September 13th, 2010
The freedom paradox

In his 2008 book, The Freedom Paradox, Clive Hamilton argues that within free-market capitalism, corporate interests actively discourage us from acting in accord with the values, preferences and desires we would endorse after careful consideration. Very few of us, he writes, would, upon deep reflection, say that it is our innermost desire in life to work incredibly hard at a job we dislike in order to possess the latest consumer products. Yet this is precisely the life our society encourages. From early childhood onward, advertisers expertly instill within us a set of values, preferences and desires that are not our own, but those that corporations wish us to have. As a result, our true ideals become increasingly neglected and stigmatized. This denial of our moral selves, Hamilton believes, can largely explaining the discontent increasingly prevalent in affluent societies.

Empirical support for these ideas can be found in the world of Martin Seligman, the world renowned psychologist and expert in the study of happiness. After years of research, Seligman has proposed that a major component of happiness is having meaning in our lives, which is achieved by being devoted to something larger than ourselves. This compliments Hamilton’s arguments well. The things we devote ourselves to and derive meaning from will doubtlessly be linked with our inner values. And if devoting ourselves to things we deeply value is an important part of happiness, it seems only obvious that failing to do so–and living in societies that actively discourage us from doing so — would lead to unhappiness.

-Paul Connor, excerpted from Adbusters #91, Volume 18, #5

Sep 14 2010
11:19 am
pixie writes:

Indeed a paradox. And yet, many of us have been forced to become conscious (as much as possible under such influences) and pulled forward out of consumeristic thinking and decisions in order to preserve our ability to choose. Though our culture seems to be full of unconscious consumeristic unhappiness, it is possible to go another way, to make it work for us. For those who are strongly driven to do so.

Sep 14 2010
3:08 pm
Kate writes:

I’ve been thinking of this quote since I read it yesterday. It reminded me of “Walking on Water” by Derrick Jensen (which I read and was blown away by after I saw the quote here on your site.) I’m deep in the throes of this struggle right now. Profoundly unhappy at a cube job where they want to offer me a promotion and more money. (Only I’d take this as a dilemma… I know there are thousands of people in the country who would be thrilled to be in this position.) I have a family to care for. (and we’re not big consumers. Yard sales, no tv, etc) I must break free. I don’t know how but I will. Damn! This is it scary and painful place to be!

Sep 15 2010
7:02 am
Katie writes:

“Corporate interests actively discourage us from acting in accord with the values, preferences and desires we would endorse after careful consideration. ”

I had been reading today about the extreme peddle pushing of whitening creams in Asia ,specifically in the phillipines – 2:5 commercials on tv are for skin whitening creams. This strikes me as so sad,a real death in the psyche of a country, bleaching the skin is standard now as is the use of baby powder et al. I have some ancestry from there but I never knew this was going on.

I just looked at antique photos/postcards of philipino women and felt sad that companies had managed to eradicate who they were so sucessfully.

Sep 18 2010
3:09 am
Julia writes:

great quote! This quote really sums up and ties together many things… Was this the adbusters that focused on ecopsychology? great issue. the newest one is about revolutions!

Sep 28 2010
10:40 am
Hannah writes:

But what do we do about it? Awareness is the first step, but what is the solution? Kate, in her cube job, is stuck. As am I. As are so many of us. I do this job to pay the bills. The paradox – the bills chain me to the job I’m unhappy in, and the bills are created by thinking I must live this kind of life. But the paradox, while amusing in a sickening kind of way, doesn’t actually help us. It doesn’t provide a way out.

And while I’m doing this job it tells me that I need to behave a certain way, believe in certain things, and keeps me in the bubble.

Maybe we can change things from the inside, but is that just fear talking? Because to really change, I need to change jobs, break away, change my value base. But how many of us are brave enough, free enough, to do that?

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