Now I am firmly what you would call a 90s child. I’m a millennial – born in an age of peace when the Berlin Wall fell and when Gladiators and Baywatch were the main things that would occupy my Saturday evenings as a pre -teen in leafy North London. I can’t recall a great deal of their being anything which could be deemed health conscious. For this was the age of ‘crap food’. Mcdonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut – particularly the stuffed crust variant – were very popular in the 90s, before the middle class ditched the processed stuff for more organic food. If there was a country in the world that I wanted to live in the answer was obvious – America of course. They had the best cereals, early release of films and of course Nickelodeon.
You may ask why the hell am I going on about this and what am I trying to say? Well, what I am saying is that I have been bought up by consumerism. As much as my parents have raised me and embedded me with strong moral values my surroundings have been based on a society which is self-serving in almost every way. Just take a look at the biggest show on TV at the moment Love Island. It’s garbage – let’s be honest. It’s pure unadulterated horse excrement. It’s essentially a bunch of good looking airheaded bimbos who go into a house and have sex. Now the contestants might be nice to look at – but the success of this show demonstrates that many people put enormous weight on aspirations which are empty and hollow.
Society has cultivated selfish ideas. You know the cliches: ‘its a dog eat dog world’ ‘nice guys finish last’ and general ideas that to succeed in life you have to be ruthless. When you extend this idea far enough you end up with groups who use the idea of the ‘self’ to base their mantra on. Look at how organised crime poisoned Sicily. Perhaps the Cosa Nostra had some hints altruism, but in the end, everyone had to pay a large cut of their earnings to these disreputable goons. If you want something more relatable just look at the selfish behavior taken by bankers in the subprime mortgage scandal of 2008, which had the entire global financial system on its knees.
You might be surprised to learn than I am actually very in favor of capitalism – in terms of what it can do. Without capitalism, society cannot function. It creates wealth and endless possibilities. Private ownership is fair. Allowing someone the possibility to create a business that can have far reaching benefits is fair. Conversely, a society which depends on the state for infrastructure and opportunities is not a society which can thrive. Capitalism in its essence is liberation and creates conditions for people to fulfill their potential. At least this is what capitalism should do.
Yet we are at a point where capitalism’s flaws have never been more exposed than they are now. Wealth isn’t being created and opportunities aren’t as great as they should be. In fact, wealth is being hoarded in offshore bank accounts and in empty properties, that are bought as investments and seldom used. My generation is disillusioned with the ideas perpetuated by previous generations. The search for authenticity and having meaningful and shared experiences has never been greater. Mental health has been put into the public sphere on a scale never seen previously and ancient concepts of mindfulness and Reiki have been repackaged for meaning seeking millennials. The success of apps such as Airbnb and Meetup show that there is a yearning for a more communal belonging.
What does this all mean? Perhaps we are waking up to the reality that having ample choice and instant connections through our phone does not equate to happiness. As we have become more dependent on brand messages emitted from our devices we have become more disconnected to what’s around us. I am a victim of this as well but that doesn’t mean I can’t point out the flaws. Honestly, if social media and smartphones went ‘kaput’ tomorrow I think we would all be happier for it – me included.
To finish this off all I will say is thank god smart phones did not exist in my teens.