The Price of Affluenza

My local thrift stores often have book gems that I snap up immediately. One such book was Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, highly recommended reading.

I love my serendipitous trips to these thrift stores. I like to think of it as the Universe providing knowledge and information for me in a timely manner.

Another book surfaced last week, “Affluenza” by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. I’ve only just begun to delve into this book, and already something has jumped out at me.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Nineteenth century economists predicted that the abundance made possible by technological advance and the modern organisation of work would result in the emergence of “post-materialist” humans – people existing on a higher plane, where their cultural, intellectual and spiritual powers are refined. In such a world the importance of economic considerations would naturally diminish. The 1960s and 1970s saw a flood of literature predicting a future in which technological progress would allow for us to work only a few hours a week and our main problem would be how best to enjoy our leisure. Futurists saw a future transformed by the fruits of sustaimed growth – a society in which humankind, freed of the chore of making a living, would devote itself to activities that are truly fulfilling. But, instead of witnessing the end of economics, we live in a time when economics and its concerns are more dominant than ever before. Instead of our growing wealth freeing us of our materialist preoccupations, it seems to have had the opposite effect. People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case”.

This book was written in 2005, even before the iPhone was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. And yet how relevant and accurate the statement above is today.

It seems to be the case of “The more we have, the more we want”. Today’s generation seems unable to appreciate what they already have, they always want the latest, the most expensive, the best. And they generally put themselves out to get it at all cost. Then they sit back and enjoy their latest toy…Until the next one comes along less than a year later. Then it’s a mad scramble all over again, to get THE latest toy.

When will it stop? In case the above was too lengthy to visualise, here is a simple analogy:

A city starts out as a village, which becomes a town, that grows and grows as it attracts more and more industry and with it, people. Its lanes soon turn into roads. Roads turn into highways. As more and more people drive cars, these highways get congested. So the city council decree that they need to widen the highways, from 4 lanes to 8. They say that will ease the congestion and make driving more pleasant and convenient. And so 4 lane highways become 8 lane superhighways. But what do you think happens next? Yes, now there are even More cars on the road, more people buying cars and driving, and the congestion builds up again.

“Build it, and they will come”…that saying has never been truer when reflected on today’s society. Perhaps the economists of the 19th century were correct in theory, apart for one oversight: that humans are not mature enough to make that ideal scenario a reality. We are still very much like children, squealing with delight at the latest shiny gadget and toy, we simply Have to have it, and because we’ve indulged, we’ve fed the industry that creates such shiny gadgets and toys, so they in turn create more and more for us. Then, when we find our money depleted, we shrug and simply find ways to get more money. To buy more stuff. And so it goes on.

When will we grow up? “Poor” countries don’t suffer as much from Affluenza as “Developed” countries. They literally can’t afford to be. They’re more concerned with putting food on the table for their families, staving off starvation, staying alive when wars break out. Affluenza is a disease of the haves, the wannabe-haves and the desperate have-nots.

Perhaps it’s time to step off the treadmill.

Posted from WordPress for Android.

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