By Roland Watson

In the first article in the series, I reviewed a number of risks to human society. However, for most people these risks, of dictatorship, insufficient water and food, hazardous consequences of new technology, and even terrorism, fail to cause concern. They appear too remote.

To such readers, I would say that the evidence of social breakdown is much more apparent, and in a way more disturbing, at the individual level. The modern world is seeing a huge increase in personal forms of extremism.

This includes the rise in the number of truly hateful people, or sociopaths; the leap in the number of psychopaths, or people who have severe mental problems and self-destructive behavior; and, most tragically, the large increase in the number of people who reach a state of despair and who collapse completely: who commit suicide, or murder, or who go insane.

I want to quote the song, Having a Blast, by Green Day.

"Cause no one here is getting out alive
This time I've really lost my mind and I don't care
So close your eyes and kiss yourself goodbye
And think about the times you've had and what they meant.

To me, it's nothing."

Mental breakdown

What happens with some people - people who are under very great stress - is that the idea of us versus them, which is a message presented in society a thousand different ways, can easily turn into me versus the rest of the world, which is paranoia. Even more, some people then go on to believe that if you lose, if anyone at all loses, then in some small way I win, which is the ultimate in selfishness and negativity.

The World Health Organization has predicted that by 2020 - that's only six years from now - half of the most widespread diseases in the world will be mental illnesses. To give a national example, America is at the cutting edge of this trend. Roughly one out of ten Americans are taking anti-depressants, including Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. This usage is still on the rise.

Ironically, this is in a sense a good thing. There really is that much stress and depression in the U.S. But, this is the case in many other countries as well, although the drugs are used at a much lower level. They either aren't available, or they are too expensive, or they aren't used because of the social stigma that is attached to admitting that you have a problem.

Child mental illness

What is even worse is that the trend of increasing mental illness, and self-destruction, is also widely prevalent with our young. Here is a quote from the International Herald Tribune, in an article by Judith Havemann, from seventeen years ago.

"Nearly three-quarters of all the murders of children in the industrialized world occur in the U.S. ... [The U.S. has] the highest rates of childhood homicide, suicide, and firearms related deaths of any of the world's twenty-six richest nations."

This situation hasn't changed since 1997. If anything, it has gotten worse.

Many people, but particularly children, are simply unable to endure modern form, the modern terms of existence. They can't stand the values, the power conflicts, and the competition. Due to their specific behavioral factors, their nature and nurture, they are too sensitive for these conditions.

Rebellion revisited

Some people are rebelling instinctively. They know in their hearts that it doesn't have to be like this. They are fighting the odds, taking any chances to break out.

A lot of people, though, just accept it. This is probably because they don't understand what is happening. They don't realize that they do have a choice.

For children - those children who are under great stress - they generally lash out. They manifest abnormal behavior. For adults, the option that a lot of people rely on is self-medication. In other words, the rise is drug and alcohol abuse is a consequence of the increase in social stress.

There is even a feedback mechanism between the two. For some people self-medication fails, by which I mean they become addicted. This leads to even more stress, for them and also for their family and friends.

There is another feedback mechanism here as well, and which relates to class structure. Many people in lower classes become addicted to alcohol and drugs. It is a type of relief, in the face of the fact that they simply cannot win in life. They will never really get ahead, much less be rich and successful.

Drug rebels

But, this does not apply to all members of the drug culture. Some people, the drug dealers, particularly the drug dealers who are not also users, have decided, with their will, that this is their best option.

The risks, of prison, of murder by other dealers, are great, they cannot be any greater, but they don't care. They do not even care about the effects of the drugs on their own communities.

The way they see it, they are simply adapting to their environmental conditions, and this adaptation is a form of rebellion, a type of anarchy.

Dealing drugs is a gamble, a lottery if you will. But, in a society where certain groups believe that they have limited options, some individuals from these groups will always take the chance.

Tragically, these are the individuals who are best suited to be community leaders - in a positive sense. They have the courage, the internal strength, to do anything. Unfortunately, due to the form of their situations, they perceive that the option of working to improve things, this anything, is not their best choice.

I want to be clear that just because I understand their motivation, this does not mean that I am apologizing for or condoning their behavior in any way. In fact, they are wrong. This form, the form of their social circumstances, particularly of inner city ghettos, as intractable as it may seem, can be beaten. The opportunity to be leaders, while difficult and dangerous, does exist, and it is waiting to be filled.

Filled prisons

At this point, it is worth summarizing the current situation regarding penal servitude. Again for America, the country's inmate population is over two million people, and of this amount some twenty-five percent have been imprisoned for drugs. The total correctional population, though, including people on probation or parole, is over seven million.

Many observers decry this as a travesty. They say, if we are generating this many criminals, then our society is either very ill, or perhaps some things, such as recreational drug use, shouldn't be crimes.

Also, the social impact of this form is actually much wider. It extends to all of the family members, particularly to the children, of everyone in the correctional system, and who further suffer one of the most severe social stigmas of all.

Complete breakdown

In conclusion, many people are now being pushed to the edge, and more and more of us aren't making it. Suicide rates, all around the world, are rising.

In some cases, certainly in the U.S., and as the Green Day song illustrates, people are deciding that they don't want to go out alone.

When there is a growing plague of mass murderers, you can be certain that something is fundamentally wrong with human society. But, as yet, and as with our approach to nature, we seem powerless to do anything about it.

In the final article in the series, I will give some advice on where we can start at the individual level: on how you can defeat any addictions that you might have developed.

© Roland Watson 2014