Consumerism or not

My microwave finally gave up the ghost a few days ago. There had been one or two earlier occasions when it was using energy but not heating food, so it was no big surprise.

The first thing I did was go online and look for a new one. Old habits die hard. It is very tempting to run out and get for example a new shiny red one right away as I rely pretty heavily on my microwave (and a red or black microwave is prettier than a white one). I very rarely use a stove or oven.

But this one had come from someone else’s kitchen remodelling project, and served me well for years. I’d bought the one before that new, and it did not last long at all.

So, operating from a non-consumerist point of view, I was hoping to find another one that was getting tossed out or already got tossed out during a kitchen renovation. Those microwaves often still work fine but as they usually have no legs and their looks may be a bit less appealing, most people probably don’t want them. They’d look a bit odd in a shiny new kitchen, granted.

So I went on freecycle, posted my request and crossed my fingers. I received three offers! I only needed one – which was very kindly dropped off, too – so that means that two other local people whose microwaves are about to break down will be in luck.

There is still so much stuff sitting around unused in people’s sheds, basements and attics. It means that something else does not actually have to be bought yet, with the various environmental burdens that purchase would entail.

Five videos for people in the Netherlands

For a long time, the Netherlands has been a highly egalitarian country, but inequality is very slowly starting to increase there, even though most people in the Netherlands still live – in a comparison to make you understand – with caviare and champagne for breakfast and gold taps and door handles throughout the home.

For the past fourteen years, I have been living in a country that has a huge degree of inequality, which is much worse than in all the other EU countries. Yes, all of them. I want you to know what that looks like, at the bottom. So that you can help stop the Netherlands from going into that direction too.

There is a HUGE amount of homelessness here in the UK, for mostly financial reasons.

Yes, the simple lack of sufficient income for people to support their basic needs.

You see that in countries like the US and Australia too. It includes many female older adults and also people like Manda in one of the videos below, who sustained a brain injury with associated nerve damage. (The Hanes corporation decided to help her.) Most of these people never thought in their wildest dreams that they might ever end up homeless. Among the poorest retired women are former nurses and researchers but also many former stay-at-home mothers.

One of the things it sometimes leads to in Britain is a great deal of envy or discomfort when people in poverty see someone who does not appear to be miserable or who appears to be able to support himself or herself financially. It makes them feel like something has been taken away from them, and they often focus those feelings and their energy on the person who is not miserable. As a result, that person may then be pushed into poverty as well. There are no efforts, certainly not by the British government (to the contrary), to pull people out of poverty here.

In Britain, I have learned what it is like to live without hot water, heat and electricity, to sit in your bed all day long, and walk over to a place where they provide a hot meal for you (and where they may treat you as if you are a potentially dangerous wild animal for no other reason than that you are poor). In Britain, I have seen what it is like to live in deep poverty, to stop looking toward the future because you know that you will never get out of that poverty, and become so accustomed to it that you completely forget what a life is like without poverty.

The other side of the spectrum, the crazy consumerism, the drive for higher and higher GDPs, and the accumulation of personal possessions as the only measure of one’s self-worth, the push for ever-increasing industrial production without any concern for the costs of that and the senseless of it all seems to be also pushing a lot of people into deep poverty.

The key word in many developments and environments is balance. Leading simpler lives is generally more fun than pursuing a consumerist lifestyle, but deep poverty is is just as bad as crazy consumerism. And they seem to go hand in hand.

I’ve heard someone who was spending about 6000 a month describe himself as poor. That’s crazy.

Poor, in the western world, is 6000 a year, or 8000 a year, or 2000 a year.

Poor is having no or limited access to medical care, in the western world.

Poor, in the western world, is having so little income that you have to choose between having a roof over your head and having food in your stomach or having food in your stomach and having food in your children’s stomachs.

One of the videos below features Charlotte, a young British woman who lives on one day a meal and who does not want a sandwich for lunch because eating the sandwich would make her feel hungry the next day. When you have to live on very little food, your metabolism changes, and you will want to keep your body functioning in that mode because it helps you cope. (People who want to stuff people who’ve been living on very little food for a long time, say a year or half a year or one and a half year, and get angry when they don’t want to gorge themselves are simply totally clueless. On the other hand, when your food intake fluctuates, then you will likely want to stuff yourself and may not be able to stop eating when you do get food and may eat 4 plates full of pasta and/or 6 bagels in one go.)

You may also develop nutritional deficiencies.

The medical profession is mostly completely blind to all of this. If you complain about muscle weakness to your doctor, he or she will likely suggest that you join a gym club. Because that is what he or she would do in your place. But these doctors aren’t you. They aren’t poor and haven’t got the foggiest idea what it is like to be really poor.

So instead of buying yet another fancy this or that for your garden or patio and an Alexa or iPhone, you could go to your local Aldi or Lidl, look at how other people are shopping and spend the money you would have spent on your new garden ornament on on that new iPhone on people who would, in a sense, have been paying for your iPhone, Alexa or garden ornament.

Inequality seems to be the result of you not wanting to pay 600 for your new phone but only 400, so that you can spend 200 on your garden ornament. It seems to mean that there are people who get paid very little so that you can get what you want (but don’t need). It seems to mean that there are people who live in environments that have been polluted by the side effects of your consumerism. (It is not healthy to live close to a garbage dump, for example.)

