Thanos and the Scarcity Mindset
So I’m hoping by now everyone that wanted to see Avengers Infinity War has, but just in case you got stuck watching the new Donald Glover video on a loop (I get it, I could barely pull away to even write this) I will now say that the following may and most likely will contain spoilers for Avengers Infinity War so if you’re not into that sort of thing, get your ass to a movie theater and then come back.
Okay great now that it’s just us, the close and intimate group of millions who have already seen the movie, let’s get started.
Alright so AIW’s (new abbrev, copyrighted*. *It’s not copyrighted) main villain is Thanos. He’s a big purple man, has Titan blood, is like…. Evil? But in that way that all the best villains are evil, where his intentions seem alright, but his methods are ABSOLUTELY bat shit.
Thanos’ whole mission is to preserve life. Sounds alright, right? I mean, why not make it so that everyone can live the best lives that they can and have room to grow and thrive and all that shit? It sounds like a paradise! Only problem is, his way of “preserving” life means that every so often, he needs to kill off half of any given world’s population… eventually bringing him to where we meet in Infinity War, where his goal is to eliminate half of the UNIVERSE’s population with one snap of the fingers. Spoiler alert: he succeeds, and Femi has to be carried out of the movie theater. It was fine, I’m fine.
His idea is based on the fact that to have life, resources must be consumed, which is true. Life requires food (usually other life), water, sunlight, love, space, etc. Things must be used and taken up in order to have life. The problem Thanos has though is that he believes that these resources, the ones necessary to provide life, are finite and insufficient. “If life is unchecked, life ceases to exist”, he says to… another movie character.
This is not a new idea. I’m remembering that scene in The Office (I’ve watched it way too many times… *she says as she’s in the middle of watching it again*) where Dwight and Jim are walking in to be seated at Phyllis’s Wedding, and Dwight, looking around at all the bustling people trying to find their seats as well, muses “There’s too many people in this world. We need a new plague.” It’s this persisting notion that There is Not Enough to go around, and that the ratio of people to resources is dangerously imbalanced. Such ideas are given legs by things like images of starving African children played against some melancholy yodeling by Sarah McLachlan. (No disrespect to Sarah, she is a gift, but those commercials need to die.)
As I’ve been reading, this way of thinking is called the Scarcity Mindset. It is that very proposition: “There Is not Enough for Everyone.” The Scarcity Mindset is the reason for greed, it’s the reason for those awful and sad commercials, and it’s the reason while watching AIW you were like “I mean… but doesn’t Thanos kind of have a point?”
The Scarcity Mindset is seductive because it’s simplistic. If I eat this cake in front of me, someone else can’t eat it because I already ate it. It was there and then it was gone and now the whole rest of the world is without it. Adds up right?
And yet something in us recoils at Dwight’s desire for a new plague. Something in us knows that committing genocide across the Universe is not the way to preserve life. So what is the disconnect? Where does the reasoning fall apart?
Opposite to the Scarcity Mindset is the idea of Sufficiency or Abundance. This mindset says, “There is always enough for everyone all the time.” It says that the earth and the Universe have already provided everything that we need, and that me having a thing does not prevent you from having a thing. In fact, we can all have all the things and live together just fine! Abundance says that life unchecked produces more life, and that as life grows it seeks and finds new avenues to support itself.
For example, people have been worried about the overpopulation of the earth for literally decades, if not centuries. Everyone’s always freaking about about the projection of growth for the next year, and yet as we’ve grown, we’ve found new ways to sustain our growth. Yes of course people are still going without water or food but that’s not because there is not enough water or food, nor is it because we don’t know how to get water or food to the people who need it. That’s a WHOLE OTHER blog post to write and soap box for me to stand on, but suffice it to say
I firmly believe there is no reason (besides the Scarcity Mindset and the greed it produces, which are both bullshit) for anyone in this world to go without enough food, water, or shelter.
There’s just no reason. The world is too big and rich, and we are too fucking smart to have basic shit like that go on because we just “can’t figure it out”.
*Takes a deep breath* Okay so anyway, back to Thanos. The Scarcity Mindset is his wholeeee deal. He wants to preserve life (great) but he thinks life destroys life (wrong) so he decides that killing half of life is the solution (so terribly misguided). But it’s like, this is where the Scarcity Mindset gets us y’all. This is what it looks like if taken to its ends, you end up a big purple Titan who destroys half of the Avengers and ruins an Earth Woman named Femi’s entire week. (It’s fine, I was fine.) And though it feels like it makes sense, something in us knows it’s wrong. Something deep — maybe real REAL deep — in us knows that there is somehow always enough even though we may not be able to see or understand the workings of it.
What I’ve been doing — and hey, feel free to join me if you feel like shaking things up for yourself — is examining where and how deeply I’ve bought into the Scarcity Mindset and how it shows up in my life. Let me give you some common examples that are never anything I’ve ever struggled with:
1) Seeing another attractive person and thinking that it somehow takes away from your attractiveness
2) Seeing money as an amount to collect rather than as a constant flow of energy (or currency - see what I did there?) that comes to you, moves through you, and flows from you.
3) Greed. In any form, in any thing. Ever.
4) Which could really be more aptly numbered 3a) Jealousy.
5) Withholding helpful information from someone because you're worried if they get it, they'll take whatever it is you're after. Also known as unhealthy competition.
6) The tendency toward Xenophobia. Here’s looking at you, Trump.
I could go on, but we’d be here all day, and I gotta shoot for Fashion Friday so let’s wrap it up.
Like I said, I know the idea of Abundance and Sufficiency is hard, especially when you’re doing all you can to make ends meet and it literally, mathematically, does not appear to be enough. All I’m offering is that there is this theory — I will even go so far as to call it a truth — of Abundance that feels right to me though it is beyond my full understanding. And I am encouraging you, if it feels right to you too, to seek the understanding and application of it in any area that you can.
Fuck Thanos and Scarcity, long live the Avengers! Too much? Probably.
P.S. A book that super helped and got me started with the idea of Abundance vs. Scarcity is The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, I highly recommend reading it if you’re interested!
Thumbnail from this YouTube video that now I feel like I have to watch