Tuesday, 30 December 2008

entire generations living above their means

In the wake of the Second World War, the world was an economic nightmare.

Understandably. So some of the planet's greatest economic minds got together in a room, and after talking about their Ivy league education and how much their shoes cost them, they decided that the best way to rebuild the world's economy (and to make a lot of money in the process) was to fashion a culture where spending money became equal to looking good, feeling good, with our level of consumption generally justifying our place in society. A direct quote from Victor Lebow, one of the 20th centuries most revered economists goes:

"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life. That we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever accelerating rate."

(I'm not sure if this was advice or critique. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall.)

Anyway, as this culture shaped itself into a massive consumption monster, our economic systems decided that in order to create EVEN MORE money, they would invest their money in stock market predictions that have recently failed to materialise. Banks created credit systems that meant people could have whatever they wanted, instantly - as long as they paid if back at a 35% interest rate, with no real substance to back up the money that they were lending people.

If we now look at the knock on effects of this credit-gone-crazy-we-don't-even-care-if-you-can't-pay-it-back-we'll-just-take-your-home environment, it is close to unbelievable.

Take for example, something as simple as a car. The streets are flooded with them. I'm 21-years-old and I've had three. Second hand pieces of shit, no doubt, but they are everywhere. However - take a look at the cost of these things.

It would not be a surprise for me to see a £24,000 price tag on a brand new, mid-range family car. However, in the UK, the average YEARLY wage falls just short of £23,000. Who do you know who can afford to pay for their car outright? Their home? Their 42-inch-HD-ready-sky-satellite-bluetooth-satnav-mobile television?

The fact is that it is very rare for the everyman to have this kind of disposable cash needed to live in the capitalism pipedream that has become our everyday lives. The basic foundations of Western living are now so expensive that everybody buys on credit - regardless of the amount they are paying back, or how long it takes them.

Because as long as we promise to work 9 hours a day and sit in traffic and watch television and make sure the 27 seperate payments are covered at the end of the month we can have all of the things that society tells us we need. We can look modern, and capable, and able. We can pretend like everybody else does that we can afford this shit. While we live in homes that are not paid for, surrounded by a whole host of bullshit that is costing you a collective £300 a month. Thus creating a society full of people who are living above their means. Just to keep up appearances.

We are drowning in luxury items and complaining that we do not have enough money. We are complaining about astronomic costs of food behind computer screens, over mobile phones, over the front garden fence to our neighbours...despite living in homes full of things that we are paying for that we do not need. It has become a social standard for us all to be spoilt beyond our parents wildest dreams, and their parents wildest dreams.

And the Western world finds the resources to build, sell, and eventually dispose of all of this irrelevant bullshit in the developing world.

It's just another of the things that humans are doing to not only fuck up the planet, but also to keep the world's wealth distribution where it is - at the expense of the environment, and people who are less well off.

But these things are now so far embedded into our lives, how will it ever change? I'm a hypocrit like everyone else.

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