Behind such cases is a new normal of zero-hour contracts, working without payment and in states of stress and anxiety, as an increasing dependence on management thrives on sucking the remaining residues of performance from precarious workers. Whilst digitised technologies have abstracted and placed many cultural forms on a single homogeneous platform, personal technologies have the worker connected and potentially labouring at all hours in ways that operate, at minute level, the exchanges and processes that neoliberal capitalism requires to function. The disorder isn’t simply a reflection of an individual struggling against unusual duress, but extends to an anxiety about even the most mundane of things, like completing household chores, being late for appointments, or of one’s inadequate performance as a worker or friend. Depressed BritainI wonder if the DSM-VI will propose it on a collective scale? These symptoms describe those of the precarious worker, exhausted, fed up, yet compelled to stay awake just to finish a little more work from home, screens stained by old microwave meals, spilt coffee and reminder notes about looming dates, gym reminders and so on. Finally, one-fifth of all working days in Britain are estimated as lost due to anxiety and depression forcing workers to take time off, a very shaky estimate given the stigma and perceived weakness of openly telling managers of mental health problems; but given the current prospect of increasing working hours in Britain as labour regulations are further ‘liberalised’, this anxiety will only continue. Concerned only for economic growth, even the world’s “Smartest men” – the neoliberal economists – are starting to doubt the credibility of the UK’s recovery, with more workers reporting mental health disability than any other developed country. To continue insisting that the mass breakdown of workers into malfunctioning anxiety machines is down to some failure of the individual is either callous or blind. Transforming the way we work, live together, understand ourselves, and communicate with each other will require brave new ideas that adapt the benefits of these technologies to the prior wellbeing and welfare of each of us collectively. Rising anxiety disorders are connected to the growing pressure on workers to increase their productivity. To fight for things like a fixed working day, a living wage, and to fight for massive increases in the resources given to support mental health problems. Then to politicise these experiences, and begin to dream together and work together to produce the kind of society where mass depression and collective anxiety are banished. Many of us feel paralysed, buckling under the pressure to keep it all together but knowing that the way we work – and live – is damaging us and our relationships.
The Peace Corps Capitalism and US Empire
Far from alleviating poverty in the Global South, the American Peace Corps locks marginalized communities into a global web of capitalist exploitation. “The Peace Corps was never intended to be blindly altruistic. Rather, it was designed to be an interpersonal demonstration of the fruits of democracy and free enterprise.” Since its inception, the American Peace Corps has sent over 210.000 Americans abroad to 139 different countries with the intent of “Promoting world peace and friendship.” Like many Americans, I knew very little about the workings of this organization. As Justin Phalichanh puts it, “The Peace Corps initially was formulated as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy in combating communism. It was not designed as an overseas anti-poverty program; it was to be a weapon in the Cold War arsenal.” Sandy Smith arrived at a similar conclusion: “Most volunteers are placed in innocuous positions and urged to cooperate with authorities. They are instructed to stay out of political struggles and to clear out when things get hot There is the rub – Peace Corps volunteers must try to do good without challenging the status quo, even though most of the countries served by the US Peace Corps are ruled by military dictatorships. Since these governments are inevitably allied with the United States, it is clear that what a volunteer program like the Peace Corps is most good for is public relations.” In other words, the US government created the Peace Corps as a propaganda organization to help spread the myth of the American dream. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of most communist and anti-imperialist movements, the Peace Corps has renovated its own organization in a desperate attempt to remain relevant. These young graduates were no longer the starry eyed poster-children that the American Peace Corps was once looking to recruit. Through the creation of new social welfare programs such as “Youth and Community Development”, “HIV and AIDS” and “Earth Day”, the Peace Corps continues to paint authoritarian regimes as being concerned with the well-being of the poor. The greatest thing the Peace Corps could do for this country is to fight totalitarian and authoritarian governments and work for democracy and grass-roots change in the countries it serves. During the Cold War, groups critical of the American Peace Corps, such as the Committee of Returned Volunteers, actively supported anti-imperialist movements. Through the realization that others’ struggles for survival are intimately bound up with our own, we can start to recognize why organizations such as the American Peace Corps constitute a threat to our collective future.