Sandy Hook Massacre Shows the Descent of Capitalism into Barbarism

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Fred
Sandy Hook Massacre Shows the Descent of Capitalism into Barbarism
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Sandy Hook Massacre Shows the Descent of Capitalism into Barbarism. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Fred
mental illness

Ana writes: "... only 5% of all gun-related violence in America is linked to any mental illness." WHAT?????? But I suppose this must be the official view, and it certainly isn't Ana's.

It all depends of course on what you mean by "mental illness". The bourgeoisie in general regards mental illness as the property of an individual head, and attempts to supress it accordingly. It this doesn't work you'll be locked away: for society's good not yours. But what if the "illness" isn't an individual's property but is part of society. How to cure that? What if the mental illness is capitalism itself?

It is increasingly apparent, with increasing manifestations, that the bourgeoisie, moulded by its own decaying economic system, is deranged and mentally sick. They are no longer fit to rule and have become a dangerously violent threat to humanity, all of nature and the planet itself. We, the working class, can see this, so why can't they? That they just carry on with their thuggishly competitive behavior, in the unchallengeable pursuit of profit - where anything goes because it's an honest and honorable pursuit isn't it, not to be questioned?- only goes to show how blinded they are by their own mental self-deceit: one of the roots of their sickness. They have become gangsters, and Ana's article catalogues and analyzes their crimes.

But sadly, that the most vulnerable and suppressed among us in this sordid mess, at the end of their tether, can suddenly lose control, go mad and commit horrendous acts of hate, is not surprising given that we live in a society whose economic underpinnings and relations of production in decomposition are a mental illness in their own right.

The solution to all this becomes more apparent everyday. Let's do it soon.

 

jk1921
The issue of "mental illness"

The issue of "mental illness" is a throny one. What does that term even mean? How can one's mind be "ill"? Is mental illness an organic illness of the brain or is it a socially constructed "personality disorder" that prevents particular individuals from functioning according to accepted social norms?

Don't expect much clarity on any of this from the ruling class or from modern medicine for that matter. For the ruling class, massacres like Sandy Hook (or the rampage by US army seargeant Robert Bales, who is now facing military execution) are always individual pathologies. Whether or not they write them off to "pure evil embodied in indivduals" or take a more sophisticated "mental illness" view, the message is the same--its the individual who is to blame. Even when social circumstances are pointed out (like the empahsis on bullying today), this is never seen as an "excuse"--it is always suggested that the vast majority of those who are bullied, or who suffer from Asperberger's or some other "syndrome," never transgress society's rules in a criminal fashion.

For modern medicine, there is a reductionist tendency to view mental disorders as resutling from a "broken brain" once again excusing captialist society from any responsibility in producing alienation and human suffering--and resulting in windfall profits for drug compnaies marketing potentially dangerous snake oils as treatments. Of course, there is a completely contradictory tendency in modern medicine also (probably resulting from an epidemic of workers claiming disability benefits for depression--or more exotic mystery illnesses like fibromyalgia or myalgic encephalomyelitis) to "psychologize" chronic suffering as resulting from the poor coping skills, sickness behaviours, etc. of the individual patient. The treatment for this seems to be the infamous "cognitive behavioural therapy" or "chronic pain rehabilitation." One is tempted to ask, rehabilitated for what exactly? 

In any regard, these issues do demand more attention from the Marxist pespetive than they have gotten. How do we reconcile a materialist theory of the body with the reality of capitalist alienation in producing "illness" and suffering?

mhou
Has anyone seen the 2010

Has anyone seen the 2010 documentary, "Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal" ? If not I'd highly recommend it.

It dissects the history of workplace violence in the United States, specifically looking at the 'Going Postal' mass shooting phenomenon in the United States Postal Service from the 1970's to the 1990's (it's an ongoing problem in all industries, but the huge rash of shootings and workplace violence at USPS surged in the 1980's-1990's following the initial archetypal shootings in the 70's). Nihilist Communism touches on this topic of 'mass mental illness' and the pharmacological array of treatments people are subjected to with the purpose of returning us to well-adjusted, functioning citizens and good worker bees. It's definitely a touchy subject; a lot of people become very personal when discussing it, which is unfortunate given how widespread both diagnoses and application of psych-meds is in modern society (especially the West). The other thread about narcotics is similar- drug abuse and addiction are also widespread problems, and like mental illness, can completely alter the course of a persons life (in both cases either temporarily or for the bulk of their life). An article in the Washington Post in 2008 documents widespread prescription opioid addiction and what its done in the workplace, in the community, and in individual lives in a few rural mining communities in Virginia.

