In American and modern culture, it is all about consumerism, materialism, and obsession with accumulating more — more money, more possessions, fancier cars, fancier possessions and object/tools, more land, more homes, more everything.
Now a simple question —
Is this bad?
Consumerism and materialism
Consumerism and materialism — I think they’re quite synonymous in modern capitalist culture.
- Consumerism: Deriving joy through consuming (food, media, resources)
- Materialism: Deriving joy through purchasing and possessing material things.
It seems that these things are intertwined with capitalism. We must desire to consume products to justify the creation of products. And we must derive joy from physical and material things in order to keep the capitalist system working.
Experiencism: Deriving joy through experiences.
I like the idea of a modern economy more driven through services, and experiences. I think this is because consuming experiences is better for our joy and happiness than simply consuming and accumulating material things.
This is why I enjoy photography and art creation so much — it is an active form of experience-making.
Consuming is necessary
As humans and organisms, consumption is essential to human thriving. We must consume food, water, coffee, and resources in order to grow, become stronger, and to use our resources to create epic things — epic buildings, art works, and technologies.
However we must see consuming as only a means to a greater purpose. We don’t consume for the sake of consuming. We don’t consume for the sake of fun. We consume in order to grow, and to build and create epic things.
Material things are good! It is good to have material clothing to keep us warm, good to have cars to transport us, good to own phones, cameras, and laptops and devices to communicate and create digital art works and ideas, good to have shoes to protect our feet from glass and the such. Good to have gyms with barbells to deadlift and workout.
I see the downside of consumerism and materialism is this:
- When it causes you to go broke, have no savings, and become financially dependent on your job.
- When owning too much shit causes stress in your life or prevents you from living more freely. A lot of people don’t move cities, live nomadically, or travel because their stuff weighs them down.
- It causes you to become disempowered. You seek more power in life by purchasing more stuff and possessions. But this isn’t true power nor happiness. My thought is true power is physical strength (lifting heavier weights at the gym), mental power and willpower, and artistic power and strength — to pursue epic life goals.
Is it human nature to like materials and to consume?
On a base level, it seems to be human to desire advantages. To desire MORE FOOD, warmer shelter, MORE WATER, superior tools, and other comforts in life. A human that didn’t desire more would have perished a long time ago.
But the philosophical question:
In today’s world where food, water and resources are bountiful and practically free — what are “real” advantages in life?
Insignificant advantages in life
For example, owning a BMW doesn’t give me an “advantage”in life compared to a Honda — unless somehow it helps you get sexual partners, or perhaps score some business deals to earn more money.
Owning the newest iPhone doesn’t give you that huge of an advantage in life compared to owning an older iPhone.
Once water is sanitized, I don’t think that there is a “superior”water that gives you any real or pragmatic advantages in life.
I would also argue that having a more comfortable life is actually a WORSE life. Too much comfort in life makes us fat, weak, and sicker. Better to be a strong and austere Spartan warrior than to be a plump and luxurious Athenian.
Seek your own maximal advantage
My lesson in life:
Don’t own many things, but for the things you do own— make sure they are the best.
Also, the best things aren’t often the most expensive. And the best stuff is often the most simple and practical.
For example the $900 RICOH GR III is superior to the $5000 Leica Q2.
The tricky thing –
There are certain tools and things which are genuinely practically advantageous to us in life, but much of which isn’t.
Don’t waste your money on these things
For example things which don’t give us any real advantage in life:
- Jewelry (watches, accessories, bags)
- Phones (having a smartphone is hugely beneficial, but the difference between owning the newest iPhone and an older iPhone or Android as a tiny difference).
What are real advantages?
- Being self-employed (not having to “go into work” everyday, having freedom and autonomy over your life).
- Having money in the bank (buffer money, to live without the stress of paying your bills). The secret is to live an extremely frugal and simple life. As long as your expenses are super low, you don’t need to earn much money to save a lot of money.
- Having your own platform to publish your art works, thoughts, having a direct connection with your fans or followers. Owning your own website/blog (wordpress.org).
- Having social connections: “It’s not what you know, but who you know”.
Buying stuff and owning more stuff won’t give you real advantages in life
I think capitalism is 10000x better than communism or any other form of economical system. But this is the tricky thing:
How to derive the ultimate upside from capitalism, with the minimal downside.
Ultimate upside: being self employed, living an extremely frugal lifestyle, much money saved in the bank, and owning the few tools of empowerment which really help (iPad, Macbook laptop, RICOH GR III camera as the three best digital creation tools I’ve discovered).
Minimal downside: Not getting suckered in desiring material things for the sake of it. Smart strategy: buy everything used or refurbished (1-2 generations older will save you TONS of money). Buy your iPhone refurbished, iPad refurbished, MacBook Pro refurbished, and digital camera and lenses second hand.
Apex artistic and philosophical creation. Creating much poetry, music, writing, photos, videos — all forms of self expression.
Derive your joy from the act of creation!