All the headlines are saying that our standard of living is going to drastically drop. I am meant to feel scared and upset, but sometimes I wonder if our expectation of a constantly improving standard of living is realistic, or even a good thing. It has only really happened (with a few blips) in the last 70 years. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to go back to the days without heating, without an inside loo, without labour saving devices etc. Sometimes though, it feels like we have gone too far the other way. When I look down my street most of the houses have two, or even three cars outside, and I bet most of them have multiple TVs on in different rooms. I know not everyone lives like that, but many probably aspire to. This comes at a cost not only to us as we often need 2 incomes to maintain this standard of living, but also to the planet. I ask myself is it really a necessary, improved standard of living, or is it greed?
Our standard of living is different from our quality of life. Our standard of living is measured by the amount of material possessions, comfort, and a list of ‘necessities’. Our quality of life is more subjective and is measured by our happiness. Most of us know that material things don’t bring us happiness, and so I wonder if our quality of life will improve if our standard of living goes down a bit?
If we can only afford to heat one room and have one TV on, will we spend more time together in families, will we eat together, and communicate? If we only have one car will we walk more, or will public transport have to be cheaper and improve? If we can’t afford to go to the gym every night will we spend more time out in nature? If we can’t afford the take aways, snacks and convenience foods, will we eat more healthily, and cook proper food from scratch? Will the health of the nation improve, and will allergies and dementia decrease?
When I decided to give up work and live on my small work pension, I made similar cuts to my standard of living but my quality of life improved drastically. Luckily I didn’t have to chose between heat and eat and this will unfortunately hit the most vulnerable. Hopefully ‘community’ will step in again, as it did during lockdowns, but then was forgotten. I also believe that the government will have to come up with some kind of solution or strategy, as the predicted increase in energy costs will mean that many will not pay (or won’t be able to pay), as happened with the poll tax during Thatcher’s government.
What ever happens it will be temporary, as was every other economic crisis. If my standard of living decreases a bit I don’t mind, as long as my quality of life improves. That is up to me, and not decided by any government or organisation. Only I can control how and where I find joy and happiness. Only I can decide if I will let the scaremongering impact on my life now. If we hope for the best, but plan for the worst we will get through this, as many of us have survived similar or worse before. We may even come out of the other side less greedy and more grateful. Just as we discovered all the beautiful walks in our own areas during the restrictions, hopefully we will discover the happiness and a higher quality of life that is waiting for us in our own homes, and in our community. You may say I’m a dreamer, but, as John lennon says, I am not the only one.