The most important feature of any capitalist society is growth, without growth the wheels of governance come to a standstill and the entire community feels the brunt. In a society where new is always better, people believe the more stuff they have the better their life will be. In a society where new is always better, people compete with their neighbours to show they have the best stuff. In a society where new is always better, people spend most of their lives working and head to the grave with a mountain of stuff they’ve exchanged for the most valuable of all assets, time.
If a drug is something changing your state of being, what does that make money? We live in a world where the most addictive substance isn’t a narcotic; people spend their entire lives chasing the materialist dragon, the supposed “winners” of society and no more dependant than the “junkies” they frown upon. At the end of our life will we really die more satisfied if we collected a lot of stuff?
Money doesn’t buy happiness, this may be true yet let’s not be naïve and say it can’t be an avenue towards it. What the real issue with wealth is, like a drug, it drags people into a perilous slope towards a craving for more.
When there is a continual desire for more people are less likely to appreciate what they already have; one’s bed may not be as comfortable as they’d like but after an evening sleeping on the floor, they would definitely see its value.
Contemporary society is a feeding ground for mental illness. Neurosis persists on either side of the spectrum; those atop the hierarchy shovelling material down their gullet with no sensation of being full, those below staring at them and thinking “Wow, they must be so happy”. Advertising is the salient propagator of this message and shows you just how good your life can be, if you only purchase this product. If you wiped away the gloss from a promotion all one would find is a florescent sign flashing, “CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME”, and to try attain samples of the illusive perfect life this is exactly what the masses do.
The more stuff one has the more they have to loose, therefore, they must constantly be on guard to protect their hoard. In society we have come to weigh one’s wealth in material when it is the shallowest of substances, as Kant wrote, “We are not rich by what we posses but by what we can do without”.
Who’s Got The Best Stuff?
We live in a world drifting further and further away from our egalitarian origins; instead of displaying our wealth by sharing, many would rather highlight their importance (or should I say, insecurity) by flaunting.
In the never-ending tit-for-tat game of “Who’s got the best stuff?” players incessantly squabble over unnecessary items to the benefit of the game’s manufactures, convincing more and more people to join in the fun! This toxic culture has decreased the durability and perception of goods, a possession only worthwhile until the latest upgrade is available.
As frugality becomes unfashionable, one cannot compete against others if they’re not investing in the latest stuff; as Tyler Durden put it, “We buy things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”, and the cycle continues to rotate.
In saying this, however, one can’t deny that nice things are nice, of course they are, but if you base yourself on your possessions what does this say about your person? Are you really acting for yourself if the first thought coming to mind after buying something is you can’t wait to show so and so? And the real question is, does it really make us happy when we do? Sure, for a moment, but the quick spike of delight plummets back down to an unsatisfied equilibrium.
The Trading Of Assets
In order to buy stuff we must work, and work means one must trade their time and effort for money, and once that money is used we need to work again to get more money to buy more stuff; and the process repeats ad infinitum.
There is no shame in people who work to survive or who find joy and satisfaction in their occupation, however, if they are exchanging most of their life in the pursuit of material are they really living purposefully? On their deathbed will they be happy surrounded by all the stuff they’ve traded their time for? The brilliant George Carlin spoke, “Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body”. Buying things may temporarily fill the void inside, but it also cuts it deeper.
Western society has been moulded to see those with the expensive items and obese bank accounts as the “winners”, we are more accustomed to ask “How much are they worth” instead of “How happy are they?”
Steve Jobs was no doubt a revolutionary mind who’s changed the face of humanity, yet, his personal life was a disaster and by all accounts an asshole; was he really a winner? If he could, do you think he would have traded his fortune for extra time to mend the fractures he caused his family?
Money can always be remade but time never rewound.
“Winners” should not be seen as those who have worked the hardest and hoarded the most, real “winners” should be considered those who invested their time to develop genuine relationships, improve the lives of others and die with integrity in tact.
Money may buy comfort, but happiness will always be illusive to those who require more to feel comfortable. The more stuff you have the more demanding your life becomes, the more you compete with others the less authenticity you hold, the more you have doesn’t mean anything if you’ve traded all your time for it. The sun is gradually sinking on all our existences; isn’t it best to slow down, immerse yourself in the sunlight and enjoy it with those you love?
Image Source: Chaostrophic