The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 30 Nov 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Depression: the anti-capitalist disease

We are all supposed to be happy consumers. Buying a bigger TV will make us happy. Women or men will look admiringly at our new car. Lovable families will frolic on our new sofa. Even on a micro level, capitalism tells us that to buy is to live, from purchasing cheaper food to owning a new pair of jeans. Our system wants to define us by our purchases.

This Edenic vision of a world in which a blizzard of cash and credit is spent on things, things and more things is at odds with common sense. At some point, the credit card will need to be repaid, we will see that the bigger TV has not made us happy and the cheap food has failed to fill us. But that is tomorrow and if there is one thing capitalism doesn’t need, it’s tomorrow.

Depression is at odds with this. In amongst the things it tells you about yourself that are not true now and never were, the apocalyptic visions of the future and the crushing lack of hope, there are some truths. Depression told me that the work I was doing was wrong, that the company I worked for were bastards and that I needed to make changes. It also tells you that your TV won’t make you happy.

And it’s right. Upgrading your TV so that you have an extra two inches of picture will fade into the background of your life long before the new TV smell has worn off and the recycling men have taken the box away. You won’t, unlike the adverts, fall back into your sofa and watch the latest action film on that TV for years to come. Or do any of the other things they say you will.

Life as it is lived is horribly at variance with the adverts and depression knows this, as well. It knows that you won’t sink into that sofa, because you have to go to work. It knows that the credit card bill has to be repaid and that, in those jeans, you look nothing like the model, because as it scourges and lacerates you, it also scourges and lacerates the economic system that we suffer to live under.

Getting ill is expensive. It takes your job and then your skills and then it takes your money. Defining yourself by purchases suddenly doesn’t work because you can’t make any, other than the essentials, and if that is how you make sense of yourself, you need an alternative, quick. Without one, you will be valueless and without a value, you will die.

I know these things because depression cost me a job in which I was paid £150 a day for working for people who knew the full meaning of hell and made sure they taught it to their employees. The effect of this was seismic. I had to reassess a job that I’d done and what the choices I’d made said about me and how I lived my life. And about the people in it.

That process is still working itself out. I’m still struggling to find a meaningful way to make a living and a way to live my life that doesn’t hurt. For all that, I have the hard-won knowledge that the values I was living my life by were wrong and that a TV won’t make me happy. Quite what I do with this, I have no idea, but if the first step to admitting a problem is seeing it as if for the first time, then there we are. Capitalism, as it is manifested in the UK in the early twenty first century is wrong and it makes us ill. We need a better way.

 

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