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Capitalism’s connection to our ever-worsening mental health

Andray Domise: Regardless of headlines always blaring that our way of life is ever growing, social stressors gnaw away on the foundations of our collective psyche

In 2011, British author and cultural theorist Mark Fisher penned an essay entitled The Privatisation of Stress, completely capturing the connection between melancholy, social circumstances underneath capitalism and growing alienation within the post-Reagan/Thatcherite years.

“It’s hardly stunning that individuals who stay in such circumstances—the place their hours and pay can all the time be elevated or decreased, and their phrases of employment are extraordinarily tenuous—ought to expertise anxiousness, melancholy,” Fisher wrote. “However . . . this privatization of stress has grow to be only one extra taken-for-granted dimension of a seemingly depoliticized world.”

I consider Fisher and his writings usually. I frequently reread his most well-known work, Capitalist Realism, and have all the time admired his potential to not solely write by way of melancholy and anxiousness however to attach social circumstances with our ever-worsening psychological well being. Regardless of headlines always blaring that our way of life is ever growing and our collective wealth is extra ample than ever, social stressors gnaw away on the foundations of our collective psyche.

The demise of tradition and artwork, for instance, evident within the countless manufacturing of music algorithmically designed to evoke feeling however by no means provoke emotion. Literature circumscribed to attraction to the countless adolescence of an arrested readership. Tent-pole superhero movies which have lengthy since ossified and crumbled inside the vaults of Disney and Warner Bros. The demise of fulfilling labour, the place the gig financial system has pushed the idea of “work” into utter absurdity (no pensions, no advantages, usually no pay!), and the demise of social establishments, together with the church (which perpetually haunts us with its most harmful remnants, comparable to dogmatism and puritanism, even in essentially the most liberal social scenes).

READ: Welcome to the period of woke capitalism

And, after all, a political tradition that abides no realities, potentialities, no faint hopes exterior of the neo-liberal consensus. Nowhere is the demise of higher issues extra evident than with the newly minted Joe Biden administration.

From a much-feted Inauguration Day poem by 22-year-old youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman calling for nationwide therapeutic (but drawing water from the shallow and poisonous pool of American exceptionalism that is still completely tainted by its historical past of chauvinism, hypocrisy and genocide), to the collective meltdown over Bernie Sanders’ frumpy winter apparel (considered by many apoplectic liberals as an offensive gesture to the pageantry of the inauguration; these folks can’t even be comfortable after they get what they need), to a trillion-dollar stimulus bundle that can as soon as once more ship the products to massive companies whereas handing out sparse change to working People (and but once more denying them common well being care, even throughout a lethal pandemic), the state of American politics is one more handshake within the satan’s cut price that’s capitalism.

Regardless of the COVID epidemic and countless political urgings for all of us to drag collectively, Black folks proceed to die by the hands of police. Kids stay separated from their dad and mom and sleep on chilly flooring behind ICE fencing. Wall Avenue hedge funds clamour for bailouts as a result of investor pushback on their long-time market manipulations managed to explode their plans. Suicide hotlines are overworked; polling of Canadians and People present we’re considering suicidal ideation at heretofore unseen ranges.

READ: The left should stand in opposition to capitalism. Now.

I’ve seen too many individuals thrown out of their houses, shed tears with too many individuals who’ve misplaced family members to a pandemic exacerbated by our compromised and incompetent political class. I usually marvel what Fisher would make of our present actuality, haunted by the ghosts of final century’s optimism and countless fictional potentialities that had been quietly snuffed out by the countless existential crises—overlook a pandemic, we’re nonetheless staring down the barrel of catastrophic local weather change—caused by the numerous violences of now.

Too many doorways of chance have been slammed in our faces.

In fact, Fisher can’t supply any commentary on this actuality; he died by suicide in 2017. However I ponder if the insurgency of direct motion that’s nonetheless ongoing within the streets, on social media, and even when this new type of shareholder activism in opposition to big hedge funds might need impressed him to think about that an alternate is certainly attainable in spite of everything.


This text seems in print within the March 2021 difficulty of Maclean’s journal with the headline, “The demise of higher issues.” Subscribe to the month-to-month print journal right here.

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