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How capitalism messes up our brains

In-built in the system is the deliberate playing on our fears and insecurity. No wonder we’re left feeling so miserable and conflicted, writes JOHN GREEN

LIVING for so long in a capitalist society, most of us grow up blissfully unaware of how the system distorts our thinking, our behaviour and our general view of life. 

We think that what we experience daily is “normal” but it’s not. 

We have internalised a (im)morality and a set of principles that should be alien to us.

Read any newspaper or hear young people wondering how they can get on the “housing ladder” or those a little older worrying about “security in old age.” 

Others are perhaps feeling stressed about the possibility of being sacked or evicted from their homes. 

These are just a few examples to illustrate how an inhuman and anti-social system has come to be accepted as normal.

The fact that we don’t talk about finding a home but of “getting on the property ladder,” that we have “estate agents” on every street corner rather than home finders. 

Why should anyone have to fear insecurity in old age or need the help of advisers on “retirement planning”? 

Why should anyone be threatened with losing their job without being offered another or of being thrown out onto the street just because the landlord wants them out?

We are all encouraged to dream of buying property, owning our own little castles, of accumulating more consumer goods than we need or replacing a perfectly good car every few years.

We are constantly told that owning something will make us happy but when it doesn’t we feel it’s probably our own fault. 

In-built in the capitalist system and its vast communications industry is the deliberate playing on our fears, our sense of incompleteness, our insecurity. 

The capitalist-owned media continually parade in front of us fairy stories about celebrities and the super-rich to demonstrate the benefits of capitalism but the real creators of wealth and well-being — doctors and nurses, local government workers, cleaners, postal workers engineers etc — are ignored. They are deemed to be low status. 

We are constantly told that our bodies are not beautiful enough, our status needs improvement or we need just that bit more wealth. 

This creation of dissatisfaction can lead people to kill for a particular set of trainers or a new mobile phone because they fear, and they are told, that without these objects they are a nobody. 

In a healthy society which sees everyone’s care as a joint responsibility, ownership of land should be seen for what it is: land theft. 

The world and the earth we live on should be seen as being not owned at all but stewarded by all of us in common and jointly with the natural world. 

Ownership of land should be viewed as it was by the pre-colonial indigenous peoples of North America as an oxymoron: you can’t own what is there for everyone, animals and plants to enjoy together in harmony

In the German Democratic Republic, where I lived for several years, property ownership was an exception rather than the rule. 

It wasn’t banned but there was no real need for it — rents were affordable and regulated, no-one could be evicted and put out on the street. 

If you asked anyone if they wished to own their own home, they’d respond: “Why would I want to do that?” 

Everyone worked so they would automatically receive a pension in old age, childcare was available for everyone and there was universal free healthcare. 

This was a different “normality” from the one I experience daily in Britain today. 

Such a structure also made life less complicated in so many ways. 

If you moved to another job or town, you could just do a straightforward house swap. 

If you were going through a divorce, there was no property to be divided up or pension rights to be debated while the lawyers made a killing. 

The toll imposed by capitalism in terms of deprivation, ill-health, both bodily and mentally, leading to early death impacts on literally millions of lives. 

We hear increasingly of apocalyptical prognoses of a diabetes epidemic — due to poor diet and consuming of heavily promoted junk foods; the numbers suffering from mental health breakdown are also spiralling out of control as a result of unnecessary stress. 

The number of prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK has almost doubled in the past decade. 

Some 70.9 million prescriptions were issued in 2018, compared with 36 million in 2008. 

This number has been steadily increasing year on year, with 64.7 million given out in 2016 and 67.5 million prescribed in 2017.

Unless there is a rising consciousness about and rejection of this way of life, together with a demand for a different system of living together, of building our communities anew based on social not individualistic and capitalist values, then our societies are in danger of imploding. 

Yet the calls for a different system are still muted. We have all become used to thinking within a box made specifically to stop us questioning this system. 

That box needs smashing.


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