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Affluenza - The Consumer Virus: The Market is our God

We fear meaninglessness and uselessness. Therefore we spend our whole life persuading ourselves we are in-vincible. One of the tricks for assuring ourselves of eternal life is consumption.. The world economy is an altar for consumers and investors..

Interview with Prof. Naylor

[This interview is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.sonnenseite.com/fp/archiv/Art-Interviews/konsumvirus.php.]

op: What is "affluenza"?

Prof. Naylor: Whoever is attacked by "affluenza" is seized by materialism - consumption and services - beginning with beer and cosmetics, clothing, cigarettes, soft drinks, fast food, leisure time drugs, video games and rock music up to cars, computers, electronic gadgets, expensive villas, unaffordable works of art, high-tech health care and world travels. Whoever catches this sickness suffers under overwork and stress and life-endangering consumer mania. Affluenza does not give support to the rich or the poor. The more one has the more one desires.

op: What causes this "virus" that has infected our whole society?

Prof. Naylor: We fear meaninglessness and uselessness. Therefore we spend our whole life per4suading ourselves we are invincible. One of the tricks for assuring ourselves of eternal life is consumption. The consumer world deludes us that we can find absolute security in an uncertain meaningless world. We believe we can spend our whole life in a state of unending self-realization without paying a psychic price for life in a completely uninhibited pleasure-seeking. Our self-esteem is based on what we possess and consume, not on what we really are.

To dull the effects of pain and suffering that go along with futility, many seek a life grounded in possession, consumption and power over people, things machines and riches. Those who depend on "having" often show an aggressive, hostile competitive behavior. Owning something is synonymous with assumption of power or conquest.

Robbery, destruction, strain and consuming are all forms of having. Whoever is possessed by having fears loss and everyone else, the state and ultimately death. As a nation we are so mad about having that we have lost the ability to act and think. We usually make our happiness dependent on superiority over others, our power and skill for manipulating others. Capitalist America is the most efficient and most productive nation of the world at the expense of humanity.

Our whole economy is driven by our psychic need to fill our intellectual and emotional vacuum with more and more trash and by our illusion that the accumulation of riches and material possessions give life a meaning. When we feel in a foul mood and want to build up ourselves, we buy new clothes, eat in a stylish restaurant or rent a video. The less meaning we find in life, the more we are seduced by this materialist approach that says: "Work hard and amuse yourself well" - an approach that is based on a lie.

Although drug addiction is illegal, dependence on consumer goods, department store catalogues, shopping malls, internet shopping and credit cards is forced by advertising. The message from both Washington and the economy is always the same: "Buy now, save later for retirement". When we do not play this game, the whole house of cards crashes. We have the patriotic duty to consume. Being a good American or a good German means consuming to excess. Whoever gains most odds and ends to bless the temporal wins the game. The world economy is an altar on which consumers and investors make their sacrifice. The market is our god. Meaninglessness is so important for our economy that Chicago economist David Hall once said: "The only way of saving the world economy is through the wasteful consumption of Americans."

op: Where is affluenza manifest in our society - besides the disastrous effects of consumption on our natural contemporaries?

Prof. Naylor: So capitalism functions smoothly, people must believe that the way to happiness requires the accumulation of enough money and assets. In this way we can finance a trendy little house, a couple of cars, a computer, a boat and a university education for our children. To afford all these things, we must work hard until we retire or die. The harder we work, the more money we have. The more we can buy, the happier we will be. We persuade ourselves of this.

If this were really true, why are so many persons in the US and Germany so furious, unhappy, cynical and burned out? What causes the high number of divorces and suicides, depressions, abortions, drug abuse and the high number of prisoners if the American dream functions beautifully? Although per-capita spending for consumer articles has nearly tripled in the last half century, the share of people who regard themselves as "very happy" has actually fallen 5%. The social index has fallen nearly 50% since 1973.

We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity which is also the time of the "living dead". Many Americans who practically withhold nothing from themselves in material satisfaction seem more dead than alive. As the novelist Walter Percy said, "There is something worse than being robbed of life, that is being robbed of life without being conscious of it."

Many who are struck down by affluenza act as though they were spiritually, emotionally and intellectually dead. The living dead are everywhere. They surf on the Internet, read their Emails, visit Internet chatrooms, are occupied with stock trading, cling to CNN in the hope of hearing about some event that livens up their otherwise uneventful daily routine, drive alone through the city to seek more plastic trash at Wal-Mart, stop at McDonalds for a fast tasteless meal, pretend to warm themselves up for their stupid office job and watch "Who Becomes a Millionaire?" on television. Our government, our politicians and the high priests of the economic world are striptease artists (Strippenzieher).

op: What do you propose to heal the consumer virus?

Prof. Naylor: In my opinion, affluenza is firmly established in the conditio humana and depends on meaninglessness, isolation, powerlessness and repression of death. As with drug- and alcohol abuse, there are no fast all-purpose weapons against affluenza. One must go to the toots! Renouncing, de-coding, reducing and de-centralizing are our challenges.

Give up your tumult, pull the television plug, cancel your Internet provider, turn on the radio, reduce your magazine- and newspaper subscriptions, drive less, travel less, buy less junk, avoid the shopping center, turn off the telephone answering machine, thrown your cell-phone away, simplify your life, grapple with what it means being a person who lives, works, plays, suffers and dies instead of being manipulated.

De-code the meaning of certain terms in your life - technology, markets, media, education, health care, religion, government, globalization, foreign policy and defense. What do these terms mean for you? How do they influence you and others? How do you respond to them? Is your participation active, passive or non-existent? What meaning do you give them in your life?

Reduce your action radius - be content with a smaller country, a smaller city, a smaller house, a smaller employer, a smaller school, university, church, a smaller shopping center, hospital and car. The opposite assumption is that everything large is bad.

De-centralize and delegate all decisions in every institution to the lowest possible plane.

Affluenza can never be rooted out through mere passive resistance. Open rebellion against the system is necessary and imperative.

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