This Wonderful World Of Purchase Power

In the town I grew up in is a Catholic church. A huge building on a busy road. When you walk inside it, all you feel is peace and quiet, it is quite a surreal experience to be honest, or at least, it was for me, even as a non-Catholic. During one of the more turbulent times of my life I went to talk to the priest there, Father Frank. We spoke for about 15 minutes and in that time he said one thing that hit me like a rock in the head and will stick with me for the rest of my life.

“You are a human being, not a human doing.” – Father Frank

Yeah, I know. A Catholic, with all their bells, smells, and rituals telling me to simply “be” and rely on God. It made me stop and reevaluate life. What was I trying to achieve? What was the point?

The title of this article was shamelessly lifted from the lyrics of Motorcycle Emptiness by The Manic Street Preachers, a song about the emptiness of the consumer lifestyle. The preceding line is “From feudal serf to spender,” a reference to how we are now free and can buy everything we want to make us happy. But it doesn’t work. It won’t work. It can’t work. No matter how much we have, we can’t have everything, and even if we did it still wouldn’t be enough.

Pomp and ceremony, displays of power and status are not new. These things have been around for centuries, probably even since the beginning of humankind. What is new and unique though is the rampant individuality and disregard for others. People were buying iPhones in the millions while stories of suicides at the factory supplying parts for the phone were killing themselves to the point of the company making people sign no-suicide agreements, because, you know “I need my iPhone.” How many scandals have dirtied the reputation of other companies and still people give them money? Retail giants are hacked and credit card details stolen. The response? “Not my problem and I won’t change my habits.” School shootings? “It’s a communist agenda to take away my guns.”

Political parties rig primaries, make deals with the media, take money from the poor to give to the rich, spy on campaigns, make deals with other agencies, do the bidding of their corporate sponsors, lie, cheat, steal, abuse people, and any number of other shenanigans. And they get away with it! Why? “Because this party agrees with me on *insert the one most important issue.”

How has this happened? Because of ideas like the tweet in the featured image. I redacted parts because it isn’t important which side the person supports. The fact is, if you look objectively at the words of both extremes, it could be either. And yes, I will call them extremes – there is no room for compromise, disagreement, or even a third option. The tweet is clear in the intent of “if you are not for us, you are against us.” This is an extremist position fueled by fear. Fear is driving so many people today, and so many ideologies. Fear of having to live with something we don’t like or disagree with. Fear of someone else’s opinion challenging my own. Fear of having to listen to something we don’t like. Fear of not having a gun. Fear of being uncomfortable. There are even new advertising campaigns that would make Bernays proud, in which FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is being used to urge people to buy things for no other reason than they don’t already have it. Really? And this works? Yes!

Here are today’s three takeaways:

1 – You are a human being. Sometimes, you need to just ‘be’.

2 – Do not subscribe to FOMO. You can’t have everything, it won’t happen. Accept it, make peace with it, and be thankful for it.

3 – If you spend your life trying to have things, or gain some status, ultimately you are missing out on the most important aspects of your life. Peace, love, hope, thankfulness, and serenity.

As a follow-up to Father Frank’s wise words, we could also state that we are human beings, not human havings. Your value as a human is not based on what you have, what you do for a living, or how much you experience.

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