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Mr. AmeriCop, inmate/warden
The daily grind in a society mentally ill

by Jan Lundberg

What does it mean when a funeral is not well attended by family members?  When only one member of a branch of the family attends, and that person ironically may be in the worst position to travel?  Is it the same syndrome when another family member is unaided at a time of need, or suffers neglect after a lifetime of giving to her family above all else?  A "free society" with those common phenomena and worse may not be so free.

Besides the possibility of a feud, what is indicated in the U.S. family by a poorly attended funeral or a neglected elder is that members are caught up with the daily grind a.k.a. the rat race.  Money and the self have become all important.  People's many problems most often have to do with economics or personal health.  Yet, doing something about whatever causes a problem is what is called for.  

People by now have a sense that doing it implies something deeper than working harder or waiting for a chance to vote against George Bush.  The deeper options are so rarely revealed in the corporate mass media.  The mass media chant (along with the other main institutions of U.S. society) "Stay with the daily grind!"  However, that is not the only option.

When we consider the fact that the global economic system is destroying the planet's biosphere and is far from equitable, we can take the view that what challenges us is social mental illness unprecedented on a mass scale.  The word "sane" derives from the French word for health.  Insane = unhealthy.  Apply the concept to society as well as the individual.

With this scientific approach we can further dispense with the blaming of individuals and personalities, who unfortunately may have gotten poisoned by the culture and cannot easily act with compassion or ethics toward loved ones.  The culture supports the vicious, unforgiving economy and supplants humane values with narrow, materialistic aims for the sake of individualistic “security.”

The daily grind is sold as a lifestyle of responsibility and self-fulfillment.  More and more so, that's a sales job, a sham.  Not being able to see this can be a result of victimization, propaganda, or psychological denial.  Compassion and cooperation are abandoned in favor of pure personal interest.  Refusing to see this, hiding one's head in the sand, is a form of insanity.  Others are affected unfairly by one's denial of the insanity of the daily grind.

There are severe social and ecological implications for embracing the daily grind.  It means giving up on freedom and human potential for real community.  It leads to acquiescing to capitalism and government and all the associated downsides.  A tragic and wasted life is in store for the person who overdoes what he or she “should.”  Work is a variation of slavery, when one is reluctantly spending the bulk of a lifetime doing something tedious, lacking in meaning, and when it is for the primary benefit of another person (boss, owner) or entity.  

Cutting down the last of the ancient trees, for example, is justified by worker and capitalist alike as essential for making the holy dollar.  This arrangement between classes is called a community, but perhaps it's better called a settled gang of accomplices.  The worker ultimately loses, as does even the capitalist.

Whether one is a slave or is luckier, a human being still has responsibility.  So when one joins the daily grind, going along with the herd for “survival” is an excuse.  It is more than an error or tragedy to serve the system; it has gotten to the point of being morally criminal, although there is an “insanity defense.”  The trend of busyness and self-absorption means prioritizing money-making and home-making over paying respect to a deceased relative, for example.  

For this behavior to be countenanced reveals as well as anything the oft noted “unraveling of the social fabric.”  The social fabric for all humanity was, up until several thousand years ago, biologically evolved as benefiting all.  Today's fabric is, more and more so, a tired, dirty, old blood-soaked rag, to paraphrase songwriter David Rovics.

The most common excuse for not changing plans, so as to suddenly travel a hundred miles to a funeral or wedding, is that “plans have already been made”!  The U.S. takes the cake in increasingly sloughing off family obligations and traditions, in the name of “the job” or “a crisis at home” (e.g., junior has a hockey tournament).  It sounds cold to say it, but: To have children in a sick society is to automatically add to the number of victims and perpetrators who participate in the mass mental illness.  To adopt a child is to take on a patient who may be already infected by society's illness.  Will the child, born of the parents or not, someday take care of aging Mom and Dad, or pack them off to die in an old folks home?

Personal responsibility
We have an obligation besides honoring our dead, caring for our children and elders, respecting our ancestors. and watching our young go off to "a good life."  And that is: to reject the System known as the daily grind, to the extent possible.  This means rejecting an empty life of sitting behind our little walls of private property and driving fancy cars, as if we “have it made” and have no further duty to our families or to society.  The folks posing as protecting the social fabric, rather, the status quo, are almost always practicing selfish individualism and then rallying around it.  Such community boosterism and patriotism is easy when economic growth (at the expense of other people and nature) attracts more participants.  It is economic oppression euphemistically called job generation and profit "earnings."   Exercising real social responsibility is a threat to the oligarchs' kleptocracy.

Two Million Prisoners In America Today!To not participate in the daily grind may mean to suffer from a lack of funds, or dwell in miserable poverty, and being homeless (or, rather, houseless).  Get with the program or be worthless, we are told.   But for some, being poor and houseless does not necessarily equate to a miserable, shortened life.  Living outside the system is honorable, partly because less consuming—polluting—is implied.  Choosing the simpler and spiritual life for individual and social sanity is considered insane by those who fail to see the insanity of the daily grind.  Yet, as previous Culture Change columns showed, low-consumptive living can be well supported and most fulfilling.

The refusal of the majority of citizens to be free by saying No to tyranny and dreadful conformity prevents the rest of us from having much alternative to the daily grind and its inherent oppression and exploitation.  Thanks for nothing, Sheep!  This is extra clear when gas guzzling in the U.S. is not reduced whatsoever, despite the deadly aggression needlessly waged against the people of Iraq.  This drives other people insane, so expect more 9-11s.

Society as straitjacket of and for mentally ill
When we consider the many manifestations of mental illness (broadly defined), we can see society as a structure for control, as in a straitjacket.

Instead of assuming society is a service to the greater good, to care for us and defend us from the psychopaths and sociopaths, we can consider society as the largest manifestation of mental illness. This explains how the today's world is out of control and destroying life on the planet.

Few citizens see their society as really mentally ill, and of those who do, there is disagreement as to whether the illness is curable.  But whenever something is a creation out of illness, such as a tumor, chances are it must be removed or killed for there to be health or rebirth.  Sometimes the host has to be remade, to avoid producing another tumor.  Many attempts have been made to apply cures for society's many ills and its general state of illness, but they have failed, and the monster continues to grow in a deranged, cancer-like manner.  When a fruit tree is bad, and the disease cannot be removed, it may die of its own accord, but if it is about to ruin the orchard it must be cut and burned.  In the case of modern society, its mutant fruits have been monsters of great harm, such as national war machines of aggression and alliances such as the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. government is the king of the insane asylum.  The U.S. is not an outside entity, but is of the nut house.  In this case, the bully of the hospital for the criminally insane is both a patient and the administrator.

If this sounds too dismal, it's because you don't want to believe it.

There are various solutions.  It is worthwhile to oppose oppression as not only wrong but as the ravings of a lunatic called modern society.  Some solace lies in knowing society is due to collapse in short order.  One can imagine worse arrangements than today's, which is why some people want more police-state control over our lives (over the poor, especially).  But with a large population-crash that society faces because of its insane addiction to petroleum—rapidly dwindling in supply—there is hope for a less crowded rat-cage for us to eventually live in.  Then the insane asylum may be dismantled forever, and sane ways of living will be taken up by necessity.  Necessity is the mother of invention, or of rediscovery.

In 1966 the Mothers of Invention released a song, Help I'm a Rock, which contained the line “Help I'm a cop.”  Nothing personal against policemen, the line reflected the general state of insanity and overpopulation in our collective rat-cage that calls for cops to exist.  Thirty-seven years ago the Mothers had to add “of Invention” to their name because the record company feared or acknowledged society's insanity.  Another tune on their 1966 album Freak Out, contained the lines, 
“Mr. America walk on by 
Your supermarket dream 
Mr. America walk on by 
Your liquor store supreme” 

Nothing has changed except the disease has grown and accelerated, turning much more of the world into a mentally and physically ill environment under the oppressive influence of Mr. America.  Mr. America the Cop is insane, giving good individual cops a bad name.  U.S. SuperCop is destroying the planet, with a good deal of help from the rest of the inmates of the society of the mentally ill (e.g., Tony Blair, and once Saddam Hussein) spreading itself violently around the world.  The daily grind is his real objective, to get richer off us and keep us down.  

Do you really need that?  Do you really need the various electrical appliances you worked for?  Can they be shared, if needed at all?


Art (U.S. flag straightjacket) is by Tim Barton of, who designed it for the column above on bluegreenearth's website.

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The Pledge for Climate Protection has 10 steps for sane, sustainable living, and can be seen at

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