Posts Tagged ‘greed’

The Importance of Things: The Joy of Possessions.

March 18, 2018

The Importance of Things: The Joy of Possessions.

There’s a lot of emphasis in our world on consuming, on buying things – either being exhorted to buy more and more, or to eschew the whole thing entirely and go for experiences and a life well lived; not basing our meaning or reason for being or status on having things, increasingly expensive and pointless things.

Anyone who looks at land-fill and visits charity shops on our high streets or is sickened by the amount of plastic in our oceans cannot help but be appalled by our greedy consumer based society. Indeed, there are endless memes about how we wish to be remembered, for the person we were but not for our fabulous collection of shoes – Imelda Marcos, anyone???

But we all consume, we all buy things, useless things, expensive things when cheaper ones will do. Is our rampant consumerism about status, about greed, about a selfish need to have more and more?

There’s nothing wrong with liking sparkly shiny things. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to surround yourself with beautiful things. What’s wrong is making the acquisition of possessions the focus and thrust of your life. It’s not good to compete or keep up with the Joneses; it makes for a life of empty soul destroying avarice. You’ll never win, you’ll always be behind, second best: a loser. You’ll end up in a stupid amount of debt, in a house that is devoid of love and the rough and tumble of life, in a suburb full of people you actually despise, driving a car that costs too much to insure, that loses value the moment you set foot in it and isn’t really the car you actually wanted.

Now, consider for a moment the possessions you hold dear. There is probably a reason why an object or collection of objects means something to you.

I have several things that have travelled the world with me; things from my childhood, things that have not been destroyed by fire (1967, Hobart), cyclone (NT x 4) or floods or snow-storms or smashed or lost by various removal firms. Yes, they are toys – my panda bear who at the time he was given to me was almost as big as me, a gift from my grandparents, who knew how much I wanted it; my Paddington Bear, the last gift from my mum that I still have. Yes, I have her WW cook-book (as mentioned last week) and a few items of jewellery but the only thing left that she gave me is Paddington.

For the last Christmas before she died she gave me a glomesh wallet. Do you remember those? Quite sophisticated items at the time. It was my first wallet, a step up from my cheap Indonesian leather purse. It had all sorts of compartments, as well as a coin purse and a place to keep your notes without folding them origami like to fit inside your small purse. I loved it but it became more important when she died – the last item, the last gift, the last connection.

You know what happened, don’t you? It got stolen. Twice actually – once from the Uni Rowing sheds in Newtown Bay, but recovered from the rivulet whence it had been abandoned. And then again many years later in Darwin after we’d moved back from Alice. This time it was never found. The lost was deep and compounded by the fact that inside the cream lining I had secreted the plastic hospital baby-tags belonging to the Dragon and Phoenix. I lost a couple of hundred dollars too – right before Christmas – but the loss, the heart-breaking loss was that of things that cannot be replaced: gifts from a dead parent, and once only identification tags, irreplaceable mementoes of birth. Thus Paddington can never be abandoned or given up as something from childhood that should have been put away years ago.

But now I have another special wallet that has a story with it. It is beautiful, functional and makes me happy every time I use it. I smile when I look at it, remembering the agonising I did over buying it. I have struggled to buy things for myself over the years, especially if it is a tad on the expensive side. And so this pink leather wallet on sale in an up market department store near our hotel in Barcelona caused a great deal of anguish. Which shade of pink, which style – this one at this knock down price or this one – more originally expensive, or this not quite as nice but more reasonably priced one? I looked, contemplated, went away, spent the day at the various beautiful attractions that Barcelona has to offer and then went back with Pallas to agonise again. Finally, as all good children do, she made me choose and ‘allowed’ me to buy myself something lovely. It was a bargain and we all love a bargain; it’s why all the discount web-sites thrive – we all think we’ve got a steal of a deal and it makes us feel better. We have made good purchases at a more than reasonable price. You can never knowingly over-spend ever again!!

People rush into burning buildings to collect possessions – photos and other trinkets, worthless things that seem like junk to the wider world but are worth a fortune to the possessor. Yes, because they are full of all that stuff that is beyond measure, beyond any rationale calculable worth. During the Tropical Years in Darwin I had our photos boxed up and wrapped in heavy plastic ready to grab should we need to head for shelter during a cyclone. My box of writing over the years was similarly readied for emergency matters. I knew what was impossible to replace; I knew what I needed to keep and yes, all of those things are with me still.