Both the article and the movie are penetrative on these issues of hopelessness and nihilism, specifically as they relate to the workplace and community.

jk1921
I haven't seen the film you

I haven't seen the film you reference mhou, but it sounds very interesting.

The issue of opoid addiction is very interesting. There has definetly been a turn against the use of opiods to treat chronic pain conditions recently, but there is a rift in the medical community on this, with some doctors still viewing them as useful treatments for intractable chronic pain. Some make a distinction between "opioid dependence" (the medically necessary use of opioids for genuine chronic pain conditions) vs. "opioid addiction" (a type of drug abuse).  I don't have the answer, but these debates raise very difficult questions about materialism, the social meaning of "illness" and the human condition in general that it would be wise for Marxists to pay attention to.

radicalchains
Ages ago in a thread on

Ages ago in a thread on "mental illlness" and psychiatry etc on libcom David Smail's name popped up. Apparently he is one of the very few psychologists who takes a strong social and materialist approach. You can read some of what he has written on his website http://www.davidsmail.info/introfra.htm

This is a big subject and I'm a bit clueless to be honest but there does seem to be obvious shenanigans going on.  I'm going to watch that postal film but has anyone seen Theroux's Medicated Kids documentary?   

http://youtu.be/G8k0iw1Kon4

Perhaps it is slightly sensationalist but it really quite angered me and shocked me. It appeared these kids and pets(!) were on drugs in some if not most cases because their parents were either uptight, clueless or both. Not for any actual genuine rhyme or reason (apart from being profitable).

jk1921
Chemical Imbalance

radicalchains wrote:

Perhaps it is slightly sensationalist but it really quite angered me and shocked me. It appeared these kids and pets(!) were on drugs in some if not most cases because their parents were either uptight, clueless or both. Not for any actual genuine rhyme or reason (apart from being profitable).

Or because the "medical scientists" sold them on the idea their kids and pet suffer from some kind of "checmical imbalance" in the brain. Something easy enough to accept as it absolves social and familial dynamics from any semblance of responsibility in the situation. Of course, there isn't very much in the way of evidence that these so-called "chemical imbalances" actually exist, or if they do, aren't effects instead of causes.

petey
meds

mhou wrote:

a lot of people become very personal when discussing it

i've done that, for the good reason that i speak from personal experience. while there is no question that the pharmas have an interest, for the purpose of commodification, in labeling as "treatable problems" emotional states that once were considered the natural difficulties of life, and that capital has an interest in "normalizing" people who are "unproductive" because of their emotional states; and that a horizontally constructed economy which provided undoubted material security and a sense of control over one's life would surely reduce the incidence of emotional and mental disorder; it cannot be forgotten that there really are emotional and mental coniditions which are paralyzing or soul-destroying or may led to violence against self or others, and medication can assuage these things.

jk1921
Which Meds?

petey wrote:

mhou wrote:

a lot of people become very personal when discussing it

It cannot be forgotten that there really are emotional and mental coniditions which are paralyzing or soul-destroying or may led to violence against self or others, and medication can assuage these things.

Which meds are we talking about? SSRIs--shown to potentially increase suicidal ideation first in children, then in adolescents and now in "young adults"? Anticonvulsants--also shown to potentially increase suicidal thoughts, generally slow thinking and produce a host of other delterious effects--(massive weight gain for one)? Neuroleptics--known to produce tardive dyskinesia after chronic use, but also known to produce such unbearable side effects that some schizophrenics say they prefer to hear voices rather than to endure them? Or are we talking about meds not prescribed by doctors?

I think as materialists, we have to accept that sometimes there really are organic conditions that produce "psychological" symptoms and that these can at times be treated by medical intervention. But I think its pretty clear that the vast majority of "mental illness" today is a socially produced phenomenon corrsponding to alienation, frustration and the total lack of perspective afforded to young people by a capitalist society in decomposition.

I recognize that for anyone suffering from these conditions, the pain and the suffering may be simply too great to avoid taking medications out of some kind of principle, but don't expect the psychiatrist or doctor prescribing them to educate you on all the potential risks of taking these very powerful chemicals, many of which do carry the risk of protracted or perhaps even permanent neurologic damage. I am speaking from experience myself also.

