Materialism, according to The Free Dictionary is defined as “The theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life”. We as a people tend to look up to the individuals among us who have managed to attain worldly possessions in abundance. What we do not see however, is the hard work (whether shady or lawful), put in by these people in order to achieve such abundance. While these persons were carrying out their plans to achieve wealth and prosperity, not much people paid them any mind and they were in some cases, subjected to bad treatment at times. This is due to how they were perceived at the time.
When they are successful in their endeavours however, they are treated differently and are able to benefit from special treatment because of their changed status. This changed status normally presents itself outwardly by the person being able to afford expensive desirable things for themselves. People see this and treat them differently for it. Can this materialism then be used as a measure of accomplishment?
Accomplishment or Vanity?
Why is it that people place value on being able to attain material things? Is it a marker to show the world that you are doing well for yourself? Or is it an outward manifestation of vanity? Vanity is defined as “the quality of people who have too much pride in their own appearance, abilities, achievements”. Could this then be the driving force of materialism? For without pride in what you can do, your abilities and your resulting achievements, we wouldn’t be able to gain the things that we have now or hope to attain. Does this then mean that we all display vanity, which drives our lust for material gain?
Materialism in Society
Society tends to define accomplishment by material gain. It can be safe to say that the more you have, the higher your value in society is. It can be seen in the media, in advertisements and programs. The main characters in these adverts and programs are usually owners of nice expensive things and give the image of affluence. The aim of these adverts and programs is to create a want in the viewership for the things these characters have, which attracts a sense of success. This materialism is what drives consumerism and puts pride in attaining the latest and most exclusive products on the market. An individual who is able to attain these things is looked upon with admiration as well as with envy.
Materialism in Life
Although we are a competitive specie by nature and we all strive to attain the best in life, is materialism a good measure of accomplishment? Or is it a sign of societal problems regarding wealth distribution? Does having more things make you a better person? Or does it just create more clutter in your life? Do we need so much things and what drives us to attain these things? Who are we trying to impress when we attain these things? Are we happier for it? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves when we go out on our journey and are confronted with materialism. We also need to move away from evaluating people based on their material possessions and look into the character of people instead.
Without the material things, we all are left with how we interact with and treat each other as a measure of what type of person we are. In the final evaluation, we all came into the world with nothing and we all shall leave the world with nothing. Materialism then, can be summed up as just being an agent of our vanity.