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Depression 2.0

I've been feeling a bit low, lately; staying at home, not working very effectively, feeling burned-out and demotivated.

In part, it's the effect of winter up here north of the 60th parallel — Edinburgh is north of every city in North America except maybe Anchorage; we're about fifty miles north of Moscow, and it's dark for up to 18 hours at a time. But I've got a SAD lamp for that, and besides, I'm used to it.

More interestingly, I was chatting to some friends yesterday and they were noting that everybody seems to be low right now. ("Everybody" for values of everybody in Edinburgh that they'd spoken to, that is.) The economy in the UK is, according to the IMF, due to take a bath in 2009, with shrinkage of 2.8% predicted — the worst recession since the 1930s — and this is making everyone feel a bit grim and pessimistic. Retail sales have fallen off a cliff and large retailer managers were predicting last month that 10% of retail staff nation-wide would be out of a job within 12 months. The housing market is something that, as a homeowner, I don't even want to think about. Our currency nearly collapsed last week, falling to its lowest level in 23 years. Everybody seems to know someone who has lost their job, or worse, to have lost their own: there's an pall of "who's next?" hovering in the air. Even for those of us who, like me, know we've got a solid job through 2009, it's gloomy, and your mood appears to be strongly influenced by that of your second-order friends and acquaintances.

Anyway: is this actually a common phenomenon in economic depressions? That is: are they characterised by pervasive emotional depression (as well as economic malaise) among the population at large? (I don't know anyone who's old enough to have experienced the 1930s depression as an adult ...) And if so, do we have the technology today — in the form of SSRIs and other medication — to fix Depression 2.0 on a global scale?

89 Comments

1:

If we take the second-order acquantaince theory at face value, it would seem that in order to best boost your mood, cut off all contact with people who have lost jobs. Not sure what that'd do for them, mind you.

2:

Yes, I'd say the stockbrokers who jumped out of windows in 1929 (it really happened, *not* an urban myth) could reasonably be described as being emotionally depressed, don't you?

;>

There are still people around who remember the Great Depression as adults, one simply must rummage for them.

That being said, what we're about to experience is *nothing nearly as bad* as the Great Depression of the 1930s. We're used to an upwards spiral, even in Great Britain over the last 25 years or so, which makes things sound bad and scary, but I'll be quite surprised if what occurs is 1/10th as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Which doesn't mean things will be pleasant; it's more a reflection of how bad things really were, during that period.

You ought to move somewhere warm, with a beach; does wonders for the psyche. I'll never go back to anyplace with a real winter, again.

3:

I'm unemployed in a foreign country (I wisely quit my shit job, by CHOICE, just before the economy tanked) and my housemate lost his job at an American owned Canadian marine supplies store a month later and I cannot get a job to save my life. I'm lower'n a snake's belly. Thanks for the pick me up Charlie. In other news, I saw a copy of The Hidden Family in hardcover reduced to six bucks in Chapters and didn't buy it. All the best!

4:

Dear Charlie,

I suggest that one driver is the parlous state and quailty of the UK media. I live in Switerland and while we are not being ravaged in the same way the UK economy is being painted we are going into recession. Is everyone depressed? No. The local media are not obsessed with a. D list celebrity sex lives and b. only ever focussing on Doom and gloom. (In other words, "we're all going to die and the only good news is who's winning "Big Brother"). Locally, I suppose I could perhaps prefer a little less fetishing over Roger Federer's tennis. And the health of Mrs Miggins cat.

I suspect that a general emotional malaise, when re-inforced by received perception of "those who know" (those that the media report) could easily be a secondary symptom of economic malaise. c.f. Richard Wiseman's work on lucky or unlucky people. If you believe (or are told to believe) your world (or that in general) is going to hell in a hand basket, you are likely to imagine the scent of smouldering wicker work.

Without being unsympathetic to those who've lost their jobs, for whom I feel great sympathy having been there several times myself...To a point, so what if the economy contracts to the point it was at 3 years ago. We weren't dead then were we?

Who cares what the house market does (unless you HAVE -ve equity AND are trying to move house) (mortage unavailability is a different story). You need somewhere to live. Primary residences should not be considered as investments except, perhaps, trans-generationally in a society without egregiously unfair inheritance taxation.

I'm very sorry to hear that you're feeling down Yourself. For You, as a talented, successful, man of the world and independent means... I'd prescribe a good dose of sock picking up, backing of shoulders, to-ing of the grind stone of the same and perhaps even the getting of a grip, man.

5:

Wgat scares me is that Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, presided over the creation of the whole mess. He's our Hoover, while America has already moved on to Roosevelt.

Or maybe not, but it is a change.

6:

I checked Edinburgh's location versus Edmonton, the biggest northerly Canadian city. Edinburgh is 55°57′N, while Edmonton is a mere 53°34′N. Canada's three territorial capitals (Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit) are farther north, but are a fraction of Edinburgh's size (the biggest, Whitehorse, has less than 1/20th of Edinburgh's population). It's Scotland 1, Canada 0.

As for depression, like Vertigoranger (#3) I quit my job by choice before the economy tanked. I'm starting work at a call centre next month to make ends meet-- for a fraction of my previous paycheque. I didn't like my old job when I left it, but I've been cursing myself and feeling low for a while. Some days it's a struggle just to get out of bed.

7:

Yeah, know, I remember the other recession we had in the '80s. This was another world-wide slow-down brought about by excesses in the banking industry, and many, many people lost their lives as everything swirled down the toilet.

I think it was around this time that the final nail was put in the coffin of England's northern industrial heartland, so I'm surprised you don't recall it.

Yeah, people were pretty depressed back then, too.

8:

I saw in the news recently, that we just had the worst day of the year, depression-wise (combination of darkness, post-x-mas-no-money and other things).

That, combined with general economic problems, would probably do the trick ...

9:

Charlie, I think SAD is seriously potentiating the effect of depressing economic news on you and everyone else in Edinburgh. I'm basing this on anecdotal evidence: my own situation. I have every reason to be depressed just now: the economic news in the States is even more depressing than the UK just now; we've been officially informed that the US economy contracted at a 4.1% annual rate in the last quarter of 2008. I was laid off last month, medical insurance has refused to cover an operation that has a high probability of reducing chronic pain in my back and legs, we've been hit with thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses in the last couple of months, and the list goes on from there. But I'm not feeling depressed, despite a history of clinical depression and occasional spiraling into depression in the last 2 or 3 years, despite medication.

The weather has been unusually clear this last month or so in Portland. In December we had severe snow and ice storms, but in January we've had clear weather, with occasional rain and light snow. One week was extremely cold but completely cloudless. So we've had a lot more light than normal for this time of year. Yes, we're far south of Edinburgh (about 46°N), but a typical winter here is totally overcast for 4 months or so, and partially overcast for the rest of the fall and spring, so SAD is a big factor in the internal weather here.

