Over 20 years ago or so, I happened to see a program on PBS which “got me.” Do you know what I mean? It’s like I was being made aware of something which I’d already thought about but hadn’t “named” or “described.” For as long as I can remember (OK… don’t start laughing and saying something like “Let’s see… that would be about a week??” This is NOT about aging or my age or my diminishing memory chips….) I have been afraid of materialism. Maybe “afraid” isn’t the right word. It’s just that I’ve served and lived in places where people had “nothing” (that’s what I called it), and yet they seemed to have “everything.” My friends in Asia and Africa were happy. They were content. At least they seemed to be. And I wanted to feel that way. I wondered if it was because they didn’t have electricity (this was in Africa), so they didn’t know what they didn’t have. One of the reasons I’ve been afraid of materialism is that each time I’ve returned from being far, far away, it feels like I’ve slipped back into “conspicuous consumption.” Oh, it’s not that I can’t find anyone who has more than I do … that’s a DUH … but it’s just that I don’t want to be that way. It’s why I write a book titled You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don’t Need: The Quest for Contentment.
It feels like I want to make contentment – the quest for it and the feeling of it – one of the core desires of my heart. Now I’ll try to get back to the program 20 plus years ago and some of the things I’ve pondered since then about “the poverty of the rich.”
The program was called AFFLUENZA. It was a production of KCTS/Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting with Scott Simon as host. And it gave definitions for AFFLUENZA: 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from one’s efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, shopping and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life (I feel like it changed mine – it put a lot of my feelings into words).
I’m just going to share “snippets” of what the program was about. You can Google it and watch the whole thing if you want. Maybe it won’t affect you quite the way it affected me, but I do think it will bring a lot of “ponderables” into your mind and heart. So: Snippets:
Affluenza examines the high cost of achieving the most extravagant lifestyle the world has ever seen. …it’s easy to understand why some people say that the American Dream is no bargain.
Making “voluntary simplicity” one of the top 10 trends in the ‘90s.
A book: Your Money or Your Life
Activists known as ADBUSTERS
How do we get people out of the malls and enjoying life that is real?
Materialism and mall mania are taking a toll on the country.
It’s almost impossible for parents to develop and nurture the whims and desires of their children, because the whims and desires are really being nurtured by the commercials they see on TV.
PERMANENT THINGS: LOVE, TRUTH, COMPASSION, VIRTUE, BEAUTY, FRIENDSHIP….
…a culture in which people treat one another like products.
Why do we believe that we must have every single new fad product??
He who dies with the most toys win… Trying to run the rat race…. (Go in circles….)
Pay more time and attention to people who need us.
Too often families share the space of a home, but the members don’t connect. Dad is on the Internet. Mom’s in her room watching a movie on the VCR. The kids are in another room playing video games. [As I said, this was around 25 years ago … some of the “toys” might be different now…]
We always have to be busy. We always have to be engaged in something else. And, quite tragically, that’s being engaged in something other than interpersonal relationships with loved ones. TURN OFF THE TV, STEREO AND COMPUTER [And the smart phone?] Not only do they take a lot of time, but they bring popular culture messages into your home. READ TOGETHER (Reading for homework doesn’t count)
The “work and spend” cycle has NOT brought us more happiness.
(FEI APPROVED THIS ILLUSTRATION)
Credit cards (“Do you take plastic?”—Maybe I am plastic….) have separated us from our money. We’re not really spending money…. We forget that for every $10 it’s an HOUR of work [and, again, this came out many years ago] – an HOUR of our life! Is this the way I want to use the hours of my life (of which I have only a finite number?)….
WE’RE NOT HAPPIER THAN PEOPLE WERE 40 YEARS AGO, EVEN THOUGH OUR CONSUMPTION HAS GONE UP OVER 50 PERCENT.
No matter how hard you try to extract happiness out of material things, beyond a certain point that we call ENOUGH – having your NEEDS taken care of, having some COMFORTS and even having some LUXURIES – beyond that point of more spending, more material possessions are NOT going to make you happy. As a matter of fact, they erode your sense of well-being.
“I learned how to stretch a buck until the eagle grins….”
