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I've entitled this "Social Pathology."
I decided to use the metaphor of disease
to describe the current state of social affairs
and the trends it foreshadows and perpetuates.
I was first introduced to this idea
of relating social state to a cellular state
by a man named John McMurtry
who wrote a book called "The Cancer Stage of Capitalism."
The rationale is pretty simple. Just as human beings
have to deal with pathogens invading and harming their life system
so too does the social system we all share.
Of course, these societal diseases are not generated
by ways of physical germs or the like.
Rather, they come in the form
of presupposed principles of preference
cultural "memes" that transfer from one to another based on values
and hence, belief systems.
These "memes" or patterns of perspective and behavior
are what eventually result from or comprise
the cultural manifestations around us
such as the ideas of democracy
Republicans, Democrats, the American Dream, etc.
In Chapter One we will examine the symptoms
and hence diagnose the current stage of disease we are in.
Then in Chapter Two we will establish a prognosis
meaning what can we expect from the future
as the current pathogenic patterns continue.
And finally, in Chapter Three, we will discuss treatment
for our current state of sickness
and this is where the concept of a Resource-Based Economy
will be initially examined.
However, as an introduction to this
I am first going to describe what I call the "invisible prison".
This is the closed, intellectual feedback system
that consistently slows or even stops
new socially altering concepts from coming to fruition.
[It] stops progress. Let me explain.
The social order, as we know it, is created out of ideas
either directly or as a systemic consequence.
In other words, somebody somewhere did something
which generated a group interest, which then led to the implementation
of a specific social component, either in a physical form
philosophical form, or both.
Once a given set of ideas are entrusted
by a large enough group of people, it becomes an institution.
And once that institution is made dominant in some way
while existing for a certain period of time
that institution can then be considered an establishment.
Institutional establishments are simply social traditions
given the illusion of permanence.
In turn, the more established they become
the more cultural influence they tend to have on us
including our values, and hence, our identities and perspectives.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the established institutions
governing a person's environment is no less than a conditioning platform
to program that person with a specific set of values
required to maintain the establishment.
Hence, we're going to call these "established value programs".
I have found the analogy of computer programming
to be a great way to frame this point.
While there is always a debate about genetics
and environmental influence which
Roxanne Meadows will go into at length later in the program
it's very easy to understand in the context of values
meaning what you think is important and not important
that information influences or conditioning
is coming from the world around you.
Make no mistake, every intellectual concept
which each one of us finds merit with
is the result of a cultural information influence
one way or another.
The environment is a self-perpetuating programming process
and just like designing a software program for your computer
each human being is, advertently and inadvertently
programmed into their world view.
To continue the analogy, the human brain is a piece of hardware
and the environment around you constitutes the programming team
which creates the values and perspective.
Every word you know has been taught to you one way or another.
Every concept and belief you have
is a result of this same influence.
Jacque Fresco once asked me
"How much of you is you?"
The answer is kind of a paradox
for either nothing is me, or everything is me
when it comes to the information I understand and act upon.
Information is a serial process, meaning the only way
that a human being can come up with any idea
is through taking in dependent information
that allows that idea to be realized.
We appear to be culturally programmed from the moment
we come into this world to the moment we die
and I'm not going to drill in it much more than that.
However, consequently, the cultural attributes
we maintain as important values
are most often the ones that are reinforced by the external culture.
I'm going to say that again.
The most dominant cultural attributes maintained
are the ones that are reinforced by your environment.
If you are born into a society which rewards competition over collaboration
then you most likely will adopt those values in order to survive.
The point is, we are essentially bio-chemical machines.
While the integrity of our machine-processing power
and memory is contingent, in part, on genetics
the source of our actions come fundamentally
from the ideas and experiences installed
on our mental hardware by the world around us.
However, our biological computer, the human mind
has an evolutionarily-installed operating system
with some seemingly difficult tendencies built in
which tends to limit our objectivity
and, hence, our rational thought process.
This comes in the form of emotional inclinations.
You know, I'm sure many people here have heard the phrase "Be objective!"
No human being can be fully objective.
That's one of the important things I learned, actually, from Mr. Fresco.
Therefore, there's a very common propensity for us humans
to find something that works for our needs
given the social structure, and then to hold on to it for dear life
regardless of new conflicting information which might rationally expect
a logical change to occur.