Maybe what's needed is to make sure your second-order contacts all have SAD lights.

10:

It's probably nineteen different kinds of illegal, but given that one of the current goals of economic policy at the moment is to restore confidence so everybody can go back to spending and the whole machine starts again, I think it could actually alleviate things a bit. I wonder if eventually psychotropic regulation will be a regular part of monetary policy, as a better way than interest rates to tweak the velocity of money.

Shameless plug: Last week Frontier Economy (the online mag I edit) published a very short description of a more limited version of this trick.

11:

I've just come back from Trinidad and Tobago and must say that the cold and dark (and the flu...) are taking its toll. SAD lights help, but only a little.

Oddly, almost all the low-energy bulbs in T&T were of the daylight quality which I pay a lot of bucks for over in the UK. I can't use them in the study or bedroom because they prevent me from getting tired at night.

Careful with SSRIs. Some people react badly to them, particularly if they take them for longer than 6-8 months. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe. There is no cure-all for depression and we still don't know what causes it. The Serotonin Hypothesis is just that: a hypothesis, cribbed from some old psychology textbook. I hope somebody is doing some serious research.

12:

"Wgat scares me is that Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, presided over the creation of the whole mess. He's our Hoover, while America has already moved on to Roosevelt."

Thanks loads, that really cheers me up, since FDR didn't have a clue and prolonged the Great Depression by at least 7 years.

13:

*Rolls eyes*

*Checks comment thread for presence of bridges that might have attracted the troll*

14:

"A more profound reason that people believe we are in a recession can't be found in the GDP tables at all. It's in their minds, what psychologist and author Judith M. Bardwick calls the psychological recession - 'an emotional state in which people feel extremely vulnerable and afraid for their futures.'"

"The No. 1 cause, she says, is not falling incomes - most people's incomes aren't falling - but rather people's worry about job security, 'the mother lode of anxiety poisoning their view of reality.' Even if they keep their jobs, they know that benefits may well be cut. Then add the lack of confidence in financial institutions and market swoons that have eaten into investors' portfolios."

"What's so insidious about it, she says, is that 'as people try to gain some sense of having control through knowledge, they increase their fears and sense of vulnerability by seeking out and therefore exaggerating the bad news. In this way the psychological recession is self-fulfilling.'"

Recession ... or not?
The economy isn't doing as badly as you think. It just feels that way.
By Geoff Colvin, senior editor at large
Last Updated: September 17, 2008: 1:53 PM EDT

In related news:

Rich got richer as their tax rates fell in Bush years, data show

Through the first six years of the Bush administration, the average rate paid by the 400 richest Americans dropped by a third to 17.2%, figures show.

Bloomberg News
January 31, 2009

The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2% through the first six years of the Bush administration, and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new data show.

The 17.2% in 2006 was the lowest since the Internal Revenue Service began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although they paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than for any year since 2000.

15:

Finland may hold the answer. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Finland's economy tanked about 11% from 1990 to 1993. (Depression or Recession?)
I tried to draw some conclusions other than the greater availability of social services to combat human depression, the less likely it will occur, but couldn't find that many. Suicide rates don't correlate that well with unemployment levels.

So enough of this talk of depression. We need humor.

Transportation officials in Texas are scrambling to prevent hackers from changing messages on digital road signs after one sign in Austin was altered to read, "Zombies Ahead."

16:

I see - people who disagree with the conventional left-liberal wisdom are 'trolls'. So much for 'diversity', eh?

Thanks for clarifying! Now we despised right-wingers know where we stand!

But I guess our money doesn't stink when it comes to book sales, does it?

This is your weblog, you can do, say, ban whatever/whoever you want. But is it really smart business practice for an author to evince contempt towards members of his readership simply because they hold differeing political views from his own?

I know what Ken Macleod's answer would be, but you've always struck me as far more balanced and reasonable than he. Perhaps I was mistaken in that regard?

17:

Sorry I forgot a link to some actual photos...
http://www.woostercollective.com/2009/01/hacking_the_grid_in_austin_zombies_ahead.html

Austin is the state capital of Texas, so perhaps this was an off-hand reference to the state's politicians?

18:

Roland: see the moderation policy. Hint #1: this is my soapbox, not yours. Hint #2: see my self-description.

This is your first and final warning. Drop the politics on this thread, or I'll start deleting your posts.

19:

I already acknowledged it's your soapbox (i.e., that's what 'This is your weblog, you can do, say, ban whatever/whoever you want.' indicates).

My question to you is whether it was really a smart idea for those who sing for their supper to evince contempt for their customers. It's a legitimate question - which you're under no obligation to answer, aber naturlich. But I'm genuinely interested in your perspective on this, if you'd choose to share it.

20:

Interesting, wonder how you'd test the hypothesis of societal depression? Maybe word usage analysis in newspapers, correspondence over time: general use of more negative terms? Increased sales of Cornell Woolrich novels?

I'm in Ottawa, so not quite so bad as Edinburgh light-wise but colder. Jan-Feb are always tough for me, but I get a sense of general foreboding in the air that seems worse than normal. Only solutions I have are to read more, get more light and exercise.

The positive side of mood being influenced by 2nd order acquaintances is that relentless cheerfulness on your part can help a lot of people, if only a little bit. It's hard but I'm trying.

21:

Roland, would you rather I was dishonest?

Would you rather I allowed my blog comments to be used as a soapbox by other folks regardless of their ideology? (For example, holocaust deniers, or lesbian feminist separatists, or Salafi fundamentalists, or Maoists)?

Would you rather I allowed random trolls to use my blog for flame war target practice?

I don't hold your views "in contempt" just because they differ from my own -- but I didn't start this thread because I wanted to clear a space for a political food fight, and if I think you (or Papapete, who you'll note isn't a regular around here, at least under that name) are trying to start one, I'm going to take measures to put things back on course.

22:

Yes, plenty of depressed people in the 1980's recession, especially in the N of England. Heroine addition in Liverpool reached all time highs at the time. The sense of the bleakness comes through in the tv plays, like Alan Bleasdale's "Boys from the Black Stuff".

Spawned the catch phrase: Giz' a job?. And my favorite line: "The only growth industry is building social security offices".

May not be as bad as depression era USA, but certainly very back.

23:

Heroine addiction? Well, Sandahl Bergman was a serious lust object of mine back then, but I wouldn't say I was addicted...

24:

interesting note re SSRIs from my wife (who is a psychologist): Only handing out free SSRIs to depressed people would actually _raise_ the suicide rate. This is because one key symptom of a lot of depressions is a lack of drive, or however you would best translate this. I.e. heavily depressed people might well want to kill themselves but lack the resolve to do so, due to the depression itself. The quirk about SSRIs is apparently that they remove that symptom earlier than others .. so you still want to kill yourself, but now you've suddenly got the energy to actually do it ... Which is why psychologists will always say (but also for job-security reasons of course) that you _have_ to do therapy as well, and that actually SSRIs are only a way to make you able to go to therapy..

