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Overcoming the mental illnesses instilled by late-stage capitalism

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Late-stage capitalism, with its brutal, manipulative, and morally nihilistic methods for maintaining the current socioeconomic system, is designed to grind you down into someone who can't take on the task of fighting for a new world. It instills you with countless doubts, reasons for hating yourself, and reasons to be fearful. While under the influence of this all-pervasive psychological warfare, you come to believe that the task of bringing about a better social order is completely insurmountable.

If you're already afflicted by a mental illness that causes you to be paranoid or anxious, living under this system can make you feel vindicated in all of your darkest thoughts. There's an entire online community of people who are focused around the shared sense that they're being perpetually harassed by malicious undercover actors of the surveillance state, whether these actors take the form of their neighbors or random people they pass by on the street. Fueled by the documented realities of ubiquitous NSA spying and FBI infiltration within activist groups, those within this community have concluded that all the threats they perceive-which in many cases align more with schizophrenic delusions than actual government surveillance tactics-are undoubtedly real. The repression of the modern capitalist state, combined with the surveillance powers that social media gives this state, has encouraged some to abandon all reservations when it comes to paranoia. And you don't need to be schizophrenic to experience this kind of systemically enhanced fear-an anxiety disorder can also very easily be made far worse by the environment we have to navigate.

If you're engrossed within the addictive environment of social media, the fears that you encounter as a result of the system's nature are primarily social. You can become the target of the infamous online culture of shaming, where people jump on cyber-bullying bandwagons over someone's real or perceived past missteps. This can give you the sense that you lack worth as a person, that whatever past shortcomings you've had will define you forever. Since the perpetrators of these kinds of harassment campaigns are often afflicted by obsessive mental health problems themselves, and are under the influence of social media's incentivisation towards stirring up outrage for public attention, the system is feeding psychological ailments from all angles.

An even more common kind of late-stage capitalist mental illness than these two is the one which relates to being disenfranchised by the system, whether economically, socially, or emotionally. When you're unable to find work, or when you can't reach any sort of financial stability despite working diligently, a common impulse is to blame yourself. This parallels the ways that social media culture can foster self-hatred, if not in a mob-related context; the impoverished person is made to hate themselves through absorbing the prevailing cultural messages, which say that you've failed as a human being if you haven't fulfilled the capitalist construct of "success."

This internalized attitude of judgment is why those in the lower income brackets are statistically among the most likely to feel like the poor are to blame for their poverty; an environment of scarcity without class consciousness fosters resentment, whether towards your neighbors who you feel aren't doing their share of the work or towards yourself. This can be how one rationalizes the ever-present anxiety that living in this desperate situation instills; you can tell yourself that you deserve the constant fear of not having rent or grocery money because you lack the right work ethic.

Especially in the Covid-19 era, where social conventions like dating and having a career have become harder than ever to live up to for much of society, you can develop a sense that you've failed not just in conscientiousness but in vitality. You can gain deep insecurities, whether they're about your sexual prowess, your social adeptness, or your intelligence. The pressures to fulfill the system's idealized role as a confident, decisive, powerful individual weigh upon you, making you feel like you ought to have been able to overcome whatever perceived shortcomings you have by now.

In this environment, is it any wonder why people seek out validation on social media by trying to become adored by strangers or by cyber-bullying? Why suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts have quantifiably risen among young people in the U.S. during the last year? Why lonely young men allow their lack of sexual fulfillment to be commodified by donating massive amounts of money to pornography companies? Why reactionary politics, with its perpetual fixation on manufactured outrage, is seen by many as preferable to continuing to feel paralyzing emotions like doubt and anxiety? The same applies to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and even the stimulation of self-inflicted physical pain; these are all addictive outlets that the system's victims can use to distract from their misery.

We're in an environment where social cohesion, which is crucial to bringing about a revolution, gets continuously undermined by how easy it is for us to fall to the pathologies of our era. We're incentivized to channel our pain into self-destructive activities, instead of working towards the overthrow of this rotten system. The fragmentation of society, which has always characterized neoliberalism and consumer culture, is being furthered and often profited off of by corporations.

How do you overcome this inner pain that the system creates? How to become immune to it? From a pragmatic standpoint, total immunity to it isn't achievable. The neuroses, traumas, and exacerbated existing mental conditions that exist within us are part of an extremely complex psychological picture. And for every person, the extent to which our environment has inflicted damage is different, and therefore not able to be solved through one kind of cure. But as someone who's made it my mission to build a movement that can overthrow capitalism and imperialism, I've found that these psychological afflictions we experience can be channeled towards strengthening my resolve to bring about a better social order.

In the past, I've experienced obsessive fears of the government, the existential horror of feeling like my past shortcomings will forever define me due to social media shaming, and the belief that I've failed to live up to a great ideal. I underwent immense fear, shame, and doubt. Then I realized that if I let this pain interfere with my path, if I let the demons the system put in my head drive what I believed about myself, I wouldn't be able to take on my tasks of revolutionary education and organizing. I would be letting them win.

The U.S. national security state is calculated in its goal of exploiting the mental afflictions of late-stage capitalism towards making political radicals emotionally destroyed and paralyzed. In last year's Blue Leaks, it was revealed that intelligence operatives seek to drive people into mental breakdowns by trying to make them feel defined by their past mistakes, an eerie parallel to our toxic social media environment where no one is allowed to grow from their past shortcomings. And the state's forces of censorship and covert psychological warfare are working to make these kinds of mental traps even more prevalent, creating cyber-security projects that focus on micro-targeting individuals and policing their thoughts. With the expansions of AI, everyday surveillance, and internet prevalence that the "Great Reset" aims to carry out, these psychological weapons are going to keep becoming more close to us and more ready to be utilized.

This knowledge-that the agents of capital and empire are very deliberately trying to make us feel like we're worthless-is what's motivated me to pick myself up after previously falling for these kinds of traps. Even if you've already succumbed to the feelings of self-loathing, doubt, and horror that the system is designed to lead you towards, even after you've suffered, you can switch the internal dialogue which runs throughout this process. You can consistently tell yourself that you hold the capacity to carry on, and to contribute to the class struggle if this is what you choose to do. You can embrace an inner narrative which affirms that you can rise above what the system has done to you. By doing this, our daily trials under the system can be compartmentalized, viewed within the context of a vastly larger struggle where the decaying old order is threatening to give way to a new world.

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Rainer Shea is writing articles that counter the propaganda of the capitalist/imperialist power establishment, and that help move us towards a socialist revolution. Donate to me on Patreon here:

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