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Three contrasting pieces this week which all hint at the inadequacy of limiting self as the skin-encapsulated ego. Firstly, Ethan Watters on socially defined aspects of madness, including how Glaxo Smith Kline aggressively globalized Western ideas of depression in Japan. Next, I summarize Steve Talbott's essay on problems of the 'man as machine' metaphor. Finally, an hour on Peace Pilgrim, whose 'retirement project' was to walk across USA for over 25 years without using money or asking for food or shelter.
Thanks to Madness Radio for the Ethan Watters interview.
We begin this week's show with a fascinating interview of Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us - The Globalisation of The American Psyche. He explains the extent to which madness is socially defined; that 'mentally disturbed' people manifest culturally specific symptoms quite specific to one time and place - at least, he tells how this used to be the case. He goes on to narrate how while cultural understandings are not easily exported, but reductionist conceptions of 'man as machine' are not so hard for easier for multinational drug companies to introduce. Glaxo Smith Kline spent hundreds of millions of dollars to first understand and then undermine traditional Japanese cultural notions of sadness as a reflective, thoughtful mood. They succeeded in creating a $1Billion/year market by replacing traditional ideas with the 'broken machine' model of depression as something which needs chemical remediation. He concludes by noting that the long term prospects for those who can avoid medication for mental health seem to be better than for those who are drugged.
Next we hear some selections from Steve Talbott's essay from last week, The Poverty of The Instructed Organism, about the weakness of the man-as-machine metaphor. This is my effort to try to set the tone for our main piece this week, a radio adaption of the film Peace Pilgrim - An American Sage Who Walked Her Talk. This tells the remarkable story of Peace Pilgrim, who in 1953 gave up a materially comfortable life to walk back and forth across USA to promote peace. Owning nothing but what she could carry, she proceeded to do this 7 times, walking over 25,000 miles without using money and without asking for food or shelter. She tells how all her needs were met by the free gifts of others. Her great faith in human nature comes through in the film, as does her determination to 'overcome evil with good'.