Friday, August 31, 2007

On adaptation

I haven't worked steady since March. I got married in June and have been working very infrequently since then. This has given me a lot of time to read and think about things related, not coincidentally, to saving money, consumption issues, and why I worked full-time at decent wages for eight years and have not much to show for it.

Now, I'm about to start a full-time contract job that will last at least until the end of September. It doesn't pay amazingly well, but it is steady money. It's money that I know when it will arrive and how much it's going to be. It's stability.

There have been some hints and allegations from my loved ones (none taken the wrong way, of course) that when I'm solvent again, I won't be so heavy into the anticonsumer, not buying it mindset. The implication is that I made myself believe that living a nonmaterialist lifestyle is the right thing to do because that is the ONLY thing I could do. The implication is not that I'm hypocritical, but that I had to adapt.

Like a person who's been diagnosed with a fatal disease and is given a year to live might start believing in God and heaven, to take an extreme example. That way she keeps herself sane and keeps herself from completely falling apart into the hopelessness of it all. But say she's cured or that she was misdiagnosed, and now she can look forward to a long, healthy life again. Will she forget about her strong belief that she'd taken up during her illness, since it wasn't serving her needs anymore?

I don't think she would. And I don't think I will. The anticonsumerist mindset is not a trend or a fad, for me. I feel very strongly about it. Of course when I'm working I'll have to go out to lunch sometime like I would when I was working full-time before. But now, I can think about what I'm ordering, where it came from, whether it's got ingredients in it that I'm not comfortable with, what kind of systems are in place so that I could get that food, in addition to how much I'm spending on it.

The philosophy I'm developing isn't just about saving money, it's about workable systems. Not just workable for me and my family and our budget, either -- workable for society, for my community. The anticonsumerist philosophy is environmental, economical, psychological, political, and sustainable. I've mostly talked about the psychological aspect in this blog, because that's the part that fascinates me -- why we're so susceptible to brainwashing by this machine. But it entails all those aspects, in varying degrees of progression and understanding.

The personal is political. This journey has taught me that I don't need to consume to be a professional, or to be successeful at work. And while I'm on my lunch break, if I buy a $2 McDonald's value meal, I'm saving money -- but I'm not holding true to my ethic, I'd only be serving one part of that ethic. There aren't very many things that can serve every part of the ethical construct. But I've got to try to do better than just one piece of it.

So while I'll have more personal income soon than I have had, I'm not just going to ditch this journey I'm on. That doesn't even follow for me. The perspective I've gained now will benefit me the rest of my life -- that's what my best friend told me when we talked about this the other night. She's right -- and it will benefit me whether I become a millionaire or move off the grid and live entirely self-sufficiently. I think this is what's called a personal philosophy. I never entirely had one before.


Cheap Like Me said...

Great post, and thanks for the link to my blog! Thought-provoking stuff ...

Cindy said...

I think it's very easy to lose our beliefs about certain things as we get further away from the need for it (having steady money, the circles we run with). I mentioned to M not too long ago that I believed "the rich" really didn't know how other people lived. It's like those people who say "what's the minimum wage, $9?" because they've either never held a minimum wage job or it's been a long time. I don't think it has to be that way, but I do believe it's easy to fall into traps when they are available to us (when other times, it's not an option, so we don't), unless we guard against it like you are through study and analysis.