Gratification on Demand: The Fuel Driving the
by John Renesch
for March ‘08 FSM thsent to Team 2-9, requested feedback by 28.
“All good things take time” says the old saw. I remember when one saved their money to buy something special, something one really wanted. While waiting to save the money for the purchase, there was opportunity to reflect on what one was doing and why one wanted this thing so badly.
Buying something on credit allows the buyer to enjoy the feeling of ownership much more quickly, to be sure, but it also drastically shortens the time one has to reflect on one’s purchase. Buying on credit is still a fairly new phenomenon, with “lay-away plans”
and “buying on time” coming into vogue just over half a century ago and credit cards emerging in early 1960s. The “instant gratification” at the cash register is an experience
barely two generations old in our Western cultures.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
As we know, personal debt in the U.S. has grown exponentially over recent years (see graph above) and household savings have plummeted. Both are byproducts of this rush to “gratification on demand.” Besides fast food, we have instant messaging, printing on
demand, music in my pocket or purse, overnight delivery and instant credit checks. In economics, we have moved from an investing culture to a society of speculators, flipping houses and learning to become day traders so we can make (or lose) money more quickly without any longer-term ownership.
We have morphed into a consumer culture where our “stuff” occupies our consciousness
as much as any other aspect of social living today. Selecting the stuff we want and comparing it with our options (an activity we generally refer to as “shopping”) is a
primary activity from the time we are teenagers. Then we spend enormous amounts of psychic energy on working to pay for all our stuff, keeping it secure and save, and worrying how to pay off the debt we took on to have it now. This is the secondary price we pay for having things “now” instead of down the road.
We have become an “on demand society” and fully expect everything to be available to
us now, right now! And the market accommodates this impulsiveness as things continue to move faster and faster to keep up with this mass obsession with “I want it now.”
This drive to gratification on demand is unhealthy and unsustainable. By becoming so obsessive about accumulating material stuff we’re cheating ourselves of the spiritual side
of the human experience?
If there is any chance for us to transform to a sustainable society and curb our propensity to obsessively consume, we will need to let go of this insatiable albeit adolescent desire for instant gratification. We need to grow up emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. When we do this, the transformation that awaits us as a species can begin.