Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message

Affluenza, as it is defined by the authors, is “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”

Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Nicole Chilton | 2008-04-02 01:00:00-06

Book review: Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, Second Edition by John De Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor

In a world already filled with so much stuff, there seems to be an ever increasing push to obtain the bigger and the better. Americans consume more fuel, food and products than any other country in the world, but are also plagued with stress-related illness, depression and overall poor health. For a country that seems so rich, why are we so poor? With the speed at which lightweight living is progressing, it is natural to look for a reason for such enthusiasm and ask what may be driving some people to take their lightweight backpacking skills and apply them to their lives. According to authors John De Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor, the probable reason is also the name of their book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic .

Affluenza, as it is defined by the authors, is “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” This condition is categorized by numerous symptoms, both emotional and physical, but the most powerful and lasting symptom, according to the authors, is the lack of purpose and joy in people’s lives. Americans buy and buy and buy and never quite seem to reach that feeling of contentment. In fact, they tend to feel terrible, weighed down by the excess existing in their lives. The book cites numerous examples of people who have realized that the accumulation of things, such as power and wealth, have only made them miserable and discontent. They only find happiness when they lighten up their lives and rid themselves of that which “you can’t take with you when you go.”

The book, which at times feels like an overwhelming experience in and of itself, jumps from one topic to the next, chronicling and calculating the expanding way of life in America, and how it is making people sick. The motivations for buying too much, the current family system, analysis of the social structure and even an Affluenza Self-Diagnosis Test are included in the text. Provided with an almost intrusive collection of facts and statistics, the authors morbidly cover and deconstruct the crucial error in the fabric of the American culture: we simply carry too much.

The information, regardless of how overwhelming the book may seem at times, is of extreme importance and value, especially to Americans today. Going lighter (although those exact words are not used in the book) is the message. To seek out, appreciate, and foster that which cannot be purchased is provided as a method for a better life, though the authors achieve this by stuffing the book full of facts, figures and shock-value anecdotes. It is supersized, if you will. In the end, the book is still able to provide something to the public that seems elusive in this era: perspective. In two hundred forty-seven jolting pages (and that is before the forty-one pages of notes, a bibliography, sources and a complete index) it manages to cut through the never-ending onslaught and spin of advertising, finally presenting to the consumer the world as it is, not as it is marketed.


Citation

"Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message," by Nicole Chilton. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/affluenza_book_review.html, 2008-04-02 01:00:00-06.

Print

Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Username:
Password:
Remember my login info.

Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message


Display Avatars
Sort By:
Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/01/2008 21:51:34 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Advanced TMS on 04/01/2008 22:50:24 MDT Print View

TMS= Too Much ummm STUFF.

I've seen it in so many ways. My wife and I were talking about the mortgage crisis and home much homes have gone up. We grew up in the 1960's and I remember by parents buying a 1200 square-foot-per-floor split level tract house for $19,000 in 1966. That was a four bedroom two, bath house (after we finished the basement).

I live in the city rather than the suburbs now, and many of the houses around me were built in the late 1940's, to take advantage of the housing opportunities provided by the GI Bill for WWII veterans. Most of those houses were quite small by today's standards--- 850 or 900 square feet on the main floor, 2 bedrooms and one bath. A big one might be 3 bedrooms and 1 and 1/2 bath. The kitchen, dining room, living room, etc were all smaller too. Those houses were built with 60amp electrical services too-- the minimum today is 200 amps and 400 amps is not at all unusual. Electric dryers tipped the scale to be sure, but when you look at those post-war houses, they have very few outlets-- it wasn't a priority.

I think that is a good paradigm for the changes in the last half of the 20th Century in the US. We have more cars, several televisions, a couple computers, microwaves, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Our cars are a good example of the same. My first car was a 1961 Chevrolet Impala. 283 V-8, 2 speed automatic transmission, manual windows, AM radio-- pushbutton tuning was a big deal, no air conditioning. It did have power steering. It was $300 in 1971 with about 50,000 miles on it and it had a fresh set of Sears radials-- quite a new type of tire then.

Years ago I started a thread on my BBS about simple living and being able to get by with the basics. I came up with the idea of giving everyone a box that was a one meter cube and all your personal possessions had to go in that box. The other forum members said it was impossible. I don't think so and I'm working towards it-- cleaning out my closets and paring down my "stuff." I'm going to get a washing machine box and start there.

There is a photo of the total worldly possessions of Mohandas Gandhi when he died.



It says it all: one of the most respected men on the planet and he left behind a couple pairs of sandals, a book, his glasses, a couple bowls, a cotton spinner, and three ceramic monkeys.

I've run through this exercise several times over the years and it is exactly like making an ultralight gear list. You are getting down the the essentials for sustaining yourself. It is very enlightening to sit down and say, "how many pairs of socks do I need?"

There are many books and Web sites on the concept. Search on "simple living".

I think I've brought it up here before. You might think this is anti-materialism, but I call it hyper-materialism, particularly when we talk abut ultralight hiking. Performance with light weight is the issue. We want only the essentials, and those must be the best in terms of weight and performance-- keeping the heat in, the rain and hot sun out, covering as many uses as possible and so on. We can take the same principles to everyday life in picking transportation, communication gear, entertainment, and so on.

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/01/2008 23:03:07 MDT.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
These days on 04/02/2008 02:28:58 MDT Print View

I find myself wanting to cut back on the stuff I own too. I thought it was my age, but maybe it is just the modern world that overwhelms us from every corner. The mail we get is horrendous, important (need to save) paperwork overflows file cabinets, inboxes are full of e-mail. And that doesn't include anything we purchase!

