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.
“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.”
Authority that is Undermining Our Welfare and Wellbeing
The effects of political immorality (Machiavellianism) in shaping the lives of the individual has become profound with ‘austerity’ becoming the cleaned up tool for creating conditions that result in foodbanks, homelessness and welfare-related suicides for the most vulnerable in our society. The narratives and promises of representative democracy have created social conditions in which the individual feels powerless to influence the actions of the political class beyond voting into power promising personalities in a political pantomime. Increasingly each term, we witness characatured forms of political salesmanship for votes rather than credible egalitarian people devoted to public service. It is the same political salesmandship that on the one hand tells us we should treat the sick, the poor, disabled, elderly, ethnic minorities, and other groups with ‘equal opportunities’. Whilst at the same time deliberately cutting criticial services to vulnerable people, using public funds instead to finance smear campaigns that stir up prejudices and resentment against fellow citizens who claim welfare benefits; turning citizens against those most in need of money and support by inviting us to begin to identify the poor, sick, disabled or out of work as inherently dishonest ‘benefits cheats’. This is the social context from which much mental distress and hardship arise.
The political class and their agencies have become all too willing to execute the grim work of the super-wealth class for a salary, with political positions used as career springboards into lucrative positions after public service. Whilst whole government departments are now designed to penalise the public for petty infractions of Draconian rules that discourage people from legitimate claims for crucial financial support via the welfare system. I refer to institutions like the Department of Work and Pensions, who currently employ systems designed to discourage and exhaust the efforts of the poor, elderly, sick and disabled in legitimate claims for disability and other essential welfare monies sufficient, on those occasions where they are awarded, only to meet basic survival needs.
A similar phenomenon can be found in the treatment and mistreatment of military veterans in the UK and US, who often return with the damage inflicted upon them by their employers, unjust wars and toxic weapons, with little support in response (https://writeforyour.life/), many of whom, in the US at least, ending up on Homeland Security anti-terror watch lists as potential ‘security threats’ to the State.
Mental Health Impacts
The misuse of authority in the examples in Part 1 and those above in creating cultures that adversely affect the mental and physical health of the people is perhaps obvious, yet so normalised as to become unrecognised by many. The catalogue of mental health impacts created by our authorities in the most vulnerable groups seems endless: Impoverishment, wealth inequality, suppression of individual expression, militarised policing, erosion of privacy, separate legal outcomes for separate classes, all create a Zeitgeist of inequality, injustice and dishonesty that is corrosive to authentic relationship and personal autonomy, and thus erode mental stability across all sections of society.
Individuals detained without charge or trial also suffer horrifying mental distress by virtue of their incarceration, humiliation and conditions from psychiatric detentions to conventional prisons to military detention camps like the infamous Guantanamo Bay, and hundreds of other lesser known facilities around the world where people are detained indefinitely without trial. Asylum-seekers and others fleeing conflicts and persecution created by the wealth class are likewise held in detention camps by our authorities. And the stories of mental decline and suicides unravel and renew decade after decade (Australian example). No longer can our authorities claim that failed policies on protecting the welfare and wellbeing of people is all just an accident, or a sign of events beyond their control. Because most of the time the suffering involved could have been prevented, as in the case of 130 000 UK children who will be homeless this Christmas.
The failures of our authorities aren’t just happening abroad or in reference to refugees. Poverty and homelessness have increased significantly in the UK and USA as well as the use of food banks, as more and more British and American families are forced into greater hardship by authorities who were, we naively assumed, elected to serve and protect our best interests. The links between financial hardship and stress, poverty and mental distress, are of course, well established and self-evident where we employ our common sense. The poor in the UK have been made even poorer as a direct consequence of their “austerity measures”: namely, favouring the bailing out of banks and corporate interests at the expense of ordinary citizens, and to pay for the impending disasterous handling of Brexit by the UK Government. Self-harming behaviour and suicides amongst children and adolescents, prisoners and chronically ill people who have been declared fit for work, have been rising for years in direct resonance to authoritarian politics and self-centred economics and as greater pressure is put upon our young people to ‘succeed’ in a dog-eat-dog society.
The relevance to individual mental health and wellbeing of this misuse and abuse of authority lies in the stresses and hardships created by the authorities in our lives who extract more money (money being, for the working class, a representation of our precious and limited life energy) from the nation’s people every year whilst giving less in return and increasing the constraints upon our lives. Our submission to those who destroy our freedoms and the freedoms of poor people at home and overseas, has the consequence of also repeatedly subjecting our minds to horrors and traumas normalised only by their repetition in everyday media and home entertainment, as well as damaging our personal authenticity and internal sense of agency via unquestioned conformity. Personal authenticity is relinquished when we submit ourselves – as if we were children – to the will of authoritarian parent figures, particularly in ways that erode our freedoms, our beliefs and moral values, and the very conditions that help us live. Our belief in our ability to self-determine is also eroded by such subservience.