Change tends to be feared, for it upsets our associations.
And, by the way, when it comes to maintaining income
in the monetary system, you see this propensity in full force
which I will talk about a lot more later.
Therefore, any time someone dares to present an idea outside of
or contrary to the establishment programming
the reaction is often a condemning of the idea as blasphemy
or undermining, or a conspiracy, or simply erroneous.
For example, in the academic world investigation often becomes confined
to self-referring circles of discourse:
closed feedback loops which assume that the foundational assumptions
of their schools of thought are empirical
and only these experts, as defined by their established credentials
are considered viable authorities
therein often dominating influence over the public opinion.
This is a doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis
and please excuse my lack of Hungarian pronunciation
but he was a physician who lived in the mid 1800's
who performed childbirths.
Through a series of events, he realized a pattern
that there was a relationship with the transfer of disease
and the fact that the doctors of the times
never washed their hands after performing autopsies.
The doctors of the time would handle dead bodies
in the lower elements of the hospitals and then they would go up
and they would perform childbirths without washing their hands.
So, this doctor, realizing this pattern
he started to tell his colleagues about this.
He said "You should wash your hands before doing this
before performing any type of surgery or childbirth
especially after handling a dead body."
He was laughed at. He was laughed at and ignored.
He published papers and they were dismissed and ridiculed.
And after many years of trying this issue, he was finally committed
to a mental institution, where he died.
It was many years after his death when Louis Pasteur
developed the germ theory of disease
that his observations were finally understood
and people realized what a horrible mistake had been made.
In the words of John McMurtry, professor of philosophy in Canada
"In the last dark age, one can search
the inquiries of this era's preserved thinkers
from Augustine to Ockham and fail to discover
a single page of criticism of the established social framework
however rationally insupportable feudal bondage, absolute paternalism
divine right of kings, and the rest may be."
In the current final order, is it so different?
Can we see in any media, or even university press
a paragraph of clear unmasking
of the global regime that condemns
a third of all children to malnutrition
with more food than enough available?
In such an order, thought becomes indistinguishable from propaganda.
Only one doctrine is speakable, and a priest caste of its experts
prescribe the necessities and obligations to all.
Social consciousness is incarcerated
within the role of a kind of ceremonial logic
operating entirely within the received framework
of an exhaustively-prescribed regulatory apparatus
protecting the privileges of the privileged.
Methodical censorship triumphs in the guise of scholarly rigor
and the only room left for searching thought
becomes the game of competing rationalizations."
People tend not to criticize the social order
because they are bound within it.
We are running a thought program
which has been installed on our mental hardware
which inherently controls our frame of reference.
To use a different analogy, it's like they're in a game
and the idea of questioning the integrity of the game itself rarely occurs.
In fact, members of society often become so indoctrinated
by their socially acceptable norms, that each person's very meaning
is framed by the dominant established value system
and the interpretation of new information
is consciously, or even sub-consciously, prefiltered
to be consistent with their prior biases.
Now, this basic idea understood
let's hone our focus
and briefly consider this mind-lock phenomenon as you could call it
in the context of economics
specifically, market economics.
Actually, a more accurate term at this stage would be 'economic theology'.
For, as this presentation will explore
the majority of people on this planet
not only have no idea how they are being affected negatively
by the market economy at large, they actually, on average
hold a steadfast commitment to its principles
based on nothing more than the traditional indoctrination.
I got an email once that said to me
"If you're against the free market, you're against freedom."
And naturally, I shuddered at this state of mind control
that the dominant established orthodoxy has successfully imposed.
Of course, this is how power is maintained and has been maintained
by the dominant established orthodoxies since the beginning of time.
And the trick, again, is to condition people so thoroughly
into the established value systems, that any thought of an alternative
is inherently ruled out without critical examination.
And to show how deeply pervasive this phenomenon is
you will notice that virtually all the activist organizations
in the environmental, social, and political movements of the day
always exclude the market system itself
as a determinant of harmful effects.
It doesn't even occur to them.
Instead, they focus on individuals and certain groups
or corrupt corporations
and while it is needed
in a per-case basis to target problematic areas
it avoids the mechanism which is essentially creating the problem.
