Friday, 25 March 2011

Possession Obsession

With the latest technology release (iPad 2) only hours away the hype surrounding it got me thinking about societies obsession with possessions, and more specifically the constant upgrading of items we already have.
We all know of people who are convinced that they must have and can't live without the latest gadget, fashion item or appliance.
This craze of always having the latest version of something even though the one we have is still in perfect working order baffles me and illustrates the type of wasteful society we have become.  How far removed we are from the lifestyles of our parents, grandparents and those who lived through the depression.
How is it that as a society we are prepared to camp out overnight in the street just to be the first to have that latest "thing" yet many people are no longer courteous to one and another, possess basic manners or do not have the patience to tolerate minor inconveniences, such as slow drivers, without becoming agitated?
And for What?
What does ownership of that item actually get you?  Respect?  Admiration?  A feeling of belonging to an exclusive group the "first to haves".
I suspect that this validation from being in the "first to haves" group is short lived.
Within a matter of days many other people have become a "first to have" and the exclusive bubble is burst.  You are no longer receiving interest from your peers as they too are joining the now not so exclusive group.  Then within months, if not weeks, they are everywhere, almost commonplace, and that feeling of elation and validation is over.  Now you are just one of the masses.
And then you hear about it.  The next "it" thing.  You just have to have it.
So there you are back on that mouse wheel, always trying to stay ahead of the pack.  And where does it get you?  The short answer is not very far.  There will always be a next thing.
So what is it that people are missing from their lives?  How is it that we have become disconnected from each other and instead are connected to machines that feign a personal connection?

For an in depth look at where we are as a society on some of these topics I would suggest reading "Affluenza" by Clive Hamilton.

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.
Our houses are bigger than ever, but our families are smaller. Our kids go to the best schools we can afford, but we hardly see them. We've got more money to spend, yet we're further in debt than ever before. What is going on?

The Western world is in the grip of a consumption binge that is unique in human history. We aspire to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the cost of family, friends and personal fulfilment. Rates of stress, depression and obesity are up as we wrestle with the emptiness and endless disappointments of the consumer life.

Affluenza pulls no punches, claiming our whole society is addicted to over consumption. It tracks how much Australians overwork, the growing mountains of stuff we throw out, the drugs we take to ‘self-medicate' and the real meaning of ‘choice'. Fortunately there is a cure. More and more Australians are deciding to ignore the advertisers, reduce their consumer spending and recapture their time for the things that really matter.

This is fantastic must read book that I encourage everyone to read.  If you ever felt like you were caught in the spending trap and wanted to get out this book will help you see how you are constantly being sold to and give you ideas about how break free from the cycle and recognize the manipulation that goes on.
Even if you a living a simple life I think you will find this book a great read and maybe like me you will feel like perhaps you are doing a good job of fighting off the suggestion that shopping will make you happy and solve your problems.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?


  1. Its easy to cure. Just put the checkbook away. Oh, I guess in this day and age it is the credit card. Then go home and cook from scratch.


  2. I agree with Mary's comment. Why can't everyone see this?

  3. I love watching The Gruen Transfer, but I think they are a bit arrogant about how easy it is to see through and be immune to advertising. It's insidious. There's an entire sector of the economy dedicated to manipulating emotions, creating "need", altering perceptions of reality and truth. But I think they are right in their portrayal of the creativity and intelligence dedicated to the industry, which makes it doubly dangerous. There's a folk wisdom abroad that this generation is more cynical and skeptical about advertising, but I suspect that's superficial. The malaise is deeper.

  4. I think that alot of the act of acquisition is the anticipation of waiting for something to arrive. It is the thrill of the wait, it is suspenseful and then once it arrives, well, that is it. You play with it, look at it and then it simply becomes another possession and melds in with everything else you own.

    Then you go out looking for the next exciting thing to acquire and are once again immersed in the excitement of waiting for the latest gadget. Media hype and peer group pressure has alot to do with this, in my opinion, of course.

  5. Hi, just found your blog, this book was one of my inspirations too. I look forward to reading more about your farm (just small, like mine). Cheers, Liz


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