So, someone linked to this on twitter ages ago and I’ve been wanting to share it, so here we go:

The High Price of Materialism discusses the links between (and vicious circle of) materialism, low self-esteem, media, substance abuse, ecological destruction, injustice, and human cruelty; and suggests way to promote intrinsic values and the possitive – pro-social, generous, confident, ecologically-sound – cycles that grow out of them.

If only because of the spiraling bent of my radical-lefty friends[1], it doesn’t surprise me that pro-social values, environmentalism, generosity, and good self-esteem are linked in a self-perpetuating cycle. Nor, looking at the Conservative government we’re currently dealing with, does it surprise me that that materialism, low self-esteem, media saturation, substance abuse, ecological destruction, injustice, and human cruelty are linked to each other in the same way.

It makes sense that materialism – and the capitalist system that’s intimately connected there-to (and reliant there-upon) – NEEDS people to be intrinsically insecure, and to believe that they have less value as people if they happen to have less stuff (or less money to buy stuff). It needs them to associate poverty (lack of money and stuff) with being less valueable as people, so it totally props up the whole doctrine of predestination (see: Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for details on that one) that says, effectively, “If you’re poor, it’s because you’re BAD and, therefore, deserve your misery”[2].

Starhawk, who’s a favourite of mine and whose work I periodically reference over on Urban Meliad, talks a lot about this kind of thing in Truth or Dare and Dreaming the Dark: The idea that, the more you understand – and have afirmed by the people and structures around you – that you are valuable in and of yourself[3], the more you will also value others intrinsically and, as such, actually give a fuck and want to help when they’re in trouble.
The idea that knowing, intrinsically, that you are worthy of food that isn’t full of growth hormones or pesticides can lead you to not only believing the same thing about people other than you (people with less money than you, people whose “life choices” aren’t ones you approve of or would choose for yourself), but also believing, intrinsically, that the plants and animals you eat are worthy of living lives that don’t involves being pumped full of hormones or pesticides; that the farmers who cultivate the plants and raise the animals that you eat are worthy of a good wage for their labour even if that means buying fair-trade or farm-gate and making a sacrifice[4] in order to do so; that the land you live on, the land your food grows on or is raised on, the earth and water that your food is born of – literally or figuratively – is worthy of not being poisoned by agricultural-chemical run-off, by oil spills and tailing ponds, of being treated with respect.
The idea that knowing, intrinsically, that your body is your own and you hold sole dominion over it and that no-one else should be able to legislate or guilt-trip you into doing or being anything you don’t agree with or concent to, leads to knowing, intrinsically, that everyone else’s body is their own and that those same rules apply. That just because you mourn the loss of the son you thought you had, and all the futures you envisioned for him, doesn’t mean you can’t rejoice in the daughter you turned out to have or respect that she knows her own identity better than you do even though you’re an adult and she’s still a child. That just because you think the choice between eviction and prostitution is a horrible one to even consider, doesn’t mean you can’t respect the people who choose sex work and support them in their decisions rather than trying to criminalize their best options. That just because you suspect the chick who begged $2 from you in the park is only going to use the money to get a fix for her drug adiction doesn’t mean it’s your call to condemn her for what she does with her money – you may not like it, but your job is to work to make sure that there’s a methedone clinic, and a safe inhalation/injection site in your shared neighbourhood, it’s to greet her as a neighbour rather than look through her, it’s to recognize your shared humanity and your shared intrinsic value.

So yeah.
That’s my thoughts on that one.

Moving right along. 🙂

Ms. S.

[1] You start by taking your canvas bags to the super market, signing a petition or two, and trying to watch less TV, and three years later you’re shopping at the organic farmers’ market; boycotting monsanto; volunteering at the women’s shelter; doing outreach with queer, street-involved youth; hosting community clothing swaps… and you’ve never been happier.

[2] This is also tied to privilage-obliviousness and the whole idea of “boot-strapping”.

[3] Not because you make X amount of money, or have X number of toys, or X number of sexual partners, or X number of children, or whatever else the latest advertisment/government/movie has told you are required in order to be validated.

[4] Canceling the cable, not driving the car as much, eating out less, shoping second-hand rather than new for clothes… Not everyone has something (else) they can cut in order to do this, I know. But it’s something to think about.