History In A Nutshell: Slavery, Marketing, And Mental Health

history mental health slavery trafficking

"The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history." ~Unknown

For over a decade, this was my favorite quote, and it led me down the path of studying history from many different perspectives. Below is a portion of my book, Everything I Know I Learned From My Pimp and it's one of my favorites. Enjoy! 

History In A Nutshell: Slavery, Marketing, And Mental Health

Slavery has always existed, and history is remarkably violent. I’ve spent the last ten years asking thousands of people, “Do we have more violence in the world, or are we more aware of the violence?” The latter is my conclusion. The Internet changed the world, and nothing in history can forecast exactly what will happen next, but it can paint some pretty big clues.

Around 12,000 years ago, the last ice age was receding. The survivors were amazingly resilient, tough, and survival of the fittest was very real. Our bodies and brains are designed or created for survival. When pushed to the very limits, mankind is capable of amazing feats of survival. Slavery is written into almost every culture and history, but not as racism. Slavery was classism. Nearly every race that had a system of slavery started with enslaving their own people, who were of the lowest class or criminals.

Sometime around 3000 BCE, trade routes started to form but only for luxury items such as silk, spices, amber, and salt. As trade expanded over the next few thousand years, so did the desire for luxury, wealth, and power. By 300 - 600 CE, the trading zones and land and sea routes were established from West Africa and Southern Europe all the way to Asia. The domesticated camel was new to the scene, and this was a massive step for migration and trade. Africa was rich in gold, copper, and ivory and was growing in wealth as Europe plunged into the Dark Ages for nearly 1,000 years. By 700 CE, the Trans-Saharan Trade was in full swing, and the demand for slaves throughout the Middle East was growing fast. As shipping was expanding, plantations needed human power to keep up with demand.

In the 1400s, there was a radical shift of power as new inventions and ideas came to life. This was an era of massive growth for Europe; taking ideas, systems, and inventions from around the world, Europe created systems and exploded with power, like the underdog hungry for its next victory. The printing press, muzzle-loaded rifle, and whiskey were all invented during this era, while Leonardo da Vinci dreamed of flight. Trade between wealthy Europeans and West Africa grew rapidly as trade zones were established, the hunger for goods and slaves was at an all-time high, but the land was the greatest desire. By the late 1400s, Europeans were expanding their territories to the Americas.

When they say, “marketers ruin everything,” they aren’t joking. The printing press was as revolutionary as the Internet. Reading and education were only available for the elite, and lower classes were not allowed access to education, furthering classism and slavery. The printing press created marketing. Capturing the minds of the readers, creating an insatiable desire for wealth and power. Slavery was normal, customary, and encouraged; it was the way of the future. The marketing of humans is like the marketing of anything else. What problem does your product solve? Humans grow crops, make tools, cook, clean, even nurse, and raise the children. "Anything you don’t want to do, buy a n*gger, and your problems are solved." During this time, slavery moved from classism to racism; it was marketing. 

By the 1500s, the trade routes to the Americas were in high demand. America was marketed as a “new and undiscovered land,” but labor was needed to build. Over the next 300 years, the demand for slaves led to approximately 50% of the population of Africa being forced into slavery and servitude, but it wasn’t just Africans; massive populations of Caribbean and South Americans were also enslaved and sent North.

As the industrial revolution took form in the late 1700s, the industry grew, and manufacturing became systemized and relied almost entirely on slave labor. During this era, medicine and mental health became topics of scientific study and experimentation. For thousands of years, education, mindset, faith, and economics were taught by community leaders, elders, and teachers; it was called philosophy. The telling of stories was the primary method of sharing wisdom and knowledge. The printing press allowed knowledge to be shared without relationship or community, causing many wild interpretations of already outlandish ideas. The societal patterns of systemic trauma, war, and displacement keep entire nations in the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Raw survival is the most basic human function.

PTSD is not new; neither are any of the other labels and definitions applied to the mental health industry. If humans currently have PTSD from home invasions, childhood abuse, war, and trauma, then humans had those same feelings of being violated before the terms were invented. As the years continued, manufacturing and services were industrialized and institutionalized. This shift meant that more products could be manufactured faster and shipped further. Secondly, the holistic approach to humanity was entirely dissolved by the separation of physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health. The systems of sharing knowledge and wisdom were completely institutionalized for the western world. Remember, the ‘riches are in the niches, but the restoration is in the mushy-ness of life.

