Friday, April 21, 2017

The madness of Kings?

The madness of Kings?

What does it tell us when even royals are saying there is an issue about mental health? Prince Harry’s assertion that he has sought support for his state of mind is hailed as a great move which achieves more that Professors of Psychiatry feel they have done in a career. But what it doesn’t say is revealing: why is this an issue now? Harry’s circumstances are particular – his superstar mother died in a road accident and he remained in the public’s glare. However, for the 3600 young men who took their own lives in 2015, the story was probably rather different. Drawing attention to mental health issues is one thing – admittedly an interesting and helpful step for a royal – but being honest and saying that there must be something seriously wrong if suicide is the major killer of our youth today – not drugs, crime, cars, or terrorism – is probably a step too far for the House of Windsor.

The Charity CALM suggests on its website that much of the problem stems from men’s inability to talk about their issues. While they may have some evidence for this position they are glossing over how these issues arise. I don’t think I am alone in drawing attention to a rise in mental health issues especially amongst young men, and to me, it stands to reason that there is some linkage with the kind of world we inhabit. If the recent upsurge in interest in populism, especially that of the right, is anything to go by, there is a widespread sense of alienation abroad: a lot of people feel a disjunction between their lived worlds and where they would like to be. Recently Google’s chief business officer asserted that happiness arises from a union of how you wish the world to be and how it is for you. This aligns with a view of depression that comes from an unwillingness to accept your situation as is. Those who have voted for Trump, Brexit, Golden Dawn, Geert Wilders (the list goes on…) are all expressing dissatisfaction with the way things are: a disjunction between the perceived world and their version of it. I am not saying they’re all manifesting mental health issues (although neither am I asserting the converse), but it is surely beyond argument that large tracts of the electorate wish for a different set up. It just so happens that this lot have found an avenue which they believe may address their needs. There are I assert others for whom this is not the case.

Corbyn in England, Sanders in the US, and now Mélanchon in France, with the latter being the most radical of the bunch, all attract remarkable levels of support on the platform of offering substantial change (in Corbyn’s case, in theory) to the status quo; the latest addition is talking about 100% tax rates, which certainly puts the cat among the pigeons. On both sides of the political spectrum, a thirst for something different: all are saying things have got to change. Deep down we all know this system, as is, is not working. However, what are we asked to choose between? One side is predominantly drawn to promise of an imaginary past, the other offering a remodelled version of the future but essentially based on today’s structures. Maybe the medicines are simply not up to the job.

Imagine if you will you are entertaining a visitor from another planet. Before looking at the systems currently employed to run things, you discuss the overall picture of life on the planet: the diversity and the balances that support living things. Pretty soon the subject of extinction arises and the rate at which we are eliminating our co-inhabitants of this planet. Shortly afterward you begin the fraught question of the state of the environment and ocean acidification and global warming and soil erosion and… Finally, you come to the way we organise power and you have to admit that we seem to feel we can only run things if 1 percent of the world population controls 90 percent of its resources. At this stage, you’d be hard pressed to defend against the suggestion that they are doing a rather poor job. Put simply, the way we run things is insane and it is not surprising that, with that as a backdrop many people are finding it hard to make sense of it; to be able to live a happy and contented life. Perhaps it gives a context for the 3600 young men who can’t carry on mentioned above.

Globalisation is great for business but it doesn’t half disrupt your local community. People like certain dependables in their lives: us in the UK just as much as those in Iraq or elsewhere. I might not object to the arrival of a large number of refugees into an area, but if this means local shoppers suddenly find many of their regular products replaced by ethnic alternatives; the shops themselves taking on an ethnic identity; the local language and dress of the area changing; then possibly long time residents may feel dislocated – and understandably so. Moving house is regarded as one of the most stressful events of one’s life: having one’s neighbourhood moved on without one’s input is likely to be similarly taxing on the nerves. What is the deal here? The answer is that capitalism’s drive towards creating global markets has created a global movement of people, coupled with the result of wars and famine (arguably another product of capitalism’s drives). It is helpful to business which seeks to recruit the cheapest workers that if they are not already here, bring them here from where the cheap ones are: a free market in labour to bring prices down (which is one of the things the right-wingers then complain about…). Business benefits with lower wages bills and the social impact on local communities? Who cares…(business certainly doesn’t want to pay more tax to offer increased support locally – they want profit not bills).

So currently, a young man lives in a world where he has little chance of earning what his parents earned, of ever buying a house, of having any job security, of having any idea what his community will be like in 5 years’ time, and of facing a future which looks like including major environmental damage. Not exactly a recipe for a happy development. If he chooses not to solve it by means of one of the various Somas on offer – drugs, computer games, mind numbing TV/films/sport/celeb watch/porn – no surprise that he might contemplate living miserably. So, as an old man, what’s my line? What new insight do I bring to justify this mini treatise? My line is let’s really do things differently.

Capitalism is incapable of meaningful reform. Even when, in extremis, gains for the masses are wrought, they’ll be reversed in short order. The nature of capitalism is that power rests with the rich and it is not in their interest to act in the interests of the majority. Even the apparent extremism of Mélanchon is insufficient to address the power deficit of we who are further down the heap. Given a miracle, he might get 4 years, work in the teeth of opposition throughout, achieve some of his platforms, to see it all erased as he is thrown from office after that period – because you cannot work capitalism so that it is nice to everyone: it is predicated on unfairness. Capitalism is based on the principle that whoever has more capital will have more power, and as long as you have capital, some will have more than others – how could it be otherwise? So as long as capital exists, we are always in hock to some benevolent authority to mitigate the power differential if we want a more equal society. Better just to get rid of it altogether: abolish money. If all the money disappears so too, at a stroke, does the power of capital.

Decisions no longer made simply for the advancement of market interests can be made more in tune with the needs of the community and the environment. There is extra opportunity to become involved in decisions which are made relating to you and your community: long promised opportunities for localism suddenly become a reality. Moreover, people need not be engaged in pointless jobs (eg banking, benefits, debt recovery, advertising, sales, etc, etc) but can do things which have some intrinsic value and personal sense of reward. Maybe, just maybe, it might be a healthier environment in which, not only young men but everyone can develop and collaborate. It sure seems to me a lot more attractive prospect than what I see on the news every night.


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