Anyway.

job-related note: The other day a few colleagues and me were discussing (we're all phd-students in physics right now) how on the one hand we sometimes envy others who were faster than us .. but coming to the end of our thesises right now would really suck and we're kinda happy that it takes each one of us at least another year .. who knows, maybe there's some miraculous new economy running then and we'll all have jobs or something! yay!

25:

I think it will be interesting to see if the general economic mood improves during the spring/summer here in the northern hemisphere, even if the actual economic news hasn't changed.

26:

#24: 'heavily depressed people might well want to kill themselves but lack the resolve to do so, due to the depression itself. The quirk about SSRIs is apparently that they remove that symptom earlier than others .. so you still want to kill yourself, but now you've suddenly got the energy to actually do it'

Hm yes, that's another pet theory, but it sounds almost too quaint.

Most suicides are acts of impulsive rage. Resolve to done deed typically takes less than five minutes--which is why people manage to string themselves up in the showers in closed psychiatric wards. The utterly irrational fury that drives them is what somebody fittingly described in a forum as a 'suicidal storm'.

Such rages--aimed at oneself or others--can be triggered by SSRIs. This goes somewhat beyond increased energy levels.

27:

Charlie, its been suggested that depression is merely a weakening of the illusionary shield we use to keep out the realities of life: our mortality, our total cosmic insignificance, a time when we see the truth more clearly. Have you ever noticed how a lot of perky, upbeat, energetic people are so busy becoming a success in life they never think deeply about the nature of what they have defined as success.

You are in the deep thinking business so maybe a bit of melancholia is a good thing (now there's an emotional state that is barely studied or even thought of these days). Moping around the place and brooding on things may be good for the creative side of your writing.

So I recommend you mope around the place and ponder on the meaning of it all. Go with the flow.

Dave.

28:

re: SSRIs. Yes, they can be very detrimental over the long term with some people. I knew it was time to give them up when I started looking at tall buildings and wondering what kind of field of fire I'd get from up there.

But they are very useful in the short term to get you past the stage where depression makes everything feel so overwhelming you find yourself almost paralysed and hiding under the covers sucking your thumb seems like a viable option.

As someone who has suffered depression for most of their life, I can say the best non-medication remedy I have found is to step back from the things that are adding stress for a few days and spend time doing things that normally make you happy. If that means telling someone you need to extend a deadline, then do it. If it means going out of town for a week to somewhere further south and finding some sun, do it. If it means curling up with a stack of favourite books, music, and DVDs and losing the real world for a few days, do it. Don't listen to the bad news and try to avoid other very depressed people for a few days. Whatever. But you have to take some time to deal with it.

The longer you leave the black dog sitting on your shoulder, the harder it is to kick the bastard off. So take the time as soon as possible to refresh yourself, find a glimmer of joy in something you love and grab hold of it with both hands. Fake smiles and laughter and trick your brain into thinking you are feeling happy (this does cause chemical changes in the brain).

Good luck with climbing out of the hole.

29:

Businessweek rates Great Britain as only the 10th gloomiest econonomy in the world right now (among nations that still have one) and it's my understanding that Businessweek considers Scotland to be part of Britain.

That's almost as good as Finland at #12, and they may have the least insolation of any permanently settled part of the Earth north of the the Falklands.

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/01/0126_business_expectations/11.htm

30:

I think it's a test for us, to see how much we've learned about how to organize resources, start new projects, get over our own misery, and help our neighbor. We should be "doing it ourselves" now, not relying on central currency or foreign exchange (inter-village should be OK, but that's about it, other than over the internet) to make our local economies go. Screw the banks, screw the dole, let's see how far we can get with our social networks!

31:

I have the advantage of working somewhere which has a full order book for this year (no idea about next year) and enough development and technical work to keep me busy for the next 4 years in bringing our understanding of our product up to 21st century standards, and working on making it better.

Therefore I have had less contact with people who are out of work or fearful for their jobs. (as well as many of my friends just seeming to be in less endangered jobs, although I suppose only the minister has total job security)

That said, I have been looking at online at message boards in the last week or two and the depression seems to have lifted, to be replaced with anger and fear.

Of course the problem with this is obviously that depressed people won't be bothered enough to post on boards, which is probably true enough. Yet I get the impression that there is not as much depression around as some people would like to think, and that it will be replaced with anger in more cases. Certainly in many people it has, because of their new awareness that Brown is one of the reasons we are in this mess, and that his proposed solutions don't directly help the man and woman in the street.
There is also the point that we have a long way to go on the down slope, since we binged so badly in the last few years. I'm not an economist, but saw this bubble bursting ohhh, maybe 3.5 years ago (I was just a year too early in my estimation of when house prices would peak), and the way the spiral works:
House price reductions+ loss of savings+ fear about banks+ being maxed out on credit cards = less spending more saving and paying off.
Less spending = fewer purchases and so less need for shop, transport and production staff.
Therefore redundancies = more people out of work with reduced purchasing power, and more people know more people out of work or in fear, therefore if they havn't already done so, they decrease non-essential purchases.
Which leads to less need for salespeople, transport of stuff etc.
And so on down the spiral. How we are supposed to get out of it I don't know. Oddly enough having an economy with quite a lot of gvt jobs means there will, (except if it goes bankrupt) be teachers, NHS, police, fire brigade and suchlike being paid.

What it does mean is that politics appears to get more interesting. See those strikes going on about foreign workers. Some of it seems to be motivated by breaindead nationalism. Some of it is down simply to an inbred motive of fairplay, and also (apparently justified) fear of foreign workers being used to drive down UK pay and conditions.

The question is, what does motivate Charlie? I'm sure he does know he has legions of fans wanting to be entertained and educated and made to think by reading more stories written by him. (Does that sound too much like sucking up?)

32:

Charlie,

My approach was to give up summer holidays as a daft idea and instead take a holiday to the sun in the winter. As a result I am currently in Australia, looking forward to 37C and as much sunshine as you can cope with. Then in the summer I stay in the UK and enjoy the good weather there.

For someone like you, who can largely work where you like, its very productive and better than any drugs. It can even be quite cheap since you are not paying to heat a cold old house in the UK for the time you are away. Obviously the second-order friends and acquaintances are not there either, so you get a break from the bad news.

33:

Re SAD lamps. Check out Lightbulbs Direct http://www.lightbulbs-direct.com they stock full daylight spectrum compact fluorescent lamps up to 30W (approx equivalent to 150W incandescent) we use them at home for room lighting as the light is far better than either the conventional 'energy savers' or incandescents.

