vol. 4 issue
Welcome to the over 100 subscribers that have found their way here in the past several weeks, while I have been on hiatus, no less. I am so glad you’re here!
docu-mental will soon enter its fifth year of award-winning, unfettered thinking out loud about what it means to be american. Thank you for adding me to your roster of writers in whom you invest time.
The essentials of creation
We’re mid-way through the Halcyon Days (artfully explained here), and with most of us in the continental US currently held in place by the same massive Arctic air trough, whether or not we like it, we must succumb to Winter’s yin heart.
While enjoying the pause, I’ve been thinking about a Sufi saying I recently came across: To know the creator, you must create.
To create we must also destroy, and taking time to rest allows the decay of what falls away to compost. It’s in that loamy softness that I have been resting.
The first-ever docu-mental digest
So rather than opine on something new, I have created the first-ever docu-mental digest. My thought is that this will bring new and legacy readers up to speed for when we’re ready to tear off in a new direction. And I do have plans, hehehe. 😁
The digest consists of 12 highlights from the more than 200 essays, podcasts, interviews, aggregations of sympatico links in the docu-mental archives. Choosing only 12 was not easy, but I had to make it manageable! I have added search terms at the bottom of each entry for you to use in the archives if you want to read more about a topic or theme I have covered.
How to demoralize a people
After I settled on my top 12 entries, it occurred to me they read like chapters from a playbook in how to demoralize the citizenry. And in fact, that is pretty much what I now consider the last 4 years of writing docu-mental has turned into: a personal investigation of how the status quo has sought to strip individuals of their power and a people of their hope in a bright future.
This might fool you into thinking that I am dystopian, which is far from the truth. I have never been as optimistic as I am now about the potential for people to transcend institutionalized thinking, and to recognize we are exquisite creations of a higher source of intelligence and love accessible through our unique imaginations and discrete energies.
And it’s not just potential; in some surprising places, I am seeing actual bursts of thinking for one’s self and admissions that there is more to life than straight lines and drudgery.
My hope is that by reviewing the mechanisms of our malcontent, you will be inspired to be spontaneous in your reasonings, too.
If you’re already familiar with the history of this publication, skip ahead to the digest.
from herd immunity to the ‘holy american spirit’:
the journey so far
After a year of deliberations including trademarking the phrase “Creating herd immunity to anxiety and depression™”, I launched this publication in February 2019. My goal was to explore and document the reasons for the nation’s epidemic rates of anxiety and depression. I sensed (correctly as it turned out) these were about to get worse, and I believed that by taking a public health approach as citizens – that is, by not waiting around for public health officials to do it for us – we could inspire our leaders to respond to the work we’d already done as conscious and caring americans to help us reverse these pernicious trends.
I began thinking of mental distress as a contagious epidemic, the kind public health officials and epidemiologists contain with vaccinations. I fervently, if naively, believed that the more of us who could identify and heal the causes of our individual pain, there would then be more of us who could teach others to do the same. I thought this approach would serve as a metaphorical, yet still effective, antidote to the spread of mental pain.
The problem I soon saw was that to heal pain requires agency, something americans are tricked into thinking they have via the propaganda that we live in the “Home of the Free”. Instead, I saw irrefutably, that personal agency generated by democracy is as endangered as any tropical rain forest species.
the key discovery
It wasn’t long before the sum total of each docu-mental essay, podcast, and interview clarified for me a notion I’d had but not really seen so clearly before: that there is an inverse negative effect between corporate power and individual agency, at all levels of society.
I began to trace how each time an economic policy, legislative action, and court decision favored corporate America, there was a correlative adverse impact on individual american citizens, specifically a loss of individual agency and freedom. I saw parallel trajectories between actions in support of so-called “consumer welfare”, the Reagan administration’s term for loosening antitrust enforcement in favor of corporations, and the steady diminishment of citizens’ rights.
I am not a research scientist and had neither the interest nor wherewithal to conduct a causative study, but in my former career as a medical and healthcare reporter, I was accustomed to interpreting observational as well as clinical data, and the correlations between economic trends and public mental health trends seemed uncanny to me.
Put bluntly, I saw that the more power monopolistic entities have, whether it be government, corporations, or organized religion, the more our individual mental health suffers.
the pandemic and what came after
And then, covid happened.