There are some people who are getting wealthier, and everybody else is feeling poorer because they are comparing themselves to the people in that insidious box that we call television. I don’t have as much as the people in the soap operas, so I must be doing poorly. It erodes your sense of self-esteem.
Some teens commit suicide because they don’t want to grow up in this culture that supposedly has it all….
The high cost of materialism and overconsumption.
This is a purse-pilfering disease.
A Christian family doctor discovers that much of his patients’ pain is a result of the pressures of modern society and “possession overload.”
COULD YOU LIVE A CONTENTED LIFE WITH FEWER MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
HOW DOES ADVERTISING AFFECT YOUR LIFE AND BUYING HABITS?
A marketing consultant made the following statement: “Anti-social behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing.” WHAT???
WHAT MESSAGES ARE CHILDREN RECEIVING FROM ADVERTISEMENTS?
HOW HAVE CREDIT CARDS MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO SPEND BEYOND OUR MEANS?
Millions of Americans declare personal bankruptcy (more than graduate from college!).
HOW DO MATERIALISM, OVERCONSUMPTION, AND OTHER MONEY ISSUES CREATE CONFLICT IN YOUR FAMILY (AND YOUR PERSONAL LIFE)?
Fact: The gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. is the widest in any industrial country.
There are some deeply ingrained habits that may be difficult for us to talk about.
WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES THAT COME TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT REDUCING YOUR CONSUMPTION AND SPENDING? WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE – TO GIVING AWAY SOME OF YOUR “STUFF” AND “THINGS?” WHAT WOULD BE ONE STEP YOU WOULD FEEL COMFORTABLE TAKING IN THE COMING WEEKS TO BEGIN CHANGING YOUR CURRENT CONSUMPTION OR SPENDING HABITS? WHAT IS THE LURE OF SHOPPING AND MATERIAL POSSESSIONS? WHAT KINDS OF PRESSURES DO YOU FEEL TO “KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES”?
The modern-day plague of materialism and overconsumption.
Choosing to become more conscious consumers.
LIVING BETTER ON LESS
BEFORE YOU BUY SOMETHING, ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS: DO I NEED IT? AM I WILLING TO DUST IT? COULD I BORROW ONE? DO I HAVE ANYTHING ALREADY THAT WOULD SUBSTITUTE FOR IT? HOW MANY HOURS WILL I (OR SOMEONE ELSE) HAVE TO WORK TO PAY FOR IT?
GO TO THE MALL LESS OFTEN
Become an advertising critic. DON’T BE SUCKED IN BY EFFORTS TO MAKE YOU FEEL INADEQUATE SO YOU’LL BUY MORE STUFF YOU DON’T NEED.
SPLURGE CONSCIOUSLY. A few luxuries can be delightful, and they don’t have to be expensive.
MAKE A BUDGET. Know where your money’s going. Are you spending money in ways that fulfill you?
PRETEND THE JONESES ARE THE THRIFTIEST, LEAST WASTEFUL, MOST CONTENTED PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. Try to keep up with them!!
DEFINE “THE GOOD LIFE.” Make a list of the material and non-material things you believe are necessary to have a “good life.” It might surprise you. What could you do without if you had to?
TUBERCULOSIS USED TO BE CALLED “CONSUMPTION,” BECAUSE IT EXHAUSTED AND DESTROYED….
PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE: Don’t keep a car or clothes which are “outdated” – ”out of style.” Get new stuff.
Business executives are always looking for new ways to STIMULATE SPENDING.
Deep in our hearts, most of us believe that the good life is simpler than the one we’re living.
HOW DOES IT MAKE PEOPLE IN DEVELOPING AREAS FEEL WHEN THEY SEE THE VERY SAME ADS WE DO AND LONG FOR NICE THINGS FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN….
We act as if we’re so convinced that MONEY, POSSESSIONS, STATUS and SPEED are our most important values…..
Now I’m finished. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Some probably stopped reading and didn’t make it through the whole thing. This is NOT about judging anyone but MEE – I’M the one who’s working on SIMPLIFYING … I’M the one who LOVES the feeling of CONTENTMENT, and I want to feel it more often!!! END OF BLOG . . . . (Is that the sound of “thank goodness” I hear??)