Category Archives: Pharmaceuticals

Corporate and “Progressive” Democrats Threaten Medicare Itself

The Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections by making health care one of its top “messages.” Yet events from Bernie Sanders’ bill of 2017 to legislation that “progressive” Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced on February 27, 2019 show that the Party is on its way to destroy Medicare.

For decades activists identified the prize as “single payer health care.” The program would issue a Medicare card to everyone, like the one senior citizens get now. The card would be good at any doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, laboratory, and prescription pharmacy. These largely private businesses would be reimbursed from a public single-payer fund. The fund would receive broadly collected tax revenues; the patient would pay little or nothing at the reception desk, and no monthly premium. This is guaranteed, comprehensive health care.

In other words, single payer is Medicare for all, carried to completion by eliminating Part B premiums and by more comprehensive coverage including prescribed drugs.

Health care activists always agonized over the colorless name “single payer.” A few years ago many of them began to speak of Improved Medicare for All. Actually, it had been in the title of the benchmark bill, H.R. 676, when congressperson John Conyers introduced it in 2003. A few years later he shortened the title to The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. The text remained stable, and although the bill went nowhere in Congressional committees, H.R. 676 became the centerpiece of organizing. It is readable, only thirty pages of double-spaced large type. Hundreds of trade union locals and councils endorsed this model legislation in a steady stream year after year.

The health care industry has enjoyed a long-term phase of expansion, like railroads in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Back then, the new way of moving heavy goods and people was amazing and useful; today, new biological and biochemical understanding makes possible longer life, survival from a heart attack, restored clarity of vision, and so on. In both situations, capital has had strong pricing power and taken fat profits. And just as anger at railroads swelled into a populist revolt against The Octopus (Frank Norris’ novel about the Southern Pacific railroad corporation), people today are angry at insurance corporations, pharmaceutical monopolies, and hospitals, whether or not they call themselves “non-profit.”1

Opinion polls measure growing support for single payer health care for all. Employers continue to raise the employee cost of coverage, or simply not provide a health benefit. Health insurance purchased individually on the so-called exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) turns out to be full of exceptions like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Sanders Promotes Health Care for All Then Undercuts Conyers

Popular support erupted into a political force when Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign at the end of April 2015. Record-breaking crowds filled his rallies around the country. The top three issues in a Sanders speech rotated – sometimes including inequality of wealth and income, sometimes climate change – but he always revved up on health care for all. It had been the cause of a few thousand health care activists. Now Improved Medicare for All became a challenge to the neoliberal establishment. For the first time in forty years, people were on the verge of a mass campaign for a major gain in their quality of life and their security.

It did not happen. Sanders did not win the Democratic presidential  nomination. He returned to the Senate, making an implicit or private deal with the party: he would speak as a independent progressive, but he will act on all serious matters as an unannounced Democrat.

Doing something about health care for people largely fell out of public view. Health care activists carried on. Policy aficionados spun proposals. Sanders had used the issue in his campaign, but sustained mass organizing for it did not happen.

Then in September 2017, senator Sanders introduced his “Medicare for All Act.” S. 1804 is three times as long as H.R. 676, and the reader must unravel cross-references within the text. Sanders made no mention of Conyers’ H.R. 676 at his press conference. Since then, no one has asked him the obvious question: Why didn’t Sanders simply introduce the text of H.R. 676 in the Senate?

The “Buy-In” Trap

Sanders’ bill would actually undermine Medicare. It would set up a “Transitional Medicare Buy-in Option and Transitional Public Option.” Sanders portrayed it as a four-year period (longer if necessary) to bring people of age 55 or over into Medicare, then down to age 45, then down to age 35, then everyone. This scheme is the very opposite of guaranteed single-payer health care for all.

How is Medicare financed today? Most of the money comes from payroll and income tax revenues, not enrollees’ Part B premiums, by a ratio of 3½ to one.2 We all pay into Medicare. At the moment when someone needs care, she gets it, period – without financial worry. That is the single-payer principle, and Medicare implements it, although not entirely, since enrollees must keep up-to-date on their Part B monthly premiums, and there are some co-payments for services.

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would eliminate premiums and co-pays. That is what H.R. 676 declared, but in Sanders’ S. 1804 people younger than 65 could “join” Medicare by paying fat monthly premiums (a “buy-in”). People who want to sign up this way would use the notorious Obamacare exchanges.

Trade union campaigners for genuine Medicare for all, H.R. 676, wrote in a December 11, 2018 letter:

Unlike HR 676, S 1804 inserts supposedly incremental steps of public options and Medicare buy-ins for four years prior to arriving at a real single payer plan. Because S 1804 expands care while maintaining the private insurance companies, costs will skyrocket before the savings of single payer kick in. The incremental steps will become a roadblock rather than a path to single payer. Perhaps the worst part of this inclusion of the public option and the Medicare buy-in is the reinforcement of the false notion that there should or must be transitional steps to single payer. Neither the public option nor the Medicare by-in are based on sound policy. To place them in the bill for even a short period of time endangers the single payer goal.

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care, HR 676, Kay Tillow, coordinator

It is a neat trick: under the guise of expanding Medicare, you make it more dependent on premiums. You change it from a public good, like the neighborhood fire station, into a commodity insurance product that individuals buy. You make health care dependent on the patient’s finances.

This perversion of Medicare is not only a fraud upon people of age 55, 45, or 35. It is a threat to Medicare itself. Whenever Medicare seems headed for a financial crunch, real or conjured, the pressure in Congress will be to shift more and more toward a premium- and co-pay-financed program rather than one supported by general and progressive tax revenues – and to take chunks of medicine out of Medicare.

An independent in name but a Democrat, in fact, senator Sanders at his press conference happily introduced several corporate Democrat co-sponsors of his bill. Behind closed doors he had let them write sections of S. 1804! The public option section was written by senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “One part of the bill that I worked with my colleagues to put in was the ability for every American to buy into a nonprofit public option as part of a four-year transition…,” she said during the news conference introducing the bill.

A public option is a competition with insurance corporations rigged in their favor. They know how to repel potential enrollees who are likely to need expensive care. A government health plan cannot and, of course, should not play that game. It can either raise premiums, or it can turn the program into something like its poor cousin Medicaid. Either way, it cannot become improved Medicare for all.

Democratic Party: “Death to H.R. 676!”

Two important bills stood in contradiction to each other: one for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All (H.R. 676), the other a threat to Medicare itself (S. 1804). Conyers’ bill has been the acknowledged model legislation since 2003; Sanders introduced his in 2017.

But words do not move on their own. The corporate Democratic Party soon put H.R. 676 on the chopping block. Representative John Conyers was pushed out of Congress in a #MeToo incident, resigning from a hospital bed, denying the charges but not up to the rigor of a fair hearing if he could get one.

Somehow, sponsorship of H.R. 676 went to new congressperson Pramila Jayapal. 3 She immediately announced that she was in consultations to rewrite it. In the meantime, she surrendered the number 676 that had been reserved for Conyers’ bill since 2003. It was issued to military legislation on January 17, 2019.

After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections, it became more urgent for them to gut single payer health care for all. Otherwise, they might have to deliver. Representative Nancy Pelosi, during a post-election whirlwind of bargaining to make sure she became Speaker of the House, agreed to help advance the same scheme that senators Sanders and Gillibrand had put into S. 1804: a buy-in to a premium-based option for people age 50 to 64. Jayapal, who also praised Pelosi during her run for Speaker, spoke out of both sides of her mouth. “I would prefer to have a reduction of the age of Medicare so that more people could qualify but not a buy-in, because that continues the problems that we have right now.” She said lowering the eligibility age “would be an appropriate way to go where we’re taking a step forward towards a system that will ultimately cover everybody.”

The Buy-in Trick Again

Representative Jayapal introduced H.R. 1384, her replacement for the Conyers’ model, on February 27, 2019. The 119-page bill is a masterful card trick. On one hand, it maintains the ban on premiums and co-payments, and it specifies a broad list of covered medical services, including some never proposed before in such legislation.

On the other hand, Jayapal copied Sanders’ big step backward – an optional “buy-in” transition period with premiums, only shortened from his four years to two. (After the first year, minors up to age 18 and people 55 and older would move automatically into the new system.) H.R. 1384 states:

The Administrator shall determine the premium amount for enrolling in the Medicare Transition buy-in, which may vary according to family or individual coverage, age, and tobacco status,… (H.R. 1384, Title X, Subtitle A, Sec. 1002 (e)(A))

Since Conyers introduced H.R. 676 in 2003, his bill never had a premium-based buy-in. Why does Rep. Jayapal think a buy-in period is necessary?

With a buy-in transition, the first experience people would have with the new system would be yet another commodity insurance plan with monthly premiums. This is a recipe for political failure. During those two years the tentative new system would soon be under attack as financially unworkable and just not popular enough.

People could buy in if they wished as individuals through the notorious Affordable Care Act exchanges (“Obamacare”). Because of the extensive benefits, the plan would be one of the most costly choices. Unaffordable for most as an individual premium plan, trying to compete in an unreformed health care system with its bloated costs, the buy-in would attract few enrollees. Enemies of genuine universal health care will pounce on the result, demanding that genuine Medicare for All be postponed and turned into a supplement of one kind or another to corporate health insurance.

Only H.R. 676 delivers guaranteed healthcare for all, the equal care for all of which our advanced society is capable. Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, just like openly corporate yet arguably less devious Democrats, cower before insurance capital, pharmaceutical capital, hospital capital, etc. These parasites demand that healthcare be a set of commodities that some can afford and others cannot. The people or the dollar – that is the inescapable choice.

  1. A nominally “non-profit” hospital today is not the church-run charity that it might have been a hundred years ago. Non-profit simply means that the corporation is tax-exempt. It does not pay dividends to stockholders, but it still makes a profit. Banks share in the loot, and layers of executives are paid millions of dollars. Affiliated for-profit clinics and labs may suck profits out under cover. Examine the Sutter Health and Kaiser hospital chains in California, for example.
  2. Medicare trust fund trustees’ report, 2018, pp. 45 and 78.
  3. Jayapal went to elite Georgetown University, got an MBA after that, worked on Wall Street on leveraged buyouts, switched to executive positions in several nonprofits, sat a mere two years in the Washington state senate, and won election to the House in 2016.

Medical Ethics Can Only Be Restored With a Single-Payer System

It is the year 2019, and American health care is in a state of profound crisis. While oligarchic parasites from the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies make enormous profits, bankruptcy and the fear of being denied care hang over the American people like a sword of Damocles. This diabolical order, predicated on greed and placing profit-making over human life, has stripped doctors of their autonomy and given birth to an inhuman and deeply unjust multi-tier system.

Unless we are able to disenthrall ourselves from the tyranny of privatized health care, Americans will continue to die as a result of avaricious insurance companies denying coverage for needed drugs and procedures, and from treatment which is delayed due to requests for “prior authorizations.” Moreover, medical students and residents are being taught that good health care is a privilege and not a right, and that the oath to do no harm applies, but only to a privileged few. In a world turned upside down, doctors in training are being inculcated with the pernicious notion that the job of a doctor is not to listen to the patient, perform a comprehensive physical, respect the patient’s privacy, get an accurate history, diagnose, treat, and follow up; but rather to help their employer maximize the greatest possible profit. Indeed, the number of patients doctors are expected to see each day has become increasingly unwieldy, and this has gravely undermined their ability to practice good medicine.

Are we to continue to buy and sell health care as if it were a consumer good? The wealthiest can buy a Ferrari, the upper middle class a Lexus, the working class a Toyota, and the poor a used car. The very destitute cannot afford a car at all and have to take the bus. Clearly, it is barbaric to run a health care system in such a manner, and yet this is precisely what we are doing.

From their very first day of residency, doctors in training are being indoctrinated with the following code of dishonor: “This patient has a right to privacy, while this patient doesn’t. This patient has a right to informed consent, while this patient doesn’t. This patient has a right to linger following their surgery, while this patient has to leave immediately following their procedure. This patient has a right to their own room with a view, while this patient will be crammed into a room with a stranger.” The idea that medical ethics can coexist with such an ideology is inane and deeply delusional.

Many institutions have established multi-tier systems which are so egregious that it has resulted in the implementation of a Jim Crow health care system. Indeed, these institutions often place the “humans” and the “subhumans” in physically separate facilities. In this internationalization of the third world model, patients with inferior insurance are regularly arm-twisted into being clinical guinea pigs and used as laboratory animals with which to teach impressionable residents and fellows. This railroading of the “losers” into resident clinics magnifies the innate power imbalance inherent in the doctor-patient relationship a hundredfold, and constitutes a violation of patient privacy, informed consent, confidentiality, and patient dignity all of which fall under the umbrella of the physician’s oath to do no harm.

In an article in Annals of Emergency Medicine titled “Observers in The Medical Setting”, by Joel M. Geiderman, MD, the author posits that:

Privacy is treasured by citizens in free societies around the world, and any infringement on it is considered by many to be an affront to personhood. In the United States, the right to privacy runs deep in the American soul.

Residents that have no qualms about observing office visits without the patient’s consent are likely to go on to violate the privacy of their patients as attendings, and may very well spend their careers mindlessly violating and debasing their fellow human beings, only to periodically vent their frustrations on the Internet over all the “self-entitled” patients that don’t appreciate their diligence and divine wisdom. And while there are undoubtedly some residents that may have misgivings over participating in a clinic which coerces patients with unglamorous insurance plans into being medical models, as we have largely become a nation of careerists, the apelike majority will blindly follow orders.

Geiderman writes:

In addition to informational privacy, or protection of their personal health information, patients are also entitled to physical privacy, that is, a zone of personal space where access is under the patient’s autonomous control. Closely linked is the right to one’s modesty, a human value that is expressed in the Bible in Genesis, as Adam and Eve wished to shield their nakedness even from their Creator.

Should a physician order countless tests and prescriptions which are subsequently vetoed by the insurance companies, assuming they are not vehemently opposed to single-payer, they are unequivocally not to blame for this. However, once a doctor has knowingly participated in a clinic which is predicated on coercing patients with inferior insurance into being clinical guinea pigs for residents and fellows to practice on, they have stepped into a void beyond which lies a wasteland devoid of honor, dignity, integrity and morality. Any participation in such an egregious multi-tier system on the part of a physician threatens the survival of the doctor-patient relationship and constitutes unbridled and unmitigated heresy.

This descent into barbarism is glaringly on display in many dermatology departments, which are able to choose from the crème de la crème of our nation’s medical graduates, dermatology being one of the most competitive and sought-after specialties. These departments often assign patients with inferior insurance to a resident, who in turn has to be supervised. And so through artifice and trickery, the patient is duped and arm-twisted into being a medical model without their consent. The attending arrives and spews platitudes such as “The more eyes the better,” “There’s nothing we’ve never seen before,” and “We’re all professionals here” as if this can mitigate the fact that they are teaching their residents that the have-nots deserve neither privacy nor respectful care. That neither the attending nor the resident would even think of seeking care in such a clinic underscores the fact that in the innermost recesses of their addled brains they are cognizant of the fact that what they do is unethical. To gain admission into MS-13 one would likely have to commit murder. When doing a dermatology residency at an elite Manhattan medical institution, violating the privacy of hundreds of patients is the price of admission into this rather alarming society.

In conjunction with this uncivilized behavior, doctors in training are duly inculcated with the idea that informed consent is a privilege and not a right. Many of these creatures will go on to do practice pelvic exams on anesthetized patients, or even perform forced cavity searches at the request of law enforcement. Indeed, doctors that have no respect for informed consent are a danger to themselves, and a danger to those who place their trust in their care.

Reactionary physicians at elite institutions take for granted having the finest insurance, and delude themselves into thinking that patients go to resident clinics of their own volition, and not because their insurance dictates that they go there. Few realize that if a Medicaid patient sees a doctor out of network they can actually lose their insurance. Restoring physician choice to the American patient is absolutely vital if we are to restore any semblance of democracy to our health care system. For as long as a vast swath of American society is forced to work with doctors that they do not wish to work with, all talk of “patient-centered care” is farcical and absurd.

If a woman with good insurance needs a prescription for birth control, she can leave a doctor who insists on doing a pelvic exam prior to ordering the prescription, whereas a patient with inferior insurance can be bullied into submitting to the unnecessary exam due to the lack of gynecologists that take their insurance. While the pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals grow fat with the lucre sucked from the blood of their patients, not a day goes by when the underinsured do not experience such indignities. And while the government continues to abrogate its social responsibility to implement a single-payer system, many patients that do have good insurance are a cancer diagnosis or car accident away from losing their job and their superior insurance along with it.

In non-union jobs employers often change insurance plans every year, perpetually searching for the plan which is most affordable. This in turn forces patients to constantly change doctors, and if a patient has a complex medical condition, the consequences of perpetually denying such an individual continuity of care can have disastrous consequences. Indeed, even if a patient is healthy, this can result in reduced health care outcomes over the long-term. And just as the multi-tier education system has come to be accepted without question by millions of our countrymen, the multi-tier health care system has likewise left its mark on the consciousness of millions of Americans, and is increasingly accepted as “normal” by the insouciant and the knavish alike.

Patients that freelance can also see their insurance change while their income fluctuates, and this can likewise force a patient to change doctors. Like a marriage, the doctor-patient relationship is predicated on a sacred trust, and being forced to constantly change doctors disrupts, destabilizes, and destroys these relationships.

The takeover of the medical decision-making process by insurance companies – essentially criminal gangs – has stripped doctors of their autonomy and is a driving force behind physician burnout. For after every treatment plan agreed upon between a doctor and a patient, doctors’ orders are increasingly countermanded by the patient’s insurance company. Not a day goes by without a doctor prescribing a drug which a patient’s insurance refuses to cover. The doctor then calls in a second drug – a variation on the first – and the insurance company may refuse coverage for this as well. Then a third drug is called in – perhaps not even of the same class – and this too may be rejected. Meanwhile, the patient has been examined by their doctor, not by an MD working for the insurance company. Should a physician order a PET or CT scan to determine whether a patient has metastatic cancer following a needle biopsy that has revealed a mass to be malignant, it is not uncommon for the patient’s insurance to declare this request as requiring “prior authorization.” This pervasive undermining of a doctor’s authority is without precedent in American health care, and these delays have caused people to die.

In addition to living paycheck to paycheck, millions of Americans are under the illusion that their health insurance plan is much better than it is, incognizant of the fact that they are a health problem away from financial ruin. The insouciant among us who ask where the money is going to come from should consider why they failed to ask this question prior to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The money will come from demilitarizing our society and transferring to a peacetime economy. Are the underinsured not victims of terrorism?

As their entire raison d’être is anchored in maximizing the greatest possible profit, hospitals ruthlessly exploit their residents, many of whom work eighty hours a week or more. In an article on KevinMD titled “The secret horrors of sleep-deprived doctors,” by Pamela Wible, MD, a doctor speaks of their training:

I did my internship in internal medicine and residency in neurology before laws existed to regulate resident hours. My first two years were extremely brutal, working 110 to 120 hours/week, and up to 40 hours straight. I got to witness colleagues collapse unconscious in the hallway during rounds, and I recall once falling asleep in the bed of an elderly comatose woman while trying to start an IV on her in the wee hours of the morning.

It is not uncommon for young doctors to accidentally kill patients as a result of being so exploited and sleep deprived, and this has undoubtedly played a role in making hospital errors the third leading cause of death in this country. Wible quotes another physician:

I have made numerous medication errors from being over tired [sic]. I also more recently misread an EKG because I was so tired I literally couldn’t see straight. She actually had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and by misreading the EKG, I spent too much time on her heart and didn’t whisk her back to CT when she came in code blue. She died.

This is the inevitable result of exploiting residents as if they were fast food workers. Moreover, as has transpired with education, health care is simply becoming unaffordable. In an article for KevinMD titled “The demonization of socialized medicine,” by Matthew Hahn, MD, the author writes, “It’s almost become a ritual now where a patient (who usually has health insurance) is diagnosed with cancer, and then we attend their community fundraiser to help them with the costs of their care.”

Many doctors are compelled to spend countless hours each month filling out electronic medical records which have been foisted on them by the insurance companies. To assist with this onerous task, doctors increasingly employ a nurse or medical scribe to type the required information into the computer during a patient’s office visit. This destroys any semblance of confidentiality and undermines the physician-patient bond. It can also result in the doctor failing to obtain a comprehensive history.

Some physicians feel that the way to regain autonomy is to not take insurance at all, but by doing this they are denying care to patients with low income; i.e., the majority of the country. In theory, doctors take an oath to do no harm. In reality, they are in thrall to rapacious corporate power and are more likely to spend a lot of time violating patients’ privacy, doing mind-numbing data entry, and failing to disclose the risks of extremely dangerous drugs such as opioids and psychiatric medications.

Liberal saints Obama and Hillary had an opportunity to make a push for single-payer, but instead chose to spend trillions of dollars murdering large numbers of people in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Honduras and Syria while maintaining nearly a thousand bases all around the world. How many more patients will be forced into bankruptcy? How many more souls will be debased and defiled? How many more human lives will be lost?

Liar, Liar

The dictatorship’s mistake was to torture but not kill.
— Jair Bolsonaro, Radio interview, 2016

I won’t get voted out of office.
— Bill Gates, Bill Moyer Interviews Bill Gates

I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life.
— Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, International Publishers Co; Reprint, 1989 edition (November 24, 1971)

The sadist needs the person over whom he rules, he needs him very badly, since his own feeling of strength is rooted in the fact that he is the master over someone.
— Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Holt Paperbacks; Owl Book ed edition, September 15, 1994

Years ago Robert Bly talked about Ronald Reagan’s capacity for lying. He said Reagan grew up lying about his father, an alcoholic, and his dysfunctional childhood which he routinely described as happy. How the enormity of that lie, and all the attendant pressures of such intimate dishonesty made lying about the Iran/Contra deal much easier. And I recently heard Gabor Mate say the same sort of thing about Donald Trump. How Trump grew up with an abusive authoritarian father, one who humiliated and belittled the boy Trump, and the world of that boy was one of cruelty and abuse. And if that is the only world you know growing up, that is the world you will see everywhere around you later. And the only way to navigate a world of abasement and lying was to be better at it than those who had abused you. The grandiose aggressiveness and paranoia of Trump is the product, in part, and probably in large part, of a family that operated on strict hierarchies of power, a punitive and sadistic family dynamic. Trump’s brother, of course, drank himself to death.

Countless Presidents came out of dysfunctional families, ones often with authoritarian and alcoholic fathers. Gerald Ford, or Bill Clinton with his stepfather. The list is quite long. British Prime Ministers are also disproportionately the product of similar childhoods. But the point is really about a system that rewards men and women who have developed pathological coping mechanisms that include an ability to lie, an inability to feel empathy or remorse, and who are adept at cheating and taking credit for the accomplishments of others. The deformed character that comes out of such dynamics is, it seems, perfectly suited for the public spectacle of political life. Perfectly suited for a career as a carny barker, too.

All hierarchical systems are to some degree systems that encourage winning and punish losing.

Before the last Presidential election I wrote this about the two leading candidates…

For that is it, a rich white anti intellectual with openly self embraced bad taste, Trump valorizes half the white men in America for their seeming failures. He is saying, ok, you are not rich like me, but the rest, yeah we are one. But Trump has no role without his co-star, Hillary Clinton. Hillary is the cliche woman who is overbearing, petty, resentful and spiteful, but also functions as a female destroyer. And that role is complex, here. Hillary is not the purifying force of Kali, she is not the forest fire that brings regeneration. No she is simply the electric chair with a short, a sadistic contraption of flawed construction that terrorizes and disseminates suffering and cruelty. And while I have thought it impossible that Hillary doesn’t win this dog and pony show, it is now becoming apparent that Trump is the candidate of masculine revenge. Every misogynist looks to Mr Orange Hair to get even. And that misogyny is interlaced with race and colonial memory. And this is where the importance of Heidegger and Schmitt looms. And it is where the rising tide of left liberal antisemitism appears alongside peak Islamaphobia. It is all of a piece, in a sense.

— “Cunning of Unreason“, May 8, 2016 John-Steppling.com

Hillary, too, came from a dysfunctional family environment.

The message here is, I think, most of America is made up of dysfunctional families. Perhaps all families under capitalism are dysfunctional. Most learn to lie about their families. Only today, one form of lying to confess about it and advertise one’s own self improvement program as a response. The therapeutic often, it seems in my experience anyway, to simply be another form of lying. Or self delusion. Americans love to “work on themselves”. It’s a bit like working on your car, or those DIY projects to convert the garage into a ‘rec room’. Of course, fewer and fewer people own their own homes anymore. Maybe they need a show for those living out of their cars. DIY for building portable sidewalk showers without risking police persecution.

Dysfunction is the cost of Capitalism. ‘Wrong life cannot be lived rightly’, as Adorno put it. So one part of the fall-out from this prolonged exposure to the irrationality of life in neoliberal America has been to normalize lying. When Alexandria Ocasio Cortez praises Nancy Pelosi…I have found many people, maybe the majority, expressing something along the lines of, well ‘she has to say that sort of thing’. Or she is only kissing the ring so she can later create possibilities for real change. The fact she was lying is excused. It is excused because America itself lies. And deep down those saying this stuff know full well Ocasio Cortez will become Nancy Pelosi, not fight against her.

In Brazil, the new fascist in power praised his father for the beatings his dad gave him. Young Jair Boslonaro said it helped make him a man. Jair is now out to destroy the rain forest of the Amazon basin. Which might well kill off the planet. We can all partly thank dad for that.

