Demoralization in a consumerist society.

Consumer culture leaves us disoriented and bereft of purpose, says psychologist.

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Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#1  Postby Mike_L » May 22, 2016 5:52 pm

Brief synopsis:
What is often (mis)diagnosed as depression is more properly termed "demoralization", and it's an inevitable outcome in a society in thrall with consumer culture.

The Demoralized Mind

By John F. Schumaker

Our descent into the Age of Depression seems unstoppable. Three decades ago, the average age for the first onset of depression was 30. Today it is 14. Researchers such as Stephen Izard at Duke University point out that the rate of depression in Western industrialized societies is doubling with each successive generational cohort. At this pace, over 50 per cent of our younger generation, aged 18-29, will succumb to it by middle age. Extrapolating one generation further, we arrive at the dire conclusion that virtually everyone will fall prey to depression.

By contrast to many traditional cultures that lack depression entirely, or even a word for it, Western consumer culture is certainly depression-prone. But depression is so much a part of our vocabulary that the word itself has come to describe mental states that should be understood differently. In fact, when people with a diagnosis of depression are examined more closely, the majority do not actually fit that diagnosis. In the largest study of its kind, Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sampled over 5,600 cases and found that only 38 per cent of them met the criteria for depression.

Contributing to the confusion is the equally insidious epidemic of demoralization that also afflicts modern culture. Since it shares some symptoms with depression, demoralization tends to be mislabelled and treated as if it were depression. A major reason for the poor 28-per-cent success rate of anti-depressant drugs is that a high percentage of ‘depression’ cases are actually demoralization, a condition unresponsive to drugs.

Existential disorder

In the past, our understanding of demoralization was limited to specific extreme situations, such as debilitating physical injury, terminal illness, prisoner-of-war camps, or anti-morale military tactics. But there is also a cultural variety that can express itself more subtly and develop behind the scenes of normal everyday life under pathological cultural conditions such as we have today. This culturally generated demoralization is nearly impossible to avoid for the modern ‘consumer’.

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.
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Human culture has mutated into a sociopathic marketing machine dominated by economic priorities and psychological manipulation.
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Full essay at:
https://newint.org/columns/essays/2016/04/01/psycho-spiritual-crisis/
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Re: Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#2  Postby laklak » May 22, 2016 7:10 pm

A lot of truth to it, excellent essay. It reads like the background to a dystopian science fiction novel, except it ain't fiction. Not sure a "Supreme Cultural Council" is the answer, but from a personal perspective I'm most definitely pursuing the 10 acres in the mountains and a trawler moored in the Panhandle.
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Re: Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#3  Postby Boyle » May 22, 2016 7:33 pm

I agree with there being a problem as described in the essay, and like Laklak, I'm not sure I agree with the Cultural Council bit. I also agree with Lak's wanting a boat and some land, cause that's what I want. Or a sufficiently large boat that I could grow crops and raise animals on. That would be nice, too.
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Re: Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#4  Postby laklak » May 22, 2016 8:52 pm

Mamma Mia, atsa one'a big'a boat.

East Tennessee mountains are about 5 1/2 hours from Carrabelle, FL, which is a pretty cool little town. Got everything you need, multiple sheltered marinas, grocery store, fuel, mechanics, etc, but population of maybe a thousand. Probably less, actually. Plus cheap - can still get a slip with power for under $400 a month. Land's cheap in East Tennessee, and no state income tax. It's doable.

EDIT out there y'all got mountains closer to the coast than that, I think, but it's damn expensive. I think I'm stuck with the Redneck Riviera unless I win a lottery.
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. - Mark Twain
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! - Chicken Little
I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that - Oscar Wilde
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Re: Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#5  Postby crank » May 22, 2016 9:44 pm

There's lots of speculation on why depression is so rampant. Hanging another label, a different one, might help in figuring out the why of it, but it's still a label. Some of the more likely causes, at least to my way of thinking, are how few folk live around family, many don't know their neighbors. The automobile and cheap travel has spread us all out. There is a great video on TED about how ugly the modern suburbs and the towns they surround have become, and you can feel this if you think about it and compare to old small towns and even city neighborhoods in old cities.

I think television is somewhat to blame, where near everyone is portrayed as living so comfortably, often even richly. And where nearly everyone is better than just good looking, is glib, etc. Satisfaction and happiness is based on ones perception relative to others, and TV can supply others with a hugely overblown status to compare yourself too. You could even stretch that to porn, where for a guy, he sees a world where 7 or 8 inches is average.

The last sentence in the quote is surely a large part of it, though. We have come to value things over people, with little regard for the costs this incurs on everyone. We do live in an environment of artificial reality created by the psychological manipulation mentioned in the quote, a sick, consensual reality manufactured by the psychological talents of Madison Avenue that originated with the Creel Committee created to get us to want to hate germans and join WWI, they succeeded quite spectacularly.
“When you're born into this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show. If you're born in America you get a front row seat.”
-George Carlin, who died 2008. Ha, now we have human centipedes running the place
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Re: Demoralization in a consumerist society.

#6  Postby Boyle » May 25, 2016 10:52 pm

laklak wrote:Mamma Mia, atsa one'a big'a boat.

East Tennessee mountains are about 5 1/2 hours from Carrabelle, FL, which is a pretty cool little town. Got everything you need, multiple sheltered marinas, grocery store, fuel, mechanics, etc, but population of maybe a thousand. Probably less, actually. Plus cheap - can still get a slip with power for under $400 a month. Land's cheap in East Tennessee, and no state income tax. It's doable.

EDIT out there y'all got mountains closer to the coast than that, I think, but it's damn expensive. I think I'm stuck with the Redneck Riviera unless I win a lottery.

I've got an uncle up in the Smoky Mountains so if it came down to it I could find a place there. Even out here, though, there's cheap land if you go up into the winelands that haven't been developed. Only problem with living on the coast out here is to be near nice stores you've gotta pay crazy money, or pay a little money but live hours from anything. Depends how you can live. Ideally I'd just be able to buy Hearst Castle.
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