This is a series of posts which look at the impact of the misuse of all forms of authority in our society upon the freedom, power and authenticity, wellbeing and mental health of the individual and by extension our communities of fellow citizens. It is not intended as an attack on benign or benevolent expressions of authority where they might exist in the world.
The Frivolous Worship of Social Status
Sadly, many of us have allowed ourselves to be so conditioned to accept the direction of authorities that we willingly volunteer ourselves to be so governed and overseen; teaching our children to subjugate themselves to the same dysfunctional norms of conformity, and in many cases seeking out regulatory bodies to whom we willingly pay money each year in order to have our lives monitored, controlled and limited by them in return for some sense of personal validation or professional stamp of approval that we can wear in public.
If the latter example does not hold for all, then the purchase and wearing of clothing that advertises the corporation who manufactured it might, since much social worth is courted by adornments advertising brand names and celebrity associations. Our willingness to behave in ways that actively demonstrate our subservience or association to some authority or other – by name-dropping, celebrity mimicking, the use of status symbols and corporate labelling, even personalised car registration plates – is now so integrated into the social conscience as to be a source of individual pride. In reality, we have simply learned that the freedom we exercise is merely the consumer freedom to choose between iron or gold-plated shackles.
“if an individual in a position of political power is a psychopath, he or she can create an epidemic of psychopathology in people who are not, essentially, psychopathic.”―
But of course, I realise that not all of us are ready to give up our Nike, Boss, or Gucci in sudden rebellion against our masters! There are often more pressing concerns before us, particularly if we are sensitive or conscientious people trying to make our way in this world whilst struggling to make sense of the madness. Depression and anxiety-related disorders are so prevalent in countries modelled on US and UK exploitation economics and the cut-throat greed that drives them as to have become one of many normalised truths of our national statistics. The greatest cause of death amongst British men under 50 is not cancer, nor heart disease, and not even car accidents. It is suicide. Such economies rely entirely upon a fundamental warping of human nature, exerting increasing survival pressures upon the vulnerable, by for example:
- Increasing exploitation, monitoring and control of working people through low pay and dehumanising conditions (Jeff Bezos’ Amazon appears to be good example)
- Broad acceptance that the exploitation and profiteering we perpetrate upon our fellow humans in the name of profit is ‘successful business practice’. Some even go to college to learn to be better at it.
- Endless economic ‘growth’ and the devastation of the environment, wildlife, indigenous people’s homes and lands, required to supply resources and raw materials for such growth (‘growth’ that predominantly serves the wealthy few rather than the labouring masses)
- Marketing the illusions required to keep the middle income classes eternally pursuing and purchasing spurious notions of ‘happiness’ founded in purchased novelty, transient pleasures and material possessions
- Management of the moral, spiritual, physical and mental consequences of an oligarchic system via ‘the professions’: a body of expert authorities who ensure that people disturbed or injured by the status quo are ‘adjusted’ back into it’s demands for their labour and taxes (Orthodox psychiatry, psychology, medicine, social services and others used in the service of such adjustment). This is done via narratives and instruments that shift the locus of causation of distress from the external environment to the internal individual psyche, assuming mental disturbance to be consequent upon personal failings, individual defects or deficits, personal choices and private thought processes.
- Maintaining a super-wealthy elite in authority who take more and more for themselves at the expense of the wellbeing of the people and life on the planet
- Fostering, through education and the media, an infantilised state in the average citizen who holds a largely subservient position in relation to authority as being parental. The maintenance of a worshipful mindset in the masses to ensure that they continue to ‘look up’ in obedience to and strive to emulate a narcissistic wealth class at the expense of any genuine spiritual development, real democracy or political freedom in our culture (see John Taylor Gatto and Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt)
- Educating children to believe in myths that maintain the status quo e.g. that hard work, talent, ability and intelligence are what make people wealthy, successful and famous
Authenticity: Reclaiming Your Autonomy and Mental Health
From the point of view of mental health and psychotherapy, it is of crucial importance that individuals begin to reclaim their inner wisdom, their inner intuitive and moral intelligence. This starts by consciously resisting and refusing thoseexternal injunctions and demands that would motivate us by fear to ignore the self-regulatory wisdom of our inner compass. In this regard it is a step into mental health when we can clearly see that we, as individuals have freedom to create better health and stability that is both innate within us as human beings and intrinsic to the spiritual-existential field from which we emerge: what we once called ‘God’. That freedom exists regardless of the actions of authorities around us to compel us to act and think against the power of our better nature. It exists as a necessary feature of our mental health and our moral strength to make choices based upon what we know to be right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, good or evil, rather than being herded by the fears emerging from the consequences of our disobedience.
The problem exists where, in a culture that has been declining for decades, the individual’s development and access to his or her inner faculties become increasingly atrophied, with each generation more cut off from its soul than the former, to the degree that the individual can no longer refer to a richer life beyond the bars of the cage into which he or she is born. Indeed, in its short history, psychology – in its efforts to be taken seriously as a ‘science’ – has long since dismissed the soul as a fiction (Wundt). And so the necessity of being able to access trustworthy help of a different order to that of social normalisation, that is instead built – not simply helping people re-adjust to insane circumstances – but on actively assisting them on a journey back home to themselves, is crucial if people are to have a chance of escaping the pathology of a dysfunctional system that has evolved to serve the narcissistic interests of the few.
Developing and embracing the spiritual-existential journey back to our inner faculties of intution, morality and autonomy, and encouraging others to do so is the one sure way that personal authenticity can re-emerge in society; where common sense can truly become common again. Making decisions to step out of the fear-based system of authoritarian control by, for example, examining all of the ways we voluntarily relinquish our self-determination to the illusion of ‘no choice’, is a first step in rekindling self-reliance and individual power. These steps on their own are the beginnings of a return to genuine individual liberty and the possibility of community, cooperation and common values and aims. Without this return we travel inexorably, as competing Egos, down an Orwellian road that spells ruin, not only for common sense, but for the essence of what makes us human in the first place, and our collective and individual sanity.
- John Taylor Gatto on The 6 Purposes of Schooling
- Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt The Secret History of Western Education
- Retired British serviceman speaks of his experience of mental trauma (thanks to Graham Cable at https://writeforyour.life/)
- Dr Rodney Shakespeare’s Binary Economics: http://www.binaryeconomics.net
- John Pilger “Stealing a Nation” [the theft of Diego Garcia from the Chagos Islanders]
- Native American Mental Health [a culture and peoples destroyed by genocide, ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism]
- Native Australian Aboriginal mental Health [a culture and peoples destroyed by racism and settler colonialism]