Category Archives: Depression

1000 Words: No News Is Good News

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

Woody Allen

If you recall (or have the ambition to click on) my last post, I mused on what I consider to be both a worldwide and national depression. Yep, the lot of us from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe have fallen, and continue to fall, into a deep funk. Especially we here in the United States. Which is ironic considering we’re the richest, most comfortable, most well-fed people on Earth.

If you’d somehow found yourself transported back in time, say to the early years of the 20th Century and told a person alive at the time, a Brit for instance, that there’d be a country more than a hundred years hence, the vast majority of citizens of which have cars, refrigerators, air conditioning, telephones and personal computers in their pockets, machines that quickly and efficiently wash and dry their clothes, that clean their floors, that scrub their dishes, that person would immediately envision a grinning, blissful people.

But we’re not. Far from it.

Perhaps it’s written into our DNA that we’re more comfortable facing dire situations than not, that peril makes us feel alive. That when most of our physical problems and the need to labor at everyday chores have been eliminated, we must thrash about and look for other, often imagined, menaces and struggles.

Then again, the lot of us face the twin perils of global environmental catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. We’re the first species in the history of the world, willingly, blindly, blithely, to set into motion our own collective demise.

But the vast majority of us don’t think about our Homo sapiens gang going kaput, en masse. There’s nothing puzzling about that. For one thing, the idea that we can rub out some eight billion of ourselves before the next time my beloved Chicago Cubs win a World Series is so monumentally alarming that we naturally pretend it can’t be so. If we really thought about how close humanity is to extinction, by our own hand, we’d be lining up to jump off the tallest building of every city and town on the planet. For another thing, the mechanisms by which this speeding train is heading toward catastrophe are complex and not well-understood even by many of the smartest among us.

Who, after all, truly understands what Daniel Ellsberg calls “the doomsday machine”? That’s the hair-trigger system by which the nuclear-armed powers operate, with the slightest miscalculation, rounding error, mentally unstable rogue player, or geopolitical misunderstanding leading to a massive exchange of megatonnage. And, for that matter, think of how easily fossil fuel industry flacks have sown misinformation about human-caused climate change over the last half century.

It’s not as though the threat is that of a masked intruder, breaking into the house, clunking us over the head, and swiping all our aforementioned gadgets. That’s easy to grasp.

The Earth’s average annual temperature rising by a couple of little degrees leading to mass death is not.

So I don’t think we’re funked out because of climate change or H-bombs.

Take a Sunday drive through Trump country and you’ll know that the overwhelming plurality of citizens therein aren’t within a light-year of actually getting how close we are to sea-level rise, weather-weirding, hemisphere-wide storms, or thousands of mushroom clouds sprouting within the next half hour. Yet, they, too, are as depressed as any Bloomingtonian who’s hip to climate change or the threat of the Bomb.

Some 74,216,154 Americans voted for the incumbent president during the last national election. By doing so, they demonstrated either their agreement with him that climate change is the bunk and that we need more, more, more thermonuclear weapons or their ignorance of his stances on those topics, which is just as bad.

Anyway, they’re as unhappy as environmentalists and/or peaceniks.

We’re all unhappy, for different reasons, to be sure, but in the long run it doesn’t matter what has made us unhappy. We all think the whole race/nation/world is hurtling headlong into oblivion.

Fox News tells us transsexuals, Black Lives Matter folks, lesbians and gays, women who seek abortions, atheists and agnostics, Democrats, socialists, communists, losers pathologically envious of billionaires, and aging hippies leftover from the hated ’60s are destroying this holy land. And Fox News’ holy land is the United States of America, circa no year whatsoever, because the nation that they long for never, ever existed.

NPR tells us domestic violence is epidemic, much of the western US is ablaze, the cops are habitually shooting young black men to death, corporate leaders are raping and pillaging the globe, the Republicans are in the pocket of coal and oil companies.

Don’t get me wrong; I buy into all the above NPR viewpoints to one extent or another. Nevertheless, it’s the fixation on the horrible that’s troubling me. And NPR sure knows how to fixate.

The thing is, humans also have loved, aided, and comforted each other since Homo erectus as well. There never has been a time when humans have not killed each other or loved each other. The optimist in me believes we’ve opened our hearts to each other far more than we’ve sunk daggers or fired bullets into each other.

The fact that we haven’t blown ourselves to smithereens as of yet means we’ve made one or two good decisions of late.

But the news is all bad, seemingly more bad than ever. We must want it that way, inasmuch as corporate media news isn’t at all about some vision of Truth, but about clicks and viewers and subscribers.

So, I’m taking a well-deserved, therapeutic, long break from the news. As Boris, the character in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works said:

My father committed suicide because the morning newspapers depressed him. And could you blame him? With the horror and corruption and AIDS and global warming and terrorism and the family values morons and the gun morons. “The horror,” Kurtz said at the end of Heart of Darkness, “the horror.” Lucky Kurtz didn’t have the Times delivered in the jungle. Ugh! Then he’d see some horror.

I’ve had it with the news for the time being. I don’t want to kill myself.

