After an evening of intense wii playing in the living room (no, nothing broken yet except illusions of being a champ at tennis with a good old retro graphics) I decided to calm my brain with some aimless browsing on the net. I stumbled upon a recent study by the research company United Minds on what’s high-status and what’s not according to Swedes. It turns out that status is not for sale, as non-material values top the chart (these are all my home brewed translation):
1. To be well read
2. To be a good and engaged parent
3. To possess a fortune derived from one’s own work
4. To be capable at work
5. To master several languages
6. To be able to be on vacation the entire summer
7. To spend time and money on helping people in need
8. To have many friends
9. To live in a big villa/apartment
10. To have an entirely own style
To be able to buy posh new clothing brands did not make it high up the list. Qualities you can possess without a chest loaded with money by your bed, like being good at what you do and being a good friend, did however, which does not surprise me. I’ve sensed a change for a long time now. I’ve seen indications perhaps not on an anti-movement to the consumerism, to the materialistic society characterized by an “the one with the most gadgets when s/he dies wins” attitude and a love for “hard values” but certainly on a large scaled, firm declaration that “my choice is different”. That “Although I accept that you do the race, I choose not to participate in it. I don't need a 300 square meter house with exclusive floorboard from Africa in order to be happy and content with my life.”. I thought about blogging these signals that I pick up, lastly when commenting the President’s choice to wear a gown dating a couple of years back at the Castle ball. But it sank into oblivion until tonight when I read this press release on the status list.
Status can’t be bought, says United Minds, and neither can happiness, according to Kari Nars, whose book Pengar och Lycka (Money and happiness) I just finished. KN claims that the more a society stresses material efforts in order to land a happy life, the less it values the search for a deep satisfaction with life and the inner meaning of life. “Materialism marginalizes religiosity” he writes and gives as an example the great number of people resigning the church in Finland.
I’m not convinced this is the case and I don’t equal the fact that many do leave the church with a poor interest in religiosity. Maybe there simply are better ways of practicing it, according to many. I think on the contrary that more and more people are searching more and more for a meaning of life and take and interest in spiritual nourishment, religiosity and non-material values. Perhaps as a consequence of being tired of living in the material world that KN depicts. The great interest in self help books, the great number of days devoted to team building at work places and seminars on how to be a better employer/employee/father/lover/friend are examples of the evidence of a big interest in the meaning of life and spiritual matters, in my eyes at least. I don’t believe people read a book on, say, ”Making the most out of your job” in order to advance to become a boss in 2 months time. I believe there’s a desire for spiritual nourishment, for getting to know who you really are and who you want to be that lies beneath. And in a broader sense, speaking of the material values getting cold, I notice that many dig through their grand parent’s attics now, hoping to find a vintage/retro beautiful handbag to go along the city shopping afternoon, instead of simply buying a brand new bag with a rugged look. More and more people are actively supporting locally produced food and handicraft. Another signal of a declining materialistic view on life is the collective spirit found on the internet. I know of many who don’t pay for support when setting up their own websites. In stead, they consult discussion forums and user forums, where other people are glad to help and trade advice, for free.
In short, I see people striving to be and genuinely valuing what’s on the top 10 list in the beginning of the post. To them, money, gadgets, costs and surface is not as hot as are values, engagement, reliability and to dare have a deep and intense discussion on things. I for one would love to see more of that!