I finished reading Enough by John Naish. It is a sustained attack on consumerism where he questions the assumption that “more is good”, which is at the heart of modern culture and economics. I agreed with many themes in this book. To reject the hamster wheel of consumption is far from easy, practically as well as philosophically. Since he effectively argues that consumerism is a misguided attempt at hedonism, because the actual routes to happiness are not the ones people actually pursue (and this results in people in affluent countries being no happier than elsewhere). Simply put, consumerism fails to produce happiness beyond a 5 minute rush when purchasing (and the guilt soon follows, particularly in a debt based economy). Because our actions are not even based on hedonism, is there any basis to current western civilisation? It is all nihilism and distraction from ennui. The author calls “enough” by saying goals we seek (even if it is hedonism) can be found outside of consumerism.

He avoids the obvious trap of calling for action based solely on collective good. He also avoids environmentalism for its own sake. Astutely, he claims selfish and collective action is united in rejecting consumerism. The problem is to find a way to break the hold of endless consumption, given that the rational calls for restraint and environmentalism have failed. We need more than a rational argument – we need one that appeals instinctively. Part of the problem, according to Naish, is our brains are good at seeking more “stuff”, due to their ancient origins. The question is, how do we change society? If we don’t then we run out of resources, the planet over heats and millions or billions will die (probably after being displaced by environmental factors or wars for resources). A few initial thoughts are outlined about the way ahead. It seems this is a fertile area of thought: can we transition to a sustainable society? (or have I been at the “Plato” too much?) I recently discovered the de-growth movement. I will need to do further thinking and research on this. Currently, I am sceptical that a society can be formulated that is both consistent with human happiness and human psychology (look how Marxism did not consider that). But I have an solution: human happiness is really a secondary consideration, particularly given that the modern world is addicted to consumption of goods. If we are heading to a world with zero or negative economic growth, my choice is a world with billions of unhappy (or merely content) people rather than billions of dead people (which is what we will get with current policies). To be continued (I hope).

Anti Citizen One

PS I am sure the Roman Empire did not expect it would collapse…