The notion of herd immunity became a political football alternately slammed on the field by vaccine proponents and anti-vaxers alike, and any discussion about a citizen-led public health campaign became so toxic as to be as deadly as covid itself. So, with the exception of a few interviews and explainers dedicated to covid (feel free to search the archives if you’re interested in how I covered that), I backed away from this tact of creating herd immunity to anything, least of all mental health.
But that was okay, because as everything I once took for granted as an american was immolated in the most spectacular of Dumpster fires that was the sum total of the Trump administration and everyone’s reaction to it, including the senselessly cruel death of George Floyd and all that arose from that, I began writing more personally, exploring how I and so many others have been acculturated to believe certain things are true about America that just aren’t, and how shame and fear have kept too many of us from truly questioning the status quo.
I saw clearly that because finite resources are now so scarce as to be disappearing, forever, it is imperative to break the spell of the mass enchantment known as the American Dream, and to recognize the sleights of hand performed to keep us from seeing the very nasty underbelly of the magicians who have held us transfixed for so long.
dismantling the status quo
The cure for our deteriorating sanity isn’t to build herd immunity. It’s to disengage from the status quo. To tinker with and fixate on public policies that remain a part of the same paradigm of hierarchy held in place by shame, blame, and fear, is to waste precious time.
Although as a trained science writer, I am practiced at slinging data points con brio, in my writing now I avoid doing this as much as possible. Instead, I speak from a personal nexus of observation and contemplation, not from some perch built upon impersonal reductive quantifications that prove a point. I don’t have a point.
In a way, what I am doing here is performance art, because I am letting you in on my own personal processing of the world around and within me. You are my witness that I asked these things. You’re not following me, you’re observing and accompanying me.
the holy american spirit
One of my most cherished observations is that we have to stop pretending that there is not something uniquely powerful – and real – about the american spirit. I have even come to call it the Holy American Spirit. It is that spirit that all the noise and flash of hierarchy is designed to separate us from. The byproduct of hierarchy is Capitalism, which literally means to focus on the head (Latin: caput, capitalis). It’s a means to an end that trains all our attention on a fixed point over all our heads, not on ourselves and one another.
In that way, Capitalism isn’t an end game in and of itself. In fact, I would even say its qualities are neutral. It’s what Capitalism has been developed to achieve that is pernicious. My theory is still evolving, but it sure does seem plausible that the goal of the fabled man behind the curtain is to separate us from our spirit and from one another.
(Just who is that man or that collective of men and company? Oh, the conspiracies…and that is a hint as to where my train of thought is taking us in the months to come…)
freedom vs. factions
If we were to actually remember that we are one with the Holy American Spirit, that it is the breath of wind which is meant to lift us and propel us in spirals with the ease of any hawk riding a thermal toward higher truths, then we would indeed be free. We would indeed have agency. Just as our Constitution intimates, that Holy American Spirit is the energy that calls us to our true selves, our destined happiness, and it is our birth right. Not just here in America, but anywhere on the planet. To be free is the natural state of humanity.
Freedom is not found in data alone. Just because I believe in freedom’s essential qualities of the ineffable does not mean I can’t appreciate and understand the utility of science. But science has been commandeered and turned into a cult as toxic as any fundamental religion. I have grown bored by needing to defend this stance, so if you want that argument, you won’t get it here. I won’t flag wave for any faction, I am not trying to colonize anyone’s mind.
wisdom is the true media
Besides, observational data is still data. I believe such data is the best kind, because parsing and interpreting it requires us to consciously engage with it, not just collect it the way statistical algorithms designed to distract us from what we actually are experiencing are designed to do. Observational data has something all the rest of data doesn’t have: a personal investment borne of wisdom and reflection. We don’t just generate such data, we actually live it. It’s our story. And no one else owns it, no one else can sell it, parse it, and make money off it the way they can the units of measurement that increasingly micro-quantify our lives and enrich those who profit from selling that data.
Wisdom is the original media. Its voice is hard for us to hear and respond to now that two and a half centuries of propaganda have been inserted between us and our direct experience of the world in order to insist on someone else’s interpretation of it.
And yet, the wisdom is there, waiting for each of us. The voice of wisdom is what I hope docu-mental inspires you to seek, hear, and be enriched by. In my experience, wisdom leads us back to what is good and beautiful, what which is freely available to us all.
