9/11 & The Forgotten War on Poverty, Obesity and The Mind

This may have been the ‘9/11 decade’, but it was also a decade in which the most pertinent issues facing humanity were subverted.

Poverty. 9/15 – the date when the bankers crashed the global economy – is a date seldom mentioned (unlike 9/11). According to World Bank studies, 30,000 to 50,000 infants died in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009 as a result of 9/15. Ironically, while the tragedy of 9/11 led to instant action taken by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq – spending trillions of dollars in the process – the bankers, who squandered tax payers money, have been let off.

Technology. Professor Susan Greenfield, a specialist in the physiology of the brain, argues in her latest article for the Daily Mail: “The human brain… is under threat from the modern world.”

Greenfield further says we need to “wake up to the damage that the gadget-filled, pharmaceutically-enhanced 21st century is doing to our brains.”

A study published by the International Centre for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) and the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change found nearly four in five students suffered mental and physical distress when asked to go the full 24 hours without technology. Interestingly, people who have Blackberry Messenger often tell talk about how “addictive” the facility is.

Corporatising drugs. In 2008, antipsychotics became the top-selling therapeutic prescription drugs in the United States – exceeding drugs to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux. Investigative journalist James Ridegeway said in a piece he wrote for Al Jazeera recently that drug companies now encourage the prescription of atypical antipsychotics to patients for off-label use.

A study at Harvard medical school found that by just imagining playing the piano, the structure of the brain can change. “[The brain is] substantially shaped by what we do to it and by the experience of daily life. When I say “shaped”, I’m not talking figuratively or metaphorically; I’m talking literally,” Greenfield says.

If by merely imagining playing the piano the structure of the brain can change, then what happens to the brain when watching violent video games or films or when listening to delirious music by Lady Gaga?

Mental illness. Quite worryingly, the latest findings from the European College of Psychopharmacology reports that 164.8 million Europeans – 38.2% of the population – suffers from a mental disorder. Furthermore depression, according to the World Health Organization, is expected to be the second most burdensome medical condition by 2020. But whether these high numbers are because of the increase in diagnoses or not, the reality is there is a serious pandemic at work.

Obesity. It is not just our minds that we should be worried about. By 2030, almost half of all the adults in this country are expected to be clinically obese. Obesity has ubiquitously been linked to a sedentary lifestyle (which is probably accentuated with the rapid increase in technology).

Conclusion. Terrorists do need to be dealt with. But the real war should be on combating the rogue capitalists, the forces attacking our brains and obesity. We need to “wake up” as Professor Greenfield says – wake up from this somnolent state we are heedlessly in to create a better future.

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