John F Schumaker, writing in April 2016’s issue of New Internationalist, reckons ‘our’ minds are demoralised and that it is ‘our’ culture, and not ‘us’ that is sick.
Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose.
John F Schumaker means those of ‘us’ who live within a version of ‘western consumer culture.’ He reckons the reported increase in depression is actually a rise in demoralisation, which used to be
limited to specific extreme situations, such as debilitating physical injury, terminal illness, prisoner-of-war camps, or anti-morale military tactics.
He reckons ‘we’ are suffering from an existential disorder, because ‘we’ haven’t a clue who ‘we’ are, where ‘we’ are, where ‘we’re’ going and what ‘we’re’ going to do when ‘we’ get there. ‘We’ are disoriented, bereft of a map.
‘Our’ personality structures are undermined by
individualism, materialism, hyper-competition, greed, over-complication, overwork, hurriedness and debt.
Sticking with the journey metaphor, John reckons ‘we’ have no compass either, and are easy prey for a consumerism that is brittle and dispiriting. He invokes Noam Chomsky’s ‘philosophy of futility,’ saying that’s about all ‘we’ve’ got if ‘we’ve’ got any philosophy at all.
‘We’re’ all wankers, basically.
Resilience traits such as patience, restraint and fortitude have given way to short attention spans, over-indulgence and a masturbatory approach to life.
‘We’ are living in an existential vacuum and are
quickly engulfed by boredom, as well as jadedness, ennui and discontent. This steadily graduates to ‘existential boredom’ wherein the person finds all of life uninteresting and unrewarding.
belonging, rootedness, identity, transcendence and intellectual stimulation.
He asserts that ‘our’ culture is dominated by economic priorities and manipulates ‘us’ by sophisticated industries that trade in illusory consumer satisfaction and unsatisfiable consumer needs, to the point, John F Schumaker reckons, where
Being normal is no longer a healthy ambition.
All grandly analytical, true and feistily written, but from about five paragraphs to the end John F Schumacher starts down a road of prescription that is downbeat, itself demoralised, while crying out for
credible cause, or credible leadership.
The tone of the essay shifts from description to prescription and then it finishes with cataclysm. It becomes the siren cry of a
retired psychology academic
bereft of any hope or meaningful sense of options other than
What’s striking about the essay’s turn of tone, change of discourse and finale of despair is that it appears in the magazine New Internationalist which, in its own words, has been
putting the world to rights since 1973.
It’s as if John F Schumaker didn’t read the rest of the April, or any other, issue of the magazine, where he might find
credibility, meaning and purposeful action
at forestpeoples.org, wrm.or.uy and among other activists on forests and related issues. Or perhaps he could seek a conversation with Caterina Martins in Portugal and others across Europe firmly opposing the austerity agenda being promulgated by the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank. Or even have a read of George Monbiot’s new book How Did We Get Into This Mess?, reviewed on page 37.
Then ask himself, his friends, colleagues and neighbours how ‘we’ might get out of it and when ‘we’ might make a start?
Resilience traits such as patience, restraint and fortitude
are everywhere in the world.
Read the magazine, John. Get active. Connect. Remoralise.
This writer doesn’t know John, but guesses he’s probably doing that.
Write about it, John. Push back, even in a small way.
‘We’ll’ all feel better for it.