This is the fatal flaw of what's happening in the so-called activist community today.
And, as will be firmly and clearly established
over the course of this presentation
the greatest destroyer of ecology;
the greatest source of waste and pollution;
the greatest purveyor of violence, war, crime
inhumanity, poverty, and social distortion;
the greatest generator of social and personal neurosis
mental disorders, depression, anxiety;
and the greatest source of social paralysis
stopping us from moving into new methodologies
for global sustainability and hence progress on this planet
is not some government. It's not some legislation.
It's not some rogue corporation or monopoly or cartel.
It's not some flaw of human nature.
It is, in fact, the economic system itself
at its very foundation.
The market system, monetary system, free market
capitalist structure, whatever you want to call it
is not only the source of some of the greatest
social problems we face today
it is also setting us up
for what could be called the terminal stage of this disease
where the pathogenic social value cancer
has mutated and multiplied to a point
where we are now faced with nothing less
than the death or collapse of modern civilization as we know it.
Now please understand
I'm not a doom's day theorist.
I'm not here looking for general knee-jerk emotional reactions
to say it's the end of the world.
It doesn't take a genius to see where the trends are going
the trends that the media won't talk about
and given the pattern of political, economic
and environmental negligence and abuse
we are on a collision course, which I will explain as we continue.
Are there solutions to these problems? Yes, there are.
But they are so far outside of the status quo
and a threat to those in power, both politically and economically
that they are just outright dismissed as irrational and absurd.
The self-appointed guardians of the status quo won't even hear it
because it's far outside of their reference and identity.
Here's a few examples of some of the things that are currently happening.
And there's many more. These are just a few that have popped up
in the mainstream media.
This is where The Zeitgeist Movement comes in. I'm really sorry to say
we can no longer rely on government institutions
to steer us in the right direction.
Every government on this planet is locked
into an economically-oriented social program
which is self-serving, unsustainable
and destructive to one degree or another.
The possibility of a smooth transition
into a new enlightened social design
which does not have the negative by-products
which I'm going to talk about is extremely limited
given the options made available in the current order:
meaning the legal system, the political system, etc.
Likewise, we can no longer endure
the profit-driven ethos of the corporate and financial powers
which control all of our precious resources on the planet
resources we all need for survival.
Society today is sick and the illness permeates all life systems within it
and I see The Zeitgeist Movement as the immune system
of the social world, if you will.
Thank you. Chapter one: Diagnosis.
Before I begin this analysis of the social condition
we need to first consider the problem of value
and cultural relativism.
People today tend to think that their ideas are equal to others' ideas
regardless of supportive information. This obsession with opinion
has created a frame of reference for so many people today
which has no physical referent
where evidence becomes inconvenient
and ultimately, people think that everything is equal.
And you get this argument a lot. I'm sure you've all experienced this.
It's a very, very specific point.
Everyone is not equal in their opinion.
It's impossible, as quaint
and convenient as such a concept might seem.
The ultimate question becomes "What actually deserves belief?"
What is important to everyone on this planet
and how do we maintain our well-being, both personally
and socially, in a sustainable way?
What is the indisputable common ground
which can all be agreed on in a world of Christians
Muslims, Capitalists, Socialists, Atheists, Anarchists
Scientologists, Republicans?
What can we all agree on?
Well, here's one thing that's universal:
being healthy versus being sick.
Being healthy is a preferred value preference, you could say.
Normal versus pathological states
hence healthy versus diseased states
provide an incontrovertible value basis
for all individuals and societies.
Virtually all people in all societies prefer to be alive
and healthy, last I checked.
There is no cultural relativism about whether having good food to eat
staying away from cancer, or having unpolluted water to drink
is a good value to have.
Therefore, our analysis of the health of society
is not going to be based on GDP
consumer price index, the state of the stock market, economic growth
unemployment levels or employment levels, free trade agreements
or any other commonly referenced economic attribute
used to claim that society is "improving" or "growing".
Instead, we will examine things that actually matter
such as rates of disease, poverty
social capital, trust
conflicts, corruption, planetary depletion, pollution
murder rates, life expectancy, educational performance
imprisonment rates, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, etc.
These are things that actually matter.
So let's begin.
