Chapter Eleven

CONSUMER HELL


The only reason a great many American families don't own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments. - Mad Magazine


“Modern” society in industrialized nations has largely become a consumerist treadmill. People work long hours at unsatisfying jobs they would rather not perform, and then spend much of their earnings on unfulfilling consumer crap they truly do not need.

To clearly understand the consumer treadmill, envision a mining town in the old American West. An enterprising capitalist lays claim to a gold mine, and then advertises for men to come and mine gold from the earth. The owner pays the men cash in exchange for the gold, which they quickly spend on food, liquor, clothes, hotel accommodations and whores in the neighboring town.

When the money is gone, the men return to the mine, to retrieve more gold to sell. As time advances, the cash flows back to the owner of the town and the mine, while his stockpile of gold continues to grow. In the end, the capitalist ends up with all of the cash and all of the gold, while the workers are left with nothing but memories, broken bodies and broken dreams.

Most people in the United States today live as indentured servants, regardless of their income level. As income increases, they buy larger homes, more expensive cars, and generally increase their monthly payments to match their rise in income.

The first step to achieving freedom is to step off the treadmill. Financial freedom cannot be gained by living a leveraged lifestyle, with life spent mired in debt. Every dollar spent on interest payments is another dollar you earned but will never spend, save or invest.

The repercussions of a high-debt, large monthly payment lifestyle are staggering. Most high-income jobs are difficult to replace, and leave the person with large checks to write every month in a state of virtual servitude.

Even while still acting as part of the economy, the knowledge that you can walk off your job at any time, without destroying your personal and financial life, is incredibly freeing. The knowledge (or at least the belief) that missing your next paycheck would devastate you is not only nerve racking, it can cause you to live and act in fear and submission.

Those who finance expensive lifestyles through stressful, life consuming business ventures are hardly in a better position. The number of years, months and days we have on this planet is limited and finite. Would you rather spend them indulging in your passions, or slaving away for the consumer economy?

Unless you drop out of society altogether, the need for money will never disappear. But once a modest home and reasonable car are owned free and clear, most people can survive, and thrive, with nearly any type of employment.

With no debt and no monthly payments, a fat salary may be used to build an impressive nest-egg (for yourself this time, not for the finance companies). A more modest, easily replaceable, carefree job could leave more time for whatever you truly enjoy in life. Even better, you may be able to finance your lifestyle entirely with freelance creative endeavors, thus merging together enjoyment, satisfaction, and earning a living.

Or you can continue to spend your life straining and struggling to maximize your income, at the cost of your health and happiness, for the dubious privilege of further enriching the banks, credit companies, and an assortment of other corporate entities. The choice is yours.


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