by Susan Rosenthal
Susan Rosenthal’s website
November 11, 2007
Want to know a secret? A healthy human mind is incompatible with capitalism. Let me explain.
Science tells us that the mind cannot be reduced to an activity of the brain. The mind is created and sustained in a complex dance between human beings. Cut off from social relationships, the mind loses its ability to function. Evidence for this comes from socially-deprived infants and from adults kept in isolation or subjected to sensory deprivation.
For more than 95 percent of human history, people lived in small, cooperative societies. Over the past few thousand years, our species underwent an amazing cultural evolution. Our brains did not change biologically, but how we used them did. As people pooled their experiences and accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next, their minds developed. And as their minds developed, they created new social arrangements to meet their changing needs.
Capitalism blocks this creative process. While knowledge continues to accumulate, it is not shared. And while some people are moved forward, many more are hurtled backward. The central problem for capitalism is how to create profit, not how to develop human potential. To maximize profit, capitalism must disrupt human relationships and stifle human potential.
The more we are divided and deprived, the more wealth can be generated for the people at the top. Any form of collectivism is a threat to the system, from union organizing to demands for government-funded services.
Instead of using our minds to solve our common problems, we get to decide only which section of the elite will dominate us. Instead of working together to raise our living standards, we labor to enrich the elite. Instead of protecting ourselves and each other, we fight their barbaric but profitable wars.
The human mind crumbles under such conditions. Epidemics of anger, anxiety, inter-personal conflict and deep discouragement create an ocean of human misery. Adding insult to injury, these signs of social sickness are mislabeled as “personal problems” and “mental illness.”
To preserve itself, capitalism must block the infinite potential of the human mind. And I do mean infinite. There is no limit to the number of ways that we could organize our lives and society.
The average human brain contains approximately 100 billion nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron has about 10,000 connections with its neighbors. When you consider that each of these connections can be turned on or off, the number of possible firing patterns is greater than the number of known particles in the universe. When you add the different ways that each human mind could connect with the other six billion minds on the planet…well, I think you get the picture.
Capitalism has stuck humanity in a giant historical rut and bamboozled us into thinking that this is the best we can do, that we have reached the end of our history. Not So! We have barely begun to explore our potential. However, if capitalism has its way, we never will.
We can’t let this happen. We have created capitalism, and we can change our minds and replace it with something much better.
Susan Rosenthal is a practicing physician and the author of Market Madness and Mental Illness (1998) and POWER and Powerlessness (2006). She is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981. She can be reached through her web site.