consumerism, degrowth, financial independence, happiness, stoicism

Consumerism

It is quite funny, or tragic, the way many people in the developed world choose to live their lives (me included).

We work, making a lot of money for the owners of both big and small companies, and also, some money for ourselves.

We exchange labour for capital.

We work a lot for some money, making other people rich in the process. We are essentially slaves, as we need to work to sustain ourselves. We can also free ourselves from slavery, but to do that, like in ancient Rome, we need to buy our freedom. To do that, we need to reevaluate our relationship with money.

Because, somehow, we are all convinced, that after a month of hard work we have to go out and spend ALL the money we earned, and a bit more. The philosophy of life of the whole western society, and probably others that I do not know, is based in consuming constantly, buy-use-throw.

We are actually convinced, that if we buy that new shiny smartphone or computer, that big house, that nice car. We actually BELIEVE that we are going to be happier than before. The paradox lies on that when we have bought something, and we realise that it does no make us as happy as we thought it would. But then, we forget all about it and focus on the NEXT thing, THIS time it will FOR SURE make me happy ever after.

It is something deeply wire in our primitive brain, but we need to realise that things will never make us happy, it is only simplicity, the way we choose to interact with people and how we decide to use our time that can make us happy. We need to reduce our material wealth and increase our spiritual and social wealth. This is the only way to be satisfied and to save our planet from a sure destruction

 

I am not saying consuming is bad in itself, what I am trying to say is that we reached a point that we consume without purpose.

And there other ways to live.

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consumerism, degrowth

Why degrowth?

It is quite simple, planet earth has LIMITED resources. The human species is growing exponentially, human consumption is also growing exponentially.

It DOES NOT MATTER, if we become more efficient, we use solar or wind energy (so called green), NOTHING matters. If we keep growing we will exhaust the earth resources.

Anyone that has a normally developed cognitive ability will understand it if he or she can for a second liberate from the shackles of the daily brainwash that tells that growth is the only way forward.

Let’s show it in a graph:

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 15.02.52

Now we are in the path of the blue line, we will run out of resources soon.

Many advocate for the red line, that is not enough.

The green line shows the rate at which the resources would replenish in theory.

But we are destroying the planet, so its capability of replenishing diminishes.

The lines are for indication, but I think they show clearly why “sustainable growth” is science fiction as it is mathematically impossible. We should all wake up and realise that even though we feel nice by recycling or by consuming renewable energy.

Do some research and find how mines for solar panel materials look like. Be horrified.

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consumerism, happiness, stoicism

Becoming a human being

When was the last time you exercised? Or made and effort that forced you to breath heavily and your heart rate increase? I hope it was recently, but you will have to agree that this is not the case in the great majority of people living in the western society. You probably know at someone who will think it is unthinkable to walk up the stairs for a few stories, or that would never conceive cycling for more than 5km, or that the thought of exercise provokes reactions similar to torture.

What do you think, fat bellies and thighs, inability to move or do simple gardening tasks independently without a gas or electrical powered machine say about us as individuals and society? I do not think is a good sign, or the right way to go by.

When was the last time you were in a forest and stopped to contemplate the beauty of the ecosystem? I, again, hope it was recently, but again, you will have to agree that this is not the case in the great majority of people living in the western society. We think reality is concrete and tarmac, tall buildings, big cars and houses with grass lawns.

Again, what do you think, the way we live says about us as individuals and society?

We have become completely decoupled to what it means to be a human being, we treat nature like a toy, we only care about it if we are going to drive through it on our weekend trip. Besides that, we live in our own little (and big) shells made of brick and mortar where we live in, and shells made of steel and rubber that we use to move around.

Do a favor to your health, your happiness, your well being, your community and your planet. Become a human being again. Move, does not matter what, do something, start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, take your bicycle when your trip is not longer that 5km, then 10km, then 15km, lift weights, run, swim, switch from power to manual tools. Experience, again, the satisfaction of accomplishing something with your body and your skills.

Go out breath the clean air of the forest. And most importantly, respect our planet. We only have one, and it is dying.

