Giving up attained benefits?

Thank you all for very intersting posts!

I guess this dilemmas we face with the saving the world comes to the core question is life about consumption? I don’t think there is anyone who would think that their life is about consumption. Like mentioned in the class of Max-neef’s matris of human needs we would more propably answer that life is about being, having, doing and interacting. About being loved and accepted, and belonging somewhere, that is after surviving (if not included in it). Everyone would say that it is cheap love and acceptance if it needs to be acquired by purchasing something, like certain clothes or handbags (I don’t know what exactly makes them so expensive but the brand..).

My son, a second grader, asked a good question from me this morning as we were getting ready to leave. Why do we need money in the world, and why do we need to go to school and work? As usual he caught me off-guard. Big issues I would say. But it hits the point of this course. I started to think of the society and how it runs, since we don’t live in rural society anymore we have to work to earn the money to live, pay rent and buy food. We don’t need to sow our clothes (and make the fabrik) and do launry by hand anymore, instead we work in an office (or any other facility) an due our duties and get payed for it. But what I thought behind the lines, my son was impling that it would be more fun just to be home with mom (and friends) and enjoy life. So this is what the life of voluntary simplifiers is based on. Moving to the countryside and living like they did before, while the rest of us “are running the society”

Doing homework with my son last night brought in the same issue. In his science book there were nice chapters of how to recycle and how not to always need to buy new things. There was even a nice suggestion to make mom happy you can help her out at home, instead of buying something for her :-). Well frankly I hope it helpes some and it is nice that they teach that at school, but the next sentance is “Mom I need new shoes and a nicer phone and a bike”. It is a lot about peer pressure (need to be accepted) and wants discussed at class.

To conclude I think what my son means is that it would be nice if we could have this living standard (nice home and a car), money for toys and lots of free time to enjoy them! This I think captures the problem. People want to take time off from work, but it is hard if it means cutting down on the living standard as well. Not many feel like they want to do it in the long run. As we say in finnish- it is not easy to give up already attained benefits! No marketing campaign can make people do that. It is a whole different thing if it really was about survival. If you are unemployed and homeless, problems of what to buy tomorrow are slightly different than if you have 1000 e over after paying the bills.

So why do we have to work? More and more people are looking for work that would make a difference. They want ethical work that matters. Not only small niche companies selling sustainable products for few will be an answer. Since not all can start their own carpenter shop there is a great demand for all companies to be thinking like they would be a carpenter shop, doing good and enjoying it.


1 comment
  1. You’re wrestling with big issues there. It is indeed a highly complex problem to try and make people cut back on their consumption, their “attained benefits”, even if some of these benefits are less than beneficial, or at least have aspects that are harmful. While I agree that marketing alone will not solve the problems you describe in your text, new notions of ‘good life’ can be promoted and pushed forward by the corporate world too, and this would happen through marketing. How likely this is in large scale is anyone’s guess, and depends on a number of things.

    Just a short comment on your last paragraph; ethical work that matters is indeed important for many people these days, but at the same time it appears that companies are increasingly adept at taking advantage of that too: a morally motivated employee often requires less pay and is willing to work more hours than someone who is working ‘just to make a living’. This has been the subject of some recent research, and goes for showing that unfortunately there appears to be a dark side to everything (along with the silver lining).


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