Affluenza: When too much is never enough has been written by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss from the Australia Institute. Following the book’s launch, they spoke at Gleebooks on June 7, 2005.
They spoke to a packed house, with standing room only. I scratched notes as I listened and you will find these below. Some are direct quotes from Hamilton / Denniss, a few are just thoughts that I scratched as I listened.
The notes highlight some of the ideas Affluenza explores.
The function of at $7k bbq is to drive up desire… $300 bbq’s stop looking good. Now bbqs are selling for $2-3k…
Most Australians have doubts about a money driven life. 83% have criticised a ‘decline in values’.
Now we are bombarded with promotions for things that no-one even knew we needed 10 years ago.
Mobile phones, PC, plasma TV , private health and education, third bathrooms… These were not considered essential items in Australia 20 years ago.
Many of us have a failure to distinguish between want and need.
Some of the best-paid psychologists work in marketing. Much of their work:
- Creates and project new insecuirities
- Implies that happiness is only a purchase away
Are a portion of Australians shopaholics? Gambling and alcohol consumption can become obsessive – what about shopping?
AUSTRALIA’S SELF PERCEPTION:
We’re defining ourselves by the products we’re going without.
BBQ’s used to provide a wonderful snapshot of Australian egalaterianism: where people gather to share in food and conversation. Now it’s about “outdoor kitchens” and impressing others with our worldly success.
Despite our ‘laid back’ image, Australians are some of the hardest workers in the world.
Australia: 4 weeks
EUROPE: 6 weeks
Isolation can be a significant by-product of the pursuit of material wealth.
In Australia personal debt is between $6-14k
IMPORTANT REALISATION: AUSTRALIA IS AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY
Australia moved out of ‘Struggle Street’ a while ago.
We need to admit that we’re rich and cope with that.
We used to be the lucky country… now have 3 times and much and do we consider ourselves lucky?
What is the meaning of life? What should I do? These questions are more often answered through television than tibet: consumption now drives how many of us define ourselves.
Consumption used to be one box in our lives… now it seems to be all of them.
Has money taken on a spiritual character?
The problem isn’t necessarily about money or consumption. It’s about a sense of attachement with money: our attitude to material posessions.
Are we raising consumers or citizens?
THE MYTH OF AUSTRALIA’S ASPIRATIONAL VOTERS
During the most recent elections, citizens caught up in a desire to be materially richer were labelled ‘aspirational voters’, but you can be materially content and still be aspirational.
Who isn’t aspirational?
Who doesn’t aspire to next year being better? Who are the retrogrades?
THE PROBLEMS OF POVERTY CAN ONLY BE SOLVED BY SOLVING THE PROBLEMS OF AFFLUENZA
Poverty is an issue: we don’t lack the money to fix it. We lack the will.
Solving the problems of poverty can only be solved by solving the problems of affluence.
The cure for Affluenza is collective: the politics of downshifting.
Means choosing to live a rich life instead of a life of riches.
Deciding when ‘enough’ is: escaping the consumption cycle.
RESPONSES TO AFFLUENZA
The response to affluenza as a concept seems to have taken the form of:
“We have a responsibility to the market… We can’t just ‘downshift’.” so are neoliberals the new opressors?