My thirteen year old daughter continually reminds me that I lack an understanding of the modern world. No doubt the inter-generational differences in outlook are something that most parents have experienced since humans walked on the earth. But to be honest 'Modern' life is sometimes challenging for me.
Take Christmas 2018 for example, the entertainment value from opening so many unnecessary presents is lost on me. I know, I'm a grinch. I do get an instant dopamine hit when I open my first present, a bottle of my favourite perfume. As I continue, guilt rather than pleasure sets in. I think about how I already possess a similar version of the item or how it will impact on my storage situation. I haven't exactly Marie Kondo'd my life but I have significantly downsized my house twice in the past decade. I now operate with a comfortable level of material possessions.
Then there's the packaging. Made from plastic or some other indestructible material and probably assembled by children in China or India. Life experience tells me that it will lie in landfill sites for generations.
And the branded items that fuel the 'I am deficient' culture established by advertisers to sell us stuff. The t-shirt that is 'just ok' but the logo means there is an insane price tag. It tells us and more importantly other people that we are 'somebody' because we can afford to pay the ridiculous about of money for a simple t-shirt (and it's probably made by children in India or China).
I'm not an eco warrior - I buy a real Christmas tree which is sadly now dumped in the garden. I use wrapping paper most of which is recycled from the year before and I make gifts or buy practical presents such as pj's or a book (eye-roll from daughter). I do worry about how pervasive our consumerist lifestyle is, how it affects our planet and our physical and psychological well-being.
Less active, more over-weight, with shorter attention spans and having to endure a continual struggle with overwhelm are just a few of the symptoms of a 24-hour consumerist economy. Chronic lifestyle illnesses such as anxiety, depression, diabetes and back pain begin in childhood. We are addicts craving a short term dopamine hit, a momentary high in our dulled down existence.
We work longer hours in jobs we don't particularly enjoy just to pay for our moments of pleasure and the ability to escape our lives. We spend less time with our loved ones, live alone rather than in communities and relieve our guilt by talking about 'quality time,' less is more! We outsource much of our basic human care despite self care being synonymous with good mental health and well-being. We have nannies and nurseries to take care of our babies, cleaners to keep our environment habitable, processed food to avoid having to put effort and time into preparing our food. Our gardeners grow pretty flowers and keep our lawns vibrant all year round. Supermarkets grow our carrots and potatoes and present our meat in neat little plastic trays. We drive to a gym, lift manmade weights and run on a treadmill rather than in the fresh air. We'd rather spend our time in virtual reality than being actually present in our real lives.
Our lives are becoming more and more dehumanised and yet it's these basic human qualities that reminds us we are not indestructible gods. We are emotional inter-dependent organisms. Our emotions are often an inconvenience in our 'modern' lifestyle, something to be overridden rather than a signal to pay attention to, alerting us that something is not quite right in our body or environment. Wealthy pharmaceutical companies promote this myth providing pills to alleviate our uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, mild or reactive depression IBS and now even feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Today everything needs to be fast, fun and easy. There is little tolerance for the discomfort of effort or patience. And I'm wondering whether because of of our constant supply of effortless stimulation there is in fact little room for imagination. Cue the background Hovis music... as a kid I had to use my imagination to avoid the inevitable boredom associated with owning only a few toys. Technology was limited to a black and white television and eventually space invaders. I've found the same to be true in my adult life of work. A small budget meant I had to get creative but did not necessarily impair the result. I got bold about asking for help, making do or making things or exploring alternative options and it was actually fun. I was less resourceful with bigger budgets and often outsourced the fun imaginative bit.
My daughter is rarely bored. Social media means she has lots of quick fixes available that are fun and without effort. She doesn't have to imagine or create. These days she doesn't even have to go on holiday - she simply googles a potential holiday spot and decides there and then if it's a place of interest. Usually it's a 'no' unless of course it's theme park which naturally leaves very little to the imagination.