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Dangerously Addictive:Why We Are Biologically Ill-Suited to the Riches of Modern America

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JohnyCanuck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-25-11 09:06 PM
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Dangerously Addictive:Why We Are Biologically Ill-Suited to the Riches of Modern America
By Peter C. Whybrow, MD

Its called the American Dream, George Carlin lamented shortly before his death, because you have to be asleep to believe it. Too bad for the rest of us that George and his signature satire havent been around for the wake-up call of the current market meltdown.After all, George Carlin knew something about the dangers of addiction from first hand experience. He understood earlier than most that the debt-fueled consumptive frenzy that has gripped the American psyche for the past two decades was a nightmare in the making a seductive, twisted, and commercially conjured version of the American Dream that now threatens our environmental, individual, and civic health.

The United States is the quintessential trading nation,and for the past quarter century we have worshiped the free market as an ideology rather than for what it isa natural product of human social evolution and a set of economic tools with which to construct a just and equitable society. Under the spell of this ideology and the false promise of instant riches, Americas immigrant values of thrift, prudence, and community concerntraditionally the foundation of the Dreamhave been hijacked by an all-consuming self-interest. The astonishing appetite of the American consumer now determines some 70 percent of all economic activity in the United States. And yet, in this land of opportunity and material comfortwhere we enjoy the 12-inch dinner plate, the 32-ounce soda, and the 64-inch TV screenmore and more citizens feel time starved, overworked,and burdened by debt. Epidemic rates of obesity, anxiety, depression, and family dysfunction are accepted as the norm.

It is the paradox of modernity that as choice and material prosperity increase, health and personal satisfaction decline. This is now an accepted truth. And yet it is the rare American who manages to step back from the hedonic treadmill long enough to savor his or her good fortune. Indeed, for most of us, regardless of what we have, we want more and we want it now. The roots of this conundrumof this addictive strivingare to be found in our evolutionary history. As creatures of the natural world, having evolved under conditions of danger and scarcity, we are by instinct reward-seeking animals that discount the future in favor of the immediate present. As a species we have no familiarity with the seductive prosperity and material riches that exist in America today. A novel experience, it is both compelling and confusing.

Brain systems of immediate reward were a vital survival adaptation millennia ago when finding a fruit tree was a rare delight and dinner had a habit of running away or flying out of reach. But living now in relative abundance, when the whole world is a shopping mall and our appetites are no longer constrained by limited resources, our craving for rewardbe that for money,the fat and sugar of fast food, or for the novel gadgetry of modern technologyhas become a liability and a hunger that has no bounds. Our nature has no built-in braking system. More is never enough.

Alternate link to view as a pdf:
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snagglepuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-25-11 09:17 PM
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1. to read later. bkmrk
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gateley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-25-11 09:22 PM
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2. Thanks - saved the pdf - will read it at work tomorrow!

Looks so interesting! Recommend.
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SixthSense Donating Member (251 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-25-11 09:29 PM
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3. False assumption
What we have is not increasing material prosperity, merely the illusion of increasing material prosperity. When you scratch beneath the surface, that material prosperity is made of easily-broken, oft-toxic Chinese imports, high fructose corn syrup, and promises that are destined to be broken.
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bhikkhu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-26-11 10:14 AM
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6. In other words, a false prosperity of attractive but empty material goods
...which isn't far from what would define any type of addictive behavior. I know what you mean - and it seems "the markets" have provided for us what we ask for, which is an abundance of crap with little point beyond self-stimulation and status.
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left on green only Donating Member (270 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-26-11 01:27 AM
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4. The author of the article would seem to be suggesting that
we are all behavioral descendants of societal circumstances that prevailed before us. This is an interesting concept, and one that certainly deserves serious consideration, however I do not know if I would necessarily embrace that premise at first glance. For instance, I tend to believe that my values in life have been more or less determined by my actual and personal experiences in life, combined with my selective and conscious examination of the experiences that have been endured by others who have come before me, then they have been by determined by the behavioral heredity that my species as a whole has evolved from.
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flamingdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-26-11 09:17 AM
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5. Stupid and simplistic. No analysis of the media and consumerism
I don't see the Scandinavians suffering their riches for example.
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Ostanes Donating Member (9 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-26-11 07:09 PM
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7. I doubt we'll be getting any new perspectives from this, however
it looks to be a very good read regardless. I think everyone could use a refresher on these topics.

Thank you for this.
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