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Deep thought - March 22

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Maintaining Mental Health In The Age Of Madness
Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” A state of well-being is obviously more than just the absence of disease. It assumes that a human being is reasonably functional mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Similarly, this definition can be applied to healthy communities with the addition of social functionality as another aspect of well-being.

However, most readers are aware of the decline in mental health treatment within the past three decades. Whereas thirty years ago many working people had insurance benefits for outpatient psychotherapy as well as in-patient treatment, not only have the benefits dramatically decreased, but massive unemployment makes it virtually impossible for millions of people to pay for any kind of health care, physical or mental.

Meanwhile, nearly all inhabitants and communities of industrial civilization are struggling to cope with living in societies in unprecedented decline. Energy depletion, climate change, economic contraction, and the collapse of myriad institutions such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and police and fire services weigh heavily on the wallets and emotions of millions. In the United States, the realities of the sequester debacle will only exacerbate the unraveling, and for many, avoiding homelessness and starvation are top priorities with nothing left over for any kind of healthcare. Yet it is precisely this demographic who are contending with monumental stress, and for many of them, just as they may be one paycheck away from being homeless, they may also be one stress away from mental and emotional meltdown.

...In the first pages of John Michael Greer’s latest book, Not The Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, And The Myth Of Progress, he notes a number of “unmentionable crises” throughout history that were actually social crises, but because of the undesirability of dealing with them, they were temporarily “re-framed” as personal crises. One of these was a contrived “pathology” in relation to African American slaves living in slave states who were said to have suffered from a mental illness called “Drapetomania” in which they had an “irrational” desire to run away. Yet another example Greer cites is the lack of meaning and value in the lives of women in the 1950s and 60s that Betty Friedan described as “the problem that has no name.” These are two examples of how social crises were reframed as personal problems which conveniently enabled addressing them as social phenomena to be postponed indefinitely...

(18 March 2013)


The Death of the Car

escapefromwisconsin, Hipcrime Vocab
The Atlantic Cities has a series of terrific articles up right now, and this one's getting a bit of attention: What the Steamship and the Landline Can Tell Us About the Decline of the Private Car. That's right, they are predicting the slow fading away of Happy Motoring:

This prediction sounds bold primarily for the fact that most of us don't think about technology – or the history of technology – in century-long increments: “We’re probably closer to the end of the automobility era than we are to its beginning,” says Maurie Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “If we’re 100 years into the automobile era, it seems pretty inconceivable that the car as we know it is going to be around for another 100 years.”

...That's right, the internal combustion engine and horseless carriages were around for decades before we decided to base our entire society around them for every single man and woman. It took a long time for cars to become the society-shapers they have become. If capitalism is the largest government project in the history of the world, the automobile and suburbia is surely the largest component of that project (along with shipping containers). A lot of things had to happen for the car to become viable, and we forget all this. That's something to remember when alternatives to any sort of technology or energy-generation scheme are bandied about. This comment also emphasizes the point...

(18 March 2013)


On belonging

Vanessa Spedding, Vivid
I’ve been wondering about belonging. What is it? Is it important? Where can we get some? How do we hold on to it?

A decade ago I returned with my young family to live in the area where I had enjoyed my happiest childhood days.

I refamiliarised myself with the landscape, the trees and plants and birds and rivers, in all their colour and variety. I took the plunge into community activism. I made and renewed good friends in the area. It is a welcoming and beautiful place to live; I feel lucky to be here and generally content.

Yet I’ve rarely enjoyed a deep feeling of belonging. In my gloomier moments I can feel adrift, struggling to find any point of reference. Fortunately, more often, there’s just a vague sense that some component is missing. But it niggles enough to beg the question: what is it that I’m after?

A hint of an answer to that question came as a result of a new direction in my reading. After several years of trying to learn about the workings of our economic system, our political structures, the media and the energy situation, to see whether there was a way out of our destructive behaviours, I changed tack and switched to books about indigenous cultures that had shown themselves to be genuinely sustainable....

(Spring 2012)

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