I have had some interesting conversations lately. Those conversations did not teach me anything that I did not already understand, in fact I have written about these things previously. However, I think the conversations brought the issues home to me in more humanistic ways than I have viewed them. They brought to mind many past conversations and ones I encounter on a daily basis.
I will admit that I tend to be highly judgmental of materialistic, capitalist-minded people. I will continue to reserve the right of judgment in some instances but maybe keep it in check a bit more for the more extreme cases.
One major problem here is that so many people in this country have been indoctrinated to the definition of human worth as defined in a capitalist socioeconomic structure. The fact is, the people who have been indoctrinated into this mindset fully define themselves with the same limitations. This is something I find to be nothing short of tragic.
Why is it tragic? Because they objectify and dehumanize human beings with their views. Yet they do not only inflict this upon others, they inflict these views upon themselves.
I have written on numerous occasions that a capitalist, by their own definition, has no value. Their possessions have value. Their bank account has value. If you took away their belongings, their wealth, no matter how little or how much they have, they would lose all sense of self. They would have no meaningful self-worth at all. These are the people who would commit suicide if their stock portfolio crashed. Over and over through history, we have seen people like this jump from skyscraper windows, put a gun in their mouth or ingest lethal doses of narcotics. If a person like this becomes disabled, the remainder of their existence, however brief, is an internal wasteland. Note: I can relate to the last part to a degree, considering I am a diagnosed workaholic. However, in my case the issue is productivity, not accumulation of material goods.
Of course, we are indoctrinated to this mindset from childhood. We are taught these values of establishing the worth of a human being according to how much they..hoard. Then we are taught arbitrary definitions regarding what is socially acceptable and what is not. Sometimes these definitions are taught by our own parents. Those are the most tragic cases, because those parents will teach their own children a low sense of self-worth according to material gain. It is not a work ethic because it does not focus on productivity and creation. This ethic teaches that it is perfectly acceptable to manipulate, take advantage of and oppress other people, including in their personal relationships.
This is reflected in societal norms. A drug company CEO who heads a company that produces and aggressively markets a drug which actively kills many thousands of people a year is considered “successful” as long as the company makes large profits. They lobby elected officials and government agencies to be favorable to their product, to control and criminalize less dangerous, more effective, non-lethal, far less expensive substances. That CEO will have articles in business magazines praising them, be invited to speak at universities for exorbitant speaking fees, be handed massive multi-million dollar bonuses and stock packages. Perhaps be appointed as a top government official where they establish the rules regarding their company’s products and their safer competition.
Now, compare that CEO to a father (or mother) in a poor neighborhood with few opportunities. That person can easily be arrested and spend time in prison for selling dime bags of marijuana on a street corner for income to feed their family. They are taken away from their family, declared unfit parents, have a criminal record and leave prison with even fewer opportunities than they started out with. All for selling a plant which has never killed a single person. Our society looks down on them. They are deemed a failure.
Our society will also deem a person a failure or “less than” if they stay within the law yet are laid off by a corporation and then are relegated to a low wage job with no chance for advancement. They can work multiple jobs to provide well for their families and do quite well. Yet by the standards of our society, they are less valuable than the person who is willing to lay off thousands for the sake of their stock price, sell addictive and lethal drugs, build bombs and lobby for more wars to kill millions.
I have heard the question many times, if we eliminated capitalism, what would we replace it with? They will always predictably use the USSR as an example of the “dangers” of Communism. They will reject the concept that capitalism has killed more people in 5 years than Communism did in 70 years. Capitalism kills millions per year in the US alone. Imprisons millions more.
The problem with people indoctrinated to capitalism is not that they are bound so much to their possessions. It is that their entire sense of worth is tied to what they possess. It is very difficult to change their thought processes when they feel they “know” something because of what is pounded into them by parents, education, the media, society itself. By the standards of our society, they are “successful”, “valuable” and “role models”. No matter how much harm that mindset does to the society or the person themselves.
This mindset is especially anomalous with “Christians”, who allegedly adhere to religious doctrine which teaches peace, forgiveness, empathy, love and to avoid materialism. The fact that this causes emotional conflict is no surprise. There is no way to truly resolve the differences between the two beliefs, which leaves them torn, struggling to justify the addiction to materialism, which leaves them in continuous cognitive dissonance. Should an outside voice challenge the opposing views, it incites anger, not at the outside voice but because the outside voice is echoing their own inner voice which is always present and will never be fully silenced.
Materialism is never fulfilling. It leaves an empty space, a hunger, an addiction in itself which can never be sated. It always yearns desperately for more, more, more, promising that eventually the person will feel like they have “enough”. Yet it is obvious that this is a false promise.
None of this is suggesting anyone sell all their possessions, donate the money to charity and become a Buddhist monk.
What this is saying is that we, as a society, need to reject the siren call of the capitalist media, the ones who try to define our value by artificial standards. Send the sales emails to the spam folder. Turn off the sales ads on TV. Read a book instead of surfing Amazon. Tell the boss no to overtime and instead spend that time with our families. Actually listen to your children. Take a walk in the park or a hike in the forest. Paint a picture. Do volunteer work with children, elderly, the homeless. Write a journal. Write a blog. Have dinner with friends. Grow a garden. Kiss your significant other in a way you haven’t in years. Laugh. Turn off the cell phone. Drive somewhere you have never been. Take a class just for enjoyment. Listen to music. Go to karaoke, even if you can’t sing and have fun any way. Laugh at yourself. Learn a musical instrument. Learn meditation. Learn to dance, go dancing or just dance because you feel like it. Nobody else has to like it.
What is your worth? Who defines your self-worth? What is our country, our society worth? The unrest, poverty, hunger, illness, depression, addiction, anger, conflict and division in our society says clearly that our definition of worth is not working for us at ANY level. Which means it’s time for us, as a nation, to question those definitions, reject the poison we have been fed for generations. Stop letting those who seek endless profit at any human expense define our value as individuals, as a people.
What can we replace capitalism with? How about a system that allows us to consider our worth as human beings, not numbers? A system that does not consider any human being to be “less than” because of a bank account balance.
As for myself? I guess I need to be nicer sometimes.