A Sorry State of Affairs

What is our society coming to? After reading this headline today, I felt that I had just walked into the twilight zone.

Aussies can’t live without mobiles: poll

And that is not all. Apparently out of the 1001 people surveyed, 61% said they can’t live without their credit and debit cards. Are we really that addicted to plastic and endless credit? I know it is convenient to use Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS), but what happened to good old cash? It must be the other 39% who use it!

Here are some of the other astounding results of the poll, which by the way, was commissioned by American Express;

  • 60% can’t live without their mobile phones (9 years ago most of us couldn’t afford or want one. They can have my phone if they like, I hate the thing!)
  • 32% couldn’t live without their favourite bag (WTF?)
  • 24% said that their laptop was their most treasured possession (not so bad, I suppose).
  • 52% said they would be willing to live without watching their favourite TV show for a fortnight for the sake of their possessions? (not much of a sacrifice, really, get a grip)
  • 48% would give up exercising (not a good idea at all)
  • 34% would give up eating breakfast
  • 11% would sacrifice time with their partner and, (might as well sign the divorce papers now!)
  • 6% would give up showering for the sake of material possessions.

Here is the kicker. Fady Taouk from American Express said the survey showed that items such as credit and debit cards, mobile phones, and gadgets were no longer considered luxuries. “They are modern day essentials that provide convenience, peace of mind and security,” he said. What about the other 4-5 billion humans that don’t have these essentials and struggle each day to find food for the table? Get a grip Fady!

OMG, if these things are essentials, then we as a society have been well and truely (f)sucked in by the advertising & marketing strategies of global corporations. Forget Swine Flu! Forget Whooping Cough! Forget SmallPox (oh, thats right we did cure that)! The majority of us have caught a rampent case of Affluenza!

Now, wikipedia defines affluenza as;

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

affluenza, 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 the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

Now, wait a minute. There is that ecomomic growth example gets thrown around a lot of late. All forms of government seem to keep telling us that we must stimulate the economy, and increase economic growth. But doesn’t growth mean destroying, sorry, squandering the remaining resources we have left on the planet? That can’t be a good thing, can it? What if continued economic growth is over? If we have hit Peak Oil, and I believe we have, and just can’t see it yet due to reduced global demand, then we are in for a shitstorm of a ride in the next 10 years. Add climate change to that, and there will be no economic growth. We will be just spending money on keeping ourselve alive. You can’t eat a gucci handbag or a flash looking car!

Anyway, doom and gloom aside, we must remember that the only thing that corporations care about is the almighty dollar, not the average joe in the street. How to increase shareholder value is their one and only concern. Why do you think people change mobile phones so often. Why do ladies own more cosmetics than a small third world country would ever want, or need. Why do men have to buy the biggest plasma TV they can, or in most cases, not afford? Why do we have some of the highest rates of debt per head in the western world? Because we are all over stimulated by advertising that tells us constantly that we are not skinny enough, or don’t have the latest flash looking gadget, that we don’t have a big enough house and need a McMansion to impress people who don’t give a shit about us.

Maybe it is indeed time to be one of the 52% who give up TV, but not for the love of material possessions. Give up TV to spend time with a loved one, or some meaningful persuite, like saving humanity from themselves. Maybe even book one of those free home energy audits that the government are giving away now and lower your carbon foot print. You never know what giving up TV might lead you. Without all that advertising crap swimming around your subconcious, you might even become a free thinking individual and not like most othe sheepole I know.

But, alas, somehow I don’t think that by me writing these words, anything is going to change much. People are going to continue to live shallow, unfulfilled lives, loving their credit cards and wallowing in the consumeristic myre that is our way of present way of living. The only ray of light are people like my readers who get it, and have found that a simpler way of life brings untold joy and happyness that others simply cannot grasp. It did take me a while to see the light, so I am no martyre for the cause. Most of my life, I too thought exactly the same way. It wasn’t until I had my green epiphany that I began to question how the world worked. I am still in awe of the people all around me who still act blindly, and no amount of my persuating retoric will ever make a dent in their behavioural norms.

Some days I just feel like a stranger in a strange land. I wonder how many of you feel the same way?

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  1. says

    Wow! People can’t live without their cell phone? I hope this is because they don’t have any other phone – like myself.

    I have to admit that debit cards/credit cards are extremely handy and I would prefer not to live without. But I use them like cash. The #1 use of my credit card is to buy gas. If you don’t use a credit card, then you must take your cash – first – into the cashier then you go back out to fill up… THEN you have to go back to the cashier to get your change. What a hassle!

    But I am a little dismayed at some of the other responses. I did sacrifice some time with my partner to take a second job to afford a sudden jump in child support combined with a sudden decline in income. But to do this to get a new car? or new stereo? not too much in agreement on that.

    I had no idea that people were so into their possessions. I like nice things as much as the next guy but I would prefer not to go into heinous debt just to get them NOW.

  2. says

    Take heart – this article sounds like both the poll and the results were grossly, deliberately slanted. If you were to go to the local mall, and ask 1001 giggly teeny-boppers if they would “just die” without their cell phone or favourite purse, they’d probably say yes. And remember, this survey was paid for by a major global company with its own agenda and interests…

    Remember all the “scientific experiments” 50 years ago that were purchased by the tobacco companies that “proved” that smoking doesn’t cause cancer? And now a credit card company has purchased a poll that “proves” that plastic cards are a “modern day essential that provide peace of mind and security”. lol – riiigghttt…

    The sensationalism in the rest of the article is just to make sure it gets printed in the newspaper. After all, plastic cards being “essential” is boring – what newspaper would print just that?