Money and income are not limited resources like oil and gas, but consumerist spending is linked to the depletion of limited resources, and somehow, that results in greater inequality.

Research by universities and the IMF has shown that greater equality makes everyone better off, including those at the top socio-economic levels.

Humans and other animals

I used to be quite fond of people in general, but I no longer like humans as much as I used to.

Humans have been on the planet only a short while, but no other species has managed to wreak even a fraction of the destruction that humans already have.

Humans also hunt and incarcerate each other, and sometimes kill each other, for no good reason. (Guantánamo, anyone? Migrant detention centres, anyone? 9/11 anyone? )

Humans approve of it when other humans want to build unhealthy concrete, plastic, steel and brick homes yet tend to object when other humans want to build homes made from branches and wood, or earth, or straw bales and adobe, or live in a hole excavated in the ground where they keep their books and the other kind of stuff that we all tend to have.

More and more humans, it looks like, gather and gather and gather, and steal, and build up reserves that would last them many lifetimes. It has a name, I believe. Consumerism.

So-called progress that happens for no more than the sake of the drive for bigger bigger bigger more more more has become the norm. (Third Heathrow runway, anyone?)

Sales for the sake of sales instead of the sake of contributing something worthwhile to the lives of others is still a major driver for many, as is the accumulation of monetary value, often to make up for feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

“It’s amazing! I have X euros/dollars/pounds’ worth of merchandise in my shop right now!”

Even a so-called stupid bird brain of a quaker parrot knows that in times of plenty, all that matters is that you have food in your hands – not how much someone else has – and that you should start building up a little stack of reserves for yourself when you notice that food is scarce.

This spunky creature, a quaker parrot called Sioux, was part of my household for 21 years  Her life and death have changed my life forever. She was still a youngster when she was brought to a wild-bird hospital in Florida where I was volunteering at the time. It was against the law to release her, and she was unable to fly, so she needed a home. I adopted her along with quaker parrot Mohawk. As I had noticed that these birds are never on their own in the wild, I wanted to adopt at least two of them, for increased well-being, and housed them together. Myiopsitta monachus.

Quaker parrots don’t round up other birds and their youngsters and put them in cages. They protect them, stand up for them (they stand up even for cats). In the wild, they share their amazing self-built homes that have separate spaces for various activities with other species, sometimes even predators. (Yet they are also highly territorial, protective of their homes.)

But many humans see them as “threats” and spread vile myths about them, mainly because their natural habitat was once limited to South-America.

Probably also because at some level, we humans feel threatened (challenged, made uncomfortable) by the intelligence and strong lively personalities of these birds. They can be highly opinionated.

Something similar goes for our city pigeons.

Birds have been on the planet so incredibly much longer than humans. They are highly aware of their own vulnerability (with to some degree the exception of birds of prey), so much that they will always try to hide it as well as they can. They don’t go around destroying their own habitat, and they tend to live quite peacefully with other species.

Humans are only one species. Homo sapiens.

We humans haven’t really learned a thing yet, have we?

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Consumerism of all kinds – and hope

Do you crave and often purchase beautiful shiny things?

Do you often indulge in a lot of cookies late at night?

Do you regularly have a few drinks too many?

Does this make you feel uncomfortable on some level?

Then stop and ask yourself why you’re doing it. You know the answer.

The shiny new things may confirm to you that you’re a success. The cookies may give you a sense of being loved. The alcoholic drinks may dull your senses enough to give you a sense of safety and security.

They bring you hope. They bring you the idea that you can choose to feel this way in the future, any time you want, if only you have the things you need that make you feel the way you want to feel.

It can even be a particular breed of dog that you use as a tool to bring you the feeling you want, for instance the feeling of being adored, or successful or loved.

Know that you have the power to give these feelings to yourself without the designer products and clothes, the cakes and cookies and hot chocolate, and the beer, wine, whiskey and rum or any other prop that you use. The warm-blanket feeling is already inside you. You can give it yourself any time you want.

You don’t need an excuse to feel that way. You deserve to feel the way you want to feel. Successful, loved, safe and secure. You have the power to decide how you feel.

Being aware of how you want to feel is a major first step. Take the time out to give yourself that feeling whenever you need it. Choose to feel the way you want to feel.

Just like the cells of your body know how to make your walk if you want to walk, the cells of your body know how to make you feel a certain way if you want to feel a certain way.

If you want a tool to help you accomplish that, use for example Paul McKenna’s 30-minute “Change Your Life in 7 Days” soundtrack or one of his apps on GooglePlay or the AppStore. Late at night, early in the morning, whatever time suits you. Do it. Because you’re worth it.

Paul McKenna’s 30-minute “Change Your Life in 7 Days” soundtrack is available on YouTube, for example here and here. I can also e-mail you the 27.4 MB MP3 file if you want (or send it to you on CD at a small fee); use the form below. It may not literally change your life in seven days, but it will likely change how you feel within seven days.

Remember…

There is only one success: to be able to live your life in your own way.
– Christopher Morley

And of course, there is nothing wrong with a little indulgence every once in a while!

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