Capitalism is an emotional plague on the planet. Wilhelm Reich said that. Bertell Ollman wrote of Reich’s ideas…

If the desire to accumulate property lies at the origins of sexual repression, its chief function today is to produce submissive beings of both sexes. In our treatment of character structure, the diminution of critical faculties, general passivity, resignation, and other negative effects of repression were identified. The work of sexual suppression is carried on primarily by the family. In his Marxist period Reich believed the suppression that was most decisive in determining character occurred between the ages of four to six in the ways parents respond to sexual play and questions. So important is the role of the family in these early years that Reich refers to it as the “factory of submissive beings.” To him, it is no coincidence that “the lack of victorious spirit, the outlawry of protest, the absence of personal opinions characterizes the relations of faithful children to their parents just as they do the relations of devoted bureaucrats to the state authorities and that of non-class conscious workers to the owner of the factory.
— Bertell Ollman, Social and Sexual Revolution: Essays on Marx and Reich, 1979

For the first time (last census) more Americans are living alone than in families. The loss of jobs, the onerous economic burden of child rearing, and gender inequality were all tied into an impossible model for any but the most affluent classes.

Millions of men who have been denied their family wages find refuge for male domination in right-wing anti-woman politics and fundamentalist and Catholic religions with their emphasis on denying women’s independence through anti-abortion and anti-birth control movements, opposing equal wages for women and denying support for raped and battered women. Other men seek to take back their male power through guns. (None of the explosion of mass killings have been committed by women.) Millions more seek power in heterosexual pornography in which women are portrayed as inviting sexual degradation.
— Harriet Fraad, “Living Alone:  The Rise of Capitalism and the Decline of Families“, Truthout, October 3, 2012)

Families propagate violence. Sons of violent parents are 1,000 times more likely to batter their adult partners, and daughters of violent parents are 600 times more likely to batter their partners. Children who are bullied at home are more likely to bully and to be bullied at school. Child abuse is rampant in the capitalist family system. We cannot know how rampant, because it goes on behind closed doors, most is never reported, and adults tend to normalise what they experienced as children. When neglected, they conclude that they did not deserve better. When physically terrorised, they will rationalise: “Sure, I was hit. But I deserved it.” According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, more than one in four American adults lived with alcohol or drug addiction in their childhood homes, 28 percent were physically abused as children and 21 percent suffered sexual abuse. ( ) Capitalism promotes sympathy for child victims and prosecutes adult perpetrators. But today’s perpetrators are yesterday’s victims. While only a small minority of child victims become adult perpetrators, studies of those who do perpetrate reveal that almost all were traumatised as children. Capitalism cannot acknowledge that most perpetrators are former victims, because it cannot admit that families transmit trauma from one generation to the next.
— Susan Rosenthal, Capitalism, alienation and the family, Socialist Review, 2015

Rosenthal notes something else, and that is that Capitalism in the transition from agricultural production to industrial removed labor from the family. It created this amorphous social sphere of leisure time or free time. But as Adorno noted sixty years ago, there is nothing free about it and leisure had already begun to resemble alienated work.

Rosenthal also adds….

Impossible gender expectations create crushing disappointment. The woman is raised to see the man as a champion and a prince who will make her dreams come true. When she discovers that he cannot do this, she expresses her disapproval or withdraws in despair. The man gets the message that he is not measuring up. How could he? The man is raised to expect a warm attentive partner who is always ready for sex. What he gets is an overworked, exhausted and frequently irritated partner. Both of them blame themselves, and both of them blame each other.

The American political drama, or electoral theatre, is reinforced so aggressively because it is the most basic and effective distraction people have for their social malaise and misery. Voting is a reflection of binary models. It is really just exchange value. And voting makes everyone equal. And Americans have even taken to wearing little stickers that proclaim they voted. So electoral theatre as a shaming device. But voting becomes even more than just a threadbare symbol of equality, it takes on almost occult significance for many. It is one of the few rituals in bourgeois society that seems to encompass something almost magical. Voting is an affirmation of one’s existence, of one’s autonomy and even freedom. I can vote for whoever I choose. Well, off a menu of two.

But I have seen leftist writers proclaim lesser evilism is not to be debated. This is, apparently, because Trump is some sort of special category of evil. This is a hugely regressive and politically immature position. Firstly, voting is not going to solve shit. Full stop. No, the entire apparatus of elections and voting machines and voter suppression or corrupt counts is part of this grand theatre. And this emphasis also promotes a popular idea with the ruling class, that of individualism.

I wrote this several years back…

Voting is the constant reinforcement of the idea of equality. Everyone has a vote, therefore everyone is equal. This is of course not true, however. But the expanding of campaign season ( a bit like the expanding of Christmas shopping season) is serving to keep this illusion foremost in the minds of citizens. The act of voting is then a sort of magic elixir for conveying a sense of equality, and it is coupled with the idea of ‘responsibility.

Dentistry as Art, John-Steppling.com, September 2015.

It is no doubt true that America is a full blown open fascist society today. But it was already. It’s hard to decide what was the starting point, but it certainly could be Bill Clinton’s second term. Or after 9/11. By Obama it was most certainly fascistic in operation. Gabor Mate noted that the ruling class was not fooled by Obama and all that hope and change stuff. Wall Street backed and funded his candidacy. They knew he was one of them. He rewarded them the second he was elected. No, only the mass public believes ANYTHING of what the political class tells them.

The Democratic Party has taken positions actually to the right of Trump on many issues (here is an issue Democrats fell in line with…) And does anyone believe real action would take place if Dems controlled the government? I mean they have, and not that long ago, and what happened? But none of these things are as significant as the wholesale swath of destruction that US and NATO military action has caused in Africa and west Asia. And nobody asks this during election season. Unless I missed something, no candidate or news talking head brought up why NATO even exists anymore. Nobody asked why the US needed to upgrade its nuclear arsenal, or why it occupies a third of Syria. Or why there are military bases in almost every country in Africa. Why there are 900 worldwide.

But more hidden, in a sense, and therefore more insidious is the role of giant foundations and non-military uses of coercion and control. Jacob Levich writes:

For the ruling classes do not rule by guns and laws alone. Rather, they need to be able to do so without the constant resort to force. So, [Joan Roelofs] argues, they manufacture the consent of the ruled through the activities of a broad range of institutions, activities and persons (not necessarily themselves members of the ruling class) who disseminate the ideology of the ruling class as if it were merely common sense. While dissent from ruling class ideas is labeled ‘extremism’ and is isolated, individual dissenters may be welcomed and transformed. Indeed, ruling class hegemony is more durable if it is not rigid and narrow, but is able dynamically to incorporate emergent trends.
— Jacob Levich, “The Real Goal of the Gates Foundation“, Aspects of India’s Economy, May 2014

The role of foundations is, to most Americans, opaque and almost inexplicable. Nobody in political/Electoral theatre mentions this ‘third sector’. Neither business nor government, these foundations operate with budgets in the multi billions of dollars. This is the stuff discussed at Bilderberg Meetings, and other summits of the world’s richest people.

The fall of the Soviet Union ushered in the present phase of public health philanthropy, characterized by the Western demand for “global health governance” – purportedly as a response to the spread of communicable diseases accelerated by globalization. Health has been redefined as a security concern; the developing world is portrayed as a teeming petri dish of SARS, AIDS, and tropical infections, spreading “disease and death” across the globe and requiring Western powers to establish centralized health systems designed to “overcome the constraints of state sovereignty.” Imperial interventions in the health field are justified in the same terms as recent “humanitarian” military interventions: “[N]ational interests now mandate that countries engage internationally as a responsibility to protect against imported health threats or to help stabilize conflicts abroad so that they do not disrupt global security or commerce.
— Jacob Levich, “The Real Goal of the Gates Foundation“, Aspects of India’s Economy, May 2014

I mention this only as a sort of corrective to these naive notions about voting. Voting is not the issue. Not in an absolutely controlled system of perception management. Back in 2014 Gates warned about overpopulation in places “we don’t want it” (sic) and he mentioned Pakistan and Yemen. Huh. Yemen, you say? Yeah, well, I guess that’s not an issue anymore. The U.S. Imperialist agenda is about control. It is adaptive and flexible.

Malthus’s heirs continue to wish us to believe that people are responsible for their own misery; that there is simply not enough to go around; and to ameliorate that state of wretchedness we must not attempt to alter the ownership of social wealth and redistribute the social product, but instead focus on reducing the number of people.

— Manali Chakrabarti, “Are There Just Too Many of Us?”, Aspects of India’s Economy, No. 55, March, 2014

I digress a moment to add on here that the overpopulation mythology has taken on a green cover of late. Suddenly the same old Malthusian eugenics is sprinkled with Gaia jargon and sensitivity to global ecologies. But the thrust and engine driving the idea remains the same.

Most non-profits do the dirty work of what a society is looking more and more to not provide for – mental health care for a bigger and bigger share of the USA population; disability services for a larger and larger swath of Americans mentally, psychologically, intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually broken or disabled; financial, employment, education, housing assistance for an ever-growing population of humans who are not able to work and live and transport and find health care for themselves in this New Gilded Age.

The non-profits I have worked for are top-heavy, have very little money put aside or earmarked or grant-provided for the workers; many of the non-profits hire development associates, upper management shills, PR folk, marketing and events coordinators; many are in shining and remodeled digs while casting shadows on the street people they supposedly care about.
— Paul Haeder, “The Punditry of Shithole Thinking“, Dissident Voice, January 15th, 2018

In the 1950s came the development of the first psychiatric drug, the antipsychotic drug Chlorpromazine. This marked the beginning of what has come to be a mammoth and powerful industry in chemical warehousing of an unwanted population.

This industry was founded on a single ideology—the “mental illness” theory, or “medical model” (which I’ll refer to simply as the medical model)—an ideology that gave this industry
tremendous power and influence. The medical model essentially states that distressing states of mind can, for the most part, be categorized into discrete “mental illnesses,” and that although these mental illnesses continue to the present day to be rampant and even growing within our society, we must rest assured that the great medical advances of this industry have already developed powerful drugs that can generally contain them, and that it is just a matter of time before our medical technology will eliminate these illnesses altogether.

— Paris Williams, “Madness and the Family: Exploring the Links between Family Dynamics and Psychosis”

As Williams has pointed out, the very term mental illness is something of a self fulfilling prophecy. The profits from all psychotropic drugs is almost incalculable — Xanax (alprazolam), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Ativan (lorazepam), Desyrel (trazodone HCL), Lexapro (escitalopram). Exact numbers are hard to know but the best guess by the government itself is that over 35 million people took psychotropics between 2013 and 2014.

A common side effect of psychotropic medication is difficulty feeling certain emotions once the drug accumulates in a person’s system. For example, many people complain of losing the feelings they used to have, report a reduction in their ability to laugh or cry, or experience a decrease in libido. Side effects of SSRIs that might affect one’s sexuality and love relationships, such as diminished sexual interest, are discussed in a chapter from Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience.

GoodTherapy.org

Psychiatrists claim their drugs save lives, but according to their own studies, psychotropic drugs can double the risk of suicide. And long-term use has been proven to create a lifetime of physical and mental damage, a fact ignored by psychiatrists. Common and well-documented side effects of psychiatric drugs include mania, psychosis, hallucinations, depersonalization, suicidal ideation, heart attack, stroke and sudden death. Not only that, but The US Food and Drug Administration admits that probably one to ten percent of all the adverse drug effects are actually reported by patients or physicians.

— The Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights

It is no different in the U.K. The Council for Evidence Based Psychiatry states…

The latest prescription figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that the UK is in the midst of a psychiatric drug epidemic. Over 57m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England in 2014, enough for one for every man, woman and child. This represents a 7.5% increase since 2013, and over 500% since 1992.

Now there is a kind of psychological blindness affecting Americans, today. A perhaps banal example, but still useful, is the popularity of American football. Since the incontrovertible proof that collisions on the field cause brain damage, acute irreversible damage, the sports popularity has actually increased. Never mind the jingoism attached to this sports-tainment empire, the fact that players are literally risking their lives and mental health to play is one thing, and there is an economic coercion involved, but how is it people want to watch this? Hollywood even made a film about the man who researched the phenomenon of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). A very popular film starring Will Smith. But more and more people tune in each week. Nobody talks about it. Sitting on the couch, a slice in one hand, Bud light in the other, the question is, I’m guessing, never broached…’Hey bro, so, these guys, you think they’re aware their brains are turning to mush?’ But then the league is 70% black, so, for many it’s a kind of unconscious de-facto solution. Racism in America is indelible and deep. Even animal shelters acknowledge black dogs are harder to place than white. (This is a fact, not the Onion).

This blindness is the product of decades, now, of electronic media indoctrination. People even admit this, accept that it’s true. But they still remain habituated to their various screens. They still wear buttons saying ‘I voted’. They still become shrill and near hysterical at the idea YOU voted for a third party candidate, or worse, didn’t vote at all. How does that work? The presidency of Obama is revealing, both as it happened, and now as an object of near history. If you tell people Obama was the president who signed off on (and presumably helped design) the joint US/Saudi assault on Yemen, you will get denial or blank stares. If you say, well, ICE deported people under Obama, and at a record clip. You get denial. Or that Obama was notorious for persecuting whistle blowers and for narrowing press freedoms as much as possible. Denial. Blankness. Obama was the fulcrum for a very late onset of amnesia. Collectively speaking. He has taken the role of mental black hole. History began and stopped with Obama. (I actually think Michelle might run for President in 2020).

