The Silent Epidemic in a Broken, Deranged System: Stress
(April 18, 2013)
It's not only the individual who needs help adjusting to chronic stress--the deranged system he/she inhabits needs to change.
Longtime readers know that I see our system not just as financially sick but as spiritually and psychologically deranging. The illnesses are related, of course--a distorted economic system (i.e. financialization) that rewards parasitic sociopathy and political predation cannot help but make its participants physically and psychologically ill.
Here is a selection of the many entries I've written on this largely ignored topic:
Welfare Nation: Addiction, Denial and Magical Thinking (February 1, 2010)
The Wider Context for Twenty-Somethings (Gen Y) in America (February 19, 2010)
Opting Out and the Culture of Entitlement (March 29, 2010)
Readers are often puzzled by the term The Politics of Experience, which is the core of the Survival+ analysis. The term comes from psychiatrist/author R.D. Laing, and I use it to describe the subtle ways that our worldview is molded to make certain forms of political and financial dominance so "natural" that we lose awareness of its arbitrary, carefully engineered structure.
America Is Just Going Through the Motions (November 19, 2010)
The Junkie in the Pool and False Idols (August 10, 2011)
Japan and the Exhaustion of Consumerism (October 18, 2012)
Narcissism, Consumerism and the End of Growth (October 19, 2012)
When Belief in the System Fades (March 12, 2008)
I recently received this commentary from Kenneth Daigle, a 33-year veteran stockbroker/financial advisor on the subject of chronic, systemic stress. (He requested that his full name be published.) Kenneth succinctly ties together the nation's economic distemper, its broken healthcare system and the culture of high expectations and consumerism:
I talk to hundreds of people in my practice, and I want to share with you an observation that I have made. With all the media attention lately on the fact that America has hit 90 million people who are not in the workforce, I see very little being written, asking the big question, WHY?
Thank you, Kenneth, for your report from the world we actually inhabit, as opposed to the one that is dutifully reported in the mainstream media (i.e. everything's fine, unemployment is only 7.6%, go out and buy a new car, no down payment and easy credit, etc.)
In my view, the high cost of living is a direct contributor to chronic stress. While there are numerous explanations for the rising cost of living--Baumol's Cost Disease ( Productivity, Baumol's Disease and the Cliff Just Ahead December 8, 2010) and the rising cost of energy, to name but two--the one key driver that nobody dares discuss is the state-cartel (crony capitalism) structure of our economy: cartels (defense, energy, sickcare, education, etc.) avoid competition, enabled and enforced by the State (government).
This explains why sickcare and education costs have skyrocketed far above the rate of inflation. Apologists try to invoke Baumol to explain the lack of productivity in sickcare and education, but the primary cause is the cartel structure of these industries which ruthlessly eliminates any real competition.
People respond to incentives and disincentives. If it's easier to fake a disability, get Section 8 housing, food stamps, etc., than it is to earn a productive livelihood, then people will fake a disability, etc.
As it becomes increasingly costly and risky to start a business and hire workers, then people won't start businesses or hire workers--unless they have a guaranteed government contract, i.e. they are quasi-public-sector employees.
Another factor few dare mention is debt-serfdom. By the time the brainwashed consumer has loaded up on the "absolutely necessary" debts--$100,000+ for college, $200,000 for a home mortgage, $20,000 for a vehicle loan, and whatever he/she can swing in credit card debt--the options to escape stress shrivel.
Bankruptcy and opting out is one option, but that requires sacrificing all the signifiers of identity and success--the very factors in a consumerist society that establish not just identity but self-worth and personhood.
I say few dare mention state-cartels and debt-serfdom, because once you question these you question the entire debt-based "growth" that underpins our social order. If people refuse to become debt-serfs, the system will implode. If the cartels were boycotted, the State would implode, because the political order depends on the concentrated wealth of private-sector cartels and the financialization Aristocracy.
In other words: eliminate the real sources of stress and you bring down the entire economic, political and social order. The Status Quo hopes another med or two will make all the debt-serfs' stress decline to manageable levels, but it's not only the individual who needs help adjusting to chronic stress--the deranged system he/she inhabits needs to change.
Kenneth also forwarded these chronic stress-related links:
Cornell Professor Richard Burkhauser, a disability policy expert, warns, “SSDI is increasingly being used as a long-term unemployment program for workers who, given the appropriate rehabilitation and accommodation, could work.”
Special "the end of the world as we know it" sale on seeds from our longtime supplier Everlasting Seeds:
TEOTWAWKI SALE! 20% OFF!
Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify or understand. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:
1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism and the elimination of accountability
3. Diminishing returns
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy
Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).
We are not powerless. Not accepting responsibility and being powerless are two sides of
the same coin: once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
To receive a 20% discount on the print edition: $19.20 (retail $24), follow the link, open a Createspace account and enter discount code SJRGPLAB. (This is the only way I can offer a discount.)
NOTE: gifts/contributions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.
"This guy is THE leading visionary on reality.
He routinely discusses things which no one else has talked about, yet,
turn out to be quite relevant months later."
Or send him coins, stamps or quatloos via mail--please request P.O. Box address.
Subscribers ($5/mo) and contributors of $50 or more this year will receive a weekly email of exclusive (though not necessarily coherent) musings and amusings.
At readers' request, there is also a $10/month option.
What subscribers are saying about the Musings (Musings samples here):
The "unsubscribe" link is for when you find the usual drivel here insufferable.
All content, HTML coding, format design, design elements and images copyright © 2013 Charles Hugh Smith, All rights reserved in all media, unless otherwise credited or noted.
I am honored if you link to this essay, or print a copy for your own use.
Terms of Service: