Monday, January 10, 2011

On Anti-Materialism

People become pretty confused when I describe myself as an anti-materialist. There is a kind of materialism which places value in the material world: everything that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. If you are thinking of this type of materialism I am in fact a materialist to my very core. However, when I refer to myself as an anti-materialist I refer to the type of materialism which places value on human possessions: any objects which can be bought and sold or the currency itself. I recognize the need for certain objects like food and housing to be able to continue existing. Moreover I recognize that certain objects can be indeed pleasurable to use. I do not recognize the need to own material objects, and I am extremely baffled by those who see the value in acquiring massive amounts of those objects or currency.
Most importantly I believe in valuing the relationships between people above the value of material objects at all times. This has led some to refer me to a humanist, but I would never self apply this title. I do not believe that any deep or lasting happiness can come from ownership of material objects; moreover, placing value of those objects over human beings will lead to unhappiness.
I do not believe that any human being has a right to own any object. By what authority can we make this claim? Our founding fathers were mostly wealthy land owners who pursued property rights in order to ensure their own power. They had no right to kill millions of Indians who were living on this land before them. Indians who, by the way, asserted that no one has the right to own land. Most people in this country who are religious follow a god which tells them in clear language to abandon their worldly desires.
So I ask you what right do you or I have to own anything? We were born into this world owning nothing and we die the same way. We may claim that our parents gave us an object but where did they get it from? Every material object starts as raw material from the earth. Some may argue that the work we put into an object makes it ours to sell. I will agree that there should be value in work. I assert that while we may come into possession through hard work, it is not due purely to our hard work that we come into possession. We own things not from just rights but merely by the capricious hand of luck. Most of the rich did not earn their wealth but were born into it and simply made more. Can anyone say that Paris Hilton would be as famous and rich today if she were born to any other parent? There are some (such as Andrew Carnegie) who did start from humble beginnings and I do give credit to such people for their achievements. As much skill and will power as these people possess even they had to deal with a good amount of luck. So many factors leading up to their success were established without their knowledge by the hard work of others.
“That there are so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society”-H.D. Thoreau
I submit that it’s a selfish and childish self importance that promotes others to claim the rights to property as if screaming and threatening made it true. So if you can accept that you have no right to ownership of material objects how can you (or anyone) claim that any object is worth more than a connection to a human being?

Next time you and your loved one have an argument about material objects or money remember to think and say: “It’s just a thing, its not worth hurting you or our relationship over”

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