Why are we so driven to accumulate possessions and wealth?

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"Researchers in positive psychology have concluded that true well-being does not come from wealth but from other factors such as good relationships, meaningful and challenging jobs or hobbies, and a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves (such as a religion, a political or social cause, or a sense of mission)."

From the article

"In addition, our desire for wealth is a reaction to the sense of lack and vulnerability generated by our sense of separation. This generates a desire to makes ourselves more whole, more significant and powerful. We try to ‘bolster' our fragile egos and make ourselves feel more complete by accumulating wealth and possessions.

It doesn't work, of course - or at least, it only works for a very short time. The happiness of buying or owning a new item rarely lasts longer than a couple of days. The sense of ego-inflation generated by wealth or expensive possessions can be more enduring, but it's very fragile too. It depends on comparing yourself to other people who aren't as well off as you, and evaporates if you compare yourself to someone who is wealthier than you. And no matter how much we try to complete or bolster our ego, our inner discontent and incompleteness always re-emerges, generating new desires. No matter how much we get, it's never enough."

From article above

To me, the most offensive kind of materialism/conspicuous consumption is travel -- the kind where you go to some shitty 3rd world country  and make a reality show of their culture.  Watch them do their dances, explore their ancient temples, buy trinkets, then return to your spiffy suburban home feeling extra smug about how good you have it.  Why spend piles of money to see things you can see on TV or the Net? Because you can.

Thank you so much Alan and I agree with you.

Steph, one of my relatives has been doing this for decades (off to N. India in Feb.). I just roll my eyes.  No envy or sour grapes, I assure you.  You would have to pay ME to take these trips.

Keep posting provocative stuff.

Steph, upon seeing your title, The Madness of Materialism, I right away thought of its opposite, spiritualism, and decided to go to Wikipedia and refresh my understanding of these two ways by which many people live their lives.

I recalled too the many times I've read of wealthy people and seen mention of their poverty-stricken early lives. I did not live my early years in poverty, and so my goal was to find work I enjoyed.

In college I examined, and rejected, the spiritualism of the Catholicism I was taught and of the other religions I read of. I did find work I enjoyed, and it paid well too. I became a materialist, though not as driven as the 1% who are so often in the news.

A small part of my work required me to write portions of computer user manuals. I did so by imagining myself a beginner in the area of my expertise and writing for myself. I heard some very positive feedback from customers, which I liked.

Now retired, I do a lot of writing. I write non-fiction, mainly essays and short memoirs on such as how I became a sailor (of the US Navy kind), an atheist, a power-driven political junkee, a parliamentarian (not of the European kind), and of my life with women (dizzying), et cetera. Some of my writing is, of course, therapy.

While reading the above excerpt from Steve Taylor's work, I noticed his heavy use of the first person plural pronouns we and our. If I were to meet him, I would challenge him to rewrite it in the first person singular pronouns I, my and me. I wonder if he would, or if in his pursuit of prosperity he has the time.

I have yet to go to Wikipedia and do the research for a Toastmaster club speech on spiritualism and materialism and their discontents, but I will.

Adding to my post above.

Suppose Steve Taylor were to admit that he can speak/write only for himself. Would writing the following stir any hard-to-handle emotions?

Modern Materialism

In some ways the gold diggers' rampant materialism was understandable, since they were living at a time of great poverty, and for many of them gold digging seemed to offer an escape from starvation. But I, in the western, industrialized world don't have that excuse. My appetite for wealth and material goods isn't driven by hardship, but by my own inner discontent. I’m convinced that I can buy my way to happiness, that wealth is the path to permanent fulfilment and well-being. I still measure ‘success' in terms of the quality and price of the material goods I can buy, or in the size of my salary.

My mad materialism would be more forgivable if there was evidence that material goods and wealth do lead to happiness. But all the evidence fails to show this. Study after study by psychologists has shown that there is no correlation between wealth and happiness. The only exception is in cases of real poverty, when extra income does relieve suffering and brings security. But once my basic material needs are satisfied, my level of income makes little difference to my level of happiness. ....




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