I brought to you this theme on "Materialism" as it is a subject in varied forms which will become one of the dominant impulses in the 21st Century, not just as being materialistic but as in materialization- as the world gets more networked, open, globalised and democratic with the coming of the internet era that every individuals manifest themselves in materiality.

My Photo

Being single, I would move around inside the masses to observe all their stupidity, idiocity in mannerism and characters of Idolising just about anything- be inanimate or animate.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Status and Self-Esteem

The signs and symptoms of materialism are already there for us to see.It is common to hear little kids asking their parents immediately after a lunch:"Are we going shopping after this?".It is not uncommon for children nowadays to compare brands of their shoes and other possessions and the destination of their holidays.Conversations among adults invariably focused on cars, properties, shares, gambling, horse-racings, week-end getaways and golfings.

This ugly aspect of materialism had been noted by Adam Smith.He said:"The rich man glorifies his richness as he feels it will naturally attracts the attention of the world upon him.At the thought of this,his head seems to swell and dilate itself with him and he is the founder of his wealth on this account, than for all the advantages it procures him".

With such psychological need, it is inevitable that, in a materialistic society,there will be this obsessions to rush in and make lots of money.Happiness becomes equated with economic wealth.Wealth equals material acquisitions.This is just what evil has his intentions towards humans.

In such a society, one is disposed to pursue objectives that are admired by others disregarding his beliefs of his religion.If we promote a society that admires money and physical belongings beyond everything else, this will be the calamity or an end to the spirit of altruism, snuffed out by their own selfish greed.

As it is with Singapore, economic growth has become the measure of our country's success and money has become the measure of an individual's worth.We have even reached the stage where we need to introduce new positions and titles with big paychecks in order to encourage reluctant citizens into political service and be shown at the parliment sittings on television.

Indeed, we have also reached the stage where money has become the most convenient tool to solve pain-in the-back problems such as court summonses and International Court of Laws arbitrations.Thus, even social problems are measured in economic terms (Singapore is also known as a 'City of Petty Fines') and solutions comes with monetary incentives or disincentives (all the cut-costs measures).This is because the citizens mindsets only do things for the monetary incentives (big charity shows are much easier to organise and raise money when the sponsors offer big lucky draw prizes) and refrain from doing things only for fear of being fined.For example, we need incentives and disincentives to stop producing babies at one time.Then we need incentives and disincentives to encourage people to produce more at another time.This frequent resorts to use the 'stick' to manage a lot of social problems has earned this city the reputation of a 'Petty Fines' city that I have already mentioned earlier.The need to use the 'stick' and 'carrot' method shows that a lot of people are still at the stage of moral development still so loose where they only show social responsibility in accordance when their pockets are filled.

One symptom of our ever-increasing materialistic society is in our attitudes towards education.As a result of streaming, ranking and the setting of materialistic goals, parents and students see wealth as the end result of education.Very few see education as the key that opens the door to knowledge, wisdom or creativity.We push our children to get A's so as to get scholarships and to have a good life later on.We excel because we only want to be in front of others and have a good life only for ourselves, not for the sake of learning and be wise.The young do not take pleasure in learning as a result of our examination system being such a ruthless competition of climbing up on top and above other competitors.Furthermore, the ranking of schools has made them so immersed in preparing students for good grades that they naturally would have less time to transmit core values to the next generations.

When both parents are working, sometime even overseas, and where schools only stress on getting good grades in examination subjects, who then can be responsible for shaping a child's value? Without proper guidance there is every chance that many of our children may grow up being selfish, unconcerned and detached members of the community.It is not surprising that scholars should break bonds and workers job-hop to any better deal that is offered.

Yet another symptom can be seen in our social relations.A lot of people now do not take each other for what they are since they all have gotten used to put on masks and pretend to be what they are not.When people talk or meet, they like to boast the size of their flats and the make of their cars.

People's social status is judged by their property and the make of their cars.It is really sad that a professor with a 1000cc car should be less admired than a businessman with a big limousine.Unfortunately, this is the reality of what Thorstein Veblen, an economist referred to as- the society with 'conspicuous consumption'.People possess in order to gain respect- so low that they stoop with deranged state believing that with material possessions and flaunting wealth is the popular way to attain social esteem in the false belief that such possessions represent medals of success and social superiority.

Furthermore, according to Veblen, people not only like to keep up standards with the Joneses, they even want to be far better than them.Since it takes time and energy (both physically and mentally) to make more money and overtake the Joneses, a person who only strive for materialism is unlikely to spend time doing voluntary, community work or cultivating artistic and literary talents.

Be Healthy, Be Wealthy and Be Happy to help others.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Materialism - Community Glue or Social Solvent

"Who, then is the country? In a republic it is the common voice of the people.Everyone for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility and not
lightly to be flung aside at bullying of the pulpit, press, government or the
empty catch phrases of politicians.He himself alone decide what is right and
what is wrong and which course is patriotic and which isn't".
Mark Twain
The problem of Rapid Economic Growth
What is happiness?

To a Buddhist monk, the cause of suffering is ignorant craving.To Aristotle, it is something more tangible.According to him,"The masses take it to be something plain and tangible.Like pleasure, money or social standing.Some maintain that it is one of these or that and even some man will change his opinion about it more than once.When he has caught an illness, he will say it is health and when he is hard up he will say that it is money".

As there are more masses than there are monks in any country, it is no wonder that all modern societies and their people are preoccupied with the idea of becoming rich.Happiness is, it seems, is wealth.

Singapore is no less such a modern society.Thus if you were to contest in an election in this country but speak only like a monk, you will be unlikely to get elected.

In the aftermath of the 1997 General Elections, an editor of an English daily in Singapore made a very penetrating.He noted that voters who had cast their votes for PAP were being pragmatic and reflected the reality of human nature as few people would vote against their pockets.

The results of the elections actually reflects, in general, the attitudes of Singaporeans during the heady days of high property prices and inflated prosperity by the hands of wolves-in-sheepskin speculators.People then believed that jobs would be available all the time, salaries would grow by arithmetic progression, the value of the properties would increase by geometric progression and share price would never come down.At that time many Singaporeans were interested only in material growth and took pride in their obsession with their many Cs (cars, condominiums, country golf clubs, cash and credit cards).

To a lot of Singaporeans then, there could not be any economic hardships.The present economic recessions and the deflation of the balloon-inflated property have now forced people to re-examine their values.

Those who had hoped to see their property prices increase two to three-folds in a couple of years have now been forced to remove the veil of greed from their eyes and see that such a sad ending is inevitable and predictable consequences of the balloon-inflated assets.How could it be possible for old bricks and mortar to increase in prices much faster than growth and inflation put together?

Those who have been hit by the recessions are learning that growths and recessions are part and parcel of the economic cycles and that they need to cultivate moral strength if they want to enjoy the bounty with selflessness and withstand the crumbles with equanimity.

The economic downturn, therefore, may not be an entirely bad thing.Before this, the pursuit of wealth was fast becoming an endless preoccupation for most people.Economic growth seemed to be the only objectives in life and material acquisitions was their highway to happiness.

At that time, more and more people were losing interest in the meaning of spiritual and social well-being.The gods of spiritualism and the sense of community spirits were fighting a losing battle against the glitters of materialism.People no longer saw the need to cultivate good virtues that would enhance their spiritual and social well-being so as to complement their prosperity.People failed to see that in their blind pursuit of wealth, without the counter-balance of spiritual and good social values, they were standing on the slippery slope towards social instability and cultural erosion.On the contrary, by looking at all the troubles in any poor and under-developed countries, all the people like to think that money and materialism are the right ingredients for social stability and happiness.

Unfortunately, materialism by itself cannot be a social glue.In fact, the competition for material possession would certainly create an atmosphere of envy.The 'poor' would never feel enough and will always have lesser than those who are much better-off.The rich would be the people who will always flaunt their possessions disregardlessly of their less well-off neighbours (think 'kiasu-ism').In such a climate, there would be no self-restraint, no thought for their neighbours, the poor, the handicapped and for the coming generations.

There is no doubt decent people need money, to make roofs over their heads, to feed their children, educate them, get material comforts needed for the family and all the conveniences that sciences and technologies of that time can provide.Even former Communist countries agree that this is so by discarding socialism for the free market.There is no doubt also to say that material need is the mother of both good and bad creativities and innovations.However, if the goal of the society is just to make money at the expense of all good virtues, they will no doubt achieve what they have worked hard for i.e. to be rich but at the same time, the root of evil and social diseases begin to spread.This is just so because such single-minded goal will also bring with it many social ills that comes with the lack of spiritual and social values.


Be Healthy, Be Wealthy and Be Happy to help others.