How have individuals been affected by the technological advances of recent years? Here is the answer to this question given by philosopher-psychiatrist, Dr. Erich Fromm:
Our contemporary western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure.
Our ‘increasing mental sickness’ may find expression in neurotic symptoms. These symptoms are conspicuous and extremely distressing. But ‘let us beware,’ says Dr. Fromm, ‘of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symptoms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting.’ The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. ‘Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.’ They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish ‘the illusion of individuality’, but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized. Their conformity is developing in to something like uniformity. But ‘uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too… Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.
In the course of evolution nature has gone to endless trouble to see that every individual is unlike every other individual. We reproduce our kind by bringing the father’s genes into contact with the mother’s. These hereditary factors may be combined in an almost infinite number of ways. Physically and mentally, each one of us is unique. Any culture which, in the interests of efficiency or in the name of some political or religious dogma, seeks to standardize the human individual, commits an outrage against man’s biological nature.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited