A bicycle, four bags, a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, iPhone, GoPro, mp3 player, earphones, a head torch, two books, a diary, an improvised stove and some clothing. That was just about everything in my possession. Every morning I needed a maximum of 25 minutes to pack it all together. It was so little that the impact of losing something was very small. It felt liberating.
Only the reality was that I secretly, really secretly, was always thinking that it would be really comfortable to stretch out in a hot foamy bath somewhere in a luxury hotel.
I’m part of a transition generation. And by transition I mean the transition to a digital age. I’m from the generation that grew up without the use of any internet and computers. In the last decades, time has gotten a complete different dimension with the development of those computers and the internet. Everything has become extremely productive. We are living in a huge performance economy. Just about everything in the larger cities radiates success. I scroll over my social media timeline and it makes me uncomfortable. Should I not work harder? Have more success? Train more? Do more good for this world?
Never before in history has human development and our information gone so fast. Information was limited a while ago. Now it’s everywhere. I used to listen carefully to my grandparents. They told me which values are important and that there is always something greater than myself, namely a God to build on. Their wisdom of life was one of the few and important sources of information and therefore very influential. If my father tells me something now, I will first check Google to see if it’s true what he is saying. And I also do that with the doctor’s advice, that all goes under the large internet magnifying glass.
In my younger years it was different. I remember that after a long whining, my parents had purchased the Amigo 500. I had to put in a floppy disk. After some squeaking and crackling, a checkered screen appeared. Dyna Blaster. I loved Dyna Blaster. I ran a small creature around with a joystick and pressed a large red button with which I could place bombs. A simple but ingenious game and I have played it quite some time.
The computers developed rapidly and in my teens I was already busy chatting via MSN. MSN became WhatsApp, Hyves became Facebook and Facebook now has become Instagram. And that while my mother just recently understands what all those buttons and icons on Facebook are for.
The internet has made our lives faster than ever. The quality of our lives has improved so much in this decades. And in this development, capitalism has made a huge leap in the Western world. Among other things, it was Sigmund Freud in the nineteenth century who brought us an important insight into personal development and how we make decisions.
These theories were not only used for medical treatments but are also commercialized in American and European society with global influence. Give the people what they want, was probably the first thought. Do people know what they want? People can only choose from what they know and what they know can be influenced. Not my words, this is what Edward Bernays understood all too well by making money with the insights of his uncle Sigmund. Edward understood very well how to manipulate the subconscious. He created entire marketing theories in the United States. The idea was that if you identify with a product, it can have a therapeutic value. It improves your self-image and you become a more confident person with a better life.
The goal was to change society by reinforcing the desire for a product or service in people and thus maximizing profit.
To this day, his work has had a major impact on Western society. Fortunately, the unashamed manipulation of the subconscious of people that was going on in the 1920s is now a bit more modest. It is now beginning to become clear to most people that if you strengthen the desire in materialism on a large scale, economic and ecological problems cannot be foreseen in the long term. Rules are increasing, governments are regulating better and information is more visible.
Interestingly, individualism has become a very central thing. The focus on freedom, dreams and personal development has increased considerably. This is very good in many areas, but also requires great responsibility from oneself.
My subconscious is stimulated by responding to my need and shaping my need. In products and services with, for example, a more luxurious holiday, a better car, a better laptop. When I open my Instagram app I get an advertisement for water-repellent socks. I’m reminded that it is time to pick up my Spanish again. A little later I’m motivated to fully upgrade my tent and wild camping ideas to a tiny beach house.
All this has a considerable influence on my needs, on what I want.
That demandingness, pressure and abundance of information is something we can learn to protect ourselves against. We can filter information and thereby check our needs in a responsible and modest way. I think this is important but impossible without having a certain greater purpose in mind. I think the less clear that greater purpose is, the sooner we become embroiled in unhealthy materialistic habits and thus get lost in that demanding, busy and abundant information. In the long term this will increase an empty feeling inside of us. There is really too much to want to be able to focus on, so focusing on specific goals within a greater purpose is not only valuable but something that will hold us together.
I constantly have to ask myself whether I really need something. Whether the problem I’m made aware of is justified. That my current socks work great and that I really love to sleep in a tent. Protecting myself from the impulses that create a feeling of satiety that is always temporary and finite.
We always focus on things that interest us, that we are looking for or that we want. I believe this is a natural instinct of human beings. Satisfaction is therefore always temporary. If we are always satisfied and never want to go from point a to point b, we end up in a meaningless world. So the real question here is how can we get hope from the future without compromising in what we have. I mean on an emotional level by looking at our imperfect self and accepting who and what we are. Don’t let ourselves be tempted in extremes of status and power. Learning to appreciate the privileges that we have and to strive for improvement of ourself and our community.
It is very powerful to strive in a healthy way for improvement. With an open mind. To better understand the world. Searching for truth and discovering new truth again and again. Always asking ourselves, what are our true values and what will give us hope? What do we really need and what not?