By the 1800s, institutions were the newest and best way to deal with mental health problems for the elite, as the source of the problem was thought to be a moral issue. Slavery was in full production throughout the United States. The Civil War didn’t free the slaves, neither did the 13th amendment because there is an important loophole. The 13th amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for a crime, BUT who makes and enforces the laws?

If the plantation and slave owners wanted to keep their land, manufacturing, and lifestyles, they had to exploit the loophole. Also, freedom without resources is not freedom. Freedom without rights is not freedom. Freedom without opportunity is not freedom. The American Civil War was only 160 years ago, and segregation lasted until 1964, which was only 56 years ago. We are NOT past racism. Addressing systemic racism has hardly started. Slavery still exists, and it’s not any different. Look at the prison system; once a criminal, the record is for life. Look at the trafficking survivor; once a criminal, the record is for life. The system is designed to feed itself and not to allow certain demographics to overcome. Individuals create change, make a new life, and move forward with abundance, but that isn’t the norm.

As philosophy was separated into different niches and specialized areas of expertise, the whole person became neglected. While the most extreme cases of mental health disorders were institutionalized in neglected hospitals and asylums well into the 1960s. Counseling was first introduced in the early 1900s; it was much like a one-on-one version of ancient teachings of philosophy. Counselors addressed mental health, relationships, child welfare, education, legal advocacy, and financial literacy, acting more like holistic advocates.

As the Great Depression settled, there was a strong focus on vocational training and personal finances, credit hadn’t been invented yet, and people were desperate for help. As World War II transpired, the government became more involved, and health insurance was introduced. Systems were created at lightning speed to keep up with the changes in family structure, industrial manufacturing, and the looming mental health crisis. What I don’t think was expected is the rapid changes in mindset over just a few generations. What was once a luxury (indoor plumbing, for example) was quickly an absolute necessity. It’s not that we became weak; we simply lost touch with how far we have evolved in just the last 100 years.

The current standard of clinical mental health care is constantly changing. Every decade a new method is introduced; it works for some and not for others. Then a new method is developed. In reality, just 60 years ago, lobotomies and literal back-breaking electroshock therapy were accepted. I’ve never met a clinician who wanted to hurt people; it’s the system that failed. Historically, the teachers of wisdom had age and experience on their side. Today, the education system pumps out individuals with a wealth of book knowledge that is only relevant to this decades' standard of care and doesn’t require the individual to receive the care they need before serving others. Secondly, PTSD wasn’t even added to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) until 1980 and was only addressed because of war trauma. But war trauma has existed for millennia! What changed was our relationships, communities, entitlements, and the belief that any government will save its people.

There are two other reasons I chose not to take a clinical path with my education—the nature of the relationship and mandatory reporting. Working with trafficking survivors is a nightmare as a mandatory reporter; everything is a crime. How are you supposed to help anyone if the nature of their abuse will cause them to be arrested? A criminal record only furthers the cycles. Secondly, clinicians are taught to keep personal and professional lives separate, breaking down the nature of a relationship. Essentially, institutionalizing philosophy and creating separate areas of specialized knowledge is great for science, but it was detrimental to self, family, and community.

So, where do we go from here?

Take responsibility for your life. No one is going to save you. You are responsible for your words and actions. The bad things that happened to you are not your fault; your response to those bad experiences is your responsibility. You are responsible for the quality of your life. You are responsible for your happiness and mental health. You are responsible for your passion, mission, and impact. You are responsible for your family, even when you don’t like them. You are responsible for your community.

Take a look at how the Internet has changed the world and realize that it’s only 30 years old. If the internet were a person, it would still be trying to discover their purpose in life and getting shitfaced every weekend. There are no studies on the long-term effects of the internet; the long term hasn’t happened yet. Most studies are shit also. The questions are based on the opinion and values of the individuals writing the study and their worldview. Marketing and branding have turned a world of opinions into facts; you must learn to tell the difference. Ask better questions. Trust your intuition. Listen deeper. 

Read the entire book for only $7 - Everything I Know I Learned From My Pimp by Jes Richardson

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