Tim Longhurst's Blog

Affluenza: notes from a Clive Hamilton & Richard Denniss talk

August 3rd, 2005 · 1 Comment

affluenza.jpgAffluenza: 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?


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


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?


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?


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.


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?

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Category: Understanding people

Advertising keeps rich wanting more? Give me a break!

May 5th, 2005 · No Comments

RUSH MOTTLING is a guest columnist. While Rush’s views do not
reflect those of this website, we feel our readers deserve access to
ideas from a variety of perspectives. We hope you enjoy the words of
this popular and charismatic commentator.

ogilvy.jpg“While children are dying at a rate of 30 000 per day
because of poverty,” Tim Longhurst complains, “a billion-dollar advertising industry
exists to make sure that we in the West never feel we have enough.”

I’ve got a message for Tim Longhurst: where did you find the keyboard
to type that complaint? In your treehouse? Or did an ADVERTISEMENT tell
you about keyboards? Wake up, Longy, you’re an idiot.

Tim is, of course, commenting on research
that shows that 62% of Australians believe they “can’t afford the
things they really need”. Longhurst argues (unconvincingly) that the
vast majority of Australians are, by global standards, incredibly
wealthy and the vast majority have their basic needs met.
In the very statistic he quotes, Tim is showing how out of touch he is
with the Australian people: clearly 62% of Australians think he’s wrong.

Is all this ‘lack of contentment’ the
fault of advertising, purely because advertising encourages people to
want more things? I’m sorry, but I don’t see the link.

Let me tell you something – I never thought I’d use this column to
take sides, but it’s about time the battlers in the advertising
industry had a champion. I humbly accept that role.

At first glance, “a child dies from poverty every 3 seconds” seems like a compelling call to action, but let me ask you, have you ever met one of these “11 million children who die each year from poverty?” Even one? Of course you haven’t. So if this stopped happening, would you even notice?

Let’s imagine for a moment that you lobbied your government to contribute more funds for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and that you began supporting organisations that campaign to cancel crippling debt in developing countries. Even if you did create a ‘fairer world‘, how would that change your life? For one, you’d probably have less money to spend on things. Now who cares about the kids?

A world without poverty? You’re not in poverty, so let’s get some perspective on this issue.

A world without advertisements? Now that’s a scary place.
Without consumer brands, how would people find their sense of
individuality? Imagine walking into a bar and having no idea which
beverage best expressed your personality? How would people know if you
were a sophisticated, worldly type or a relaxed, happy-go-lucky type?
By meeting you? I don’t think so.

How would you even know which beer you liked? By taste testing? They
all taste about the same for goodness sake! The point that you and I
know, and obviously Tim has missed, is that brands allow us to cut corners. We don’t have to taste all the drinks on the shelf, we can narrow that list substantially to just the drinks we’ve heard of, and finally, to the drinks that we have an emotional connection
with. Advertising, dear Timothy, is how we connect people with
products. Advertising is useful because it relieves us from having to
work out our priorities for ourselves.

Advertising is the art of shaping priorities. If it just so happens
that the only people wise enough to invest millions of dollars shaping
the priorities of our citizens are corporations, then what do you
expect? Do you expect General Electric to turn around and get people
thinking about the kids who aren’t getting nourishment, or about the shiny new refrigerator they’re trying to sell? Get serious, Longhurst.

Rush Mottling is not real. He is made up.
Rush’s essays are published here with permission.

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Category: rush mottling

All dollars, no scents?

March 23rd, 2005 · No Comments

scentstories.jpgThinking about going to the beach? Catch some vitamin D; go for a
healthy walk along the water’s edge; maybe go for a refreshing swim…

…or you could avoid the pesky health benefits of the shore, simply by
blowing $US30, burning a little electricity and pumping untold
chemicals into
your home. All you need is:

  1. To be in the USA
  2. Access to Electriciy
  3. A Febreeze™ Scent Stories™ Scent Player (retails for “Around $US20”)
  4. A Febreeze™ Scent Stories™ “Theme Disc” (apparently retails for $US7)

Click to continue reading “All dollars, no scents?”

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Category: Things that make you go hmmm