Things are "totems, stand-ins for psychological/spiritual needs", says Dave Roberts (via gristmill).
So, 'voluntary simplicity' misses the point of consumerism if it focuses only on giving up our things, right?
The point, says Roberts, is to find "alternative ways to provide people the sense of belonging, security and status” that we believe things can provide.
What's striking about the "frenzied grasping for stuff" is not the stuff but the frenzied grasping.
“We seem perpetually unfulfilled, convinced that new or other or more stuff will fill the holes inside us.…And that’s the hole in sustainability thinking about changing behavior.
What people most need is a sense of purpose, security, and community; to be loved by a circle of family and friends; physical health.
“It's a bitter irony”, opines Roberts, “that our pursuit of the transient pleasures of consumption pushes us into lifestyles that make the things we really need more and more remote.”
Recognize anyone in this picture?
Roberts thinks we should be asking different questions:
- How can we meliorate the anxieties of modern life in other ways?
- How can we rebuild communities and ensure that everyone is part of one?
- How can we ensure that everyone feels loved and valued and safe?
- How can we provide people with a sense of purpose and meaning?
This is a much tougher undertaking, but, says Roberts,Â "if you want 'behavior change' as a route to environmental health, that's the task before you."