Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In A Material World

We all work, or have at least worked once in our lives, for a variety of reasons -- some more profound than others. However, it would be safe to say that most of us work for that paycheck that we receive during the month-end period, no? Otherwise, congratulations on being passionate and noble. We need more people like you in this world.

Material wealth and money have become the convoluted indicator of success in our times. This stems from the human mentality of wanting more than what we really need to survive. It is the desire and the yearning for more. We like having the capacity to earn more so that we may be able to own whatever we fancy -- regardless of whether or not we need it. It's not wrong to want pretty things, is it? And neither is it wrong to want more, right?

However, it is when materialism is grossly mistaken for ambition that it becomes unhealthy. A quick trip to Dictionary.com led me to learn that Materialism is the "preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values." Whilst reading those very lines, I could come up with a handful of people from the top of my head that will fit that description to a T. Being materialistic does not, by any means, make them evil or nasty people. They simply have a knack for driving away those that they have engaged in conversation by constantly talking about money and anything remotely related to it. Admittedly, it can be quite annoying and not to mention yawn-inducing.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but see the humor in materialistic people. I find it quite fascinating how they can put a price tag to literally anything and everything. From the coffee that they drink in the morning to the pens they use to jot down notes to the cars they drive and the shoes they walk on. Everything for them would have to be some status of sorts. Do they not realize how ridiculous they're being? In all honesty, tea tastes the same to me whether or it's served in a Royal Doulton tea cup or a styrofoam tumbler.

I have met numerous people whose lives are controlled by money and brand names. One of them, as a matter of fact, openly admits to only agreeing to marriage if the guy can produce a two-carat diamond ring as an engagement present. Or if he holds a certain job position that pays x-amount of money. And I thought girls like those only exists in movies -- and they usually die at the end or end up in some mud hole depending on the movie's genre. I have also had my fair share of meeting people who are so in love with designer brands that one would expect them to have Christian Dior or Louis Vuitton tattooed onto their buttocks. Even some of these people's children have to go to certain schools in order to be accepted into social circles.

My recent trip to Hong Kong has re-ignited my cynicism towards materialism. I go to Hong Kong every couple of months usually for weekend getaways -- it's the big city syndrome curse, really -- as I'm rarely the type to trek to the mountains or go camping. Shopping relaxes me and I enjoy having dinner whilst getting bathed in the city's lights. However, Hong Kong is likened to a drug where it must be taken in moderation. Overdosing in Hong Kong is a tough one because it involves a mix between a culture focused on monetary gains and working excessively hard for them. I reckon that the reason why Hong Kong is such a happening place is that people work ultimately hard -- and they play equally hard. This is true among the circles that I move around in, that is. There is a balance that must be respected. Most people in Hong Kong get caught up in the glitz and glamor of life. Having said that, they are usually beautifully packaged, ooze with poise and immaculately dressed. The thing is, beauty usually comes with a price -- and a hefty one at that. It is a shame to wear anything worth less than a few hundred dollars. It is no wonder that Hong Kong's economy is constantly booming.

As much as I love Hong Kong, I cannot live there and expose myself to that kind of life. I have never met anyone who has left Hong Kong unjaded. The experience makes you stronger and wiser, but a lot less happy. The stress and competition are too much to keep up with -- be it at work or not -- as they are constants in the city's life. Everyone works for money to be spent for ephemeral fulfillment and satisfaction.

Nowadays, whenever I meet people who have love affairs with worldly goods, I feel more pity than aggravation towards them. It's like they have a void that they're trying to fill. And from first hand experience, fulfillment obtained from material wealth is fleeting. As I said, like a drug, the high wears off and leaves you wanting more -- and more, and more, until it could no longer satisfy. At the end of the day, what is it really that they're pining for?

"There is something perverse about more than enough. When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. The more we acquire, the more elusive enough becomes" - Unknown

It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

~*~*~*~*~*~
Post Script:

In my defense, I felt the need to post something up first before you guys totally forget about me before proceeding on to the comment replies *sheepish grin* Sigh... it's my head in the soup today, isn't it?

40 Comments:

Blogger Sling said...

I never have really understood the need to acquire things.Things that cost a lot of money.
Don't get me wrong,I like having nice stuff,but it is just stuff,and easily disposed of...
The things that are genuinely priceless,..love ,friendship,the kind word and thoughtul gesture,have the most value when they are given away.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous maverick said...

I have seen such people too, who decide the value of anything based on the price paid for it. While they aim for these sophisticated luxuries, they do miss the simple joys of life. I knw this sounds cliched, but true.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

This post is like a sermon to me. I'm glad someone else echoed my sentiments.

