Dave Ramsey said something the other day regarding people's contradictory responses to making positive changes in different areas of their lives. He said that if someone makes a public statement about wanting to lose weight, others will openly and honestly support them. On the other hand, if someone makes a public statement about wanting to get out of debt, then others will openly and honestly discourage them, or respond with bewilderment.
In this culture, we certainly prefer easy, short-term fixes over long-term harvests, but both losing weight and getting out of debt are long-term projects. Both affect your mind and your body in some way; losing weight changes your energy level, resulting almost all the time in a happier, more satisfied disposition, and getting out of debt reduces stress levels which again, almost all the time, results in a happier, more content disposition. We could get into the biology of the matter, citing dopamine, serotonin, etc., but that is not necessary because this chemical cascade is an effect rather than a primary causes we deliberately initiated. Why the varying social responses?
Well, it does not take much to discover that these life-changing mechanisms sit on opposite ends of the social-reward/scorn tether. At this point in our society, we are very concrete in our evaluating of success, our rewarding of that success, and our communication. Again, we are encouraged to select immediate gratification and physical artifacts over long-term harvests and abstract artifacts. (Abstract artifacts are things like loyalty, trust, clear communication, and reciprocity; concepts that cannot be physically materialized, but guide and enlighten our interpersonal affairs). I need to be clear that this particular culture did not create these concrete leanings, yet it adopted them through generations and generations of historical and economical developments. Point being, our preference of concrete cues and artifacts over abstract cues and artifacts has set us up for wanting to participate in debt both as a process and product, because debt allows us to hold and experience that concrete object today, rather than saving up for it and having it some time in the future. Ever watched Star Trek and saw their matter replicators? Well, consumer debt is a concrete culture's matter replicator. We are waging sacrifice and sufferance genocide. And since a high FICO score has been marketed as being as healthy as your daily vitamins, then socially, there is very little downside to debt! It is healthy debt! Take your debt vitamin as often as you can because it allows you to be financially viable and healthy!
This concrete confluence of mechanisms makes me weary. Just the other day my mentor was talking with me about how it took him five years to reap the horticultural and landscaping effects of the effort he sowed. Five years. Who does that anymore? Well, people who are willing to put in the effort and suffer a little. And have patience. If you try and tell me that this concrete culture values patience and sufferance, then I will not believe you, nor much of anything you say. Thus, if Dave Ramsey's quote highlighted anything, it was that this culture is allergic to hard work that produces no immediate, concrete effects.
How can I say that? He highlighted that losing weight would be socially supported! Well, it is popular to lose weight right now because that fits this culture's image of beauty. Gyms are social cornucopias. Cross-fit is to today what aerobics was to the late 80's and early 90's. Getting rid of debt is not popular right now because debt has been marketed so well as both a process and a product that people actually forget how consumer debt was not created to exist on this level. Sixty years ago people only bought what they had cash for. No cash = patience. The whole point is that we are encouraged to think and act according to society's image of things, even though it may not reflect our own personal short- or long-term goal. I am not denouncing getting in shape, but I am posing the question as to why you are getting in shape, if you are. You say you do not want to be fat and out of breath all the time? Okay, I understand. But then I am going to continue that premise and ask what non-physical things you are doing to increase your well-being. Plant a garden? Meditate in nature? Talk with a friend or lover with cell-phones off? Become more intelligent so you can think more clearly?
Both losing weight and getting out of debt will make you healthier, but it is scary how we support one of vehemently, and respond so lukewarm or negatively to another. The fact that this hypocrisy exists means that we are not yet as a culture thinking for ourselves, using a compass that is not ours. Hence, you can lose all the weight you want and talk about health and long-term affects, but I am not going to believe you if you are addicted to, sympathetic to, or plan on encouraging the production and normalization of debt.
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