I have found myself purchasing less and less stuff, especially this last year.

Well, that is EXCEPT backpacking stuff.
Truth be told, I have also cut back on that, because I've finally come to the point I only purchase the good stuff that I really want. I've come to the point I can bring myself to pay $60 for the good wool shirt I want instead of buying 4 synthetics that I'm not really satisfied with for $15 each because they are cheap. I'll get a ton more wear out of that one good wool shirt than all four of the others, and it takes up less space!

Come to think of it, maybe that is part of the reason many of us are always buying stuff - we don't buy what we really want because there is always something cheaper that semi-fills the need. Then, since we aren't totally satisfied, we buy again, and again...

Pam

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Advanced TMS on 04/02/2008 07:53:20 MDT Print View

21) He who understands the limits of life knows that things which remove pain arising from need are easy to obtain, and furnish a complete and optimal life. Thus he no longer needs things that are troublesome to attain.
15) Natural wealth is both limited and easily obtained, but vanity is insatiable.

- Epicurus (331-270 B.C.)

from the Principal Doctrines
http://www.epicurus.info/etexts/PD.html
one of my all time favorites!

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: These days on 04/02/2008 08:26:36 MDT Print View

"Come to think of it, maybe that is part of the reason many of us are always buying stuff - we don't buy what we really want because there is always something cheaper that semi-fills the need. Then, since we aren't totally satisfied, we buy again, and again..."

I've seen similar comments on many 'simplify your life' articles. I tend to agree, by attempting to save money we actually spend more. Frugality / Simplicity =/= Cheap Living. It's about a mindset not about buying the cheapest possible.

Anyhow, this sounds like a very interesting book. It's going on my toread list, and I'll probably have my wife read it after I do.

Kevin Shannon
(kmshannon) - F
Money is the root on 04/02/2008 08:40:15 MDT Print View

If you truly want to simplify your life, you first must get rid of your money. How many people out there remember what their life was like as a poor college student? I do, and I miss that simplicity.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Money is the root on 04/02/2008 08:52:36 MDT Print View

If you truly want to simplify your life, you first must get rid of your money. How many people out there remember what their life was like as a poor college student? I do, and I miss that simplicity.

For any of you that want to get rid of your money keep me in mind. If you are serious PM me and I'll send you my mailing address - personal checks and cash welcome :?)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Money is the root on 04/02/2008 09:29:16 MDT Print View

Kevin wrote: "If you truly want to simplify your life, you first must get rid of your money. How many people out there remember what their life was like as a poor college student? I do, and I miss that simplicity."

The simple part was good, but I was really poor and that sucked. Eating well was a challenge and no medical/dental insurance was a BAD thing. I do remember being able to move in less than one pickup load and that was great. Now I've been living in the same house for 21 years and it's getting scary. Time for a garage sale!

As some others mentioned simple is not equal to cheap. Being too poor to buy cheap is a concept that many poor people have grasped.

Thoreau's chapter Economy in his book Walden says it all and he saw this all coming in what-- 1847? You can download it at Gutenberg Press in text format for free. Thoreau was an early ultralighter :)

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/02/2008 09:34:25 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Money is the root on 04/02/2008 09:29:20 MDT Print View

"How many people out there remember what their life was like as a poor college student? I do, and I miss that simplicity."

I don't miss it one bit. Yeah, I lived in a nasty old apartment in an old moldy damp Victorian house. I worked for minimum wage. I ate a horrid diet - I was to poor to afford good food. I had no health insurance or even a Dr. The E room was where you went when you got sick in winter. One winter we turned off the frig becuase we had no heat and the house was colder than the frig. I'd fall asleep in college classes that winter becuase it was warm. I slept in a sleeping bag on foam mattress - I had given my bed to a friend who had gotten pregnant and felt she needed it.

Yeah, I don't think so. Simplicity can be sooooo overrated.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
RE; "money is the root..." on 04/02/2008 09:46:02 MDT Print View

My father passed away not long ago after living a life based on the principal that "he who dies with the most toys wins". He left behind five Harley Davidsons, a couple Honda Gold Wings, a Corvette and other toys to numerous to list. He had fun, died relatively young (by todays standards) and left all of his toys behind.

Any BPL member that had an opportunity to look at my gear closet would surely say "like father like son".

Maybe I need a GAA group, Gear Affluenza Anonymous, but in place of the standard twelve step program I would want to yo-yo the process and make it twenty four steps. More is always better right?

I remember an argument I had with my father when I was younger. I recall arguing that I would rather be poor and happy than rich and unhappy. His reply was he'd rather be rich and unhappy than poor and unhappy.

Edited by thomdarrah on 04/02/2008 10:04:01 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
affluenza book - yet another item to buy on 04/02/2008 10:49:27 MDT Print View

While in the wilderness at night, I do my best reflecting on my excesses when I'm cozy in my cocoon pajamas under my luxurious quilt under my silnylon roof propped up by carbon fiber sticks secured by titanium stakes. Then rising with the glorious sun, I am one with nature burning twigs in my bushbuddy to boil water in my titanium pot. Ah, the light, "simple" life is good.

Based on the book review, the ugly Americans just won't stop acting like humans. Imagine if countries like India and China acted like humans. Or maybe they do. No wonder oil ain't cheap no more not to mention food prices, etc. The real problem, in my opinion, is more than an American issue, it is global. The real problem is not about simplification, it is about understanding sustainability. Like the mortgage melt down, so will become all unsustainable human behavior. A new book on an old subject only adds to the number of books. I will follow the idea of the book from the review: I will not buy it, and instead I will stick with Thoreau's Walden paperless free download from Project Gutenberg...