Material goods are cool. I mean, I like nice things from time to time. But, I've found so much more joy in things that are non-material. Whoever said "the best things in life are free" probably knew what he/she was talking about.

12:58 PM  
Blogger sublimely ordinary. said...

you are very correct when you say that materialism is grossly mistaken as ambition.and people who carry price tags on themselves...I feel they are just being ostentatious and somewhat self-deceiving.'more-then-enough' desire lurks in everybody...not only for money or material comfort but also love,praise,fame etc.but I think I'm digressing.nice post by the way.
hey can I add u?

2:10 PM  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I agree with you in all respects, other than that tea tastes the same in bone china and styrofoam. Tea is a noble beverage, its majesty diminished by the styrofoam cup. It always tastes better in a china mug, or a bone china cup. Promise.

Puss

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Kyla Bea said...

I think that part of the problem with this kind of materialism in people is that it's a way of replacing self worth. If you have X you have a reason to feel good about yourself that you can hold and show other people. And when you stop feeling good about that object you can get another one and another and another. I know a few people who are trapped into that cycle, and it's the same as any addiction I've seen. Sometimes I want to just give them a hug and tell them that being envied by others isn't the same as being respected by them. That's something you can't buy.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Vik said...

Oh well the way you look at it, we *the people* will definitely not appreciate if a star or a rich man hangs out in a cheap place and wears something the common man could afford blah blah... So in one way the rich people have to spend more money to save their stardom because if they dare step out of it, no one would ever treat them good. No ONE. So there goes the rat chase, the glitz chase a.k.a to them the survival.

Secondly, we are now so exposed starting from the fashion world to the celebs to the richer strata, so there you go when you get a few more dough to blow you just go for the designers to feel how it is "to be" a star. With me on that? And finally before I sign off, the products which are priced so high will stay and more to follow until there are people, the takers for it.

But I empathize your thoughts as it is much like what I think often. "Show me the money" is the famous word it seems.

So these people, we all, are in one way lining up ourself towards the need to be in the material world. Out of our own belief for the sheer sake to survive.

11:47 PM  
Blogger --Sunrise-- said...

"Do they not realize how ridiculous they're being? In all honesty, tea tastes the same to me whether or it's served in a Royal Doulton tea cup or a styrofoam tumbler."

Just my thought on this..

The tea may taste the same whichever cup you use, but using one can make you feel good.. more so than you would feel, using the other one. Which one, depends on the individual, and personal interest, admittedly. But I feel that it is more about pursuing that feeling of feeling good, than it is simply about the price of the item. And in some cases, it just so happens that the price of the item is what makes the person feel good about it.

If that made any sense at all... lol.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Princess of the Universe said...

I feel compelled to make some tea now.

I have a token "rich friend" and she has introduced me to how the other half live. It's fascinating to see people who can afford to spend $300.00 on a pair of jeans.

I don't know what I would be like if I could afford to live that way, maybe I would spend more money on things- but I certainly wouldn't be tallying up what everything is worth, nor would I judge people on what they spend.

I am definitely not one of the noble types though- I work for my paycheque. If I were independently wealthy, I would be travelling, taking courses and maybe doing some ultra-fun volunteering.

2:00 AM  
Blogger zanas said...

i don't travel, thus i'm pretty much ignorant about life in other parts of the world. i only have second hand info from friends who lurv to shop in HK. their clothings and accessories do convince me when they justify HK as a shopping paradise. personally, i feel that shopping for no reason is a bad habit. brands show their good taste for quality. and quality comes with a price. it's just a string of one's lifestyle. and like u said the economy of HK is booming. therefore, i guess they are helping others to create jobs, to keep their current jobs and actually keeping their family alive. that's not so bad, is it?

2:33 AM  
Blogger Andre Veloux said...

Materialism? Some people have to have the latest, newest everything. It's fine to want things, it's fine to buy things. But only if you need them. You don't need a new car, you don't need the latest gizmo. But if you love something, and you are going to use it then buy it, in that case buy the best if you can afford it.

3:03 AM  
Blogger The Black King said...

When you earn more money, you need more ways to spend it as well. Why else do the pubs, designer shops, etc. sprout at the places where the salaries of people are the highest? You are right, they are good to indulge in once in a while, but at the end of the day they are just a piece of cloth covering your body!

4:50 AM  
Blogger nasia said...

my friend.. a few mins back, told me.. to cum to dubai..( she is there). i was telling her i am unable to study.. there is no inspiration.. she said jst cum here and u wil feel like buying all the stuff there.. and then u will feel like studying for the money.. :-) ring a bell!

