Consumerism Makes Liars of Us All



Consumerism makes liars out of us all.  We may not realize it or want it to, but it does.  We may say we aren’t defined by our stuff until said stuff is unexpectedly taken away or downsized.  We may say that we want to spend our money on experiences instead of stuff, while weaving yet another web of debt that will sooner or later overwhelm our lives even as we are untangling the last web.  Why do we lie to ourselves so we can present an illusion to the rest of the world?  Is it so that we don’t have to face the truth – that by placing more value on our stuff than on ourselves we are being shallow and self-destructive?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-consumerism.  However, I am against consuming beyond a reasonable bottom line.  The stark reality is that if you don’t have an emergency fund and/or savings, if you have to borrow to repair your car, etc., then YOU CAN’T AFFORD YOUR LIFESTYLE!!  Often times, the biggest offenders are those people who appear to have it all together – the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect hair – by all outward appearances, the perfect American family.  Well hidden from public view are the financial fights, and the health issues caused by the stress of keeping the illusion alive.

This illusion is complicated when our self worth is entangled in it.  The need to keep it is so strong that some people are willing to go to unethical and illegal means to keep it going.  Worse yet, are the harsh punishments we put on ourselves for being unable to perpetuate the illusion.  Over the past few years, news of people who are killing themselves and sometimes even their families because they lost their job or social standing in their community, has become commonplace.  So much so that media outlets were told to stop running the stories because it was actually creating more of the same.  So what is it that makes us behave in such irrational ways?

My answer is FEAR!  We are afraid of not being good enough.  We are afraid of not fitting in.  We are afraid of not being worthy of love.  We are afraid of what society deems failure.  It is a scientific fact that when humans are in a state of fear, we are incapable of rational thought.  Advertisers employ psychologists and sociologists to manipulate us by using our humanity (emotional and biological responses) against us.  Look for the fear in the seemingly innocuous ad – really pay attention.  And it’s all around us – in our televisions, on the web, billboards along side the road.  The normalcy bias doesn’t allow us to see these not so subtle tactics of brainwashing because it bombards us from the moment of birth until the day we die.  We are all affected whether we realize it or want to believe it.  And then we all participate in reinforcing this unhealthy system through peer pressure.

So why does the public put up with it?  Because we don’t know what it is we don’t know.  This information isn’t considered common knowledge.  Most likely, unless we go into advertising or are lucky enough to attend a liberal arts college (approx 2%), we aren’t privy to this information.  So keep that in mind when some of us are forced into bankruptcy due to overspending, that it isn’t entirely our fault.  And, while financial literacy classes are a must and should be taught in every school, unless we change our emotional relationship with money, that knowledge is useless.

We lie to ourselves and to each other about money because we are unaware of the dichotomy created through the manipulation of our humanity.  We lie because we are afraid we are bad for giving in to the peer pressure.  As long as we continue to fear the repercussions of not participating in consumerism to its fullest extent, we will continue to spend ourselves into oblivion.  And so the illusion and all it’s unhealthy consequences continue.

 Note:  I could have inserted links to varies academic studies, books, etc., but I purposefully chose not to because I didn’t want my readers to assume what I was stating was true simply because I cited a source, and didn’t bother to check them.  My hope is that you will start doing research yourselves.  You may be surprised at what you will find.  


Slowly Catching Up

Hello, all! It’s been a while since my last post, and so much has happened.  I finished one degree and started another; began researching the many ways our civil liberties our constantly eroded, while discovering how our financial system really works (as part of the process attended a 9 hour lecture in Cleveland); kept an eye on the new “occupy” movement, as well as the police brutality associated with it; wrote three new chapters for my book; creatively worked on our own financial situation, while taking notes to include tips on my new finance website; started a new finance website (currently under construction); conducted research on retiring financially better abroad; and finally, dealt with some minor health issues.  All said and done, it’s been a pretty chaotic few months.

Here is the link to my new website currently under construction:

This website is in response to our dire economic situation.  The best way to safeguard yourself and your family is to become debt free!  This site will begin with the very basics of managing money and budgeting. Then I will share ways to save money without feeling deprived.  Eventually, I will move on to more complicated topics such as IRA’s, real estate issues, and retiring abroad.

This month I will leave you with the following quote:

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot

Suggested Links: – VERY IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO READ!  PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS! – Police Brutality Increasing – Black Friday, a 54-year-old man was brutally thrown to floor and bloodied by police officers because he put a video game in his waistband to free his hands to help his Grandson in during a violent deal grab.





