You don’t have to be mad to live in a capitalist society, but it helps.

by Elias Blum

There’s an interesting article here arguing that the current epidemic of mental health problems is a result (at least in part) of a fundamentally ‘sick’ society that is ‘built around the values of growth, competition and manipulation’, over-glorifies work, privileges doing over being, rewards pathological behaviour (bankers’ bonuses, anyone?) and alienates us from the pro-social and co-operative aspects of our nature.

I figured this out several years ago. I was depressed and burnt out for a while after leaving a very stressful job that was financially rewarding but of dubious moral worth (the government paid me to invade countries and engage in neo-colonial wars for oil – what larks!).

Fortunately, I got the opportunity to go and live for a year in a small village in France to recuperate a bit. There I was able to live at a slow pace, close to nature, with a gentle balance between work and relaxation, and plenty of fresh air and healthy green food. It did me more good than any medication.

It also gave me the opportunity to read ‘Small is beautiful’ by E F Schumacher. There and then I realised what the problem was. We have a structure of society and of production that makes people exhausted, restless, anxious, competitive and unsatisfied – and it is no wonder that there are so many psychological casualties.

Since then, my values and priorities have been realigned. It’s still difficult – one has to live in the world as it is, and not as we would like it to be – but that experience has helped me focus a bit on what is really important as a human being, and not on what a capitalist-consumerist society tries to tell us is important.