Mark and I recently finished our Fiji Meet Up with a small group of totally awesome people.
With the laughable US presidential election process taking place at exactly the same time, I have to say that our attendees spent their time far more productively than standing in a voting queue or sitting glued to the idiot box awaiting the irrelevant outcome.
Admittedly, it’s not difficult to spend your time more productively. One could have spent the week taking hallucinogenic drugs, howling at the moon or Tivo’ing some mindless prime time programming…all better options.
Voting, at this stage of the game is degrading, hazardous to your health and wealth and generally a complete waste of one’s valuable time. Personally I’d rather be caught on live TV wearing woman’s lingerie than be caught voting, but hey that’s just me.
At a pig roast we hosted on the beach one evening (a great way to spend some time, by the way) I found myself talking with a very interesting and insightful gentleman, a guest of ours at the Meet Up. The conversation fell to discussing how and why we bipeds spend money. He, like myself went through a period many years ago of buying “stuff” after making a pile of money. Human nature is a funny thing. It’s also consistent in its stupidity.
He recalled driving his Ferrari through some LA suburbs, decking his home out with the most sophisticated technology available amongst a number of other equally useless things, all the while thinking “wow how cool am I?”
He then mentioned a book to me and relayed its story. Not two days later I found myself reading that very book to my kids, a strange coincidence I attribute to the very powerful universal force of “fluke”. The book is a Dr. Seuss tale called “The Sneetches”.
The tale involves these creatures, Sneetches who live on a beach. One set of Sneetches have stars on their tummy’s while the others do not. Those with stars on their tummy’s consider themselves superior to those who have none. They are the “cool” crowd.
Those without stars feel the social pain of not being invited to the parties, not being admired by the populace and so forth.
Along comes “Mr. Fixit” who approaches the starless Sneetches and offers them a solution. For $3 they can go through his wonderful machine which will stamp a star on their tummy, making them identical to the “superior” crowd of Sneetches. Of course all the “star-less” Sneetches rush to join the “upper class”. This of course infuriates the Sneetches who originally had stars. No longer is their a distinction!
Always one to capitalize on an opportunity, back into town rolls Mr. Fixit, who offers to remove the stars from their (the original “starred” elite) tummy’s for $10. They of course rushed to his solution like lemmings of a cliff.
As the story progresses Mr. Fixit has Sneetches rushing in and out of his machine. Stars going on, stars coming off. In the end the Sneetches are thoroughly confused as to whether they should be with or without stars. Off into the sunset rides Mr. Fixit with a monstrous pile of money falling out of his bags. The Sneetches now all running around, thoroughly confused and bewildered as to their status.
Dr. Seuss was a genius. He understood human psychology incredibly well. What on earth are these stupid Sneetches doing? Well, it should be obvious that its nothing we humans are not doing ourselves, right now, every minute of every day.
Back to the gentleman I was talking with. In another instance he wandered into a Louis Vuitton store and looked at a jumper which had a price tag of US$2,000. He asked the shop assistant if he could have the jumper if he removed the label. The shop assistant was gobsmacked. I mean after all how much can a jumper really cost? At the top end you’re probably looking at a $200 jumper with an $1800 tag…ugh, I mean brand name.
Which brings me to my point…actually two points. The first is in determining what it is we really want and value in life. Is it some label on a jumper? A membership at a prestigious golf club? A Ferrari? Or, is it something else?
In case you haven’t noticed I could care less for branded anything. The only reason I’d have a golf membership would be to play golf. The only reason I’d have a Ferrari would be if I truly, really truly, enjoyed exotic sports cars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising these things. If you really like, want or just have to have something, go for it. Just make sure you understand the reason you want it.
What do you value? Do you like to travel? Do you want to live in a clean environment? Do you value personal safety above all else? Do you desire top-notch healthcare? I’m not sure most of us, myself included think about this often enough. Are we adjusting our paths regularly to ensure we’re still moving in the right direction according to our “true” values.
The second point is one of profit. Since we know that people are driven by these crazy superiority issues, we can seek to find opportunities to exploit that fact. Yes, I said exploit it. What price will people pay for a “star”? Let’s find out, shall we!
I’ll leave it at that for now. For further insight into this topic I recommend a classic book that most of you have likely heard of, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay. Everyone should read this book, and when your kids are old enough they should read it too.
Meanwhile I’ll finish up my visit here in Fiji, running around in my shorts and flip flops enjoying some of the simple things in life, like fruit off the trees, friendly people, sunny skies and clear blue ocean. For those that are sick of the mind-numbing consumerism, pointless politics and other folly out there in the “real” world, I invite you to check this place out. You may just never want to leave!
“Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable – as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead.” – Freidrich Schiller
Thank you, Chris. It is an amazing article! Why is human psychology so complicated, that the desire of power and supremity outweights the will to be happy…
Have a great day.
It sure does exist. Even I have been a dumbass before with this phenomenon. Its very powerful. I haven’t looked into it but I would guess that the highest margin businesses are in this space. The lottery is a great example as well.
As a capitalist I’m drawn to it. Like gambling I’d much rather be with the house than be a punter.
i just want decent quality food ( not have to worry if what i eat is going to kill me or cause diseases ) decent quality clothes ( don’t rip to shreds by just breathing on them!!!) and quality healthcare
“…nationalization is straight-forward…”
Or do you mean naturalization(or naturalisation, if you prefer)?
Sorry, commented to the wrong post…beg your pardon and please delete!