    Peace :)

  3. Lily says

    I do like your passion and love for all things green!

    Here is a couple of questions for you to answer, or at least have as food for thought:-

    1) Why don’t you give up your mobile phone if you don’t want/like it? Lead by example?

    2) From reading some of your other posts, I guess that you work fulltime in a large corporation. So if you have no real debt (not including house), then why don’t you downsize your work (work part time) or find another job that is more beneficial to what you write about? Something more “green” or more socially aware?

    Sometimes I feel that your posts are very good at being “angry” about the environment but I wonder if deep down you like the security of a good salary, a big company and the lifestyle it gives you? If you can be so critical of how other people live their life, don’t you think that sometimes you might be sounding a bit hypocritical given your own circumstances?

    More peace :)

  4. says

    Gavin, I haven’t any smart comments to give. I just wanted to say that like you I often feel that I have entered the twilight zone.

    You go on being angry. If we can only help one person see the ‘light’ then what we write will not be in vain.

    More power to your pen (keyboard).


  5. says

    We do live in a strange, materialistic world. The Marketing Men (and Women) have done their job well.

    I have to admit that I’m not that keen on giving up my ‘favourite’ handbag, as I only have one.

    I’ve never been able to understand people’s dependence on so much ‘stuff’. Don’t get me wrong we have our fair share of goodies but they are not the be all and end all of our lives.

    In answer to your question, Yes, I do feel like a stranger in a strange land. But that’s because I am.

  6. says

    That’s just SAD.

    I’m glad I know what I can’t live without: food, friends, and family. And most of all, this beautiful, fragile planet that is suffering so badly from too much of us wanting too much useless stuff.

    If our house was on fire, I’d run for the kids and my husband, to get them out. Everything else is replaceable. That’s the truth about what I can’t live without.

  7. says

    Every time I look at a magazine, Tv show or listen to commercial radio I feel like an alien. After not having a Tv for about 3 years.. I don’t even get most of the “self referential” in jokes that many advertising campaigns rely upon.

    Luckily I am pretty darn happy on my little planet.

    Kind Regards

  8. says

    Hi Gavin, I thought I’d tell you about the time not long ago when a phone company rep (ok Telstra) cold called me to change phones to them for which they would give me a “free” mobile. I replied I didn’t need one, I used the landline. The bloke was incredulous. “How can you live like this?” he wailed. “Er, it’s not a problem,”I replied. And, no, I didn’t change my phone accounts to Telstra.:)

  9. Barbara says

    Thank god for these comments –
    I thought I was the only
    Luddite on earth without a
    mobile phone! But am I the only
    one without a microwave?!

  10. says

    I’m another who thinks this looks like a very low-quality survey performed for the sake of a beat-up campaign. I know it would be hard to live without my debit card, though — my credit union handles everything electronically! (Note that this has an environmental benefit!) I’d be very unhappy to lose my broadband connection, but I’m not silly enough to think I can’t *live* without it.

    We should also note that poverty isn’t the same as it was: in the 1930s, poor people had vermin, not TV; these days it’s the opposite. And now they are obese rather than starving.

  11. says

    I’m with you in feeling like a stranger. I gave up tv 2 months ago due to loss of income – I’m unemployed and after about 2 weeks didn’t even miss it. I doubt I will pay to have it back either.
    I also hate cell phones, I find them and the people who use them annoying and rude. I used to work for a cell phone companyu in the billing dept. and I had absolutely no sympathy for people who complained their phone didn’t work because they forgot to pay their bill. The number of people who kept saying they couldn’t live without it astounded me. I don’t own one and hope I never have to. Only a jopb related need would make me have one.
    I have no more credit cards, only debit and while it is more convenient, I can easily go back to cash if need be.

  12. says

    Don’t give up Gavin, ramble away, even if one person makes a small change to a greener life, then it was well worth it.
    I would find it hard to live without my computer because I learn so much from it but if push came to shove I could just use the library computer. I have a cel phone only because my company wants me to have it and I have a TV because I like to watch movies but that’s mostly a winter thing. I’m far too busy in the summer for movies. Oh and yes, I have just one TV, and it’s not the latest model. It kills me that everyone changes TVs and most electronics like they change their underwear, for goodness sakes, doesn’t anyone believe in just fixing the stuff you have…

  13. says

    Try feeling like a stranger in your own home. 😉

    I wish my man would be so passionate about giving up the telly. I guess I’m fortunate he’s not a sports nut to boot.

    Because I live close with clingers to consumerism, I “get” the difficulty in them giving it all away. I wish they would, but then I don’t walk in their shoes. My husband feels like it’s a reward for working hard, and we don’t pay for cable so “commercial” TV is a compromise. I rarely watch it and only ABC when I do.

    Although we both have mobiles (handy for two parents to communicate in emergencies) we don’t have a laptop, ipod, mp3 player, etc-etc.

    I have to push fairly insistently that we don’t waste money unnecessarily or depend on conveniences too much, but you can only fight so many battles. As long as you keep persistent and lead by example, what more can you do?

    I’ve learned not to expect the world to change, just because I know there’s a better way to live. People are generally “good” with their intentions, even though they can be led astray.

    We just have to be true to the message of doing without in our own conscience. I like the saying, “in the absence of understanding there’s always knowlege.” The world knows a lot of stuff, but do we truly understand what it all means?

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