Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) said, “The foundation of mental illness is our unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.” Dr. Scott Peck began his book The Road Less Travelled with a simple truth: “Life is difficult.”
During the 1970’s I discovered thousands of people who were squatting (illegally) on the ground or 30,000 on rooftops among Hong Kong’s four million in the most densely populated place on Earth.
A Canadian friend was very bothered about living without facilities (electricity, plumbing) and commented on my efforts to assist those lacking decent living conditions. He said with conviction: “ELECTRIC POWER IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT.” After a decade of exposure to the lives of many people in a former British colony, I knew electricity would never become a “human right.”
Over a decade of encountering Hong Kong squatters who lived without conveniences we take for granted, I was struck by the spiritual resilience of deprived, impoverished people in comparison with the exasperation of privileged people (like myself) who could not tolerate seeing squatters existing without electricity or plumbing. When I took US visitors to Hong Kong “into the depths” of squatter areas, they spoke of going on “Vic’s depression tour.”
With the help of Chinese volunteers we organized a squalid squatter area called Kowloon Bay Village IV to obtain water, electricity and even push for mail delivery. The British government then decided to “clear” the rambunctious area for a mass transit station rather than tolerate more pressure from organized people on the bottom.
Jung’s perceptive comment on mental illness as the “refusal to experience legitimate suffering” prompted me to measure the sane calm among deprived people as squatters and the outright anger exhibited by visitors to such areas of hardship. Witnessing too many squatter area fires that left thousands homeless eventually drove me to leave the colony. It was depressing to see victims go through the ashes of what was once “home.” The sadness of life as a squatter was not manifested as mental illness because the impoverished masses were obviously willing to experience hardship.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC of January 2011 described human population going from one billion in 1800 to seven billion in 2011. A NG footnote was bothersome in concluding “One of every eleven lives in slums.”
Jung’s observation on mental illness alludes to where we might be heading in a small exhausted world of diminishing resources as advertisers urge all to have the most comfortable life style. Millions simply are not surviving. How will children remain mentally stable without the latest “smart phone,” ”smart watch” or adults stay sane without luxurious homes in the suburbs? Do we really need something or simply desire to have more? Mental health may mean learning to endure with the basics. That is foreign to our insatiable “profit system.”
LUS knows how important it is to get the lights back on quickly. Deprivation might lead to depression.