Materialism. The True Cost

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In a capitalist world fuelled by consumerism, are too many of us seeking external validation and happiness through our sensory perception and the material possessions we acquire?

Consumerism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At least not until we lose our self-control, and it would appear we lost it a long time ago because we’re never taught self-control. So what is the true cost? Debt. Lots, and lots of debt, which equates to stress, anxiety, ill health and all sorts of other shit that's a recipe for an unhappy life. But we’re manipulated into believing these possessions and the money we chase to acquire them is the very source of our happiness. Not the case; research confirms that those who become more materialistic do so at a cost to their well-being and happiness whereas those that move away from materialism see a rise in their happiness levels as they focus their energy on that which creates a happier environment from within. Namely experiences and great relationships.

I won’t get into ethics or social, environmental, and moral responsibility as it’s not my jurisdiction. My focus is to help you eliminate as much unnecessary stress as possible from your life, so you actually have a life.  

Why so important:

Consumerism is fundamentally used to measure the success of a country. The more money in circulation, the more we spend, GDP goes up, and everyone's happy. Well not really. The banks are happy, and if the banks are happy the Government is happy, and if the Governments are happy, you’re happy. Or at least that’s what they’ll tell you because with everything they are allowing to go on in the world at the moment and the propaganda being used to instil fear, it's becoming more evident than ever that they couldn't give a fiddlers fuck.

It’s rare we stop to think about the negative impact our buying habits can have on us because we’re conditioned to conform, comply, and to buy. But can we afford it, and at what cost? 

The economy:

The economy is built on debt. If the banks can’t lend they can’t make money so who is that debt passed on to? Well, almost everybody but if you can’t actually afford it, it becomes a pretty spectacular problem. 97% of all money is debt, debt which is electronically created by private banks and passed on to you. What? That might come as a surprise to you, for me, it was a complete and utter mind fuck.

The ultimate goal of governments and banks is to get us in debt, balls deep in it. Once they have you, they will do everything in their power to ensure you remain there, sheep walking blindly through life. As you plot your great escape, at almost every exit point you will be faced with a solution that in all likelihood, requires you to take on more debt. Not by chance, by design.

And so a problem prevails:

A problem of such magnitude that when it explodes, it can send shit spraying in every which way as people struggle to gain control of a life that once appeared to be so straight forward. A capitalist society, which is fuelled by consumerism, wants and encourages us to spend way beyond our means so we become trapped. 

In America, at the age of 18, you are deemed responsible enough to take out a massive loan for education but not yet responsible to drink alcohol.

Less of a mind fuck than the 97% statistic, is the fact that this way of living has very close ties to anxiety and depression. Stress levels explode as every day we come face to face with our ever-growing debt on top of the alluring temptation to buy more which drains us of our limited willpower to refrain from constantly overspending.

And so the cycle of life begins - the darker side of it all where we succumb to extreme pressure to work harder doing shit we can't stand to keep up with repayments and allow ourselves to acquire more debt to buy more shit we don't need. Ask yourself who you are doing this for and if it's worth creating a toxic environment wherein stress is allowed to flourish like a deadly cancer.

If I were a mathematician, I'd whip up some fancy formula to prove that if you take your happiness and divide it by all that generates stress in your life through consumerism and debt, you would come up with a negative figure for your overall satisfaction with life. Why give a fuck about GDP if you're GNH (Gross National Happiness) remains in the red? Our relationship with consumerism and materialism has become so toxic; it's almost akin to remaining in an abusive relationship. 

Through the availability of credit, our desire for instant gratification, our obsession with celebrity, our need for external validation, our fears of what others think, and our keeping up with the Kardashians (Joneses) mentality: we’ve lost all touch with reality and that from which creates a happy life. Simply put, we’ve lost the fucking plot!

Watch the video below of an Apple product launch. I'll allow you to draw your own conclusion. The one thing I will say, though: how many people do you think would queue if they couldn’t show off their new prized possession until the initial madness died down and it was readily available to the masses?

Enter materialism:

The more sinister side of consumerism and the driving force behind all this madness. Researchers define materialism as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project.” If we define ourselves by our possessions, there is no peace of mind as we will spend our entire lives chasing something impossible to obtain as there will always be something better and more expensive entering the market that we absolutely must have. The chase will never end, and neither will all the stress and anxiety it carries with it. 

This is not how life is supposed to be. We are not supposed to be miserable but we seem content in making each other that way.

A new perspective:

Consider for a minute that you were to pay for goods not with money but with time. So unless you enjoy the time it takes to make the required money, you may as well be paying for these goods with frustration and stress. The price tag on a fancy car may now read: '365 days of stress and anxiety!' Now I really want an Aston Martin, I fancy myself as a bit of a Bond but besides the fact the banks would tell me where to go, I'm not paying for it at the cost of my health. It appears so much of our consumption is geared towards impressing those whose opinions shouldn't matter, and thus, negatively impacts our lives.

