I Have Enough: A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life
(Page 6 of 7)
And it is the power. To fight the power, we have to recognize it as the power. Most of the time we’re so immersed in and bedazzled by it that we don’t even see how all-encompassing it is. We have to pay attention, especially during those critical moments when the real face of the power peeks out from behind one of its many masks. One of those times occurred in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 (“9/11”). Do you remember? Thousands of innocent people killed, an entire nation traumatized, and what did we hear from some of our leaders? “Don’t let the terrorists win! Don’t be afraid! Return to the malls and resume shopping!”
The dominant power we live under is not democracy or some other noble ideal—it is consumerism! And we are constantly encouraged by this power to be dissatisfied with our present lives and circumstances. This is, in fact, the essence of the consumer-capitalist society we live in—to never stop wanting, acquiring, devouring; to never be happy with what we currently have. We are bombarded daily by messages ranging from television commercials to pop-ups on the internet to political propaganda, all of which exhort us to desire and to buy more . . . and more, and more, without end, without satiety.
Contentment is the antithesis of the consumerist value system at the center of our current culture. And it is sine qua non of happiness, its essential precondition. Without contentment, we can never be happy.
So what does that tell you about our shopping-mall culture? Your unhappiness is its life’s blood! Rebelling against a force like this is just an expression of sanity; remaining complacent is a recipe for certain grief. Among the most revolutionary actions a person could take in a society like ours is really no action at all. Just stop. Don’t buy any more stuff. Don’t even want to buy stuff. Just be content.
Whenever we feel dissatisfied with our material lives, we might want to get back in touch with the hard facts. Go to globalrichlist.com, enter your annual income, and find out how you rank in the world. You’ll be amazed by how high on the hog you are living.
Check out a few of the stats:
• The average income in the United States is the second highest in the world. (Only Luxembourg’s is higher.)
• The 20 percent of the world’s people living in the highest-income countries account for 86 percent of total private consumption expenditures, while the poorest 20 percent consume a minuscule 1.3 percent of the total.
• The richest fifth consume 45 percent of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth, 5 percent.
• The wealthiest 20 percent consume 58 percent of total energy, the poorest fifth, less than 4 percent.
• Two billion people in our world live on one dollar per day, and, according to some statistics, 50 percent suffer from malnutrition.
And on it goes. These statistics are not meant to make us feel guilty. They are meant to make us aware of the reality of our lives. We should call them to mind when we succumb to the temptation of thinking we somehow don’t have enough.
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