I was painting a new piece earlier on based on the feelings that fracking bring to me. A lot of my paintings are this way, based on feelings rather than the ‘reality’ of what they represent. All of my paintings were always only ever for my family in the future, as perhaps part of the family heritage.
What I want to talk about has nothing to do with this, so let’s get back to the point – having gone through a lot of things myself, I know how it is to constantly try to make enough money to pay for everything. Putting a child through college, for example, particularly in the U.S. can be very expensive. The root of things is that we’re trying to make a lot of money to pay the bills that we have of course, and I sort of came to see that very closely related to a mouse on a treadmill. If we’re not careful become somewhat of a money mill, making money, then spending it, making it and spending it. We’re at a place in time where there are some things we need to do, and some are evident, some will become more so as time goes on. We can’t continue consuming resources at the rate that we are. Every time something new comes out, let’s use the iPad4 as an example, millions are sold, and a lot of them are to people who had a previous version of it, in this case the iPad3, iPad2 etc. Where most people were perfectly content with the previous version, the fact that a ‘new’ one is out makes people want to get one, and this is the essence of consumerism. We crave better, newer things. Movies are another example – when a new movie comes out most people want to see it right away, in my (non-derogatory observance) opinion lemming-like behavior.
I might be biased here because of the way I have lived my life. I have been much more materialistic than I am now, though I was never that much so, perhaps because of my thoughts that once we move on to the next stage of existence (some people may call it death), we can’t take anything with us. We came into the world naked, and though we usually leave clothed, obviously even those clothes stay behind. The point is, it’s not our faults – we have been hoodwinked into this consumerist lifestyle, which all of us inhabit one way or another. It’s not just retail that we are consuming, but electricity, gasoline, water, plastics etc. etc. We’re being encouraged to consume these things whether overtly or subliminally and I’ve come to know that it’s a road to nowhere. In the last 5 years of my life before moving to Waiheke, I was not enjoying life anymore, and so I began to buy things, spending a lot of money on material things to fill what was not being filled spiritually and emotionally, and I think this is what happens to a lot of people. You begin to sink into a hollow world because you get some sort of satisfaction but it is so minute compared to having the love of another human being, or truly feeling nature around you. A good example of this is the inborn love for going to the ocean, or out hiking or camping in the forest, or to waterfalls etc. It is part of human nature to want to ‘get away’ to these places to relax and find peace. It’s those things that are ultimately important to us, and no, they are not expensive – they are free. Living in a consumer nation is what is not free – it is expensive financially, energetically, emotionally and spiritually.
In Los Angeles in particular ( I choose LA because I lived there for 21 years, not because it’s a ‘bad’ place), though I have had some wonderful times there, I have come to realize that a lot of the things that I saw daily were out of touch with the way humans should live in order to co-exist harmoniously with the earth. One such example was the storage buildings that were widespread and very popular. These buildings are filled with material goods that people no longer have space in their own homes for, whether they have no use for them or they just ‘have too much.’ Living a life of consumption of goods, even ‘basics’ as they are known in the US like gasoline and bottled water, does not bring one real satisfaction in life by any means. Going back to the analogy, it is like being on the hamster wheel, getting money to spend it to need more money and so on. I suppose this is what we (like most countries of the world) are being manipulated by the financial institutions into doing in the first place – spend more money, take out more debt… and when we can’t pay back our debt, we actually get penalized to owe more than we already did. Now we’re seeing countries so buried in debt that democratic elections no longer matter. The prime ministers of Italy and Greece, who were elected by the people, were pressured into resigning and in their place were put two people who were not elected – technocrats as they call them. Even Ireland, whom have had the same political party in place for the last 60 years, were pressured by the financial institutions in Europe so intensely that the reigning party was swiftly thrown out with promises of higher taxes and less benefits, and it’s all because the government was encouraged to spend money to the point where they could not pay it back anymore.
I read something recently that an official at a financial institution said. He said “We don’t care about what the people say, or what their aspirations are, we just want our money,” and this to me is usurping the sovereignty of a country. We’re at a place where most countries are at this stage, having spent too much money and now they’re trying to pay back and can’t. The results, depending on the country, are severe austerity measures which impact the people, and the people , largely speaking, never benefitted from the money borrowed in the first place.
Although I have been all over the place with this piece, the endpoint of this blog which is simple really, has been to show readers that we need to stop consuming as much. We will be much happier for it. We need to stop consuming as much gas, as much electricity, as much bottled water, even if it means buying a filter for our faucets, and pretty much anything, as consumption fuels the power of the global financial institutions that are forcing us to suffer and usurp government sovereignties as I have mentioned. Let us find happiness in ourselves and our friendships and relationships, not try to find it in material goods that fuel the unhappiness of the earth and people. Thank you.