Americans collectively cannot grasp their own family relations. They are not sure, most of them I would wager, on even how to define *family*. But, the idea is past its sell by date I suspect. People are living alone, they have no choice. Often alone and on the street. A recent typhus outbreak on the mean streets of skid row Los Angeles suggests the U.S. is inching or hurtling toward 3rd world status.

This social morality, anchored in all individuals and reproducing itself permanently, has in this manner a reciprocal effect on the economic base in a conservative direction. The exploited person affirms the economic order which guarantees his exploitation; the sexually repressed person affirms even the sexual order which restricts his gratification and makes him ill, and he wards off any system that might correspond to his need. In this manner morality carries out its socio-economic assignment.
— Wilhelm Reich, Mass Psychology of Fascism, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 3 edition (November 1, 1980)

The drastic increase in economic inequality has also generated the need for official explanations and justifications. I am reminded of Otto Fenichel, that most neglected of early psychoanalysts who complained in his 1938 book The Drive to Amass Wealth (and quoted by the worthy Russell Jacoby, whose own work Social Amnesia should be required reading today) of what he saw as Ferenczi’s psychologism:

The instincts represent the general tendency, while matters of money and the desire to become wealthy represent a specific form which the general tendency can assume only in the presence of certain definite social conditions.  The existence of the erogenous pleasure in collection causes Ferenczi to overlook the fact that when the capitalist strives to increase his capital he does this on very rational grounds: he is forced to it by competitors who produce on a larger scale …. A social system of this kind makes use of and strengthens erogenous drives that serve the necessity for accumulating. Of this there can be no doubt. There is considerable doubt, however, as to whether the existing economic conditions of production were created by the biological instinct.

At the end Fenichel suggested sometime in the future such conditions would no longer exist. And perhaps somewhere in the distant past they also did not. Capitalism is not inevitable nor is it some kind of natural law. It’s a fact that Google and Facebook censor socialist sites. Why would they do that if they were not afraid? The authority structure, the proprietor class, they want you asleep. That’s the idea.

We are at the tail end of a kind of Ayn Randian period of simplistic one dimensional and crude capitalist cheerleading — and it began in its current form under Reagan. He of the happy childhood. The president who no doubt suffered from Alzheimers even BEFORE he became the commander in chief. And this has led to the marketing industry to double down on certain tropes of American happiness. We are still within a Norman Rockwell cocoon in terms of propaganda. Each holiday season Hollywood churns out one after another fairy tale of the American family — Thanksgiving fables or Christmas. Oh heck, families can be complex, but gull darn it, we always overcome and celebrate together. But a fairy tale is all it is. And a pernicious one. Most families I know struggle through the Holidays, buffeted by guilt and resentment. And depression. It is the cruelest season.

Anti-depressants, and all those millions and millions of prescriptions written in the U.S. and U.K. may (!) alleviate symptoms in some or even many patients, but even at their most effective (and I reserve acceptance they actually do any real good for anyone) they do nothing to change the conditions that created this depression. When mass shooters appear, especially white ones, they are *mentally ill*. If non-white they are likely terrorists. The system is not indicted either way. Only the victims of that system. The U.S. is a remarkably unwell place and it has created a political system that rewards the most pathological people in this unwell place. Donald Trump is the perfect man to be President of this asylum. He is ignorant, and proud of it, a narcissist and pathological liar. A racist and misogynist. He often seems he to be made up of the worst qualities of his predecessors. Bush, Clinton and Obama were all in various ways pathological. But who is President really is not the point. The point is class hierarchies. Until Americans learn to talk politics in terms of class, nothing will change.

The U.S. is reaching an economic/social singularity; there are no jobs, there is no health care, and no education. There is a throughly debased culture and much of the country is in the hands of Evangelical Christians. And Evangelicals, especially Dominionists like Pence and Pompeo and Kudlow and DeVos would have, in an earlier time, been shipped off by their family to some discreet asylum or hospital. We are sort of living a Marat/Sade nightmare. The American fairy tale isn’t working anymore. People may cling to its remnants but at their most lucid I suspect most people know it’s all bullshit. The cultural landscape is so depressing most can only intermittently engage with it. The ruling elite are further distanced from the rest of the populace. The educated liberal bourgeoisie is in crises. All the myriad identity-based systems of belief are less and less convincing. The violence of the military complex finds expression domestically in a militarized sadistic and racist police apparatus. A nation where mass shootings are now routine is a kind of movable hell. Mass incarceration is growing still. It is my experience that people can no longer easily read facial expressions or hear the pitch or intonation of speech — they mimic autistic symptoms in fact. And sociopathy is everywhere. From the wholesale killing of wildlife, to bald faced lies about food ingredients, contaminants in factory farmed meats. But drinking water might be the worst. Across the rust belt and through the southwest, mostly from abandoned mining sites. In Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and on across to Georgia. Detergents, solvents, pesticides, and things such as vinyl chloride and PCEs, paint sludge and boron. A recent report detailed by the Center for Public Integrity noted….

Across the country, in Albany, Georgia, three separate areas of groundwater are polluted with cyanide and chloroform from various industries. One of the contaminated areas came from a landfill on the Marine Corps’ Logistics Base. The U.S. Navy has taken responsibility for the base and is providing residents in the majority African-American town with an alternative water supply due to the health risks associated with the pollution. Politicians and researchers say industrial sites are more likely to be located near low-income and minority communities.’More heavily polluting industries were located near communities of color or minority communities or poor communities because they didn’t have the political clout to fight back.

The EPA estimates, now, that since 1987, various industries have dumped about 600 million pounds of toxic substances, including ammonia and nitrates into the Ohio river. Six hundred MILLION pounds of poisonous crap into the once pristine Ohio River. Cue Doc Watson singing On the Banks of the Ohio.

No, don’t.

In 2015, the top 1% of Americans made almost thirty times as much income as the bottom 99 percent — an increase from 2013, when they earned twenty five times as much. This from the Economic Policy Institute in DC. There is a racial divide, too. The billionaires who make up the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans now have as much wealth as ALL African-American households, plus one-third of America’s Latino population, combined. In other words, just 400 extremely wealthy individuals have as much wealth as 16 million African-American households and 5 million Latino households. (from Forbes own statistics)

That is America today. And everyone knows it. But they can’t say it. They can’t look at it soberly and honestly. It is too much to bear.

And America is exporting its misery at an accelerated clip. The far right fascist sensibility is growing across Europe. There are few NATO countries without a powerful fascist party participating in government, and in several places — Hungary, Italy, Poland, they ARE the government. And now Brazil. One might think the recent summer of apocalyptic fires in the U.S. would be a wake up call, but it’s not. The horror cannot be faced by most. Lying, family or household dysfunction, and chemical numbing are the ground floor reality today. When the ruling class own everything, people must find ways to cope. Once you have mastered lying to yourself, lying to others is easy.

I almost do not exist now and I know it; God knows what lives in me in place of me.
— Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, 1868–1869; separate edition 1874

Of Course, Medicare For All would increase Federal Spending…

Of course, a National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) system would increase federal spending, but not by as much as they claim. NIMA would create a national health insurance, like most other wealthy countries have, funded only through taxes. This would replace our current complicated, privatized healthcare system, funded through a mix of premiums, out-of-pocket costs and taxes, which is the most expensive in the world. Countries that treat health care as a public good invest in a universal system because they know it improves the health of their people and is the most efficient.

The United States currently spends twice as much as the average wealthy nation, over $10,000 per person each year. Unlike other wealthy nations, though, the US leaves tens of millions of people without coverage and tens of millions more with coverage but still unable to afford care. The US consistently ranks low in comparison to other countries on health outcomes. Life expectancy is declining in the US, now for two years in a row, the first time this has happened in over 50 years. Death rates for infants and mothers in the US are many times higher than in other wealthy countries.

A single payer healthcare system like NIMA would decrease administrative costs and the prices of goods, such as pharmaceuticals, and services dramatically. Rather than having hundreds of different healthcare plans, each with different rules, there is one comprehensive plan with one set of rules. It would relieve families, employers, health professionals and hospitals of the burden of navigating the current complex system. Everyone is in the system for life. If a person needs health care, they see a health professional of their choice, the health professional cares for the patient and submits a bill to the system, or they are paid a salary, and that’s it. Simple. Just as it is in most other industrialized countries.

The Mercatus Center study is flawed in serious ways. First, it analyzes the Senate bill, which was first introduced last September and has significant weaknesses. It would be better to examine the House bill, HR 676, which has been introduced every session since 2003 and is based on the Physicians’ Working Group Proposal by Physicians for a National Health Program, the leading experts on single payer health policy in the US (here is the updated proposal). Second, it grossly underestimates the savings of a single payer system and makes unrealistic assumptions about utilization of services.

There have been many studies over the past few decades on how much money a single payer system would save in the United States. In 1991, the General Accounting Office found “If the US were to shift to a system of universal coverage and a single payer, as in Canada, the savings in administrative costs [10 percent of health spending] would be more than enough to offset the expense of universal coverage.” Since that time, administrative costs have ballooned to one-third of our healthcare spending and the prices of pharmaceuticals have soared, so the savings would be greater.

In 1991 and 1993, multiple analyses by the Congressional Budget Office found that covering everyone under a single payer system might increase spending at the beginning, but it would be offset quickly by the savings. Since then, studies by non-governmental institutions, including one by Ken Thorpe who, since his alliance with Hillary Clinton, now claims the opposite, have all shown that compared to other reforms, NIMA is superior in savings and in the number of people and benefits that are covered.

It is important to distinguish between total healthcare spending and federal spending, the part the US government spends. Buried within the Mercatus Center study is a fact that the corporate media has missed. Although they estimate that federal spending would increase, because all health spending would become federal, they calculate that overall health spending would decrease by more than $2 trillion over ten years.

Single payer systems save money. The only system we can’t afford to maintain is the current one. Private health insurers are insatiable. The government subsidizes them by hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and still they raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs and ask for more. Pharmaceutical companies are increasing their prices by as much as they can get away with. A single payer system is the best way to put private insurers where they belong, on the margins of our healthcare system, and to control the pharmaceutical industry.

So, when you hear someone saying that NIMA would increase federal spending, tell them, of course, it does, that’s the point. Instead of paying premiums, deductibles and co-pays to a private insurer, we all contribute into a federal system that is there when we need it. But if they try to scare you with large numbers, tell them that single payer systems prove time and again they are the least expensive. If we want to talk about scary numbers, let’s look at how much the US spends on the military and have a conversation about priorities – ending lives or saving them.

•   First published in Health Over Profit

When Health Care is a Privilege and Physician Shadowing is a Right

As it is presently constructed, the American health care system is predicated on the pernicious idea that good health care is a privilege. Meanwhile, medical students, residents, and other interlopers regard observing patients’ doctor’s visits to be their right, regardless of whether or not the patient’s consent has been obtained. This dichotomy embodies the egregious inequality inherent in the two-tier system, and is indicative of a complete inversion of the way any humane health care system must be ideologically oriented.

The subject of physician shadowing is inextricably linked with unfettered capitalism and the neoliberal project, where the privileged few have a vast array of options in regards to where and with whom they can seek care, while the under-insured masses can spend countless hours – sometimes in vain – searching for the appropriate specialist that takes their insurance. If an under-insured patient is able to find a specialist that takes their insurance, they often fall prey to the scourge of nonconsensual physician shadowing, as they can be coerced into becoming a medical model and teaching tool without their consent.

Physician shadowing must never be done without the patient’s consent, as this constitutes an egregious violation of medical ethics, patient privacy, and the patient’s moral right to meet with a physician in private should they choose to do so. Moreover, once a patient feels that their trust in the system has been violated, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ever fully restore it.

While a great deal of lip service is paid to “privacy,” “consent,” and “the doctor–patient relationship” in American teaching hospitals, all of these things are summarily jettisoned once medical students and residents get inculcated with the idea that it is acceptable to shadow a physician regardless of whether or not the patient’s consent has been obtained. In actuality, physician shadowing is a privilege that can be granted by one person, and one person only: the patient.

Under the neoliberal project, many physicians have been pulled inexorably into a vortex of amorality. This is because they are trained in an environment whereby the scourge of free market ideology has distorted their thinking and debased any sense of morality. Indeed, many young physicians are inculcated with the shameful idea that unless a patient has an excellent commercial plan privacy, consent, and confidentiality should have no bearing on the care they will receive.

Medical schools compel undergraduate pre-med majors to shadow a physician for a significant number of hours. This practice should be banned, as these students are not officially medical students. Consequently, they are totally unvetted. Allowing high school students to shadow a physician, or observe medical personnel at work in an emergency room or operating room, is an outrage. Having a secretary serve as a “chaperone” – deemed desirable by some physicians, as this can protect them from lawsuits – is likewise unethical and thoroughly repugnant.

