TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME

"As long as you keep buying the crap they make you think you need, the more you have to work that job you hate so very much just to keep up. It's the modern day slavery. The key is that you aren't the slave to a nasty terror state that drinks the sweat from your brow like nectar. That would give you something to hate, something to stand up to. No, the enemy here is your own dumb self, and you are just too stupid to see what you're doing to yourself."

by Jim Martin

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


I'm trying to figure out how I can afford to pay off all of my debt and move to a tiny little town in the sunny Okanagan Valley, where I will write and program computers for the rest of my days. Naturally, it's a fairly daunting task.

One of the big problems in doing this is the amount of debt I've allowed myself to accrue. You see, I got me a student loan. This made a lot of sense as a young man about to embark on a scholastic venture to one day become a computer programmer and Make Something Of Myself. Unfortunately, I didn't really know much at that point.

The trouble with a student loan is that it is the first major piece of debt. Mine was in the area of $30K. That's a rather large chunk of change, and works out to payments of about $500 per month for 9.5 years. That's a small price to pay for a degree, isn't it? Sure, but it's just the first trap they set.

You see, you have to go to school. They won't hire you if you don't. So you spend thousands on an education, and you wind up owing money. That's okay, though. Paying off that debt will give you a strong credit rating, which encourages them to give you more credit. Soon enough, they let you get that car. Or the home entertainment center. Or the home. Or the revolving line of credit for those little hiccups that happen from time to time.

My bank told me that I could have overdraft, and that I should use the overdraft because it would be a clear representation of my willingness to get and clear my debts. I did so. Every month I pay off my overdraft, and every month I use it all again. When I talked to them about other credit, they told me that the overdraft would work against me. After all, I'm always in the red.

The underlying issue is a clear one. The more that they can get you to owe them, the more that you have to work for them. In other words, the more beholden to them you are, the more you continue on in the way that you're supposed to. The earlier they get you, the more certain they are that you are contributing to that economic stability they crave so much. You might not work for a bank, but by working in your nasty little day-to-day job you are accomplishing the next best thing. Remember way back in the days before service fees, when banks made money by lending your savings out at interest? Remember how safe that felt?

Now, the bank is a required institution in my world. I want to get paid, I have to get either a cheque or the ever-so-handy direct deposit system. A bank is the only way to have money at the end of my day. The bank then lends my money out at interest, and if I want to have some I have to actually pay for the service. I'm not a customer of theirs, I'm an inconvenience, and asking to have some of my precious coin is the sort of move that can get your bank manager very angry at you.

When the instant tellers and debit processing in stores came out, we started getting really hit with these charges. Every transaction you made was another dollar. One night, the food I was buying wouldn't go through and I wound up having to put each item through as a separate transaction. They charged me $12 on top of the price of my chocolate milk and chips for the joy of having modern technology assist me.

For a moment, the banks decided to pity us and gave us these delightful things called Service Packs. For a very long time, we could use phrases like "Unlimited Transactions" and "No Service Charges". Deep down in our hearts, though, we knew that it wouldn't last.

I recently got a letter from my bank telling me that they were giving me some exciting new options. Where before I had unlimited transactions, I now could have as many as 25 in a single month!! You can imagine my glee. I was then surprised to see that the bank machine downstairs at my work was asking for a $1.25 service charge for every transaction. Oh, joy! Now, if I have already used my plethora of free withdrawls, I could wind up spending $2.25 just to take out a fiver for lunch. Oh, boy, it's wonderful.

The more we give to banks the more they want from us. And the best way for them to get it? By letting us spend more. Here, have some credit. Have a mortgage. What's that? You haven't spent all that you could on RRSP's? Well, we'll lend you some money. Buy, buy, buy! Be a good consumer.

As long as you keep buying the crap they make you think you need, the more you have to work that job you hate so very much just to keep up. It's the modern day slavery. The key is that you aren't the slave to a nasty terror state that drinks the sweat from your brow like nectar. That would give you something to hate, something to stand up to. No, the enemy here is your own dumb self, and you are just too stupid to see what you're doing to yourself.

There is a way out, though. It's simply a matter of looking at your life and determining just what it is that you need. The first step, at least for me, is to move to a place where I can't make the big bucks. I'm going to force myself to have to qualify the things I want to purchase. What are they really going to do for me? Some things will still get purchased because I figure that they are worth it. But will I really need a new DVD player, and will I have to invest the time and money into buying all the movies I already have on VHS just to be able to see them that little bit clearer, or better yet with the voice of some hideous movie critic prattling on in my ear throughout the movie?

It brings reality home, that does. Finally, I can pay for the opportunity to tell people to shut up while the movie is on in my very own house.