My name is Mark and it has been five day since my last confession. I want to come clean in my first session in Affluents Anonymous. I have made money in the past. Lots of money. I have a nice home, great kids, a car and all the freedom I will need. But now I know I have enough.
I am experiencing “enoughness”. An inability to experience “enoughness” is a disease similar to blindness. Yet few of us even know we are sick. The sickness is called affluenza. I am sick with stuff. I have all the stuff I could ever have dreamt off and then some. If I had an indicator showing how full of stuff I was; it would be reading off the dial. But what am I? Bill Gates? No. I am not “wealthy” by the standard of the society in which I live. However, that is myopia.
I need only look a little further afield to realise how lucky I am. How lucky we all are. At the Foxconn factory in China, where most of Apple’s products are made (think IPad, IPhone and Mac), the employees are worked so hard quite a lot of them have committed suicide. These kids live in conditions where the living envy the dead.
And these are salaried employees. Elsewhere there have been cases of actual Chinese slave labour used to produce western consumer products. Cheap products. Cheap for us. The kids who make them will never be able to afford them. And how we like cheap stuff. They can’t afford them yet they are cheap for us. Ever thought the two are connected?
So look around you home at the things that make you happy. Is it your IPad or you mobile phone? Or is it the family photos and the smiles in your children’s faces? I found that the stuff that makes me the most happy are pretty simple: a chat with my wife, a cuddle with my daughter, having a nice bed to sleep in, financial security, a roof over my head, a warm fire on a cold night, food in my belly, a little room and space to call my own. Simple pleasures.
And all this don’t cost the earth. I am exactly in the right place to be happy. I can only make myself unhappy by coveting my neighbour’s home, car, holidays or lifestyles. We can only be unhappy (in this society) by how we judge ourselves against others. Apparently one in five people admit to “weekenvy” where they lie about how exciting their weekend was when, in reality, they curled up in front of the TV. Why are we ashamed of being simply happy by living simple lives?
A certain amount of stuff makes us happy. But beyond that “certain amount” you don’t get more happy. In fact we haven’t been getting “more happy” in this country since the 1970′s. We became more affluent. We got bigger homes and more cars. But it didn’t make us more happy.
Then it hits you when you compare yourself to those less fortunate. We are the luckiest people on the planet. We live like kings at the expense of our children using the resources buried millions of years ago. We have things that most people do not have. What is the average wage for a worker on this planet? What is the average size of a home? How many years of schooling do most children get on this earth? It doesn’t matter HOW you measure it: we are the lucky ones. We are rich beyond belief and I, for one, count my blessings every day.
My home is big enough. I have enough stuff. I am happy. I don’t need any more. I support those who DO NEED MORE. But they are out of sight and out of mind. And do you know what? It doesn’t matter how you look at it. If the people who do need more, were to have what we have, then there will not be enough to go round. Even worse: the reason why we are so wealthy is because others are so poor. It is the definition of OUR wealth. We just have more than other people. We have more than mostly everyone on the planet. We should feel like gods. But we don’t because we don’t see the poor. We only see other people’s wealth within our own society.
That is why I am here today before you. And I say again: I will never be happier than I am now. Now it is someone else’s turn. And that person may not yet have been born.