The dismantling of the humanities has played a significant role in fomenting dehumanization and moral bankruptcy in health care, because without the humanities, many health care professionals have lost their ability to be compassionate and empathetic. Indeed, without a humanities education, what separates a urologist from a plumber, or an auto mechanic from a gastroenterologist?

In an online discussion on forums.studentdoctor.net titled “Isn’t Shadowing Intrusive?” doctors and medical students nonchalantly discuss physician shadowing. One philistine writes, “If you agree to the student being in the room, how is your privacy being violated? Everyone should stop being so hysterical – if the patients don’t like something, they can speak up.”

While another defends the right of undergraduates to shadow: “Medical training has to start somewhere. There is not (or shouldn’t be) a glaring divide between premedical and medical education. Better to make sure our students are better prepared for medical school and know what they are getting themselves into. And if anything, many patients are happy to have someone else to talk to. It never was a problem when I shadowed.”

Actually, many patients are interested in talking with a physician in private – and without interlopers barbarically violating their privacy. In all the many times I have experienced this at Weill Cornell and Sloan Kettering, never was my consent first obtained. In fact, at Memorial I had to complain dozens of times before my request to meet with my various doctors in private was finally granted. There are certain departments at Cornell where you can issue complaints ad nauseam, yet they will still not allow a patient with inferior insurance to meet with an attending physician in private.

Another morally bankrupt knave writes: “I’ve seen at least 100 patients in shadowing experiences. Not one asked me to leave. If you’re at a teaching hospital, and the patient has been there before, they know the deal.”

“The deal” is that there is a crisis in American health care, where all too often patient privacy is nonexistent. Also, the notion that patients can easily object is deeply fallacious. Would this hold true with the under-insured, who are acutely aware of how limited their options are? Even a patient with the finest insurance may have a hard time objecting to unwanted observers at Sloan Kettering, as Memorial has a policy of denying patients the right to change from one oncologist to another within whatever department they are ensconced in. Moreover, as these comments demonstrate, the cavalier dismissal on the part of many medical students, residents, and attending physicians that nonconsensual physician shadowing could leave patients with real emotional scars, is indicative of an extraordinary degree of insouciance regarding the delicate nature of the doctor-patient relationship, as well as a deep-seated callousness and moral bankruptcy that has metastasized throughout our entire health care system like a cancer.

Once the callow are inculcated with the idea that nonconsensual physician shadowing is an acceptable and everyday part of learning how to be a doctor, what follows? Catheterizing anesthetized patients without their knowledge? Having medical students do practice pelvic and rectal exams on anesthetized patients? Willful nondisclosure of long-term chemotherapy side effects, such as cognitive difficulties and early menopause? Over-prescribing opioids? Psychiatrists overprescribing psychotropic drugs? Indeed, these are things that have already come to pass.

It is unequivocally true that the principal devils in the American health care crisis are the private insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and the hospital administrators. Yet throughout my many long and arduous years as a patient, I have witnessed medical students, residents, and fellows instructed by attending physicians to do things that are undeniably unethical. All too often their medical training is corrupted by the two-tier system and the moral bankruptcy that this spawns.

What kind of doctors will medical students and residents become, when every day they are immersed in an environment where do no harm applies to a privileged few? Where the haves are endowed with an endless array of good options, and the have nots are commodified and railroaded into resident clinics which prey on the under-insured, and which coerce patients into surrendering all vestiges of privacy? Privacy, confidentiality, and consent are foundational to any humane health care system, and once they become a privilege for the few, the very basis of medical ethics is torn asunder.

Capitalism has distorted and inverted our sense of morality – so that rights such as good health care, a good education, equality under the law, safe drinking water, affordable housing, etc. – have become privileges, whereas privileges, paradoxically, have become rights.

Once at Cornell Dermatology, I was subjected to an examination with a resident present and a nurse going in and out of the room, despite my requests to meet with a dermatologist in private. As I am at risk for melanoma and was overdue for a checkup, I deemed the visit to be medically necessary. Moreover, had I elected to go somewhere else (a specious argument frequently posited by anti-privacy ideologues), the other dermatology departments in Manhattan that take my insurance are run in a similar fashion. This is not a coincidence, as those who manage resident clinics are acutely aware of the fact that many of the under-insured who walk through their doors have few if any options.

I often think about this resident, and whether she was cognizant of the fact that she played a role in egregiously violating my privacy, as well as the oath that she took to do no harm. Did she fail to see the double standard – that she was participating in an assault on a patient’s privacy that she would vehemently object to – indeed be mortified by, herself? She has since completed her residency at Cornell, and is now ensconced at the dermatology department at The University of Pennsylvania. While these things may look nice on one’s resume, I can’t help but wonder how many hours she had to spend shadowing, and how much of this shadowing was done without the patients’ consent. I can only hope that now that she is an attending physician, she can use her influence to give patients a choice in regards to whether observers are present during their doctor’s visits, and that this will be done regardless of what type of insurance these patients may have. It is regrettable that for many ambitious young doctors privacy and consent matter little in the face of blind obedience, authoritarianism, and careerism.

Doctors know much more today than they’ve ever known before. Yet ironically, they are trusted and respected less than was the case in the 50’s and 60’s. Losing their autonomy to the private insurance companies, as well as being forced to see an increasing number of patients each day, have undoubtedly played a role in the diminishing of the doctor’s prestige. However, a growing number of patients are acutely aware of how morally compromised many doctors have become, as unfettered capitalism and the profit motive have come to permeate and defile the very soul of our society. Indeed, many physicians that ardently defend nonconsensual physician shadowing, are the first to use their superior health insurance plans to avoid this very thing when it is time to see a doctor themselves.

It is deeply disturbing watching medical students and residents being instructed to obey unethical orders from an attending physician. Only with a single-payer system will we disenthrall ourselves from the barbarism of the two-tier system – a system which destroys the souls of doctors and patients alike.

Vassals and Victims

Nothing better illustrates the disaster of Britain leaving the EU than Donald Trump. Once we’re no longer able to enjoy the huge benefits of the European single market we will be compelled to try to arrange favourable independent trade deals with other countries, the largest of which will almost certainly be the USA. Having to rely on the US for our primary trading partner is the truly nightmare scenario of Brexit, and one example of why this is so was provided last week.

It was reported that the US will “use trade talks to force the NHS to pay more for drugs“. No matter that many medicines are already vastly overpriced, it’s still not enough for the giant drug companies who net billions of dollars profiteering from desperately sick people. They want to make even more because their greed knows no limit, and Mr Trump will “not be cheated by foreign countries” (1).

The US has a long and inglorious history of reneging on its promises and treaties. Ask Native Americans. More recently we’ve seen the US turn its back on its own Transpacific Partnership agreement, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and effectively scrap the Iran Nuclear Deal, ignoring the fury of European counter-signatories. The US government has, of course, always totally ignored international law, as well as its own laws and federal constitution, whenever it felt like it. Henry Kissinger once infamously quipped, “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”  It imposes vicious trade sanctions whenever it wants (more often than any other country), and last year this champion of free trade slapped a 200% trade tariff on Bombardier. This is the country we’ll be relying on after Brexit.

Of course, it’s easy, and true, to say that Donald Trump will not last forever, but Trump isn’t the main problem. The main problem is the whole US system of government, which appears to see the US as the only country in the world of any importance. The president is a distraction, designed to suggest that better days will come once the current one moves on. But the better days never come. Presidents come and go but the empire gets ever stronger, and more catastrophically dystopian.

Most of the people who voted for Brexit don’t understand this global reality. Most Brexit supporters have a worldview shaped almost entirely by deceitful tabloids and Hollywood propaganda movies. They think America is our friend. It isn’t. It has no friends, it only has vassals and victims, and neither of those is a very pleasant prospect for post-Brexit Britain.

Counter Punching the Corpocracy?

America’s corpocracy, or what I call the Devil’s marriage between dominant corporate and subordinate government America, is a vast domain of thousands of colluding corporations and government agencies.1 While the corpocracy’s rampant and successful wrongdoing is what makes the corpocracy so powerful, it still must depend on customers to survive and thrive. Customers? Let’s make that more often “victims,” people harmed by the corpocracy’s wrongdoing in some way or another from trivial to irrevocable, like death.

Ironically, one of the corpocracy’s victims is itself, as when the Department of War is exploited by the war industry.2 This article is not about how the corpocracy can protect itself from itself. Why would I ever want to offer self help to the corpocracy? Better that it self-destructs! No, this article is a review of the literature on ways in which Americans victimized by the corpocracy can fight back, if they should be plucky enough or sure enough.

Why, you may well ask, do I even bother to write this article since the counter-puncher is invariably outpunched, sometimes more than once? Since Corporate America tells Government America what to do and not to do, if there is no redress from the former, there is unlikely to be any from the latter either. Since Government America is a corporate service, not a public service, “the public be Damned” is more likely to be the outcome of any follow-up counter-punching. Nevertheless, being an informed customer surely is preferable to being an uninformed customer, particularly at the beginning when the options are to buy or not to buy a suspect product or service.

Not writing the article, moreover, would be defeatist, a response to be avoided. Moreover, writing a good article requires good second-hand research only fingertips away from the keyboard and the Internet that just might yield some practical insights and revelations.

But before getting to the types of counterpunches available to those wronged, let’s quickly scan the land of wrongdoers to remind us of who they are and what they do to their customers. Excluded will be the greatest wrongdoers of history, the U.S. war (and gun) industry and the U.S. Department of War.3 Their customers and non-customer victims are well known and fall outside the present topic.

A Few Examples of Wrongdoers and Their Wrongdoing

Since knowledgeable readers of the alternative media already know what they know about the subject at hand and are also victimized customers themselves, only a few examples are given for the three more harmful industries.4 A few examples are also given for the retail industry simply because of the sheer volume of their customers.

Pharmaceutical Industry. Diluted cancer drugs to boost profits. Successfully lobbies to keep drug prices high. Sells pills that kill about 100,000 Americans annually. Markets a drug that is more expensive than alternative drugs and deadly among adults and children.

Agriculture/Chemical Industries. Sued a farmer claiming he was using the company’s patented seeds. Causes billions of dollars to be spent yearly for healthcare, subsidies, environmental damage, and more from producing and consuming foods laced with pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs.

Financial Services Industry. Created and marketed fantasy financial products plummeting U.S. into its 2nd greatest depression. Soaks credit card holders with excessive rates. Constantly raises deductibles while shrinking coverage. Hem haws in honoring insurance claims and short changes legitimate claims.

Retail Industry. A dozen or so large corporations monopolize this industry. Its predominate victims are their employees who work for pittance and are bullied along the way, bullied suppliers, and small communities that lose their small retailers when a mammoth retailer arrives on the scene. An illustrative retailer is Walmart, referred to as “the beast from Bentonville,” by the author of an incriminating expose. 5

Its other victims are customers in the ordinary sense.  Exploiting them is rife in this industry  Sometimes customers don’t even know they are being exploited. Here is an example of stealth marketing: a few extremely pricey items are prominently displayed to lure bargain hunters into buying two of the less pricey items displayed nearby.6 Other examples of exploitation include making false claims, baiting and switching, reneging on deals, using small print and lengthy terms and conditions to discourage their being read or understood, and requiring prospective buyers to waive their Constitutional right to sue in court for any damages from the product after its purchase and use.

Counter Punches

  • Complaining
  • Boycotting
  • Lobbying
  • Suing

Complaining

To whom do the complainers submit a complaint? Let’s briefly review the three options: business complaint departments, independent complaint resources, and the government’s myriad complaint resources.

Business Complaint Departments. They are, to put it simply, a farce. Companies with the worst customer service that “people hate calling” reportedly are Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Wells Fargo, and Dish Network.7 Mind you, they are simply the five worst, which leaves a lot of room for hundreds of other despised customer complaint departments.

Private Complaint Resources. Probably the most familiar is the Better Business Bureau to which consumers can submit complaints and get ratings for better businesses to patronize. BBB is a useless resource and has been criticized for allegedly giving higher ratings to businesses that pay a membership fee.8 Then there are websites on the internet that air complaints without resolving them such as the “Complaints Board” that bills itself as “the most trusted and popular consumer website.”

Regulatory Agencies.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists, if I counted correctly, 115 industries in the U.S. but a U.S. government website lists only six federal regulatory agencies by product type where consumer complaints can be filed, and two of the unlisted types are two of the most harmful industries I highlighted above, the pharmaceutical and agriculture/chemical industries. Such bureaucratic nonsense is to be expected. But it really doesn’t matter, anyway. All the federal regulatory agencies were captured by Corporate America long ago. Suppose you were permanently impaired by eating a GMO product engineered by “MonSatan.” Don’t bother contacting FDA, the federal agency supposedly regulating the safety of food. FDA has given “Monsanto a pass” that amounts to “playing with genetic fire” whenever we eat.9

Boycotting

Boycotts have minimal effect. Corporations can afford them. A few years ago, corporations were listed that were boycotted by various groups for one reason or another.10 As far as I can tell the corporations on the list are still thriving, although a large percent of customers dissatisfied with a given brand switched to a different brand and are likely to tell friends about their negative experience and may even post a negative review online.11 Kudos to them!

