Voice from the Back
From an American learned journal Mental Health Journal of the Berkshires (Spring 2004) comes an interesting review of James Gillespie’s book Preventing Violence (published by Thames and Hudson). Dr Gilligan is a trained psychoanalyst who has worked in the Massachusetts prison mental health system interviewing violent inmates, for 25 years. “Unemployment breeds both poverty and shame . . . and as Gilligan reports, for every one percent increase in unemployment, there is a 6 percent increase in violence. Statistics show the US has the greatest gap between rich and poor of any of the developed countries: the richest 225 families have $1 trillion (that is 1,000 billion dollars!), equal to the total wealth of 47 percent of the world.”
“Personal debt is about to break through the £1 trillion ceiling in the UK for the first time, realising the worst fears of consumer bodies. The Bank of England said yesterday that UK mortgage lending increased by a record £9.8bn in April, leading City economists to predict that total outstanding debt would breach the thousand billion pound threshold” Herald (3 June). Behind these cold facts and figures lie the reality of many men and women of the working class living with anxiety and fear. Wasn’t capitalism supposed to lead to happiness and prosperity? So why in such a wonderful world do so many men and women of the working class find themselves in a desperate debt situation?
Capitalism is a very competitive society. It sets capitalist against capitalist, hence war. It sets worker against capitalist, hence strikes and lock-outs. It sets worker against worker, hence nationalism and racialism. There is another aspect of competition that effects young workers. Trying to convince potential employers that they are better material for exploitation than their rivals has led to some workers doping themselves up. “The number of teenagers relying on drugs such as Prozac to see them through GSCEs and A-levels has soared with prescriptions reaching 140,000 in less than a decade . . . The statistics – from the government’s watchdog, the MHRA – also highlight the pressure being put on students by the exam system. They say how that in 1995, 46,000 anti-depressants prescriptions were given to teenagers between 16 and 18 in full-time education. By last year this had risen to 140,000, more than treble the amount” Observer (6 June).
Death of a nobody
That capitalism is a cruel and uncaring society was well illustrated by a news item in the Times (11 June) reporting the death of a Japanese worker in his Tokyo flat. ”Only one thing distinguished it from hundreds of other lonely deaths that occur in Japan every year – the dead man’s body was two decades old. The newspaper by his side was dated February 20, 1984. In a busy residential district of the world’s biggest city, he had lain undisturbed and unidentified for 20 years.”
Nice for some
“Millionaires around the world saw their ranks swell to 7.7 million last year as economic growth quickened and stock markets recovered. The world’s wealthiest people were worth an estimated £15.8 trillion in 2003, with their riches forecast to grow, according to an investment bank survey known as the World Wealth Report” Herald (16 June)