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What is your thinking on this article? Do you agree with the article?Is Our Worship of Consumerism and Technology Making Us Depressed?

It would be a lot easier to address the increasing rate of depression among Americans if we weren't so afraid to admit that our consumer society makes us unhappy.

The following is an excerpt from Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green, 2007) by Bruce E. Levine, and is reprinted here with permission from the publisher. In this book, Levine delves into the roots of depression and links our increasingly consumer-based culture and standard-practice psychiatric treatments to worsening depression, instead of solving it.

U-Turn from the Wisdom of the Ages

Throughout history many seekers, thinkers, and prophets have taught about overcoming despair. However, it would be difficult to top the greatness of Buddha, Spinoza, and Jesus. All three were rebels and heretics. All three rejected societal norms and religious orthodoxy. Buddha rebelled against both the caste system and religious rituals. Spinoza rebelled against hypocrisy in his community and certain aspects of accepted theology. Jesus rebelled against a materialistic society and religious authorities. Buddha gave up royalty and wealth, Spinoza was excommunicated and nearly assassinated, and Jesus sacrificed his life.

Buddha, Spinoza, and Jesus all came to a similar conclusion about despair -- quite a different one than that reached by the modern mental health establishment. Although each described it differently, Buddha, Spinoza, and Jesus concluded that the source of our misery is avarice, material attachment, and self-absorption. While each used different language, they all provided a path away from torment and toward wellbeing. Buddha taught how to release oneself from narrow self-interest and craving. Spinoza taught how to liberate oneself from greed and other irrational passions. And Jesus taught, very simply, about love.

Modern mental health culture classifies depression as quite a different matter from the despair spoken of by Buddha, Spinoza, and Jesus. However, while modernity has resulted in different sources of pain, human beings and their responses to pain can hardly have changed so dramatically. And so to believe that Buddha, Spinoza, and Jesus would have dealt only with mild and moderate unhappiness and left debilitating depression for future mental health professionals to tackle seems quite unlikely.
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