Lobbying

Lobbying, you ask incredulously, when corporate America is the summa cum laude of lobbying for their self-interests? Well, any approach, I reason, is worth considering when the corpocracy has us hanging onto the ropes by our fingertips. Consider consumers of eggs and animal rights activists, for instance, who have been lobbying against the cruel treatment of hens by industrial farm factories. Despite a few isolated reforms, “severe abuses throughout the industry remain commonplace.”12 Let’s not dismiss this form of counterpunching altogether, however. I learned, for instance, of a success story, one in which the “largest and most powerful lobbying group for the processed food industry” has been brought “to the breaking point” by organized consumer groups.13

Suing

The scold of corporate America, Ralph Nader, has exhorted us to “sue for justice” because our “lawsuits are good for America.”14 His exhortation is most quixotic. He contends that “tort law is seriously underused,” and finishes the sentence with the reason why, namely, “primarily because it is not easy to hire attorneys to litigate against wealthy commercial firms.” Tort lawyers, an appendage of the corpocracy, and legislators, have all but guaranteed through tort “reform” legislation the futility of winning a lawsuit against corporate wrongdoing except for truly egregious and indisputable cases. Moreover, even if there were a customer-friendly tort law, proving the plaintiff’s case probably would take a Houdini lawyer because no corporation is going to go down without an interminable and nasty fight. Furthermore, wily corporations put clauses into contracts for big ticket items replacing the customer’s right to sue with arbitration agreements skewed in favor of guess who?

Conclusion

This article’s title is written as a question implying uncertainty over the usefulness of counterpunching the corpocracy. It is mostly a rhetorical question. Except in rare instances involving indisputable cases of bodily harm or wrongful death, we can be almost certain that the corpocracy will win the fight.

  1. Brumback, GB. The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, 2011.
  2. See Brumback, GB. “Inside the War Industry“, OpEdNews, April 6; Dissident Voice, April 10; Uncommon Thought Journal, April 15, 2018.
  3. Brumback, GB. America’s Oldest Professions: Waring and Spying, 2015.
  4. See Brumback, GB. “An Evil Root“, OpEdNews, March 8; Dissident Voice, March 15; The Greanville Post, March 20; Uncommon Thought Journal, March 21, 2017.
  5. Hightower, J. “How Wal-Mart Is Remaking Our World: Bullying people from your town to China”, April 26, 2002.
  6. Poundstone, W. Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value and How to Take Advantage of It, 2010.
  7. Oswald, E. “Worst Customer Service: 5 Companies People Hate Calling”, CheatSheet.com., July 14, 2017.
  8. Reference Designer. “Better Business Bureau – A Useless Institution?” Reference Designer, September 21st, 2009.
  9. Todhunter, C. “Genetic Engineering and the GMO Industry: Corporate Hijacking of Food and Agriculture”, Global Research, January 1, 2013.
  10. Ethical Consumer. “List of Consumer Boycotts”, May 2016.
  11. Llopis, G. “Consumers Are No Longer Brand Loyal”, Forbes, December 10, 2014.
  12. Greenwald, G. Consumers Are Revolting Against Animal Cruelty — So the Poultry Industry Is Lobbying for Laws to Force Stores to Sell Their Eggs”, The Intercept, March 2, 2018.
  13. Mercola, J. “Lobbying Group for Processed Food Industry Teeters on Brink of Extinction — Will Its Science Propaganda Arm Follow Suit?” Organic Consumers Association, February 27, 2018.
  14. Nader, R. Suing for Justice. Your lawsuits are good for America,” Harper’s, April 2016.

Global Weirding

Oh, what fun it truly was to experience the “bomb cyclone” in January in New England: the snowfall gave a sense of peace and calm, the winds were less strong than predicted, and the snow, while heavy, was not dense enough to take down trees and power lines in most areas. The following period of intense cold through February and March in the eastern half of the US, on the other hand, seems a harbinger of climate instability which will most likely worsen in upcoming years. As the jet stream weakens and buckles due to climate change, storm intensity and temperature fluctuations are certain to get worse.

The biggest danger for East coasters will remain the hurricane, as September 2017 registered as the most active month in recorded history for the Atlantic.

On the West coast, things are getting a bit Biblical: raging fires alternate with intense flooding and mudslides in Montecito and southern California a few months ago. The 2017 fire season set aflame over eight million acres mainly in the Western states. It’s not just a domestic issue: Portugal faced an epic firestorm in June of last year, killing close to 100, partly due to the monocultures of eucalyptus trees planted across the country. Millions face conditions of famine and drought worldwide.

Sadly, most reporting and discussion of global warming and climate change serves to abstract the issues into a diversionary attitude that the Earth is in crisis. Well, the planet, as a self-regulating super-organism, will do just fine without us, even if it takes millennia to recover from our misdeeds. It is stable and abundance-providing ecosystems that are in crisis, species that are going extinct at 1000 times the background rate, and humanity is the culprit.

Even though man-made global warming is acknowledged by most people, there is still a conflation going on in the West that the all-devouring Earth-mother is out to get us. Rather, it is Western civilization which is stalking any chance for future generations to live and prosper.

Ecosystems in Crisis

In Germany, a study was done measuring insect populations in nature reserves, and it was discovered that there was a 75% drop in total insects collected in only 25 years. Scientists estimate that 30-50% of all species may become extinct by 2050.

Tragically, regarding honeybees, scientists have discovered an important link between fungicide use and the herbicide glyphosate (Round-Up), showing a negatively synergistic effect on bee colonies and resistance to fungal infection. Bees seem to actually prefer honey set in traps with a small percentage of Roundup or fungicides added. Humans are not the only species to enjoy mind-altering drugs, even poisonous ones.

All of our problems involving the destruction of habitat are ultimately bound up in the fact that there are too many of us, conditioned to respond in violent outbursts, consuming too many resources, leading to stress, war, and unimaginable acts of cruelty. These acts are often sanctioned by the state or the corporation or religion or patriarchal vertical hierarchies.

The exponential population growth from the industrial revolution is already slowing and bound to top off at anywhere from 10-12 billion people by 2050-2100, if we manage to avoid the many catastrophes hurtling our way. Thus the growth curve will resemble an S-curve barring unforeseeable circumstances, with small waves and ripples due to the complexities of changing times, food sources, and a multitude of variables. In theory this population model could then lead to a steady decrease in total population due to a voluntary decision by humanity to slowly and carefully have fewer children due to stresses on ecosystems and natural resources. If we don’t convert to decentralized renewable energy and organic, communal-based agriculture, however, there is another model we may follow, and it’s not pretty one. Fossil fuel use is the habit that must be kicked for humanity to help recreate a sustainable world.

One of the most famous examples from studying mammalian populations is the debacle of St. Matthew Island, a warning to humanity. A tiny island located in the Bering Strait, with no carnivores, some lonely US coast guard officers decided to introduce reindeer onto the island. From a starting population of 29 in 1944, the hungry caribou ate through the entire island’s many lichen species, ballooning to 6,000 by 1963. Within two years and no other food source, the die-off was drastic, and only 42 remained in 1965. The entire population vanished by the 1980s. If our coal, gas, and oil run out without a democratic and scientific plan to make the leap to renewables, we are doomed to the same path.

The Unspoken Links

It would be simplistic to relegate these new and unprecedented levels of strangeness to the spheres of ecology and climate science. The deep wounds Western man has inflicted on fellow species and the planet are also inflicted on ourselves. From everything to decreased attention spans, the rise of xenophobia and mistrust towards minorities and immigrants, and billions living in poverty, these are by and large self-inflicted wounds. We must learn to see ourselves in the other, and see the other in ourselves

Cell phone, TV, tablet, and computer use, dubbed “screen time”, can now be understood to have a net-negative effect on human communities when consumed in vast quantities, as it drives anti-social behavior and isolation from the wider community. A recent study concluded the average screen time for US adults was around 70 hours per week. Keep in mind, that means for every person getting 40 hours of screen time there is another getting 100 hours per week.

The rising rates of cancer, autism, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, and many other chronic conditions may be partly due to the stressors and conditions of modern life, including longer lifespans, but they do not account for the majority. Our polluted world and environmental crises play a mostly invisible role in the West, as our federal agencies such as the EPA and FDA have become corrupted by pharmaceutical and corporate interests.

With no way to systemically study or properly account for the rise of ill health and mental stupefaction of the public, medical and health professionals, shackled in their dim caves staring at shadows, have designated the “genetic” component to dis-ease as the Holy Grail. There is some truth to this: undoubtedly certain forms of breast cancer are linked to specific areas on chromosomes, etc. The idea, however, that billions of dollars in research must be shunted into the reductionist model of DNA manipulation and gene therapy is a huge waste of time, resources, and brainpower. (No, I don’t have mainstream “credentials” or a PhD, but I was happy to have my suspicions about targeted gene therapy confirmed straight out of the mouth of a former top researcher at the National Cancer Institute.)

The best way I’ve heard it phrased, regarding chronic disease and our toxified world, is like this: genetics is the loaded gun, and the environment is the finger pulling the trigger. Yes, many people are at risk due to genetic inheritance for many forms of cancers, diabetes, and the list goes on, but magnifying the capacities of the double helix as the primal cause of these conditions is not only dubious, it’s intellectually dishonest and dangerous. One may be at higher risks for certain disorders, but a healthy lifestyle can often slow, negate, or reverse chronic disease.

Many of today’s chemical dangers are invisible and thus fly under the radar of doctors and scientists. Yet, there are visible changes in our bodies that have manifested with the rise of industrial agriculture after World War Two. One change being the rise in obesity worldwide. Yes, we have increased meal portion sizes and live more sedentary lifestyles, and yes, food serves as a palliative for depression and anxiety.

Yet, this does not explain the study (summarized in an Atlantic article here) which concluded that between 1988 and 2006 a person with the same diet, nutrient and exercise routines would be 10% heavier in 2006. This is a historic finding, and I can find nothing in the literature which reports a change in size of any other species in such short a time frame (18 years), other than weight gain in the abhorrent factory farming conditions of chickens, pigs, and cows.

The problem is, as the authors of the study note, there are so many factors it’s nearly impossible to determine what the culprit is. There are persistent organic pollutants, hormones in our food which act as endocrine disruptors, prescription drug overuse which leads to weight gain, and the possibility of a change in our gut bacteria due to mass antibiotic use in animal produce. In all likelihood, it is a combination of all of these factors that is driving the obesity and cancer epidemics. While many researchers are waking up to effects from increasing use of digital technology and social media, hardly anyone in the scientific community and academia have bothered to think about the huge changes to our bodies in the past few decades.

For every one human cell in our bodies, there are about 10 symbiotic bacterial cells. We are in very real sense super-organisms, and the huge influx of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics in our food is forming a negatively synergistic effect on our ability to reason, to exercise, to relax, and to resist these new forms of genetic-biologic oppression.

This comes down to the nexus of corporate agribusiness, complicit federal health “experts”, lack of funding for research and grants for responsible scientists, and a poisoned food and water supply which has hijacked and somehow rewired our metabolism, endocrine system, and immune-response pathways. Have no doubt, this is an uncontrolled experiment being run on us all, without our permission.

The rise in cancer in particular can be tied to the atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1950s, as I and many others have posited. Estimates range that anywhere from 1 million to 50 million or even higher have already died/may die in the coming century earlier than they otherwise would have, because of cancer due to nuclear radiation from these tests.

The chance of getting cancer in one’s lifetime is expected to rise to a 33% chance for women and a 50% chance for men by 2050. This is the microcosm within the macrocosm of a world system based on infinite growth on a finite planet. The ideology of capitalism is death, and there should be no mystification as to why the clear unhealthiness of the hegemonic socio-economic system has been transported into our very bodies via cancer.

A major problem is that modern medicine has become ideological and insular, with predictably deadly results. There can be no patents for plants, herbs, mushrooms, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices, thus no conglomerate, multinational, corporate money to be made.

If it becomes clear on a mass scale that traditional practices including, but not limited to, herbal medicine, meditation, yoga, holistic traditional healing, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine has immense value beyond the instrumental rationality of allopathic medicine, the gig is up for mainstream pill-pushers. Most health professionals would be unveiled as the educated fools that they are, drug pushers promoting dangerous drugs for children and the elderly, not to mention endless unnecessary tests and procedures which make billions for Big Pharma and medical technology companies.

Let me be clear here: I am not by any means trying to scapegoat every medical professional, as researchers and people who treat medical emergencies, trauma, surgeons, and doctors dealing with acute medical conditions do amazing work every day. What I’m driving at is the allopathic way of treating most chronic conditions is a farce, and our society should return to promoting preventative, holistic treatments.

