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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 13/12/2011 | 2 Comments

It is well known to those organising events that if it is free then expect at least 20 per cent 'no shows'. If the event is in the evening, and it is a dark, wet night then expect the 'no show'  percentage to go up substantially. Finally, if you are holding the event in December, near Christmas when the town is packed and there's lots on,  then there might not be any point in holding it at all.

All of this was going through my mind when I agreed with Professor Tim Kasser a few months ago that he would speak at an event for the Centre. I wouldn't have chosen an event on the 12th of December but he was in Scotland anyway and, as a long-term admirer of Tim's work, I was keen to arrange an event around him come what may.

About one hundred and ten people had registered to come to Glasgow: Well-being, materialism and the values of consumer capitalism.   In fact far from the event being under-attended we needed to put out more chairs as about one hundred and twenty people turned up. And they weren't all locals, some of them were even from Dundee and Inverurie – 26 miles north of Aberdeen!

As far as I can see everyone left feeling the event had been extremely worthwhile. Tim was the main speaker and he was fantastic – as well as being clear, articulate, witty and likeable his argument that the pursuit of materialism (money, image and fame) is supported by extensive evidence. This argument, and the values underpinning it, also went down extremely well with the audience.  Indeed no doubt so many folk made such a great effort to get there on a cold, dark December evening because the topic tuned with how they are feeling.

Since the event was framed round Glasgow's ill-being and whether excessive materialism may in part be the cause, Tim gave some thought to what a city can do to reduce materialism and promote well-being. He came up with three possible courses of action.

First he suggested that Glasgow may want to ban outdoor advertising – billboards, bus ads, subway ads and the like. In case you think this is far fetched this is exactly the course of action that Brazil's capital city Sao Paulo embarked on five years ago and it hasn't hurt the city economically – far from it. 

Secondly he said that planning decisions should be weighted towards well-being not commerce. So instead of shopping centres what about more green spaces and parks. Thirdly, he suggested more focus on well-being measures for the city. (This is happening anyway, though whether it will actually drive policy is another matter.)

We shall be putting up Tim's presentation (and earlier webinar) on the website sometime soon. In the meantime  you can watch a five minute animated film of his basic argument. This has only recently gone up on Youtube and yet has been attracting around 10,000 hits a day.

Comment By Comment
Kenny Macdonald
Joined: 05/02/2007

Comment Posted: 13/12/2011 17:34
Hi Carol. I was there! Great event overall. I was really interested in what Tim had for our consumption, pardon me. Sorry I didn't make any specific contribution to the discussion or to any debate on the matters raised. I was concerned though that I would not be able to shut up or be shut up. I was bursting with an array of comments about the impact all of this stuff is having in this city, some of which, as is often the case with me, may have been viewed as too challenging. So, not wishing to appear negative, I kept quiet. I felt before hand and even more now I have been able to think about what Tim was talking about that the issues of materialism, consumerism, the quest for wealth and fame and things, are having a very significant negative impact on many people, particularly those most disadvantaged, living in Glasgow. I see it in people's faces every day and consequently intheir lives and more worryingly, in the lives of their children. I would be interested in joining the movement we need to form to change this for the good of this city and its people. If there's such a thing, I'm in. I was less clear, particularly in the current set of circumstances, as to the value of what Ewan had in his presentation about the Healthy Working Lives Paradigm and how relevant it remains. I think we would all broadly agree that work is good for people. Sadly, as a society, whether we like it or not many do not value the likes of caring or child rearing or volunteering as 'real' work. Until that changes, I am not sure where this paradigm, which to me read like a right, sits in the context of people's everyday lives, particularly young peole and agin people who before the recession were cut out and are now further marginalised. End of rant. Hope to catch yo usoon Carol.
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Comment Posted: 14/12/2011 11:55
Hi Carol - I am sorry to have missed the event last night - it sounds from your blog that it went very well.

As you know I am a great supporter of your work at the Centre amd find lots of great relevant insights and learning on your site - I must however comment on this anti materialism talk that if we are not careful people will start to believe....... materialism and the desire for growth (both personal and economic) is vital and in Scotland we need to encourage success.... we have lots of issues as you know and need to stimulate positive cando attitudes ......

Maybe as someone said Money doesnt buy happiness but in my experience niether does poverty........ I wish you continued success
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