Of course, people and relationships matter more. Of course, possessions are not more important than the living. But when the living are gone or far away it is fair and reasonable to keep things from them, or related to, them close by. The other precious things in my life are to do with my children – photos of them across the years, things made by them (yes, Pal – your Garfield and penguin will be with me until the end of time); cards and gifts from them (yes, Phu your ‘Zanzibar’ and polar bear and elephant watch over me as I sleep); and I wear the heart necklaces (one rose quartz, one Murano glass) from the Dragon every day. Sentimental things, lovely things that when you use them, wear them, look at them, fill you with love and warmth.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to own nice things. Why shouldn’t you have a good set of cast iron pans, or an extensive collection of scarfs? Why shouldn’t you have a nice car, that Jaguar F-Pace, if you want and you can afford it? Why shouldn’t you expand your collection of vinyl, rare books, elephants? Life isn’t about being frugal or mean, or without pleasure.

The point is that materialism, rampant consumerism, isn’t doing the planet or your well being much good. Buying things to be in fashion, to keep up with some sort of imagined standard is pointless. Buying things instead of putting time into relationships or doing things, traveling, having experiences, is counter-productive – what are you doing with your life? Amassing a load of rubbish for others to just throw out when you’ve popped your clogs?

But buying things keeps a whole range of people in work – especially if you buy lovely original items – a range of artists able to keep on working, adding beauty to the world and your living room. Buying a new kitchen is reward for your efforts and keeps a whole retinue of people gainfully employed. Buying things when we travel brings the story with it, recreates that experience (hence the pink purse from Barcelona). Buying something expensive or simply something that you just love that you’ve worked hard for and saved for brings a feeling of accomplishment too: I earned this, here is a testament to my efforts. It makes the grinding and sometimes unrewarding realm of work worthwhile. Why shouldn’t you have a crushed velvet Chesterfield sofa? It’ll probably last a life-time and be beautiful as well as functional.

I now have a collection of 57 elephants. They come in all shapes, sizes and materials. They are quite lovely and give me a great sense of pleasure. When I clean and dust them I think about who gave them to me (being a collector of things helps others in the gift-giving dilemma; thank you, Dear), or where I was when I got that one, and where will I put them all when I eventually get home again!

Possessions for the sake of possessions is pointless. Possessions that mean something, that have an emotional richness, that bring you pleasure and comfort are important. Don’t feel guilty about spending money on yourself or others. But make sure that what you buy is worth it, that doesn’t add to our throw-away, mindless, avaricious society. Buy things, own things but buy wisely and well.

Possessions should be about connections and stories, utility and beauty – they shouldn’t be about competition or expense or acquisition for the sake of it. Remember that and you’ll not make foolish or wasteful purchases, and you’ll have things that are worth having. (Images from Private Collection)

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Reasons to be Angry, Part…

March 15, 2014

Hum along to Ian Dury and the Blockheads Reason to be Cheerful as you peruse this weeks musings: a consideration of the many reasons we have to be angry and a but as well.

The world is not a nice place, even for the relatively affluent of the West. We struggle, we fall down, we lose, we win. And it seems to me we spend an inordinate amount of time being angry – sometimes with good reason and sometimes just because it seems the best emotional response.

So, to a list, something we haven’t had for a bit: Reasons to be Angry

Rude people – in all bits of life, for no reason whatsoever – in the supermarket, on the bus, at work, spitting their nastiness at you without justification – taking their anger out on you

angry jac

Public transport – for those who must rely on tubes, trains and busses to get around and suffer the rudeness of bus-drivers, ignorance of fellow passengers (shoving, loud music, smelly food, etc), regular delays, over-crowding, unexpected cancelations – yes, all round crappy service

People who don’t read – no not people who can’t read – but those who can and actually don’t bother. You know, those who respond to your request, your email or letter and it’s manifestly clear they haven’t understood a thing because THEY HAVENT READ IT PROPERLY AT ALL – and you know once more how stupid most of the world is.

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People who don’t try, who don’t have a go, those who give up at the first sign of a set back, who can’t cope with any sort of criticism – yes, GCSE English students and your ilk, I am thinking of YOU.

People who bully, who crap on you for no reason other than they can and it makes them feel superior, even though they are the epitome of inferior. Their power and your powerlessness is the perfect recipe for anger.

People who lie, who can’t tell the truth, who don’t care about the truth, who deliberately dissemble and undermine the truth are truly rage makers. Yes, think politicians, CEO’s – any bastard trying to cover their arse and put you off. Not to mention children who lie at the drop of a hat, even when they know that you know the truth!!

