Capitalism commits mass suicide


We were watching Sideways for maybe the 40th time. Sure, it’s a good movie. But even great movies get tired in the middle of winter. And it’s not just movies—everything gets tired. That’s what happens when it gets too cold to go outside. At some undefined moment cabin fever sets in.

There should be a definition for cabin fever somewhere. My personal definition would go something like: ka-bin-fee-vir, adj. + n., phrase, mild to extreme psychosis brought on by sensory deprivation caused by long period(s) of confinement indoors due to sub-zero Arctic winter weather outdoors. Early stages present boredom-induced symptoms including drowsiness, agitation and irritability. Later stages may display as full-blown psychosis, if left untreated may result in homicidal or suicidal behaviour.

We’re not even out of January and already I can already feel the effects. Usually cabin fever doesn’t set in until much later, and out here on the coast it may not set in at all. But back in more northern climes the onset is predictably universal—everybody comes down with it at some point during the winter.

Of course, it’s always worse if you don’t have an excuse to go outside. I work at home, so I’m definitely among those “at risk”. Others at risk include stay-at-home moms, the unemployed, physically challenged and the elderly. But cabin fever can hit the conventionally employed, too. Office politics can get quite ratty come early February, and thankfully there’s Valentine’s Day to take the edge off—maybe the anticipation of a March break vacation. Even so, I doubt there’s a Canadian office big enough to give workers enough indoor space to stay sane.

A whole lot of people don’t know they have cabin fever. The more scientifically trendy among us attribute these gloomy feelings to the aptly named SAD, (seasonal affective disorder). The rest of us just call it a case of the “winter blues” and try to shake it off.

The Finns bless them, built cabin fever into their culture. To combat the effects they invented the sauna, which is one of the world’s truly great excuses for drinking and playing naked with other adults in a steaming hot little wooden room, and then going outside and rolling in the snow together—all under the pretense of cleanliness. Occasionally, some old-timer, who had no one else with whom to sauna, would succumb to the fever. But even these old bush hermits would last until late March or early April, by which time the disease would have advanced to spring fever. They’d be so looney they’d require medication at the very least, if they hadn’t killed themselves by rope or drink first, or so the northern folklore goes.

Ordinarily I would welcome this long stretch of winter to get caught up on my reading. And this year is no exception, except for the fact that we’re renovating a kitchen. There’s the drywall and those little pointy-sharp black screws underfoot and the dust. Not to mention the frequent trips to the building supply store and backpacking sheets of plywood to my table saw frozen into a snow bank in our back yard. Just thinking about renovating is depressing enough, let alone immersing oneself in it.

Maybe I’m actually suffering from kitchen fever, not cabin fever. But I doubt it. I recognize other symptoms. Like what—or how—I’m reading. When I get cabin fever I start re-reading the same few books. I’m back to Carl Jung again (you know, the great psychiatrist, deceased). I stumbled across this strange passage in which he’s talking about astrology, as if he really believes in it. He says that Christianity started at the beginning of the Piscean Age, which is now ending, and we’re now entering the Age of Aquarius (as we know from the famous [or famously bad] musical, Hair). What old Carl was getting at is the idea that humans seem to enter into periods of great change, like now. His quote is almost humourous:

“Since, so far as I know, no one has yet felt moved to examine and set forth the possible psychic consequences of this foreseeable astrological change, I deem it in my duty to do what I can in this respect. I undertake this thankless task in expectation that my chisel will make no impression on the hard stone it encounters.”

That, coming from Jung is an understatement, both as a stonemason and a leading scientist. He was altogether aware of the effect those statements would have on his reputation. But Jung doesn’t predict just what those changes might be, much to my dismay at least.

Jung was a complicated man. He suffered his own form of cabin fever at one point in his career, leaving his work to build a stone house with his own hands. He despaired for our future, and had a prescient vision of the Nazi horror before it actually occurred. It is not for nothing that Jung came up with the concept of the “collective unconscious”, a kind of unconscious neural networking of all humans on the planet, as if we were a single organism, a view which, in fact, may have some real merit.

And indeed, we are in a period of profound change. Both capitalism and communism have expired as Utopian models for social organizing—communism 20 years ago, and capitalism just a few months ago. Both collapses have inflicted hardship on their followers, although those who experienced the fall of communism weren’t rewarded with the sympathy one might have expected from the capitalists. As for the fall of capitalism, we’re all going to pay the price. Given the severity, I find it odd how little the media has acknowledged the actual fall of capitalism, let alone comparing it to the fall of communism.

I guess that’s what comes from cabin fever. Like any other fever, there’s a randomness in thinking—as in my randomly connecting winter with Carl Jung with the recent financial collapse. But oddly enough when it comes to feverish global change—like the mass suicide of capitalism—instead of the expected delirium, I’m finding lucidity.

Or is it just that the end of my kitchen renovation is now in sight?


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