Mollified by shiny things

Well, we all do it.

We buy ‘latest’ products we don’t need, to prove things to ourselves (that we also don’t need), about our status or credibility or just when we feel low – or high. Most of this is self gratification or life affirmation related or simply ‘keeping up with the neighbours’.

We all follow one trend or another and choose to spend money on things that make us appear more ‘modern’ or ‘trendy’ or capable of heroic feats of daring do.

The consumer age has lasted this long on this exact psychological principle – does the market create and lead demand or just capitalise on our inherent insatiable desires?

I’m pretty certain that, like me, everyone reading this has cupboards, garages, sheds and attics full of ‘stuff’ that is unused and, during every clear out, I imagine the words ‘what were we thinking of?’ being muttered in homes and businesses and cars (and in my case, tents) everywhere.

Our kitchen still has one of those gadgets that spiralises courgettes. I mean, what the fuck?

So far, so wasteful and we can throw Maslow’s hierarchy of need in the recycling bin (because many of us reading this have much more than we need) along with those ridiculous plastic shoe tidies that get ignored and just add to the mess.

By doing that, we can clear our homes but screw up the oceans and other peoples lives and neighbourhoods. Yay for us (not).

My real concerns here though are not the physical shiny things that mollify us but the shiny concepts and ideas, the re-interpretations of existing principles, the buzzwords and brandwords that may not clutter our homes but sure as shit clutter our minds.

We are constantly chasing the next great thing that will bring us all sorts of uplift in our lives and work, the language that we can use to impress or give us renewed standing in meetings and peer groups. The stuff that, in our minds, sets us apart as all-knowing, advanced thinking superheroes in our jobs but in reality just makes us come across as the sad, flacid knob-ends we really are.

The real problem with all of this is not so much the enormous and unnecessary complexity and diversion, the lack of mutual language and understanding (discourse) or inability to speak or listen in anything but meaningless soundbites or the damaging separatism created between those in the know and those who clearly know nothing, that is created by all these buzzwords and buzzthinking (these are all big problems).

I think that the real challenge is that we stop thinking. We forget that principles are principles for a reason and we fail to really understand anything that requires deep thought, interpretation, application and pursuit. The real problem with this is that in the end we lose that vital part of being human – true agency. Without agency, we are mute and meaningless in any meaningful way. We become bystanders, watching rather than contributing and we become increasingly reliant on the assumed agency of others. We receive rather than give and in the end, we become dependent on others to lead us. When that happens, we cease to matter.

Worse still, when we become reliant on others and those others fail to give us what we want or need, we have no recourse to action except to get angry, then throw our hands in the air and say ‘Oh well’ and go back to reading about ‘Bamboo – the latest methodology for leadership thinking’ (I just made that up).

I will concede that once in a blue moon something genuinely new and vital comes along and we need to be ready for it but we also need to be more discerning, thoughtful and even critical of most of the shiny things that try to impress and mollify us.

We don’t need them. They are smoke and mirrors that confuse us and drive us further away from the very few really important concepts that we need to focus on.

I’ll finish this rant with one of the best things I heard last year –

“I don’t believe in the thought that if you can’t explain your idea in a soundbite, you have no idea. I don’t want to make headlines, I want to make headway.” Jim Clyburn. US Senator.

Right, I’m going back to my Marie Kondo book, where I’m learning how to roll my socks more efficiently to save space. It’s an unfolding (ha ha) tragedy.

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