On the heels of #BellLetsTalk, let’s talk about how I hate capitalism.
In case you’ve entirely forgotten your grade 9 social studies, no worries, I’ve got you covered! The main theme of capitalism was coined by its father, Adam Smith. It is the concept of Laissez-Faire, which translates to “let it be”; Laissez-faire is the belief that within free-market Capitalism, the less that a government is involved in private transactions between parties, the better the economy (and in turn, society) will be. Capitalism, under laissez-faire that the best interest of individual parties will guide them to produce the best outcomes for both parties.
So why do I hate capitalism?
Capitalism assumes that market conditions are the same for all players, and that equity is present within the system. In North American society, which prides itself as either a melting pot or a mosaic (depending on what side of the border you’re on), capitalism assumes each individual is afforded the best opportunity and support system if everyone acts in their own self best interest. Within a diverse society, this simply is not true.
In a vacuum, laissez-faire assumes that all individuals are monolithic, an instant contradiction within North American society. Capitalism establishes power structures that are inherently exploitative of the “other” – the marginalized group that is defined by the hegemony, or in this case, the dominant party with the most money. The dominant party gets to set the rules in a game that everyone plays, which naturally has led to class based suppression of individuals.
As a second generation immigrant, my parents were the ‘model minority,’ with ‘hard work’ and ‘family values’ being cornerstones of our home, striving for success through education in order to achieve a high paying job to become self sufficient and provide for my own family.
But I could never buy into this. Even as a ‘model minority,’ I faced constant stereotypes that would admonish my character or value as an individual. Everything I said or did was reduced to, “wow that’s so Asian of you”. Being a model minority takes away from how my parents came to Canada, learned English, and were able to become successful through strenuously working and saving while neglecting themselves entirely to provide for their family. The model minority myth simultaneously serves as a racial wedge to elevate one group over another, as Asian groups could only “make it” once discrimination against them lessened. Asian groups could only make it once other people started treating them with more respect.
#BellLetsTalk (BLT) represents the advancement of the mental health discussion, yet the performative activism that is prevalent within North American society. BLT is people doing as they normally would, shouting into the void online, while tagging on a hashtag. While this increases awareness, it does not address the latent structural issues that some groups face more than others, leading the mental health discussion to fall flat, and we become complacent. Our healthcare only addresses physical needs – the notion that our peers can be our therapists is dangerous. Mental health is more than just listening, and as endearing listening to each other might be, mental health needs to be addressed by professionals.
But how does this relate to capitalism? Capitalism, in focusing on profits, causes industries such as healthcare to suffer – preventative care is always less expensive and produces better patient outcomes than reactive care, but there’s no profit to be had in it with capitalism. Furthermore, it places a heightened importance on the individual, but in an increasingly interconnected world, our success is gated by each other. Capitalism removes the context and the socioeconomic factors that surround everyone, and once again, assumes we are monolithic. Investments should be made in people, and not for profits, especially in our diverse world. There’s still much that needs to be done in addressing the structural deficiencies that people with mental health issues face.
It’s ironic that one of the biggest mental health initiatives in North America is spearheaded by a private Canadian telecommunications conglomerate, but it’s leading the charge in a system where mental health is still not taken as seriously as it should. Mental health, like us, is far from monolithic. At this point, we’re all more than aware of mental health; it’s time to give mental health the respect it deserves.