I have just read the piece, ‘Neoliberal Fascism and the Echoes of History’ by Henry Giroux on Truthdig. This is a beautifully written piece. It basically confirms to me that neoliberalism, aka ‘predatory capitalism’, is no more, no less than limbic, mammal, survivalism on a global scale.
Dress it up all you like, gloss it with fancy modern technology, but we are still running around in rabbit skins mindlessly competing and fighting each other over food and the basics of life as our ancestors did 200,000 years ago. We are just nature’s pawns despite our magnificent brain.
Running amok and unchecked, penetrating every aspect of life, this philosophy of life (Yes, it’s not just economics. It’s a way of life!) puts survival and competition at the heart of human existence. While we are mammals like all other mammals on the planet, unlike other mammals, we, humans have a unique need for personal growth, for purpose and for fulfilling our potential. Pursuing our own survival at the expense of everything else as our ancestors have always done and as all species in nature do, is short-sighted. But that’s nature’s ‘survival of the species’ agenda and this is how it works. Individuals in any species are imbued with a powerful survival instinct that overrides everything else, especially when we are afraid.
Nature doesn’t care if we are happy or fulfilled, only that we, each of us, strives to survive so that the species as a whole survives. In nature, individuals don’t matter only groups do, whole species. Individuals matter only in as much at they help their species to survive. Through doing everything we can to preserve ourselves and our immediate group, we all ‘work’ for nature. It is absolutely appalling that the worst possible version of us, the most limited aspect of our being is in charge of how we all live.
If you want to know why our collective mental health is so poor, look no further than this. We are not ordinary mammals. To really be well we need much more from life than just survival. Survival of our species is just not enough for us, humans. It doesn’t provide a recipe for a fulfilling life. When we are forced to live in jungles and fight for everything, although we know so much better and can do so much better, we just don’t do well. Carl Rogers figured this out already in the 1940s. He knew that when people are not able to fulfil their potential (he called it ‘self-actualisation’) they are not going to be psychologically well. All of psychotherapy is about this.
The real war waged in the world is between those who just want to survive, no matter what, and those of us who want to develop to our full potential and who want to see everyone do the same. We know we need to cooperate and not compete if we wish to look after the planet that sustains us, our habitat, and we know we must care for other species too, not just ourselves. We are part of an ecosystem that was never meant to include just one species.
But we are losing the war one battle at a time. Everyone can have their fear and survival buttons pressed easily. We are wired for this but we have to resist this. It’s OK to be afraid but we cannot make decisions from the mammal brain that is born afraid, lives afraid and dies afraid. We have to stop looking at other humans, members of our own species, whomever they are, as a potential enemy, as competitors on resource. We need to start looking at everyone as worthy of the conditions to become all they can become. We need to take the world back from those savages in Armani suits who run it. We need to take power away from them and look after them somewhere where they will not do any more harm. Then we need to reorganise the world to be a safe place where everyone gets what they need in order to become all they can become.
“Since the 1970s, American society has lived with the curse of neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest and most extreme stage of predatory capitalism. As part of a broader comprehensive design, neoliberalism’s overriding goal is to consolidate power in the hands of the financial elite. As a mode of rationality, it functions pedagogically in multiple cultural sites to ensure no alternatives to its mode of governance can be imagined or constructed.
Central to its philosophy is the assumption the market drives not just the economy but all of social life. It construes profit-making as the essence of democracy and consuming as the only operable form of agency. It redefines identities, desires and values through a market logic that favors self-interest, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos and unchecked individualism. Under neoliberalism, life-draining and unending competition is a central concept for defining human freedom.”
(Key words: Neoliberalism, capitalism, economics, society, mental health)