Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Ass. Or Ferrari.

I wanna talk about capitalism. Oh just read, you can handle this. I won’t get too political. I think one of the fundamental reasons so many people are unhappy is because our society has evolved in such a way that what we crave the most is Things. We see other around us with Things, and we begin to covet. “What do we do, Clarice? We covet.” Our entire global infrastructure is based on our populace coveting and attaining Things. 

Capitalism has been allowed to run rampant past few decades. Corporations are people. They take advantage of loopholes, buy elections, spend a good deal of money to make sure their interests will be protected. Food stamps are cut by corporate tax breaks are not. The rich get richer, workers get fucked. Entire countries are exploited for cheap labor. Children and women are imprisoned and forced to give blow jobs so that their pimps can get rich. Entire areas of our planet have been raped by corporations for the sake of creating Things That People Covet. Whole industries think nothing of giving the communities around them cancer by polluting the air. All in the name of making the Things. 

In the last 40 years we’ve put more focus on commerce than on the basic needs of the people on this planet. Progress marches forward. Make money at all costs!

It ain’t healthy, y’all.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone found a happy medium? Communism won’t work nor would I advocate it, but there must be an economic system that’s not based on fucking over 99 percent of your citizens. How do we cope with growing evidence that the world is a very rigged place and, odds are, if you’re reading this, it’s not rigged in your favor. (Unless one of those sexy Koch Brothers is reading, then heeeeeyyyyy, call me!) We’re faced with mounting evidence every single day that You Will Never Get Ahead. How to deal with that on a daily basis without being completely demoralized? 

I used to have a real problem with this. Once I got married and turned 40, I got this nagging in my brain. It started out small and grew larger and larger. “You’re forty,” it said. “Isn’t it about time that you settled down, stopped all this silly partying, and bought some cloth napkins?” Sometimes it said, “Isn’t it about time you stopped stealing Band-Aids and reams of paper from your office and buy a house already?” 

So we bought the house. Then it said “Yeah, this house is awright and all, but you really need a nice wreath for the front door and what about a new bed? And shouldn’t you have new dishes that match your dining room? And that old couch really doesn’t match the Dusty Sage color you painted the living room.”

I had become Martha Fucking Stewart. Wreaths? Color-coordinated dishware? What. The. Fuck. This was the person who has been perfectly content with two ratty-ass futons for the last 15 years. I’d even started (gulp) purchasing different fucking dining-room table centerpieces for each season.Sigh. 

It can get pretty demoralizing, this keeping up with the Joneses. No matter how carried away you get on the home decorating tip, there will always be someone’s house that is bigger, better, more presh. So I stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I still drive through neighborhoods way better than mine, with landscaped gardens and three-storied craftsmen homes, and think “These houses are making me angry, fuck these people.” (So much so that every time we approach a nice neighborhood, my wife says “Honey, don’t look, this is where the houses make you angry.”)

Every time I feel myself getting blue over the things I don’t have or sense myself coveting someone else’s possession or lifestyle, I bring that bullshit back to gratitudes. Every time I think “Fuck those Berkeley professors and their shingle-covered houses of cuteness,” I remind myself that, uh, I have a house too. It’s not like I’m sleeping on the streets of San Francisco, taking dumps on people’s stoops. It’s not like I’m living in a fucking mud hut in Namibia, waiting to get my clit lopped off by some tribal elder. It’s not like I’m rooting through trashcans, looking for my next meal. 

Point being, someone on this planet always has it worse than you. That’s not to minimize your suffering, but really, is wishing for a room in your house that will be your Christmas-present-wrapping room…well, is that really suffering? Is pining for flatware that didn’t come from Salvation Army really worth a good cry? You can always–and I mean always–find a way to turn this kind of capitalist craving into a positive. “I wish I had matching dishes like Martha!” could just as easily become “Well fuck, at least I have food to put on my sad-ass plates.” Or hell, even “At least I had parents who loved me and taught me how to cook so I can enjoy some kickass food on these plates” if you need to go deep on that shit. 

I’ve started doing this thing that drives my wife insane, which, when you think about it, is even more incentive. Every time I catch myself bitching about something inconsequential or catch myself brooding over an object I don’t have, I turn that frown upside down and say out loud three things I do have or three ways that life doesn’t suck in that moment. So “Look at that fucking dick, zipping into the parking lot of this winery with his blonde wife and his tan and his hedge fund. That motherfucker doesn’t have a care in the world” becomes “How awesome is it that I live so close to wine country and can just come up here on a sunny day and taste a bunch of good wines and eat some killer food?” You don’t have to look for some major accomplishment in your life or caress the most expensive whatever you own. Sometimes all it takes is “I’m lucky to live somewhere where I have the access and the means to choose and cook a variety of foods instead of having a diet of beans every day.” Or when I see someone driving a truly covet-worthy car, I think “I spent 10 years riding the tin shitbox that is MUNI twice a day with the (extremely) unwashed masses. I don’t have to do that anymore because I married a big dyke with an ugly Subaru.” 

I’m not saying it’s going to prevent you from wanting to kick Sam Walton’s heirs in the nuts each and every day, but I will say this: since I’ve started reminding myself of the ways I’m happy, healthy, and blessed, I have much less of the Rich Rage. Yes, the truly rich are fun to hate, but once it becomes a black storm cloud that’s settled into your subconscious, you will be deeply unhappy. Another way to look at it is: “Sure, someone will always have it better than me, but someone will always have it worse…I should think about those folks to get happy!” Well, you get the idea anyway. 

So your choices are to put your shit into some perspective or to go out and invent the next iPad and become a gazillionaire. I’ll give you a hint: one requires a lot less math and stuff. Your call.