I have a list of demands written on the palm of my hand. –Saul Williams.
I also have a list of demands. However, my demands are more to myself than to anyone else. I demand of myself that I stop succumbing to the endless selling of a narrowly defined ‘good life’ and the things that are supposed to get me there. I demand of myself that I realize I have enough money and I have enough stuff.
This all began two weeks ago, as my friend Josh Cresswell and I wound down from a day of classes with a few hours of good old-fashioned reality TV. The Apprentice was among the shows we subjected ourselves to. At one point, Josh spat out one of the greatest questions I have ever heard about reality TV. He said, “ Why is it assumed that I like Donald Trump? Why would I like him or want to be like him? He’s just a ruthless business hard-ass.” It seemed that Josh had managed to debunk the premise of the show within a few minutes.
Strangely, it would seem that not only is it assumed that we are down with The Donald, but it is expected of us. What’s not to like and want to emulate? The guy has everything, right? Oodles of money, a multi-billion dollar business, legions of brown nosing executives. The guy is a multi billionaire and he still goes to work every day, trying to stay on top of his game and make more, never risking the relinquishing of his status. If the guy really has everything, why keep going?
Herein lies my query: when do we stop wanting more? It is no surprise that living in the capitalist free world we are indoctrinated to go after the endless pursuit of more, all the while being promised that there is some fulfillment to be found once we reach completeness from our possessions, but never really feeling full. Aha! Therein lies the real deal; if we stop wanting more, the system fails. Taking a page from Fight Club, we can consider some of the wisdom bestowed upon us by Tyler Durden: “…They have us working jobs we hate, to buy shit we don’t need.”
Now I am not suggesting that we all try to blow up credit card headquarters, but just ask yourself whether you have ever acquired a material item that has brought you lasting happiness or utter fulfillment. I certainly have not, but I am supposed to believe that this lack of fulfillment comes not from the fact that possessions will never complete me, but that I have not acquired enough stuff, or the right stuff. We have so many options of things to buy and desire that somehow these endless options have been equated with freedom. If there is freedom in endless wanting and spending, why have we become so dominated by that which is supposed to free us?
I believe our freedom lies not in our ability to choose what we buy, but in the ability to choose whether or not to buy into this endless cycle. Just as the premise within women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan is to hammer into the reader that they are not good enough as they are, that they need certain products to be sufficient human beings, so goes the rules of consumerism in our whole society. Who really has attained happiness from buying stuff and getting more money if even Donald Trump feels the need for a bigger piece of the pie? Perhaps our real freedom of choice is to say that we do have enough, that having more stuff and more money won’t make us feel better about ourselves or fill a void in any lasting way.
Beg to differ? If you have a place to live, some food to eat and some clothes to wear, you are doing better than a hell of a lot of people in the world, even in our own society. A huge proportion of the planet lives on the equivalent of 1-5 US dollars per day, and as you can guess, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for frivolous spending. You and I, on the other hand, have been meticulously primed for spending and conditioned to continuously think that we need to make more money.
Maybe now is a good time to downsize what we own and reassess what we feel we really want and need out of our lives. Perhaps we are actually doing alright, possessing sufficient stuff and earning enough money to survive, if not to live in excess. If you can attain satisfaction from where you are right now, earning what you already earn and owning what you already own, you have won against a system designed to keep you insecure and ever searching for that item or salary that will magically transform you into a better person.
In the immortal words of Zach de la Rocha, do not keep on “..believing all the lies that they’re telling ya, buying all the products that they’re selling ya.” Demand of yourself the ability to realize that there’s nothing missing from your life that can be rectified with any amount of money, power or stuff. You are already a far better human being than any possession could transform you into.