34:

Ian: I travel about 3 months a year. And I don't like hot climates much -- I actually moved to Scotland because London was too hot for me in summer.

The lack of daylight is the only problem.

John Wilson: I have a serious SAD lamp abought eighteen inches away from my face when I'm working. No need for extras.

35:

This post struck a chord. I`m currently located in Norway, slightly south of Bergen (60°20'N, 05°20'E). It`s a surprisingly mild winter, for which i am thankful, but still, it`s incredibly dark around here. Luckily it isn`t as bad as last winter, when i quit my job due to an overwhelming experience of depression, depreciation and stress.
It`s so incredibly odd to exist in a bubble of material security when the world contains its current assortment of complexities and instabilities, no wonder we all end up with a feeling of being worn out. How best to alleviate this winter fatigue? Well, what can i do, i`ve holed up in my bed with an assortment of interesting literature and hope that i`ll still be operational come april.
A suggestion, in order to alleviate your fears and woes relative to out current economical malaise you might be well advised to read Mack Reynolds wonderful book "Depression or Bust", i read it in may/june of 2008, and it affords me a bubble of humour in relation to the current crisis. (Those darn marxist dolphins!!!) I am shallow enough to believe that to fill my life with humourous takes on calamities is the only way to remain operational throughout the horrors which we have in front of us.
Other than that, pick up some William Tenn, i just discovered him, and he is classier than Reynolds. Re-read Ray Bradburys "Machineries of Joy"? Get a Spotify account and search for "Rare Funk", that might help. The assertiveness of funk is one of the best self-motivators i know, though it might not work from your point of exploration.

Oh yeah, and in relation to Obama, don`t blame me, i voted for Nixon! http://www.textfiles.com/stories/breaks1.asc

Cheers.

36:

michael @24, while your wife is right about what happens when someone first gets an SSRI, current studies show that talk therapy only works for some folks. What you need to do when someone first gets an SSRI is to watch them carefully. Have them come in every day, or get their spouse to watch for symptoms. That point of being depressed but motivated passes in about a week or two.

Charlie, I think the dark, the economy, and the general depressive fog are probably getting you. Maybe some exercise?

37:

Uh, perhaps a non-sequitur but I don't think Edinburgh is north of the 60th parallel. More like 55th parallel...

Or do you live just north of Edinburgh proper?

In any case, having been to Anchorage (and Fairbanks, and to a little "town" with 9 people north of the Arctic Circle), I think I'd probably go crazy. But as someone who lives in Los Angeles, having it be sunny every day is no picnic either. I miss storms.

38:

Dunno; I quit my job back in October, which I suppose was after things were obviously headed at pear-shaped but before the general awareness of the shape-change had hit.

Really sucky time with respect to the general economy to do that, on the one hand, but on the other I really really needed to stop emulating three people. Stress-related chronic pain is gone, caught up on sleep, actually cooking stuff for fun instead of minimum-effort fuel procurement; indeed, generally feeling a whole lot better, mood wise. Also reading nice chewy philosophy (Ernst Mayr, "What Makes Biology Unique?") for purposes of renovating some neurons.

So, when's the last time you read something just for fun, rather than for research or to assist in unscrogulating some chunk of supposedly functional technology?

A certain species of light classical music seems pretty good for this, too, from back before the world was known, small, and contingent.

I suspect the angst is in part driven by no one approaching the economy with a policy driven by egalitarian or compassionate motives; if you know that the accepted right thing to do, so far as your corporate masters are concerned, is to fire you to keep the bottom line good, it doesn't make you feel confident about your long-term prospects. (Even if you aren't fired, it's not like you don't know in a deep and visceral way that the resources available to do the work will not be scaled to the work...)

As soon as someone starts pushing policy that makes the security and prosperity of individuals the priority, rather than the stability of banks, it's likely to lift the mood some. Especially since we've got a potential boom or six staring us in the face; between replacing the combustion power infrastructure, nanotech as a class of endeavor, and biotech, there's both lots of work to do and lots of new innovation to drive prosperity with, any time policy starts getting made around securing prosperity.

I think that's a lot of the gloom right there, myself; sure, winter doesn't help, but the sense that there's all this stuff totally beyond one's reach, never mind control, that it matters, and apparently the folks who can reach it are stuck in 1970 or class panic or *something* justifiably makes people lose hope.

39:

1. I was hoping that Christchurch, NZ was further south than Edinburgh is north...no such luck. New Zealand is _Spain's_ anti-pode, not the UK's. Fudge!

2. How does Japan do it? On the one hand, a sky-high suicide rate, and on the other, Hello Kitty. How could you possibly feel down if Hello Kitty is staring at you?

3. I think another part of this might be feelings surrounding the real moral equivalence of work. I know that I have a good job, it pays well, we're not going anywhere anytime soon, and it's pretty much 100% evil. Take a look at what Obama wants for this world, and then take a look at what you've personally been doing about it, and that'll depress almost anybody. It's not his fault really...but we did pay top dollar for morons whose job was to turn the global economy into a toilet.

::kicks a rock:: I dunno...

40:

Charlie@21: No, of course not - I don't want you to be dishonest, nor do I believe you're dishonest, quite the opposite.

I enjoy your fiction and meta-discussions thereof, even though I disagree with much of your politics. I don't really *care* what your politics are, they're largely irrelevant to me. But I did find it interesting that, instead of stomping on Dave Bell@5, who brought up politics in this commentary, in the first place, you decided to stomp on the Papete person, who was merely responding to Dave Bell's troll.

Your weblog, your choice; I'm just saying that a bit of even-handedness towards those with whom you disagree goes a long way towards securing customer loyalty, and demonstrates that you don't hold a given class of your customers in contempt, even though you disagree with them, and they with you. That's all.

41:

The positive side of mood being influenced by 2nd order acquaintances is that relentless cheerfulness on your part can help a lot of people, if only a little bit.

Relentless anything just makes me want to slap the person concerned.

I've read writers as a group are possibly a bit more susceptible to depression than other people, it being of necessity a fairly solitary profession.

42:

Hmm. I'm in Toronto, a tad south, latitude-wise. I find that the way to counteract the winter blues and blahs is to get outside for reasonable doses of sunlight.

It helps that I have a big window behind my desk at the current gig - as a result, even though I'm implementing some big changes life-wise and am dancing on a very thin financial tight-rope, I'm fairly confident - most of the time.

