Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Money Obssession

It’s a brand new year so ladies and gentlemen, start (or restart) your capitalist engines. As generally resilient, assiduous, and materialistic Americans, let us mount our newest, full-scale pursuit for happiness for life is far too short to let worldly opportunities go by. To keep alive this American dream, Americans must have the pervasive foresight to know not just the risks involved in attaining it but also the hardhearted landscape of reality that complicates the dream.

Determined and industrious Americans however, are finding themselves balking at that disruptive reality, a current reality that portends an increasingly-poisoned political climate that is turning our politicians into feudal masters. It is an extant, homegrown reality that also embraces an unhealthy mass obsession with a slick, impulsive, and bottomless portrait of capitalism as we know it today.

In considering a defense of how we Americans practice capitalism in this day and age, we lean toward taking as much from capitalism as we can get–––the more the merrier. Nothing wrong with that until we go too far to the point where we do anything and everything to line our pockets, fill our bank accounts to the rim, and acquire as many superfluous possessions as we can. In the process we weaken our financial, moral, and ethical moorings. As a result families are destroyed, friendships ruined, psyches traumatized, and humanity lost to the indulgent passion of making and spending money. As Americans try harder and harder to seize the capitalist day, we have learned that none of these tragedies stop money from becoming more dear to us than anything else, whatever we say.

Up to the moment that they bid farewell to the world, what we can call idolizers of money and their fetishization of it never wanes. Their idolization is as steady and constant as the sun. It temptingly promises to turn their lonely, meandering lives into a sweet, dignified one full of respect and devotion. The idolizers trot out the myth that money is the be-all and end-all to anyone’s and everyone’s existence. The thing about it is that so many of us fall for this myth, even after the damage caused by it has been done.

I always do my best to explain reality to others. But it’s not easy because as the movie “American Hustle” so succinctly puts it, “People believe what they want to believe.” When I tell anyone that the power and glory that once belonged to God is now being monopolized by Money (with a capital “M”), I listen to their angry retorts and wavering vindications of God’s primacy in the face of Money’s triumph. But they fail to change the unevenness of Money’s position to the one God has been put into place by capitalist accumulation and resonance.

Americans are frequently reminded that the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the constitution. What should raise some eyebrows about this constitutional guarantee however is that while anyone is promised a chance to pursue happiness, not everyone will necessarily be given the fair opportunity. Either way, the pursuit of material happiness––which is what the constitution is really getting at––reduces its wayfarers into a virtual reality where Money and Money alone becomes the immutable standard by which they measure everyone and everything.

The problem is not that wanting money is bad. Everyone should want money for its many constructive and salutary advantages. But the internal socio-cultural drives and external acquisitive voices that honor and praise money as if it were the Biblical Golden Calf exemplify much of what is going wrong with America today and its “money culture.” The glorious pursuit of money, at the expense of reason, moral values, and democratic principles, is detrimental to our future as a nation. This blind chase, in many respects, could mark the beginning of the end of the United States as a great country and superpower over the long term.

For the disbelievers who find little credence in these “alarmist” admonitions, their consumeristic, materialistic appetites seem indelibly ingrained in their consciousness and in their actions. The red flags about the future American economy do not register with them as they view the current economic doldrums as a temporary setback. Even as the more sanguine among us are confident that America will bounce back as it always has, this recurrent theme in American history is slowly becoming the exception and no longer the rule.


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