That might be a bit bull-shitty, and I'm sure you can throw up lots of counter arguments but just stop and think about it for a second and how it might apply to your life.

Diminishing returns:

When you try to acquire happiness through material goods you will receive diminishing returns on your investment. Whereas with experiences, the happiness you generate will compound over time. Even when an experience goes disastrously wrong to the point where you find yourself stuck with your pants down, jammed between a partition and a roof over two toilets in a nightclub, you at least get an entertaining story to tell for years to come. If you define yourself through material goods, I'm sorry to say, but your stories will be shit.

Capitalising on your insecurities:

The world we live in is incredibly superficial, and many marketers will use any means necessary to get you to buy. Why? It's not something you should worry about because it is beyond your control. It’s your job to be more aware so when it comes to a purchasing decision you can decipher between the pros and the cons, and whether it's right for you or just plain ludicrous. See, they don't want you thinking because they know the more you think, the less likely you are to buy which is why so much emphasis is placed on getting that quick sale. Once we assert self-control and the willpower to think, we might conclude that we will experience a range of negative emotions such as uncertainty, doubt, and stress after that initial hit of dopamine subsides, and therefore choose not to buy.

Here is an example of marketing manipulation at it's finest.

Caption:

You won’t believe the stuff some men in their 40s are still missing from their home (don’t let this be you!)

                                                  My God I want it all to be mine!

                                                My God I want it all to be mine!

Subliminal Message:

Buy this shit now to avoid repelling all women everywhere.

The Result:

Cha-ching!

The Aftermath:

Guilt: as you start to think that maybe spending $5k on a brand new sofa wasn't necessarily going to provide you with all you perceived. Stress: as you have to work harder to pay for it. Anger: as you allowed all this to happen because a complete stranger invalidated you, and not in a malicious way. Not to mention frustration: as Victoria never sent her Angels!  

You can’t even take a shit in peace these days without being exposed to some form of advertisement preying on your insecurities. Nobody knows who they're supposed to be or how they’re supposed to act these days because we're programmed to be lost in order to conform. Act this way, behave that way, do this, do that, wear this, wear that. Fuck off! It’s exhausting. Just be you and you can’t go wrong. If people can't accept you for this, that's their problem. Plus, you have the added bonus and luxury of no longer having to walk around living a lie while trying to be someone else. Get too caught up in all the mayhem and you will lose all sense of purpose for why you're here: to enjoy the ride and have some fun.

It's a fine line:

I’ll be the first to admit I’m materialistic, and I don't necessarily believe it's all bad. In fact, to a degree, it can be extremely beneficial to one's well-being and outlook. I used to take guys who lacked a sense of style shopping to give their confidence a boost and put a little pep in their step. And I absolutely loved it because it worked every time. While it is indeed consumerism and some might say, materialistic, it made a massive difference to the quality of their life. In the space of only a few hours, their self-confidence would shoot up so much you'd be forgiven for thinking they had just acquired some super power. Half the time I was jealous of the bastards!

I’m not saying go all Amish and live only off the land. Of course, you can take pride in your appearance, and make your home a comfortable nest to enjoy. You deserve it. I’m just suggesting that you create better self-awareness and ask yourself what’s the true cost. Who are you doing it for? Is it going to improve your quality of life in the long term or is it going to have a negative impact? So as not to lose all rationale when it comes to how you dispose of your income. 

Learn from those who've fallen before you:

There once was a young man who took out a loan to buy a black convertible BMW because he liked the idea of driving around in it. On a subconscious level, he was probably trying to buy himself out of anxiety because he felt that people might perceive him as successful or some shit if they saw him driving around in it. Fake it 'til you make it: could he trick his mind into believing he was happy? 

He could not afford it of course, and it was undoubtedly one of the stupidest purchases he's ever made (and that's saying something because only last week, he bought a bottle opener in the form of a wooden cock!). But he sold himself on the perceived prestige he felt was necessary to be happy and successful in life. In short, he gave way too many fucks about how he felt he should present himself to the world.

If he were in a position to afford it, there would be no regret. It would have been a reward for his hard work, an emblem of his success, if you will. But there was no success; he was miserable in a job he had zero passion for, riddled with anxiety, broke, with little prospect for change until he found the strength to get up off his ass and do something about it.   

That person was me. I was light years away from getting my head straight (many would argue I still am), so I took a loan out to buy a car in the hope that it would solve all my worldly problems. However, I now know that German efficiency is no match for a fucked up mind.

We all do this: make stupid decisions with our money. On some level, we do the job for the marketers because we all have our peers, and what do peers do? They influence each other, follow, and do their utmost to outdo each other. If you can afford it, it's all good. If not, it becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse where the only winners are those with the sense to watch it all unfold from the sidelines. 

 - People queue up to buy houses not necessarily because it’s a wise financial decision but because all their friends are doing it. 

- One family renovates their home; an entire neighborhood renovates their home.

- One friend gets a fancy car; the next gets a fancier one.