I have patches of dispair - but not enough to seriously stop me. I've been through worse. The 1991-1993 recession was pretty severe here Canada - worse than '81. Our then Finance Minister, Paul Martin, did some harsh, but necessary financial retooling and it's put us in a better position than most countries. Yeah, the next couple of years are going to suck, but thanks to a new opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff, it looks like our ideologically-driven Tory government is going to have it's feet held to the fire to get at least half-way to doing what needs to be done to moderate the effects here. Infrastructure spending is being ramped up, unemployment benefits expanded and retraining funding made more available. It's a good time to retool. Now, all we need to do is reformulate a few tax structures around mid-sized tech start-ups and we should come through reasonably well. It's going to hurt (I for one, am just manage to navigate disposing of an abode at a decent price in a market that never over-inflated and get myself back to school)

Nothing Dean Foote a demographer at University of Toronto didn't predict in his book _Boom, Bust & Echo_. So far, he's tracked pretty accurately for fifteen years, based solely on demographics.

43:

Charlie,
[suckup]Well, I did clear my schedule to go to to Balticon this May, where if the stars align I may prostrate myself at your feet with the shoggoths and other unclean members of your adoring public. Thus my mood is cheerful and anticipatory, and its all your fault! Maybe I'll even get a book signed? For a crab-cake maybe?[/suckup]

So I'm thinking on this, that my mood is positively influenced by the prospect of meeting someone I know zilch about on a personal level but whose work touches on a subset of my personal interests and professional skills in a way that enhances my reading experience like very few other authors do. And personally I'm not in work-related peril, or in danger of losing my home, but I know plenty who are (a bunch of folks on my project got "right-sized" last Fall, a complete corporate FUBAR), so I get the backwash of SAD/Gloomy-economy synergy from folks who are definitely in its clammy grip. And then I think: is it possible that with a weak economy and a people looking for something positive (or at least distracting), that the coming years will be good for the entertainers of our culture, and that escapist fiction will lose the literary Mark of Cain it gained when things were good?

Hell, its escapist, but when its all you got...

So in a weird way, I guess I mean: Cheer up Charlie! You can use your eldritch powers for good in the lean times ahead by dragging us by the neck through alternate dimensions, futures more scary by orders of magnitude than our present, and terrify us with bureaucracies staffed by the squamous and rugose. And not only will this goodwill effort on your part translate into increasing your own personal chunk of GDP, but you will be doing your part to nudge folks away from the dark and dreary.

I wonder what the impact of the Great Depression was on the entertainment industry?

(hmm, my spellchecker doesn't recognize eldritch and rugose...)

44:

I think I'm constantly in despair and almost always in a state of depression when I realise just where humanity is heading.

Knowing we're already at the beginning of the resource war era is not heartening at all.

Some of us are simply not suited to rosy tinted eyewear and we have to bear the brunt of the brutal reality of our observations.

I ditched the lithium years ago, I can't read on meds.

Charles the only consolation and help I can offer is that we must heed that old myth and think "Phoenix".

45:

Roland, for an example of an author who is successfully contemptuous, vile, cantankerous and occasionally sexual-harassmenty, look no further than Warren Ellis. The man could kill puppies, and it would increase his comic sales.

Charlie is different, in that he sets out his rules upfront as a way to completely fairly express the hatred and frustration that we all feel when a bloody troll starts up a boring, nit-picking discussion that we know will resolve nothing and bring no new ideas, knowledge, or anything of any worth to anyone.

The magnitude of Charlie's demonstrated contempt for useless bastards is inversely proportional to the respect he receives from the rest of his readers.

46:

I don't believe that I was trolling when I suggested that a big factor for the UK is that the country is still being run by the people who let the mess develop, while the USA has just had a major change.

It's a new broom effect, rather than actual policy.

I read this morning that GM is spending a billion dollars in Brazil. Some things have changed, and for actual solutions, rather than the feel-good factors, the answers will have to be different.

Whether or not Keynes was right, we're in a different world. THAT billion dollars isn't going to be able to circulate according to his economic theory.

47:

The magnitude of Charlie's demonstrated contempt for useless bastards is inversely proportional to the respect he receives from the rest of his readers.

So the more we respect him, the less need he'll have to lash out at passing trolls?

48:

Ohako @38

2. How does Japan do it? On the one hand, a sky-high suicide rate, and on the other, Hello Kitty. How could you possibly feel down if Hello Kitty is staring at you?

Well, in Japan, suicide is a socially accepted way of atoning for a wrong or escaping from an 'inescapable' situation.

As for Hello Kitty...that's the tip of the iceberg - there are cute characters for *everything*. Not so long ago we had the spectacle of the Justice Minister on TV doing a promo for the new 'Lay Judge' System they're introducing over here. Three guys were there dressed in Mascot suits representing three prefectural prosecutors offices. Yup, even the grim prosecutors have their mascots! The Justice Minister then tried on one of the suits on national TV...

49:

How could you possibly feel down if Hello Kitty is staring at you?

God almighty, not down maybe but fear, confusion, dismay...

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine Hello Kitty staring at a human face - forever."

I wonder what the impact of the Great Depression was on the entertainment industry?

That period is sometimes known as The Golden Age of Hollywood. They made a hell of a lot of films, figured out what worked and what didn't and laid the foundations for modern film-making conventions. Going to the cinema was cheap, got you out of the house and into a fantasy-world for a while. Also in those days you'd get a full cinema program - cartoon, episode of a serial, newsreel, B-movie and feature movie plus obligatory what's coming up soon trailers and so on, so there'd be lots to see. People listened to a lot of radio too, and it wasn't dominated by music in the way it is now; maybe a little more like a cross between BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4. Also pulp magazines were at their height, although they'd already peaked when it came along (some pulp historians disagree).

(It's been suggested by film critics and me in the pub that the two great periods of American Cinema, in the 30s and the 70s, corresponded with the two worst periods for America in the 20th century. Of course these periods were also filled with lots of forgettable farces, romantic comedies, dramas, westerns and horror films so noone noticed at the time.)

--
As for myself, I started doing some part-time maths tutoring last week. I'm not a natural teacher so I find it really hard work, but it's also rewarding as you can see actual progress in the 14 year-old in front of you. I can feel myself coming out of the almost invisible winter depression. Maybe I'll try and spread this about a bit, although hopefully I don't come off as too smug.

50:

Roland, apropos your #40, Dave is someone I've known personally since, hmm, some time in the late 1980s. There's an element of trust there that you are never going to see (unless/until I've met you and known you on and off for, oh, a decade or two).

Nor did I take his comment to be trolling; Gordon Brown has played King Log over the biggest sustained housing bubble in British history (or at least as much of it as I'm aware of) while working with Tony Blair to merge the least appetizing bits of laissez-faire capitalism with nosy authoritarian nanny-knows-best socialism. Curiously, I am Not A Fan of Gordon Brown.

