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Amerika (III)

America has very high depression rates—high rates for all the mental illnesses, and it’s also bathed psychiatric meds of all varieties. The reason can be found in the observation contained in the other articles in this series: America is a goal-orientated “engineering mindset” society where the goal is to “make it” at any cost—and this can be compared to traditional societies where the imperative is to maintain an intricate pattern.

This situation leads to mental illness for two reasons: firstly, as goal-orientated atomised people in a melting pot society with no racial or religious context, Americans are engaged in a constant drive to reach “the goal” but when they reach the goal feel dissatisfied and empty (or feel despair that they haven’t reached their goal—and since America is a democracy everybody should reach their goal, if they don’t it must be due to “discrimination”).

Secondly, the constant competition for status—which is not encoded in traditions and customs but is mobile—leads to perpetual status anxiety. Anxiety occurs when the organism is flooded with more information than it can process: Americans are flooded with multiple opportunities to garnish their status (more than they can process, because the country is so wealthy and offers so many opportunities); and it is not fully agreed whether it is high status to become trans or to convert to Russian Orthodoxy or to become a neo-Buddhist life coach. The result is constant anxiety, since you can never be sure if you’ve “made it”, even if you reach your goals and objectives—and once you do you just have to lay down more goals and objectives to keep up with other people (who are keeping up with you).

Hence a significant population segment is very anxious and very depressed—even if everything else in their life is actually quite pleasant from a purely material standpoint; and the remainder feel there is “something missing”. America had the misfortune to be formed as a democratic republic by men influenced by the Enlightenment and Puritanism just as the Industrial Revolution hit—and also to be a colonial country where nobody had a chance to form a deep connection with the land.

All these factors destroy intricate patterns: Puritans hate any adornment in a church and so throw out traditions and ornaments—they believe that your material success, goal completion in life, indicates whether or not you have been “saved”; the Enlightenment subjected all traditions and patterns to “rational” enquiry and jettisoned anything that wasn’t useful; and industrialism slaves men to machines with definite objectives and an inorganic rhythm—and is also characterised by constant goal-based innovation that breaks up established patterns, even those created by industry (Detroit).

And without connection to the land, the rhythm of nature, you are cut off from the most intricate pattern of all—and, indeed, Americans are not just cut off from agriculture but also locality; it is normal for them to move constantly, to be an automotive society on the go—with no roots, i.e. no intricate patterns. All these factors, once mixed with an atomised society, conspired to create a society that asks, “What’s the point of it?”

The counterpoint to this attitude is the Jung quote: “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” Put another way: the process is the purpose, or the journey is the destination—you have already arrived. For Americans, this approach is almost inconceivable—it must have a goal; if it doesn’t it’s useless, it almost doesn’t exist for them; and yet it is because they cannot understand this point, itself basically what religion is (mystery), that they suffer from considerable misery even amid plenty.

Americans sometimes post longing pictures of retired Italian men playing dominos while they watch a work crew repair the streets—or they complain about “neoliberalism”. What this is about is not the desire to be lazy (mostly) nor the desire to “abolish capitalism” but rather the desire to live in an intricate web just like a little Italian village that hasn’t changed for 553 years. It’s just people, particularly in America, can’t express that—they’ve never lived in it, though they yearn for it by instinct. Hence they express their dissatisfaction with humour about “lazy Meds” and complaints about “the evils of neoliberalism”.

Samuel Johnson observed that republics suck because there is no established status hierarchy and so nobody knows where they stand and everyone is in a constant competition and never satisfied. This is the problem with America to the nth degree—and developments like trans are, in part, a result from an insane status competition to establish that you’ve “made it” in a society where it’s high status to be a woman; except even then you will not be satisfied—perhaps you’ll de-trans and claim status because you’re a “victim” of the trans movement.

Britain suffers from similar pathologies because as cousins to the Americans we’ve been through the same events: Puritanism, Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution (Britain invented it, for Americans it’s practically all they’ve known).

Britain is slightly less worse off than America because there’s still a residual contact with the land, a state Church (even if it is gay), and a king (the aristocracy is really kaputt). Status is encoded with accent and cultural cues early in life—whether or not you make money or lose money, become famous or are unknown you are working class or middle class or upper class (and we’re all C of E basically—our head of state is the head of our national religion; and the only other country that does that is Iran). So you always know where you are in Britain, and the more you get into that pattern the more secure you are.

The same processes are at work here as everywhere else—industrialism, post-industrialism, neo-Puritanism (woke progressivism), “rationalism”; so everywhere is quite a bit like America now, especially since she’s the most high-status country (everyone in hoodies with baseball caps and a cannaboid vape—from Budapest to Shanghai).

It’s a problem not just because it makes people miserable but because it destroys the ability to create theories and to create art—the goal-orientated mindset doesn’t understand a thing done for its own sake (an aristocratic attitude, a religious attitude); so it doesn’t understand poetry. Americans can’t create “theories”—scientific or philosophical—they can only offer “solutions” (“software solutions”, “dry-clean solutions”—the jargon is part of our life).

It’s because to create a theory is like play—and Americans aren’t allowed to play; it’s “evil”, per the Puritans. Yet as Jung observed, channeling Nietzsche, the second maturity is to have rediscovered the seriousness of a child at play—not the superficial “can-do” attitude but the satisfaction from play for its own sake. It’s relevant not just because play makes life beautiful—not just because the Creation itself is divine play—but because many practical innovations, even the Industrial Revolution, came about from play; they came about from the English interest in hobbies and clubs, things done for their own sake (amateur = for the love of it, for its own sake). Yet such an attitude is destroyed in modernity, and particularly in America—it’s a shame, because God is just playing a game with himself; and we should be more like him.


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