Here is an interesting observation on materialism and the age of stupid which I’m sure you’ll all agree with me started a long time ago but seems to be intensifying as we thunder along to our demise.
The deceptions and delusions of materialism stem from its inevitable superficiality. Materialism traps us, unawares, in a world of possessions hag-ridden by irrational fears of likely loss and lurking dangers. Finally, it degrades creativity to consumption. The spiritual option, say SWAMI AGNIVESH and Rev. VALSON THAMPU, is not to renounce modernity and demonise development, but to transcend the spirit of materialism.
THE global village is not partial to any religion. The civilisational conflict, contrary to Samuel Huntington’s hypothesis, will not be between Christianity and Islam. It will be, if at all, between religions and materialism, which is the rising religion of our globalising world. The conflictual model of inter-faith relationships that kept religions fighting one another has enabled materialism – their common enemy – to steal a march upon them unawares.
Materialism is much more than affluence and lavish life-styles. No religion preaches against material success gained the right way. Hindus worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The Sikh gurus encouraged hard work, paving the way for the prosperity of Punjab. The Semitic religions see prosperity as a gift from God. At the same time, all religions recognise that our attitude to wealth is crucial to our personality. When affluence is idolised, it enslaves the individual and lures him away from the meaning and purpose of life. Materialism, unlike material prosperity, is a quasi-religion, complete with its own ritual, its own creed, and its counterpart of the supernatural. Wealth, pursued for its own sake, is the god of materialism. Consumerism is its ritual and technology is its “supernatural”. Worldly success is its dogma. Escalating and interminable pleasure is the highway to its secular nirvana.
But materialism is a pseudo-religion. Insisting that “matter alone matters”, it brings about the subservience of the human to the non-human. The industrial culture degraded human beings into cogs in the machine. In the globalising world, profit has already superseded people. The generation of wealth is a goal higher than the promotion of human welfare. The pathos of the dwindling stature of man, his growing insignificance and bewilderment, is a recurrent lament in modern literature. The secular-materialistic dream of a new heaven and a new earth, on all available evidence, threatens to turn into a nightmare. Decades ago, the French philosopher Bergson warned that we would be crushed, not by our failures but by our successes; and our souls could be smothered under the weight of our achievements. Studies now prove that materialism breeds despair, anger and irrational outbursts of violence, of which the infamous “road-rage” is a startling instance. Already in India nearly a hundred thousand people commit suicide annually. The advent of prosperity has not translated itself into happiness.