Standard of Living vs. Quality of Life

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    by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:

    If we search the roots of conflicts, social collapses, and even many non-natural disasters, we’ll find an economic distortion or bust. Economic, monetary, and financial downturns and crashes are the mother and father of almost every other man-made SHTF.

    That’s because the systems supporting a complex civilization are based on economy, finance, and trading. When those crack or stumble, everything else follows. Economic and financial crises create imbalances that impact social cohesion by wreaking havoc on the supply chain and shrinking the pool of resources.

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    I keep beating that drum, and that’s how it is. When people are jobless, freezing, and starving, everyone retreats, and survival instinct kicks in. Priorities change, tensions rise, and it’s harder to find common ground. That doesn’t mean chaos everywhere, but given the gloomy economic outlook, the likelihood of wars and social unrest in some parts of the globe will increase in the coming years, that’s for sure.

    Down here, ‘in the real world,’ the recession is already bringing hardship, suffering, and even the end to many. It’ll get worse, but there’s no need to fear: I know from personal experience that the majority adapt and survive, so I’ll tell a little ‘life hack’ about how to lead a decent and fulfilling life and even grow in many ways during hard times.

    Standard of living and quality of life 

    Let’s start with two important concepts.

    The standard of living is a measurable metric: the level of wealth, comfort, and material goods available to individuals and the collective. On the other hand, quality of life is a subjective, immaterial measure of happiness.

    Standard of living and quality of life overlap but don’t connect in the way most people think (or should I say, were brainwashed to believe). It’s possible – and in fact, very common – for a person, family, community, or an entire population, to have little to almost no possessions, comforts, or conveniences available and still be happy. Everybody knows someone like that.

    The opposite is also true: someone can be filthy rich and have access to all kinds of material goods and pleasures and still be miserable, sick, and depressed. I’m sure everybody knows or has at least heard of someone like that, too. It can be argued that despite having just reached its industrial and technological peak, modern civilization is lost, hopeless and sad in many ways.

    But let’s leave that discussion for another time. Understanding the above dissociation is critical, and I’ll return to that in a moment.

    From abstract principles to material consequences

    A nation’s standard of living is generally indicated by GDP (nominal and per capita). But also – and in significant part – by how well (or poorly) the GDP or national wealth is distributed.

    When the GDP contracts, different parts of society get impacted at different levels. Overall, the quality of life of the entire population falls. However, it’s worse when the national wealth gets too concentrated because it gives rise to sentiments of injustice and revolt, which leads to divisiveness and violence (crime, etc.). That’s why a crash in the standard of living is perceived as an SHTF.

    Also, people resent instability, change, and above all, loss – of material possessions, comforts, conveniences, status, and privileges. That’s basic human psychology. The shock can be more significant in wealthy and developed countries, where the middle class makes up a much larger part of the demographic. It’s a population more used to higher degrees of safety, stability, and material abundance than the poor classes and, at the same time, more impacted by shocks and recessions than the rich.

    Again, people adapt over time for the most part, but the sentiment can be painful, particularly early on. I mention that because being aware and conscious of this mechanism can reduce anxiety and avoid unnecessary suffering.

    Mindset is a critical aspect.

    Earlier, I said it’s possible to live a good and fulfilling life with a low standard of living (or a dropping one), and it’s true. It’s not easy, but possible and more common than people think. If I didn’t have my own experience, I’d still have many other examples around me and everywhere to show me that.

    Too many of life’s important things are free or cost very little. Don’t get me wrong; I’m simplifying to illustrate a point. I’ll repeat: wealth can provide happiness and bring comfort. But it can’t compensate for moral, spiritual, institutional, and social decadence. In the wrong context, it can amplify those things and sentiments. No GDP can make a population enslaved and entrapped by consumerism, stress, greed, envy, and in poor health, genuinely happy. There’s no cure for lack of purpose or meaning.

