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.

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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.