TTIP-ing the Balance

Originally poster on 11/11/14 on Lemon People here

It was only a month or so that I spoke to a –generally politically aware and active friend – about TTIP. I was surprised that she hadn’t heard of it. Only to be further surprised that many in the group I was with were also unaware of exactly what it means. Then, I felt I wasn’t confident enough with the details to explain fully.  Partly due to the details of TTIP being mainly off limits to press and public

A month or so has passed now, and the secret is coming out. This shadily manufactured bill, even while the exact transcript is restricted from the pubic and media, has finally come to light. Now, many of those who were unaware have come our fervently against this enabling bill for further corporate power. Corporate ethics are not universally popular, surprisingly. On the 11th October over 1000 people gathered in Parliament Square, from Occupy, Friends of the Earth, Unite the Youth and more of the generally concerned, showing the secret is out. Over 400 actions in 22 cities held took place that day. The winds have changed away from ‘TTIP wtf?’ to ‘That means companies can sue the government, and essentially govern the county unelected, increasing privitisation? WTF?’

One of the main arguments raised against the bill is it opening up governments to being sued by trans national corporations. John Hilary, the executive director for War on Want – a campaigning organization with inequality causing poverty leveled in their crosshairs – said that ‘this elevates trans national corporations to the same status as the nation state itself’. Already our politicians regularly move into jobs in trans national corporations after their time in power, its known how close the two sectors already are. The government spends around 10billion a year conducting research and development for private companies; Vodaphone, Starbucks, Arms dealers, Oil firms all benefit from paying little tax with no benefit fraud complications; around 50% of public sector spending on goods and services (around 187billion) now lands in private pockets; Boris Johnson saw far more city bankers in his first term in office than public servants (and see’s anti-TTIP individuals as ‘numbskulls’…un-bialy). The TTIP may be the final tip towards countries, as well as their economies, falling under the complete control of Trans-nationals competing for profit. Capitalism is ruthless, and profit has been consistently ranked over people in Capitalist economics.

The main aim of TTIP is to open up EU businesses to American companies.

Creating new trade agreements that try to get around pesky regulation standards to get better profits for business.

If you are still out of the loop of the TTIP agenda, which to a large part the media and public are, here are a few salacious selections:

–       TTIP gives corporations the ability to sue the national governments through new powers to bypass domestic courts.

–       TTIP see unemployment as jobs switch to the USA.

–       TTIP could also see the relaxing of private data laws

–       TTIP’s lifting of environmental regulations:

  • Lead to increase in CO 2 emissions
  • Flood networks with GM foods
  • Give corporations further power to commandeer protected land for farming

–       Privatisation is highly likely to increase with TTIP

–       TTIP promotes declining employer safety laws, employee labour standards, food safety and hygiene standards and fair wages

–       TTIP allows frakking

Phillip Morris are suing Australia for billions, as the government wants all tobacco products to be marketed in plain packaging. Monsanto are trying to sue Vermont for wanting to put warnings on their labels for GM products. With these examples thus far, there appear to be no positive effects from TTIP, unless you’re already in the rich clique of corporate controllers.

TTIP is a slap in the face to the majority of the EU. The UK has already been dragged through austerity cuts, university fees, 0 hour contracts and the many, many failings of private businesses. Including those contracted to provide worse services and worse working conditions, in hospitals and universities, and the banking bailouts. There is a form of socialism in the U.K right now, but it’s for the rich. Those at Parliament Square on The 11th October were angry. At being kept in the dark, as well as over the effect of TTIP. Simultaneously, there was a sense of futility. If they can do this, secretively, then not listen to the criticism roaring around it; not listen to the protests; not listen to the people who can’t afford to heat, or live in, a home due to 0 hour contracts, little support and poor working conditions; not listen to the – gagged by law – overworked NHS workers.

What will it take to change a government more concerned with corporations than people? Nigel Farage – ex-city banker running a party funded by one rich man – is scratched off the list of possibilities of course, as are the major parties who have all in heir own ways contributed to this commingling of business and politics. We can’t sit back and allow the continued breaking up of the U.K, and EU, into bite size of corporate chunks without putting up a fight.

If you want to help action against TTIP, or find out more, read below:

Green Party: ‘TTIP trade deal is a corporate grab that must be stopped’

http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/07/11/green-party-ttip-trade-deal-is-a-corporate-power-grab,-that-must-be-stopped/

War on Want: ‘Say No to TTIP’: http://waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/action/18180-sign-up-to-say-no-to-ttip

Occupy London http://occupylondon.org.uk/stop-ttip-articles/

For information on dangerous thinking in private corporations watch ‘The Corporation’ by Joel Bakan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6zQO7JytzQ

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Apathy in the UK

The U.K is feeling down. According to research by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, there’s been a 7% increase in the number of people prescribed antidepressants by 2013. That means this number has now increased. The number ‘7%’ can’t accurately portray what this means for those millions of people beginning prescription. Most will be starting a life long commitment, a commitment that could alter their brain chemistry, long term mood and levels of anxiety – but often not in a positive way. We now rely on chemical cures for depression. We may not be more depressed than before (though compulsions like ‘social media anxiety’ don’t allude to many positives) but we are medicating it far more than ever before. In the way of the American healthcare system, prescription has become procedure.

