I have to write an assignment for my Theology Degree. The subject is beyond consumerism:Sustainability, Discipleship and Spirituality. It’s a Forge subject, I thought what I might do is ramble out all my random notes and quotes here on the blogoshpere and when it comes to writing the assignement I could just cut and paste, edit and print…you know, so you will be all subject to what may ammount to a whole heap of useless info, or what might even interest you…
Here goes – Notes, quotes and annecdotes from Clive Hamiltons recently released book “Affluenza“
Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the Australian dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
It would seem that [the governments] achieving an economic growth rate of 4% is the magic potion to cure all ouor ills. But how rich do we have to be before we are no longer considered a nation of battlers?
Average earnings now exceed $50 000 a year, yet a substantial majority of Australians who experience no real hardship – and live lives of abundance – believe that they have difficulty in making ends meet and that they qualify as battlers.
Rich societies such as Australia seem to be in the grip of a collective psychological disorder. We react with alarm and sympathy when we come across an anorexic who is convinced she is fat, whose view of reality is so obviously distorted. Yet as a society surrounded by affluence, we indulge in the illusion that we are deprived. Despite the obvious failure of the continued accumulation of material things to make us happy, we appear unable to change our behaviour. We have grown fat but we persist in the belief that we are thin and must consume more.
Indeed 93% of Australians believe they are in the middle-income bracket (that is the middle 60%) and only 6.4% see themselves in the bottom 20% and 0.7% in the top 20%. The consequence of this merging of classes and the confusion about the incomes of others is that emulation of the spending and consumption habits of the wealthy, which was once confined to the upper levels of the middle class, now characterises Australian society. (Luxury Fever)
The new luxury market is growing by 10-15% per year.
Some psychologists argue that our actions are driven by a desire for ‘self-completion’, the theory being that we seek to bring our actual self into accord with our ideal self, or who we wish to be.
The CEO of Gucci says,
“Luxury brands are more than goods. The goods are secondary because first of all you buy into a brand, then you buy the products. they give people the opportunity to live a dream”
It is fair to say it is not the same dream Martin Luther King had!
Materialistic values of wealth, status and image work against close personal relationships and connection to others, two hallmarks of psycological health and high quality of life.
[Despite what advertising tells us] …the more materialistic we are the less free we are. Why? Because we must commit more of our lives to working to pay for our matterial desires.
We have no trouble realising that excesive alcohol consumption and excessive gambling harm the people concerned as well as those around them. Yet shopping can also be a response to obsessive or addictive behaviour. (known as ‘oniomania’, ‘compulsive shopping’)
This is why the emerging group of downshifters-people who have voluntarily reduced their income-is so important. Each downshifter has, so to speak, put their money where theirmouth is.
In [this book] we do not deny poverty remains. We are however saying that material deprivation is not the dominant feature in Australian life. Affluence is. It helps no one to exagerate the extent of poverty: that simply reinforces the curious but widespread belief that most people are struggling. If the majority of people can’t afford to buy all they really need, why should we be particularly concerned with the poor? And the bigger the problem seems the less likely the populace is willing to believe that something can be done about it.
We argue that, to takle the problem of poverty, we must first takle the problem of affluence. An the problem with affluence is that once people become affluent they continue to believe that more money is the key to a happier life when the evidence suggests that it makes no difference beyond a certain threshold.
(Chapter 1 Affluenza – Clive Hamilton June 2005 A&U Publishing Australia)