It seems a very, very difficult task to organize my arguments
since too many ideas are revolving in my mind with the speed of thought.
I was never really interested in economics, I even think I've always felt repulsion towards this science because it revolved around the notion of profit. Somehow that greedy way of seeing the world contradicted most of my moral values. But last semester I had to go to a course of introduction into economics, in order to get accustomed to the specialized language I might need in the future as a translator. The things I learned definitely made me think and I decided to write down some of my thoughts, just to clear things up in my head. Please note that I'm not blaming or judging anybody, but maybe trying to persuade myself to change, by expressing and recognizing my own ideas.
I was very surprised to realize that I was actually enjoying learning economics! This was mostly due to the fact that I absolutely love it when I can understand new things. I found out that it's not such a harmful science, economists only want the best for people - in their own material way of dealing with things. They constantly analyze the behavior of human society and they try to propose solutions in order to allocate scarce resources in the best way – sounds like their work is very important.
Yet, no matter how well-intended economists might be, their theories are always based on all the wrong suppositions or notions, which make their proposals inadequate. These assumptions are not good to be accepted as a universal truth, because people will take them as such and they won't even dare to think about changing them.
We're not greedy – we are lost.
For example, it is said that the needs of humans are infinite, because as soon as a need is satisfied, a new one appears. That sounds pretty logical, life would be boring if we didn't have any purpose ahead of us. So one might conclude: greed is human nature. But how can you say such a thing?You don't have to need everything. You can choose to count all the things you already have that you can be thankful for in your life. Just think about it. You can choose not to be greedy any time, it's not human nature.
Let me also tell you about the huge difference between Real needs of humans and Artificial needs, that are created through advertising. Companies want to make a profit – by any means, so they produce something, virtually anything that they can sell. And they'll make you believe that you absolutely need their product – because it's good for something, it looks nice and everyone else has one, you just can't live without it.
We're not lazy – we want to discover other things to do with our time.
I know almost everything seems worth buying, most products usually simplify things for us - like a washing machine. This time one might say that one of the fundamental characteristics of humans is laziness – we invent things that work instead of us. But let's not be so judgmental and see things from a more positive point of view: inventing efficient objects also allows us to spend time doing other things, discover what we might want to do with our lives.
So it is true that good, practical, essential things were invented through the ages. But most products are being produced just to bring profit, to give the false feeling of wealth or luxury. Imagine you never ever heard of... say... shower gel? Would you wake up some day and start longing for it, searching for it at the supermarket? No, you would be well off with good ol' soap. The truth is that you could live a perfectly happy life without half of the things you own (and those you want to buy in the future).
We want to connect with people – there are endless possibilities
One of the reasons why we always want to buy more and more things can be related to"our deepest impulses as social creatures who want to build connection in community"(Re:Imagining Change). This means that people feel that in order to have the opportunity to build relationships they need to own a house, a car, wear the right clothes and be able to hold a conversation on certain subjects (like in school, if you don't know what everyone's watching on TV, you'll probably be silent for most of the time). But why are our communities based on what we own/wear/see? Shouldn't we build relationships on shared values, ideas or by working together on something? People should pay attention to each other, not to their clothes and other objects. So we need to find possibilities to connect to others based on other common points – free time activities or volunteering.
A very frustrating aspect of consuming is that nobody cares whether you actually consume what you buy or not, as long as you buy it. Sometimes you don't even finish your bottle of perfume, you don't even wear half of the T-shirts you own, you haven't discovered all the tricks your cell phone can do – you already want to buy a new one. It just makes you feel good to spend money and keep up with the others. What I thought about is this: what if I can discover other ways to enjoy life and feel good about myself, too? Buying things seems to be like an addiction, an obsession that makes you happy for a while until you need to buy something again. What if I just replaced this obsession with something else? What if I focused my energy on an other activity that made me happy?
I like giving gifts to my friends, I feel good if I can help them when they need me and I also love to feel like I belong somewhere or to somebody. About 4 years ago I went to a volunteering camp and it was pure happiness. There was a huge group of people building and decorating a traditional bath close to a village. They came from several countries and along with the locals they created an amazing place to calm down, have a bath, take a moment to heal and see the beauty in the world. All of us were connecting by working together, learning new skills, living through new experiences and we felt like we belonged together. Everyone had a task to do, their own part in the project – peeling some tree trunks, painting some signs, clearing an area to build a pathway, only as much as you would be able and willing to do. But it was such a great feeling, being part of it, that all you wanted is to do more, make everything even better, because you always felt immediate joy as you saw things coming together. This is one example of obsessing about something more constructive (literally), that makes you feel better. Later I practiced my favorite obsessions, playing the flute and dancing. Now I think it's writing huge texts trying to figure out what I'm about, speaking and listening to people and discovering the world. That's why I'm not going to “get rich or die tryin'”, you see buying things doesn't make me feel good, but living life and connecting to people does.
An other wrong thing about how economists see the world is that they only take into account “scarce resources that can be traded on a market at a certain price”. Which means that in their minds everything can be bought and what you might just “give” to somebody has no value whatsoever (unless you buy it from somewhere). So what is the value of offering to help somebody, volunteering, spending time with old people, raising and educating children, or just cooking for yourself? How does that count into the GDP? Shouldn't you give yourself a salary and pay taxes for cleaning your room? Your country would become much richer. (I wonder if they ever thought of that possibility in some country?!) And who gets to sell the air, the water, fire and land? Where can you buy tickets to look at the sky, to walk down a street in warm rain, to climb a mountain or to swim in the ocean? When do we pay for making friends, building communities, receiving advice from our families or friends? Can you buy the joy of offering help, comforting someone in trouble? The most valuable things can't be bought, they can be experienced.
I admit that every single paragraph is open to dispute. So you are welcome to react if you feel like it!