Consumerism, The Pharmaceutical Industry & “Mood Disorders”
Recently, I read an unfortunate article on the CBC News that described droves of Canadians who are utterly dependent on anti-anxiety medications to manage their emotions on any given day. Some of these folks have been reliant on Valium and the like for nearly the whole of their adult lives.
My first reaction was NO GUFF.
Most of us wish there was a little magic pill that could take away all of our suffering and our worries . . . Turns out, there is. Not just one, but many. Valium, Ativan, Xanax. Not only are these pills prescribed and used legally by the kajillions, they are abused by legions of adolescents and young adults illicitly.
Again, my reaction is NO GUFF.
For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, “no guff” is like a combo of “No wonder,” and “Duh,” and “No shit, Sherlock.”
I find it astonishing that anyone would be surprised or dismayed that droves of us are addicted to mood-altering substances. Of course we are. Anyone who checks of three or more of 10 symptoms of anxiety or depression can easily obtain a drug that will seriously affect their brain chemistry and hormones.
We are not asked any questions like . . .
“How much exercise do you get?”
“How many hours do you spend online, wishing you were your avatar or spending money you don’t have on products you don’t need?”
“How recently have you gone forest bathing?”
“When was the last time you danced till you were sweating? Without alcohol?”
“How many alcoholic drinks does is take you to successfully numb out from your day of standing or sitting still under flourescent lights?”
“How connected are you to your community?”
“How pleasing is your sex life?”
“How often do you do something that doesn’t involve money or technology?”
No. The questions on these checklists involve only symptoms like crying often, experiencing insomnia, worrying about certain things more than three times a day . . . If you have enough symptoms, congratulations – you receive a professional medical diagnosis of Anxiety and are eligible for a little pack of pills that will successfully remove you from your troublesome feelings by dulling your brain.
If I were a doctor, this is what I’d say . . .
Of course you’re freakin’ anxious! Of course. Let’s see – you’ve got two-point-five small children whom you see for only five hours out of every 24, two of which are spent preparing and eating food, the other two of which are spent driving them to or from their daycare, where they cry when you drop them off because they don’t want to be “cared” for by humans who are completely unrelated to them in every way except by financial incentive . . .
You do something, likely indoors, for the bulk of your day in order to make money, and probably it’s something that makes more money for your boss than it does for you . . .
All day long, you are bombarded on your phone, on the radio, on billboards, by commercial advertisements telling you that you’re not good enough and never will be unless you get your carpets cleaned by this company and your bush waxed by that company and your facial wrinkles botoxed by this company, oh and go buy that ring from that company so your woman will be happy, and go out for dinner to this restaurant where your food will be made and served by complete strangers, after you go see a two-hour movie that dislocates you from reality in every single way possible while spiking your cortisol levels with loud noise and killing, and your blood sugar levels with soda and candy . . .
You read colourful magazines and books telling you how to satisfy your partner sexually, be an attentive parent, show up everywhere on time, set goals and meet them, be your best self and don’t let anyone or anything stop you . . .
Above all, you remember every day to do your self-care routines, which are tracked by this expensive device you purchased that tells you when to breathe, how many steps you’ve taken and whether your heart rate is in the target range.
NO GUFF, YOU’RE ANXIOUS.
But no doctor will ever say this.
They are too much of an integral part of this vast human social experiment of industrialized urban insanity, whereby people no longer are able or free to truly own themselves or their experiences in any way. Even emotions are medicalised and commodified. Everything is bought and sold – most especially and most importantly, happiness.
Happiness is the one and only commodity that isn’t even a commodity – it’s impossible to get from anyone else, any product or experience. Yet it’s the most desirable thing in the world.
Happiness is the only feeling that actually increases exponentially when we step off the train of the social experiment, disconnect from all advertising and outside influence, stop shopping, stop looking, stop searching, stop smoking, stop drinking, stop craving, stop relying on externalities and just sit the heck down.
Drugs are not the answer, folks. The answer is to rest and connect, with ourselves and with one another.
This is the real issue – connection.
People are sad, depressed, anxious and overworked because we are disconnected from what is true and real: Nature, our bodies, our human relationships, and our passions and desires. This massive human social experiment is failing us in every way. It’s providing entertainment and drugs to quell our anxiety. It’s applying the label of “mood disorder” to what is, in fact, a very natural response to the near-total degradation of our relationship to the Earth and to other people.
No, drugs aren’t the answer. They’re not the problem, either. The real problem is that somewhere along the line, we became guinea pigs and yet we’re trained to think of ourselves as free.
We’re not free. We won’t be free until we stop listening to the messages telling us the economy’s growth is more important than quality time with our own children. We won’t be free until we dismantle the advertisements that promise to halt our ageing and alleviate our suffering with surgery and pills. We won’t be free until we stop filling out ridiculous checklists, until we look at ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility for our feelings of pain and dislocation.
Drugs are not the answer to suffering.
There is no answer to that. It’s an ongoing and necessary fact of living which is assuaged only by compassionate connection and quality time between human beings and in Nature – something the pharmaceutical industry does NOT want anyone to figure out. Nor the entertainment industry. Add to that, the cosmetics industry, the cosmetic surgery industry, the fitness and wellness industries, and now the marijuana industry.
As long as we keep on believing that happiness lies outside our own capabilities, we’ll keep buying and ingesting false substitutes. We’ll keep on getting addicted to the promise of substances that relax our minds and numb us from our worries, until we’re prepared to be free and to experience the suffering we endure directly as a result of this reckless experiment of industrial urbanization.
Isn’t it funny that the concept of economic growth is built largely on human anxiety and the need for security? We were supposed to believe, instead, that steady economic growth begets stability for everyone.
But if everyone eschewed any attempt to buy happiness – if people stopped accepting the ubiquitous presence of advertising – if we all developed security and happiness by connecting more with each other . . . Then, due to our lack of neediness, the economy would slow down. We’d use fewer resources, pollute less, and feel calmer. And of course, Big Pharma would make way less money because there would be fewer “mood disorders” from which to profit.