I’m including this textbook from my Sustainability course this semester (SUS 373: Population, Values, & Technology) because some parts of it really resonated with me; in particular, Chapter 9: Happiness and Chapter 12: The Need for a Different Worldview.
“Happiness” starts with some theories on what humanity’s Needs are, to be happy. Abraham Maslow postulated this hierarchy of Needs:
- Physiological (food, water, shelter, safety, security)
- Social (affection, acceptance, self-esteem, esteemed by others)
- Spiritual growth & self-actualization (meaningful work, using talents in service of something bigger)
… whereas Max-Neef listed nine Needs: Subsistence, Protection, Affection, Understanding, Participation, Recreation, Creativity, Identity, and Freedom.
(Side note: These are other people the authors are referencing. I have not looked up who they are or what other work they’ve done.)
TechNO-Fix then goes on to discuss how the mass production that started during the Industrial Revolution required mass consumption, which requires relentless advertising. The consumer culture is deliberate, a result of the desire for profit ($) by businesses.
The retailing giants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries … successfully turned a spiritually oriented culture of frugality and thrift into a material culture of self-indulgence.
There was quite a bit on how advertising increases consumption, and the unfortunate side-effects that can have (other than Buyer’s Remorse), and how increases in affluence (income) will only increase happiness to a certain level of income. (The book quoted $10,000 as the level at which happiness drops off, but I’m skeptical of that amount.)
The Hedonic Treadmill is the rapid adaptation to good things by taking them for granted, raising your expectations and causing the need for better things, because what you attained cannot keep you happy. This leads to attempting to fill non-material Needs (such as acceptance or esteem) by material means.
Afflicted with an infinite itch, modern man is scratching in the wrong place.
Thus follows three pages on how being materialistic works against happiness, and what things can be sources of happiness today: greater freedom (political, economic, and personal), the quality of social relationships, religion, having “satisfying, engaging, and meaningful work,” and the sense of making a difference in the world.
The rest of the chapter is rather depressing, as the authors describe how technology has destroyed the traditional sources of happiness, and industrialization and modernization are not necessarily beneficial.
This chapter resonated with me, because I think it put into words what I’ve been realizing for myself; that working just to make money won’t necessarily make me happier. I’ve worked in soul-sucking jobs before, and have no desire to repeat them; What would happen if I should get trapped in a job I hate but can’t leave because the pay is too good? (An entirely possible scenario, based on my future loan payments.)
It also gave me ideas on how I can become happier, which have become key parts in my Quest. It’s very interesting to see spelled out something you acutely feel is true but can’t explain why. Hence, my plans to decrease my materialism (purge my belongings), spend more time with people I enjoy being around, resume Seeking my Path (learning spiritual stuff), and try to make ends meet via work I enjoy (sewing and tutoring).
(To Be Continued. You can find TechNO-Fix available here, for instance.)