Anyone with a biopsychosocial framework and a whiff of humanism in their blood should be disturbed about the current ugly world mood and the consequences of uncontrolled neoliberal philosophy. Modern Neoliberalism dates back to Thatcher and Reagan (“government is not the solution, it is the problem”) and is currently upheld by the US Right and the Trump government but with divisions in most countries – Aussies think of Hanson and Bernadi and Brits think of the forces behind BREXIT. In short, the market and deregulation rules, the public service is the enemy, and climate change is often regarded as a hoax. In its worst incarnations such as what is emerging in the US, human life is ranked based on race, gender, sexuality, income and physical appearance. The philosophy is often supported by enhancing beliefs that we are in danger and as we have seen recently, it encourages hate. James Baldwin in ‘Notes of a Native Son’ (1955) writes:
“I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain”.
Uncontrolled neoliberalism hurts
Persistent pain is already at epidemic levels with massive societal and financial costs. Painful policies emerging from the Trump government include cutting meals on wheels (less nutrition and people contact), cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the removal of the program to help communities prepare for future crises. Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency will hurt as will the elimination of the environmental justice program – a department which helped low income communities deal with living next to toxic industries. Removal of access to health insurance for millions of Americans will hurt, so will cuts to climate change research and the suppression of inconvenient research. Banking deregulation (well before Trump) has been shown to hurt – remember The Crash? Cuts to social services, increasingly militarised police and deaths from suicide and inappropriate prescription medication for pain, all add to the danger/pain mix. Yes, I have been reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘No is not enough: Resisting Trump’s shock politics and winning the world we need’, published June 13, 2017.
If we were hardened Neoliberalists, we could rejoice – more pain, anxiety, stress; thus more work and maybe more money for us! Just as wars and other disasters are likely to offer opportunity and enhanced oil prices to many in the Trump cabinet.
But no – increasing negative forces (DIMs) will make our work harder. Biopsychosocial frameworks make the links between pain and uncontrolled Neoliberal philosophy obvious and so does the definition that we have used recently – that we will have pain when our brains weigh the world and determine that there is more danger to our bodies (and our humanity and agency) than safety. America’s collective protectometer is right out of balance.
Clearly we need to quickly find some powerful SIMs. I suggest that our audience read Klein’s book and in particular take a look at the Leap Manifesto which is a super SIM project based on communities coming together, sharing and caring on multiple levels (and which could be enhanced more with the addition of health considerations). Klein is not just attacking from the left – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Davos set are not spared either. And I see nothing wrong with balanced liberal philosophy – for the Aussies – the Hawke Keating goverments indulged in it to our broad benefit, for example, when they floated the dollar and privatised some government agencies.
But for those who support extreme deregulation, be reminded that it has a human cost – the Grenfell tower horror looms high. There are economic and health benefits in regulation in the form of less toxic food, safer work places, clean air and even freedom of speech. Ben Chu in the ‘Independent’ this week quotes the most recent report from the White House estimating that the benefits of US federal regulations were three times larger than the costs. And leavers in the recent BREXIT campaign quoted figures that EU rules cost the UK economy 33 billion pounds a year, neglecting to mention cost benefit calculations by the British government that the same regulations provided a benefit of nearly 60 billion pounds. Surely it is all about balance.
It would be easy to call this piece ‘The Pain of Trump’ or something similar, but as Klein writes “we need to get rid of our inner Trump” and look for, understand and react to the fertile ground that allows uncontrolled neoliberalism to grow in and of which Trump and others are the embodiment. And I think that this particularly applies to we non-Americans to limit our appalled fascination with what is happening and to observe the soil in our own backyard. Start with understanding neoliberal philosophy, read the Leap Manifesto (supported by two of my favourite singers – Neil Young and Leonard Cohen), and reflect on how the simple sounding but critical notion of care is a part of so many of the SIM domains that we seek for optimal neuroimmunological function.
Klein is well known from previous books and she has a remarkable skill for describing and linking complex issues and making them digestible. But there was one particular phrase that really resonated with me in her book ‘No is Not Enough’ and that was “nursing is renewable energy, education is renewable energy.”
– David Butler