09/09/2014 06:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

More vs Enough -- Time to Re-Set Our Cultural Values

This article explores what I think has become just about a mental illness -- the desire for "more" and the corollary "bigger." This is a disorder that has been stoked and encouraged by the media, even by political leaders. But is it really what we want, and is it at all healthy or normal?

There's a new Verizon commercial that claims that everyone wants MORE (images from the Verizon commercial): like bigger wheels, as in bigger cookie, more shoes, even dogs want bigger bones.


Here's the actual 30-second commercial video.

The key message is "all we really want is 'more.'" And that's what Verizon is giving -- more -- more data... whatever.

Once or twice a year I see a TV ad that rubs me the wrong way. Last year it was a series of ads that encouraged children to lie -- "Don't tell your Mom." This Verizon ad is a smart commercial, no doubt, because there are millions of people who want more. And getting more for your money can be a good thing. But that statement, "all we really want is more," really bothers me.

It taps a meme that is unsustainable and unhealthy in so many ways.

Nature doesn't work that way. Animals don't eat until they have no more room. They eat as much as they need. Same with breastfeeding infants. They eat a bit, rest or play, then let their mom know they'd like to eat again.

But we see the "more" mentality in the extremely wealthy, in hoarders, in obsessive collectors, in some megachurches where riches and wealth are celebrated, and in narcissists who can't get enough adulation, power over and control.

I believe that the desire for limitless more, the idea of celebrating more as a good thing, as something desirable is a disorder, perhaps a character disorder, perhaps a personality disorder, almost certainly a societal disorder. I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not claiming to know the best diagnostics, but there's definitely a problem here, on tied in with top-down power-over, domination/subjugation, plutocratic culture.

This disorder is related to another one I've written,
Needed: A Science, Economics and Lifestyle of SMALL-- It's Time to Face Reality-- Too BIG is Too Dangerous.

Big is not better. It is very often a manifestation or variation of the desire to have more.

We don't have to do this. We can be proud to want ENOUGH. We can teach our kids to be satisfied and happy with enough.

I discovered this quote by John Stuart Mill over 25 years ago: "I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them."

"Wanting it all" is sold as part of the American Dream, but really, the wanting, which is never-ending and which can never be fulfilled, is really an American nightmare, doomed to perpetual dissatisfaction.

The answer is really simple. Want enough and be not only satisfied, but happy with what you have. Sometimes, that "enough" means you temporarily want more, to reach a reasonable, sustainable, non-greedy, non-selfish, non-power-hungry, non-narcissistic goal. But even while you are working toward reaching that goal, the trick in life is to enjoy what you have.

The problem is western culture and media attempt to sell the idea, like the Verizon ad does, that more is better, more is desirable, and that wanting more is normal. It's not. Verizon's ad campaign taps into a pathological meme. It verges on lascivious. The church of MORE is idolatry. Somehow, the values of modesty and temperance have been lost, or thrown away by industrialized capitalism, which is built upon a foundation of ever more consumption.

We need to change that way of thinking and bring back values that humans have embraced for hundreds of thousands of years, where people lived in bottom-up relationships where sharing and egalitarianism ruled.

crossposted from my site,