Archive for March, 2011

March 12, 2011

Manifesto for A Better Day: All people deserve to have their happiness served by the system

Can I make you happy? Well I guess I might be better to ask if I can be happy. But those questions are really the same – true happiness, belonging and love depend upon more than the effort or desire of one person.  True happiness requires a relationship, a deep connection.  So how does our consumer society tell us to be happy? They have a worldview: the ability to consume makes you happy.

True Happiness

The elite of our times have defined happiness as freedom to consume. But that feels hollow, because we know that the unlimited or unencumbered ability to consume is just gluttony. When we see an elitist person who is able to consume what they want and it is presented to us in the context of a happy life do we really believe they are happy?  Really why do we believe, think and feel that happiness, comes from stuff? From unabated, unconstrained consumption?

Let’s take the consumption = happiness assumption. First of all what is consumption? Is it inherently bad, or an innocuous verb that means to take in to eat, or drink?

Is consumption inherently bad or an innocuous verb?

Here’s how consumption is defined in the context of our economic system and how important you are the continuation of that system. Consumption is what a consumer does, and a consumer is a person or business that purchases goods and services in a market based commercial system. So when the market or commercial system looks at you, they see consumer. They see you only as a potential purchaser of their goods or services. And there are different consumers grouped by demographic but all are targets of the system. But ultimately the consumer is regarded as a path to profits. You need to consume so the producer can sell their goods and make that profit. Most products are carefully designed and marketed to get your attention, serve some stated purpose and keep you coming back to purchase and consume more stuff. Regardless of  what the product  or the goods may be; valuable, well made, cheap or shoddily constructed YOU are still the most important cog in their machine. To make money they must make you a consumer. How do you become a consumer above all else? You must learn to think about purchasing, think about acquiring, and feel compelled to consume when given the appropriate signal.

In order for you to act as a good consumer, you must be trained to recognize your purpose, your role in life. The system teaches us from when we are very young that there are things you want and that making a purchase and consuming the thing is how you achieve happiness. Everyone has been a child and most of us experienced growing up in the consumer culture. The system taught us to want toys we didn’t need – because someone told us to want it – had it never been introduced into your world, you could have remained blissfully ignorant of that toy and kept playing with your old toy. You would not have a particular want for a particular toy. Yes, you played pretend and all the kinds of play children gravitate toward. But did playing with the toy bring you greater joy or happiness than the make believe games and sitting in the grass observing insects did? Think about it for a minute.

You are told what toy to want.

Marketing directly to children is a huge business with significant resources and research committed to its development. The researchers have even determined how many times a modern child has to whine before mom gives in. I must admit my mom was super tough and rarely or ever caved.  Children are targeted to become consumers before they have the decision making powers to say no. The system makes some pretty worthless claims that their thing will make a child happy, but we all have witnessed how the child has more fun playing with the box than the toys they get at Christmas. Are they happy? Do you really believe our children are at their happiest and most secure in their role as consumer? Or do you believe as most rational people do that children are happiest in their parents or caregivers loving arms with their basic needs met? How could we let this happen to our children? Because we are consumers being told by billions of dollars in advertising and other television, print and internet images  to consume, images that show us smiling pretty seemingly happy people consuming everything from mass produced foods to high fructose corn syrup. We believe we will be like them as we act as they act.

We are encouraged to consume many times a day, not to meet a need, not because our lives will be improved, but because consuming will fulfill us, make us happy.  The claims are clear, McDonalds has their consumer state “I’m loving it” and Coke is the “Real Thing” and of course Disney can “Where dreams come true”.  These are just a very few things that we consume, we also consume sports, image and live vicariously through the lives of celebrities and reality TV stars, assuming they are happy (but secretly hoping they are as miserable as we are). This sales pitch keeps hope alive, that if we become free to consume without obstruction, we will free our happiness. When was the last time you felt really happy? Did it involve consuming a corporately produced product, thing? Did you feel love and the connection to all life after eating a McRib? Or were your dreams fulfilled at the plastic contrived place called Disney World?  Now think carefully, when was the last time you were truly happy?  Were you in your lovers arms, was your baby smiling at you, were you with someone? Probably, because our truest happiness comes at those moments when we fell connected to someone, to life, to an intangible God.  An intangible holy force is far more comforting than a Coach purse or titanium golf clubs . When we are in true need of healing or inspiration we turn to each other and our faith, our beliefs, our philosophy, our love.  At those moments we know who we truly are.