- One bride-to-be gets a big diamond ring and before long, her friend has a bigger one. 

- The first wedding costs 20K; the next couple spends 30k and before long people are spending 60K on a fucking party which statistics say will most likely end in divorce. 

- One gets a Tag Heuer watch; the next gets a Rolex.

We are prepared to endure a lifetime of slavery at the mercy of the government and banks for what? For perceived status. Who are we doing this for? Is it possible to derive that much satisfaction from such madness? Or are we just doing it to keep up appearances at the cost of our health?

The irony is that we are creating these insecurities within each other. We pass them on to those we care most about. All the brands have to do is 'validate' that insecurity, and hey presto! The true cost of this is horrific as children grow up believing life is all about outdoing one another resulting in bitterness, jealousy, envy, and sadness to name a few. 

Time and time again, our parents and grandparents grant us the greatest life lesson from their deathbeds when they finally drop their ego and admit to all their regrets in the hope that we will heed their lessons and not follow suit. But what the fuck do they know, right? It's not like they love us or have a vested interest in us listening to what they have to say as they gasp their last breath. Instead, we listen to people who put us down, tell us we need to work harder, that everybody hates their job and so should we because that's just life. Well if that's the case; fuck life!  

TRIGGER WARNING

Let me tell you about Peter:

The first few years of his life were great. He did his business in nappies and fed from a breast. After a couple of years (maybe months - not entirely sure what's best practice), mum demanded her breasts back and adding salt to the wound, she instructed him to start pooping in a potty as she was sick of cleaning up his mess. This pissed Peter off, but he soldiered on and enjoyed the praise bestowed upon him when he didn't shit his pants, and when mum & dad annoyed him; he simply retaliated by shitting himself.

Little did Peter know, society was already beginning to have a negative impact on his belief system, and it was about to get a whole lot worse when his parents shipped him off to school. There, he received a shitty education. 90% of which focussed on compliance with little attention given to developing life skills, a strong will, the ability to think for himself, discovering what he might be good at or where his passions lay so he could make an educated decision as how best to proceed with life. In fact, he grew up believing that work is just the shitty side of life but at the same time he felt immense pressure to succeed from peers, parents, and teachers. It confused the crap out of him but he never really gave it any thought because he was told what to think. Peter then entered college and took on a massive amount of debt to pursue further education in a field he couldn’t give two slices of a fucks pizza about. Almost overnight, he had transitioned from a carefree kid to an adult with significant debt; he was now at the mercy of the banks, the Government, and society as a whole. Thanks to the very expensive piece of paper he just bought, Peter took a job in an office doing what he soon realized was something he despised. Without even blinking, amidst all the partying, he had become a modern day slave. His friends were now buying nice cars so not to be outdone, Peter acquired more debt so he to could drive a nice car and feel a little better about life. Before long, he needed a house because that’s what adults do, so he took out a mortgage and bought his first property. To keep up with all the possessions he was acquiring, he felt immense pressure to work longer, harder, and endure more stress. From the outside in, it looked like Peter was doing great, on his way to becoming a millionaire. But he was still only paying the interest on his mortgage while constantly going into more debt and defaulting on his credit cards payments as he strived to keep up appearances and the persona he carefully crafted for the outside world. His parents were proud which made him feel good but he was miserable and now extremely depressed. At the end of each month, he would barely get by as he waited for his next paycheck. The stress and depression intensified to the point where Peter struggled to get out of bed. Although it had been manifesting deep beneath the surface for years, his life had become unbearable almost overnight. He felt isolated and became extremely lonely as he desperately sought light, but all he could see was darkness. He couldn't handle the pressure of life anymore; he wanted to die and after years of fighting it, and tears rolling down his eyes, he did something he never thought was possible. He pulled the trigger. 

Suicide is not the cause; it's the effect. And unfortunately, while Peter is a fictitious character, this is not an isolated case for both men and women. In fact, it's far too common. Every one of us knows a Peter, whether we are aware of it or not. Colleagues, friends, and family members - they walk the streets amongst us all. Maybe that's the true cost.

Conclusion:

I'm sure you can draw your own. If you are constantly spending more than you can afford in order to project an image to the world at the cost of your own health, then for fucks sake don’t let another day go by without looking in the mirror and asking yourself, who are you doing this for and is it really worth it? And when you realize it’s not, get to work on formulating a plan to reduce the stress in your life so you can create a life you love. 

It’s absolutely possible, you have to believe that, and there is nothing you owe more to yourself. Act now. Procrastination is a motherfucker not to be messed with when it comes to your peace of mind. Subtle changes can have a massive impact. Don’t allow a carefully crafted feeling of inadequacy be the driving force in your decision-making process. Understand that this is what most of us do, which is precisely why so many are so stressed out and unhappy with their life. Remind yourself of that whenever you feel the urge, and you'll soon realise you're missing out on nothing. 

Much love,
Nicky

Artwork: Steve Cutts


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