Friday, March 20

Age of Excess

Cart has an interesting and comprehensive post on Excesses which got me thinking that excesses and unhappiness go together.

Professor Bagaric contends it’s better to "overdose” with family or friends than to engage in mad shopping sprees to feel happy. Don’t buy the latest new big car or flat screen TV to increase your level of happiness but disconnect from the mobile phone to be more involved with your local community or invest in a hobby or buy a dog to go walking regularly, as these activities lead one to be happier than investing in material acquisitions.

The myth of the Great Depression (with its 25% unemployment) according to Bagaric was that everyone was depressed and unhappy. This was not the case since even those eeking out existence in shanty towns or residing in caves around Sydney did not see themselves so badly off as their pervious homes also did not have electricity or running water. Being dirt poor does not necessarily lead one to being very unhappy, so long as you have enough to eat. During the Great Depression many more people survived by growing their own vegetables which became an ennobling experience.
When everyone‘s driving old bomb cars and few have any real wealth than the communities are under less stress in a material sense as the high societal expectations dissipate as people become more concerned about looking after one another than in keeping up appearances by acquiring material acquisitions.

Not that I would attempt to glamorize the misery of the Great Depression (and the unhappiness of many)but rather to concede the important point our happiness is a relative measure and is influenced more by our expectations than by the measure of material items. So long as you have enough to eat the simple pleasures in life can always be enjoyed. With the world’s economy sunk in a continuing mire of despair in what we might call the Great Recession (a mere shadow of the Great Depression)it might be wise to seek out more simple blessings and to pass them on for serious consideration.
In early May I am off to Malawi which only has a per capita income of $250. It will be interesting to hear the many stories of ordinary people and experience the warm heart of Africa- to gauge also the general level of happiness.


Cart said...

Thanks Lindsay. Still I get the feeling that the issue goes to the heart of how people now identify themselves. I actually recall, in my pre-teen years, knowing people who actually lived in caves – on the Port Hacking River south of Sydney. Cave or cottage we all lived without power or piped water and to my memory there was never a sense of poverty.
Personal identity had little to do with material possessions. There were haves and have nots among the adults, but that was more to do with status and respect in the community, and not a little of political leanings. In fact there seemed to be a greater sense of personal identity then generally exists now.

Sylvana said...

I remember that when I was a kid I had lots of fun doing free stuff, because we didn't have money.

susan said...

Although I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about living happily with less - something we've practiced all our lives - I worry about the reactions of those in the US who feel entitled to having more than they actually need. We've been given some very bad examples over the past twenty years.

Best wishes Lindsay. I hope your trip to Africa is filled with love and light.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Cart, Sylvania & Susan
Thanks for your insightful thoughts.
Cart – well considered points!!
Sylvana- I am reminded of how much fun I’m having with my grandchildren, just running around with them and telling them stories - it’s all free and they seem to enjoy it!!
Susan - maybe the tide will turn for the better since the reaction to all of the greed has been telling and expectations have been hosed down to some extent. It will be interesting to observe!!
Best wishes