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The Infinite Potential of the Human Mind

The Infinite Potential of the Human Mind

by Susan Rosenthal

A healthy mind is incompatible with capitalism. Let me explain.

The human brain is a social organ. The brain makes human interaction possible, and the mind results from the complex dance between human beings. Cut off from social relationships, the mind loses its ability to function. We know this from studies of socially-deprived infants and adults who are subjected to isolation or sensory deprivation.

Over the past few thousand years, the human species has undergone an amazing cultural evolution. Our brains have not changed, but how we use them has changed tremendously. As people pooled their experiences and accumulated knowledge, the human mind developed to create new social arrangements and new cultures.

Capitalism blocks this creative process. Knowledge continues to accumulate, but it is not shared. And while some people are moved forward, many more are hurtled backward.

The central problem for capitalism is how to create profit, not how to develop human potential. On the contrary, the more people are deprived, the more wealth can be claimed by the ruling elite. Any form of collectivism, from union organizing to the demand for social services, presents a threat to this system.

To preserve itself, capitalism must stifle human minds. The vast majority aren’t allowed to use their minds to solve social problems. They get to decide only which section of the elite will dominate them.

Minds crumble under such conditions. An ocean of misery results: anger, anxiety, inter-personal conflict and despair. What a waste.

The human mind has infinite potential. And I do mean infinite. There is no limit to the number of ways that we could organize our lives and society.

The average human brain contains approximately 100 billion nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron has about 10,000 connections with its neighbors. When you consider that each of these connections can be turned on or off, the number of possible firing patterns is greater than the number of known particles in the universe. When you add the different ways that each human mind could connect with the other six billion minds on the planet…well, I think you get the picture.

Capitalism has stuck humanity in a giant historical rut and bamboozled us into thinking that this is the best we can do, that we have reached the end of our history. Not so!

We have barely begun to explore our potential. However, if we allow capitalism to hold us back, we never will.

The good news is that we have created capitalism, and we can change our minds and replace it with something much better.

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- who has written 154 posts on SusanRosenthal.com – Socialism is the Best Medicine.


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Sarah Edwards Says:

    November 4/07

    Excellent blog.
    I was searching for points I especially wanted to applaud, but I couldn’t agree more with each one.
    Kudos.

  2. K E Heartsong Says:

    November 7/07

    Dear Ms. Rosenthal,

    I very much enjoyed reading your essay and taking in its insightful arguments. Thank you.

    That the stylus continues to ride, again and again, over the ‘capitalism scratch’ has always troubled me. Today it troubles me even more as technology in its many forms has shown a light on the workings of capitalism in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, Somalia, New Orleans, America (U.S.)…and countless other places on the globe. It is time for a new, more civilized, more human socio-economic paradigm to replace this ‘capitalism.’

    There are a wealth of articles and essays to read on the web these days, but few as straight forward and as insightful as the ones I’ve read on your site.

    K Heartsong

  3. Adam Engel Says:

    November 11/07

    Excellent.

    But what about Lewis Mumford’s Stanley Diamond’s, Barbara Mor’s and more recently, Derrick Jensen’s assertions that civilization itself, which “begins with conquest abroad and repression at home,” according to Diamond, is the real problem?

    As you point out, Civilization is but a brief period, a 6-8,000 year “illness” in the 100,000-plus years of human cultural development. All Civilizations have been hierarchical, patriarchal, ethnocentric, classist, violent, etc., and all have fallen to ruin (“look on my works, ye mighty, and despair”).

    The “natural,” sustainable order of humanity, as evidenced by the “American” Indians – who lived and prospered for at least 20,000 years, developing complex cultures, fully integrated with their natural environs, along the way – seems to be small, tribal, “socialist” communities. Capitalism is but the latest, though certainly most deadly, “virus” in the relatively short history of the Civilization Disease.

  4. Susan Rosenthal Says:

    November 11/2007

    Adam, I disagree. The root cause of our problems today is not civilization, but class divisions. And while I agree that we must eliminate class divisions, it is neither necessary nor desirable to jettison 10,000 years of human development.

    Small is not always best. Over the past 10,000 years, humanity has discovered and invented much that is useful, including global communications systems.

    Capitalism is an international system, and it will take a globally-coordinated effort by the world’s majority to replace it. Once we have build that coordination, we will be able to solve problems like pollution and global warming that small groups could never manage.

    Global integration should be welcomed, not feared. A globally-integrated society would be much richer in resources and opportunities for sharing than would be possible in small, tribal communities. The challenge is to ensure that integration meets human needs (including the need for a healthful environment).

  5. James Collier Says:

    November 11/07

    As I mentioned to you before Susan, it’s all about happiness.

    You are correct about the captivity and capacity of the human spirit.

    We are the victims of a cruel trick. We’ve been fooled into thinking that toys are a reflection of progress: what kind of car you drive, the house you own, the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the money you have in your bank account, etc.

    Frank Capra said in the film “Meet John Doe” that the things you own, own you.

    It is a self-perpetuating trap. Working to acquire all of these toys, living to maintain them, as well playing with these toys distracts a person from the most important questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? What does it all mean?”

    In my opinion they are the only questions worth asking. And it is interesting how few people can actually answer those questions.

    You could get a more detailed answer about why a person bought a particular car than the particulars about their very existence.

    The irony is, if people asked the the hard questions, they would realize that this reality is intolerable. And that they would have to do something about it.

    In the short-term, it is easier to suppress those nagging questions with distractions. It’s like taking prescription drugs. They mask they symptoms; they do not treat the underlying cause.

    Most people work to acquire things. But imagine a world where people work to find out who they really are.

    In my world people don’t work only for basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and medical care. And they don’t slave away for toys.

    That does not mean that my world is no fun. There is plenty of time for fun in my world. There is plenty of time for family in my world. And there is plenty of time for asking and acting on important questions.

    You see I agree with the commercials– life is short. And I believe that the only true currency that we possess is time. And it should be used to its fullest effect.

  6. kikz Says:

    November 7/2007

    spot on essay, susan. …good luck with your books.
    It’s very encouraging to see that individuals within the medical establishment are speaking out on this dire issue. It is imperative that we as a nation understand the scope of this problem, its history, its direct effects on the present, and implications for our future.

    I recommend J.T. Gatto’s book, “Underground History of American Education.” http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

    Gatto, a retired teacher; chronicles the institutionalized assault on empathy/reason gleaned from his experiences within the NY public school system.

    Gatto is working on a film documentary. You may wish to approach him, as I feel it can only strengthen the warning we must broadcast to “we the people”. The clock is ticking.

  7. Dave Patterson Says:

    November 12/2008

    Dear Susan et al, I concur entirely, an extremely good article – there seem to be too few people willing to stand up and just speak that simple truth – the root of our problems today is that we have let this god called capitalism take over our society, and be ruled by its various high priests. It is a very, very bad path we are on, and if we don’t get off it soon, there’s not going to be much left of either human society or the planet.

    I just finished a book in which I talk more about this called ‘They’re Building a Box – and You’re In It’ – which can be found at
    http://www.rudemacedon.ca/dlp/box/box-intro.html should anyone be interested.

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