The financial/ economic crisis is still rising and we don't seem to know the way out yet. People go with the flow, protest a little, live and work, party and have sex, going on with their lives, according to the means. I hear some of them around me complaining about their low (actually not so low) salaries, their social&professional position, the importance of their personal development, the value of their studies and knowledge. On top of it, we are accustomed to the welfare state, to go out, to satisfy our whims, eat in restaurants, drink and dance the night away, dress well and go shopping according to the season's fashion, take care of our feet, nails, hair, skin. And boom! a lot of us lost part of these privileges, that are seen as part of a normal, ordinary life, middle class routine.
Let's put it plainly, comfort (read hedonism) became our ideal in life, and our society is packed with personal development gurus, life coaches and counselors on how to become prosper and happy . The self rules: self-help, self-development, self-fulfillment, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-assurance, not forgetting the oh, so sweet!, self-reward. Love thyself first. This should be your daily thought "I deserve the best and my purpose in life is to get it". As soon as we miss something we feel unfulfilled. If we don't get the perfect job (including a matching salary), the ideal husband, the house of our dreams, we feel that our life is not complete and therefore we can't be happy. Because we are all taught that we are exceptional individuals and we have to struggle to achieve better and better and better and better... Companies produce more, many of them in other faraway countries, eventually overworking and underpaying the workers, so we can consume more, filling the inner void with objects of desire.
Our parents and grandparents did what they could in most cases, what the society conditioned them to do. They were raised with the idea that they should get married and build a family, didn't plan on how many children they should have and just struggled to maintain the family without thinking that much at their self development and personal growth. The main purpose was to raise the children and lead a decent life, giving something back to the society if they were richer. Lonely artists and scientists were eccentric exceptions. Of course, I am aware of the advantages of our freshly acquired freedom, especially when it comes to women (it wasn't too bad in the Roman Empire either). But I also think that this wild individualism with a strong hedonist orientation is not taking us too close to a peaceful mind and a serene soul. Learning to live with less and rely more on ourselves and less on things would do the trick.
I am no exception, I search for pleasure as much as everyone else, while I am trying to exert some self-criticism and keep it under control at the same time.