Further Thoughts on Fight Club.
I recently rewatched Fight Club. The last time I watched it must have been years ago, and I also wrote an essay on the philosophy of Fight Club.
This time I wanted to specifically focus on the critique that Fight Club has on the modern consumerist society. What was true in 1999 is even more true in the twenty-first century:
We’re a society full of consumerists.
It is no surprise that many countries measure their progress via GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which is the total value of all the products and services that have been bought and sold.
We’re hooked into this idea that economic growth is good, often at whatever cost to the people who are part of the economy. Economists in the early part of the twentieth century believe that by now we would be working only a handful of hours a week, because of the large productivity gains.
But, that hasn’t happened. We’ve found new things to work, and the rat race continues.
Surely we should find and focus on better measures than GDP to measure the health and progress of a nation. Surely we should find and focus on better measures than the amount of money in our bank accounts to measure the progress of our lives.
A good rule for how much money one needs in life is this:
You need enough money so that you stop worrying about it.
That’s a healthy amount. It doesn’t mean enough so you can have everything you want — that is dangerous, and it also takes away the pleasure of life. If there is something you want, and you cannot yet afford it, it means that you need to save. This means that you need to forgo other opportunities for that thing. This, in turn, ensures that big expenses in your life are the things that you truly care about.
If you can have anything, without waiting and without effort, it can easily turn into a situation where nothing has any value.
Needing lots of money also makes us dependent on society. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and passive income is mostly a myth. So, if you want a regular income of money, you are likely going to have to trade some of your time and mental effort towards. If you’re lucky enough to have the right type of work, this may not be a problem. For many people, work is just a means to an end, and so it makes sense to spend as little time as possible working.
Reducing the amount of money you need is a great way to ensure that you do not need to work too much doing things you don’t like.
If we stop and think about it, advertisements essentially say that if you do x, you’ll be happy. Drink a beer, you’ll be happy. Have a KitKat, you’ll be happy.
But everyone knows that the positive feelings we get when we go shopping are fleeting at best. If we take the default approach to life, we will soon start to despise the very things that we want wanted, and then we want something new. A better approach is to cherish what we already have, and be grateful that we have it.
We want to ensure that the things we own, don’t end up owning us.
A blink of an eye ago, in evolutionary terms, we were hunters. Now, we’re shoppers. But, the problem is that we still have the same hardware and software for a hunter-gatherer society, not a consumerist one.
But, we are where we are. The answer is not to place dynamite in our apartments and burn everything that we own. There is a middle path, where we consume as little as we can want and as much as we truly need.
The key is to find things in life that are not just fleeting sources of pleasure, but that give us lasting satisfaction. This could be our relationships, our hobbies, or our work.
It’s important to have goals and dreams in life. But it’s more important to focus on the journey, rather than the destination. The key is to enjoy the ride. We should also focus on experiences, not things. Things can be lost, or stolen, or broken. But experiences are ours to keep for life.
And finally, we should remember that the best things in life are free. Laughing with friends, watching the sunset, taking a walk in the park — these are all things that money cannot buy.
So, let’s focus on the things that truly matter in life.