1000 Words: We Need A Shrink

I’ve long held that nations can become depressed — or even mentally unbalanced — just as individual people can. Take a look at Germany in the 1930s. That, babies, was one whacked-out country.

In fact, the entire world experienced what I like to describe as a global nervous breakdown in the middle of the past century. Humanity became so deranged that we found justifications for destroying entire cities, employing previously undreamed of technologies. We all know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but several of the firebombings of Tokyo, Dresden, Hamburg, and many, many, many more were as lethal in terms of sheer numbers of humans incinerated as the two nuclear bombings in Japan.

When Gen. Curtis LeMay, the US Army’s air chief, was asked in early summer 1945 how long the war might last, he replied it’d end sometime in the fall. By that time, he reasoned, there would be no more Japanese cities left for his Air Corps to bomb.

Of course, our war mania was driven by the war manias of Germany, Japan, Italy, Romania, Hungary, and the Soviet Union. We like to tell ourselves that our bloodlust was in the service of good while their’s was evil. That’s true. But, man, we took war mania to a whole other level, didn’t we?

After some 60-75 million people were slaughtered during World War II, we could pat ourselves on the back and say at least the evil Nazis and warrior-mentality Japanese were thwarted. That’s true, too. Yet, we found ourselves aligned with an equally ghoulish, sadistic gang of hoodlums in Joseph Stalin’s USSR. And then, next thing we knew, the two of us — the US and the Soviets —  were threatening to, and earnestly preparing to fry the entire planet just to achieve some sort of economic and political superiority.


People used to say, Has the whole world gone mad? Well, the answer then was, Hell yeah!

And, guess what: we’re going off our rocker once again.

World War II came in a paroxysm of violence and terror. It started in 1937 with Japan’s vicious incursion into China and ended in Tokyo Bay when Hirohito’s representatives signed the surrender instrument aboard the USS Missouri in September, 1945. Eight years. Perhaps a long time in terms of the lifetime of a cat or dog, but the blink of an eye considering the hard and time-consuming work of snuffing out the lives of tens of millions of human beings.

Today’s insanity threatens to wipe out a number of us that’ll dwarf WWII’s total. And we have a choice of poisons: slow death by global climate change or a quick end by worldwide nuclear holocaust.

Oh, you forgot about the Bomb, didn’t you? There remain tens of thousands of nuclear weapons sitting in silos, resting on racks in submarines, filling arsenal warehouses, and even being built in the garages and labs of loners entertaining a death wish for much of the life on this planet.

We may not think of these twin swords of Damocles during every waking moment of our lives. Yet, the perils they represent surely reside in our subconscious, driving our thoughts and feelings.

Making us…, well, crazy.

America, this holy land, years ago began to hurt itself, the way a psychologically troubled teen mutilates herself or drugs himself into oblivion. The most obvious symptom of this is the epidemic of mass shootings. It’s gotten to the point where the next mass shooting, be it in a school, a mall, a church, a statehouse, or a daycare center, will be nothing more than simply another mass shooting. No surprise. No Shock. Just way things are in 21st Century America.

That ain’t normal. That ain’t sane.

The teen girl with slashed wrists and the teen boy with glassy eyes are merely the most dramatic, outward signs of their years-long internal suffering, the psychological and emotional strife they’ve endured for far too long. Our weekly mass shootings are the same thing. A clear, unmistakable playing-out, a panicky attempt to communicate to the world what pain we’ve been holding in for years and years. Decades, even.

And if the rest of us aren’t running around opening fire with our AK-47s or what in the hell else is the rapid-fire death machine of the moment, that doesn’t mean we haven’t slipped into a mental crisis as well.

Americans are depressed right now as never before. The future, we agree, looks dim. No matter which side of the political fence you stand on, you see the other side as the arch villain harbinger of the end of civilization. So our elections now are life and death battles rather than course corrections. Our young people aren’t hopeful for a good job or a home of their own. Global warming’s going to bake us or drown us or otherwise turn us into a pathetic band of survivalists. The blacks and the Mexicans and the Moslems and whoever else is not us is just around the corner, hordes of them, fixing to steal all our hard-earned wealth and possessions, and they hope, to kill us once that’s accomplished. The feminists want to stop every woman from becoming a mother; the anti-abortionists want force every woman to be a mother.

What’s the use? Why go on?

You want proof we’re pathologically depressed? Polls show that young people are having sex less now than at any time in decades. Sex, that hopeful, life-affirming refreshment, that act of optimism, of love, of vitality, is becoming a drag. What, again, is the use?

When I turn the radio on each morning to hear the news, I’m bombarded by stories of racism, environmental catastrophe, personal violence, corporate crime, political corruption, misogyny, and more. There was a time when the news told us we were rocketing to the moon or developing affordable computers everyone could have or seeking a cure for cancer or even just winning the most gold medals at the Olympics.

Not so in 2022. We aspire to nothing. We have no aims. We’re only getting emotionally prepared for Armageddon.

We’re messed up and either we fix our heads — and damned soon — or we go flat-out bonkers. All of us. This time humanity isn’t going to stop at merely slashing our wrists, snorting some meth, or killing only a few tens of millions of us.