We are all indebted. Literally, of course, but also figuratively. For we, mere human beings, have been, and continue to be, the blessed benefactors of a kindly capitalism that has been lovingly crafted and sustained by a handful of very dedicated, very concerned and oh-so self-less, Christ-like, CEO’s who have, graciously and humbly, and at great personal cost, dedicated their lives to fulfilling our wishes and our happiness. It brings a tear to my eye. God bless them. Such compassion and generosity is fully deserving of their inconsequential and, probably, unnoticed billions. I know they do it for the love. Those big houses are just to throw us off their humble scent… but you don’t fool me, you modest sons of bitches, you. I know that I owe a personal debt of gratitude, and i’d like to take this moment to say thank you, and I encourage you, mere human being, to join me in saying…
Thank you, corporations. Thank you.
Fucking love you guys.
I feel ill now.
The unfortunate truth is that the capitalist system is maintained and powered by the mistaken belief that… wait for it…
Acquiring and consuming material things will make us happy.
If it did, then, the multiplying billionaires buying up our world would be bursting at the seams with orgasmic bliss…
But they’re not.
And, therein lies the only insight that we need to perceive through this mass deceit. Of course we know that ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ because people have said that in memes. But the problem we have is that, somehow, irrespective of those amazing memes, we still live like it does. And, so, we continue to shovel this machine with our precious lives, fuelling it to gobble up even more of us.
It’s really weird, but it shows just how powerful the human drive for happiness is, but, also, just how clueless we are about what happiness even is. The drive is so powerful that we seem perfectly willing to delude ourselves, destroy ourselves, destroy others, and destroy the very environment that, by the way, we need to survive, just to be happy / not actually happy. And, even though this stares us in the face and beats us around the head in a less than conspicuous manner, so few of us seem to want to stop and question it all.
I mean, why are so few of us happy? Why are so many of us miserable, stressed, and depressed? Why do we need to destroy the world to progress?
And, herein lies the trick / growth hormone of the capitalist system. Because, even though we are all so very evidently not happy, we can rationalise that the reason we aren’t happy yet, or why the scraps of happiness we had last week haven’t lasted, is because we haven’t got a, b and c. If we could only get a, b and c then life would be peachy. But then a, b and c gets boring / out of date / out of style, and so that happiness slides away to be replaced by a longing for d, e and f. And so it goes, until some of us reach mansion, jet and yacht, only to realise that we have it all and still – still – we are not happy. Fucking OUCH.
And that really is all we need to know to grasp how much of a con this whole thing is. Just look at the billionaires. Are they really all that happy? I know they have those smug faces, but i’m looking for joie de vivre not a punching bag. Are they free from suffering? Do they abide in eternal bliss? What? No? No eternal bliss? Oh, okay, well, I guess, this system is built on a lie then! Can we not just hold our hands up and admit it now? That consumerism, and the capitalist ideology that propagates it, cannot give us lasting happiness… not will not, not might do if you get x, y and z… cannot. Because then maybe we could do this really beautiful thing where we actually do be happy, and we’ll just let this stupid, devouring capitalist machine rust.
At the moment, what most of us try to do to have happiness is to try and string together as many moments of enjoyment and pleasure as possible in the increasingly desperate hope of creating a sustained sequence of enjoyment and pleasure that will then seem like happiness.
That was a nice meal, and I like my new shoes, I think i’ll go and watch my favourite TV shows before I go for a relaxing deep bath followed by, I hope, a good nights sleep, and then when I wake up i’ve got those lovely croissants for breakfast with that jam – oh, yes – that jam with 50% fruit content, it’s really nice, what a great way to start the day, that will definitely put me in a good mood for work, and, whilst I don’t really enjoy my work, it does pay well, which means I can buy things like jam with 50% fruit content, and, anyway, I’ve got those new shoes to wear so that’ll feel good… PLUS! I’m going on holiday in three weeks! Yay! Life is good at the moment, I really can’t complain, and – get this – i’m fairly certain there’s a special winter jam… Spiced Cranberry! 50% fruit content! I’m so happy!
The twist in that tale is that life does not work like that. You’ve probably noticed. Sure, sometimes we enjoy a good run. Sometimes, for whatever reason, call it karma, things go our way, people behave pleasingly, and we get what we want. It just never lasts. Literally, never. And, if anything, when that happy sequence comes screeching to a halt it just makes it that much more frustrating. Why can’t things go back to how they were? I was happy(ish) then. Things were good(ish). What is more, that croissant and jam very rarely lives up to the billing we stamp all over it. In fact, what i’ve found is that, usually, after nine or ten – sometimes eleven – croissants I feel really, really sick and like I never want to see another croissant again. Typical! Are all our efforts for happiness doomed to fail?
I think this is why things like the iPhone are so popular. Because, here at our fingertips is this incredible supply of entertainment and stimulation, such that we can piece together an almost endless sequence of enjoyment and pleasure. And, so, we are happy…
I think, maybe, er, happy at last…? I’m not sure. Let me download this app and i’ll tell you. Oh, i’ve got no signal. Okay, this hurts. Pain. I don’t think this is happiness.
It’s sad, but understandable. This is the thing, the great champagne coloured hope, that our happiness depends upon. Never bored, never alone, never left with those bloody thought things in our heads, never submitting to that sinking. Perfectly distracted, obligingly oblivious.
But the iPhone won’t stop our children getting sick. It won’t stop our parents dying. It won’t stop our partner cheating on us. It won’t stop us from losing our job. It doesn’t stop the self-loathing, it doesn’t fill in the hole, it won’t pull us out of that sinking, and it cannot, and never will, give our lives meaning or purpose. We are still going to get old, we are still going to get sick, and we are still going to die. In the gaps in-between we get a life to live, and I really want to live mine.
This capitalist system, that has chewed up and spat out our planet and its occupants, has to end. It has to. No-one has benefitted from any of this absurd shooting of our collective foot. The rich are supposed to be happier, but I actually think they are worse off. I mean, they won the game, they are the ones who got to the top, they made the millions, but they still suffer. That has got to hurt. I don’t see any satisfaction in being a ninety year old billionaire on my deathbed reflecting on a lifetime of crushing my fellow human beings underfoot. I’d rather just stay poor.
So, here we are and here is our nuclear bomb. We must unleash our happiness upon this world and purge our planet of this consumer nonsense. First, I guess, we need to find out what happiness is. That would be a wise start, and not too difficult, because all we need to do is find the people who actually seem happy and find out why they are happy. I suspect it will be because they are nice. Nice, compassionate and kind. And, then, once we’ve figured out this happiness lark, all our cravings for the shiny and new will just naturally fall away, because, once our happiness is assured – once we’re feeling jolly good all the time – who really cares to trample over their colleagues to get the top job with the top money to get the top car, the top home, and, you hope, the top cosmetic surgery, when it is more likely to reduce our happiness than add to it?
That beautiful moment when we are finally happy… truly happy, will be the same beautiful moment that the capitalist system becomes obsolete. Happy people spread happiness. Happy people help others. Happy people love. Happy people love. Happy people love. They’re not shoppers and they don’t go for botex. Happiness is the ultimate pull of the plug… the pull of the plug of the century. We talk about revolutions, of over-throwing governments, of building new systems, but really, all we need to do is be happy – content, even – and everything else can – and will – go fossil itself.