Let’s hope it doesn’t go quite like that; although who knows what this year has in store for us. After all, 2011 was the year of the Occupy movement (is it a grassroots movement as strong as the hippies of the 60s? No, but bless them, they tried) and the year in which renewed crises gripped our financial markets, with portents of economic doom lurking in every headline and forecast.
And I turned thirty… wait, I didn’t just conflate my ageing with the GFC Mark II, did I? … I guess I did. But as the world calculated the deferred costs from living in perpetual excess, I quietly realised that age too comes with a price. I’m not speaking exclusively here of the obvious concerns like your relative perception of time (both that midnight is now “up late” and there isn’t enough of it anymore), or health (where the hell is it going and where is that gut coming from), or that the big worries in life don’t go away, there’s just an act break for a costume change (focus shifts from debt to nestegg, from infants to children to mini-grown-ups, and so on). No, I’m talking about the idealism of your 20s that can give way to a worryingly permanent ennui. That is, unless the slump is arrested by a cool, level-headedness analysis of your long term goals.
To wit: “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
While I’m taking the quote out of its original context, I don’t think it’s a stretch to repurpose it into a statement of malcontent intent for the Gen Xs & Gen Ys today - both of which it seems I apparently have voluntary subscription to given my late ‘81 birthdate, but I digress. Instead of being “very, very pissed off” and taking it out on “the man” (like the occupy types did), I think this presents an opportunity for people to reassess their goals on their own terms rather than those created by a lifetime satured in media and glorification of excess.
Being rich shouldn’t be the goal, feeling rich should be. It’s nice to have nice things, but it’s nicer to know that you aren’t in need of things. What I mean here is that having a level of income that feeds a realistic and healthy determination of a “desirable lifestyle” should be the main aim. And if it were that easy, I would be able to claim relative success in this regard, but therein lies the inexorable rub of humankind - relativity. One man’s riches are another man’s trash. The contexual appreciation of richness comes from what you have known - so if you’ve grown up priveleged, that’s the baseline from which to improve without any notion of relativity to the rest of the world - and therefore, no matter how hard you try, when you achieve a new level of comfort (for want of a better term), you immediately begin to crave the level above that. Think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs … on steroids.
All of which is why I think 2012 will be an interesting year. There is a global deleveraging that has to occur which will cause considerable pain for those who have not measured their success relative to their peers (or to use another popularist term, “the 99%”) and as they lose their floating buffer of credit that has afforded them (ironic usage) an unrealistic lifestyle, they will find that their loss of “essentials” (smart phones, touch screen devices for every possible function, internet service providers, pro-sumer electronics, luxury food and alcohol, internatonal travel) is all but one tiny incremental downgrade on a global hierarchy of needs. Those who have nothing will notice little, those who struggle will continue to struggle, those who are lucky should realise as much and think before they complain.
Which is why I think that hitting a pivotal age in this time is a benefit rather than a hindrance, I’ve escaped my 20s with some of my youthful spirit entact - I love to travel, I still dream of achieving things that I’m unlikely to ever achieve, put me in the right situation with the right amount of alcohol and I will dance with abandon and talk foolishly until the wee small hours - however, I’m at an age where I’m forced to be wiser about where I am and where I’m going. This forces a self-perception circle that loops around until you either throw your hands up in despair and give up that you’ll never “get rich”, or you shrug your shoulders and say “shit, I feel rich”.
It’s time to realise that not every idea might result in an action, but it’s time to make those remaining actions count … while we have the time, that is.
Shit, I lost it. Nearly had it, but it’s gone. Oh well, nevermind.