"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again."

I'm not an anti-simple-life person, but know that what humans really need to do won't be done because we're humans. It's just the way we are. I for one will enjoy as much as I can while it lasts, but also will do what I can to live simplier and lighter.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/02/2008 11:09:15 MDT Print View

Well there has been quite a response to this article but I have to wonder why is Backpackinglight doing book and web reviews that have nothing to do with backpacking or even directly with being outdoors.

Just because the reviewer found a way to use the term "go lighter" does not IMO make this a suitable topic for BPL. If someone was to post this review in the forums it would belong in Chaff as its not on topic.

Don't get me wrong. I think this is a fine topic of discussion. I just don't see why I'm paying BPL for this.

Edited by nschmald on 04/02/2008 11:12:35 MDT.

Matthew Robinson
(mcjhrobinson) - F

Locale: Waaay West
re: affluenza on 04/02/2008 11:31:25 MDT Print View

this book looks like a real good read, id really like to read some of the facts.

ive been going light after college. i loved computers (still do but not fanatic) and really wanted to get into network security. a job which would require me to be indoors. i ended up dropping out of my college after having TOO much fun. looking back it might have been bad for the body but good for the soul. i got a job doing yard maint. and found a deep appreciation for plants, which bloomed into a love for the outdoors. ive been doing some sort of landscape work ever since.

in contrast my girlfriend was going to school to be an xray tech, she graduated and hated all her jobs and would come home miserable while id be chipper as ever. i dont think i could ever work indoors for too long (unless i worked in a gear shop!).

ive always been a firm believer that with money doesnt always come happiness. ive never owned furniture, ive owned a car once but gave it away because it was too expensive. im trying to sit here and pinpoint exactly what makes me not need things but its hard to do. i suppose mostly its because i never had enough money to buy lots of things and gradually adjusted to it. when your monthly income is 1600/mo and rent+bills+food = 1400/mo you really dont have money to go buying any old thing and learn to appreciate what you do have.

currently my girlfriend and i are driving across the country and back, then to alaska. our house is a honda element (hers/ours?). ive had to cut down ALL my clothes and stuff to the bare minimum, and so has she. all i have now is my gear and my guitar. this is probably the least amount of stuff ive ever had and im still chipper as ever.

i guess i dont really have a point but i thought id share my thoughts/experiences.

also, a sweedish friend of mine said he had to spend 2 weeks in the wilderness as part of his military training that he said all sweedish men must go through (i havent done any research). but anyways he said it opened his eyes to a world with less stuff. aloha!

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
I can think of one "thing" I'll dump soon enough on 04/02/2008 14:33:26 MDT Print View

My subscription to this website when it expires.

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: I can think of one "thing" I'll dump soon enough on 04/02/2008 14:37:38 MDT Print View

I thought that you had just renewed based on a great article??
I guess one can't have it all ...

Darin Banner
(dbanner) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Re: I can think of one "thing" I'll dump soon enough on 04/02/2008 15:03:09 MDT Print View

I'm curious; what about this article has you so upset?

Peter Fogel
(pgfogel) - F

Locale: Western Slope, Colorado
affluenza on 04/02/2008 15:33:34 MDT Print View

This is truly a universal principal. It applies equally as well to one's backpack as it does to one's life experiences. I find it to be a most appropriate topic here. Do not become discouraged by the comments of any individual. Remember: One man's junk may very well be another man's treasure. We each find our own way through Life. Take only as little as you need and leave the rest for others that may follow.

Peter

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/02/2008 16:11:25 MDT Print View

Quoting Nia:
"Well there has been quite a response to this article but I have to wonder why is Backpackinglight doing book and web reviews that have nothing to do with backpacking or even directly with being outdoors."

I, for one, asked for more of this type of content...how the principals of lightweight hiking might apply to other areas of life in general. I'm sure I wasn't the only one or this article wouldn't be here. So you might as well blame me. I'm glad this website is moving in some small way towards more of a whole concept as opposed to strictly an 'online toolbox' for backpackers.

Personally, I'd try to look at it as a bonus. Or, maybe an expansion of a concept beyond the presentation to which you are normally accustomed to receiving those messages. I think these ideas (that are discussed in Affluenza) are as much about hope and enlightenment that do require positive thinking to realize them.

Besides, how many articles can you read about alcohol stoves or the water permeability of eVent fabric? Isn't there room for anything else?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/02/2008 16:48:38 MDT Print View

And I thank Ryan for 1) starting the thread, and 2) starting it in Editors Roundtable.

When I come into BPL I typically hit "Last 50 Posts" to see what's up, or by going directly to a Gear Forum I can skip the Chaff, Philosophy, and non-gear discussions.

Suggestion:

I find that BPL forums are head and shoulder above the rest in terms quality and content, and most importantly, is populated with a courteous and informed membership willing to help each other.

My experience here is less than 6 months. But during that time I have noticed two glaring issues. First, threading is non-existent. Second, there appears to be no active moderators maintaining the “rules of the road”.

When threads run amuck (as I am doing here) it results in wasted time and then general frustration. Until the threading issue is resolved, moderators could do a lot to keep us on the straight and narrow. When the subject digresses move it to Chaff or Philosophy. Once threading becomes real their workloads will diminish, but they still need to keep an eye on things. By stepping in, they remind us of the general rules of conduct as well as maintain some sense of order.

