The Culture of Want

We are a generation of “wanters” and usually we want it now. As in, right now, straight away, as soon as possible. It’s a trend that somewhat scares me – although I’m as guilty as anyone else. We want what we need, we need what we want to be safe and responsible, we want the vegetables that we eat to be from a nearby patch, we want great careers that combine perfectly  with our personal lives, we want to live our lives like fairytales with nothing but a happy ending, we want the same for our friends and family. Yet, we’re the most depressed and mentally ill generation ever, has our need for wanting, needing, having perhaps gone too far?

The generations of our grandparents and parents didn’t buy anything on the spot – why, my mam and dad still don’t even though at this point they actually can – but saved up for whatever amount of time necessary and then purchased the desired item. For us, it’s quite another story: shops, banks, loansharks are the happiest of little fish in financial waters. Credit. Isn’t that just the most beautiful and scariest word at the same time? Credit. So we want a new sofa, TV, dishwasher, a fucking washing machine but don’t have the cash tucked away under a mattress. No worries says the shop, the banker, the private loaner, “here, have your pretty little consumer goods, don’t pay anything for another 12 months and pay us back 133% of the amount, oh, and on a small side-note, if you don’t repay in time, we might come and get all your pretty little consumer goods from your house”. If you think about it – it’s a totally insane, mad way to do it, yet, it has become a hugely popular way of buying goods, with all the expected as a result.

Houses are another of those “must have – nay: need!” desirables. A nice house, preferably in a great location, with a garden and double garage. White, cutey fences for extra bonus points. A good amount of bedrooms for potential offspring and friends crashing after parties, a big countrykitchen, perhaps a pantry for storing additional consumer goods bought on credit which don’t serve a purpose for the time being… A dream for most, reality for little. Even with houseprices being low as they are with this raging recession that has hit worldwide, it’s still a luxury for a lot of people from my generation. Realistically there’s 2 options: buy a ratty, falling apart, “oozing with charm” (ref. estate agent) kip of a whole of a place, or – ahem – cheating on the deposit. That’s right. There’s that small matter of the deposit and legal fees. Easily avoidable by loaning from the credit union and pretend it counts as a deposit. Just ignore the fact that you’ve signed up for a 100% mortgage which you mightn’t be able to repay, but hey presto: you have fulfilled your want and own a house.

Then there’s “The Career”. That great prospect from university, where you were going to excel in your field and make a whopping salary has long passed. The ideals you had, are slowly, yet steadily starting to fade. Or – in the luckier cases – you land in a role with a great company, have room to develop your skills and further educate yourself, work with the loveliest colleagues and hop home happily every day like a white, fluffy bunny on LSD. Good for you. Either way, and sorry guys as this little part doesn’t really apply to you, at some point there might be offspring brought into equation. Hopefully you’ll work in a place long enough so you don’t have that “Oh fuck, how do I tell them about this pregnancy and will my job be there when I get back?” moment. And then the questions start… How will you combine work and taking care of this little mini-you. Creche? Grandparents? Nanny? Maybe take some extended leave or gear back to working part-time? See, the main issue here is – and I don’t care how many silly quota’s they’ll bring in for equality on the workfloor  for both sexes (it’s rubbish imho) – there’s only 2 options. If you want to be a proper mammy, the career will most likely suffer. If you want to strive for your career, your ironing lady will probably know more about your kids than you do. Either way: you loose.

With nesting down and growing up also comes this feeling of responsibility.  I reckon most girls (and maybe boys too?) become a temporary vegetarian at  some point in their teens and passionately want to join the longhaired nature fighters Greenpeace on the Rainbow Warrior, an incentive which sort of disappears again after a year or 2. But then as you grown into an adult, this sense of justice returns. The unfair parting between First and Third worlds. The environment. Poverty around the corner. Injustice towards races, sexes, children and animals – including that white fluffy rabbit. Action calls! We want our vegetables to be locally sourced, the exotic ones to be produced under humane, non-slavery conditions, fair trade coffee, fair trade tea, apples from our local vineyard. Our fish we only want natural, none of that farmed business, and responsibly caught. We join things like Fishfight and hope to put an end to overfishing by doing “our little bit”. Meat from the local butchers, ensuring our steak comes from that healthy looking pampered calf from the field across the road … ah but wait, at a nice price right? Conscience is one thing, that goddamn always-empty wallet another.

So – here’s my question: how can we, as generation, be happy and live a simple life, when we need and want so many things? Do we want too much? Will we ever be fully happy and satisfied? Or will a white fully rabbit fix it?

I really h0pe so.

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5 thoughts on “The Culture of Want

  1. Enda Kenny says:

    I blame the foreign media. Its no good at all.
    Where are all today’s kids get their culture from?
    Theyre only interested in instant gratification & have no understanding of patience and time- internet download pop idols dancing the Dubstep all night..where will it end?
    Waiting for a C64 tape to load was one of the foundation stones of my manhood…

  2. Eric Nieudan says:

    We must deprogram ourselves. Stop the Want. Repurpose and refurbish things, steel ourselves in the shop, stop watching ads and reading gadget blogs, and probably end up laughed at by the rest of society.

    Easier said than done, I know 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    Nice, pleasant to read .. and sadly true. I’m wondering where this will end too. It takes a strong character to be able to withstand the musthaveingness and the daily race to nowhere .. or perhaps an alternative is a move to a humane-paced country?

    Btw, I find the light grey text a bit to light grey 😉

  4. aafke says:

    Dank je Sarah, dat was het lezen waard. Misschien moet ik wel blij zijn dat ik nog van die andere generatie ben. Het feit dat je dit zo schrijft betekent dat jíj in elk geval je vraagtekens zet en dat zou weer kunnen betekenen dat er meer mensen zijn die denken zoals jij. Ik hoop het.

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