Health is the new wealth

I grew up during the rise of mass consumerism. We have been told that we have a right to happiness and that this can be achieved through purchasing products and services. Bombarded with commercial messages that sell us illusions we have started to express our identity in material things. We have come to believe that we are what we buy, what we do and what we have.

Our world is one big candy store and temptation is everywhere. Every empty moment of the day must be filled with a moment of consumption. Marketers are constantly selling us the idea that we need something to be better, prettier, smarter or happier. We outsource part of our self-esteem to online validation. This flow of stimuli and expectations has lead to a burned out society.

Focusing on our own ego and deriving our identity from items and image takes effort and provides little satisfaction. A dangerous combination that can lead to chronic stress, a major threat to our health. It poses an increased risk of all kinds of diseases and disorders and is not battled like the coronavirus, but rather accepted in our society. An 80-hour work week and a packed schedule are associated with success. Anyone who aspires to become a director, politician or lawyer is forced to take this unhealthy lifestyle for granted.

Our belief that success must come at the expense of another is shaped by neoliberal thinking. Growth is infinite and competitive advantage is the best way to achieve this. We have therefore become blind to the infinite value of helping each other. Remarkable, because a company always starts with an idea to help someone else with a product or service, after all, that is how market potential is determined.

The misery is caused by the fact that we do not strive for a profit from which we can live well, but put everything into action to earn as much as possible. The sky is the limit is the motto and costs must be kept down in order to stay ahead of the competition.

We are increasingly aware that for cheap raw materials or services people are systematically exploited and nature is heavily taxed, but because it does not affect us personally, consciousness remains safely hidden under a protective layer of excuses and looking away. We can justify to ourselves that thousands of people die of hunger every day, while we have a pile of savings in the bank. Our savings account has become a tool to keep our fear of suffering under control. This fear is an inheritance from our parents, who in turn inherited it from their parents.

The idea that we can be saved with financial means has become obsolete due to the new corona virus. We may have always known that not money, but our health is our wealth, but for the first time in our lives we are experiencing what this really means.

In the quarantine period, we observe that the air clears up without air traffic and we learn that we can directly influence the climate problem. During the social isolation we realize that we do not so much miss the cafes, but the physical presence of the people we went there with. And we experience how essential and natural it is to help each other without expecting anything in return.

The coronavirus is not only a way for Mother Nature to protect against our excess, it is also a message to help us understand that a significant reduction in incentives and the return of a good dose of socialism to society is needed for less stressful, healthier and therefore richer life.

Words by Nadine Ridder / Photo by Pando Com

This article was published in Dutch in Het Parool

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