It is interesting to me though how modern medicine has so dramatically turned against chronic opioid prescrption, while maintaining a strong reliance on supposedly "good drugs" to treat chronic pain conditions like anti-depressants and anti-convulsants. I wonder if the rationale for this more economic rather than medical?

Fred
I don't get nihilist

I don't get nihilist communism. How is it possible to be a nihilist - who believes in nothing - and a communist who believes in the possibility of a better future for humanity? Wouldn't you have to be crazy to reconcile these views in one head? Oh...perhaps that explains it!

ernie
Mhou I saw the documentary

Mhou

 

I saw the documentary you mention and it is very good: well worth watching.

One news programe also interviewed some expert about the recent killings and they talked about them being a product of the increasing atmoshpere of bullying in schools and the workplace.

The question of mental illness and use of medication is very complex and I can see everyone's point on this. Medication can and does certainly save many lives when used well, but it is also true that some medication especially anti-psychotics have terrible side effects. So terrible that a lot of the use of illegal drugs by people with mental health issues  has been linked to the desire to try and control psychoses through such drugs, which do not have such destructive side effects.

As to why this guy did what he did, we can only speculate, but as the article shows it is linked to the insane nature of the rotting system. A system where there is horror at this slaughter but the leader of the "free world" can makes jokes about drone attacks, attacks that have killed 176 children! R D Lang was right when he said how can we call someone insane for having hallucinations at the same time as those in power are developing the means to destroy the world!

jk1921
R.D. Laing? There is a blast

R.D. Laing? There is a blast from the past. But it probably is time his work were given a little more attention again. He argued that schizophrenia was an attempt to navigate "impossible" social and familial situations by constructing an alternative discursive reality. Of course, nobody who has received a medical degree in the last twenty years believes that anymore, despite the fact that they still can't prove any biological cause.

Fred
Easter message
jk 1921 wrote:

The issue of "mental illness" is a thorny one. What does that term even mean? How can one's mind be "ill"? Is mental illness an organic illness of the brain or is it a socially constructed "personality disorder" that prevents particular individuals from functioning according to accepted social norms?

Is "insanity" an outmoded expression, or does it equal "mental illness" and "personality disorder"? Or is "insanity" politically incorrect these days? I don't know. But there certainly appears to be a lot of personality disorders around in Syria and N.Korea. In Syria the bourgeoisie appears to have completely "lost it"; and spends its time killing and maiming each other in amazingly cruel and idiotic faction fights, that kill and wound thousands of innocents too. So insanely destructive is all this becoming that soon there will hardly be anything left for the final victor of this competition to claim. So, is Syria an insane state?

Is N.Korea an insane state, threatening nuclear loaded missiles at all within reach? Courting your own destruction, even if it's all really just "a joke", but which could so easily be misunderstood, must surely be a sign of being at least "a dangerous basket case". Perhaps the N. Korean bourgeoisie hasn't considered that their opposite numbers in S. Korea and the USA, could be insane too!? And Russia: where opposing everything and generally stirring the stinking pots of fecal leftovers is a vital activity. How high would they score on the sanity scale? Come to think of it, the bourgeoisie world wide appears generally to be suffering an epidemic of "personality disorders" of such depth that if only they were up to it we'd be due for world war 3 anytime now. Israel and Iran could obliterate each other immediately; N. African countries could extend their murderous killing vendettas, which France and the UK would be only too happy to join in on (secretly in the case of the UK, of course); China, Pakistan and India could at last "resolve" their differences for ever; the S. American continent's rulers, might seize the opportunity to chop down all remaining forests, and replace them with more lucrative crops like the poppy (but would there be anyone left to buy the goods?) and Japan would bring about a final cataclysmic nuclear horror pollution "accident" ( nobody would know quite how) to rival the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of his unnecessary lunacy, the sort of inevitable product of the bourgeoisie's personality disorder, stemming from their uncontrollable economic failure, and ensuing mental illness, would act to put the awful event at Sandy Hook into a kind of sad perspective. So is the quickening descent of capitalism into barbarism all we have took forward to this Easter? But cheer up! Pope Francis will be praying for us all, especially the poor among us, and the destitute.