Once it was routine for many respected social critics such as Lewis Mumford and Erich Fromm to express concern about the impact of modern civilization on our mental health. But today the idea that the mental illness epidemic is also being caused by a peculiar rebellion against a dehumanizing society has been, for the most part, removed from the mainstream map. When a societal problem grows to become all encompassing, we often no longer even notice it.
We are today disengaged from our jobs and our schooling. Young people are pressured to accrue increasingly large student-loan debt so as to acquire the credentials to get a job, often one which they will have little enthusiasm about. And increasing numbers of us are completely socially isolated, having nobody who cares about us.
Underlying many of psychiatry’s nearly 400 diagnoses is the experience of helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization—culminating in a loss of autonomy and community-connectedness. Do our societal institutions promote:
• Enthusiasm—or passivity?”
• Respectful personal relationships—or manipulative impersonal ones?
• Community, trust, and confidence—or isolation, fear and paranoia?
• Empowerment—or helplessness?
• Autonomy (self-direction)—or heteronomy (institutional-direction)?
• Participatory democracy—or authoritarian hierarchies?
• Diversity and stimulation—or homogeneity and boredom?