Edited by greg23 on 04/02/2008 16:53:48 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/02/2008 17:08:12 MDT Print View

Qouting Russell:
"I'm glad this website is moving in some small way towards more of a whole concept as opposed to strictly an 'online toolbox' for backpackers."

When I pay for information I expect the source of that info to be in expert in the subject. The staff at BPL has the credentials to claim expertise in light weight backpacking.

The site had real value to me because the staff actually was out using and refining the information they wrote about.

I'm not aware of the BPL staff expertise in living the "whole concept". No offense intended here. I don't even no what the "whole thing" is. :)

But in the absence of expertise, the info provided in this review is no different than a random blog espousing their opinions. And there are numerous blogs which have reviewed the Affluenza book. So what is the BPL value add here?

David Bengoechea
(daveben) - F

Locale: Calgary, Canada
re: I can think of one "thing" I'll dump soon enough on 04/02/2008 18:55:24 MDT Print View

You don't have to read the article or buy the book if you're not interested. But what about the BPL'ers who enjoyed the article? Anyone? Bueller?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
The other side on 04/03/2008 09:32:36 MDT Print View

Has it not occured to anyone that a symptom of "affluenza" might be spending huge amounts of money on "simple" outdoor gear? If you want to be light in the sense of impact on the earth better head to the surplus store and goodwill.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/03/2008 11:00:43 MDT Print View

I vow to follow this philosophy by no longer buying anything from the BPL Gear Shop. :-)

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
RE: "Affluenza..." on 04/03/2008 11:31:06 MDT Print View

Instead of spending my goverment issued stimulus check on yet more gear (helping all the little gear companies like Mchale, ULA, MLD, Tarptent and such)I will instead put it into my retirement account. Heaven forbid that I feed my sickness called affluenza or do my part to stimulate the slowing economy.

I will have to wait for the book to be available at the local library so that I can read it without having to support the author with buying still more stuff.

Brian Doble
(brian79) - MLife

Locale: New England
Gandhi had TWO pairs of sandals?? on 04/03/2008 11:58:25 MDT Print View

Jeesh, how many pairs of shoes does a man need?

Edited by brian79 on 04/03/2008 11:59:05 MDT.

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Gandhi had TWO pairs of sandals?? on 04/03/2008 12:33:11 MDT Print View

Precisely what I was thinking...I figured one was for formal events and the other pair was for casual use.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/03/2008 17:30:49 MDT Print View

Hi Nia

> But in the absence of expertise, the info provided in this review is no different than a random blog espousing their opinions. And there are numerous blogs which have reviewed the Affluenza book. So what is the BPL value add here?

Good question, but you might be a bit surprised over how many BPL staff do espouse 'lightweight' living. OK, maybe some due to conviction and others due to circumstances :-) That is, apart from a slight tendency to indulgence in UL gear!

Obviously some BPL readers have found this brief review of Ul interest. That's good. We try to cover a broad scope rather than a really narrow one, and inevitably this means a few articles at some times will not appeal to some members. This happens. But remember, we can only find out what you like by publishing and then looking at your feedback.

Never mind: there will be some very technical articles about gear and lightweight trips coming up soon. We hope you enjoy them.

Cheers
Roger Caffin
Online Community Manager
Backpacking Light

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Affluenza and Backpacking on 04/03/2008 17:58:22 MDT Print View

Affluenza (the concept) is at the very core of the philosophy why *some* (not all!) people go hiking, backpacking, thru-hiking, in the first place.

An extension of this philosophy is at the core of *some* (not all!) of the reasoning behind carrying a lighter pack and seeking a lighter, less impactive, and simpler existence in the wilderness.

If you seek this type of simplicity in your wilderness style, and are unwilling to at least recognize these roots, or at least, the extension of these principles to other areas of your life, then perhaps you are missing out on one of the most powerful applications of lightweight backpacking in the first place.

Visiting the wilds, for me, has nothing to do with visiting the wilds. "So what?" other than those experiences feed my own selfish indulgences to do some of the things that I selfishly enjoy doing.

Far more important, is what my experiences in the wilds allow me to bring back to society, my community, my relationships.

Backpacking, inherently, can become a pretty narcissistic activity for some.

I'd rather take the opportunity (occasionally) to ask you to step outside of this narcissism from time to time and explore the greater impact that an ultralight life may have both inside, and outside, the boundaries of a wilderness area; than simply educate you about "the greatest new thing you have to buy now", whether it's from the "BPL store" or not.

I'd be rather disappointed, from the perspective of a businessman especially, that you'd consider purchasing something from our store that you wouldn't need, use, or appreciate. Unfortunately, these criteria (need, usefulness, and appreciation) are not common filters for American shoppers, and that's pretty pathetic. Hence, the Affluenza epidemic.

Got a closet full of gear you never use?

Share it with somebody who can.

Need a piece of gear in our store?

Post first on the Gear Swap forum to see if someone has a used version they aren't in need of. Maybe we can freecycle some of this gear within the BPL community rather than having to sell new things to everyone all the time.

Luymes Ted
(start2day) - M

Locale: So Cal.
My perspective on 04/03/2008 21:49:46 MDT Print View

As a 19-year-old in the mountains of Guatemala (circa 1984)I remember the toothless grin of an old Indian woman whose feet were 8" wide, gnarled and cracked from a lifetime of never having worn footwear.

