Consumption Junction: "Forget the Money"

by Lana Lynne on November 30, 2012
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" That ubiquitous childhood refrain echoes throughout many people's lives, evolving with each new chapter of experiences. When we're young, the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. As we get older, for many these choices begin to fit into pre-molded channels, into recognizable and attainable occupations. By the time we're "grown up," what we want to be has been replaced by what we do for money. Our options for alternative lifestyles are few, and unceasing bombardments by consumerist messages tell us what to do with our money, each tailored to our socioeconomic positions. Cultural critics call us automatons of the industrial complex, and as members of "the masses," we fall in lockstep time to a soundtrack of retail therapy.

And yet, the idea of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" or, as Alan Watts puts it, "What if money were no object?" still resonates with us. A short video made by a 20-year-old "self-taught video creator" takes a snippet of Alan Watts speaking about living a meaningful life to narrate a nicely spliced montage of dreamy time-lapse images. Watts asks listeners straightforward, "What makes you itch? What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?" For the rest of the video, he laments people's complacency with "doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living." "Forget the money," he says, "because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time."

On Youtube, the video has gotten more than one million views. On Facebook, one posting of the video was shared over 200,000 times. Is this a whisper from within the masses of complacent consumers, breaking free of the amnesiac lullabies of monetary desire? Or has our ability to answer Watts' question been reduced to a like and a share?

Read more about Recycled Minds' exploration of similar ideas in this article about a world without money, this one about profiteering in academia, and this one on how Occupy is helping people out of debt.
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  1. Amy in a Log3:46 PM

    I always loved Alan Watts, and this short clip is a perfect reason why. Thanks for posting.

  2. Anonymous5:07 PM

    I appreciate this post, but isn't the entire idea a bit romantic? As you and Watts point out, people have been turned into consumers, and we've been reproducing this identity for at least a few generations now. The identity is so ingrained into our psyche that it's become normal. If you don't consume, you are an outcast. My question is how do we even begin to address and change this?

    1. only you can know3:48 PM

      Heed the call to be different!

  3. I hope it hasn't been reduced to a like or share...but I fear that may be the answer.


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