Thanato-politics

Sadly, there is a legitimate reason why so much of society is organized around ignorance, fear, violence, denial of the body, and consumption: the death-drive. One does not have to subscribe to Freud’s exposition of thanatos to understand this: the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the desertification of our world, the razing of habitat shows this quite clearly.

Modern civilization does not only lead to obedience, submission, and structural violence, but also to a certain form of captivity. Humans tend to rebel against such a depraved social order, even if only symbolically, with varying amounts of success. Some do so constructively, forming social movements and protests, yet masses have fallen prey to the siren-songs of nationalism, consumerism, addiction, and war. Along with the enclosure of public land and the destruction of the commons (“There is no such thing as society”) comes a culture of fear, cruelty, and ultimately projections of the outer world as scary and downright evil.

Captivity in action: consider the recent missile alert in Hawai’i. Was this not an example of a captive audience, doomed by elites to worry and scatter over a phantom nuke over the horizon? None of us asked for this. Most of humanity simply wants to be left alone from the vagaries of government and corporate rule to live stable, happy lives. Yet the sad truth of the matter is the elites are not going to leave us alone. Their appetite is insatiable, and they will, in fact, drag down the entire biosphere, because in their current state of mind, they hate life, and want to transcend this world, either to heaven (the Christian fundamentalists) or have their consciousness uploaded or bodies cryogenically frozen for future immortality (the Kurzweillian techno-futurists).

Evil, or rather, a disdain for authentic living, is banal in many senses: one of these is the utter unimaginativeness resting in the dark hearts of our political leaders. Evil is a lack, a poverty of the soul. It is incapacity to create, an absence of imagination, spontaneous creativity, and compassion. You can sense this in our “technocratic” leadership, pushing us ever closer to the abyss of economic depression and ecological ruin.

It often conjures up a chuckle when I remind people of David Graeber’s comments (paraphrasing here) on the elitist corporate/managerial/bureaucratic mindset: “These are the most unimaginative people ever.” This is basically a gallows humor, as the elite are numbing citizens of the will, mental capacities, and physical abilities to organize and resist effectively, and are setting up the masses for collapse of our civilization.

Reclaiming Eros

If there does exist some sort of death drive (most explicitly recognized in Nazi, Italian, and Spanish fascist ideology: “¡Viva la muerte!”) that modern civilization is imposing on us, is there a countervailing force?

Countering the bleak pessimism of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization offers clues. We can extrapolate and widen their focus on libido to consider Eros as an analogy for life-force or life-energy, similar to Eastern notions of prana and chi. If modern society has, in fact, regimented our lives around a Marcuse-esque performance principle, it does so at the cost of our very souls. It was no mythological coincidence that the ancient Greeks wedded the god Eros in immortal bliss with Psyche. One cannot exist without the other.

Alienation in the workplace is so all-pervasive it often goes unnoticed or unremarked upon. Perhaps this orientation around surplus repression is most visible in leisure activities such as today’s gyms, the insular form of physical exercise for the corporate workers and bosses. Regimenting the mind in the office is not enough: bodies must be splayed across endless rows of treadmills and metal strength-enhancing machines like legions of marching ants, with the requisite phone or Ipod and headphones attached. As for the flabby and out-of-shape, it is once again a lack of discipline and failure to take individual responsibility, rather than any oppressive social structure which is the causal factor.

These are the pod people, exemplified in a New York Times piece about a former Nike exec and artist who has refused to watch or read any news since Donald Trump became elected, who even goes to far as to use noise-canceling headphones blaring white noise in coffee shops to not overhear any chatter about world affairs. Why not just play music? “Stray conversation can creep in between songs.” The same game goes for the power elite: stray news about the poor and oppressed, and any possibilities of social transformation, are simply shushed away.

Thus, when the business and political elite blurt the snide “Be reasonable!” they are at the same time using the cynical trope of “no grand ideologies” (read: Marxism) which, of course, hides behind the moral relativism and lack of conception of the good life which liberal democracy has always played at, which is ideology at its purest: “the end of history”, “there is no such thing as society”, “there is no alternative”.

These people, whose ideas simply parrot the cultural hegemonic ruling class framework, are asserting the “logic of domination”. Drawing on Arendt and Orwell, Alexander Stern has dubbed this “Bingespeak”. Following Marcuse:

Reason is to insure, through the ever more effective transformation and exploitation of nature, the fulfillment of the human potentialities. But in the process the end seems to recede before the means: the time devoted to alienated labor absorbs the time for individual needs- and defines the needs themselves. The Logos shows forth as the logic of domination. When logic then reduces the units of thought to signs and symbols, the laws of thought have finally become techniques of calculation and manipulation.1

This corrupted Logos seems to have pushed aside Eros in the modern world. Nietzsche would call it Apollonian overtaking the Dionysian. As the socially-constructed ego has developed under patriarchy, civilization, and capitalism, it has done so with the fear of the maternal-based clan, and the Earth-based tribal modes of life. Returning to Marcuse:

The Narcissistic phase of individual pre-genitality ‘recalls the maternal phase of the history of the human race. Both constitute a reality to which the ego responds with an attitude, not of defense and submission, but of integral identification with the ‘environment.’ But in the light of the paternal reality principle, the ‘maternal concept’ of reality here emerging is immediately turned into something dreadful, negative. The impulse to re-establish the lost Narcissistic-maternal unity is interpreted as a ‘threat,’ namely, the threat of ‘maternal engulfment’ by the overpowering womb. The hostile father is exonerated and reappears as savior who…protects the ego from its annihilation in the mother.2

Does this fear not play out between the lines of today’s discourse around the environment? It cannot be the patriarchal, murderous version of global capitalism which is at fault, but rather, an all-consuming mother planet bent on destroying us all (even though it’s all our own fault due to rampant fossil fuel use). In fact, the father figure of global capital now swoops in to act as a savior for everything he has destroyed.

Contrast, for example, the rush to space and immortality that the Silicon Valley techno-utopian folk seem to prefer, or even the “pragmatism” of Steward “we are as gods and have to get good at it” Brand; with the ecocentric approach of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, co-creators of Gaia theory. Corporate-funded mainstream environmentalists would have us geo-engineer the planet and proliferate dangerous 5G technology via an internet-of-things around the globe. Rather, we should convert to small scale, decentralized renewable tech, and attempt to live in harmony with the biosphere by adhering to an ecological precautionary principle.

Thus, the “primal father” version of the future which Brand and his “green capitalist” (an oxymoron) acolytes believe in necessarily involves sacrifice of the masses and more exploitation of natural resources We are told this everyday: “austerity” is needed for economic recovery; delay gratification to pay off debts; foreigners must be killed and are simply collateral damage to protect the world from terrorism, public land is off-limits or only for recreation, not sustainable agriculture and agroforestry; etc.

Reconciling Apollo and Dionysus, Logos and Eros, a less repressive society would not simply focus on what we must sacrifice, but allow space for passion, imagination, and desire. A democratic society would allow for collective decision-making regarding the scale and scope of a host of socioeconomic issues, including sustainable agriculture, genetic research, preventative medicine, animal testing, as well as chemical use in farming and industry.

With a healthy balance between Logos and Eros, we can transcend the deadly framework of instrumental reason and positivism to build a livable future. Some like to call this a “supra-rational” outlook, a transpersonal and holistic view of the world, where emotional intelligence is blended with the analytic, intuition with abstract logic.

What lessons can we draw here? There must be a concerted effort to blend work and play, especially in regards to communal farming, collective home building, and low-scale renewable energy, to create the grounds for authentic liberation from capitalism.

Sustained and coordinated efforts to build autonomous zones free from governmental and hierarchical organization are paramount: indigenous movements throughout South America and worldwide, the mass strikes in France, Christiania in København, freedom fighters in Chiapas and Rojava, and the MST in Brazil offer models of resistance.

We are going to have to adopt a type of bricolage (Levi-Strauss) culture, scavenging what has not been absorbed by global capital, to create beauty in the ruins of empire. Thus, we can begin the Herculean effort to deterritorialize (as in Deleuze and Guattari) and thus reassemble a heterogeneous, co-evolving, transformational commons; to decolonize our minds from a simulated, mechanical mode of life; to detach from the Spectacle; to unlearn and deschool ourselves (Illich) from the oppressive social systems designed to rob and eventually destroy everything we know and care for.

  1. Marcuse, Herbert. (1974) Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon Press. Originally published 1955. pp. 111-112.
  2. Ibid., p. 230.

Canadian Societal Depravity is Anchored in Medical Care

A society of socially engineered individuals who cannot identify their own anthropological dissonance is a depraved society.

Its depravity is further established by its managers who do not experience profound discomfort in the face of the state’s domestic and foreign perpetual mass crimes.

Here, I explore the role of so-called health care in maintaining Canadian societal depravity. Canada is a satellite state of the USA, which defines itself as a jurisdiction with public medical services.

The truth is Canadian “health care” has become a system in-effect designed to keep Canadians stupid and sick. This design serves the global-elite bosses, the political class, the medical profession and the Big Pharma predators, in what is a symbiotic mesh of enslavement. So Canada defines itself by one of its main systems of social control.

I’m driven to write this by a few recent events that point to a downward spiral.

First, in 2017 the Ontario government announced its new publicly funded “pharmacare” program for people 24 years old or younger, which includes virtually every patented “behavioural enhancement” drug. This was done in a total absence of scientific impact studies and in a total absence of independent studies of hierarchical needs and drug efficacy.

Then, last month, in a further cynical move to buy votes in time for the June 2018 election, the Ontario government expanded its “pharmacare” program to seniors, the most over-mediated segment of our drugged society.1

On top of it all, I had the displeasure of reading the leading Left health-care guru’s 2017 book Better Now – Six Big Ideas To Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin.2

Martin’s book is superbly researched, authoritative and beautifully written. It is an essential current resource for medical care activists and managers. But it plays right into the hands of the said mesh of enslavement by recruiting Left organizers and people of good will to believe that fixing is possible — if guided by research, brave implementations and a moral desire for a fair society.

Such fixing by gradual change from within is not possible with the hydra that we are contemplating. Yet, Martin states:

In the anatomy of a system for change, clinicians are the feet that do the walking. They can also be the feet that drag. […] Making change is always about the art of the possible. Sometimes it would be great to pass a piece of legislation requiring hospitals or doctors to do something, but it just isn’t feasible. At other times it would be better to engage physicians and inspire them to drive change locally, but sometimes they’re frankly unwilling or unable to do so.

You get the drift. It’s on and on like that.

Martin’s “six big ideas” are too many: (1) return of the patient-physician relationship, (2) too much prescribing of drugs too expensive, (3) get physicians to voluntarilly “do less”, to stop harming patients and to reduce costs, (4) do more with less, (5) eliminate poverty to improve health and reduce overall government expenditures, and (6) be smart about actuating change.

A realistic campaign would have just one idea: The medical-establishment-led so-called health care system does far more harm than good and is a system of exploitation and enslavement that must be dismantled. With one application note: The reform will have to be grassroots and culturally anchored or it will easily be hijacked.

Contrary to Martin’s thesis, death by medicine is not some manageable feature that can be remedied by better procedures and more responsible practice. Rather, it is systemic and would require accountability and publicly documented enforced penalties, which exist on paper but are in reality foreign to the profession.3

In my 2015 critical review of the scientific literature, I summarized the problem of fatal medical “errors” this way:

In the words of Dr. Barbara Starfield, and many others, it is therefore incontrovertible that establishment medicine is the third leading cause of death in industrialized countries, after deaths from heart disease and cancer, which in turn are causes that medicine can do very little about. The next and fourth leading cause of death is cerebrovascular disease and its rate is far below that from medical-induced (iatrogenic) deaths, such that “medical manslaughter” is not about to give up its rank of third leading cause.

In concrete terms, I calculated that this means that between 6% and 8% of advanced Western state citizens die from medicine rather than any other cause, including both medical-error deaths and non-error medical deaths.4

In the West, medicine causes more deaths than all wars, violent crimes, car accidents… you name it. It is routinely referred to as an epidemic in the scientific literature, yet it is not on the radar of media-driven public policy concerns. The media is too busy telling us about the supposed dangers of self-administered cannabis.

You are at more risk walking into your doctor’s office or into a community clinic than from virtually every other thing you will ever do.

You have been hoodwinked. To achieve this, it is necessary to continuously engineer and maintain a cultural veil that makes one fundamental biological truth impenetrable: almost always the body heals itself, and does a remarkably good job of it if dominance power does not interfere. The human body has been doing this for more than a million years; and this self-healing capacity has sustained the most successful species of large mammals on the planet, despite the opportunism of witch doctors and fortune tellers.

The only exceptions are the inevitability of old age and accidents that are fatal in the absence of crisis intervention. Medical crisis intervention means: Stop the bleeding and repair vital organs that will not repair themselves in time to prevent death or permanent disability, without causing death by the intervention itself. Modern heart attack interventions and repairs following massive lacerations are examples.