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consumerism, financial independence, happiness, stoicism

Stoicisim

When we talk about financial independence, we are not talking about becoming a millionaire and be able to own big houses and fancy cars and not worry about money while spending as much as one wants. This for the most of us is impossible, and it does not necessarily bring happiness.

That is why I cultivate the stoic philosophy.

I have practised stoicism to a certain extent for a big part of my life. But I only put the label and seen the concepts in the book “A guide to the good life”  by William B. Irvine. Which I can only recommend. In this post, I refer often to the book and I also add my own thoughts to what it means to be a Stoic.

Now a days, people do not have a philosophy on how to live their life, they merely follow what TV and mainstream media tells to do, feel, consume. I, and many others, believe that this is not the path to happiness.

Stoic philosophy is not something that some old Romans and Greeks talked about that has no meaning today. Essentially, humans are exactly the same as 3000 years ago, our culture and technology has evolved, but our genes are the same. It is therefore that we can learn a lot from the old timers as they used a lot of time an energy to answer to the question on what does it mean to live a good life.

From the Financial Independence point of view, stoicism is specially helpful to fight Hedonic adaptation, this stems from living a live with Hedonism as a philosophy. For example, if a person is used to drive everyday to work, take the elevator or drink Coke on a daily basis. They will believe it is unthinkable or, cause great discomfort, to either take the public transport, take the stairs or drink water. When these things are taken for granted, then one starts thinking of the next thing: get a bigger car, use the car more often, etc.

We confuse good life, with owning things, or spending money. But there is great pleasure to be obtained by delaying gratification, knowing that by one’s day to day choices, you get one step closer to financial independence, while being more respectful to the environment. Stoic philosophy does not deny enjoying the “good” stuff. One can enjoy good things, but needs to be aware that if those things are not available anymore, one could as well live without them.

In any case, it is well known, that when the basic needs of humans (See Maslov´s hierarchy of needs) are covered, higher consumption does not increase happiness, but social relations are.

That said, there are 5 basic psychological techniques described in “A guide to the good life”

  • Negative visualization: What’s the worst it can happen?
    • As Stoic practitioners we should always keep in mind, what is the worst it can happen to us? The car might break down, the house might burn, my wife will divorce me, I will lose my job. All those things are terrible, but it might happen to all of us. It is therefore important to visualize and think how one would feel if that would happen to you.
    • This way, one really, I mean REALLY, appreciates the things and comforts that one has.
  • Dychotomy of control: On becoming invincible
    • ” We can want things that are up to us, or we can want things that are not up to us”
    • There are things that we cannot control, and it is therefore foolish to tie our happiness to those
  • Fatalism: Letting go of the past… And the present
    • We need to let go of the past, we for sure have to learn from it. But there is not point in wondering how the present would be if the past had been different. As when considering sunk costs in investment, we should not loose sleep about how the past has influenced our present, but think what we can learn for the future.
  • Self-denial: On dealing with the Dar side of pleasure
    • This practice, is one of the best for saving money, and it increases ones will power. We should periodically deny ourselves of life pleasures. Not having candy one one feels like it, saying no to a delicious cold craft beer in a warm day or fasting for different periods of time.
    • Besides saving money, we reverse the hedonistic adaptation that most of us have been going through in the consumerist society we live in. It is exactly its reverse, getting used to little and then be mind-blown when after a long period we eat a little piece of chocolate.
    • This kind of pleasure cannot be experience when we periodically fall for all the little pleasures that are on our daily life.
  • Meditation: Watching ourselves practice stoicism
    • To wrap it up, we should be aware on how and when we practise stoicism. What happened to us today, how did we respond to what happened, is that in accordance to stoic principles or not?

I have experience myself, how these techniques and Stoic philosophy have improved my life. The stoic philosophy comprises all areas of life, such as anger, luxurious living, frustration and consumerism but it all comes down to appreciate the small things of life, not let things out of your control influence you negatively and cultivate your will power to live the life you want to life, which is not necessarily the easiest.

