Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche
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The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.
beauty. That fat phobia and a distorted body image defined the disorder. That anorexia usually attacked the most promising young women. This conception of anorexia mirrors fairly well the understanding one would find in the West among educated people and non—eating disorder specialists in the medical and mental health fields.* The idea that anorexia is tied to culturally imposed notions of female beauty has become conventional wisdom in the West. “In casual conversation we hear this idea
were “twice as common as shown in earlier studies and that the incidence is increasing rapidly.” In the late 1990s, studies reported that between 3 and 10 percent of young women in Hong Kong showed disordered eating behavior. “Children as Young as 10 Starving Themselves as Eating Ailments Rise,” announced a headline in The Standard. The lead stated: “A university yesterday produced figures showing a 25-fold increase in cases of such disorders.” Amid all the finger-pointing at diet fads and the
belonged to, the Zanzibar Nationalist Party, was internally split between those who considered themselves African and those of Arab heritage. No one knew whom to trust. At the end of the year Hemed broke down. Soon after his first son was born, in September, he was admitted to the local mental hospital after beating his great-aunt during a delusional episode. Early the next year he was certified as a person of unsound mind. His medical charts reported that he had a “shallowness of emotion,
particularly respected personality style in Japan: those who were serious, diligent, and thoughtful and expressed great concern for the welfare of other individuals and the society as a whole. Such people, the theory went, were prone to feeling overwhelming sadness when cultural upheaval disordered their lives and threatened the welfare of others. Neither endogenous depression nor the melancholic personality type were of great concern to the general public at the time. Because endogenous
of the premodern conception of both utsushô and the mid-twentieth-century idealization typus melancholicus, the idea that overwhelming sadness was natural, quintessentially Japanese, and, in some ways, an enlightened state. As Kirmayer has documented, this was a culture that often idealized and prized states of melancholy. Feelings of overwhelming sadness were often venerated in television shows, movies, and popular songs. Kirmayer noted that yuutsu and other states of melancholy and sadness