Capitalism is an incredibly productive system for providing what people want and are prepared to pay for.
Sadly, it lets us down when we want things that are bad for us. Or, perhaps more accurately, we let ourselves down.
Take mobility scooters for example.
Let’s agree upfront that some people have no other choice in how they get around because of major illness or injury. Those people have my genuine sympathy…they really do.
But if that was all that was going on, we’d be talking about a few thousand…not hundreds of thousands. Yet with annual sales estimated at 80,000 per year and a national fleet estimated at 350,000, Britain is now The Mobility Scooter Capital of Europe.
In a saner world, these contraptions would only be used by a small number of people. For example, farm labourers whose legs had gotten caught up in the blades of a combine harvester. Or surfers who had encountered a Great White shark. Or people like The Escape Artist who are not very good at DIY and had accidentally sawn their own legs off. I hate it when that happens.
But really…350,000?…how many combine harvester accidents can there be? What the actual fuck is going on here?
Some will say that this is a natural consequence of an ageing population. But is that really true?
First, there are very few mobility scooters in France, Switzerland and Italy, countries with ageing populations comparable to the UK. This suggests a cultural explanation might be at play here.
Second, it’s not true that your legs stop working when you reach the age of 65. Granted, this statement is made by someone in his 40s…but (unlike users of mobility scooters) I’m gonna go out on a limb on this one.
Third, official studies indicate that the majority of scooter users are under 65 years old. In the 2014 HM Government study Mobility Scooters: A Market Study (a cracking read, let me tell you) 53% of respondents to its survey of scooter users were under 65 years old.
So why am I talking about mobility scooters on a blog about how to get rich? Aren’t they 2 completely unrelated subjects?
Trust me, this is relevant. Partly because ill health (especially back problems) is one of the things that causes chaos in people’s finances. And partly because health worries make people nervous about quitting a job with health insurance (even in the UK).
But mainly because mobility scooters represent the essence of extreme consumerism. These are things that few people should need. And that no one should want. Yet they’re packaged up with advertising and marketing as a lifestyle and convenience product and sold to the hard of thinking using elevator music, soft focus advertorials and smiley, unthreatening presenters.
Note how at 3 mins 22 seconds sports alloy wheels and low profile tyres are touted as key benefits. I’m guessing those were aimed at the guys. Perfect for cruising up and down Bournemouth sea front, no doubt.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and political correctness. Sadly, good intentions and political correctness are royally fucking large sections of the population. And not in a good way. We are infantilising millions of people, turning them into big fat babies…encouraging them to aspire to minimal effort, convenience and obesity.
Here we have the ingredients for a consumer sucker fad:
1) A product that appeals to our natural desire to conserve energy (when we lived in the wild, we’d need that energy later)
2) Something that promises the lure of convenience, ease and comfort…something that lets us off the hook of doing any work ourselves
3) Enablers and accomplices (salespeople, advertisers, friends and relatives glad they no longer need push the wheelchair or act as cabby): “ooohh, yes its lovely Marge”…
4) Affluence (people can afford it…sort of)
The Escape Artist does not have all the answers here but he does have some questions. Is our society collectively going insane? Are we like frogs getting boiled in a pan…getting wimpier and more pathetic each year as material affluence increases?
And was the film Wall-E a premonition of what our society will soon look like? If you haven’t seen the film, go watch it. Yes, even if you have to pay for it. Here’s a taster:
I’m not picking on older people here. After all, when like me you get to your mid 40s, you pretty much ARE an older person. 😉 No, the purpose of this article is to explain how staying flexible throughout life has a massive return on investment in your later years.
I’m here to tell you that what most people think are the natural effects of ageing are anything but natural. To a huge extent, we don’t stop exercising because we age, we age because we stop exercising.
One of the most striking examples of this in my life was meeting an older man (I’d guess mid sixties?) who had retired with his wife to rural France to tend a small-holding and let out a holiday cottage. I met him one day and didn’t give him a second look…because he was fully clothed.
