Recently I watched the movie “Before Sunset” which was basically two people having a conversation while walking around Paris. In the movie the woman mentions that she went to a Communist country and found a freedom from not being bombarded with constant advertising. She discovered that she was much more creative thanks to the lack of distractions from tv and movies and billboards and managed to have an output not matched since. I too wonder if my act of constantly consuming movies, tv, music and the internet have hindered my ability to produce. I find myself defining myself by my recent purchases. “Hi Amy, what have you been up to?” Well I just bought a sideboard and an AV Reciever. Wow, you just contributed to the greater good of the world. Really earning the right to exist on earth for that fraction of time with that purchase.
Discussing this attitude with my Aunt Madonna, she advised me to read a book called Affluenza which can be summed up as such:
“Since the early 1990s, Australia has been infected by affluenza, a growing and unhealthy preoccupation with money and material things. This illness is constantly reinforcing itself at both the individual and the social levels, constraining us to derive our identities and sense of place in the world through our consumption activity.” (p178) They argue that affluenza causes over-consumption, “luxury fever”, consumer debt, overwork, waste, and harm to the environment. These pressures lead to “psychological disorders, alienation and distress” (p179), causing people to “self-medicate with mood-altering drugs and excessive alcohol consumption” (p180).
You can say how lucky am I to be in a position where my biggest problem is that I buy too many luxury goods and hell yeah it’s a good problem to have but this is my reality. The book mentions that people who recognise they have affluenza and want to fix it usually downshift or “sea change”. They strip back their lifestyle, get rid of the boat, computer, 3 tvs and takeaway dinner every night lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as ditching the 5 bedroom home for a mud shack.
I’m open to this idea and am trying to do small things like actually make dinner twice a week instead of eating frozen meals and allocating a night a fortnight to playing a board game instead of watching tv. When I thought about why we eat frozen meals I realised it was just so we could watch more tv at night – not because we had so much to do we had to shove foods down our throats to sustain ourselves. Pretty pathetic don’t you think.
I can’t say I won’t be buying more luxury goods anytime soon because it’s like crack or cocaine – highly addictive and just leaves you wanting more. I am saying though that I’m a little bit more aware of what I’m up against and that adding a new luxury item usually means adding more complication to my life. Who knows, maybe in 10 years I will be ready for that sea change and hopefully by then I won’t be so far in debt that I will be forced to give up my affluenza cold turkey by the bank. 🙂