Economic growth seems to be honored as some kind of secular religion in which we shall not ever doubt.
Despite the constant improvement of our living standard, there are no signs that satisfaction of wealthier societies has grown. On the contrary, developed countries and economies on the rise face the alarming increase of psychological problems, mental disorders, and social degradation. Half of humanity lives with less than 2,5 USD per day. Every year, approximately 10 million children die due to hunger. Billions don’t have access to essentials like water, sanitary facilities, education, and healthcare. In Sierra Leone, life expectancy is 47 years, and approximately one in five children survive up to the age of five (de Vogli, 2013). So, through the eyes of the poor, the eternal antidote for crises, t.i. economic growth doesn’t seem to be what they hope for.
We might think that those accumulating all material goods they desire are the winners. But that is not a case. In the matter of fact, we are all losers. While lives of billions stay brutal and short, lives of those with wealth are threatened with psychological problems – depression, obesity, mental disorders, stress, anxiety, social isolation etc. Because to live happily and fulfilled life it isn’t enough that we make it materially decent, but we also must be able to soberly separate ourselves from it. In other words, instead of letting our property to control us, we have to be the ones controlling it.
Sigmund Freud observed in Civilization and its discontents (1930), that the price of the progress of the civilization will be paid by the decrease of happiness. And it seems he was right. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000, 12% of the population were affected by neurological and mental disorders, by 2020 the percentage should increase to 15%. A larger number of people suffer from depression and similar neuropsychological disorders than of heart disease or cancer (de Vogli 2013). Of all mental illnesses, a depression – a feeling of being dead while your body continues to live, experienced the greatest increase. The younger generations have a greater potential to become depressed than the elderly. It is true that diagnostics has improved considerably in recent years, but it is also true, that the higher rates are recorded also in the parts of the world where diagnostics hasn’t improved that much. According to WHO, there is almost no doubt, that the depression is on the rise and that the share of ones suffering from it will increase from decade to decade. It is estimated that by the year of 2030 it will become the main cause of illnesses and disability through all around the world. Apart from depression, it is a worrying rise in anxiety. What is concerning, in particular, is that children are more likely to experience anxiety than older people (de Vogli 2013). Failure of the modern society to make us happy through consumerism and consumption, is, unfortunately, most evident in children.
After the World War II in all the developed countries the rates of mental disorders, depressions, criminal, nutritional disorders, alcohol and drug abuse increased. Also in western societies, the appearance of social alienation is more and more often.
“Of all the means to ensure happiness throughout the whole life, by far the most important is the acquisition of friends ” (Epicurus). Epicurus saw friendship as the most important ingredient for happiness and as a type of insurance against life’s difficulties. Even though we live in time approximately 2000 years after times of Epicurus, that didn’t change. But it seems that modern society in exchange for power, wealth and profit gives away the basic need for honest and unselfish socializing with a fellow human. Gary Backer, guru of the University of Chicago for Economy, Nobel prize winner for the economy and one of the most influential theoreticians in the field of intimate social relations, in his Theory of Marriage (1974) claims, that we shall look upon it as a commercial exchange. In his opinion, in modern society, there are only a few differences between human relations and a commercial transaction. For him, marriage represents nothing but the agreement between two rational agents with different features, to protect common exchange preferences, both looking for their own good. This theory perfectly matches the economic doctrine that currently rules in which society is an enormous market and people in it represent nothing but rational, selfish profiters in eternal seek for wealth and power. There are less and less of those socializing without expecting something material in return. All that is wrapped in a veil of hypocrisy politeness.
In order, our image of lives as some sophisticated, intelligent superhumans wouldn’t get broken more of our children get sacrificed. Let them watch television, or give them tablets, mobile phones, for we have to work 13 hours per day, and later focus on our goal to become the greatest cook in the world. In order to achieve our superhuman image of ourselves, children should have tons of extra-curricular activities: of course, they have to do some sports (twice a weak), speak at least 5 languages, they are obliged to know how to sing and play an instrument, danse, play chess, be geinouses in mathematics etc. No need for parental attention, for it will only spoil them. Their children will be raised by as many institutions as parents can afford. And for those that have no money to afford it, and that work 16 hours per day to be able to pay bills? There is no need for our attention. We bought them everything they wanted, even more. And a child is still not satisfied. A survey from Great Britain showed that 35 % of children don’t feel loved by their parents, and 44 % of them don’t feel comfortable to speak about their problems with their parents (de Vogli 2013).
So, with parents like that, how can we expect healthy children who’ll know values such as justice, trust, love, help, and respect?
- de Vogli, R. (2013) Progress Or Collapse: The Crises of Market Greed. New York. The USA. Routledge