Mental Health Problems Rooted In Capitalism

The American Dream has gone global. Everyone everywhere dreams of making it in this world by becoming filthy rich. It is the freedom that we associate with this idea of having money that is so alluring. This tantalizing dream is what keeps most of us grinding and hustling, even when our souls start chafing. It is to the benefit of the capitalistic model of life that we forsake everything in the name of productivity. Especially in India where “safe jobs” are revered, the market encourages people to do more for less creating a terrifying notion of “if I don’t do it they can easily find someone who will”. 

There is no perfect economic system that is completely devoid of all problems. But that doesn’t mean we cannot identify and try our best to fix the problems we’re currently enduring. We often face problems that we don’t even realize are rooted in a capitalistic mindset. A capitalistic mindset prioritizes profit, at all costs. It is this ignorance of humanity and holistic growth that causes mental turbulence. 

A lot of mental health problems stem from capitalistic attitudes, such as-

  1. Me = My Productivity: Growing up we were all subjected to the basic capitalist tenets of work work work. The educational system reinforces the productivity and hustling mantra. And they’re not completely in the wrong, we need to learn all the essentials and work hard. However, we end up using productivity as the sole barometer with which to gauge our worth. If we don’t complete our work problems anxiety creeps up. We judge our worth as individuals based on how much work we accomplished in a day, and we beat ourselves up if we are not “productive” enough, even on holidays! In the battle to balance work and life, it is always the work part that goes out of whack and starts eating us up. Saying no to overtime, or working weekends becomes difficult. All of this because we tend to over value productivity and love or hate ourselves based on how productive we have been within a specific period of time. This is why we don’t see burn out coming until it’s already there and wreaking havoc in our lives. 
  2. Money = Problem Solved: We look at money as the harbinger of happiness. We literally associate money with good fortune. Money is important. With all its uses and merits, it can’t give us everything! Happiness cannot be bought. Sensory stimulation and momentary pleasures can be bought, but they come as fast as they go. As much as we love ice-cream, eating the thirteenth bucket in a row would most certainly be considered dangerous. Through capitalism, we mistakenly come to believe that money = happiness. Unfortunately, that is not completely true. Research shows that initially, happiness goes up with remuneration, but after a point it plateaus. More money =/= More happiness. We aim for happiness, what it translates to in our heads is “making more money”. We want to be free. Free from the burdens and anxieties of life. Money does relieve us from a lot of these burdens and financial independence does provide us with a sense of security and well-being. Capitalist ideals however propose a rosy future devoid of all things bad, as long as we have money! And they push us to mindlessly make more money, they take our time, effort and expertise and replace it with money. It isn’t enough by itself to lead a happy life. Believing this, people tend to become money-minded and develop a skewed world-view where the lack of money causes intense feelings of insecurity, anxiety and stress. It creates an atmosphere where people feel stifled and suffocated, struggling to feel happy. 
  3. Environmental concerns: Increasingly, people are developing anxieties and fears about the state of the world. How global warming will irreversibly alter our lifestyles, take away our known pleasures and replace them with unknown dangers. Capitalist priorities of maximizing profits and pushing the system to its absolute limit is the primary reason for our environmental woes. We’ve known since the 70s that it is our species that is irreversibly damaging the planet. But since it didn’t really affect the money making business, it has been conveniently ignored. Everyone hopes that someone else will take care of it.  This accidental apathy has been cultivated under the watchful eyes of capitalist oversight. The planet is in danger and this is significantly impacting the mental health of people. Grave questions like “how do I bring a baby into this world at this point in human history?” are on everyone’s minds. These concerns provoke anxiety and fear amongst many, and rightly so. Our homes are important and provide us with a sense of safety and security. It is the obscurity of this home that causes valid concerns among many. We are cutting the proverbial branch that we’re sitting on, it’s natural to fear falling.
  4. Individualism over Community Welfare: Individualism is important, even necessary in some facets to live a mindful life and establish our own identities in this world. However, overcharged with the capitalist ideals, under the guise of individualism, a new wave of apathy is cropping up. “It doesn’t matter unless it directly affects me or my lifestyle” is the commonly held belief. Humanity has survived because of its communal nature, not despite it. The ability to cooperate and coordinate is what originally put us at the top of the food chain. But capitalism wins only when it’s putting people at each other’s throats, competing to make the most money for the firm. This apathy is creating a generation of lonesome people craving companionship and affection, but unable to give or find it anywhere.  Furthermore, this dog-eat-dog mantra induces increasing amounts of stress and anxiety in people to just keep up or risk “losing everything”. Living like that is exhausting and is also why burning out has also become prevalent. 

Understanding some of our issues and how they originate from capitalist ideals can help us start dealing with these issues. It is the start of the journey to being more mindful and leading more satisfactory careers. A systemic behemoth can be resolved only if all of us come together and acknowledge its existence. To collectively say, “No! No more of this!” and devise clearer and healthier protocols that serve the system, but more importantly serve our needs. To be the change we want to see in the world is to be the brave pioneer at the forefront of this epidemic that pauses, recognizes, and decides. It is us who have the power to affect a beautiful change, one that restores humanity and rewards warm compassion. We are always here to help you on your journey of self-discovery and self-growth. Capitalism is not the enemy, it is the challenge. And we can rise up to it.