Contrary to popular belief
evidence now shows that our early human ancestors
which predate the Neolithic Revolution
really didn't live in a state of perpetual conflict and extreme scarcity
as many anthropologists, early on, had assumed.
In fact, Hunter-Gatherer societies were a very unique arrangement
immersed in both a restrictive
yet self-regulating environmental paradigm.
Before the advent of agriculture, there was very little control
over what was available: You didn't have agriculture.
You couldn't control the environment.
So, what happened is a natural balance was in order.
And the societies themselves seemed to reflect this balance
by having, in fact, non-hierarchical, non-competitive
leaderless social structures.
In fact, it has been found that their value systems
their social values were essentially based
on equality, altruism and sharing.
And they literally forbid upstart-ism, dominance
aggression and egoism.
We know this today because of anthropological research done
on remaining hunter-gatherer societies around the world
such as the Piraha . . . out of Brazil.
Amazingly it appears (and this is an important point
for anyone that tells you that the current system is natural)
that for well over 90% of the human species' existence
on this planet as we know it
we were within social organizations that did not use money
that did not have hierarchy, and they even had
"counter-dominance strategies" where the majority
would work together to shut down any individual
that was trying to gain power and control.
Pretty much the reverse of what we have today.
The Neolithic Revolution changed all of that.
It provided human beings with an ability to control their environment more intently.
The sustenance of life could now be cultivated essentially at will.
Now, while this advent would appear as a profound benefit to all
it also introduced some pesky social problems
as a result of conditioning attributes which we still deal with today.
In the view of anthropologist and Professor of Neurology
at Stanford University, Dr. Robert Sapolsky
"Hunter-Gatherers have thousands of wild sources of food to subsist on.
Agriculture changed all of that, generating an overwhelming reliance
on a few dozen food sources.
Agriculture allowed for the stockpiling of surplus resources
and thus, inevitably, the unequal stockpiling of them
stratification of society and the invention of classes.
Thus, it has allowed for the invention of poverty."
Since this dramatic change in the structure of human society
the creation of imbalances has continued
and social stratification and income inequality
are now staples of the modern world, as we all know.
In fact, many who are unfamiliar with human history
would probably consider these attributes again to be part of some
natural human order. It's so pervasive today.
We have gone from food cultivation, to commodity bartering
to gold exchange, to metal-backed certificate exchange
to fiat currency.
We went from a system with values reflective
of true natural processes
to a system of values based on certificates of ownership
traded for income on their own, virtually...
I would say not even virtually, completely
decoupled from physical resources.
And we have come from a world based on necessity
and social drive for preservation and sustainability
to a world based on strategic manipulation
pointless materialism
and an obsession with property and ownership.
In the words of historian, philosopher David Hume
"The first man who, after enclosing a piece of ground
took it into his head to say "This is mine"
and found people simple enough to believe him
was the real founder of civil society.
How crimes, wars, murders
how many misfortunes and horrors would that man have saved the species
who pulling up stakes or filling up the ditches
should have cried to his fellows "Beware of listening to this impostor.
You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the Earth belong to us all
and the Earth itself, to nobody."
Moreover, scarcity
is now a driving force for commerce.
In our system, scarcity equals profit.
The less there is of something, the more it can be valued in terms of money.
In other words, abundance is a negative thing in a profit system.
In the words of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins
"The market industrial system institutes scarcity
in a manner completely unparalleled
and to a degree nowhere else approximated
where production and distribution are arranged through the behavior of prices
and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending.
Insufficiency of material means
becomes the explicit, calculable
starting point of all economic activity."
Likewise, I would like to point out, as a simple aside
that the money supply in America, at all times
has less in value than the outstanding transactions required.
In other words, there isn't and never will be
in the American money supply or most other money supplies on the planet
enough money in existence at any one time
to cover the outstanding transactions within the economy.
Money is created out of debt, through loans.
And interest is charged for those loans
whether it is government bonds or a personal home equity loan.
If every single debt was called in right now in our economy
there would be an enormous amount of money
that is literally impossible to pay back in domestic currency.
This is a central reason why stratification and inequality
is literally built into our system:
the inherent scarcity of the money supply itself.
Imagine that.