Writing this blog has been cathartic for me, albeit a little risky.  Scattering my thoughts out into the infinite universe of cyberspace to be forever accessible is, quite frankly, terrifying!  But isn’t that what every writer does regardless of the medium they choose?  And of course, without risk, there can be no success.

When I began this project nine months ago, I had a clear goal in mind – to document my progress in attaining the unconventional lifestyle of my dreams, and join the ranks of those who encourage others throughout the process.  Instead, it took on a life of its own and morphed into a journal of my frustrations.  This was actually a positive development, as I was prompted to research and learn everything I could about the social, economical, and political issues plaguing us today.  And believe it or not, they are all intertwined with each other and my goal.

Analyzing the trend of responses from all of you in conjunction with the various types of posts, I have decided to branch out into several different blogs:

  • Economical:  Featuring credit repair, frugal living tips, as well as commentary on current economic issues.  Special note:  My frugal living book is currently being edited and the target date for release is mid October.  Also, a simple “how to” book on credit repair is in the works with details coming soon.  In addition to the how to books, my daughter, Aryell, and I are in the beginning stages of research for a more scholarly book about the growing trend of poor/homeless with college degrees in the US.  Aryell’s photographs will be introduced in this work.
  • Political:  Including commentary on local, state, national, and global issues through a slightly different lens.  Stay tuned for more information on this exciting new development.
  • Inspirational:  This will document my journey towards achieving that unconventional lifestyle of my dreams that this blog was meant to achieve.

The postings will occur weekly rather than monthly.  There will be a featured guest writer once a month, as well as several helpful links that correspond with each subject.  I will continue to use as the sounding board/diary it has become.  Please continue to comment both privately and publicly – whether or not you agree.  Beginning a discourse is one of the first steps in resolving any issue.  Of course, as the additional blogs become available, I will post the links to them here.



Intellectually, we are aware that debt = slavery.  And yet, we trade our time, energy, and often our mental, physical, and emotional health to incur more debt.  Unless done out of necessity for survival, this is irrational behavior.  Why is it more important to have a new car (when your old one works just fine) than it is to save?

Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not against having stuff.  I like stuff.  However, when the procurement of said stuff becomes more important than health or security, I have to raise an eyebrow.  Hey, I used to participate in this type of behavior, so I do understand how it sneaks up on you unawares.

As it turns out, it may be a biological predisposition for humans to make irrational financial decisions. Professor Laurie Santos and her students did a study about this phenomenon entitled “A Monkey Economy.”  Enjoy her TED Talks presentation:

Regardless of predisposition, the condition can be overcome.  My husband and I struggle with it every time someone makes fun of our orange van.  To overcome, we just remind ourselves that while everyone around us is spending their money on more stuff, we will soon be living our dreams. It helps to keep the following thought in my head:  Them: lifelong debt vs Us: only two more years to go!








Peace, Love, and Hope

Since my last few posts were about political, corporate, and educational strife and corruption, I thought it would be refreshing to take a look at some good things happening around the world.  Despite what we see on the nightly news, the sciences of sociology and psychology states that almost all of humanity want peace, love and harmony.


According to professor and lecturer Sir Ken Robinson,  we are “trying to meet the future by doing what (we) did in the past.”  When said out loud, it seems ludicrous that we would do such a thing.  After all, the definition of insanity is to routinely “do the same thing and expect different results.”  Our current public education system is based on the industrial model, developed during the industrial revolution to educate the poor so they would easily assimilate into factory environments.  Since most of our manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas, this model of education has become irrelevant.  If our country has any hopes of moving forward within the new global system, we need to encourage creative thinking and innovation – the very opposite of what our current educational environment of standardized testing creates.  What is the answer?

Ohio’s Governor John Kasich, seems to think that merit pay for educators is the answer.  But, according to a study done by Harvard University economist Roland G. Fryer, there is “no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation.”  In fact, Fryer reported that this may actually decrease student achievement!

As noted by author Walt Gardner, England attempted the merit pay system for teachers, and it failed miserably (, further proof that this simply won’t work.  Even worse, it took England nearly 40 years to correct the problems that merit pay created, and we don’t have that kind of time here in the U.S given current economic stresses.  So then we must ask, is Kasich insane, stupid, or is it something, perhaps, more sinister?

