For readers and followers of this blog, for this series only if you wish to reblog An Inconvenient God in individual chapters or in its entirety, I am okay with this. I had foreseen this as being a book, but when I reached the end, I had said all there was for me to say and it is clearly not enough for a book.
At different points in each chapter I ask questions. I do not ask them in search of answers for myself because I already know where I stand. I ask them as catalyst for the reader to consider.
Chapter Four – Personal Instant Pleasure Syndrome
(PIPS and Pippies)
In the Beginning
Somewhere along the line shortly after World War II, values and morals changed. Where before Jews were keeping the Sabbath (Saturday) holy and the Christians keeping their Sabbath (Sunday) as the day for their religion to holy for the worship of God; someone introduced a virus that began eating away at not only this day of rest, but also other moral issues addressed in the Holy Bible and Torah.
One of the issues was the young generation at the time that flushed the thought of monogamous relationships down the toilet. The hippy movement convinced many people that promiscuity was completely fine. The whole west coast of the United States turned into one large Sodom and Gomorrah. Besides trading sexual partners on a frequent basis, many turned to illegal drugs to avoid facing reality.
About the same time, business owners started worshipping currency over religion. They campaigned and lobbied to be allowed to have their businesses open seven days a week in states where businesses were not allowed to be open on Sunday before. For some reason state legislators agreed with them (wonder if the transference of monetary funds from business owners to politicians had anything to do with this decision.)
With businesses open on Sunday, owners needed employees to operate the businesses. Employees were given choices to keep the Sabbath and lose their jobs or keep their jobs that paid bills and lose the ability to attend worship services. Later, laws were passed to protect people of faith from having to work on religious days, but owners found ways to work around those laws to get rid of people who would not work whenever and where ever they were told to.
Not only were people forced to forgo religious service because they were scheduled to work, the one day of the week when both parents were home and family activities could be planned was ripped apart by the new laws thereby tearing away at the family unit.
Yet, many of these same business owners sit in the synagogue or church on the appropriate day to give the impression that they are following God, while their employees are forced to work on the Holy day. This is the greatest hypocrisy that I can think of. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
Add to this the advertising scheme that became very popular in the 1970’s. The ploy that was used was to convince consumers that to be happy, they had to have the luxuries that were normally only found in more financially influential homes. There was no longer the need to save for luxuries that you wanted because now you could get a piece of plastic with your name on it that told merchants that you had more buying power than what you had before. Just to make sure that this new guise took hold, the advertising agencies started a two-step plan. The first step was to convince families that if BOTH parents work, there would be more income in the household to qualify for a larger credit line; and the second was informing consumers that they now had “disposable income” because of the extra income. One of the side effects that they failed to tell the consumers is with both parents working; someone else would be raising your children. The chasm in family life grew larger because not only were the “parents” not parenting and passing on their moral values, they were relying on someone else, who was often not related and not checked out to do that for them.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) If you are working hard to earn money for the luxuries here instead of working to meet you and your family’s basic needs and then concentrating on your family, your heart is also bound to the superficial luxuries, not the important issues.
Factors contributing to the PIPS:
- Ambulance chasers. We now live in an era of don’t work things out between you and whomever did you wrong; sue the party responsible. If the party responsible for wronging you isn’t financially wealthy, sue the nearest company associated with that person because they have deeper pockets. If you sue a person who did something wrong to you, the chances of getting much are slim, but if you sue a company associated with the party that did you wrong they will likely settle out of court as it is cheaper than fighting the suit in court. This rolled over into making up allegations in order to get out of court settlements to get money to pay for the lifestyle you want but not have earned. These law firms are frequently seen on TV telling people that they can get them more for their suit than any other agency.
- Advertising Agencies. One of the first times I ever heard the phrase “disposable income” I couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve years old. I asked my father what the people on TV meant by “disposable income” and he responded with “that’s extra income that families really don’t need so they can buy fun things that make life more interesting.” I asked him if mom and he had extra money and he replied that they did. I told him that if he didn’t need it he could give it to me because I definitely did not have disposable income. It didn’t work, but the thought of people having “disposable income” to this day does not set well with me.
I have income that exceeds my needs, but I am known to frequently “dispose” of it in means that does not end up with me coming home with “stuff”. Whether I buy popcorn sold by the Boy Scouts or sponsor someone who is collecting sponsors for a charity, I often find myself without extra income at the end of the month.
One of my philosophies is “If at the end of the month you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and you have not gone hungry, and the bills are paid, the extra is needed elsewhere.” Another is “Wealth is not measured by the amount of worldly goods you amass while you are here, but by how long and how fondly you are remembered after you are gone.”
