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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 46 - What it keeps you away from

Mike Licht, Flickr

"All over the place from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and consume." (Noam Chomsky)

Watched a Noam Chomsky documentary. 

First reaction: isn't it surprising that he would be considered a dissident, since a lot of what he says is just plain common sense? This must be another manifestation of "the truth hurts" phenomenon. 

Second reaction: Chomsky's take on consumerism underlines the fact that consuming takes our attention away from the truly important matters. While we focus on things we own or want to own, we are not focusing on issues that deserve our time and energy.

On Sunday I was giving a talk about "Children and the new technologies". I approached it from a similar angle. Demonizing screens in general and the new technologies in particular is bound for failure, as people usually become defensive rather quickly when they feel their addiction is under attack (not mincing my words here). So I started by acknowledging the benefits of being able to carry a phone + a camera + a computer in one unique portable device, as well as the wonders of having access to any and all information at the tip of our fingers, anywhere, anytime (plus the ease with which we can communicate with each other). The problem, I said, is not limited to what happens while we are using the new technologies; it also involves what does not happen. Regarding children in particular, one thing they definitely are not doing while staring at screen, big or small, is move. And movement is vital. Especially for children.

Children present at the talk commented on how hard it is to get their parents' attention when the latter are looking at their phones or tablets. Could the devices that were supposed to bring us closer literally constitute a screen between us and our family members, preventing us from truly interacting?

What do you think is taken away from you while you focus on money and stuff, be it fashionable items or electronics?


For an obscure reason, many of this week's conversations with friends and family members revolved around their struggle with debt: student loans, credit card debt, and various monthly payments that are putting a damper on their well-being. What struck me is that most of the individuals I talked with are far from living in poverty. 

Why do you think well-off people struggle with debt?

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. Debt is the extra inch, the extra cookie, the one more drink of entitlement. If you don't do debt like you don't do desserts, you don't accrue any...

    1. Entitlement is probably a key word here. The phrase I heard repeatedly during a show where they were interviewing deeply in-debt individuals was "I deserve this" (object, vehicle, house, etc.)

  2. Maybe the upcoming generation will be anti-screen because they will have fought against it for their parents attention their whole lives, or maybe they will turn out the same way.
    My niece has a lot to say about her dad always being on his cellphone.

    Debt: I have debt from university and I am not living in poverty. My debt also makes me remain in the "corporate world" so I can make payments. It would be difficult for me to go freelance or pursue "art" or be nomad. To make payments, I have to work a certain type of job and dress a certain way, and have a certain lifestyle. I'm not saying that I would choose to be poor and close to poverty if I didn't have debt, but I am saying the jobs I have seem hold me into a certain lifestyle and routine.

    Things I recently learned I can live without:
    a microwave
    a dryer (but this harder because I can only do some many loads of laundry in one day and it takes longer for my clothes to dry... it works for me because I live alone)
    a kettle (boiling water in a pot works!)
    an oven (a toaster oven is fine!)

    1. I hope you are right about the younger generation rebelling against screens, so that they end up using them when it's necessary, as opposed to all the time like their parents do!

  3. OOOH I like that idea of debt and dessert as well. It is SO the notion of "I deserve this" and that's such a great way to frame it.

  4. That's an interesting thought about the next generation being anti-screen. I find it hard to believe as it's an addiction and it hasn't happened with over-eating. But I would like it if it did.

    Like with many things, a little is good, whereas a lot is not.