She looked down at my boot-clad feet and so did I. For the first time in my life I was deeply embarassed at having spent $75 for these albatrosses on my feet.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Affluenza and Backpacking on 04/04/2008 10:05:17 MDT Print View

>>> Affluenza (the concept) is at the very core of the philosophy why *some* (not all!) people go hiking, backpacking, thru-hiking, in the first place.

Affluenza (the misconcept) contradicts the very core of the economy why *some* (not all!) people go work, get pay, make expenditures, receive goods and services in the first place.

Keep in mind that over 70 percent of the US GDP consists of personal consumption expenditures. We are talking 70 percent of $14 trillion (that is with a T). The EU is another $14 trillion. China $7 T. Japan $4 T, UK $2 T, Canada and Australia about $1 T each. World total is about $66 trillion.

In current dollars, the US GDP was $56 billion (that is only with a B) in 1933. Sounds depressing because it was a depression. The only ultralighters then were hobos and tramps. But there was an absence of affluenza. That then is at least one cure for the disease.

>>> An extension of this philosophy is at the core of *some* (not all!) of the reasoning behind carrying a lighter pack and seeking a lighter, less impactive, and simpler existence in the wilderness.

An extension of the economy is the core of *some*(not all!) of the ability to buy a lighter pack and afford to take trips or purchase books or subscribe to websites seeking a lighter, less impactive, and simpler existence in the wilderness. However, we can't stay because we have to return and go back to work.

>>> If you seek this type of simplicity in your wilderness style, and are unwilling to at least recognize these roots, or at least, the extension of these principles to other areas of your life, then perhaps you are missing out on one of the most powerful applications of lightweight backpacking in the first place.

Also recognize that another necessary root to most of us is the economic model. If people don't buy then there is no work. It may be a nasty cycle, but we're all in this thing together.

>>> Got a closet full of gear you never use?

No.

>>>Share it with somebody who can.

So far I've given my unneeded gear to somebody(s) who can use it.

>>>Need a piece of gear in our store?

I'm a happy consumer of your store! You provide gear and website. I buy and subscribe. Of course, I could survive without either, but as a reasonably free person in a reasonably free market, I choose to incur the wrath of affluenza.

>>> Post first on the Gear Swap forum to see if someone has a used version they aren't in need of. Maybe we can freecycle some of this gear within the BPL community rather than having to sell new things to everyone all the time.

Just wondering. Do we go back to overly strong product designs to make gear last longer - although it will be heavier - to promote its reuse? : )

Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
My observation - yup, still the same on 04/04/2008 10:50:13 MDT Print View

First, thanks Ryan J. for your explanation. That's pretty much what I was trying to say in my earlier post.

Second, I don't know why I'm surprised again but I am. It never fails to amaze me how much negativity and cynicism one can run into about this sort of thing...even in a place like this forum where I consider the average participant to be very enlightened compared to your average Joe. One would think that a forum which focuses primarily on pursuits outside of the mainstream recreational habits of most people, in places that require a certain level of custodial care on our part (the 'wilds') would be thick with positivity towards ideas like the ones written about in Affluenza.

I truly feel that until we take stock in self-sacrifice and develop a more positive, charitable mindset we're always going to be a slow-moving target for our quasi-capitalist machine...at least until it fails itself through acts of self-cannibalization.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
The philosophy of ultralight and Affluenza on 04/04/2008 11:01:42 MDT Print View

To those who can't seem to make the connection between Affluenza and ultralight, one of the major hurdles in getting gear weight down is in our perception of what we need vs. what we want. And it is subtle and pervasive at times.

I find it easy enough to pare down clothing and hardware that is directly applicable to my hike, and then there are the toys-- camera, radio, audio player, PDA, etc, etc. Many of those items can actually detract from the quality of the hike and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the journey.

Getting away from that sort of baggage is exactly what the wilderness experience is about for me: we spend so much time plugged in and standing on steel and concrete that we lose touch with the natural environment. I live in Seattle and it really strikes me when I am near the waterfront and I can hear seagulls and smell the salt air while standing between 1000' skyscrapers. The view from city streets directly into the Olympic mountains is another reminder of the contrasts.

Another way of expressing this is the old KISS concept: Keep It Simple Stupid.

I am perplexed why someone would want to cancel a subscription (or threaten it) because of the contents of one article. If BPL has a mission, one part of it must be to get people to think outside the box and break with common perceptions of what is the "right" way to prepare for a wilderness journey. I find the subject very appropriate and interesting.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/04/2008 17:46:37 MDT Print View

Maybe to establish a broader context for going ultralight and then applying the lessons learned to that broader context(one's way of living in general)?

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
The affluenza message and backpacking, etc on 04/04/2008 22:22:54 MDT Print View

I actually quite liked seeing the review here. I feel bad all the time about how much crap I accumulate, particularly backpacking gear that I dont really need, its just a bit lighter, leaving the other gear in the cupboard forever.

I welcome the book review...BPL has seen a book, decided it might be of interest to SOME BPL readers (seriously, not everyone is interested in the latest snowshoe-I live and work in a Desert! But I welcome it as some BPLers are interested), hence the wrote about it.

Id also welcome more book reviews that may be of vague interest to BPLers. Just because a book isnt entirely dedicated to getting your baseweight to sub5 or 10lb, doesnt mean that some of its messages/knowledge may be applicable to what you are trying to achieve. Just because I work on am an arid lands spatial ecologist, doesnt mean that I won't read a marine biology paper from the equator that I think may be interesting and inspire me to think a little differently about the problems I work on.