In this system, bankruptcy isn't some irregular by-product
that negligent people just happen to stumble into
it is an inevitable built-in attribute.
It's a game of musical chairs. I hope that's clear.
In the words of economist Bernard Lietaer
a great quote
"Greed and competition are not the result
of immutable human temperament.
Greed and fear of scarcity are in fact being continuously created
and amplified as a direct result of the kind of money we are using.
We can produce more than enough food to feed everybody
but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all.
The scarcity is in our national currencies.
In fact, the job of the central banks
is to create and maintain that scarcity.
The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive."
That last sentence really defines so much.
"The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive."
The consequence of these mechanisms is, again, extreme social imbalance
and hence, social stratification.
With this understood, let's now consider
the state of income inequality within the world.
In 2005 the jolly folks at Citigroup
put out a memo to its wealthiest clients
in regard to the state of what they called the "Plutonomy"
and the opening summary on this is very, very clear.
"The world is divided into two blocks: the Plutonomy and the rest.
The US, the UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies
economies powered by the wealthy."
A Plutonomy is defined as a society where the majority of the wealth
is, of course, controlled by an ever-shrinking minority.
And as such, the economic growth of that society
becomes dependent on the fortunes
of the wealthy minority and not the rest of the people.
Keep that in mind.
They then go and ask the question "What are the drivers of Plutonomy?"
They state "Disruptive technology
driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation
capitalist-friendly cooperative governments
an international dimension of immigrants
and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation
*cough* SLAVE LABOR *cough* [Laughter]
the rule of law and patenting inventions.
Often these wealth waves involve great complexity
exploited best by the rich and educated of the time."
The basic point of this document is the understanding
that the average consumer is essentially meaningless to the equity markets.
For the super-wealthy, trading amongst themselves
account for the state of the economy overall.
They state "In a Plutonomy there's no such animal as 'the US consumer'
or 'the UK consumer' or, indeed, 'the Russian consumer'.
There are rich consumers, few in number, but disportionate
in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take.
There are the rest, the 'non-rich', the multitudinous many
but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie."
They continue "This is why, for example
we worry less about the impact of high oil prices on aggregate consumption.
Clearly high oil prices are a burden for most parts of our communities.
However, without making any moral judgment
income inequality, being what it is
just makes this group less relevant to the aggregate data.
The conclusion? We should worry less about the average consumer
say the 50th percentile, what they're doing
when that consumer is (we think) less relevant to the aggregate data
than how the wealthy feel and what they are doing.
This is simply a case of mathematics, not morality."
You've got to hand it to them for being honest.
Now, before I go any further, let me clarify a bit.
Plutonomy, as the Citigroup documents describe
and these are very long-winded documents
is of course the state of extreme imbalance, so extreme in certain countries
that the investment community has little regard
for the average person's consumption habits.
In other words, the preference mutation
has occurred as a result of the financial incentive system
where the consumption patterns of the general population
become nearly obsolete in the interest of the wealthy
where they, the wealthy elite, the Plutonomy, can now just trade
amongst themselves and forget about the lower classes.
In other words, so much money is being moved around between the rich
that the public consumption patterns are nearly irrelevant.
This, of course, makes sense when you think about
the methods used to gauge health of the economy
which are supposed to be relating to everyone.
GDP is basically calculated
by how much money people spend or make
on a given good or service.
So, using the example of net worth
if you have the top 1% controlling
35% of the financial wealth in America
with the next 19% controlling 50%
leaving the bottom 80% with 15%
you have 20% of the American population controlling 85% of the money.
And this is what Citigroup figured out.
This very small section of the population is what actually powers everything.
What this means is that the financial system has little incentive, inherently
to care about the actions or well-being of 80% of the public.
And since we all know that the financial system
is the most powerful influence on most governments in the world
especially the US government, you begin to see that the only concern
the ruling class has with regard to the majority of the population
is merely to keep us complacent enough so a backlash does not occur.
And I'm not projecting this. Citigroup
makes us very aware of this, explicitly, when they state
"We see the biggest threat to Plutonomy as coming from a rise
in political demands to reduce income inequality
spread the wealth more evenly and challenge forces such as globalization
which have benefited profit and wealth growth."
But, don't worry, they are not too concerned.
