Monday, November 27, 2006

Can we concieve of progress without the continuation of our present day consumer’s slavery?



Human ignorance cannot rule again
In our time many people sense that the world is rapidly moving towards decisive crossroads. Much of what our history has been about is in the balance. Ever since the Dark Ages we have progressively strived for a world that is open to invention, development, rationalism, individual freedom and ultimately to welfare for all. The forces of darkness and authoritarian rule did not readily surrender, nor have they totally vanished, but in our Western civilization we have caged them to such extent that they can never successfully embark on a new all out crusade or succeed in ignorance and human submission to rule again. Well, that is a positive outcome isn’t it? But is is true? I look at our world, and at the present day junction of history, in a slightly different perspective.



Yet we live in slavery
First of all, human submission has all but vanished. In fact, our world is entirely based on submission, be it in a highly successful disguise. Why submit people by force, as was once the case for many people, or entire populations, including the millions of slaves who helped our way towards Western supremcacy, if one can also succeed in submitting people by perpetual seduction? We have learned to percieve our world of material affluence as a world of welfare and freedom for many, but this is only one side of the coin. We have made our world highly dependent too on its perpetuation: on the ongoing cycle of material satisfaction and the subsequent desire for more at an unprecendented massive scale. People are gently urged to buy, and to do so systematically. Economies are rated according to our level of desire and the ‘confidence’ that we will effectively satisfy this desire. I call this consumer slavery.

Our icons do not create a better world
Secondly, we have learned that the state of our material environment is the key yardstick for the success we achieve in our own lives. We belittle material poverty and herald the rich. Those, for instance, who wish for a ‘better world’, are idealists, as are those who pursue ambitions in any other non-material but spiritual or social hemisphere. Idealism doesn’t generate sufficient currency to make us comfortable, does it?

We are driven to satisfy just ourselves
Thirdly, we are driven to pursue material wealth for ourselves, as individuals. There are few if any incentives to share our material wealth with others. But in a world which is bound to face the limits of material wealth as the inevitable consequence of Earth’s total material resources, this is a highly dangerous situation to get into. Especially so, if such pursuits become the key driving force of other, non-Western nations.

Let’s go for the longer term
All of this is in the balance, whether we like it or not. But as I see it, we have great possibilities indeed to make our world a better place, if only we care to share and shift our priorities – perhaps only slightly – to our long term interests, away from our immediate satisfactions.

2 Comments:

Blogger maria said...

This is a very nice blog, too.
Good topic.

7:16 PM  
Blogger maria said...

“In The High Proce of Materialism , Tim Kasser offers a scientific explanation of how our contemporary culture of consumerism and materialism affects our everyday happiness and psychological health. Other writers have shown, that once we have sufficient food, shelter and clothing, further materialistic gains do little to improve our well-being. But Kasser goes beyond these findings to investigate how people’s materialistic desires relate to their well-being. He shows that people whose value center on the accumulation of wealth or material possessions face a greater risk of unhappiness, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and problems with intimacy- regardless of age, income, or culture.

Drawing on a decade’s worth of empirical data, Kasser examines what happens when we organize our lives around materialistic pursuits. He looks at the effects on our internal experience and interpersonal relationships, as well as on our communities and the world at large. He shows that materialistic values actually undermine our well-being, as they maintain feelings of insecurity, weaken interpersonal ties, and mke us feel less free. Kasseris Associate professor at Knox College.

7:23 PM  

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