Question for today is:
Does government really want to ‘save’ us by getting us to save money?
I’m a wee bit of a contradiction perhaps, in that I don’t subscribe to mainstream media (so I apologise if some government department has already broadcasted or published something I’m about to suggest and I’ve missed it), and I’m also a some-time Secondary School Teacher who believes in helping people through explicit, engaging and relevant-to-real-life education.
My opinion is that politics is too complex as it sits now. And from my eyes, ears and heart politicians (with a few exceptions) seem all about power and not at all about actually helping people.
What we’ve all realised in the last wee while is our world is having to correct its spending from being one of living beyond reality to living within it. This is all pretty straight forward of course.
What I cannot understand is…
Why is the government not explicitly supporting people to not consume. I’m not talking about essentials but I’m talking about the hundreds of people trawling malls in each suburb each day. Malls! Those huge expanses of consumerism (void of organic sensory experience) that too closely mirror casinos. They’re both about consumption aided by disorientation (both with time and space), these synthetic wastelands allow the human being to be sucked into the vortex of fantasia, with random yet immediate gratification. Both casinos and malls don’t have clocks. Both have very little natural light so you can’t recognise how long you’ve been in there and hence how much time you’ve ‘spent’. Both usually only have one information point (deliberately?) so you have to walk past many ‘attractions’ before being directed to perhaps the one place you did want. Both have monotonous and confusing carparks so you can’t retrieve your car easily – so you can’t ‘get out’?
But I digress slightly.
Could we not ask ourselves…why do we spend money, or maybe more specifically why do we spend money on things we don’t truly need to survive. Without reading a whole lot of academic text books about it (and in fact one should instead jump onto YouTube and view The Century of the Self), I know within myself that if I don’t go past the shops I don’t know what I’m missing out on and so I don’t want ‘it’. The same with a chocolate bar, if I don’t have it in the house, or more importantly don’t have it on the shelf in front of my eyes then I can’t see it, so don’t think about it, and then don’t want it. But on the other hand if I jump into my car and see a used chocolate bar wrapper on the floor I start…dreaming of…mars, bountys, picnics (interesting when you look at this collection of abundant and happy words to describe a chocolate bar).
So, if I extend this thinking of intentional avoidance and apply it to the television. All the experts know advertising and publicity works, in fact some go as far to say no publicity is bad publicity. I heard this once during a theatre festival where a newspaper reviewed a show as being the worst show in the world. Did the show bomb? No! It sold out. People are curious. People are greedy. People have been educated (or perhaps they are instinctively) competitive. If someone is doing something or having something, I want it too. FOMO – fear of missing out.
Again, this all seems pretty straightforward. So, IF, government REALLY don’t want us spending superfluously, then why don’t they limit advertising or better still ban it whilst we are in such economic catastrophe (whilst we are trying to curb our spending). But they are not! Why not? Perhaps the world we live in relies on our greed and curiosity and competition to ‘tick’. Have we in fact become utterly dependent on consumerism for our economy, synonymous now with world or existence, to keep ‘going’.
Here’s a curve ball, okay, so perhaps someone argues TV requires advertising for it to exist. Okay then, why is not the government making their own ads on how to save money? Or how to be happy without ‘things’.
And as an aside, why is that my family, were prohibited from transferring a credit card debt from BNZ at 5.99% p.a to National Bank at 2.99% p.a, but in the same week as being declined, were then sent a luring letter from the National Bank suggesting ‘was there something I had my eye on?’ and offering me a personal loan at 18.99% p.a. What constitutes morality? Should any one or any company be exempt from it?
Who is actually caring about me?
Who is teaching me to?
- Be realistic about the consequences of my actions (e.g. consider how am I going to pay back a loan WITH interest, when I can’t afford to buy the ‘thing that i have my eye on’ in the first place. And WHY do I have my eye on it…Was it advertised somewhere? On the telly, blasted at so many decibels higher than the television show I was watching? Or did I drive past it, an advertising image 10 times the size of me and my car combined, looking down on me, immense, me looking up at it as one looks up to God?
- Create a budget and have the self-discipline and optimism to live within that budget each week.
- Have faith and perseverance with paying back a loan/credit card/debt (even if it feels unsuccessfully and painfully slow).
- To not blindly trust companies and corporations but instead research for deals, and buy things with cash rather than a form of credit/lending so it costs me less in the long-term.
- Be aware of the corruption (trickery) of companies, and their self-focused, short-term, profit-hunting nature.
- Understand the science behind advertising and the use of domineering propaganda, provocative images, persuasive language and the fact advertising generally plays on a human being’s weaknesses such as greed, competition, FOMO etc.
- Realise banks don’t care about me, they care about money. When they offer me more debt or a company like GE Finance approve a high-interest loan, they’re not doing it solely out of kindness or compassion for my situation, they’re doing it to make money, cos they’ll make a lot from me. They’ll be delighted if I forgo on the odd payment, so then they get to sting me with penalties. They’ll target me in particular with whatever my weakness is (clothes, wedding, holiday) with their specific marketing.
- Even ‘rich’ people budget and have to live within their means.
- Spend less on the essentials or simple every month bills such as food, power, phone etc.
- Find free forms of entertainment in the community for me and my family (the children), so that we’re not all watching television and been bombarded by our lack of abundance and accumulation.
- Find out if I’m entitled to some extra financial support.
For the first time in my adult life I’m considering NOT voting this NZ election. At times, in the past, I have thought I was making a tactical vote, by voting for a party because I didn’t want the other one in. This time I can’t find sound reasons to support any of them.
Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modernconsumerism, representative democracy, commodification and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitudes to fashion and superficiality.
The business and, increasingly, the political world uses psychological techniques to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people’s rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites Paul Mazer, a Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in the 1930s: “We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”
As a form of disclosure…I have thought often about the contents and theme of this post, but I haven’t spent an age crafting the published ideas. I’m sure I could go deeper, and include more cited evidence, but my justification for not doing so, is this is a blog (which feels an immediate, less pedantic structure) and I am actually more interested in creating a great world rather than criticising the one that is right now.
Thanks for travelling with me and today’s question.