When I was a young adult it dawned on me there is such a thing as collective insanity. I was reading about Japan near the end of World War II. The Japanese collectively refused to believe they could lose the war, and continued behaviour that was very destructive for themselves and others (they are not unique in this respect, they were just the example I happened to read about). It took the atomic bombs to shock them out of their state of psychological denial.
One view of insanity is the continuation of behaviour that is detrimental to one’s self, despite ample evidence of harm being done. How sane are we now, those of us who live in the rich countries?
• Our children are getting fat, even obese, and are unhealthy because of it. The reasons may be a complex of too much food, poor food, food additives, chemicals in the environment, antibiotics upsetting the balance of microbes either in ourselves or in our food animals, too little outdoor activity, excessive parental fear of the outdoors from distorted TV portrayals of the world, and probably other factors. Every other species on the planet does everything it can to get its offspring off to a good start in life.
• Industrial farming is degrading and destroying soil world-wide. Human existence still depends totally on a healthy environment, and most directly on the soil that grows our food. It is obvious we cannot continue to damage the soil as human population continues to increase and food requirements are already stressing available productive land. Alternative farming methods are available that use enhancements of various natural and traditional methods, and they are yielding about as much food as industrial farming. They also build soil and soil fertility, don’t require expensive fertilisers and pesticides (important for poor people), and store more water and carbon in the soil, so helping to counter drought and global warming.
• Our food makes us fat and unhealthy. Excessive weight, obesity, diabetes and heart disease, are diseases of affluence in which intake of excessive food or poor-quality food is likely to play a role.
• Our economies are managed so as to exponentially increase our use of natural resources and our output of waste, much of it toxic. It is physically impossible to continue this behaviour on a finite world. The world is already being damaged and degraded at a rapid rate, so the time to stop is now. Yet every year economies are managed to increase the GDP by a percentage, otherwise unemployment will rise. As GDP goes up, so do resource use and waste, exponentially. Some countries like Germany already know how to buffer employment against slowing GDP growth. Many people and firms are showing they can use resources more efficiently and/or recycle them, so we are rapidly learning how to greatly reduce our resource use while maintaining our quality of life.
• We allow some people to use sophisticated psychological methods to induce us to buy things we don’t need, many of which are harmful to us, and the sum total is harmful to the planet. They even use these methods on children. They do this for their own profit.
• We allow some people to own the means of supplying the currency that we all need to conduct our lives and that the economy needs to function. For centuries these people have manipulated the supply of money for their own enrichment, thus amassing some of the biggest of all fortunes. The supply of currency could be treated as an special service with special rules to limit abuse, as we give courts a special place in our society with special protections.
• We allow some people to own the means by which we communicate with each other in large societies. It is essential for the functioning of a society that we be able to talk with each other. It is essential for the functioning of our politics, by which we organise ourselves, that we be able to talk with each other and those who represent us. Why ever would be allow a few individuals to own the means for these functions, which they manipulate for their own interest and enrichment? We could collectively and directly own the means by which we communicate with each other.
These are far from the only signs I might list, and you might well think of your own.
At what point do we awake from our delusions and face the mass of evidence that our behaviour is seriously harming us? Worse, it is threatening the continuation of our industrial societies and the futures of our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
When will we start changing our own behaviour, and start demanding changes in the way our society is run? When will we stop voting for people who keep doing things the same old way?