But then I saw him a couple of days later working on a hot summers day without his shirt on and holy fuck, the dude was ripped like Rambo! Probably because he hadn’t spent the previous 20 years eating donuts in an office or in Travelodge motels attending sales conferences. No, instead he’d spent that time outside doing manual labour and eating unprocessed natural food.
There is no law that says your body parts stop functioning after 40, 50, 60 or 70 years. Kelly Starrett puts it this way: your limbs are designed by evolution to last for ~110 years. They have built in redundancy if you use them right. So if you have arms and legs but can’t use them fully, that’s probably a mobility issue, not an age issue.
Here’s a quick diagnostic test from Kelly…can you squat down deep (arse to the grass) like you’re a caveman sitting round a campfire with no chair. In places where people do this, they don’t have lower back problems. If you don’t have the flexibility to squat like this for 5 minutes (at any age) then you have a new project to work on, my friends.
Hunter gatherers are usually fully functioning right up to the end, able to hunt into their 70s. There is none of this lying in a bed with dementia for 10 -15 years which seems to be our society’s peculiar way of torturing our old people.
We become what we repeatedly do. So as we spend our lives slumped on sofas and hunched over screens and smartphones, is it any wonder that our posture, strength and flexibility decay? When you see old people with hunched shoulders shuffling down the street, the sad truth is that much (most?) of that is avoidable with the right exercise and a regular mobility practice throughout life.
What do I mean by a mobility practice? Well, pilates is a mobility practice. It has structure: techniques, teachers, classes. If you do the work it gives you core strength, great posture and prevents injury. Yoga is another good form of mobility practice (successfully practiced by my late grandma). You can go to a class with real people or do these at home for free using a Youtube guide.
Or if you like your mobility practice set to banging tunez (as I do) then Body Combat is fantastic. I have to include this clip…if only for the hilarious motivational commentary (“lets fire up these bad boys!” etc):
After 47 years on this planet, my heartfelt advice to anyone working in an office or any sort of sedentary job (i.e. just about all of them) would be to keep your body (as well as your mind) flexible.
How do I know this? Well, partly from seeing people I know give up and go downhill, partly from research and partly from my own fuck-ups. When I was about 35, I injured my back through a mixture of 12 hours per day sat at a desk (before sofa time) plus stress management on a rowing machine…for which my lower back was unprepared. I fixed it over time with physiotherapy, perseverance and exercises. But I’m pretty sure that if I’d been stronger and more flexible in the first place then I’d never have picked up that injury.
A few months ago I picked up a shoulder niggle whilst weight training. My monkey brain told me that this “injury” was due to my age and that from now on I should take it easy. Its so easy (and so dangerous) to listen to your monkey brain, which will always tell you to take things easy. Remember that your monkey brain evolved to keep you fearful (but alive) in the dangerous environment of the African savannah. In other words, your monkey brain lies to you like Jonathan Aitken under oath.
Fortunately, I have an ex military physio who, in the nicest possible way, told me I was being a pathetic baby (I’m reading between the lines here). He kneaded me back into flexibility (ouch!) and gave some excellent advice…none of which involved taking it easy now that I am old. Fuck that monkey brain bullshit!
Physios have told The Escape Artist that he’s unusual because he actually does the exercises they recommend. Apparently the majority of their patients don’t. Then they wonder why they don’t get better.
Have you noticed how people obediently take their cars into the garage for regular servicing by experts….handing over money to get their parts checked and oiled and the service history stamped. And yet how much time and money are these people spending on their own service history? How much work are they putting into the care and maintenance of their own bodies? Mostly none.
If you are not doing some cardio (cycling around town is enough) plus some strength training (weights / press ups / pull ups) plus some form of mobility practice, then you are probably treating yourself worse than your car. You deserve better.
Use it or lose it.