Medication is necessary in certain cases, and many people are relieved when they find the combination that suits them and helps them control a condition that affects every aspect of life. This article isn’t referring to those with extreme conditions, where a life without a well-placed seroquel, or other anti-psychotics, here and there is unimaginable and unlivable. There are over prescription problems that should breed concern in that area too – but let’s start with the people brought in on the first rung of the ladder.

This article is for the huge numbers of those with minor/short-term depression or anxiety who have been told that a pill is the answer. Large amounts of young and vulnerable people are being medicated for a condition they may not have, or one that may be better treated with alternative methods. These are the majority of antidepressant users – those with a minor depression or anxiety condition, usually reactive rather than endogenous – who begin with ‘short term’ treatment. The typical anti-depressant is a SSRI or SNRI; these drugs halt the reuptake of specific neurotransmitters related to mood, specifically serotonin and noradrenalin. This is a biological treatment for what is often a situational or societal problem – a side effect laden treatment for what is often a ‘reactive’ depression. Is it normal to react to sad news by being sad…? to be sad when someone dies? or does it call for medication?

The proliferation of psychoactive treatments, over therapy, for children, adolescents and young adults seems strange when you consider that studies report that ‘significantly higher’[1] suicide rates for adolescents on antidepressants. One study found an increased suicide risk of 58% when antidepressants were compared with a placebo. In a group with average risk this would equate to an increase from 25 in 1,000 to 45 in 1,000[2]. Adult users also record increased desire for suicide in early treatment. That explains those scary ‘may increase thoughts of suicide’ notes on the side of the box that have incited irony laced laughs from generations of depressives starting treatment.

In one study involving 188 participants, rates of suicidal ideation were significantly higher in the antidepressant medication group (18.6%) compared with the psychological therapy group (5.4%)[3]. If NHS practice were in line with this biological data, it would have to reverse its current policy. At the moment, drug therapy is considered cheaper, even if it is more dangerous. The ease with which people are prescribed happy pills is laughable, with many people suffering from short-term depression, or just feeling low, being prescribed treatment after a short conversation with their GP. Even if you don’t feel like you are a depressive, a promising pill is a tempting offer to anyone feeling in a dark place, and saying no to a medical professional is against most peoples conditioning.

Depression is a mental disease, and so being told yours is bad enough to warrant treatment can be enough to push a person further into its depths. It’s stigmatized, so they will also feel more alone. The powerlessness felt would lead many people, who would otherwise have overcome their depression in the usual way, turning to SSRI’s. Unfortunately, this comfort blanket not only increases suicide risk, it also effects ambition, sex drive, social function and can, for many, begin a cycle of reliance on legal and illegal drugs.

An infamous side effect of SSRIs is “amotivational syndrome”. The patient shows apathy, disinhibited behavior, demotivation and a personality change. Its symptoms are similar to those that develop when the frontal lobes of the brain are damaged[4]. Essentially, we’ve created a chemical version of our archaic technique of mashing the brains’ frontal lobes in a lobotomy, a la One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. This effect is particularly prevalent on those medicated from a young age, and many researchers have linked the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, or in young children, to emotional disorders later in life[5].

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that high-dose, short-term exposure to SSRIs in rats was sufficient to produce distortion in the serotonin nerve fibers[6]. So, antidepressants may also arrest neuron development. Would we rather harm our brains irreparably and function adequately, or allow our emotions free reign at the possible detriment of our daily activities? Medication becomes a matter of economics; a person on antidepressants is less likely to take a long leave of absence due to personal tragedy as their chemical apathy allows them to function adequately despite emotional strain. Like a lobotomy, antidepressants can make the patient a perfect citizen: obedient, predictable and controlled. Is this state preferable to the natural, emotional, human condition?

How early can you tell if someone has a predisposition to depression? 18? 13? 8…? Fluoxetine, the first on the antidepressant tree to be prescribed to a new patient, is licensed for use in children 8 years and over in the U.K. This means an 8 year old could continue to be medicated indefinitely, with a drug proven to damage their brain and cause dependence, until they choose to stop.  This is despite the evidence of studies showing ‘no statistically significant’ differences between young people with depression being given placebo’s or antidepressants. The very act of medicating a child gives the placebo effect – it validates a belief that they have something that must be medicated.

Depression and addiction have been related to human connection in more recent studies. Rats who lived alone had a choice of a heroin bottle, and a water one. They all kept at it till death. Rats who lived community, presented with the same options, lived normal, long, lives. When we have human connection, we don’t need drugs to deal with a short term depression, we have people. Having been on anti-depressants I can tell you that I, for one, felt like I was in a bubble that kept people, and their emotions, at arms length. I was more callous, practical, and less like me. Switching pills for connection – in my case, creating projects with creative people, and writing a lot – could stop a young persons depression from becoming a life long struggle finding the ‘right’ drugs.

I recently started the blog Just Gushing for people with all perspectives to share their stories and creations, as a way of connecting and trying to brush off the stigma of mental illness.

Originally published by The New British. Get first free edition on iPad

[1] http://www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/component/jdownloads/finish/2050/7883?Itemid=0

[2] Hetrick SE, McKenzie JE, Cox GR, et al; Newer generation antidepressants for depressive disorders in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 14;11:CD004851. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004851.pub3.

[3] Cox GR, Callahan P, Churchill R, et al; Psychological therapies versus antidepressant medication, alone and in combination for depression in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 14;11:CD008324. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008324.pub2.

[4] Marangell et al. 2001, p.1059

[5] Ansorge et al. 2004

[6] Kalia 2000