Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Re-Routing causing the spread of Anxiety and Depression?

[Just saw this important read: Gafni Attacks Over Lack Of Construction Of Ashqelon Hospital]

Air Canada employees are on strike. Canada's postal workers went on strike, too, and are now locked out. To which people have said, "That's okay; we have other airlines, and we don't mail anything anyway." The local news station polled listeners the other day, asking, "Are strikes an effective form of labor action anymore?"

I think the answer is likely No – and this is part of a much bigger issue, which is affecting people all over the world in a very negative way.

The issue is Re-Routing, to use Internet parlance.

From a networking perspective: When a network is populated with enough nodes, and features a high enough degree of connectivity between those nodes, each individual node becomes insignificant. If one node or group of nodes goes down, traffic just re-routes around them and the system continues to thrive.

The same thing is happening in our highly populated and highly connected world: There are so many people, and they are so highly connected, that each individual person loses special status, becoming eminently replaceable.

* You're on strike? I can find other workers, or I can eliminate your job altogether.

* You want to raise the cost of your goods or your service? I'll outsource to India.

* Think your television network is crucial, or you are an irreplaceable performer? Think again, there are 500 more like you.

* Want to protest the government's politics? You are a tiny, irrelevant demographic.

* Trying to make your mark in publishing? Best of luck; everyone has a blog, a book, a column.

* Philanthropy is your thing? There are millions of others doing it, too, and even your small local charities are drawing on grants from afar.

We're past the age of people being rendered obsolete by technology - now, we are rendered obsolete by each other.

Of course, not everything can be easily replaced, yet. Certain government services cannot be replaced, and so people cannot yet avoid government. Protesters who manage to attract enough friends – using that same population growth and connectivity – can still get noticed, albeit rarely.

The general rule, though, is that because there are so many people, and because they are so connected, no one is irreplaceable. The recipients of everything we provide can Re-Route around us.

And one major problem is this: Many of us, perhaps most of us, find our personal meaning and value in our relationships with others, and our ability to make an impact upon the world. Rav Chaim of Volozhin insisted that we were created only to help others, and Charlie Brown (להבדיל, fine) followed his lead. We rate ourselves based on how others view us, whether others care about us, whether others will remember us afterward. How does it feel, then, to discover that others don't think about us at all? That others don't need us? That others will find replacements for us fairly easily?

I suspect this is one of the reasons for the global growth in Depression and Anxiety diagnosis. The phenomenon is beyond any particular society and its pace, work habits, diet or values. I think it's partially attributable to the fact that people everywhere recognize that the world can Re-Route around them, and this realization is devastating.

Answers? Perhaps one answer is to find our satisfaction elsewhere; certainly, Kohelet would prescribe that. Perhaps another answer is to make ourselves valuable in small circles, or to people who can't find easy replacements. I don't know.


    Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik -Jewish Destiny
    A heavy duty philosophical discussion but the concluding sections are very powerful. Listen from minute 41 for my frequency resonation.
    How does man deal with finite awareness (we’re here today/gone tomorrow)? Orgiastic man and arrogant/tyrannical man are 2 responses (basically sha na na no na na live for today – with different strokes for different folks).
    Jewish response based on 1) metaphysical – relief from existential loneliness can only come from HKB”H; 2) man can never explore the entire universe (will always be a mystery; 3) man can never answer the why question of creation; 4) man can never set independent morals.
    Remember tcheilet/lavan lesson of tzitzit – lavan = clarity, tcheilet = unknown, transcendence, Man should not be too cocky/clever. The transformation of our lives from lavan to tcheilet can be in a blink of an eye and thus we always have insecurity about the future.
    Our response to this native insecurity is a prayerful consecrated life where HKB”H’s unseen presence reassures us. Each of us has a role (singular) in bringing about the final redemption. Our courageousness allows us to make the great sacrifice of anonymity/humility in historical terms (e.g. once Esther played her role we know nothing of her).

    Joel Rich

  2. I agree with the general idea, but are the examples of strikes a good one? Air Canada isn't trying to frustrate the customer (who like you said, has more options), but their employers, who can't continue making money until they settle this.

  3. An interesting idea, but I'm suspicious of monocausal explanations for the growth in mental illness (other factors include growing awareness of mental illness, greater tolerance of people who admit to it (although much remains to be done here) and, in many cases, unique personal events acting as triggers or predisposing towards it).

  4. Joel-

    Anonymous 2:47 PM-
    I suppose my second rendition of strikes ("I can find other workers" / "I can eliminate your job") is more accurate, correct. However, I do think the issue of frustrating the consumer is somewhat relevant, in creating pressure on the employer.

    Absolutely agreed; that's why I wrote "one of the reasons for..."

  5. Nice article, thanks for the information.