5:57 AM  
Blogger Queen of Dysfunction said...

Loved this post. I never really saw anything morally objectionable about materialism as it is described here, but at the same time I do see something inherently silly in it and sometimes self-destructive.

7:09 AM  
Blogger soul&body said...

I loved your post, and its so true... for example I cant understand how famous and not ppl buy for example a pair of jeans or for example a t.shirt by 20.000 dolars...o_O from my pocket I cant!!even if i could I wouldnt, its ridiculous!!!
I am also working, but in this moment I am helping my family and also for myself. If I had a lot of money , I would create a company and also would help the others.... not buying extravagant things

7:21 AM  
Blogger X. Dell said...

New York is filled with them, and we have some very exclusive stores to cater to such people. I took a friend of mine to FAO Schwartz last year to show her a $35,000 stuffed animal.

If the display of opulence considered only a misguided sign of success, then I wouldn't mind so much. Nowadays, however, it's becoming more of a misguided symbol of morality.

10:03 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

dollar stores and re-sales shops are where most of my friends shop for everything but food.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Nithya N said...

imagine life when you are absolutely complacent with everything. you'd be awaiting death. there is no such thing as "purpose" of life. everyone lives because he is born. what's wrong with being materialistic?? man needs to focus, engage himself in something and needs to feel good about something. so what if it's money? so what if it's a ford icon? or just a rose petal? you need to be attached to something. or what's the point in life at all?

8:40 PM  
Blogger fifi said...

Our society breeds anxiety, fuelled by marketing images.

The hollowness of the soul is seen to be filled by and endless piles of fine and costly goods.

*sigh*

8:48 PM  
Blogger UBERMOUTH said...

Interesting post about materialism. I do tend to like some design houses and their wares but I am not obsessive about it and it really is about the quality rather than the brand. Where do you live that you are able to go to Hong Kong every couple of months? I would be afraid to eat ANYTHING there. :)

11:40 PM  
Blogger Donald Douglas said...

Interesting post! I never seem to have enough! I think it's just the activity of shopping, spending, dining, etc.!

Have a great day, and don't go all un-material on me!

Burkean Reflections

2:41 AM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

The older I get, the more I think, the less baggage we have the easier it is to travel.

2:58 AM  
Blogger Zee said...

it's all about the money....it's all about the dum dum da da dum dum....

the more u have it the more u want it.....

3:04 AM  
Blogger Arcturus said...

I've nothing of value to add to this but I just wanted to say, "Hi!" since you were nice enuf to comment on my blog.

I personally favor as much conspicuous consumption as possible because (1) it shows one is favored by God, and (2) God wants us to use up all the planet's resources ahead of Armageddon, as foretold in the Bible.

Speaking of giving up worldly things, whatever happened to that doorman/bouncer guy you wrote about a few months ago -- the one who was going to join an austere Buddhist sect and give away all his worldly possessions (until his parents had an intervention)??

6:09 AM  
Blogger John-Jack Bouchet Goodman said...

That's a very long text and I am to tired, lazy and to far away from the screen to read it. But I guess I will just add you to my link list 'cause you have added a comment.

7:24 AM  
Blogger John-Jack Bouchet Goodman said...

...to my blog.

7:25 AM  
Blogger John-Jack Bouchet Goodman said...

I think you need some pictures for people like me...huhmmm...I shouldn t give advises about blogs because noone posts comments on mine.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Shruti said...

Hmm,
materilism is what all people running for...As their pockets are getting bigger, so tthus their wants...
But non-materilism is again gaining its inmportance..
Its like, people reach to certain heights and then come back to their normal being..

5:28 PM  
Blogger Ab said...

oyye princess,

I kind of agree with you. but i didn understand what the postscript was supposed to mean.
two, you still havent commented to comments..
and three, the most viscious accusation, you didnt reply to my mail...

6:26 PM  
Blogger Crashdummie said...

i guess madonna was onto something when she sang:

"You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl"

its a consumption world we are living in, where everyones striving to get the newest, smallest, fastest, wickedest gizmo.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Behind Blue Eyes said...

Well Princess, I very often feel out of the loop when it comes to things like this. I can't say that I don't care about material things but I think part that the reason that I do is because I am a visual person. I like clean rooms, that are attractively decorated, I like the way my children look in crisp, clean clothes. I like the way that a well-manicured lawn looks. It is restful to me. I like the way new, soft towels feel. I hate to use towels that have become dingy, I hate the way it looks. I do't think that is the same as being materialistic though, do you?

