Monday, May 23, 2011

Quality of Life in The 21st Century


Are humans just hard wired to consume as much as possible or is moving out of consumerist lifestyle the coming next big thing in human society ? This was the question we wondered on in the last post

Those who are new to this, also refer to this one and this and this, You will be fully armed with the context and ready to do damage!

We buy stuff mostly after falling victim to advertisement and marketing (whether we admit it or not). Advertisements are not just stuff we see in TV. Advertisements are in everywhere, some stays inside our minds from childhood as concept level, some get transmitted as fashion, advertisements even shape our thinking patterns and value systems.

We live in an era which preach consumption, consuming more means being more successful. Purchasing and owning more means more success. Ownership and consumption, those are the things which define us. What we own, in a way defines us, so we try to own better things more and more. Why do we try to earn more? Either to continue buying or to pay debts for the things we have already bought!

If everybody owns more things than really necessary and if every household is having more things which are not actually needed or not being meaningfully used, then it's obviously a big waste. More than that, it means we consume just for the sake of consuming as if we don't have any other meaningful goal in our lives. Do we live to buy that fancy car, own that big house and to use those handy gadget? Is there no other real purpose which drives us ?

Next problem is, can all of us (even if we have money) really own all those things we like? everything takes energy to get produced, every thing takes resources to get produced, only a part of those resources (if at all) get recycled back. While our craziness for owning things has no limits, resources the world has got to produce them, certainly has limits. Amount of waste the environment can absorb (generated by consumption) too certainly has limits.

The so called economical growth which drives from consumption is simply an impractical model to continue further. It is not that we have a dislike or a disagreement with the way current economies run, just that we will need something deeper and something more practical and sustainable in coming decades. Current systems may be ones evolved in last centuries and survived those times because they were suitable for those times where our ability to use up resources were too low to worry about. It is no longer the case now, will be no longer the case in future!

We need some new philosophy which help us not to run after accumulating things to be happy. Some new economical or social concepts/theories which produce more outlets to humans than just consumption.

Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that our own minds have accepted this as the reality and as the only (or main) worthwhile goal to pursue. So to make our minds happy and achieve that always illusive contentment, we are driven towards consuming more and more. If not by consuming, what else will motivate us ? What else can provide us with a drive to grow ? That raises an even more interesting question! What is growth really ? Is that the GDP ? Monthly salary we earn ? value of property we own ?

Going down the path of economic growth as defined in theories (produce more, consume more) is proving a dead end. All citizens of the world can not simply live as Americans do! Yes, even if everybody somehow manage to get 'rich', the world Eco system can not take additional vehicles on road, additional factories which require additional resources and emit additional CO2 and other waste, additional cutting down of forests to make way for additional houses, roads etc We have come to a place where we are using too much of world resources and emitting too much waste the world can take. A new practical philosophy is needed to take the world forward!

Can there be such a economy/society or a system which doesn't rely on people consuming more for it's own survival ?

I believe yes, there can be. Think about this.....

There are other goals, things we can achieve without owning physical goods. Things like having knowledge, enjoyment from sports, arts. literature etc, improving our minds whether it be mediation or positive thinking or any other psychological activity which help us feel good, feel important and makes us happy. Who says we have to earn more, spend more, buy more and own more to happy? That's the thinking advertisement has put in us for decades (for generations!)! and it's a myth! We don't necessarily need money, ownership and more things to be happy.

Is gaining more knowledge less important than owning a car ? Is improving our selves with better attitudes and mental qualities is not important than making our houses bigger ?  Is improving our brain capacities (to learn, to memorize, to analyze etc) not as important as buying things for our living rooms ? Improving our emotions and the way we react to things and compassion we can show to others, is that not as important as buying more expensive clothes to improve our outside appearances ? Is spending quality time with your family and friends inferior to spending time on increasing our spending capacity ?

There are so many better ways to enjoy the life and live happier and in a more meaningful manner without buying/owning/holding things. If that's the case whats the point of putting up a staggering amount of time on making money ? After all, the sole purpose of money is to increase our capacity to buy things. When we have more time we will be more able to appreciate the little things in life which we have missed all this time. We can make more friends, express ourselves more, love more, live more... Quality of life for the 21st century!

This could be a new philosophy which will guide this century. We simply do not need to consume more to be happier!! Sometimes letting go of things, be free from things is the best form of peace and happiness. That will be good for the environment too! Probably we will hear more and more about concepts such as Gross National Happiness

Does this mean going back to the stone age ? certainly not! Moving away from materialistic view open ways and new adventures for the mind and body. There are so much to achieve, so much to gain and so much to grow in the area of improving our own minds. We could foresee an intense competitive future where humans are driven passionately toward ever more challenging tasks for the mind and body, whether it be sports, self expression, arts, science, enhancing the IQ, improving attitudes, improving memory capacity and analytical thinking...

There is an endless world of possibilities, probably even more so and certainly much more satisfying and beneficial goals for us to achieve than just pursuing after material goods, stuff. Human mind is currently just trapped in a very limited materialistic world where it strive only about pursuing consumerist dreams. Imagine a world  where the human mind body and soul is unleashed and free to achieve it's true potential!

In the industrial age, we have transformed into a efficient societies which produces more and consume more, we proved ourselves as very good at it. Now that it's limitations are becoming obvious, isn't it any wonder that the next great age to come would be moving away from consumerism and pursuing goals of self growth, real happiness and advancements in mind and mental faculties? Pursuing happiness and greatness! In this sense arguments such as ones on socialism vs capitalism becomes outdated. All current economical systems and theories are for increasing production and increasing consumption. What we are discussing is a fundamental mental shift from that world.

Also, letting go of things is much more complicated than it sounds.... Sometimes you need the technology to make that feasible! How to get rid of bulkier things which need more resources and energy ? How to invent things which absorb human minds (which are no longer going after physical goods) and provide it with challenges and objectives to engage in with passion ? In fact, we will have a higher set of challenges for the technology which will have to play an even bigger role!

In a future post we will discuss the shape of those technological advances together with emerging trends, and wonder whether things are already moving in the direction they should be moving.....

PS : Services to Rescue the sequel of this post.