Adam

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Appropriate song lyrics on 04/04/2008 23:01:23 MDT Print View

> when your monthly income is 1600/mo and rent+bills+food = 1400/mo you really dont have money to go buying any old thing and learn to appreciate what you do have.

I don't have digital
I don't have diddly squat
It's not having what you want
It's wanting what you've got

I'm gonna soak up the sun
Gonna tell ev'ryone to lighten up
I'm gonna soak up the sun
While it's still free
Before it goes out on me

-Sheryl Crow-

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
Re: The philosophy of ultralight and Affluenza on 04/05/2008 10:28:44 MDT Print View

"I am perplexed why someone would want to cancel a subscription (or threaten it) because of the contents of one article."

Not because of one article.

"But what about the BPL'ers who enjoyed the article?"

Am I supposed to express other's opinions?

Edited by GSV45 on 04/05/2008 10:29:56 MDT.

Richard DeLong
(Legkohod) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Hoarding gear? Sell it! on 04/05/2008 11:22:27 MDT Print View

I think the accumulation of gear is normal for people who love backpacking and are performance oriented. Maybe the best way to get out of the "gear hoarding" mode is to just start selling the stuff you know you won't use since you updated it to something that is 2 oz lighter. Let the extra gear circulate!:)

To get out of "affluenza" mode, I think you can either focus on not consuming (buying a minimum of stuff), or on passing on what you're not using. Either way you're not hoarding unused things.

Edited by Legkohod on 04/05/2008 11:27:48 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: My observation - yup, still the same on 04/05/2008 13:50:15 MDT Print View

>>>> It never fails to amaze me how much negativity and cynicism one can run into about this sort of thing...even in a place like this forum where I consider the average participant to be very enlightened compared to your average Joe. <<<<<

THE REVIEW REEKS NEGATIVITY! I will list examples. But first, IMHO, American spending is good. I hope all BPLers will aspire to make plenty of money so they can buy any gear they want and go anywhere to hike. It is NOT a disease. However, negative, misinformed exaggeration is a sickness.

Negatives from the review:

1) In a world already filled with so much stuff, there seems to be an ever increasing push to obtain the bigger and the better.

Not really.

2) Americans consume more fuel, food and products than any other country in the world, but are also plagued with stress-related illness, depression and overall poor health.

Swine-land.

3) For a country that seems so rich, why are we so poor?

Profound.

4) ...the probable reason is also the name of their book, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

For sale of course.

5) Affluenza, as it is defined by the authors, is “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”

Oh pleassssssse!

6) the most powerful and lasting symptom, according to the authors, is the lack of purpose and joy in people’s lives.

You wish.

7) Americans buy and buy and buy and never quite seem to reach that feeling of contentment.

You can buy a case of beer and it will do the trick.

8) In fact, they tend to feel terrible, weighed down by the excess existing in their lives.

Can't move. Help me.

9) The book cites numerous examples of people who have realized that the accumulation of things, such as power and wealth, have only made them miserable and discontent.

Did they talk to Warren Buffet or Bill Gates?

10) They only find happiness when they lighten up their lives and rid themselves of that which “you can’t take with you when you go.”

Please give your stuff to the authors. You'll feel better.

11) ...chronicling and calculating the expanding way of life in America, and how it is making people sick.

Again, pleassssssssssssssssse!

12) ...the authors morbidly cover and deconstruct the crucial error in the fabric of the American culture: we simply carry too much.

My back hurts. Please help me.

13) The information, regardless of how overwhelming the book may seem at times, is of extreme importance and value, especially to Americans today.

Overwhelming? Maybe a contradiction.

14) Going lighter (although those exact words are not used in the book) is the message.

Fabrication possibly.

15) To seek out, appreciate, and foster that which cannot be purchased is provided as a method for a better life, though the authors achieve this by stuffing the book full of facts, figures and shock-value anecdotes. It is supersized, if you will.

Stuffing? Contradiction again.

16) In two hundred forty-seven jolting pages (and that is before the forty-one pages of notes, a bibliography, sources and a complete index) it manages to cut through the never-ending onslaught and spin of advertising, finally presenting to the consumer the world as it is, not as it is marketed.

What? 247 pages + 41 more pages = contradiction!

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/05/2008 15:00:32 MDT Print View

I wrote above that this article doesn't show expertise in the subject matter. Roger responded, "you might be a bit surprised over how many BPL staff do espouse 'lightweight' living"

Well, that's my point. I shouldn't be surprised because the expertise of the author should be obvious by reading the article.

From the BPL mission statement: "the words you read herein are not penned through the filter of a desk jockey's editorial deadline but rather, borne of the hardship and trials that come with spending real time in the backcountry"

I found no evidence of that in the article. In fact I don't see any content not covered by the Amazon review.

I welcome opposing opinions. But one thing I want to stress is that I'm not disuputing that this is an interesting or important topic. I think it is. I've also enjoyed the discussion of the BPL members. This is definitely an interesting and varied group of people that congregate here and in my opinion is the strength of the site.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Affluenza: Fact-Heavy Book Carries a Lightweight Message on 04/05/2008 16:12:00 MDT Print View

> I've also enjoyed the discussion of the BPL members. This is definitely an interesting and varied group of people that congregate here and in my opinion is the strength of the site.

Thanks Nia!

Darin Banner
(dbanner) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Hmmmm on 04/06/2008 18:15:35 MDT Print View

I'm starting to get the feeling that maybe George doesn't like the book review very much.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: My observation - yup, still the same on 04/06/2008 23:09:45 MDT Print View

The book cites numerous examples of people who have realized that the accumulation of things, such as power and wealth, have only made them miserable and discontent.

