Stepping Back From The Brink

There is a lot of talk these days about economic woes, what with the Western capitalist economy faltering.  And while there are many large-scale socioeconomic issues to deal with, the masses need to step back and think of things on a personal level.

A lot of psychological research is behind the current system.  It isn’t just a coincidence that almost everyone is having personal financial issues when such issues weren’t common in yesteryear.  The current system has normalized debt so it doesn’t turn people off like it used to, and has made it far too easily accessible to most people.  Likewise, the consummate consumerist society we live in has resulted in the masses (especially newer generations who have known nothing else) engaging in constant one-upmanship, feeling they can’t live without the latest toys, competing for the most/best stuff, worrying what others will think if they don’t have the same things, etc.  None of this mattered nearly as much (it always mattered a little) in the past.

It’s a perfect equation for those at the top of the corporate ladder (and their politico bedmates).  Unnecessary but attractive wants + easily accessible destigmatized debt = a financially enslaved population.  Why wait for people to save money so they can buy your product when you can loan them the money instead, and collect even more money as they pay it back?

It seems a lot of people don’t recognize these psychological underpinnings of the current system.  Whether people want to admit it or not, humans can be easily conditioned, especially when it’s indirect conditioning.  Neuroscience proves it.  The desire for things we really don’t need and which really don’t make our lives any better after the initial honeymoon period has been conditioned into us through advertising and media.  We are so technologically connected nowadays that it’s hard to escape those forces.  And the fact that it’s been this way for decades now does not help.

So the answer, if you don’t want to become a Luddite, is to consciously reject the desires the system is ingraining in you.  Start looking at advertizing for what it really is – a ploy to get you to buy a product, whether you need it or not.  Understand that the mainstream media is controlled by those who benefit most from the current system, and thus their stories and reporting are at least somewhat biased by it.  Stop and really consider what you need or really desire for your life, and act based on that.  Think of the long term consequences of relying too much on debt, and/or spending beyond your means (even without debt, failing to save for the future is a problem).

Beyond that, take a further step back and look at what is important to you in life – really important, not what you do to appease/compete with others.  For most people, time spent with loved ones, meaningful (or at least somewhat enjoyable) work, pastimes that enrich your life, and a particular few luxuries are what their desires boil down to.  Everything else isn’t really necessary and is only sustaining the broken system we have in place.  The first three really can’t be bought, though obviously some costs are involved, depending on how you spend time with loved ones, what type of work you do, and what your hobbies are.  As for the luxuries – they are far more satisfying when you have to save for them and delay gratification; the anticipation involved in having to wait and the effort required in having to work for them make them all the more appreciated when they finally are achieved.

I find it funny that many understand the point of delayed gratification when it comes to sex, and how much better it is when one avoids it (intentionally or circumstantially) for awhile, or even when one delays orgasm as long as possible.  Yet these same people cannot see the parallel in our financial lives.  Perhaps it’s simply because the powers that be have not focused as much on sex, other than to use it as a marketing ploy.  Or maybe people are just less easily influenced by such powers when it comes to sex.  Or maybe fewer people understand delayed sexual gratification than I realize.

Regardless, we currently need both political & socioeconomic shifts to deal with the problems, but also a shift in individuals’ consciousnesses to extricate themselves from the current system as much as possible and determine what they really need to have a good life.  Many won’t fully be able to determine such needs until they have tried living more meagerly and/or without relying on debt (as much as possible) for awhile.  I suppose therein lies the rub.  We’ve gotten so used to instant gratification in our lives that it can be a very difficult task to learn to delay gratification.  But it is well worth it.

I’m not sure what the solution is, how you get the masses to take a step back and really consider how they’re living their lives and whether they’re on the path they want to be on.  For many it’s painful to think about how far off their desired path they are, and what it will take to get back to it.  But to ignore it and roll along with the status quo is far more damaging in the long run, and far more likely to lead to regrets in our later years as we approach our individual ends.

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~ by bohemianincognito on 2011 October 1.

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