    The world rulers want us to believe that’s a naive idea, but it’s a compelling and liberating insight. It applies to individuals and the collective and becomes powerful when things are dire. Modern society has been brainwashed to believe that if something has a low cost, it has low value. Those in that mindset will pass up many good opportunities and suffer more than necessary when luxury and privileges disappear.

    It’s nice being able to afford the stuff we like. I’m not advocating for total abnegation and self-sacrifice, just temperance, realism, adjustments in psychology, and habits for a better life. We can’t control the direction of the economy or the world, but we can have a say in how we respond to a changing reality. That can make a difference for our families and us.

    A practical example 

    Living near to work increases the quality of life – quite dramatically, it must be said. Instead of being stuck in traffic, stressed, and breathing polluted air for hours daily, people can walk, bike, or take public transportation. That means improved physical conditioning, mental sanity, positive interactions, and better urban spaces. Shorter commutes also provide free time to be spent with family or friends, pursue interests and hobbies, and tend to health or the community.

    Those things are good for people. If that single change happens on a large scale, fewer cars, fuel, and services will be sold. Consequently, less investment in infrastructure, less healthcare and welfare spending, less taxation, less pollution, and so on. It also means a smaller GDP (standard of living, a number), and you’d think that would be bad for the country and its population. But it’s not if that means improved cities and happier, healthier people (quality of life).

    Besides, as I said, if the generated wealth isn’t well distributed, or gets squandered, then the gross GDP matters little. That is no communist preaching. I’m 100% convinced that free market capitalism is the path to prosperity and higher equality. That is not about ideology and politics but individual pursuits. We must do all we can to break from that, which happens at the personal level.

    The third path

    Admittedly, things like living close to work are a rare privilege in this day and age. How the system is designed and built requires lots of money to beat The Matrix or a total unplugging from the machine (which is not practical and won’t warrant a good quality of life, either).

    However, technological advancements and other changes of modern life and social arrangement have brought immense possibilities. You’ve heard Selco speak of big circle and small circle events. We can’t control the standard of living (big circle). But now, more than ever, individuals have actual tools to pursue a better or more fitting quality of life (small circle). These are effective strategies, more so during difficult times.

    Focusing time, dedication, and energy on those is realistic and achievable and yields lasting results. For instance, try investing in (or prioritizing) the following:

    • Yourself (that always comes first – improving physical and mental condition).
    • Family and friends (quality time).
    • Knowledge (new ways to stay productive, connected, relevant, etc.)
    • Positive and productive habits (hobbies, reading, writing, learning new skills, etc.).
    • Positive and healthy relationships (supporting and dedicating time to things and people that matter most).
    • Your community (participation, awareness, support, etc.).
    • Others (charity, voluntary work, donations, etc.).
    • Discomfort (be comfortable staying uncomfortable).

    There are no shortcuts or magical formulas

    I could tell you what I did (and still do) in more practical terms. But each person has a unique setting, lifestyle, and limitations, so we have to find ways to work on what’s possible according to those contexts and possibilities. Besides, I have succeeded at times but failed miserably in many others – and still do too. I’m no role model. I just want to make you reflect.

    Of course, working hard and smart is still necessary to keep income flowing and sustain material conditions. It’s the real world, after all. Food, heating, a roof – stuff don’t come for free. The bills will keep arriving every month despite pandemics, the WEF, wars in distant countries, censorship, and other things, so money is always necessary.

    Finally, survivors adapt during crises by persevering, adjusting, prioritizing, and compromising. Be aware that the competition gets much more fierce during a crisis, so everyone has to dig deeper to keep floating. A change in the mindset and some practical aspects of your lifestyle to achieve a higher quality of life rather than the standard of living is achievable at the individual level. Stay open and flexible, be patient, and have faith. It’ll work.

    Final thoughts

    This is meant to be a positive message for the year that has just started. It’s inspired by my family and others who lived through my country’s military regime and stagflation periods during the 1970s and 80s. That’s where we found unity, energy, and perseverance to plow ahead.

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