Sunday, August 28, 2011

Free Your Self From Advertising That Sells Discontent

Frugality as a Choice
Even though I had been experiencing discontent with my consumption driven lifestyle for several years, frugality as a lifestyle was not something I was able to adopt until it was thrust upon me by changing times and altered circumstances. It is likely that some of you are reading this because you too are faced with a similar situation. When I was confronted by my financial situation a few years back, I set out by studying the principles of frugality and simple living. To my surprise, I discovered that a large number of people choose frugality not out of a financial compulsion but out of an ethical one. Frugality and simplicity are key steps that you can take not only to simplify your life, but also to contribute towards a happier and safer planet by lightening the burden of ecological damage it has to carry.

Frugality is a Greater Life
A common conception of frugal living is that of a life of deprivation, one of not having the things that we are told are essential. I have had the good fortune of redefining for myself what is essential. Building on the principles of minimalism, frugality and clutter-free living, my life is much richer than it ever was, though in the eyes of society, I have been “downgraded” to the category
of “have nots.” I have space to be who I was meant to be, to do all that I ever wanted to do, and I sleep at peace knowing that I am doing my bit to contribute to the future of our civilization.

Advertising, The Secret of Discontent
The reason that frugality as a choice is so difficult to make is because of the immense pressure from society to have more and buy more, discard more in order to acquire more. All of commerce, marketing, and advertising is targeted at bolstering your discontent with your life. The science of making you feel inadequate if you do not possess the most desirable objects as determined by the sellers and manufacturers has been perfected by the advertising industry.

Here is a small test you can do. Turn on the TV and surf till you come to a channel that is on a commercial break. As soon as the program resumes, switch channels till you come to another one that is showing ads. Do this for 10 minutes only, but with each ad you watch, write down what emotion in you that ad appeals to. You will be surprised to see that brands that you admire and respect, and perhaps associate with values such as honesty, purity, concern, safety, and health are working through their advertising to appeal to your greed, envy, fear, and misplaced self esteem. This is the amazing Indian rope trick, where what we know as ethics is made to climb up the rope of consumerism and made to disappear, making greed, corruption and over consumption the new morality.

How can we resist these pressures and teach the future generations to lead lives based on humanistic and sustainable principles?

The first step is to make a positive change in your personal life. Determine right now to live by your principles and not by what others tell you you should live your life by. Audit your lifestyle. How much of your lifestyle is dictated by need? What is the rest of your life driven by?  Chances are your answers will include driving forces like insecurity and fear, greed and selfishness.

Frugality is about creating value, and is not a call to abandon aspirations. Everybody aspires for greatness. It is the definition of greatness that frugality calls into question. Once our basic needs are met and some allowance made for possible exigencies, all that is left over of our material and personal wealth, be it money, property, time or energy, is being wasted if not being put to use for a greater cause. Once again, it is the definition of a greater cause that is at the root of the problem. We have created a world of commerce where pursuit of monetary profit has been catapulted to the top of the list of human values. We have stripped greed of its sinfulness, and turned it into something essential for social progress.

You can stop this from damaging the fabric of our civilization by making changes to your personal life right now. As you do that, you will also be setting yourself up as a role model for others to follow. It is not easy. You may want to cushion it by applying some principles in some areas of your life till you reach a level of comfort. Do know that even the smallest step you take towards creating a better society for tomorrow is better than not taking any step.

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Share your story. Write to me at subhorup at gmail dot com to share your story with readers of this blog. If you know of others who are doing their bit to protect the future of this planet, tell us about it.

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