“So much of our life is lived in a fog of automatic, habitual behavior. We spend so much time on the hunt, but nothing ever quite does it for us and we get so wrapped up in the hunt that it kind of makes us miserable.” – Dan Harris, Author 10% Happier
“The Minimalists” promise to draw you out of this fog. To take you from the cave of cravings and images to the truth of a conceptual world lacking debt and that fourth pair of shoes.
Harris, here, opens Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things which follows two white guys on a book tour around the country interviewing other white guys about giving up everything they own. It’s an evangelical feel-good hug-fest without the god-part.
I had to fight to not enjoy it.
Which is part-confession, part reflection – the emotional cues through music and long-board coasting did tap into the cultural conditioning that craves simplicity. And I believe this sold simplicity is just as much a tool of commodification as anything else.
The documentary is cathartic: you too could become a minimalist. A slew of success stories – interviews on achieving dreams, finding happiness. But you still have your netflix subscription and your kindle. And you opened an ebay account but forget to fill it with anything. But you feel good. Almost as if you did it too.
There isn’t a truly radical phrase in this entire film, because it relies upon the marketing savvy, social media tact, and advertising loops that fill us with everything else. If we actually followed their advice, we wouldn’t be able to listen to their podcast or read their next book.
I know I got this idea from somewhere. But — perhaps its this. Their claims are often spectacular: resist debt, own little, be swedish. But their language is so distant from any actual reality – their iphone’s depend on someone else’s debt and servitude. Their Kindle on obscene labor practices coming out of Seattle.
Not only that, but I believe the advertising industry, silicon valley, and education technology embrace this narrative that theoretically makes them less money by preying on the doublethink that has us hoarding self-help books, professionalizing digital pedagogy by laying off teachers, and going minimal by selling assets in exchange for subscriptions.
Its hardly minimalism if you’re selling all material goods and existing in the freemium world of data gathering that’ll certainly figure out what you’ll be willing to buy soon enough.