"Our conclusion? The 3 levers governments and societies
could pull on to end Plutonomy are benign.
Property rights are generally still intact
taxation policies neutral to favorable
and globalization is keeping the supply of labor in surplus
acting as a brake on wage inflation."
They summarize:
"The heart of our Plutonomy thesis: that the rich
are the dominant source of income, wealth and demand in plutonomy countries
such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia
countries that have an economically liberal approach to wealth creation.
We believe the actions of the rich and the proportion of rich people
in an economy helps explain many of the nasty conundrums
and fears that have vexed our equity clients recently
such as global imbalances or why high oil prices
haven't destroyed demand.
Plutonomy, we think, explains these problems away
and tells us not to worry about them.
Secondly, we believe the rich are going to keep getting richer in coming years.
As capitalists (the rich) get an even bigger share of GDP
as a result, principally, of globalization.
We expect the global pool of labor in developing economies
to keep wage inflation in check and profit margins rising
good for the wealth of capitalists
relatively bad for developed market unskilled/outsource-able labor.
This bodes well for companies selling to or servicing the rich."
Sorry to pull you through all of that long-winded text
but I hope it settles in what people at the top
are really thinking about behind the financial system.
And they are likely right. The rich are going to get richer.
The current economic decline that we are in now
really doesn't mean anything to the top 20%.
It's the 80% that continue to suffer.
But hey, who cares? Evidently the top 20% power the economy anyway
and I'm not even going to go into what this means in regard to
our naive assumptions of democracy in the modern world.
In fact, in the words of former Supreme Court Justice
Louis D. Brandeis (I believe is how you pronunciate it)
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth
concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both."
Now, I bring all of this up as an introduction
to what we are going to talk about in regards to social health.
Coupled with this, however, I think a few stats should be digested.
In 2007, chief executives of the largest 365 US companies
received well over 500 times the pay of the average employee.
In many of these top companies the chief executive is paid more in one day
than the average worker makes in a year.
The Wal-Mart family, which is about 6 people, the Waltons
has a combined fortune estimated at about 90 billion dollars
in 2009, according to Forbes.
The combined wealth of the lower 40% of the US population
is only $95 billion.
Also, the highest paid jobs on the planet
are in fields of trading and investment, occupations which
have no meaning whatsoever.
[They] create nothing.
They are pointless to the state of society in the natural world.
In 2005, the average annual "take home" pay
for managers of the top 26 hedge funds, aka gambling casinos
was $363 million each!
Compare that to the average medical doctor which makes about a $150,000 a year
and the biological research scientists, which are looking for cures
and treatments for diseases which makes only about $68,000 a year.
You get the point. Income inequality is here.
It is growing, and it appears to be unstoppable
when you look at the mechanisms of the financial markets
and the culturally accepted reality of tremendous wage differentials
among different fields.
So now, we present the question.
What does this mean to our health, to our well-being?
Ground-breaking research by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket of the UK
in the area of social inequalities in health
and the social detriments of health has given us some profound realizations
about what it means to have a society based and driven by inequality.
To summarize this ground-breaking research, the common view
that social problems are caused directly by singular material conditions
such as bad housing, poor diets or lack of educational opportunities
is being overturned.
The idea that more wealthy societies do better than poorer societies
in regard to health in general, is not the case.
The social problems abundant in rich, highly-stratified countries
are largely caused by the scale of material differences
between people within society itself.
The problem is not absolute income, but rather the problem of relative income.
If you compare groups of people with the same income in different countries
you'll find that those in more unequal countries
do much worse than those in more equal countries
with the same income.
It appears to be a psycho-social phenomenon.
Inequality seems to make countries socially dysfunctional.
And as based on measures of societal health, crime rates, and well-being
it is safe to say, as you will see me point out
that really our current structure is nothing more than a social failure.
Life expectancy.
On this chart we see a specific set of wealthy countries.
I apologize for those that can't read this in the back.
I'll do my best to point out what is going on here.
Basically, the Y-axis you see is life expectancy
and the X-axis is income inequality going from left to right, low to high.
Life expectancy bottom to top of course, low to high.
As you can see in this, Japan has the lowest amount of income inequality
but with a staggeringly high life expectancy.