51:

And surely Big Gordie is also an eager, flag-waving fan of the Ammurican Way, ie Chicago-Boys-economics-stylee, which is one reason we`re waist-deep in financial poop. Fact is, both Britain and America, and various hangerson, have indulged in a 30-year monetarist binge-a-thon with the results that we see around us (and the upsets yet to come). Thatcher started out hellbent on turning the UK from a manufacturing nation into one deriving the great majority of its GDP and clout from the financial sector, and she succeeded. Major, Blair and now Brown are merely continuing to prop up that de-democratising, unegalitarian, divisive system while fobbing off its victims with PR and blinged-up crumbs from the top table.

Whoops, sorry, dang it, Charlie! - found myself channelling the spirit of Bill Hicks there a second...

52:

FWIW, a recent and well-recieved book on the beginnings of FDR's term ("The Defining Moment", by Jonathan Alter --- now where else have I heard *that* turn of phrase lately?) does attribute the feeling of turnaround less to FDR's specific program than to his ability to project an air of optimism and confidence, particularly through adept use of radio, the new high-tech medium of the day. The conversational tone of the "fireside chats" was a break with a few hundred years' worth of conventions in political oratory.

(Some credit also has to go to the program itself --- but while some of it was clearly Roosevelt's own, like the CCC and TVA, a surprising amount was continuing and strengthening policies that had been either under development or already underway in the Hoover administration.)

BTW, to go off-topic for a minute: while the Obama administration is a clean break with the past in many respects, bank regulation is not one of them. The deregulation and laissez-faire attitudes that got us into this mess were the policy of both parties in the United States going well back, at least, into the Clinton administration. The troublesome thing isn't so much that Obama's team has Clinton retreads on it --- it's what it *doesn't* have: anyone at all (with the possible exception of Volcker) who thought that the deregulation mania was a bad idea at the time it was happening.

And, as far as the current state of affairs goes: it took more than three years to get from a stock market crash in 1929, to the imminent failure of most major banks in 1933. What we have now in the States isn't that bad yet --- banks' doors are open, retail operations are apparently functioning normally, and there have been no overt runs --- it's starting to look like, say, summer 1932, when it became plain that the soundness of the banks could be called into question. And the sheer increased rapidity of change is itself troubling...

53:

Clearly we need banks. But do we need the banks we have?
Clearly we need bankers, but ditto for bankers.

Meanwhile, recalibrating the standard against which one judges reality or success helps, and so does good weather and perhaps so do chocolate and cheese of the more interesting sorts. And the lights, yes.

Is there an intersection of cheerful chick-lit with SF I wonder, and if not, who should write it?

54:

Christmas lights -- soft, cool-burning LED Christmas lights in strange colours like purple -- all year 'round. This is my suggestion.

I wouldn't be surprised to find correlations between clinical and economic depression, but the latter means that sufferers of the former have diminished opportunities to seek professional help in countries where health care is contingent on employment alone. Then again, with fewer people in work, more might be willing to participate in studies on new drugs. But studies require funding, and there's precious little of that to go around...is Big Pharma a recession-proof industry?

I echo the cautionary sentiment regarding SSRI's. I also question the assertion that they're helpful in the short term. My (admittedly limited) understanding of how they work is that they effectively re-write the brain's spam filters so that more serotonin-based messages are allowed in, instead of being killed by faulty security measures. The trick is that this is not a permanent re-write. In order for the serotonin to remain in the synaptic gap for an extended period of time -- thereby increasing its likelihood of recognition by the appropriate receptors, effecting slow change of the serotonin : receptor ratio -- the re-uptake inhibitor must remain in place. Otherwise the ratio reverts to its previous state once the serotonin spends less time inside the gap, and the patient experiences symptoms again. Am I wrong?

55:

Madeline: My understanding is that long-term use of SSRIs alters the "normal" state of your brain chemistry so that it relies on the presence of the drug. They're supposed to be used short-term only, in combination with therapy and whatever else is required to treat the underlying cause of the depression. If that doesn't happen and you attempt to come off them after a long time, the results are not nice. Brain chemistry and neurology are quite plastic and are influenced by "force of habit" as well as chemicals.

But we're preaching to the choir here, our host is a pharmacist and I suspect that comment was a bit tongue in cheek, hmmm?

56:

Re the SSRIs - are they really much better than placebo? I mean placebos with really nasty side effects? Don't get me wrong, I'm not going all Tom Cruise or anything, just seem to remember reading recently that depression now seems to have less to do with lack of serotonin than originally thought. The root of the condition seems to be physical degeneration of the brain and one of the best remedies is ol' faithful - plenty exercise and healthy diet. I could be remembering it wrong, anyone else remember hearing that?

As for everything else, well I'm awaiting divorce from the woman I loved, can't sell my house for love nor money (been 8 months on the market) and only just made it back into what seems like secure employment, albeit in an industry I'd hoped to leave last year. Still doing fine mentally despite a history of severe stress, anxiety and depression. Maybe it's the sudden exercise mania I've discovered or maybe the shock of the relationship troubles just makes everything else seem so insignificant by comparison.

Either way hope you sort your own head out, I know how crap it can be.

57:

For a reality check on Hello Kitty (I AM HELLO KITTY, DESTROYER OF WORLDS), you might want to check this out: http://www.peterlangston.com/Fun_People/1996/1996AOJ.html

I've definitely noticed a lot of people being depressed. Doing something with friends might help, if you have friends locally. I don't mean go out and drink beer - I mean make dinner, and have a nice chat, and then go home relatively sober. Maybe I'm biased, but I think when you're feeling depressive downers are a bad move.

For my part, I'm trying to do useful things. I think that having a sense of purpose can help. What I'm doing may not save the world, but if it makes peoples lives a little better that ought to be enough for me.

Dave@27 proposes that it's your job to be depressed. I don't agree. What you do is important. You have every reason to feel chuffed about it. If you aren't feeling chuffed about it, you may be in a state of denial about the value of your work, and it might be worth spending some time thinking about that. Not only are your books fun to read, but you explore topics that I think are worth exploring, and open peoples' minds to ideas they might not otherwise have encountered. It's something to think about as you bask in the glow of your SAD light.

58:

Some research papers [hotlinks omitted] claim that some SSRIs stimulate the growth of new brain cells in the regions where clinical Depression has killed brain cells.

I was first told this by a researcher that I knew who was on the board that determined what drugs would be covered by what insurance agencies; and then I confirmed this by speaking to a researcher on the team that had discovered the SSRI (now black-labeled) Serzone.

What are the long term consequences of social experimentation on this method of determining whose brains are forced to grow new brain cells?

I am not a neurophysiologist, although I took many such courses in grad school, taught neuroanatomy and microneuroanatomy to 11th graders, and am coauthoring a paper and a grant proposal for clinical trials which involves open source XML-standard (Systems Biology Markup Language) software simulation of certain networks of chemically modulated neurons combined with muscle cells (in the human gut, where 1% as many neurons are as in your brain and spinal cord).

