Mental Health In A Dishonest World

The more I think about it the more it seems to me that the world we have created for ourselves is making us mentally unwell – which is to say, chronically unhappy / distressed. It’s fashionable in science these days to attribute everything to our genes and say that anxiety or depression (for example) is due to ‘errors in our genetic coding’, but why would our coding suddenly start acting up after tens and hundreds of thousands of years of good service? If we look at the graph for the increase in rates of incidence for anxiety and depression over the last sixty years we can see the curves shooting up dramatically, so why have our genes suddenly taken to misbehaving in this way? Why are they letting us down just now that we seem to be doing so well as a species? If it was a company we were talking about here (and not the mental health of the human race) and sales were going down in a similarly dramatic way, we would be doing some serious soul-searching, but all we’re doing is sitting on our arses and blaming our genes!

 

We have invented a very strange world for ourselves during the course of the last century, and it’s not ‘strange’ in any good way. The world we have inadvertently created for ourselves (and there’s no need to assume that we actually knew what we were doing at any point in the process) is based entirely on the large-scale manipulation of entire populations for the sake of making money, which is also (and more succinctly) known as ‘consumerism’. There used to be such a thing as ‘the world of commerce’, and that was fine as far as it went, but now the world of commerce and the world which we know and live in have become one and the same thing. There’s no ‘overlap’, it’s not a question of two circles (or sets) intersecting on Venn diagram, there’s only the one ‘circle’. Commerce (or consumerism) has taken over almost all aspects of our life and we are so used to this appalling incursion that we see nothing odd about it. The key point that I want to make here however is that ‘consumerism’ and ‘manipulation’ always go hand in hand, as we all know very well, were we to actually think about it! It’s a very bad model to follow, in other words, no matter what those in positions of power may tell us…

 

We have, therefore, created a world for ourselves that is based on the systematic manipulation of whole populations and there is no way that anyone can say that this is good for our mental health! Human beings have always manipulated and tricked each other it is true, this being one half of what we call ‘human nature’, but it is only very recently in the history of the human race that we have had the means to create an entire self-consistent environment based entirely on the principle of deception / manipulation. What Jean Baudrillard called ‘the world of the hyperreal’ only became a possibility in the last thirty years; we didn’t have the data-processing and storage power to create it until towards the end of the twentieth century. Deception and manipulation is all that goes on in the world of hyperreality – it’s not a matter of ‘truth’ on the one hand and ‘deception’ on the other, it’s all deception, from beginning to end! The world our children are born into in recent times is a high-tech virtual reality ‘global construct’ designed specifically for the purpose of manipulating those who live in it, and – needless to say – we don’t have any choice about living in it! That’s a choice we are never given…

 

We would have to be completely blind not to see that this is the case, and we’d have to be outright knaves and villains to deny it! Having said this though, we have to acknowledge that we’ve actually all been made blind, to a greater or lesser extent. We have been inflicted with blindness from an early age, as part of our indoctrination. The idea of commerce (or consumerism) as an entire way of life has been beaten into us from the dawn of modern ‘behaviourism-based’ advertising back in the nineteen twenties. This – arguably – was when advertising first started to ‘get inside our heads’. Not only has consumerism as a way of life been normalized, we have been repeatedly told, in various ways, that it is a healthy and wholesome way for us to organize society. We’ve been told that it’s the ONLY way to organize society! Very powerful vested interests have made sure that this message has been effectively put across. As a result, the capitalist way of life has become a religion, enshrined in Holy Dogma just as a religion is, and at the core of the dogma is the right of a small group of people to persuade another, much larger and less powerful group that they need a whole range of products / services and then sell it to them.

 

This however is not a discussion of politics or political philosophy, but something much more practical and pressing in nature, namely our mental health! The consequence of setting up the whole world for the benefit of commercial interests has been – as we have said – that we have replaced the natural (or unconstructed) world with a virtual reality global construct designed specifically for manipulating the entire population of the planet and – crucially for our argument – there is nothing in this VR construct (this hyperreal world) that in any way supports our mental health. There might of course be goods and services advertised and promoted that claim to support our mental health (there are in fact lots!) but this is just another angle that Big Business is using in order to sell us stuff. It’s a particularly good angle – the system makes us sick and then it sells us more stuff that is supposed to cure us of the sickness that it itself has created! How clever is that?

 

The only thing that can support our mental health is the natural world (or – equivalently – ‘human beings who are not trying, either knowingly or unknowingly, to deceive and manipulate us’, which is a very great rarity) and this happens to be the one thing that the commercially-orientated hyperreal construct we fondly call ‘modern civilization’ can never supply us with. We can draw a very good parallel with toxic relationships here – the only thing a toxic friend / partner / family member can do to help us is step away and leave us alone, and this also happens to be the one thing that they will never do – not of their own free will, anyway! That is the one thing the viral Global Construct is never going to do either. The world we have created for ourselves is fundamentally deceptive, fundamentally dishonest. Like the advertising images we see everywhere (the advertising images that have become the whole world to us) nothing is what it seems to be, nothing is what it says it is. Sincerity is an impossibility in this world since sincerity doesn’t sell products! Sincerity is an impossibility in our own personal lives too since it will get us fired in a hurry – if we work for a company or an organization then as we all know we have to ‘tow the party line’, we have to ‘play the game that we are expected to play’. We have to adopt the role that has been given to us to play, and play it as if we mean it. To live in a world that is fundamentally deceptive and fundamentally manipulative is inevitably going to cost us dear in terms of our mental health, but somehow no one is focussing on this…

 

 

 

Art: Keiichi Matsuda

 

 

 

 

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