- Plastic Cash. At first, to get a credit card, you had to have large quantities of cash in a bank account somewhere to ensure that the lending institution would get its funds back that you spent. Over the years the amount of cash you had to have squirrelled away grew smaller and smaller.
More recently I saw credit card companies requiring nothing and offering college students credit cards when they had no income. Young adults would get the cards and then pay the cards which were charging 18% to 26% interest off with student loans. If the credit card holders did not pay the complete balance off in the month that it was borrowed, they could end up paying so much more. I did the calculations one time on a cup of designer brand coffee. If you paid $3.50 for a large cup of said coffee and kept a large balance you were paying $0.07 in interest on the cup of coffee alone every month until you paid the credit card off. If you took a year to pay off the whole balance of the card, you paid an additional $0.94 for that cup of coffee raising the price to $4.44. But the college students were not ending it there, they were taking out college loans at lower interest rates to pay off the annual balance so that cup of coffee which is now at $4.44 won’t be paid off for 10 years but at least now the interest is down to 6% per year. I met a student at the university that told me that he puts all his food on a credit card during the year pays the minimum balance each month and when his next student loan comes in pays off the balance on the card. He is majoring in economics, but I am sure he has to be failing with this as his practice.
The lending institutions and card companies were living high on the hog with our money that they, along with the advertising agencies and been able to convince us was extra money that was disposable.
- Are the lending institutions and card companies any different than the money changers at the temple?
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13)
What our parents, grandparents and other ancestors and scrimped and saved to buy, we were now buying without investing anything into the purchase.
- What did this teach us?
It taught us that we didn’t have to live within our means; and it taught us that the value of working for and earning what we wanted was not important.
- Where is value perceived, in the item that we acquired with no effort, or the item we worked and saved to have the money to buy it?
The item that was acquired without effort will not be valued as much as the value of the item that we invested our own sweat and toil for because in the latter we have built objective and subject equity into it before we own it.
It did not take long before the flood gates of financial doom burst open when people started realizing that they had spent more than they could afford to pay back. Bankruptcies skyrocketed and families that had always been able to live comfortably were now looking at losing their homes, cars and jobs because they were upside down on debt. This dilemma I coined as the PIPS (Personal Instant Pleasure Syndrome) and the people affected by this syndrome “Pippies”.
It is sometimes called “Keeping up with the Joneses” which is befitting because people were scarfing up items that they didn’t need, but someone else they knew had bought one and therefore they could not see how they could be without it.
Proverbs 21:20 says “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but the foolish man swallows it up.” Had we been in church and saving towards items we wanted instead of working on the Sabbath to pay back what we owe to the plastic card companies we might have known this verse and turned our backs on the snake oil salesmen and the plastic merchants. But as it is, we were Pippies.
Another scheme in advertising was to come out with limited issues of items and focus the advertising on children. From Cabbage Patch Dolls, Teddy Ruxpins, and Pong games in the beginning to cell phones, gaming systems and vehicles now, just to name a few, there are two generations that have been born and grew up only knowing how to be Pippies.
Too Labor Intensive
On a forum I frequent the question of faith came up and was being discussed by the members. With all the comments being posted, the one I found most telling was when one member stated “If I believe in God, I would have to spend too much time reading and learning which would cut into the things I like to do because life is too short as it is.” He is saying that investing in the future is too labor intensive as it interferes with the now.
This condition was described by Saint Augustine in the early fifth century AD in his book The City of God. He wrote that some people live in the city of man and some in the city of God. Those who live in the city of man are only concerned with worldly goods as where the ones living in the city of God are not worried about worldly goods and invest in their future after leaving this world.
I feel the necessity to extend on St. Augustine’s writing and say those who live in the city of man are fully vested in living and dying here in the city of man. Those who are vested in the city of God may have to work here in the city of man, but are commuting from the city of God.
Another example of Pippie activity is when a Pippie will cut corners in other ways to get what they want without regard to others. An example of is the mining operations in the Appalachian Mountains where mine owners strip the land using hazardous chemicals and let those chemicals wash downstream poisoning not only employees and their families, but also other families too.
But as you can clearly see, Pippies have no time to save for the future as they only know how to live in the now.
- Where does the fault lie for PIPS? Is it the advertising agencies that tell us to get it now, or is it in us?
- Is being a Pippie something that is a problem in our society or is it quite acceptable and a non-issue?
- Is Personal Instant Pleasure even an issue as you see it?