59:

Mood is mostly just a derivative of some state function. If you feel bad these days, it is probably because you felt rather good lately. If you were really down the dumps in the last few years already, even today can feel real nice.

If things stay the way they are for me, my mood will be perfectly countercyclical (perhaps even countercynical) for the next few years.

60:

In 1930 my grandfather was 14, helping his father and uncles out on their farms in Saskatchewan. I talked to him today about the Dirty Thirties and evidently no one used to get depressed before 1960.
Also, psychology was invented sometime in the early '60s by crybaby hippies who sat around talking about their feelings rather than putting in an honest day's work.

I had no idea. Well, live and learn! :)

61:

Our host is a pharmacist? I had no idea. (I apparently need to get in the habit of Googling people, and not things.) Does that ever make for awkward questions at conventions?

62:

I've been on SSRIs for about 14 years. Some work better than others (we're currently transitioning from Celexa back to Prozac because I've been off it a while and it worked the best), but I have an unusual situation. I have lots of brain damage from a massive stroke and six-week coma. I'm also currently changing meds (depakote for phenobarb) for my "late effect of stroke" which also causes some neuro effects. Talk therapy made no differnce for me.

63:

Madeline @61: you don't even have to leave this site.

"Charles Stross is the full-time writer who is the subject of this FAQ. [snip] Along the way to his current occupation, he went to university in London and qualified as a Pharmacist."

But methinks this is not the point. Charlie, were I in the same hemisphere as you I would be very pleased to go for a drink with you and be not-depressed in your presence. I know the kind of rut you're going through, because I too have the sort of job where you can sit and stare blankly at work that hasn't done itself since last week.

64:

Personal depression, economic depression, brain altering chemistry...

Is Peter Watts secretly blog-sitting here while Charlie is on holiday?

65:

MIke @60: Oh, I bet Clinical Depression did exist before 1960, just as many cases of what was then diagnosed as terminal Tuberculosis would probably have been diagnosed as Lung Cancer today. Depressed people lack energy, that's one of the symptoms, yes? Staying alive in the modern west is like driving on a modern highway. take your foot off the gas and you can coast quite a ways. Staying alive in the past - or in a present day 4th world nation is like driving on an unpaved road uphill in the rain. Take your foot off the gas and you stop(die) damn quickly. I suspect that Clinical Depression was not noticed in the past because something punched the depressed ones' ticket rather quickly.

66:

SSRIs, hell! We need soma to keep people happy and consuming.

67:

Have you killed anyone lately, Charlie? As influential as the social environment is, being in a profession where you occasionally have to kill people for money is bound to lay a bit of a downer on you. Individuals, nations, planets; it can be emotionally draining to create them in your mind, I'd imagine, think about them furiously for a significant portion of the length of a book or series, then spend several days thinking about how to kill them convincingly. Sure, they may be imaginary, but I'm not sure that makes much of a difference to the mood-generating areas of your brain.

68:

#64: I think Peter Watts is off somewhere proving that consciousness doesn't exist, so depression is not at all in your mind. :-}

69:

My wife and I are weirdly optimistic - or maybe it's hyteria kicking in.

A conversation yesterday was how this feels like the 1980's with jobs going, a control freak in government, etc, etc. We've see it all before and this time through can't seem to summon the energy to give a toss!

The happy side-effect of all-out cynicism I suppose!

70:

Madeline @61: I quit drug-dealing twenty years ago this August, for a career in hacking. (My life has sometimes resembled a badly deconstructed 80s cyberpunk novel.)

NelC @67: as it happens I spent last week nuking an entire country, in detail. Perhaps that has something to do with it ...

71:

God almighty, not down maybe but fear, confusion, dismay...
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine Hello Kitty staring at a human face - forever."

IN THE GRIM FUTURE OF HELLO KITTY THERE IS ONLY WAR!
http://onastick.net/sitz/images/

72:

Could your brown mood be partly a hangover from the work you were doing in the back half of last year? You went through a major uptick in output back then and I wonder if that's left you a little depleted creativity-wise. Add in the normal seasonal glooms of Jan/Feb in Auld Reekie, the winter-of-discontent retread we seem to be reenacting at present and it's not very surprising if you're in the dumps.

If you don't like the heat that generally goes with sunlight, then mountains are a good alternative. Getting above the cloudbase gives you nice brisk temperatures to keep the blood moving and dazzling skies. Of course you have to deal with winter sports types which can be a bit wearing if sliding down mountains isn't your thing...

Regards
Luke

PS
Second the thing about ignoring house prices provided you can keep up the payments and suchlike. Everyone needs somewhere to live so practically all property vendors are also propertly buyers, which means that what you make on one end of a deal you lose on the other. Indeed my utterly uneducated hunch is that the current correction in the UK property market is a a nett positive development overall - and I say that as someone who bought my current place pretty much at the peak of the market...

73:

> spent last week nuking an entire country

Last installment of the Merchant Princes series, I guess ?

74:

Andreas: last in the current series. (There may be another, but not for a few years: I need some time off.)

75:

I also am a casualty of the present unpleasantness; what I find helps is to keep reminding myself that a) nothing lasts forever, b) something will turn up, and c) other people have it worse. This last is problematic, because people usually say it in a hostile way, so you only notice the hostility. But it's true nonetheless.

As for suicide and economic change; the boom-and-bubble that swept over Ireland in the past decade and a bit was associated with a sharp rise in the suicide rate, especially among young men. It remains to be seen if the collapse of the stout Irish economic party will reverse that trend; somehow, I think not. A relative who works in suicide prevention tells me that he thinks Durkheim was basically correct; you get more suicides in conditions of anomie, i.e. where previous social norms that were supportive to the individual are taken away, leaving people more and more isolated. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be much help in developing protocols that can assess the extent to which this or that individual is a suicide risk.

As for SSRIs, I do know one person they helped (this is after a bereavement); but like most things psychiatric, it's like trying to fix a car engine by throwing a bag of spanners at it.

76:

@ 37 et seq .....
Clicking on Waverley gives: 3.11.18W 55.57.06N

As for FDR - and hesitating to raise the subject from the dead ...
Apart from Rethuglican hate-mail, similar to that directed agianst Obama recently, do those who denigrate FDR have any evidence AT ALL that their complaints have ANY basis in fact?
Thought not.

77:

@76, 37, et seq:

Speaking for a moment as a published Mathematical Economist, it is plausible for some nonideological Theorests to have mixed feelings about FDR.

F.D.R’s Example Offers Lessons for Obama,
By STEVE LOHR
Published: January 26, 2009

"...The shorthand verdict on Roosevelt, economists and historians say, is that he was an eloquent and skillful politician, and an innovator in jobs programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and in regulatory steps like the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission to police Wall Street. But Roosevelt, they say, while brilliant in many ways, did not have a sure grasp of how to guide the economy as a whole.... During the 1930s, the unemployment rate fell somewhat under Roosevelt, but remained stubbornly high, averaging more than 17 percent for the decade."

