The Good Life?

Are Australian’s living the good life?

Australia really is the lucky country. At least when it comes to material prosperity. Measured by median wealth, we are the wealthiest nation in the world[1]. We are currently on a 28 year run of continuous economic growth, a feat achieved by no other developed nation on the planet[2]. And on just about every measure of prosperity, Australia constantly ranks near the top (we’re placed third on the United Nations Human Development Index, for example).

I’ve seen these trends play out in my life as well. Since I was a kid, the average expenditure on household consumption has doubled, even after removing inflation[3]. Growing up, it was a pretty big deal anytime someone went overseas. A feat of years of planning and saving! Eating out was a rare luxury (and there was no decent Vietnamese or Malaysian food anywhere, so who knows why we even tried). A big screen TV was a fat 60cm wide cube (I remember marvelling at my friends new, ‘giant’ 70cm TV!). The closest thing we had to air-conditioning in our 1980s Holden Kingswood was the occasionally functional, entirely non-electric window winders.

Now, many people think nothing of a last-minute jaunt overseas as part of their frequent global escapades. TV’s are now 8K ultra-high definition, super thin, and about the size of the biggest wall, you can find in your house.  Coffee culture is so prolific that your average workplace has a café no further than a 6-minute walk away[4]. And base model cars now come equipped with options that were the exclusive domain of super expensive top-end vehicles, or just as often, simply didn’t exist a decade or two ago. Australians are spending more money on more and better things and experiences than they ever have, and they’re doing it at rates higher than virtually everyone else in the world!

But here’s the tragic thing, advertisers, multinationals, pop-culture, politics and unwittingly our friends, peers and neighbours have convinced us that the good life is found in the accumulation of stuff and experiences. It’s the vision of the good life given to us by ‘consumerism’. On this measure, if any nation has mastered the good-life, it should be us. Yet the evidence suggests that if this is the good-life than something has gone deeply awry.

While our consumption has gone up, our happiness has flatlined. See graph. Worst yet our communities are fragmenting and our connectedness to one another is falling apart. 27.6% of Australians report that they are lonely, 30% report not being part of a group of friends and 47% of Australians feel that they don’t have any neighbours that they can rely on for help[5].

Most people would accept that ‘money and stuff’ is not enough for happiness – they would argue you need relationships too. But the power of consumerism has to been to convince us that without prioritising ‘money and stuff’, even if you have those relationships, you’ll never be happy. The result is we continue to get richer, to spend more and do more, yet our relationships and contentedness suffers.

It’s not just our relationships. For those of us that are Christian, Consumerism has become the great idol of our age. It’s impacting our discipleship, our witness, our connectedness to God, our ability to love others and care for the planet.

Matthew reminds us “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (6:24).

Unwittingly, we have found ourselves serving money and neglecting God. Our desire for more – more experiences, more stuff – distracts us from the call to build just societies, to be people of radical generosity, to care for our planet and to devote ourselves first and foremost to following God.

The need for Christians to reject consumerism’s version of the good life, and recapture the vision presented to us by God is urgent. It is a vision that is far deeper, richer and more liberating – a vision that has at its heart the call to live a life that is rich in love for God and for others and to share and steward the beauty and abundance of the Earth with all of God’s creatures.

Could you imagine what would happen if we devoted our time, our energy and our income to this vision? What impact that would have on our worship, or communities, and our world.

We want you to imagine, and create with us. Join us at consumed.org as we create a space together to earnestly pursue God’s vision of the good life.

References

[1] Credit Suisse (2018) Global Wealth Report

[2] Austrade (2018) Australia holds the world record for the longest period of growth among developed economies. https://www.austrade.gov.au/international/invest/investor-updates/2018/australia-holds-world-record-for-longest-period-of-growth-among-developed-economies

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Final Consumption Expenditure, Chain Volume Measures (divided by population size)

[4] Nationwide Galaxy Poll (2017), commissioned by Nespresso

[5] Australian Psychology Society and Swinburne University (2018) The Australian Loneliness Report

Gershon Nimbalker has over a decade experience in advocacy, writing reports, providing training, engaging media, advising political parties, and mobilising grass roots advocates towards justice. He is passionate about seeing the Church live out its call to be the Christ-centred, justice focused community we were created to be. 

1 Comment

Libby Wortmann – September 3, 2019

Hi Gershon, I heard you speaking on Vision radio today and have just signed up to the site. Thank you for following God’s leading in this area. There are so many christians who don’t realise this is happening. I’m a critical care nurse in my mid 50’s and live in a regional area. I will continue toread through the site and an excited by what I’ve read so far.

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