pension or if one makes enough money so that they can survive without working. And who knows what the state of one's health will be once they have spent x amount of years in the workforce. I'm not saying that there are no fulfilling jobs out there, just that there are many unfulfilling jobs.

Also noteworthy are the effects of money on the brain. Money itself is the cause of certain antisocial behaviours. This is interesting because money has no intrinsic value. It is paper - not backed by anything such as precious metals. Its only value is that which we place upon it.

As you can see, we are living in a society suffering the consequences of an antiquated economic and social model. All of the above has collectively caused the social neurosis that we see around us today. We pass down the effects of this society through epigenetics to the next generation effecting our human evolution. The harmful stuff we put in/on our bodies + a highly stressful, shallow and unfulfilling society means it should be no wonder why even the so called "developed" world produces people of the fucked up variety. These same problems are present in the developing world, but amplified to an even greater degree.

The "developed" world at least has the necessities of life and we should be extremely thankful for that. However, this childish, competitive, dehumanizing, intrinsically exploitive system has created dysfunctional, antisocial people, and a generally harmful environment. We need a new model that creates environments where people are able to live up to their full potential in a cooperative, stimulating environment. I believe, given the circumstances of the world today, it is the duty of every person who has enough free time on their hands, to learn and work towards the creation of a better world. What better goal is there?

We have the power to create a better environment for ourselves and the species we share the earth with. Lets work together, unfuck the world and break these social chains.

Interested in alternative economies and social organization?

The Zeitgeist Movement
The Venus Project

For groovin':
Money - Easy Star All Stars 

To better understand some of the concepts discussed above, check out:

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