"In 1934, the British economist John Maynard Keynes visited Roosevelt in the White House to make his case for more deficit spending. But Roosevelt, it seems, was either unimpressed or uncomprehending. 'He left a whole rigmarole of figures,' Roosevelt complained to his labor secretary, Frances Perkins, according to her memoir. 'He must be a mathematician rather than a political economist.'"

"Keynes left equally disenchanted, telling Ms. Perkins that he had 'supposed the president was more literate, economically speaking.'"

The same measured skepticism, or cautious optimism, remains for Theorists today. Are Obama and Brown more in the Theory Camp (clearly Obama has mastered Legal theory as a Professor; clearly Gordon Brown has mastered Economic Theory at some level) and to what extent in a Pragmatist camp?

The Theory/Practice gap can be wider than the Left-Right gap. Consider Charles Stross's deconstruction of the manned spaceflight paradigm. He is NOT being ideologically for (techno-optism) nor against (neoluddite) manned spaceflight as such. He showed a deep rationality in following where the equations led, without allowing personal feelings or political bias to distract from that quest.

Global Economics: It's not Rocket Science. It's harder.

78:

For anyone needing an uplifting musical experience, I commend to your attention the band known as Shpongle; with titles like 'Have You Been Shpongled?', and 'Nothing Lasts But Nothing Is Lost', and their weird, world/dance/cyberdelia remix sound, they are a joy to hear.

This has been a public service announceyment!

79:

Well, more people are probably susceptible to depression in the darker months with SAD and all, and of those predisposed to depression, stress can bring it out. Worrying about whether or not you have a job is certainly a source of stress, and pervasive, society wide economic losses can strain our closest social networks (family, good friends) that might normally buffer personal economic problems. So yes, I think the economy probably is causing some depression.

80:

ajay@71

Great, now I can't get the image of giant floating Hello Kitty head a la Zardoz out of my brain.

82:

Happiness, as measured in research, in highest in the Spring. See discussion by Easterlin here:
http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~easterl/papers/HVcomment.pdf

subjective well-being lower when unemployment is high
http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/jwolfers/Papers/Happiness.pdf

Combination: unemployment/economic depression and winter is not good for subjective well-being

84:

"I don't hold your views "in contempt" just because they differ from my own -- but I didn't start this thread because I wanted to clear a space for a political food fight, and if I think you (or Papapete, who you'll note isn't a regular around here, at least under that name) are trying to start one, I'm going to take measures to put things back on course."

Posted by: Charlie Stross

Charlie, a request - with people like that, just grab them by the collar and belt, and heave ho! Let them come back later, but somebody who comes in with their d*ck out, p*ssing on everything deserves a summary boot.
And I say that as somebody who's occasionally gone into a new forum doing that myself.

85:

Mike: "60:
In 1930 my grandfather was 14, helping his father and uncles out on their farms in Saskatchewan. I talked to him today about the Dirty Thirties and evidently no one used to get depressed before 1960. "

Of course, they had whiskey!

There was some comedian on a show who had a line (seen in a brief trailer): "Oh, why didn't you tell me that you hated your job. There's a support group for that - it's called 'everybody'; we have our meetings at the bar everyday at 6 PM."


86:

Mathew@81:

That "most depressing day" idea is nonsense, according to Ben Goldacre of "Bad Science" fame: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/24/bad-science-winter-blues

87:

Don't get things too out of proportion. The days have been getting longer for weeks and weeks now. Today was about a couple of hours longer than the shortest day. Tomorrow's going to be 4 min 12 sec longer than today: we're just racing towards summer. (I gather from a SAD friend that it strikes you more when the days are getting longer again.) And me, I don't know anyone that's just lost their job - hmm, except a few happy folks who just took early retirement. I prescribe a walk on Blackford Hill the very next time it's sunny. Always cheers me up for a while.

88:

"During the 1930s, the unemployment rate fell somewhat under Roosevelt, but remained stubbornly high, averaging more than 17 percent for the decade."


This is the sort of sentence that ought to set off all sorts of warning bells for the reader.

Note unemployment fell "somewhat" remaining "stubbornly high" then an average of 17% "for the decade" is tossed in, but actually says very little about the other two squishy claims. All sorts of unemployment trajectories could result in an average of 17% for the decade while satisfying those other vague descriptors, particularly in the mind of a right wing commentator.

MediaMatters has a nice overview of the cherry picking that is going on here:
http://mediamatters.org/items/200812030014

And TPM a very nice overview of unemployment in the 30's:
http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/01/21/unemployment_statistics_of_the_new_deal_era/


So what is the reality of unemployment in the 30's?
1929 3.5%
1930 8
1931 15
1932 23
1933 21 1934 16
1935 14
1936 10
1937 9 1938 13 1939 12
1940 10

So there are four trend periods. 1929-1933 unemployment galloping upward from 3% to 23%. 1933-1937 unemployment drops more than half from 23% to 9%. 1937-38 unemployment increases nearly half to 13%. 1939- unemployment drops again and bottoms out during the massively stimulatory ww2 environment.

Is a drop in unemployment from 23% to 9% really well described by the words "fell somewhat"? Is a quantity (unemployment) which consistently dropped in all but one or two years well described as having "remained stubbornly high"? Does not "remaining stubbornly" suggest stability rather than a strong downward trend with one interruption? Does the decadal average of that quantity tell us anything about the trajectory of the quantity over the decade?

PS
Note there is nothing magical about Roosevelt. When he followed the wrong policy in 1937 the economy and unemployment worsened, when he reverted to the right policy they again improved, when war forced the ultimate expression of the right policy despite massively wasteful spending (killing people and blowing stuff up) it worked better than ever.

89:

i've been reading the discussion on SSRIs with interest, although it's almost 12:30 AM here and I should be asleep.... These things are connected, in that I have fibromyalgia; its three main symptoms are muscle pain, insomnia, and depression. I've been taking Paxil or its generic form, paroxetine, since I was diagnosed ~1998.

I was actually relieved at the diagnosis, as I'd been experiencing all but the pain since puberty (about 1985), and my maternal grandfather was bipolar. Having this diagnosis allowed me to believe that I wasn't crazy. Also I don't think my situation is psychiatric per se; and I'd tried all kinds of other techniques but nothing except homeopathy really cut it long term.

Now I'm taking this drug that recent studies show may be the worst of the SSRIs for withdrawal symptoms, and may have given my two kids increased risk of heart problems (per a study that was done after my youngest was born). Sigh. But the depression is a much-tamed beast, compared with before. Maybe we'll develop a gene therapy or something that will fix that broken bit of myself.

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