 

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travel

Nordkapp trip part VIII: Riga-Gdansk-Girona

Finally we had the car repaired and managed to leave Riga to go to Poland, of course we would go through Lituania but after spending so much time in Riga it was impossible to go to Vilnius. We basically drove in the night (yes, it was back).

We arrived to Gdansk next morning and we stayed at Marcelina’s, in there we didn’t go many tourists attractions as we were mainly with the locals and basically doing nothing.

Concrete light post. Will not break, ever.

Finally it was time to go back home after having spent 15 days, 6139 km and many places I can’t wait to explore more deeply soon.

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travel

Nordkapp trip part VII: Riga

I was expecting Latvia to be similar to Estonia but nothing further from the truth. Those are completely different countries and Riga and Tallinn are two cities with a very different atmosphere. For what I saw in both cities, Riga has had more Soviet and Russian influence than Tallinn and is like nothing I have seen before.

Old vs. Modern Riga

On one side there are the old Soviet blocks in the suburbs of the city where most people live and on the other side there is the old town and city center with some soviet buildings such as what is now the market, buildings originally design to serve as a zeppelin base and another building which is an exact replica of one in Moscow.

Generally Latvians are not very fond of Russians (as all Russia’s neighboring countries) and that has been source of conflict in the past years as a big majority of the population is from Russian origin as Latvia was a very important industrial center during the Soviet times.

We planned to stay in Riga one day only, but turned out to be three as the car broke down trying to leave the town. Luckily that didn’t happen in Lapland as finding a single person was a difficult task and we had our host, Kiril. We met him through Couch Surfing and let us stay more days than planned due the inconvenience. He showed us around the town and the best places to eat and drink (really cheap, specially compared to Denmark).

Typical soviet blocks

Handwritten numbers in the elevator

As I said we were lucky to have Kiril to show as around the old town, the first thing he explained is that, the bus, is free (well, kind of) so we headed to the old town. The independence monument, apparently is an old Latvian goddess holding three stars symbolizing each region of Latvia.

Latvia’s independence monument

Orthodox cathedral

In contrast with the Scandinavian countries, Riga has an old style Opera house

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Nordkapp trip part VI: Tallinn

We arrived to Tallinn late at night with the ferry and proceeded to go to the hostel we had booked which is called The Monk’s Bunk, to describe it shortly I must say that is perfect, great atmosphere, brand new hostel, affordable with cozy common room and great kitchen, the only bad thing is that we couldn’t stay there for the three nights we ended up spending in the city.

After checking in to the hostel we went to do what Tallinn is most known for, partying. The city has great nightlife as Finns and Russian’s, as well as other nationalities, travel there for tourism and a bit of drinking. We visited quite a few bars and pubs and the one that a visitor in Tallinn can’t miss is the Embassy Bar & Lounge (Väike-Karja 1) with a great selection of special shots that are completely worth trying.

On the night life part it is also very interesting to join the Tallin Backpacker pubcrawl where you can meet random people and get to know the classic bars of the town.

Disabled war vet

Next day we took the walking tour around the city which is given for free by the local toursit office, that gives a chance to be shown around the city and besides learning historical facts our guide told the group a lot about the every day life of the city and country as well as how the regarded the polititians (whis is the same way as all the other countries in Europe) and in general what was going in the city.

Orthodox Cathedral

Besides drinking, good eating places are also found in Tallinn, our favourite, in where we spent a lot of money is the III Dragon in the old city hall, besides the medieval age atmosphere of the place where the women serving are wearing costumes the food and beer is good for a nice price, they serve a variety of cakes (mosse, apple and other kinds) as well as a very tasy moose soup for which you have to sing a song if you want a spoon to  eat it. But don’t forget Kompressor (Rataskaevu, 3) where you can find amazing pancakes big enough for a good brunch after a typical Tallinn night.

The best eating place in Tallinn

Our everyday meal

In general Tallinn is a very nice medieval city where you would spend a lot of time walking around the cobbled streets, it doesn’t have a specific thing that makes it special but there’s something that charms you from the first minute you set a foot in the old part of the city.

As it was written in the blackboard of the Monk’s Bunk “If you’re bored of Tallin, you’re bored of life”

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