Thursday, April 9

Affluence - Serious Blog for once

Right time to get back into this blogging malark - call me Bloggy McBlogsville.
(By the way the D key on this keyboard is bung so forgive the lack of a D or two).

Topic for today: Affluence

Hmmm we’re all just rich bastards really. Now I understand it’s no monster revelation for most of us and by no means do I mean to thrash out a spent topic or drag out western guilt - but I’ve had a few thoughts so bare with me while I thrash these out.
A friend of mine is reading a book called “Affluenza” and we got talking about the burden of wealth. We’re shown the juxtaposition to our wealth quite frequently in the media and you see this little moral dilemma that people struggle with of redistributing wealth to charities (World vision etc) and I guess we do this to appease the starkness of our excess. But what’s interesting is the deeper implications of affluence – the long term psychological effects of having everything at our disposal pretty much when and where we need it.

I sourced this off the mighty internet:
'There is currently an epidemic of “affluenza” throughout the world — an obsessive, envious keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that has resulted in huge increases in depression and anxiety among millions.'

I kind of relate to this eh. Now Im not complaining here as I have it very well but I long for a struggle. Life is so easy and even the petty little challenges one throws to oneself don’t really compare. The movie fight club has a great line: “We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives.” And I’d say this whole notion is growing and growing. Prescriptions for antidepressants in New Zealand surpassed one million in 2006/2007. In the last two years the number of anti-depressant prescriptions to middle aged Kiwis aged between 45 and 64 has risen by 69% (Ministry of Health figures). 10% of American women and 4% of American men are on antidepressants (and increasing exponentially). People aint happy and it’s spreading.

When going to
Thailand for our honeymoon one of the first things you notice is how many people are living day to day. They’re selling their wares on the streets not to save for retirement or that 4 bedroom house in suburbia – they’re selling those wares to feed themselves and the family that evening*. This really got me thinking – surely these people feel more fulfilled with their existence than Bob Smith that goes into the office and does the accounts for Superglobalmega Corp Inc? Maybe? This book indicates that this is the case - now I haven’t read this book yet, though I do plan to - but from what I understand there is some research and the general conclusion is the wealthier you are the less happy you become. Interesting no?

A lot of this for me kicked off when watching a movie about the life of Mother Teresa – the woman truly had a fantastic perspective on possessions and life. The movie was fairly b-grade but it captured all it needed to of her. A tireless woman of such charity that it seem to empty her:

'I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.'

I kind of connected with one of the lines when she was being told that they needed to make bigger networks and structures and policies and so on:

'I like things to be simple...' - Mother T Dog

Me too man! She didn’t want to make mountains out of molehills. Humans love to make beautifully simple things complex (though this isn’t always a bad thing) and we loose sight of the important stuff so so quickly. Our lives are so complex.

'Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.' - Mother T Dog

The bible says a few thinks about wealth too. 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'. (Matthew 6:19-21).

Where moth and rust destroy. I find this all interesting. But what can you do? Does anyone relate to any of this? Or have opinions?

Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion and in no way a fully rigidly formed argument so I welcome your criticism.

*And then along comes Mr and Mrs Affluenza to try to haggle these schmoes our of 20 baht as it’s a part of the experience – “Gee honey that guy was really trying to rip us off – lucky I haggled him down to 10 baht– Im such a local!”.


Toolman said...

So how can I not have my cake, but eat it anyway?

Elkano said...

Exactly - catch 22 really innit

Cain said...

Indeed bro.

I started reading "Affluenza" last year ( might i add that i bought the book for a 2 quid 2nd hand). I never did finish it though (i think that was prolly coz i got some newer shinier book).

It's got some good nuggets of gold innit alright. The belief that more "stuff" will make us happier is in fact a filthy lie. unfortunately it's the lie our economic system is based on.

The book, although secular, makes the point somewhere that most of us are troubled by the deep questions of life such as identity and meaning but rather than confront them and we tend to find distractions. Why worry when you can have a coke?

Interestingly having "religous" beliefs is mentioned by the author as an innoculation against the virus.

I dunno if he deveops it further though. Some of his ideas definately bring to mind the financial teachings of a certain badass 1st century Galilean rabbi.

Rowan said...


Another great fight club quote.

More on topic, I have always struggled with money I make, as one of the things I so enjoy is investing it, and valuing businesses.

One of things psalms says, I will get exact quote later, is you can only serve one master, God or money, tithing usually breaks the hold that money has on you, the problem is I forget to tithe a lot of the time.

steveh20man said...

great blog dude.

...he says as he sits in a really nice house in london, drinking wine and listening to music on his ipod

djkrpt said...

Some interesting points there Belks, I'm glad you're onto the beauraustocracy running amok in our fair land, but as always I would like to share my opinion on something I know hardly anything about:

Affluence... it's a little too close to effluence for my liking. One can only but sometimes wonder at how filthy prostitute-smeared mafia/chinese laundry-laundered portraits of the queen (or in my current case, various european erections [buildings]) became associated with grandeur and status. Effluence begets affluence.

Think about that next time you take a coin out of your wallet/purse and accidentally put your fingers in your mouth.