Please enjoy the digest and share it with others. Until next time, I bid you peace and contemplation.
docu-mental digest vols. 1-4
Diminish personal agency, increase corporate power
For more like this, search the archives for: antitrust, monopoly, corporate welfare, CVS, two-sided market, democracy, citizens, consumers, privacy, data, dark money, the Borg
Manufacture maladjustment for profit
For more like this, search the archives for: pharma, psychiatry, mental health, suicide, depression, NIMH, neurosis, healthcare, profit, McMindfulness, narcissism
Engage in media malpractice
For more like this, search the archives for: corporate media, “deconstructing the news”, “you are not special”, Greg Olear, critical race theory, CRT, “department of lost and found”, MSNBC, Fox, CNN, Republicans, Trump, Metaverse, Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, “who profits”
Leverage neurosis for political gain
For more like this, search the archives for: Griffith, Mental Health Quotient, Mindstead, religion, Black Christians, Christian Nationalism, Trump, American Psychiatric Association, Goldwater Rule, EDI, Dax Devlon-Ross, racism, CRT, reparations, BLM, police reform, narcissism, spiritual bypassing, spiritual pollution
For more like this, search the archives for: shame, fear, starve, rich women, Republicans, AOC, Gloria Steinem, abortion, rape, “raping the land is a tactic”, SCOTUS, RBG, Lone Star lunacy, Taliban
Profit from pain
For more like this, search the archives for: Victoria Sweet, private equity, antitrust, CVS, CMS, Medicare, medicine, healthcare, psychiatry, suffering, pain, the Borg, FDA
Brainwash citizens into submission
For more like this, search the archives for: dark money, private equity, financialization, Saudi Arabia, Republicans, Christian Nationalism, Black Christians, empire, McMindfulness, democracy, American Dream, e pluribus unum, London, extinction, citizens, consumers, ignorance, shame, fear
Distract people from the actual reasons they are in pain
For more like this, search the archives for: private equity, workers’ rights, American Dream, social determinents of health, neoliberalism, Republicans, antitrust, monopolies, democracy, consumers, citizens, Cold War kid, psychedelics, pharma, psychiatry, fear, shame, spiritual bypassing, Mindstead, Mental Health Quotient
Disconnect the citizenry from ‘Source’
For more like this, search the archives for: the Vatican, Catholic, Roman Empire, psychedelics, empire, astrology, private equity, pharma, shame, fear, church, religion, depression, Republicans, power, hierarchy, Capitalism, monopolies, raping the land, indigenous, othering, moral injury, wizards of empire, “exterminate all the brutes”, Mormons, athiests
Outsource personal sovereignty
For more like this, search the archives for: e pluribus unum, spiritual pollution, spiritual pollution, Lamar Alexander, Mitch McConnell, Christian Nationalism, Republicans, God, Moses, religion, Communism, Truman, “America is a belief and a fact”, “In God we trust”, kindness, Jeffersonian, aliens, ignorance, “mind cancer”, democracy, moral injury, coal country, merceneries, SCOTUS, “exterminate all the brutes”
Rape and degrade the land
For more like this, search the archives for: indigenous, blacks, silence, Lakota, Reservation, nature, NASA, stars, universe, awe, coal country, moral injury, SDSO Lakota Project, Joy Harjo, “profit from hating me”
Harvest and horde the people’s creativity and life force
For more like this, search the archives for: indigenous, blacks, silence, Ethelbert Miller, reparations, Dax Devlon-Ross, CRT, Silence, BLM, EDI, Julian’s Rest, Christian Nationalism, Elijah Cummings, Jeffersonian, “profit from hating me”
And, as a bit of Lagniappe, as they call a baker’s dozen in New Orleans, here’s a 13th entry in the digest…because it should make you feel sweeter about it all. It has been behind a paywall, but I am removing it so you can read not just the part about trusting your own mind and senses, but also the frank conversation between myself and black theologian and jazz artist, Julian Davis Reid about why black Christians aren’t deterred by Christian Nationalism, or anything else, from loving Jesus.
Thank you for your patronage and support in 2022. See you next year. Be ready for a new leg of the journey!
docu-mental: mapping the american states of mind is a labor of love, but it takes a large amount of time to produce. If you are a regular reader, I’d be grateful if you’d become a paid subscriber. Thank you!
docu-mental was the recipient of a Substack writer grant in 2020 on the merits of the quality and consistency of docu-mental’s content, and its high conversion rate from free to paid subscribers.
I use a little “a” to describe the state of being american as a way to emphasize it is not borne of an empire; it’s just empirical.
Thank you, Julian. And thank you for being a part of d-m's journey. x
Vital work. I find your central thesis here chillingly urgent. Thank you.