When Profit Drives Us, Community Suffers
By David Korten
As I was reading the current series of YES! articles on the mental health crisis, I received an email from Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame. She was sending me articles being prepared for an anthology she is co-editing with the working title Sustainable Vision.The articles present lessons from indigenous culture that underscore why community is the solution to so much of what currently ails humanity.
Both these collections underscore why so much of what currently ails us can be traced to the ongoing global process of commodification, monetization, corporatization and the increasing trend of machines, robots and artificial intelligence replacing people in jobs ranging from manufacturing to customer service. All this is separating us from one another and from nature so that billionaires can grow their fortunes. The consequences—including environmental, social and political collapse—are dramatic, devastating and unnecessary.
Narvaez observes that for roughly 99 percent of the time that has elapsed since the appearance of the first humans, we lived as hunter-gatherer tribes with deep and direct connections to one another and nature. Together, tribal members foraged for nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Together, they stalked, killed and dressed their game. Together, they prepared their food in communal kitchens.
Relationships with one another and nature were direct, strong, lifelong and grounded in intimate knowledge of one another and the plants and animals they lived among. Tools were simple, self-made and shared.
Our human brains evolved in this context to facilitate living in co-productive relationship with one another and the Earth. The distinctive developmental needs of the brain as a child matures into adolescence and adulthood can only be fully understood in this context.
As human beings, we begin life with bodies and brains only partially formed and in a state of total dependence on our parents. No mother can completely provide for her own needs and those of an infant by herself. That's why, it's said, it takes a village to raise a child.
The human child's path to physical and mental maturity is long, can be treacherous, and requires proper nutrition and exercise. A hunter-gatherer newborn was breast-fed for its first 2-5 years. This provided nutrition and constant reassurance of its mother's love and care. The maturing child led an active outdoor life. He or she experienced constant engagement and enduring relationships with playmates of many ages, the support of an ever-present tribal family spanning multiple generations, and the accessible wisdom of honored elders. This is what the maturing human mind and body evolved to expect and which it continues to require.
In our modern setting, we pride ourselves on our liberation from the need to forage for our food, make our own clothes and build our own shelter. This can work well for those with adequate income to buy what they need or want. No amount of money, however, can buy the love and caring we need to meet our emotional needs.
Statistics on global trends suggest we are creating a world where it is ever harder to meet those needs. More people are living in single-person households. Since the 1960s, the percentage of households with only one person has more than doubled in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
In the U.S., 28 percent of households are now single-person. Between 1960 and 2016, the number of children in the U.S. living in single-parent households increased from 22 percent to 31 percent of the population. Often the single parent is a mom struggling to make ends meet with one or more low-wage jobs that may require long commutes, offer little security and separate her from her children during most of her waking hours.
Too exhausted to prepare home-cooked meals, we depend on nutritionally deficient, chemically laced packaged meals. Online retailers provide for our material needs with no need to venture out of our single-person residence or even for any human contact. To fend off our isolation-produced depression, we become addicted to drugs and alcohol.
The mental health consequences are devastating. U.S. suicides have increased 25 percent since 2000 and experts predict that 50 percent of the current U.S. population will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
For all the advances of modern societies, traditional tribal communities may have better served the essential needs of people for emotional support, nutrition and exercise than does contemporary society. We don't need to return to the ways of our ancestors, but we do need to learn from them.
What are those lessons? Instead of building more single-family dwellings, we should build multi-generational, multi-family homes in vibrant eco-villages that share facilities, tools, labor and resources. Instead of designing cities for self-driving, single-person cars, design them for walking, biking and public transportation with lots of places for people to meet and greet, mix and mingle. Instead of growing an economy dependent on global movements of money, people and goods to maximize profit uncoupled from place, create economies that bring people together to maximize health and well-being in the place where they live.
As we envision our future, don't think money, money, money to maximize profit. Think relate, relate, relate to maximize community.
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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