Click on the image above to go to this article in the WellBeing Magazine

Why do we have an epidemic of mental illness?
Why is our NHS under impossible demand from the sick?
Why are we a nation of sick people when we invest so much in healthcare?

We have come to believe that modern technology has been a boon to mankind and has made life better, simpler, happier, and easier. In many ways this is true.

Heavy physical labour in factory conditions has often been replaced with a robot, collecting water from a distant river has been replaced with piped fresh clean water, collecting firewood for warming ourselves has been replaced with piped gas or electricity, getting an urgent message to someone many miles away used to involve mail coaches travelling for days, whereas today we can send the message in seconds on our smartphones. Ploughing the fields, planting and harvesting used to need a horse and manpower, today much of this work can be done by SATNAV-controlled machines, and so on. Who could possibly suggest all these and many more advances in technology have not made our lives better?

In medicine we now have remarkable diagnostic machines and sophisticated testing equipment, giving physicians a clear understanding of the patient’s illness, that would not have been dreamt about a hundred years ago. How could this not be seen as only a benefit to mankind?

At a more mundane level, we can now do all our shopping sitting at home with our computers or smartphone whereas in the past, even I remember as a young child, we would have had to walk some distance to the markets and shops and carry it all back in two heavy shopping bags. Travelling any long distances would have meant days on the roads, on foot or on horseback, or for the few better off in a horse-drawn carriage. Today we can hop into our cars or board a plane to almost anywhere in the world. Once again surely no one could suggest this has not made us better off?

What is the reality of all these wondrous advances in technology?

We have, in the west, in particular, a breakdown of society and community, a rising neurosis, and people chronically stressed and mentally ill. The very fabric of a happy and contented society and community has been seriously damaged.

It was Rudolph Steiner, over a century ago who warned of the rise of technology and the damage this would do to humanity. Less than a century ago Lord Horder, an outstanding physician, predicted the rise of technology in medicine would possibly lead to the loss of the human touch, that medicine would be reduced to a cold, uncaring, insensitive mechanical process, and the rise of technology would lead to the demise of the caring physician. Even the great Leonardo da Vinci, over five hundred years ago, foresaw the impact of the growth of knowledge outstripping our ability to use it for more wisdom.

Fast forward to today’s reality

Today it’s common to see a group of friends gathered together for a meal, particularly young people, not talking much to each other, not even looking at each other, rather each busy concentrating on their smartphones. More youngsters at home, rather than visiting friends nearby to chat and enjoy each other’s company, may be seen on their computers or smartphones playing video games, visiting social media sites and checking how many “likes” they have got that day.

Back home if there is a breakdown of the cooker it will probably require many phone calls, long periods of waiting for someone to be available and little human contact at all. The frustration of automated helplines can be overwhelming! In the past, it would have been normal to have a person answer and provide the help needed within minutes. The older generation appears to be more and more isolated by modern technology, however, the younger generation is suffering the dehumanising effects of it even more so.

How can we bring some sanity back to humanity?

How can society recover some sanity and learn how to benefit from technology without the adverse health effects?

I don’t have a quick-fix solution to this existentialist problem but I do believe we all need to recognise and begin to address it if we are to have a better world tomorrow. When a problem is so invasive and widespread throughout our lives, it has to be addressed in an equally complex and broad range of actions by us all.

In my earlier career as a Management Consultant, I was involved with a new management tool called “Operational Research” that was established during the second world war to solve highly complex military problems such as how to destroy well-fortified dams that provided power to the enemy. Many of us have seen the epic solution as shown in the film “The Dam Busters”. Briefly, only when a large team of people drawn from many different disciplines combined their specialist knowledge and experience was a solution found.

A generation later this same approach began to be applied in the industry as Operational Research to solve complex problems in a multi-disciplinary way. So today we urgently need this same approach to the Big Problem – how can mankind live happily and sustainably on our one and only planet Earth?

There are specialists and experts in many fields already, including conservation,  psychology, economics, medicine, agriculture, community work, environmental research, communications, politics and in hundreds of other disciplines. Right now, most are working in isolation from each other and experiencing the frustration that their own perspective on current problems is not being recognised as significant.

Integrated solutions

Only when all these varied disciplines are integrated will significant progress be made. This is not an amazing new concept, just a simple statement of the obvious that we have all known intuitively for centuries but have never made the effort to make this happen. This effort is required of each and every one of us on the planet! It begins at a very local individual level with each of us becoming more aware of how we could help each other whether in a family, community, business or society.

We all, like every living creature from bacteria to mammals, have the ability to respond well to any event or stimulus we meet; that’s how we have survived so far! We have Response -Ability!

Responsibility shared

What is now the challenge for humanity, is to become individually and together more responsible for our lives and our actions. Man has for too long behaved irresponsibly, as an individual and as societies or nation. The common driving forces have usually been profit in the industry, power in politics, greed in individuals and a lack of care for our fellow citizens, creatures or habitat, close by or across the world.

Only in early “primitive societies” do we see healthy responsibility as the norm. Such societies have managed to survive thousands of years without destroying their habitat, until “modern societies” changed that for them.

A good read on this topic is “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” by Thom Hartmann. Written thirty years ago, it foresaw the current fossil fuel crisis and suggests we should look to the last few ancient indigenous people to learn from them how we can begin to live in harmony with nature, and sustainably before it’s too late.

This is only a small contribution by just one person to a holistic approach that is urgently needed, but if added to by millions more making their individual contributions there is hope for our planet and all that live on it including mankind!

Michael Lingard BSc. DO.