I've never paid much attention to this subject before. However, I'm in the process of reading Thoreau's Walden and have read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, books that told the tales of those professing the belief in appreciating the simpler things in life (Into the Wild is the true and tragic story of Chris McCandless, who was, in a sense, a modern-day Thoreauian). Only then did I realize the predicament that society at large has put itself into, and what a predicament it is!
The trouble that so many are in now is being enslaved by materialism:the endless quest for bigger and better, and mostly, unnecessary things. These people are never content, for in their mindset, they can never have enough. They are ungrateful for simply having the means to survive; they are willing to risk losing food, clothing, and shelter to get that fancy new sports car or speedboat.
The pain of acquisition is such that not even the grandest of purchases can ease it, for there is always a more expensive and appealing toy that demands we empty our brains of common sense, and in doing so, empty the money from our wallets and bank accounts so that we may attain it.
John Doe spent his rent money on a game console and all its accessories; he is now facing eviction and homelessness because his delusional "need" for a gaming platform overrode his common sense and survival instinct to put first the necessity of having a place to live.
Master Materialism called, and John Doe obeyed without question or thought of consequence. Now look where it got him.
How many others do this? How many families allow themselves to go hungry because they just had to have that brand new Arctic Cat? How is it justified that they can't afford food for their kids, but they could waste the money on a machine that can only be used three months of the year?
Everywhere we go, we see people suffering in endless discontent because they want so many frivolous things but can never afford them all. How many children fight with their parents for the hot new heelie shoes because everyone else has them? Materialism does not segregate based on age. How many couples get into a tiff over home decor?
This is what society expects of us; this is how merchants of frivolous things make their profit. They create a product that has absolutely nothing to do with our basic human survival needs and convince us that we can't live without it. Worse yet, if we don't die (as they would make it sound like) from not obtaining this product, we'll become dead in the eyes of society for not making it our life's mission to obtain this item.
Worse still, there are those who would have us believe that what we have and are content with is not good enough--we must strive to own a bigger and more expensive house that we don't need; our cars are more than three years old, it's time to trade them in and begin car payments anew on a vehicle that will cause you more troubles than you already had, both mechanical and financial.
When such people approach you with such materialistic demands, pay attention and determine what their motive is: are they truly concerned with your safety and well-being, or are they hoping you too will become Materialsm's next victim and take leave of your money and better judgment? Chances are, these people want you to suffer the financial ruin and overall discontent with them, for it is ever true that misery loves company.
And still for some others, their quest for material things becomes disgustingly apparent when a family member dies. We have all heard stories of near-brawls during the reading of the will as the more selfish members of the family sqaubble over who should get what, and how much. Rather than mourn the loss of a loved one, they are more concerned with who is getting Mother's cabin by the lake, unbothered by the fact that they'll never see her again. Is this a fair trade?
We have all heard stories of, or even know of, those who can't wait for a family member to pass on so that they can take over the family house, business, etc. In these cases, there is no love for the relative, only love for what the relative has. A shameful perversion of family bonding.
It's one thing to have your priorities in the proper order, secure your necessities, and then buy oneself a treat here and there. The rule of thumb is to ensure you have food, clothing, and shelter before anything else. A brand-new computer will do you no good if you have no home to use it in.
An even better piece of advice, I'm told in books, is to own no more than what can be thrown in a pack and carried at a dead run in the event of disaster. Such is not the world we live in, however. But it's food for thought. (My own disaster kit will consist of my wilderness living/survival books, a firestriker, basic camping gear, and my books on edible/medicinal plants.)
Common sense and some wit are all that are needed to break the stranglehold that Materialism holds on so many. It is far better to see a person for what they are, and not for what they have.
"You think you have to want more than you need, until you have it all you won't be free..."--Eddie Vedder, "Society"
For those interested, here's a youtube link to the rest of the song: