Comfortably numb

dark cloudsAdbusters : The Magazine – #55 No Future / Comfortably Numb

We were comfortably numb about the torture at Abu Ghraib, and so were the GI guards who carried it out. Americans didn’t say sorry because they didn’t feel sorry. Simple as that. And if we can’t feel for others, who will feel for us? Perhaps this is part of the general worsening of mental well-being. As a recent World Health Organization study shows, there’s a near-perfect correlation between the rise of alienation in the modern world and the decline of people’s mental states, with mental dysfunction growing globally.

As empathy falls, behaviors predicated on its lack have been pathologized, like narcissistic and antisocial personalities. But these are not symptoms of organic disease. Instead, it is the social system that is in need of radical treatment.Consider the example of antidepressant drugs like Paxil and Zoloft. It is now understood that these SSRI antidepressants shut down peoples’ sexual emotions. What remains less appreciated is that they produce their mood-altering effect by essentially manufacturing apathy. Are these drugs popular, in part, precisely because they shut down our feelings? It is a frightening notion. Medicating our numbness is one thing, with a long and lonely history. But a culture medicating itself into comfortable numbness is something else. It is no longer the symptom but the cure. – Richard DeGrandpre

Posted in a gloomy moment, but sadly accurate, I fear.

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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3 Responses to Comfortably numb

  1. johnfalla says:

    Hmm. Interesting argument but I’m far from convinced. Some would say reports of an increase in mental dysfunction are greatly exaggerated.

    DeGrandpre? Is that name for real? Sounds like the head of some bizarre catholic sect.

    PS the spoof ads on the adbusters site are worth a look

  2. Lilly says:

    You say “Are these drugs popular, in part, precisely because they shut down our feelings?”

    I agree with the first part of you post but not with your knowledge of depression. There is light depression and then there is major depression, which is a physical disease, just as Alzheimers and heart disease. When one is clinically depressed one has no feelings to begin with. The right anti depressant will make those good feelings come back and save many from suicide.

    Peace and love to you, Richard.

  3. David says:


    The text you’re commenting on is a quote from an article on the Adbusters website, not my own post.

    But as it happens, I do know a great deal about depression.

    You are correct in saying that the right anti-depressant can alleviate depression and save lives, though the extent to which SSRIs can do this is now being seriously questioned, as it appear pharmaceutical companies have suppressed many studies showing poor effectiveness.

    For me, the point the writer of the Adbusters article is making is that when one recovers from depression to the point of having feelings again, those feelings remain blunted, and one of the effects of this that is particularly alarming, socially, is the reduction of empathy.

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