While Singapore, trumping only the United States in this particular set
of countries analyzed, which are mostly wealthy countries
has the greatest income inequality
and the regression line in the middle shows clearly
how the patterns moving from lower inequality to greater inequality
reduces the life expectancy of all of these countries.
Drug use. We see the United States
as having the highest level of inequality based on the sample set
while also being within the top 4 of countries
with the most illegal drug use: US, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.
While in the lower echelon you have Japan, Sweden and Finland
which have the least amount of inequality and the least drug use.
Greece is in there too. It's the trends that are important here.
You can see the clear regression line.
I want to expand on this particular one. The reasoning for this:
There was a study done in 2002 with macaque monkeys.
In the study, 20 monkeys were observed and analyzed
in regard to social hierarchies that developed in different circumstances
noting which animals were dominant and which were subordinate.
The result was that the monkeys that had become dominant
had more dopamine activity in their brain than they had exhibited
before they became dominant, while the monkeys that became subordinate
showed very little changes in their brain chemistry.
In turn, after teaching the monkeys how to administer cocaine to themselves
through levers, it was found that the subordinate monkeys
took in much more cocaine than the dominant monkeys.
In other words, it's a form of self-medication.
Let's continue onto mental illness.
Mental illness is much more common in more unequal countries.
Once again we have the US at the peak of mental illness.
We have Japan at the lowest echelon.
As you can see from this chart, mental illness and inequality
are very much correlated.
A quick glance at SSRI antidepressant drug visits
to doctors' offices among adults 18 years of age or older
in the United States from 1995 to 2002
shows a clear trend of growing dependencies on antidepressants.
The most common type of disorders of course are anxiety and depression.
A psychologist by the name of Jean Twenge did an interesting study
which proved that Americans are much more anxious than they used to be.
A survey of college students from 1952 to 1993
across 52,000 students
found that students today were more anxious
than 85% of the population at the beginning of the study, meaning 1952.
By the late 1980s, the average American child was more anxious
than the child psychiatric patients of the 1950's.
As far as depression, a study called
"Time trends in adolescent mental health" found that in Britain
depression among people in their mid 20's was found to be twice as common
in a study of 10,000 or so people born in 1970:
10,000 people study, twice as common in 1970 as it was in 1958.
It also found that in general, psycho-social disorders
affecting young people have risen substantially over the past 50 years.
In Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain
1 in 10 are deemed "mentally ill" in a year.
In the UK it's 1 in 5, and in the US it's 1 in 4.
Across entire populations, rates of mental illness are 5 times greater
in the most unequal countries compared to the least equal.
Now, of course, I know what you're saying "What about genetics?"
I think Richard Wilkinson summed it up very well.
"Although mental illness can be affected by changes
in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain
nobody has shown that these are actually causes of depression
rather than changes caused by depression.
Although some genetic vulnerability may underlie some mental illness
this cannot by itself explain the huge rise
in illness in recent decades.
Our genes cannot change that fast."
And let's move on to the idea of trust.
Another word for this is social capital.
Social capital is defined as an attitude, spirit
or willingness of people to engage in collective civic activities
hence, there's a strong trust-relationship.
As you can see in the chart, those that feel they can trust one another
are much more common, naturally
in societies that have less inequality.
This of course is beyond obvious, as I'm sure many would agree.
Naturally, with greater inequality, people are less caring of one another.
In fact, mistrust and inequality, I think, reinforce each other.
Now, this point is probably enough for a one-hour lecture in and of itself:
What is a society if people cannot trust each other?
It's important to realize that the idea of friendship
and the notions that couple in with friendship
which is ultimately a quality of trust
is a characteristic completely opposed
to the competition mentality
and the economic theories of self-interest we see today.
Empathy, reciprocation, and cooperation equates to good health
while suspicion, fight, competition
always equates to high levels of stress and hence destruction.
As we'll talk about in a second, stress
is one of the deadliest killers that we know of. It's a secret killer.
And living in a society where you have to look over your shoulder
and where you have to fight for everything that you have;
where you have to question virtually every transaction
given the initial assumption that the person
might be trying to pull one over on you for their own betterment;
the fact of the matter is, we thrive socially on trust and cooperation
provably by health standards.