"Did they talk to Warren Buffet or Bill Gates?"

-----------------------------------------------------------

I don’t know about anyone else... I have no interest in reading the book "Affluenza" but I’m enjoying George’s satirical wit!

Hey what happened to the BPL stickers that said:

"He who die's with the most gear win's"

Edited by FastWalker on 04/06/2008 23:12:27 MDT.

Darin Huska
(dusk) - F
Re: Advanced TMS on 04/07/2008 19:02:30 MDT Print View

"Years ago I started a thread on my BBS about simple living and being able to get by with the basics. I came up with the idea of giving everyone a box that was a one meter cube and all your personal possessions had to go in that box. The other forum members said it was impossible. I don't think so and I'm working towards it-- cleaning out my closets and paring down my "stuff." I'm going to get a washing machine box and start there."

When I returned from my 4 year tour in Germany, ALL of my belongings were in a ARMY-issue duffelbag and a 1mx1mx.5m wood box, including my snowboard and rock climbing gear. It CAN be done.


LESS is more!

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Money is the root..... on 04/07/2008 21:22:10 MDT Print View

A common misconception is that money is the root of all evil.  Actually, it is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil.  Money itself is just a tool that can be used to purchase things for one's self or as a blessing to enhance the lives of others. Thus, money is neither good nor evil.  As a physician, I know many very wealthy physician friends who are some of the most miserable people I know.  The reason for this misery is that they do not understand that humans are triune beings consisting of mind, body, & spirit.  If any of these 3 characteristics is "out of balance" the result is a "unhappy camper".  Obtaining "stuff" cannot achieve balance in our lives because it cannot fill the void of an empty spirit.  I think "Affluenza" is the greatest sickness in our society today, but I also think that lightweight backpacking is a means to do more with less & be happier in the process.  Definitely a lesson that can be applied to our lives in general!  Now that I am 50 yrs old, I am much happier not carrying a 50+ lb pack with lots of unecessary stuff in it.  There is a lot of satisfaction in learning a new way to think, to research new gear, to use that gear in an integrated way, & to be unburdened in the process so that the majesty of nature can be fully enjoyed.  For me this assists in the renewal of mind, body, & spirit that adds some balance to life.  For further information, please refer to the life, travels, & trail encounters of the ultimate lightweight hiker, Jesus of Nazareth, as chronicled in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.

Sven Klingemann
(svenklingemann) - F
Re: Money is the root..... on 04/07/2008 21:27:02 MDT Print View

You may want to check out Gandhi as well

Peter Fogel
(pgfogel) - F

Locale: Western Slope, Colorado
affluenza on 04/07/2008 22:55:18 MDT Print View

If you have managed to follow this thread all the way to here, you may be one who is ready to receive a gift that was offered to all who would hear it, over 2500 years ago and still remains as relevant today as it was then.

Seek the words of Lao Tzu.


Peter

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Money is the root..... on 04/08/2008 03:01:51 MDT Print View

Where there is excess of money though, there is a love of money (for the most part). People don't hang on to their money excess just because it's used to buy stuff. It only takes so much to feed/cloth/shelter an individual/family at a reasonable lifestyle. The vast majority of us likely have excessive love of money.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: My observation - yup, still the same on 04/08/2008 11:02:25 MDT Print View

Great review of the review, George!!! Prompted me to read the review, and now will definitely NOT read the book.

I agree completely that the review (and the book, too, if the review's explication of the book is acccurate) totally reeks negativity, which the reviewer (mirroring the book?)chooses to plaster all over everyone. Excuse me, but after rereading the review itself, I should amend that to say "all over all Americans" as it appears that the empty souls in pursuit of excess is rampant only in that group.

Negative stereotyping. That's what needs a cure.

Disclaimer: this negative review of a negative review of a negative book does not advocate for or against benefits or merits of simplifying or complicating one's life. It seems, however, that happiness and health results from something other than spending or abstinance. And whatever works for one person doesn't necessarily work for everyone.

JRS

Gerald Hutchinson
(BR360) - F
Affluenza and Cure? on 04/08/2008 13:06:35 MDT Print View

If affluence is a sickness, then what is its cure?

Perhaps recognizing the essential "nature" of human beings, most first-order spiritual leaders (Buddha, Christ, Ghandi) said in one way or another that "earthly wants" or "attachment" is the cause of suffering. Non-attachment, and building a spiritual base rather than a material base, they said, is the cure for suffering. [Insert your own favorite spiritual quote to support this statement.]

I fail to see how the pursuit of lightweight backpacking, which requires the purchase of high-tech gear made using ultra-industrial processes (titanium, aluminum, Spectra, Cuben, silnyl, polyurethane, PTFE's, carbon-fiber, computer chips, etc.) and the transportation to and from the trail head in a combustion-engine vehicle---for the purposes of recreation---is in any way consistent with living a simple life!! (Green living it ain't!)

Real simple living means living like the Amish or the Mennonites: growing your own food, making your own clothes, building your own homes from native trees, taking care of your health every day so that you need little medical care. It means having few/no earthly desires, so no need to travel except to market.

When your life is rich within, there is no need to seek without. Go backpacking in your mind! That's ultimate light-weight.

As for me, I'll rely on the fruits of civilization, capitalism, and industrialization to help me on the path to "enlightenment." After I clean out my closet...

