How to say Enough?
Enough - Breaking Free From the World of Excess
John Naish's 2008 book provides a spot-on answer to the burning question: how to say enough?
In the world of ever-more, Enough is a guide to the art of saying (what else?) ENOUGH! Enough data. Enough food. Enough work. Enough stuff. We have more than we need and chasing for one more crock of gold at the end of the rainbow can only land us in trouble.
Surprisingly (or maybe not...), saying enough is a problem to many people. John Naish explores why, explaining how our very brains are our opponent in the fight for contentment. Luckily, this is only the beginning. He also provides a spectrum of tips and life-hacks designed to teach us how to say enough. It's not easy, but it can be done!
Why I chose to read Enough?
I am addicted to non-fiction social criticism books. Things are not exactly well on the Spaceship Earth and I find inspiration in reading books by people who agree. If they also propose solutions, that's an added bonus, although I doubt if any one person can save the world by providing The Perfect Answer to the Society's Ills. I cheer those who try, if they talk any sense, and so far I've gone through tens of books on some of my favourite topics - overconsumption, overeating, overspending, overdevelopment*.
I bet you can see the pattern emerging. I deeply believe that we do have enough of pretty much everything and dreaming of forever more is not the wisest policy.
No surprise then that once I saw the big, bold ENOUGH on the bookshelf I didn't hesitate long before grabbing the title. Hey, could John Naish be someone who shares my sentiments?
Yes. Three times yes.
If I were to write a book at this stage of my life, it would be very similar to Enough - similar in content, tone and general message. Ladies and gentlemen, that guy is reading my mind! Or maybe I am reading his. Or, perhaps, the fact that we have enough and more can only hurt us is obvious to a growing number of people.
I really do hope so.
* I've read all the books I'm recommending on this page and, no need to add, found them worthy. Browsing through the titles - or my book blog, Bookworm's Cave - should be enough to persuade you that I really am a big fan of social criticism aimed at over-anything.
What's so special about Enough?
That's easy: John Naish managed to tackle all the areas where we tend to overindulge and fit his findings within one book of unthreatening size.
Overeating. Overwork. Over-buying. Information overload. Overtaxing Earth's resources. Overwhelming potential customers with too many options. Truly, Enough is a perfectly suitable title for this book. It is easy to find titles analysing any of the above problems on its own, but this is the very first (that I've seen) that confronts them all.
Language of Enough
One of the most compelling features of Enough is its language. Naish is not out to deliver a sermon, or force you to do exactly-what-he-says. He (quite correctly) assumes that humour will get his message further than fire and brimstone warnings.
True, images of carbonized Earth are present in his narrative, but even those pictures are delivered with a bittersweet wink. At our current rate of consumption, NOT including such visions would be naive.
Gently preachey notes can be detected towards the end of the book (perhaps a deadline was approaching?), but they are not strong enough to poison the pleasure of reading this overall delicious and thought-provoking publication.
Throughout most of the text, Naish talks like a human being - an ordinary guy who tries to make sense of what is happening around him. He jokes, worries, asks questions, shares cameos from his life. I find such an approach to storytelling far more likeable than dry, puffed-up ramblings by the so-called 'experts'.
There's more overweight and obese people in the world than the undernourished. That means that some of us (let's face it - many of us) are gorging on enough calories to make us sick, while others starve. A highly ironic picture.
More than one third of US adults are obese (according to this study), with the rest of the world working hard on matching the sad statistics. Food industry's priorities focus on increasing profits of shareholders, not health of customers, with the predictable result of marketing machine geared up towards pushing mountains of fattening food on gullible victims (see Michael Moss's Salt Sugar Fat below).
This is not a pretty picture, especially that obesity is not only about aesthetics. It is a serious health problem. Diabetes and cancer top the list of diseases you are more likely to get if you're overweight, but the list is long and includes many more ailments.
A full chapter of Enough is given over to the analysis of our food cravings and to the all-important questions: why do we eat so much? How our environment influences out diets? Last, but not least, what can we do about it?
Enough food - further reading
This book managed to put me off fast food for life. I am only grateful to Eric Schlosser for writing such a blood-chilling report on fast food history, production and effects.
Salt, sugar and fat in large quantities are not good for us and yet they are the main ingredients in most processed foods today. Michael Moss explores this paradox.
Does food need defending? Depends on how you define the word 'food'. In the Age of Supermarkets, Michael Pollan's definition is probably quite unique.
More time spent in the office does not necessarily equal more work done. Yet, we tend to work longer hours than ever, often for free.
Predictably, this puts a lot of strain onto our personal lives, so we work even more simply to escape the unhappy home. Or so John Naish claims.
He also explores how the amount of money in our banks relates to self-professed levels of happiness and what would happen if we all decided to work less.
To some, his findings will be quite surprising.
Enough work - further reading
I chose this book for the title alone.
Madeleine Bunting has carried out a detailed study of contemporary work culture. Despite her being quite reserved in tone, I found the report chilling.
Work, or overwork, is literally killing us. Even if we leave the most extreme cases aside, the picture Bunting paints is still grim.
Willing Slaves is guaranteed to provide you with some food for thought and inspiration (especially if you're considering downshifting).
Read the full review here.
In the Western world, we are constantly encouraged to buy things. Some treat it as their patriotic duty (hey, you gotta help the economy out of the slump, right?), a remedy for life's blues (retail therapy, anyone?) or simply the only way of life there is.
In the meantime, our rubbish dumps are overflowing, biodiversity of our planet is getting - how should I put it? - much less diversified and storage space renting is turning into a high profit business idea. Not to mention shopaholics, obsessive hoarders and perpetually indebted on-credit-spenders.
We don't really need that much stuff, guys. Naish is very articulate in his arguments for re-thinking our consumer habits. Indeed, consuming less of everything is one of the main themes in Enough. It can be done, especially if you employ some of the strategies suggested by the book.
If Enough didn't convince you that too much stuff is bad for you... - ...how about George Carlin?
Enough stuff - further reading
Neal Lawson argues that we are not consumers anymore, we are turboconsumers. I find it hard to disagree.
All Consuming takes a good, hard look at the dark side of capitalism. It is full of worrying statistics, interviews with people whose lives have been damaged by turboconsumerism and other snapshots of capitalism rampant doing harm.
Lawson suggests some remedies and while I don't exactly agree with his propositions, I admit that his book is engaging, thought provoking and highly recommendable.
Click here for a longer review.
Is it time to say Enough?
Have we passed the point where striving for more stopped being beneficial and became a menace? Should we rethink our way of life?
Striving for more - good or bad?
Enoughism as a social movement
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