Mental health and the capitalist system

There are certain difficulties in bringing up a mental health discussion. Several aspects need to be taken into account and the talk may follow different paths, such as: mental health can be used as a reason to leave a job that is bad for you, and, at the same time, to justify going to parties during a respiratory virus pandemic — contrary to all recommendations made by health institutions, thus putting people around you at risk. Therefore, it is important to clarify: the discussion on mental health intended by this text is about the real mental health, and not the one used as an excuse to carry out immoral actions.

The desire to discuss this subject came to me after a sequence of unpretentious readings on social media. The first one was a simple motivational phrase from writer Robin Sharma, “Don’t repeat the same year 75 times and call it living life”. Is that even possible? In the current state of the world, and especially that of Brazil and its Third World counterparts, do the people at the base of the social pyramid have the possibility of choosing how to live their days? Is it possible to remain alive without a routine that guarantees conditions to live through the sale of your own labor? How is it possible to link happiness to that freedom and to the absence of a fixed routine if what is necessary to subsist is based exactly on the opposite?

The resources of hope are being ripped out for a long time. The neoliberal system does not see any problem in allying itself with neo-fascism to achieve its goals, which require hopelessness, fatigue, indifference and the citizen on the verge of giving up so that there does not exist the prospect of a better world for him; a world that he could build through political struggle. Tiredness is the trigger for inaction, the passage towards conformity.

Mark Fischer makes it clear: for most people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. They are presented with nothing different from what there is: it is not possible to imagine a world where things work for people, instead of people working for things. Margaret Thatcher – one of the great representatives of neoliberalism, conservatism and the extreme right – made this very clear in her political speech, with all the letters: “There is NO alternative”. According to her, socialism failed, communism is impossible and there is no society, only individuals, individuals and families.

To support this thought, a narrative of humans being naturally competitive, selfish, envious, and, ultimately, bad is created. They are only able to live in society when they are alone, therefore, what is public must be fought and everything that exists needs great walls, bars, fences, and security; a small gate, which is only accessed with money. This cycle feeds back into itself. This is the hegemonic narrative, and there is no questioning it. It is no longer possible to imagine a better society for the future.

The model of society currently spread throughout most of the world is based on a closure of possibilities and alternatives to capitalism. At the present stage, even thinking of a better capitalism is prohibited: taxing the richest is bad, putting rules on companies is bad, protecting the workers is bad. Neoliberalism closes itself as the only possible economic model and creates different excuses for its growing accumulation of crises and for ever-increasing profit rates for large corporations even in times of crisis.

The consequences are not just in the scope of work: we are increasingly preying on the environment and creating terrible sanitary conditions, increasing the chances of pandemics like the one we are experiencing, allowing the return of diseases that should have already been under control, paving the ground but not understanding why houses are flooded with storms.

It is up to the countries to be content with the space they are given. It is up to Brazil to be the great breadbasket of the world, hence incapable of producing highly complex technology and being frequently watched. Any steps that stray from this route are punished: dreaming of something different is like committing a crime.

The speculative economy, which controls politics, detaches itself more and more from the real economy: while loosening itself from materiality, markets are manipulated to the detriment of a few and, when there is some response from the population, soon their ‘wings’ are clipped — as was the case with the recent action by Reddit users on GameStop. This system, so untied from reality, has created increasingly constant crises and needs to be saved: the State buys credit portfolios, mortgages, injects liquidity, forgives debts, generates subsidized credits, and, when stability returns, it becomes the villain again.

But finally, mental health

Small moments of happiness are the only ones allowed to the majority of the population. While living for the weekends, the people must deal with the uncertainty of tomorrow and with the latent feeling of being guilty of failures, those who attribute it to the individual are only transferring it: the problem is PT, Lula, the left, social security or any other elements of the State. It doesn’t matter if the solutions taken by them do not work: calm down, if the next measure goes through, things will change. When it does happen, the situation worsens.

Political militancy must be, above all, the militancy of hope. It is necessary to show that there are, indeed, other possibilities to this failed system and to this depressive daily life. The hardest part is that those who fight in the name of that hope can also be emptied of it, as they are subject to the same conditions. The human being is the one who builds the world, but that construction takes place according to the possibilities offered to him, and not according to his own will. We must offer new possibilities, work with the imagination as a tool, show that happiness can only be fulfilling when shared.

The change in the form of society is also the change of the human being, it is the valorization of its noblest characteristics, it is the humanization of the person, it is the use of technology, machines, science, logistics and whatever else is necessary for the improvement of the quality of life for all, not for the enrichment of a few. It is inventing what has not been invented yet, it is thinking of the collective as a way to strengthen the individual. But make no mistake, it is not an easy task. The rainbow only comes after the storm.

In a country like Brazil, keeping hope alive is in itself a revolutionary act.

Paulo Freire, brazilian educator

Read the original in Portuguese:

A saúde mental e o sistema capitalista

Há certas dificuldades ao colocar em pauta uma discussão de saúde mental. Diversos aspectos precisam ser levados em conta e o direcionamento pode se dar por diferentes caminhos, por exemplo: a saúde mental pode, ao mesmo tempo, ser usada como um motivo para deixar um emprego que lhe faz mal ou para justificar idas a […]


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