We know who we are in these moments

So why do we over consume even though it is not bringing us happiness, is probably harming us or at least causing us unnecessary difficulty navigating the economic system set up to make us its indentured servants. My hypothesis for why we act so poorly in the face of fact is that their system has invaded our brains like the zombie ant fungus, or they have implanted some kind of chip and we are cyborgs,  or by using the mind bending techniques of subliminal messages, NLP and post hypnotic suggestion we have become their slaves.  The system intentionally softens our will and subtly appeals to our desires. The TV and advertising industry have created an alternate reality reflecting virtually none of the daily of life for most of the planets 6 billion people. More than half of the planets people live on less than $2 a day.  In the face of that fact American television is truly a fantasy world, an illusion to distract us from facing our enslavement to the system.  Accepting this illusion causes us to become disconnected from our lives and one another, we are seeking happiness but the system is a lie, we have yet to escape the bondage of consumerism.

True happiness and oneness really can’t even be compared to consumer happiness. True happiness requires the ability to be vulnerable and open to more than you can see physically – not just a desire to transcend the world, but also the practice of mindfulness, sweetness and compassion. And from this practice we begin to achieve deep and meaningful connections with others and our God, and we stand in trust and love even when our experience tells us the consumer world is a lie thriving on sadism.

We know our happiness despite the world

There is no proof, no way to empirically prove that happiness of love or faith is better for us. But should we demand proof of our hearts tells us is good and wholesome? Or should we believe that a transactional society that reduces us each to consumer, a society which sells everything, children and women into sexual slavery is good, happy or even ok? Or why is it acceptable for a few powerful individuals make all of the rules of engagement weigh heavily in their favor, to crash the world’s economy and ask us all to pay their bill, when desperate poverty and death is the reality for billions as a consequence of their actions?  How can we be consciously happy when the west is largely responsible for the oppression of billions so that we can cheaply consume natural resources to make stuff that we consume? When the citizens of Saudi Arabia are executed as a matter of course, when the Chinese government practices forced sterilization, when the US incarcerates millions of our own citizens effectively disenfranchising them our silence is truly acquiescence.  Yes this is enough evidence that the current system is inherently inhumane as it depends on an increasing pool of expendable labor to maintain profit levels. But seeking and achieving happiness is not a system, it is a state that is preferable to consumption as a purpose.

To move in the direction of happiness we should be focusing on the kind of activities within systems that honor each human and allow autonomy and freedom of self expression in organization. There is more potential for happiness in a values driven life, community and economy. This kind of values driven economy will automatically reduce consumption for its health and maintenance. Focusing on the well being of one another and the health of our planet will force us to change our commercial and organizational structures.  And it is more likely that true stability can be achieved when we adopt practices that are complimentary to ecological and evolutionary growth. Happiness is also a choice, a choice to be happy denies much of the post modern apocalyptic narrative repeated by the elite as they play upon the literal mind of the working and poor classes. But that assumes that the poor and working people can not be rational players well situated and ready to lead their own destiny. Inherently we are all capable of making happy healthy decisions but the elite oppose transparency and rationality for the masses. They want to hold all the cards as it were, they have rigged the game. So we must catalyze a  spiritual and personal revolution deny their system of participants – in favor of awakened consciousness seeking happiness working together for the common good.  Potential for our evolution is always perched but we must act upon that potential to unleash our power – Love is our capital, Peace is our wealth, Happiness is our legacy.

Together we will be happy