Who would benefit most from a dysfunctional education system?  Let’s follow a line of reasoning to answer that question.  First, a dysfunctional educational system will create a less educated population, which has already been happening for quite some time (see Weapons of Mass Instruction by Gatto for statistics.) A “dumbed down” population asks less questions, are more likely to believe whatever they are told by authority figures without facts to back it up, and comply readily.  I’ll let you fill in the blanks, that is, if you haven’t already become sheeple, unable to think critically for yourselves.

Regardless, we in Ohio and the entire U.S. are in the midst of crisis – an economic crisis as well as an educational crisis.  If we teach our children to think creatively, rather than taking the creativity out of them as Sir Ken suggests, the potential will be unlimited!  So Listen up, Kasich!  Here is a lecture you need to see:


World Wide Middle Class Unrest

The middle class in the US has been shrinking for years now due to several factors.  Healthcare costs have skyrocketed, becoming the number one cause of bankruptcy.  Manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas and information jobs are outsourced.  College tuitions (a ticket to middle class status) have been steadily rising, placing higher education out of reach for more and more of our youths.  Union busting that began in the 80’s resulted in lower average salaries for all.  Now, the last vestiges of workers rights are being eliminated in the public sector.  As history dictates, this too will lower the salaries of fire fighters, teachers, police officers, emt’s, etc. The divorce rates have increased leaving more women as head of household (women earn approx 30% less than men.) In short, the gap between the haves and have nots is rapidly increasing. We are a country in crisis! This generation will be the first in American history that will actually experience a LOWER standard of living than their parents!

The result of a shrinking middle class and lowered salaries?  The middle class is the largest US tax base, funding schools, safety and emergency services, government, welfare services, and building/repairing roads, etc.  Have you looked around lately?  Do you notice our crumbling and outdated infrastructure?  Do you notice our failing schools (FYI the states with the lowest test scores have eliminated teacher’s unions)?  Do you know that of all the industrialized nations, our education system is the worst?  Do you know that we have more people in our prisons that ANY other country?  Do you know that we have the fattest (cheapest foods are the least healthy) population in the world? WAKE UP!

Why is all this happening?  This is happening because “we the people” have become complacent and allowed it to happen!  This is happening because there has been a corporate take over of America!  Big business has more say in our government than we do.  And folks, that is the definition of FASCISM!  Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves!

Although our statistics are not on par with the rest of the “civilized” world, the disintegration of the middle class is not just an American phenomenon.  The above photo was taken during a protest in the UK less than six months ago. Scenes like this are becoming commonplace all over the world due to economic stresses.   Middle class workers have been stripped of their unions everywhere.  Ireland was forced to actually reduce the national minimum wage. College tuition everywhere is rising.  We all know what happened in Iceland and Greece.  Retirement ages have increased in ALL of the major countries.  This is worldwide!

And if you are not aware of all this, then you can blame our mainstream, corporate owned media.

What can we do?  VOTE!!  Be informed by seeking out more than what we are fed on tv.  The internet is a powerful tool that we can use to our advantage, and you can access it free at your local library.  Before voting someone into office, please do your homework on the candidates.  Look into their backgrounds.  What have they voted for in the past?  Too many people just vote for a party because their parents did or because their church tells them to.  Well, the parties have changed over the years so you can no longer expect the same values as your parents did; and big business has used the Christian far right to help promote their own evil agendas by hiding behind pro-life issues, etc.  Just so everyone is aware YOU DO NOT HAVE TO VOTE FOR ONLY DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN!!!  We can support our local economies by buying local whenever possible.  We need to see more “Made in America” labels and less “Made in China!” We can place our money in local banks and credit unions instead of the “too big to fail” banks.  We can teach our children the importance of being active in their governments.

Here are a few places to look that back up my stats.  Please do your own research and you will be surprised by what you find.  GET INVOLVED!

The UK Guardian

The Irish Times

Weapons of Mass Instruction

The Corporation”

Time magazine – article on shrinking middle class

“Killing Us Softly 3”





Are we in the midst of a New American Revolution?  The first was to gain independence from the British Empire.  Is the second to regain the liberties we’ve lost under our own government?  Are most of us even aware of liberties we have lost? Living day to day trying to survive without regard to the larger events happening behind the scene that shape our lives seems to be the general consensus of the public today.  Our only source of information is the corporate owned media who many claim skew that information to meet their own needs in swaying public perception on important issues.  According to Reporters Without Borders “the United States was ranked as having the fifty-third freest press in the world, tied with Botswana and Croatia” (  Wow!