Psychiatry, clinical and forensic psychology, social services and other fields utilising social constructs as instruments of assessment and treatment which purport to hold expert insight into the individual mind and specialised caring for the citizen, are often in reality used in the service of social control by the State. They function using implicit social constructs of ‘normality’ and ‘abnormality’: constructs that are not fixed and stable, but rather change over time and from culture to culture. Many members of these professions also strive for increased professional powers and influence over the lives of individuals distressed by or dissenting of the inherent insanity of established structures that are assumed to be moral benchmarks for human conduct. (see my other posts on social control)
Austerity Policy and Impoverishment of the People
As in the welfare state examples and the taxes levied upon every facet of our existence from purchases, labour, fuel, utilities, and the things people need to survive, authorities these days are typically engaged in creating conditions in our society that habituate us to struggle and a hyper-vigilance on making money. Harnessed to a system of fixed penalty fines for even minor mistakes and their enforcement by threat of loss, of violence and aggression against the individual, there is a rather crude system of very little carrot and a lot of stick at the centre of authoritarian control. The people in effect live under a hierarchy driven by escalating fear and fear’s correlates in anxiety, stress, and worry. People cannot thrive whilst they live in fear, however compliant or adjusted we may have become to its influences upon us.
Then there is Iraq, which was – against millions of protests from the British and American public – invaded and destroyed in a deliberate operation to create chaos in the Middle East, not to defeat the so-called ‘terrorists’ who had allegedly attacked the World Trade Centre. Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it; nor anthrax, nor “Weapons of Mass Destruction” claimed by Bush and Blair. Dr David Kelly – UN weapons inspector – said as much, and paid for his honesty with his life. Nor did Muammar Gadaffi and the people of Libya, nor Afghanistan nor Syria have anything to do with it: all countries subsequently devastated by US and UK invasions. Indeed, according to some researchers, those towards whom the body of evidence points in their guilt and complicity in the 9/11 attacks are not those who are accused.*
Instead they continue to enjoy favoured status, attracting billions of dollars and pounds in direct aid and financial support, and increased sales of weapons of mass destruction from the US and UK. Meanwhile innocent victims grow in numbers through countlesss annual death tolls, illegal detentions and torture, the deliberate maiming of unarmed civilians, forced starvation, incarceration of children, and illegal house demolitions in Gaza and The West Bank, whilst Saudi-created famine conditions and the resulting deaths of 85 000 children under the age of five in Yemen goes unpunished by the vast majority of the ‘civilised’ west.
- *see the work of Christopher Bollyn in print and on youtube
Murdering millions of innocent human beings in our name has an impact upon our individual and collective psyches because these souls have been destroyed by our leaders, our military, our taxes and resources under our flags. Like it or not, you’ll have great difficulty convincing anyone that you as a citizen of an aggressor state have had nothing to do with what your state is doing or has done, especially if you yourself have done nothing in protest against the actions of your elected authority figures whilst that State continues to use your taxes to finance the slaughter. Our complicity in this shapes us as people.
Secondly, the mental health of the military personnel we send to these countries to do the dirty work of our authority figures is severely damaged, and in many cases permanently disabled. One only need do a quick search on the internet for ‘military suicides’ or ‘military mental health problems’ to recognise that killing innocent people for no good reason traumatises the psyche and makes you mentally ill if you are a person of conscience and normal morality.
Thirdly, the mental health of countries that our authorities attack with impunity is always damaged. Men, women and children suffer terrible mental health problems as a direct consequence of war, illegal occupation and oppression of these people in places like Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. The people of the Chagos Islands suffered suicides and severe mental health problems as a direct result of the UK’s eviction of them from their homeland on Diego Garcia so that the UK authorities could rent their island out to the US military as a base.
The Shift: from Individual Morality to Political Immorality
The ‘authorities’ in our world have systematically created a shift from our inner compass of personal intuition, common sense and morality to an external reference source: policies, procedures, rules and legislation, penalties and fines, threats of imprisonment, threats of violence and loss against us. That shift in the individual, from an inner reference point to an outer and ever-changing external set of references, not based on morality, God or human kindness, but on the politics of fear and violence, is the most insidious misuse of power and social engineering that could be perpetrated upon the human race. It means that our innate, inner wisdom and sense of right and wrong; our true freedom to choose which path we travel in life according to our natural disposition to justice and goodwill is severely compromised by our obedience to institutions and authorities who do not have our best interests at heart. Instead, increasingly we see that authorities are comprised of elitist collectives along class divisions and lines of privilege, and operate according to the collective greed or narcissistic self-interests of those who populate governments, institutions and corporate structures. The everyday man, woman and child are those who suffer as they comply with corrupt hierarchies.
In Part 3 I look at the inauthentic culture created when we willingly comply with established structures of dysfunctional authority, and the erosion of personal authenticity as one consequence to mental health.
- Three French executives convicted in the suicides of 35 of their workers
- 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/)
- Monarchies account for 40% of global debt
- 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]
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