Sunday, 1 January 2017

Anger, Violence, Diminishing Trust, and Positive Psychology: The Inherent Contradictions Within Neoliberalism

Panopticon looking inwards & outwards (sahipkiran.org)
by Dr Robert Muller

At the start of 2017, I look out on the world that we, as humans, have created. We are a species of great paradox, perhaps the most significant being our uncanny ability to destroy and create at the same time. At this moment in history, it is clear that the pace of destruction is rapidly outpacing the pace of our ability to create. Let me attempt to pull together some major trends and my thoughts on these below to see if they can take us anywhere. 

1) I believe that violence and anger are on the increase because people are grieving. Grieving for what? Firstly, we, as a species, are grieving for our environment that sustains us. The evidence is there - we appear to have reached some kind of tipping point in which the environment seems to be spiraling out of control. Regardless of what our leaders tell us, we know deep down that things have changed. Secondly, we are grieving for a way of life that has been killed off by neoliberalism. We hate being tracked, we hate being watched, we hate being so stressed that we have no time for our families, we hate going to jobs we no longer enjoy, we hate living in a society in which most jobs are increasingly unfulfilling, we hate being rendered increasingly powerless.

2) This grieving manifests itself in (mostly) male violence, primarily because women are again being increasingly relegated back to the ‘caring’ roles that they have (socially) inherited. Road rage, poorly regulated gun ownership and use in the USA, spiraling domestic violence - if people usually males - have no power outside of the home, they are more likely to attempt to wield it inside the home.

3) In an attempt to “re-empower” ourselves, we turn to esoteric teachings, positive psychology, and self-help programs instead of taking action. We resort to “policing” ourselves and others with an increasingly moralistic view of how we, and others, “should” live. We take on a set of beliefs and are amazed that these beliefs do not form the underlying basis of government policy. It is no surprise that positive psychology and self-help took off rapidly at the same time as neoliberalism first took a stranglehold on modern Western society in the mid-1970s. After all, just as self-regulation is one of the major tenets of Protestantism (one of the bases of Western society), so too is self-regulation the basis of neoliberalism. If we, as a society, put as much energy into these false promises, and actually took action to build the type of community we want, we would have a very different and far more cohesive society.

4) Of course, this massive interest in positive psychology has resulted in the corporatization of the field through the development of a ‘coaching’ industry. Such coaching has all manner of ‘weird and wonderful’ techniques to turn YOU into a ‘better’ person. From aligning your energy with the vibrations of the universe through to manifesting whatever one wants through positive thinking, there is the possibility of thousands of product differentiations, a classic capitalist approach to the market. But … there is one major issue with all this coaching which aligns with many of the issues raised in point 3 - basically, everyone wants to be a coach (because we love to moralistically tell others how to be a better person) while nobody wants to actually be coached.

5) We don’t believe or trust anything anymore, except that everyone is ‘out to get us’. For example, there is a growing trend for people to reject the VERY strong scientific evidence that immunization is necessary to stop us from getting mass-scale disease, and instead, to believe that medical and pharmaceutical corporations and governments are deliberately pushing immunization in order to make profit. We have become obsessed with junk science - immortality, colonizing other planets, transhumanism, dinosaurs (yes!), and yet we mourn and grieve for what we have lost. We believe that our governments, hand-in-hand with corporations, are deliberately trying to poison us on a mass-scale through chemtrails! How is this paranoia going to help us? Why do we, as the public, continue to find this fascinating? Why, for example, are we fascinated with colonizing other planets, when such a belief clearly opens the way to trashing our own planet, even if it is not feasible that such a fascinated individual would ever even escape the inevitably deadly holocaust of a dying ecosystem that could no longer support human life on earth. Why do we continue to support such projects when we refuse to do anything to save animals that live on earth today? We are more fascinated with dinosaurs than with the dying cheetah, the dying elephant - we seek to destroy our cradle, and for what?

6) Being a socialist at heart, and for a long time now, I look in despair now at the “self-proclaimed Left” that currently holds the banner for progressive social change. The “Left” is not only widely dispersed with no unifying pathway to the future, let alone a plan of action, they also appear to be terribly confused. How else can we explain why so many people on the Left hold up Vladimir Putin as a hero of the Left when Russian society can only be described as a form of ‘gangsta’ capitalism in the 21st century. How else can we explain some of the insane responses from previously rational leftist commentators to the victory of Donald Trump? The same response was not there when Reagan or Bush (esp. senior) were elected. The response to such a question is inevitably because “he is worse; he is a fascist”. Perhaps it’s because Trump is so overt about his prejudices, unlike Reagan and Bush who played the game and kept their prejudices hidden. So, take this opportunity to confront the overt - or would you rather allow yourself and the rest of society to sweep the very same prejudices under the carpet because they ‘play the game’?

The argument that is NOT put forward by today’s Left is that put forward by Karl Marx himself; that capitalism would continue to evolve (and strengthen) to the point that capital accumulation would become highly concentrated which would lead to an evolution of the social system into a form of socialism, and eventually, communism. In Marx’s analysis of capitalism, which incidentally, most lefties haven’t read, revolution is not mentioned. It is not until you read the second part of Marx’s work, his political work, that we come across the concept of revolution - and what is it? It is a way of speeding up the inevitable evolution of society from capitalism to socialism to communism. So, good people, go and read the full canon of Marx instead of just reacting!

I will leave you with your own solutions to these issues. My only solution is to get out into the community, be active, and shape the community into what I want it to be. This is the essence of grassroots action. We need to stop acting as selfish individuals whose only interests are our own. This is a very powerful approach as it empowers people to do good for each other. My only other solution is at the ballot box where I simply refuse to vote for the thugs that populate both of Australia’s major political parties. So, this is not a request for a dialogue; in fact, I have no interest in discussing these thoughts. This is in fact a plea for people to get out into the community and to work at the grassroots to create a better and more connected community.

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