Virtually everything else involves simply securing an environment that optimizes healing by ensuring security, alleviating stress and removing causal factors. Admittedly, these are difficult healing goals in a dominance hierarchy of lobotomized and exploited individuals being milked for service charges and drug dependence by a “health care” system.

The said biological truth has been replaced with a constellation of lies: That industry-recommended “medication” and interventions are required and beneficial; That pain plays no useful role and should be artificially suppressed; That drugs accelerate healing without diminishing the body’s ability to heal itself; That disconnected doctors know best; That technological tests and physical measurements are substitutes for self-knowledge; That it’s better to consult rather than try to be one’s own doctor; and so on.

In 1974, Ivan Illich put it this way and things have only gotten much worst since:

Within the last decade medical professional practice has become a major threat to health. Depression, infection, disability, dysfunction, and other specific iatrogenic diseases now cause more suffering than all accidents from traffic or industry. Beyond this, medical practice sponsors sickness by the reinforcement of a morbid society which not only industrially preserves its defectives but breeds the therapist’s client in a cybernetic way. Finally, the so-called health-professions have an indirect sickening power – a structurally health-denying effect. I want to focus on this last syndrome, which I designate as medical Nemesis. By transforming pain, illness, and death from a personal challenge into a technical problem, medical practice expropriates the potential of people to deal with their human condition in an autonomous way and becomes the source of a new kind of un-health.5

“The medical establishment has become a major threat to health” was true is 1976 and that threat has only dug itself in and widened.6 However, more is scientifically known now about the mechanistic cause of ill-health of the individual animal then was known in the 1970s.4,7,8  Therefore, then and now, in addition to hiding the truth about healing, the fundamental truth about the cause of ill-health must also be hidden from the individual and buried as deeply as possible.

Even at her most progressive, Martin in-effect plays this role admirably well. She points to the large area of health research known as “social determinants of health”. The researchers in this field avoid treating the harmful nature of establishment medicine itself and, instead, focus on the societal factors that statistically correlate with ill-health.

They find that the dominant factor that correlates to ill-health and mortality is poverty, and that this correlation is significantly modulated by a co-factor that is the magnitude of the income gap between rich and poor in the society. Martin concludes, therefore, that governments should eliminate poverty to improve public health and to reduce overall government expenditures.

Martin’s economic structural solution amounts to what doctors do best: Divert resources and attention towards suppressing the symptoms rather that addressing the cause, even though she firmly believes that she is addressing a cause. Eliminating poverty by systemic change is an honourable and just cause in itself and it should not be anchored in any ancillary goal, especially not one that relies on the medical profession for its accomplishment.

Of course, extreme poverty causing fatal nutritional and environmental deficiencies causes death. That is not controversial. However, all such extreme poverty has been structurally eliminated in Canada and the killer now is the subjective stress and self-image devaluation caused by the inherent violence of society’s dominance hierarchy, including the violence from the medical enterprise itself.4,7,8  This is true to different degrees in all social classes, from professional workers to aboriginal reserve residents to urban homeless people.

Martin in no way is contributing to a solution. Rather, she is vying for partisan influence for good-will managers and enlightened professionals. However, the problem is deeper than anything addressed by establishment forces, including the progressive ones.

Both private (USA) and public (Canada) medical systems are networks of oppression and enslavement run by collaborating corporate, government and professional bodies whose members derive disproportionate and immoral benefits. Arguing which is best is akin to arguing about whether to vote Democrat or Republican, prior to the somewhat democratizing anomaly of Trump that was enabled by the technological opportunity of a temporarily free social media.

At its heart, individuals have been infantilized and reduced to following directives under paternalistic umbrellas. On the contrary, knowledge and individual responsibility must be distributed and accompanied by individual influence and power. The structures that have neutralized us in every sphere and the forces that keep us depressed are the factors that make us sick and keep us dependent.

The way forward is to fight for fundamental rights that ensure a measure of influence and power, starting with the most fundamental rights of free expression and free association.

Furthermore, those with institutional power must be accountable, rather than shielded. The professional associations, colleges and councils that shield lawyers, doctors and judges must be defeated and made to answer to their victims.

“Whistleblower protection” cannot mean tenuous protection for the few individuals who expose egregious abuses. It must mean broad effective protections for all employees who wish to disclose and complain about government and corporate employers and procedures. It must mean actual transparency by distributed impetus.

“Freedom of the press” cannot mean shielding government and corporate media from accountability and protecting journalist shills who serve interested publishers. It must mean distributed power to individuals to publish in social media without imposed constraints, with effective protection against establishment hijacking of technological venues.

Actual education is a collective and self-organized societal process, not a method to train and indoctrinate. Optimal freedom gives enlightened and healthy individuals. Excessive domination gives the opposite. This principle is increasingly painfully obvious.9

Everything else is a surreal argument about whether the organized oppression is fair or unfair.

  1. News Release: Making Prescription Drugs Free for People 65 and Over – Expanding OHIP+ Will Make Prescription Drugs Free for Nearly One in Two Ontarians, March 20, 2018, Office of the Premier.
  2. Better Now – Six Big Ideas To Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin, Penguin Random House, 2017, pp. 298.
  3. Psychiatrist Louis Morissette Should Be Barred From Practice” by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, April 5, 2018.
  4. Cancer Arises from Stress-induced Breakdown of Tissue Homeostasis – Part 1: Context of Cancer Research” by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, December 4, 2015.
  5. “Medical Nemesis” by Ivan Illich, The Lancet, vol. 303, no. 7863, May 11, 1974, pp. 918-921, at p. 918.
  6. Limits to medicine: medical nemesis—the expropriation of health by Ivan Illich, London: Marion Boyars, 1976, pp. 294.
  7. “The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health” by Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, vol. 308, no. 5722, April 29, 2005, pp. 648-652, DOI:10.1126/science.1106477.
  8. Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health” by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, October 26, 2014.
  9. Cause of USA Meltdown and Collapse of Civil Rights” by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, September 7, 2017.

Living in an Age of Desire and Anxiety

Overwhelmed by anxiety and image insecurity a friend’s 20-year-old daughter recently quit her university course and withdrew to her bedroom where she took to self-harming. Company and environments in which she felt emotionally secure became harder to find, until she stopped venturing out at all together.

‘Alice’ is one of a growing number of people, young and old, but disproportionately under 30 years of age, who feel unable to meet the expectations and challenges of contemporary life — whether real or imagined.

Precise figures of those suffering from mental health issues around the world are difficult to collect because many people, particularly in developing countries, do not seek treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally 264 million people suffer from some form of anxiety disorder: around 5% of all women and 2.6% of men (this is probably inaccurate as men are less likely to admit feeling anxious for fear of being labeled ‘weak’).

What is causing this epidemic? Indeed is it possible to talk about ‘common causes’ or is each case unique?

Whilst human beings may all be ‘different’, as anyone who has travelled knows, the human condition is universal, and throughout the world people respond in similar ways to comparable circumstances, influences and conditioning factors. In addition to a shared nature all of us are increasingly subjected to the stimulants, pressures and values that are more or less the same. Individual cultures are being eroded, replaced by a standardized approach to living. This process of Cultural Homogenization is being brought about systematically using various interconnected tools of control:

At the heart of the conformity movement is the global socio-economic system together, hand in hand, with globalization. People everywhere are victims of the values promoted by the Neo-Liberal view of life. The volume of the materialistic mantra depends on where one happens to be living, but the doctrine and conditioning forces remain largely the same. The other primary factor is education; the basic principles of Neo-Liberalism – profit; i.e., success, individual ambition over group well-being and uniformity, have permeated and polluted the classrooms of schools and colleges in countries throughout the world.

Add these pernicious factors together and it becomes evident that the ground has been laid for a particular type of global socio-psychological conditioning to take place, and in a way previously unheard of when societies were more autonomous.

Conformity and Desire

The fact that the human condition is universal, and the socio-economic structures that people are being conditioned by similar, makes it possible not only to discuss common psychological causes of anxiety, but to broadly identify the societal elements that create the circumstances in which anxiety and other mental health issues, flourish. One could go so far as to say that when adopted – remembering that the process takes place unconsciously – much of the conditioning being poured into the minds of humanity make anxiety virtually inevitable.

This is no accident: an anxious, discontented population is the (unspoken) aim of the architects and devotees of the system; contentment, independence and mental equanimity are the enemies of Neo-Liberalism, because they reduce the desire for sensation and stuff, and the whole corrupt paradigm is maintained by limitless consumerism.

Everyone is subjected to the values, methods and dogma of the machine, but the under 30s, are more exposed  and it seems at greater risk from its poisonous impact. They face colossal pressures from various sources including family, the media (including online) and education – where conformity, competition and systems of reward and punishment pervade many institutions. This trinity of control is extremely unhealthy, creating the conditions in which comparison and imitation flourish and notions of superiority, resulting in arrogance and pride, and inferiority — feeding fear and anxiety, self-doubt or in some cases self-loathing — flower.

Anxiety flows from, and is a form of, psychological fear; psychological fear is woven into the fabric of desire and is fed by insecurity, and the current socio-economic systems encourage both. Insecurity of all kinds is fed, from the insecurity of having a roof over one’s head, food to eat and in some cases, access to health care, to insecurity about whether one is good enough, the perfect daughter or son, clever enough, beautiful enough, tall enough, witty enough, etc., etc.

According to WHO statistics young women are particularly at risk of anxiety, and one of the most common types suffered relates to appearance. This flows from a wider stereotype of what a ‘successful’, desirable, complete, woman looks like. A recent report based on research conducted in 13 countries found that almost 70% of women and girls suffer from appearance anxiety as a result of reductive media images of women. Throughout Asia, for example, cosmetic advertising all too often show images not of a healthy Indian or Sri Lankan woman, but of a light skinned model. This highly inappropriate representation is driving many women in such countries to use highly damaging (physically and psychologically) skin lightening or bleaching creams in an attempt to mimic the billboard beauty; in the process their complexion is often irrevocably scarred.

In Britain a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image found that girls as young as five are worrying about their size and appearance. They state that, ‘body image dissatisfaction’ (BID) can lead to “physical, emotional and societal problems;” children suffering BID “are less likely to engage in learning and participation in school.” They lose confidence and simply give up. The report goes on to say that, “over half of bullying experienced by young people was because of appearance.”

The focus on appearance, on image, on achievement and on being a particular type of human being flows from a view that emphasizes ‘becoming’ as opposed to ‘being’. It is an approach that is tied to desire and functions in relation to psychological time. It is this movement in psychological time that allows the seed of anxiety to be planted and grow. The idea that one ‘becomes’ something – ‘something’ that corresponds to a projected and, because of fear, an embraced ideal; becomes happy, popular, married (preferably with children), becomes richer, more successful, etc., etc., gets the job, the car, the house, the woman, or man. The process of becoming is insatiable and therefore endless; an itch that forever demands to be scratched.

The projected image arises from a narrow idea of how life should be lived, what one’s aspirations and principles should be; it is an image spooned into the mind from childhood (as the APPG study found), directly and indirectly. And whilst independent thinking and creativity are warmly spoken of, the pressure to conform is intense ­– the media in all its forms and education being the principle institutions utilized in maintaining conformity. Far from stimulating creative thinking and cultivating an environment in which fundamental questions may be raised, in many countries education has become a powerful tool for conditioning the minds of young people and a feeding ground for the world of work. As Noam Chomsky has said, “Society simply reduces education to the requirement of the market. Students are trained to be compliant workers.” He goes on to state that “a deep level of indoctrination takes place in our schools.”

In addition to competition, reward and punishment, and conformity the principle coercive element in maintaining the conditioned stereotype and causing anxiety is desire. Desire lies at the very root of the chaos and is the principle factor in the problem of anxiety.

Every aspect of the present system is designed to strengthen desire; desire for pleasure, desire to live a certain lifestyle, to look a certain way, to have whatever or whoever it is that one desires. Desire to be liked, loved even, ‘love’, (so the story goes) that is achieved by conforming to the prescribed pattern and thereby becoming likeable, or worthy of love. Love itself has been replaced by desire, pleasure substituted for happiness and freedom traded in for choice.

The main reason why desire is perpetually inflamed is in order to maintain the current socio-economic model, which depends on limitless consumerism for its survival. Secondly constant desire keeps the mind in a state of unease – of discontent. This suits the beneficiaries of the machine well, for in such an agitated state a population can be more easily controlled, and crucially, made dependent upon various remedial treatments; alcohol, medication — legal and illegal — shopping excursions, holidays and the like, all of which are provided by the architects of the system.

The result of this cocktail of conditioning is an environment of insecurity, suppression and anxiety. If anxiety flows from desire and psychological time, it is equally true that freedom from anxiety comes about when there is the absence of desire and from attachment to the objects of desire. Within the current socio-economic environment this difficult task is made even harder, but as long as desire dominates the system that feeds on it will be perpetuated, anxiety will persist and discontent and conflict, within the individual and society will continue.