Andrew Richard
(fairweather8588) - F

Locale: The Desert
Affluenza video on 04/08/2008 13:19:15 MDT Print View

I found it ironic that we watched a video about Affluenza today in one of my classes, I think it was made in '95

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: Affluenza and Cure? on 04/08/2008 18:22:11 MDT Print View

My cure is to buy a bigger house. Then when I move my old house "full" of stuff into my new very much bigger house I have so much extra room I have to buy more stuff to try and fill it up.

It is so much fun.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
If money is the root of all evil.... on 04/08/2008 22:06:56 MDT Print View

Then feel free to send that money to me. I'll buy my dream house in Moab and retire at 35 ;-) The ravens told me I should....just need the money. lol...

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Is affluenza really the issue? on 04/08/2008 22:48:37 MDT Print View

My work gives out free shots to prevent influenza, but I never realized how important they were! Ironic then that I go there to make money to buy the stuff I need... ohhhhh, wait... AFfluenza... now I get it!

Seriously, should this debate really be about whether folks want more, more, more...??? Or would a more meaningful debate be about the non-sustainability of our culture? I don't care if you like to accumulate stuff, as long as the production of that stuff isn't destroying the planet that I like to hike on. Chances are that it is.

So I guess less is more!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: If money is the root of all evil.... on 04/09/2008 04:09:45 MDT Print View

Just to be clear, the Holy Bible says (1 Timothy 6:10), "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

Not ALL evil...

Jimmy Swaggart
Client 10

Edited by jshann on 04/09/2008 07:50:19 MDT.

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
No backpacking this weekend on 04/09/2008 10:08:33 MDT Print View

I'm going to rent a jacked up truck and run over little bunny wabbits in the desert. WOO-HOO!!!

Maybe I'll pull an Ed Abbey and fire beer bottles out the window while I'm at it. The menu? STEAK BABY!

When confronted by those who adorn themselves with conspicuous halos the proper reaction is to p*ss them off.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife
Re:No Backpacking this weekend on 04/09/2008 10:53:20 MDT Print View

Don't forget to shoot at some signs and trail markers, especially in a national park:)! Greg your my hero!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: No backpacking this weekend on 04/09/2008 14:46:11 MDT Print View

Moo Cow Steak? Pffft! Bison is soooo much tastier and healthier. But...at twice the price of cow it must be evil :-P

I do also need a Jeep Rubicon as well to go with my dream shack. So again, if money and possesions are evil, please by all means send them my way.

charlie babbage
(babbage) - F
Re: Re: My observation - yup, still the same on 04/11/2008 17:01:04 MDT Print View

George - that was stupid. Just being honest.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: My observation - yup, still the same on 04/11/2008 17:32:04 MDT Print View

>>> George - that was stupid. Just being honest.

My wife has told me so for almost 32 years!

Atchoo atchoo, I'd better drink plenty of fluids, rest in bed, and take a MerinoUL. Now where is that tracking number...

Twelve-step needed immediately. Please help me, I'm stupid and affluenza infested. Not to mention a blind wretch. PM me for an address where to send your checks. Thanks in advance.

F. Thomas Matica
(ftm1776) - F

Locale: Vancouver, WA
Long Time Ago...In a Galaxy Far, Far Away.......... on 04/13/2008 01:48:01 MDT Print View

This thread brought to mind a couple of authors from my college days back in the 1960s. E.F. Scumacher and Richard Buckminster(Bucky) Fuller.
Schumacher's concept was "small is beautiful" and is presented in his book of the same title, i.e. "Small Is Beautiful".
Fuller, in his many books, spoke or "doing more with less" which he referred to as "ephemeralization".
May I suggest that anyone interested in this thread topic peruse these authors' writings in text and on the web.
Thomas M

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Go Lighter is NOT a Cure on 04/13/2008 11:08:04 MDT Print View

The reviewer wrote, "Going lighter (although those exact words are not used in the book) is the message."

I see it differently. Telling an "affluenza patient" to go lighter is like telling an alcoholic to drink less.

The authors mentioned "the lack of purpose and joy in people’s lives". To me, that is the key. The message is for us to look deep into ourselves... and discern/develop a worthwhile purpose for our lives -- our calling. Fulfilling that purpose can bring us joy and satisfaction -- and remove our perpetual need to otherwise "fill that hole" with stuff -- heavy or light.

Edited by ben2world on 04/13/2008 11:40:53 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Hmmm... on 04/13/2008 19:58:20 MDT Print View

Odd that this debate is occuring at the same time BPL has released $70 backpacking t-shirts that "cannot withstand the repeated abrasion of pack straps from a heavy backpack, and they cannot resist the attacks of thorns, briars, or devil's club. They are less durable than a synthetic (nylon or polyester) garment of a similar weight, and require the utmost care in washing for maximum life expectancy: use wool cleaner and hand wash only for best results.

However, for the skilled backcountry traveler adept at caring for their gear..."

Sorry, but I get a kick out of how this goes round and round and round...
Going lighter (more new gear) simplification (this year's hot new tent, tarp or other wonder-thingy) less is more (sweet new Ti pots and a bag/quilt for every season) be more conscientious (dump your old stakes, these puppies shave 18 grams off your kit- never mind the 1000 pounds of jet fuel to get them to you...)

The whole thing has become a strange paradox to me...How does one reconcile the fact that one can be part of the problem AND solution simultaneously?

Edited by xnomanx on 04/13/2008 20:05:02 MDT.

Eric Nelson
(nelser01) - F
Affluenza book on 04/17/2008 07:42:08 MDT Print View

And instead of buying it you can check it out at a local library. Of course, then you're not being a good citizen and supporting the author, megabookstore, truckers, etc.