Money? or a sane society

MONEY !  Everything we seem to ear about these days, is money. Housing, jobs, environment, wars, food – even children. It seems to all be put into terms of money. How much it costs or how much it will bring in. Politics has become nearly all about money. Housing prices ! Does anybody care about neighborhoods any more ? Except if the price of housing is going up or down, apparently not. Energy….the price of gas or oil or coal. We do not hear about scientific advances unless they are going to generate money for somebody.  Health care has become nearly all about how much it will cost.  Money has become a religion and Wall Street it’s citadel.  And people simply tools used to make oney for somebody else. Personal has become Human Resources – like something you get at an office supply store and then pitch into the dumper when it not longer performs the desired function.

Money to buy things. Consumption. Like George Carlin said, “The new American Pastime. Using money you don’t have to buy things you don’t need.” But as I said, it has become more than that. We talk of the economy as both the means and the end, with people being the sellers, marketers and the consumers. Like Erich Fromm observed back in the late 1950s in this interview.

It sounds paradoxical, but we have seen many societies that have developed in one direction and then are so proud of the problems they have solved that they don’t see the defects and dangers which have arisen after they have solved the problems of the previous century. You might say it is a kind of Maginot Line psychology–fighting the next war in terms of the previous war. I would say the dangers we are confronted with are no longer the dangers of the nineteenth century. We have solved most of these. But we have new ones. For instance, to speak generally, in the process of producing more and consuming more we have transformed–or are in the process of transforming–means into ends. {05} Once, more production was a means for more consumption and more consumption was a means for a more dignified, richer human life for the individual. Today, I am afraid, production and consumption have become ends in themselves. We pro- duce and consume more and more, and if we ask „why,“ „what for“ we don’t quite know the answer.

But what do we produce theses days ? Mostly toys and diversions and amusements.  Like ancient Rome, Bread and Circuses.  So we compete but for the wrong things. We compete for material possessions.  Like Thomas Hurka observes.

“In our societies people compete primarily for material goods, which have no intrinsic worth. Without inequality—and without the false values it engenders—they could compete instead in excellence. They could strive to outdo each other in knowledge, discovery, or creative expression. Then their competitiveness, instead of hindering perfection, could spur them on. This is a further argument for distributive equality: By encouraging human competitiveness to aim at true goods, it makes an unattractive trait serve valuable ends.”

And because of this we are loosing our humanity and driving ourselves “round the bend”.  We have nearly abandoned space exploration. Few people invent things anymore unless they can be sold in on some infomercial.  Education has become about how big a salary one can get, instead of knowledge and wisdom.  Most of the products now are cheesy and ment to be discarded in short order. Do an internet search on any subject and  most of what you get are sites that want to sell you something. We are quite litteraly amusing ourselves to death.

And this constant and ever increasing pursuit of wealth and objects is leading us not to an Orwellian society, but rather a Huxleyist society. Where we are losing our humanity.

Since our economic organization is based on continuous and ever-increasing consumption (think of the threat to our, economy if people did not buy a new car until their old one was really obsolete), contemporary industrial man is encour- aged to be consumption-crazy. Without any real enjoyment, he „takes in“ drink, food, cigarettes, sights, lectures, books, movies, television, any new kind of gadget. The world has become one great maternal breast, and man has become the eternal suckling, forever expectant, forever disappointed.
Sex, in fact, has become one of the main objects of consumption. Our news- stands are full of „girlie“ magazines; the percentages of girls having premarital sexual relations and of unwed mothers are on a steep incline. It can be argued that all this represents a welcome emancipation from Victorian morality, that it is a wholesome affirmation of independence, that it reflects the Freudian principle that repression may produce neurosis. But while all these arguments are true to some extent, they omit the main point. Neither independence nor Freudian principle is the main cause of our present-day sexual freedom. Our sexual mores are part and parcel of our cult of consumption, whose main principle was so succinctly expressed by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World: „Never put off till tomor- row the fun you can have today.“ Nature has provided men and women with the capacity for sexual excitement; but excitement in consumption, whether it is of sex or any other commodity, is not the same as aliveness and richness of experience.
In general, our society is becoming one of giant enterprises directed by a bureaucracy in which man becomes a small, well-oiled cog in the machinery. The oiling is done with higher wages, fringe benefits, well-ventilated factories and piped music, and by psychologists and „human-relations“ experts; yet all this oil- ing does not alter the fact that man has become powerless, that he does not wholeheartedly participate in his work and that he is {10} bored with it. In fact, the blue- and the white-collar workers have become economic puppets who dance to the tune of automated machines and bureaucratic management.
The worker and employee are anxious, not only because they might find themselves out of a job (and with installment payments due); they are anxious also because they are unable to acquire any real satisfaction or interest in life. They live and die without ever having confronted the fundamental realities of hu- man existence as emotionally and intellectually productive, authentic and independent human beings.
Those higher up on the social ladder are no less anxious. Their lives are no less empty than those of their subordinates. They are even more insecure in some respects. They are in a highly competitive race. To be promoted or to fall behind is not only a matter of salary but even more a matter of self-esteem. When they apply for their first job, they are tested for intelligence as well as for the right mixture of submissiveness and independence. From that moment on they are tested again and again–by the psychologists, for whom testing is a big business, and by their superiors, who judge their behavior; sociability, capacity to get, along, etc., their own and that of their wives. This constant need to prove that one is as good as or better than one’s fellow-competitor creates constant anxiety and stress, the very causes of unhappiness and psychosomatic illness.

Erich Fromm 1964. We are in fact loosing our ability to have true intimate relationships. True friendships.  We Friend each other on some superficial internet site where when a disagreement comes, we can Un-Friend them just as easily. Like turning off a switch.  Unless this trend is halted and reversed. Unless we abandoned this obsessive pursuit of transient pleasures and materialistic/monetary gain for gain’s sake – we will sure fall just a Rome did. And this time it will be even uglier.

I believe we need to start now and build a society based on people rather that economics. On spiritual and emotional needs  rather than self centered desires. A sane society.


One thought on “Money? or a sane society

  1. Individual self actualization is reflected in the demands made upon us by forces which we can no longer control.

    That we have unwittingly given up this control is very apparent. Nor is there an available mechanism for us to get it back. Most everything is scripted by business or commerce with the willing assistance of government. The only options anymore, for regular working class persons, are to take it or leave it. This is crazily contrasted by the obscenity of options available to the top tier where anything goes and there are seemingly no limts on social or ethical conduct.

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