Maggie Maggie Maggie
Its pretty much a statement of fact that Britain as a culture has become more materialistic. To blame it all on Margaret Thatcher is a bit simplistic though she plays an important part in the ‘society’ (as Maggie would have disdainfully described it) both good and bad that we live in today.
Middle Class Values
The cultural desire was there by the end of the 70’s. You’ve only got to watch the 1977 play Abigail’s party to see that the lure and attainment of middle class values has been a dangling carrot that British culture has wilfully pursued. To some extent we’re all middle class or aspire to middle class values now even if we disagree about how we attain the accessories to class.
I was interested to read a puff for Oliver James new book in which he tries to explain why, in Britain today, that rising materialism has , in his eyes has gone hand in hand with ‘misery-creep’ a rising level of cultural unhappiness.
James, a clinical psychologist known to Radio 4 listeners claims that in Britain we have ‘selfish capitalism’ which has directly seen a corresponding increase in the incidence of mental illness. Controversial stuff.
James claims that widespread anxiety and depression has been caused to a large extent by the unrealistic expectations of our materialistic and status ridden society which he sees as being based around a ‘selfish capitalism’ model.
23% Suffering Mental Illness
Around 23% of Brits are or have suffered some form of mental illness. Oliver James contrasts this with countries in mainland Europe like the Italians,French Germans, Belgians, Spanish and Dutch who he sees as being part of a non-selfish deployment of capitalism and where rates of mental illness stand at around 11% though he seems to fight shy of defining the differences between selfish and unselfish capitalism.
James says “It is not economic inequality between the rich and the working classes that causes mental illness, though that certainly still exists,” … “It is the combination of that inequality with an all-pervasive consumerist culture which constantly tells people ‘it could be you’ you could be a well-off winner too.”