Politicians – please don’t let me even begin on Michael Gove or Tony Abbott. God save us from democratically elected politicians who have no fucking idea about anything other than their own small world yet presume to lecture us because they think their position – which they owe to (some of) us – makes them somehow intelligent, all knowing and all powerful. At least we don’t like in the Ukraine, Turkey or Syria, etc, so I guess that is some small consolation…

The treatment of women in an increasingly misogynistic, hard line religious extremist world is very good reason to be angry. For anyone who thinks the feminist fight is won you are being an idiotic ostrich, ignoring the atrocities and injustices perpetrated against ordinary women who simply want to be able to go to school, drive cars, marry at a decent age and not be the property of a man, be it their father or husband.

The power and greed of big corporations who are literally raping the planet – killing the bees, poisoning our water ways, ripping down our forests, killing our reefs, and then suing governments and not paying their fare share of taxes. Corporate greed is killing our planet.

The ever increasing divide between the rich and the poor – actually it’s a gaping unbreachable chasm these days, as exemplified by the aforementioned politicians and corporate greed. Between them ordinary hard working people have been comprehensively screwed over.

 

But, stop now. You can’t be angry all day – no it’s Saturday and the weekend and it would be a waste to lose the day, the creeping warmth, in negative emotions, in the futility of anger. This is what I want you to do instead.

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Join an organization that is trying to make a difference – WWF, Greenpeace, sign petitions, attend rallies – it is a way to channel negativity and feel you are not alone in your anger and outrage.

Do something that makes you feel good – get outside, in your garden, go for a walk, watch the rugby, have a big sleep in, read in bed all day.

Be with people you love – always the best cure – and make sure you laugh – a big babbling, effusive bubbling laugh that can’t be stopped can cure anything.

hug pal

Hug the things you love the most – you can’t be angry snuggled up to the one(s) you love.

Smell something wonderful – grass, aromatic candles, your dog – smells do lovely things to the chemicals in your brain, so go ahead and sniff

mars cake

And finally, when all else fails, eat some chocolate – of any description – especially Mars Bar Cheesecake! (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

The Rich Just Don’t Get It

March 8, 2014

I’m not rich, nor will I ever be. I’ve not been blighted by extreme poverty either. But I come from working class stock; I’ve gone without and worked for everything I have. So have most people I know. I know there are those in the world who believe they are entitled to all sorts of things – jobs, houses, healthcare, an education, fame and fortune – without working. Yes, too many kiddies of my acquaintance have that entitlement deep within them. They think that working hard, making an effort is for others; that somehow, just like on a range of pervasive and nefarious get-famous-quick shows they will float to the top without skills, talent or work.

Wise people know that won’t happen. Wise people know that most of us make our way in the world through education and work. But the messages in our world today, our western capitalist celebrity driven world, do not value hard work, or loyalty, or fair pay for a fair day’s wage. Governments may bang on about social mobility but nobody in positions of social status and power really believe in it or support it: they like and need the status quo – they want the majority of us to stay disempowered and most definitely not wealthy.

Have you noticed how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? Not to mention the middle being squeezed out of existence. And our economies are not buoyant robust creatures living off the back of the rich, there is no trickle down effect because the way the rich get rich is by keeping it to themselves, paying limited tax and squeezing their own workforces, and others if they can manage it.

silly people

Several things this week have brought it home loud and clear: the rich don’t get it. They have no idea what it’s like for anyone in this world other than themselves.

1.Bankers Bonuses continue despite banks going broke being the biggest single issue to impact on the UK economy in recent years

2. The IMF effectively said the current model of capitalism is a failure.

3. Gina Rinehart, mining magnate of Oz, came out saying Australians just didn’t work hard enough, were paid too much and she thought we needed more of Margaret Thatcher’s tough, eat-em-alive and divide-the-country style leadership; that welfare was sending one of the richest countries in the world broke. Oh, yes, we all know that to be true…

Austerity doesn’t work. Squeezing the middle doesn’t work – their disposable income drops to zero as our costs spiral and our wages stall and plummet, and the high street dies and is filled with charity shops, pound shops and coffee chains. As disposable income dries up, so do jobs, companies go bust and more people lose their jobs. More people end up on unemployment benefits and cannot pay their bills and the government bill for Welfare does not shrink: despite all the government slashing and burning, it grows. But hey, the rich are okay – they’re still buying up the heart of London, living in Singapore, or overseas, not paying tax to the countries they make their money from.

