Everybody talks of being stressed these days – the school going child of Grade 6, the university student, the housewife, the top-level professional career woman
In the jungles or savannas of the world some animals are luckier than others. Amongst them of course on top of the list is the lion. He is monarch of all. The lesser ones like the deers, gazelles or antelopes and others are less fortunate. They are the prey and live at the mercy of the mightier ones. Ever since they see the light of the sun they have to keep running for their lives. If they are lucky they can find a temporary nook or corner to hide and again be chased until doom comes closer. As someone puts it “courir ou mourir”. There is no choice.
Metro Boulot Dodo
In today’s world, it seems this is the key to success. It’s a non-stop rat race or else you feel you are left behind. I remember way back in the 1970s, this had already started in the European countries: in Paris it was “metro boulot dodo”. Now Mauritius too has caught up with it. The metro has not yet arrived but the race is already on. The end result is a condition called stress. Everybody talks of being stressed these days – the school going child of Grade 6, the university student, the housewife, the top-level professional career woman, the taxi driver to the boss owning a Mercedes or a Jaguar. One often hears “ayo mo stresser”. It is the new culture. Life is a journey from birth to death. One has to keep moving, like it or not. In the rat race, people keep running but after what? Illusions, disillusions, dreams, ambitions for the sake of happiness. Do they eventually find it?
On the occasion of the World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2017, the figures for mental illness, globally and locally were cause for concern and reflection, and demand urgent remedial measures. According to WHO “there has been an increase of 20% in depression cases within just a decade.”
As for Mauritius, the figures are most alarming indeed. According to the Minister of Health, Dr Anwar Husnoo, 200,000 people or about 22% of our population suffer from some sort of mental disturbance or psychiatric problem. However, the figure could be even higher, about 30% according to Dr Geeaneswar Gaya, a psychiatrist. As we are aware, Mauritius has dangerously slided in the synthetic drugs market whose victims are youth and children. Parents, doctors, psychiatrists, educators, religious and political leaders are all desperate and unable to tackle the hydra-headed monster.
The blame game consists in accusing parents who are alleged to have largely relinquished their roles. This is not fair. It is the whole global society which is responsible for this chaotic situation with its frenzied economic development based on the western capitalist model leading to mass production, mass consumption and a materialistic oriented consumer society. Everybody is a victim and nobody seems to be able to bring about a solution, not even religious leaders and gurus because they too are caught in the vortex of this system.
Stress and materialistic way of life
In itself, stress is not necessarily bad. It is an inborn, natural self-defense mechanism that prepares us to defend ourselves in times of danger or competition (as in the case of examinations). It becomes harmful when people reach a point when they are overloaded and are unable to cope with demands on their attention, time and efforts. These can relate to finances, work, relationships and in Mauritius, overloading of the young minds for generations with excessive private tuitions. These children have grown up into young adults with more professional burdens which they cannot bear, triggering some sort of depression, or mental fatigue.
The crux of the matter is a life style based so much on a materialistic cultural mode. Man (including woman and children) has grown disconnected with nature on the outside and with his own inner self. Formerly, there were safety valves such as the joint families where there was a strong network of supportive members of the family and village community life.
Grandparents used to tell heroic stories of great heroes which nurtured and strengthened the growing mind. With the bursting of the joint family system and coming up of the one unit family and more and more single parent family unit, and accelerated pace of mundane professional life, these support networks have become fragilized. Fragilizing the individual adult as well as youngsters. Coupled with that, attitudes too towards elders have changed drastically. Respect and ethics seem to have gone with the winds. Grandparents and parents are more unwanted because of an egotistic way of life. Children close themselves like clams within their rooms. Left to themselves and their computers and mobiles, they are dangerously at the mercy of predators of all sorts.
Arjuna the Despondent Hero
Depression is not a new malady or mental disorder. It gripped also one of the most well-known heroic figures of Hindu religious literature – the Great Arjuna of the Pandava dynasty. Faced with a fratricide dilemma in the great Mahabharata war where he saw himself face to face with his own kith and kins, Gurus, Sirs and grandfathers, mentors, he threw down his bow and arrows right on the battle field seized with a terrible despondency that seemed to paralyse him to the ground. He wanted to run away from his dharma – duty — to the Himalayas. It was then that Krishna Incarnated and as well as a relative and friend of Arjuna, filled him with Faith: Through 18 lessons on the different ways of practicing Yoga which suit each according to one’s temperament. He taught and armed Arjuna morally never to despair but to fight on as the soul is imperishable and Eternal. And that Greed and Injustice, malicious strategies and connivances have to be attacked frontally for Truth and Justice to prevail.
We must ultimately go back to the basics. Parents should spend more quality time with their children. At work, whether offshore or onshore, onboard or in board rooms, we should be able to withdraw from time to time to a little niche in our heart and to silence within the 24/7 hectic schedule of life we have created for ourselves. As Professor Robert S. Colter states quoting the stoic Roman Emperor (AD 161 – 180) Marcus Aurelius who was the most powerful man in the world of his time, meditated as he got out of bed and said:
“I am rising to do the work of a human being. Why then am I so irritable if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into this world for. Or was I created for this to be in bed and warm myself under the bed clothes?”
* Published in print edition on 27 October 2017
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