Accumulation sickness

There’s a certain amount of stuff, both physical and more ephemeral, that is necessary for a reasonable standard of life. I’m repeating an old idea here. We need shelter, food, warmth and affection to function. Sometimes objects give an illusion of security, and we cling to them for that, for imagined status and imagined need. Accumulation sickness is much more than that, though.

Where there is a flow of resources, quite a lot of things can and will move around sustainably and to good effect. From love given and received to quality work honoured with an appropriate payment, flow spreads the goodness. What happens when someone in the flow wants to accumulate excessively? All the love should flow to them, not anyone else. All the money should flow their way, not to flow on, but to stop there and pile up. There are plenty of people in our world who have more wealth than it would be humanly possible to use, stashed away in imaginary piles that reduce the flow of money and therefore energy for everyone else. There are people whose desire for importance diverts social flows in wholly comparable ways.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting what is needed, or even in having a safety net, something to fall back on. A little layer of insulation for the hard times is a natural enough thing to seek. Creatures do it, laying down fat in the good times so as to survive the winter, or the drought. But they never get so fat as to be unable to function. If they did, something else would eat them. Plenty of creatures store and accumulate. Bees with honey, squirrels with nuts, but the relationship between storing and need is pretty transparent. Nature doesn’t stockpile much, and when it does, get carried away, it’s usually an accident, as with the way wood becomes coal, or things collect up in one place by chance.

There are many reasons why wild beings do not do as we do. Most have their tools, weapons and insulation built into their bodies, and we do not. All other creatures are their own modes of transport. We mostly gave that up. Other creatures make homes and nests, but none quite like us. Somewhere along the way, the reasonable fear of death and the reasonable desire to have resources stored to avert that threat, became this other thing. This insatiable appetite to own stuff way beyond our capacity to use it, and to attract wealth and power way beyond any scope of either understanding or enjoying the implications of it.

All the while the mantra of ‘work harder’ is chanted at us by our politicians. Why? What do we need that we don’t actually have? What are we working so hard for? No matter what they tell us about working hard to get rich as an individual and do your bit for the economy, (poor, needy creature that it is) the reality is that resources tend to flow towards those glitches in the system where resources have already accumulated. The damns in the stream, if you will. There’s a thing about damns though. Every now and then, the blocked stream picks an easier path and stops piling more debris against the damn. Perhaps if we all recognised that we don’t need to keep accumulating, we could take the stream off in another direction. Anyone with a good vision of how to do this, please say!

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Accumulation sickness

  • Alex Jones

    It used to be people just killed a mammoth and they had all they needed for a month.

  • Jason Burnett

    This reminds me of something I picked up from Star Trek: the Ferengi idea of the “Great Material Continuum.” The basic idea is that for everyone who wants something they don’t have, there’s someone else who has something they don’t want. By keeping things flowing, rather than allowing them to stay in a place they’re not needed, things have a way of getting to where the “ought to be” and the smooth functioning of the universe is ensured. I’ve applied this in my own life and found it to greatly improve my situation.

  • Treeshrew

    Your post made me think of the ‘law of flow’ and ‘law of balance’ from John Michael Greer’s work. I couldn’t agree more! The question is, how do you step off the treadmill of work-to-buy-stuff once you get started?

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