What is the core reason for our world`s economic mess? I´ll tell you one of the BIGGEST catalysts...CONSUMERISM.
Consumerism is the new religion of the masses. Instead of dreaming about great adventures or discovering new cultures or a cure to poverty or cancer...most of the world is focused on...CONSUMING. We consume more and more food at higher and higher prices. We consume new technology before we even understand what it is or how to use it. If everyone else has it, we need it. Brand names like Chanel, ROLEX, Mercedes, and GUCCI are all about perceived value for appearances sake so that one's image is that of success and being "cultured". Unfortunately many of the people who spend the money on these things are impostors. They don`t have the kind of money to put into those "things"...and underneath the imagery of many of these THINGS, people are not attractive and nearly or completely bankrupt. Its a sad commentary on humanity that we would be impressed with what brand of clothes or watch someone is wearing. Don`t get me wrong...I like NICE things just like the next person...but I don`t NEED them to be happy or fulfilled. Isn't that the key difference...owning things but not being owned by THEM? Some people own things they like and can afford. Others own things they can`t afford for appearance sake only. This is the religion of Consumerism.
Same issues with cars and houses. Its one thing to get a "good deal" on a luxury car or a huge house in a new neighborhood as an "investment". It is another thing to go completely on the edge financially to "own" the biggest house or newest car in your family or circle of friends. One of the biggest reasons America is on the brink of collapse financially is the majority are in hock up to their eyebrows in order to appear wealthier than they are. A very small percentage of Americans really OWN their home or car.
What is really sad is so many of these "upscale" people in our culture spend so lavishly to attract friends and admiration...to gain clout in the proverbial pecking order of society...and yet they have no class or social graces to know how to act or what to say when they "get to that level". Someone once said "you can`t buy class. You either have it or you don`t". Now I´m not sure what "having it" may mean, and it could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people...but I am quite convinced that "it" is a diminishing quantity in modern society. You only need to see a few of today's reality shows like "Real Housewives" or "Keeping up with the Kardashians" to illustrate what I am talking about.
So who or what is to blame for our cultural demise due to consumerism? Is it the fault of advertisers/marketers who constantly bombard the airways with imagery and false promises if you only "buy this product"? Is it the "parents fault" for wanting their children to have everything they didn`t have simply for the fact of saying they provided it? How egotistical is that? What ever happened to good old fashioned "earning for the yearning" where we save and plan for that which we need first...and want last?
Here is one core fundamental that the we should do if we want to turn things around. Don`t say something is YOURs until it is completely paid for. Yea...pretty revolutionary by today`s standards...but the reality is, that WAS the standard of our grandparent`s generation less than 50 years ago. My how far we have strayed from the veritable nest! Most Americans have payments up the ying yang for homes, cars and credit card bills...and yet we really have NOTHING until it is paid for. Meanwhile many have cash reserves of less than 2 months living overhead in their bank accounts...and a growing percentage of our population dont even HAVE bank accounts. Why? Because they have NO money and BAD credit. What is the cause and effect of this? Simply put, they want everything now...and don`t want to EARN it. And the things they WANT are usually "consumer goods" that depreciate in value...usually the minute they take it out of the store or drive it out of the dealer lot.
I grew up in a religion and culture that said it is not important what you have in THIS life...but more important to store your good works for "heaven". In adulthood I never could quite understand the religious edifice complexes and fundraising drives for bigger and bigger buildings and operations for religions. In the end, this conflict of perspective and reason diverted me from some of the fundamentalist religious views I grew up with. Yet, I still like to think like Jesus when he said in Matthew 6...
I tell you not to worry about your life. Don't worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn't life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don't plant or harvest. They don't even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren't you worth more than birds?Eds interpretation of this...
Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? Don't worry and ask yourselves, "Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?" Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.
Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.
The cause and effect of being "rich" without falling for the religion of consumerism is to "do Gods work". What is that? Is that going off to a monastery or theology center, taking vows of chastity and obedience to a religious order of some kind? Heaven forbid.
I think Jesus theology or philosophy was REAL simple...love God (who is life) and your neighbor as yourself. You cannot love others until you love yourself. You cannot give to others until you have acquired for yourself. YOU are in the center of this simple spiritual realm. YOUR thoughts, YOUR actions and YOUR choices.
Are we healthy physically? If not, why not? "You are what you eat". Don`t let CONSUMERISM dictate your diet to you.
Are we healthy mentally? If not, why not? Do you carry around emotional baggage and never thought through your reactions to the "Consumerists" around you? Get out of the peer pressure grind or feasting on media trivialities...and start thinking good, elevated thoughts. Put on a positive dream and pursue it with discipline...for YOU.
Are we healthy socially? If not, why not? Do you even LIKE the family and friends you spend all your social time with? Or, have you retreated to solitude and escapism because you have been "hurt" by others close to you? Don`t let your society determine your tastes in social connections. Chose carefully those who are in your inner circle. Its YOUR move.
Are we healthy spiritually? And by that I don`t mean some mystical, feel good tangent as presented by our consumer society of religion. The latest fad of religion or psychology is not what you need. When you are physically, mentally and socially healthy...your God will be very real and evident to you. Spirituality is a very self oriented, in depth relationship with the source of your life. It is not dependent on consumerist, societal norms and expectations regarding how, what or whom you call God or define your faith. Yes again...its all about YOU. And how or why is that so bad...IF you are "loving God, self and others"?
The core of this approach is that we will release ourselves from the potential victim-hood of Consumerism...if we stay focused and balanced on our inner and outer selves...and in balance to the rest of the REAL world around us. Stay real, stay in love, and be good to yourself. It IS Gods will. And you dont have to see "Him" physically or have a book to tell you this.
One subpoint to this blog:
I can now hear in my imagination some of my fundamentalist friends and family disdainfully questioning my viewpoint as "humanistic" versus "of God". I would go as far to say that it is my "revelation" that Jesus...and God...are, were and always will be some form of "humanist". My definition of Humanism from the dictionary is "any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate". To that end I would suggest that good theology IS humanistic. My simplest reasons from a Biblical perspective would be:
According to religious tradition, from the beginning of creation, God "created man in his own image" with many of Gods traits. God is jealous...so are we. God loves and hates...so do we. God is one of "free will"...and created us to have that as well. So, in essence, Man...like God...is at the center of his own universe. Man has the potential to think, breath and act based on his own reason and will. Because of this capacity, man is largely in control of his own destiny outside of calamities or acts of "nature" outside his control...and we are in process of controlling those things as well. Man is of the highest mind in this world for solving problems and puzzles, and having "dominion" over all the other animals. Man has discovered the core scientific actions and reactions that help us cure diseases...or in a negative case, split atoms to blow up our enemies. I guess we can blame God or the Devil for these realities...but personally I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to reason and irrational actions.
In summary, do I equate man with God or make ourselves out to be "gods"? No, but I think we are of a much higher calling in life than simply participating in the religion of Consumerism or defining ourselves by what we own...or dont.