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The rich are killing us. The Ukraine revolt was in part about the gaps between them and us. The palpable disgust and contempt we have for Bankers is because they’ve ripped us off and are still ripping us off. Why has my pay been frozen for years now and bankers still get their bonuses? I didn’t bankrupt the country but I’m paying for it.

The outpouring of bile from Gina Rinehart shows what a truly ugly person she is – and I am not just talking about what she looks like. This is a woman who inherited her wealth, who grew up not scraping and scrimping but in an environment of wealth and privilege. A woman who is the wealthiest person in Oz, who wants to pay her workers $2 an hour, who has not had one single philanthropic moment in her life. She lives overseas in order to minimize her tax liability yet, the government panders to her and she berates her countrymen.

gina

Western governments have repeatedly got it wrong. The boom and bust pattern endures. The current model of capitalism has failed – look at the elevation of vacuous idiots in all walks of life. The IMF spelled it out, and I say it again, austerity does not work, but governments aren’t listening and more of us will lose our way as retirement ages are increased, pensions become harder to get and young people remain under employed.

When David Cameron was elected, it was widely mooted that he and the likes of George Osborne would be good leaders as money wouldn’t corrupt them as they were already independently wealthy and therefore able to make good decisions for all of us. What was lost in this hope was the fact that they, along with the Gina Rineharts of the world, and other leaders who have been in power far too long, have no idea what it’s like for ordinary people. What it’s like not to have enough money to get you from one pay day to the next, to have your buying power eroded by greedy CEO’s constantly putting up their costs, for the excessive infrastructure costs of life. Big business and shareholders drive the world, not customers, not people.

gordon gheko

I know I’m naïve, I know I should know better, but what has happened to us? Why are we driven by money to the extent we are? Why must we live in an economy not a society? Why have governments – and in this I mean democratically elected governments, I’m not even going close to dictatorships – repeatedly let ordinary people down? Why are governments only governing for a few, not for the many? Why don’t they care about young people, old people, sick people, hard working people, the environment, the future?

When did it all become about the money – when did the world lurch so far off its orbit that the only thing that matters is money? Perhaps climate change is the earth’s way of getting back at us for our stupidity, for being so moronically greedy and self serving all the time… (Images from pandawhale.com-Gordon Ghecko; buzzinnet-house; abc.net-gina; commonelectionguide,blogspot-sillypeople)

Silly Advice for Serious Times

October 25, 2011

It’s dangerous out there, so take care.

Don’t swim with the sharks (or the crocodiles). They can take nasty great chunks out of you, rip your limbs off and kill you. This occurs in deep water, shallow pools and on dry land. Dry land sharks are the most deadly, especially ones at work and in the pub – you should avoid wolves too.

Don’t play in the traffic. Keep to the paths, avoid cyclists, women with prams, teenagers with iPods, hoods, scooters, old people who dodder along and get in your way. Don’t cross the road without looking, use traffic lights but still look, listen, look again. There’s too much traffic, most of it going too fast and not remotely interested in pedestrian rights. Navigate skilfully and you will not get hurt.

Don’t pet strange dogs. All dogs other than your own are strange and can be relied upon to behave strangely. Always ask the owner if you can touch their dog before doing so. Don’t presume anything. If you are a post-man keep clear of all dogs, they know you hate them.

Don’t tweet, email or FB rudeness about your boss or colleagues. Oh God it is so tempting but you will regret it, sooner or later. So slag them off in the pub, loudly and then claim you were drunk and can’t remember. The spoken word can be denied, the written one will always bite you on the bum.

Don’t work with children, old people, sick people or criminals. The caring professions suck, you don’t get paid enough, are blamed for the ills of the world and are more likely to be abused by your charges as appreciated. Don’t be a banker either, find something that makes you happy and keeps you afloat, financially speaking and doesn’t cause the planet any more pain.

Don’t believe that books are dying. The publishing industry is alive and well, just diversifying. People will want to hold a book in their hands a bit longer; students will want to scribble and underline key points; people like to unwrap books on Xmas Day. Video did not kill the radio star or the movies so e-books will not kill real books.

Don’t believe that the end of the world is nigh. Yes, it is grim out there, but it’s been grim for some parts of the world forever – think Africa, Indigenous peoples of the world. It is a time for caution, for not being greedy or reckless. It’s a time to take stock of what you’ve got, look after what’s important, shed the rest. The world is rich enough for all of us – it’s greed that’s killing us and the planet. Do your bit to make your corner of the world a kind and hopeful place.