Well, to prove the point that I am nopt materialistic, even though I like nice things...I get a lot of things from thrift stores. I make out like a fat rat!

11:08 PM  
Blogger mathew said...

Really..echoed my thoughts perfectly..great minds think alike!!;-P

As much as I know folks who look down upon you coz u dont have a particular brand of a mobile phone..or a particular brand of music player..just imagine people gauging others based on the brands they wear...

But ultimately we all have traces of such stigmas..but it really hurts when they go overboard!!

11:41 PM  
Blogger Nivi said...

I completely concur with your thoughts on this.I have often felt the exact same way and somehow i can never stop myself from spending when i think i want to. I simply cant think of every penny when i spend.But sometimes when the cynical you catches up with you, you cant help but wonder If sometimes you need to be like that.But well yeah vicious cycle it is :)

7:41 AM  
Blogger Libby said...

princess-i read a book not long ago called 'more is never enough', and that was pretty much what you're saying....and it is SO true!! like the fact that in america, families are getting a lot smaller, with 2,3,4 kids...and 7 or 8 bedrooms & bathrooms!!

8:34 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

I like nice things, and quality belongings, but I'm not defined by that.
People who are forever going on about how much their car is worth or how much they have in the bank, bore me to tears.

There is definately more to life.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Broady said...

Love this post-- I can relate it to people I know, as well as to myself. I tend to float in and out of the materialistic state of mind, not realizing it, until it hits me square between the eyes, is utterly depressing, causing me to reset my "greed meter." Slowly, and unconsciously, I slide right back into it, only to repeat the process.

I guess I am hopeless. But glad that your post brought it to my attention, once again!

Hong Kong sounds fantastic and exhausing, btw.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Loquacious said...

Hrm. I lived in HK for 4 years, taught at an international school, and lived in both Kowloon and the New Territories during my years there.

I don't think I returned jaded at all, and I usually shopped on Lion Rock Road in Kowloon City or at my local Bossini (refusing, of course, to pay more than $150 HK for ANYTHING except maybe comfy shoes).

Back now on N. American soil, I still live a relatively (so I'd like to believe) unworldly life. I drive a 10-year-old Neon, I rent my home, and I still shop sales on the cheap.

I'd like to think that some people actually work because they love their job, and that materialism only catches up to those who have no greater perspective than the end of their nose.

That said, not many people are like me, and unfortunately I too have met (and are friends with) some folks who feel strange compulsions to use their possessions as a means of self-validation or worth. It is a sad thing to witness, indeed, and I can only hope that one day, these people find freedom from the material greed that takes hold of their hearts and chokes all perspective out of their minds.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Lucid Darkness said...

The experience makes you stronger and wiser, but a lot less happy.

HAH. Most unpleasant things in life are like that. Hmm.



People have money. They spend it. They find new things to spend money on. They want more money. They get it. They spend it. Yes, it's a vicious cycle all right. Humans are like that. They cannot differentiate what they want and what they need. Meh.

Great post!


PS: I'm sorry I haven't checked your blog recently. I've been a bit er, occupied. :(

11:22 PM  
Blogger Ninja Of The Mundane said...

I'm not materialistic, but I think I understand the material impulse. And I think we need to do more to understand it and less to condemn it from our safe havens of superiority.

I'll use myself as an example. I don't have much, but in the last few years I've doubled my income and went from near-poverty-level living to fairly comfortable. And I have been spending to my new level:

— I'm about to buy a new car to replace the 12-year-old one that sounds like it's grinding espresso beans whenever I change gears.

— I treated myself to a couple of cross-country trips to visit friends and family I've not seen in a long time.

— I replaced my laptop computer with a better, faster one.

— I bought a suit and some nice clothes to replace some of my ratty thrift-store fare.

— I just bought a nice goose-down comforter to replace the bedspread I'd had for 15 years.

— I treat my friends to nice dinners more often.

Am I materialistic? I don't think so. I bought quality things to replace things that needed replacing, and I spent money on non-material things that made me and the people I care about happy. Because I could.

The point here is that I think we all generally live up to whatever our income level happens to be. When we're poor, we spend only what little we have. When we're better off, we do better for ourselves because we can.

Am I the only one who does this?

3:05 AM  
Blogger Princess Pointful said...

I've been becoming cynical lately about our whole fascination and reverence of material things. I can't get over how fundementally messed up it is that we celebrate people owning 10 cars when one would feed a family for many years.
(I know we all know that... but actually thinking about it is frightening)

2:07 PM  

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