What prompted me to think about all this, was my own experience with protesting Ohio Senate Bill 5.  In my previous post I described my experience at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio on February 22, 2011.  It was the change in rhetoric between that protest and the event held on March 1, 2011 on the Statehouse lawn that really made me think about the world around me.  Within the span of just one week the conversation changed from saving public sector unions to a call for revolution.  The call for the oppressed middle class (proletariat) to rise up came from a Latino man who spoke at the March 1st rally after pledging the support of the entire Ohio Latino community towards our cause.  I was more than just a little disturbed/concerned.  Could this really be happening?

After listening to the passion in that Latino man’s speech, I decided to do more research.  In an article entitled “Massive Austerity Budgets are Destroying America, While the Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Suffers” by Kevin Zeese, he notes that “in the Midwest as unions shrunk, good manufacturing jobs fled and were replaced by poor paying service economy jobs” (, thus lowering the standard of living amongst the middle class.

What I don’t understand is why anyone would want the middle class to shrink?  When big companies lobby our government officials to take away workers rights, doesn’t that only create a temporary increase in profits for those companies?  The middle class of the US pay the majority of taxes to support programs for the poor, keep our infrastructure in tact, etc.  The middle class also purchases the majority of all goods and services creating and sustaining the rich.  Regardless, it is clear that the middle class is indeed shrinking and has been for quite some time as explained in an academic lecture by Elizabeth Warren at  I also recommend her book The Two Income Trap.  Perhaps a shrinking middle class may explain why our infrastructure is failing, (, our public schools are failing (, etc.

What can we do about all this?  The first thing we must do is educate ourselves by seeking out reputable, confirmable information beyond our own mainstream media.  Read newspapers from all over the world.  Read academic studies on everything you can.  We can’t take action until we are informed.  Could that lead to revolution?  Perhaps, but what is revolution?  Does it have to be violent?  Is it possible to have a peaceful revolution?

Here are some links I found useful: BBC news homepage – the Irish “Independent” newspaper homepage – New Zealand “Dominion Post” newspaper homepage – “Liberty Voice” newspaper homepage based out of Powell, Ohio – presentation on world poverty and immigration – presentations about the “stuff” we purchase – presentation on education paradigms

Documentaries: “The Future of Food,” “Food, Inc.,” “The Corporation,” “The End of America,” “Sicko,” “Maxed Out”

Books:  The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt, Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Gatto, Death by Supermarket: The Fattening, Dumbing Down, and Poisoning of America by Nancy Deville, Nickle and Dimed or (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Of course, we must sift through this information and investigate what is truth and what is not.  I invite you all to share any additional resources or comments.

UPCOMING PROJECT BEGINNING IMMEDIATELY:  I will be removing myself from all public venues as well as disconnecting from all electronics (except for those necessary for school) for the next month or so, in order to reflect on my life and take care of some personal issues that have been building.  Yes, Folks, I’ll be pulling a Thoreau and writing about the experience just as he did.

Ohio, Unions, and Democracy


Ohio Unions Protest SB5



The throng was chanting loudly with banners held high for all to see.  Solidarity!  Cars blared their horns in procession and drivers yelled out windows “YEAH!” to large groups on foot, who were chanting and waving signs, eventually converging into one powerful, writhing mass of support.   Thousands gathered around the statehouse only to find the doors locked and guarded.  The Chanting grew louder, “Let us in! Let us in! This is our house!”  State troopers were half heartedly standing guard, sympathetic to the crowd.  A group of firefighters began pounding on the massive doors, visibly shaking them.  Finally, the doors opened and the crowd cheered as they poured into every opening – a sea of purpose.  The entire statehouse seemed a living thing with stairwells and hallways filled with “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” reverberating throughout.

This was my experience as I stood with the masses in opposition to State Senate Bill 5 in Ohio.  It was an incredibly powerful moment as a common cause brought us all together without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender!  We were fighting for more than just unions; we were fighting for the entire middle class – the majority of America that is rapidly shrinking!  We were fighting for the future of our children, our communities, our state, and our country!

My teenage daughter stood with us.  Her sign shouting “Future Voter Says No No No To SB5!”  Normally a quiet person, I was shocked and impressed with her adamant stance and commanding voice as she fully participated.  She was planning on telling all her friends and teachers about her experience in hopes of opening up discussions on the importance of participating in government.  I guess it’s in our blood as my Grandfather helped organize the coal miner’s union in Kentucky.   And even though we were only facing locked doors rather than angry men wielding sledge hammers as he did, I know he would be proud of us today.

I leave you with the words of the Ohio protestors against SB5 on Tuesday February 22, 2011:


Aryell Grist 2/22/11

For more information about SB5: