"Life should not be this difficult.”
It’s me, Megan, and lately, this has been one of my prominent thoughts. It’s also a sentiment I’ve heard expressed in many ways by my millennial peers who are too busy trying to make ends meet to pursue meaningful relationships. “Life should not be this difficult” is also the first sentence on the back of the bookmark that came with my review copy of Susan Rosenthal’s “Rebel Minds.”
Rosenthal is a retired Canadian physician who didn’t know how deeply her work validated me until we had a conversation in November. If, like me, you’ve been struggling, wondering why you can’t make the system work the way you’re being told “anyone can”; if you’re heavy with doubt that you have anything useful to give the world, or if your skills and talents are worth more than minimum wage at a dead-end job, then Rosenthal knows your struggles.
If you’ve been having trouble diagnosing “the problem” — having tried everything available in the marketplace: career counseling, therapy, coaching, deep breathing, rapacious self-care — then “Rebel Minds” will be balm to your brain.
I’d put down nonfiction for the past year or so because it seemed that every book followed a pattern: 98 percent of the book is spent on delivering an annotated explanation of the problem in monstrous detail and the remaining 2 percent is dedicated to platitudes the author calls “solutions.” I hit fear fatigue because there is only so much being thoroughly terrified and powerless that one’s adrenals can take. I switched to reading novels. But I’m so glad I didn’t miss “Rebel Minds.”
Rosenthal synthesizes a metric ton of research and delivers her call to action in a clear, direct voice that manages to remain calm even as she tackles a legitimately alarming subject: capitalist rule and the possible end of civilization.
As Fredric Jameson once said, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.” “Rebel Minds” makes a superb case for why failing to try to imagine the end of capitalism will guarantee the end of the world. The book presents one way to imagine the end of capitalist rule: socialism. And it details both why capitalism must end and why socialism is the best option, discussing everything from the creation of the nuclear family unit as an instrument of capitalism (not to mention an ostracization tool against those who do not have a nuclear family) to the reliance of capitalism on the philosophy of individualism and the psychiatry industry.
“Distressed people need support,” Rosenthal writes. “While some are helped by the ‘mental-health’ industry, many others are made worse. The capitalist system offers no alternative … The ‘mental-health’ industry was not established to support people, but to individualize and medicalize the social misery created by capitalist rule.”
Reading “Rebel Minds” defined the nature of my suffering. It’s not that I lack needed skills. It’s not that I haven’t found my perfect career and to find it, I just need to keep slogging through skills assessments, personality tests and cognitive measures. I don’t need to listen to podcasts or take expensive and impersonal online courses in job-search prep or in manifesting money. I don’t need a “heart-centered life coach” who will claim to help me align my soul with my work in the world in an effort to “magnetize abundance” and, for such a service, encourage me to charge her entire fee to my credit card and she will absorb the “extra costs” associated with a payment plan (hoping that I’m stupid enough to think that those extra costs, which are discretionary and unnecessary, are more than the interest my credit card company will charge me if I’m unable to pay the balance, which would be the only reason to put stuff on credit cards in the first place).
I don’t need to figure out how to make the system work for me. “Capitalism,” as Rosenthal writes, “is not a broken system. It is a system that breaks human beings.” And one way it does that is by equating money with life, rendering work compulsory on the false basis that humans would be lazy if not forced to work.
Rosenthal explains, “Self-determination is the ability to make your own decisions. It is the opposite of standardization, where those with more power impose their decisions on you. … It is impossible to deny the right to self-determination and also relieve suffering.”
What I need — and what “Rebel Minds” makes an excellent case for — is true belonging, which is the giving and receiving of care that includes, but goes beyond, sustaining life into supporting everyone to grow and create as humans yearn to grow and create. Capitalism — not bad parenting, not “mental illness,” not homelessness, not poverty, not anything else we’ve been told — is what causes people to be ugly to each other. Capitalism is what causes bad parenting, “mental illness,” homelessness and poverty.
If you’re still uncertain, “Rebel Minds” will convince you. It’s the starting place for what you and others can do.
Rosenthal’s passion is for people, survival and freedom. In short, she wants world change.
“Rebel Minds” has ignited my mind too.
If you read this book and want to participate in the socialist movement, I hope you will join me in the conversation.
Rosenthal says, “The task of planning a future society properly belongs to those who live in it, and they will use whatever methods or models meet their needs at the time. Our task is to organize a socialist revolution to end class rule so that humanity has a future to shape.”
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