And social structures which create relationships based on inequality
inferiority, and social exclusion
are inflicted with the greatest deal of social pain and neuroses.
Let's move on to educational scores.
This one's very interesting. Not only do more unequal countries
have worse educational attainment
kids are more likely to drop out of school, as well.
Interestingly, class distinctions and their effect
have become very obvious in this regard.
For example, a study was done in 2004
where they took 321 high-caste Indian boys
and put them with 321 low-caste Indian boys
and they were given a task of solving a certain problem.
The first time they did this, the caste relationship
the social status, was not announced to these children.
They had no idea who was around them. And you can see
the caste unannounced (low caste) actually beat the high caste.
The second time they did it, the results were dramatically skewed
as the lower caste did much worse than before
while the higher caste did better. This is psychological.
It's a psycho-social inferiority-superiority relationship
that has been repeated many times in many cases through other studies
which has the exact same consequence.
People are greatly affected by their perceived status in society.
When we expect to be viewed as inferior, very often we perform as such.
Homicide Rates
As you can see, the United States blows everything out of the water
when it comes to homicide rates.
And obviously, if you look at the regression trend
homicide rates are naturally more common in unequal societies.
In fact, violence itself
is probably the most established attribute of social inequality
over any of the things that we're talking about in these examples.
James Gilligan, who was a prison psychiatrist for 25 years
and he is currently director for the Center for Study of Violence
at Harvard University, had this to say about his experience
dealing with violent criminals to the extensive length that he has:
"The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly
when I asked them why they have assaulted someone
that it was because 'he disrespected me'.
The word disrespect is central in the vocabulary, moral value system
and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men.
I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked
by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated
disrespected and ridiculed and did not represent
an attempt to prevent or undo this 'loss of face'
no matter how severe the punishment.
For we misunderstand these men at our peril
if we do not realize they mean it literally
when they say they would rather kill or mutilate others, be killed
than live without pride, dignity, and self-respect.
They literally prefer death to dishonor."
It's really easy to see how class relationships
and hence income inequality, can translate into feelings of humiliation
loss of control, disrespect, and ridicule.
When someone loses their job, it's often demoralizing.
They say "Oh, my husband's unemployed."
And that's a demoralizing thing "Oh, he's... unemployed..."
After all, the very nature of class is hierarchical.
In other words, the upper class really looks down
upon the lower class, historically speaking.
And to be looked down upon is essentially humiliating.
Therefore, it should be no surprise why the US has the largest number
of homicides in the world, given its extreme income inequality.
And this leads us to rates of imprisonment.
The trend is very acute as well.
Obviously as we can see imprisonment rates are much higher in unequal countries.
The more unequal the country, the more people in prison.
However, what is interesting about this reality
is that it doesn't just relate to rates of crime, which of course
is more prevalent in unequal societies
but it also has to do with the punitive attitudes
toward the so called "criminal elements of society".
In other words, the more unequal the society
the harsher the punishments are for a given offense.
And hence, more people are put into prison for longer periods of time
than they are in more equal countries.
Since 1984 the state of California has built
one new school and 20 new prisons.
As an aside, for those out there who think
the prison system might serve some therapeutic rehabilitation role
in the modification of human beings and human behavior
I would like to refer back once again to our prison psychiatrist
James Gilligan for his perspective.
He states "The most effective way to turn a nonviolent person
into a violent one is to send him to prison.
The criminal justice and penal systems have been operating
under a huge mistake; namely, the belief that punishment
will deter, prevent or inhibit violence
when in fact it is the most powerful stimulant of violence
we have yet discovered."
Now, here's a very interesting one: Social Mobility.
Social Mobility has to do with
the class relationship that you have upon your birth
and how easy it is for you to move up out of that class
or lower than that class during your life.
In other words, if you're born into poverty, how much of a possibility
do you have to become wealthy?
As you can see by this chart, the United States
home of the "American Dream"
has the lowest mobility rate of all the countries in the sample set.
There are very high odds that if you are born into poverty, you will stay in poverty.
Likewise, if you are born into great wealth
you will stay wealthy most likely for the rest of your life.
And if you think about it, it's really a form of class segregation.
This reality can be blamed, in part
on the very mechanisms of our financial system
which keeps the lower classes poor