Two mental health professionals explore how our capitalist economic system impacts our emotional lives. From precarious housing and employment, to unaffordable healthcare, to endless debt -- it's not just in your head!
In this episode we cover both "macro" and "micro" points of discussion about race and racism. Harriet starts off with explaining how capitalism has always required a set of social divisions to pit workers against each other to prevent them from uniting against common oppressors. Max shares the example of how the Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 - white and black servants uniting together to burn down the plantation - resulted in the plantation/ownership class inventing race and codifying it into centuries of law to slightly improve conditions for 'the white race' at the structural expense of 'the black race,' so the former would unite 'as a race' against the latter to maintain materially superior conditions. Harriet reminds us that MLK advocated for multi-racial labor solidarity through unions, and how the unprecedented uprisings of the last month as a reaction to George Floyd's murder by police may be a sign of growing multi-racial, working class solidarity. Max explains the "micro" pieces of racism with attention to stereotypes, prejudices, and microaggressions, then provides an overview of a powerpoint lecture called "Black Minds Matter" by Dr. Luke Wood. (Max failed to read the last slide which had proposed policy solutions like getting rid of school suspensions and integration of restorative justice programs, and more - see below).
Recommended reading and resources
Why Racism Is An Essential Tool For Maintaining The Capitalist Order, Richard Wolff
camft.org/blackmindsmatter (Dr. Wood's powerpoint here)
Fatal Invention, by Dorothy Roberts
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
Are We Born Racist? New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology edited, by Jason Marsh, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Jeremy Adam Smith
Cornell West and Chris Hedges Interview "The Betrayal by the Black Elite:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcJqjgB4tyQ
How McCarthyism and the Red Scare Hurt the Black Freedom Struggle, Paul Heideman
Sorry for the long gap between episodes! We respond to some fanmail and Anchor messages covering topics such as: how we developed our views based on our backgrounds; thoughts on borderline personality disorder; food/diet and mental health; Gloria Steinem and her CIA ties. Near the end, we talk about an exciting mental health activism model called the Liberation Health Model which came out of Boston and appears to be spreading (see the article below). If anyone has ideas on what kinds of rewards we should include within our upcoming Patreon page, let us know. Send any feedback you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Max and Harriet lay out their critique of #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth by first speaking on its origins - a big pharma funded nonprofit called Mental Health America, beginning in 1949 - then explain how the rise of the nonprofit industrial complex helped to pacify, depoliticize, and professionalize social movements to the detriment of the working class. Both counselors agree that while the 100-200k salaries paid out to Mental Health America nonprofit executives are not necessarily excessive, it would make more sense for them to advocate for ALL workers to make that wage in service of solving the mental health crisis. Max draws on parallel processes brought on from the neoliberal era (Reagan to now) : wealth for the 1% went up higher than ever due to lowered tax rates, deregulation, outsourcing; public sector funding was cut and so needs for public services became highest in decades; capitalists seized the decimation of public/democratic control of capital by promoting charity with strings attached as the solution; many nonprofits formed and found niche markets of 'helping,' and began competing with each other like small capitalist firms; worker productivity rose 70% due to higher expectations, weaker unions, and technological advancements but wages stagnated so managers, executives and shareholders could make more money; working class wealth transferred to the 1% and, in small portions, redistributed into nonprofits such as Mental Health America, so that radical demands for structural changes to society were replaced with "awareness raising activities." Subsequently, mental health problems have worsened over this period and we're typically told that the solution is either take medication, correct our negative thinking, or do better self care. We offer systems level suggestions on how to solve the mental health crisis, including a Green New Deal, stronger unions, adopting something similar to Italy's Marcora Law to grow worker cooperatives, and for listeners to get as engaged in fighting for these solutions as possible. Near the end, we read some fanmail and respond to it. We'll be fixing our audio quality issues soon, thanks for listening!
In the first half of this episode, Harriet lays out a thesis on four depressions in the United States. 1) Depression of wages and employment in the late 1970s caused by outsourcing and automation of mainly male jobs, causing severe economic and family systems consequences; 2) Depression of the American family resulting from the economic crisis, including a dramatic spikes in male violence, substance abuse, divorce rates (all carried on to now), and the majority of children now living with single-mothers; 3) The current economic depression felt by tens of millions of Americans from the pandemic; 4) Depression of mental health conditions for Americans due to economic instability, lack of competent government leadership, and lack of care infrastructure due to pro-business and anti-government shifts which started in the 1970s but never ended.
In the second half, Max personalizes Harriet's thesis through self-disclosures about his own childhood traumas having been caught in the middle of family violence exacerbated by the economic decisions made in boardrooms beyond his family's influence during the 1980s. Both mental health counselors emphasize how mental health problems on this scale require "treatment" outside of the therapy office, through social connections and political engagement on a mass scale.
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[Disclaimer: Harriet and Max are pro-meditation, pro-yoga, and pro- self-care! And want listeners to think about these practices within a broader sociopolitical context.]
The mental health counselor duo guide listeners through a mock meditation that makes rent strikes, labor exploitation, climate change, and all bad-vibes-in-general, completely vanish through deep breathing. Both share thoughts on whether class unconscious loving-kindness meditations and sweaty yoga classes can end imperialism and world hunger (both disclose that they like meditation and yoga, by the way). Max explores the idea of meditation teachers and therapists being helicoptered into the 1800s to calm down abolitionists and suffragists as a means to "help." Harriet clarifies what the women's liberation movement meant by 'the personal is political,' and shares how self-care can help strengthen our collective resolve to build an economy based more on care than exploitation.
Readings that inspired this episode:
Tell Me It’s Going to be OK: Self-care and social retreat under neoliberalism, Miya Tokumitsu
A History of Self-Care: From its radical roots to its yuppie-driven middle age to its election-inspired resurgence, Aisha Harris
Remembering the Origins of the Self-Care Movement, Sarah Boyle
‘Self-care’: how a radical feminist idea was stripped of politics for the mass market, André Spicer
McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, Ronald Purser
Extreme Makeover: Yoga in the British Empire from Decolonizing Yoga, Melissa Heather
Meditation background music in this episode by Dmitriy Samoylenko - Old Forms Must Die.
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Recorded on May 1, International Worker's Day, mental health counselors Harriet and Max talk about the many ways covid-19 is impacting our collective mental health with emphasis on class disparities and the US proving itself to be a failed state. Bill Gates bought a $43 million dollar mansion near the US-Mexico border while undocumented workers aren't getting stimulus checks despite being the backbone of the economy. The working class rent strikes again, but who killed militant unionism in the US for the last 50 years? Everyone's even more anxious and depressed than usual -- it's not just in your head!
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Max and Harriet introduce themselves, how they met and why they're starting the podcast with hopes of reaching other mental health practitioners, consumers of mental health services, and whoever else will listen. Harriet explains the mental health industrial complex involving four co-conspirators. Both emphasize the systemic nature of the problem so as not to blame any one or another individual involved. Max critiques the main text used to define mental disorders (DSM-5) and emphasizes that our conception of mental illness today is a product of historical, cultural, socioeconomic, and political factors.
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