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Materialism

I think society has become far too materialistic and superficial. We have gone so far as to have laws which require us to keep our homes and yards looking neat, so that it does not bother other people. This is the reason we have to mow our lawns. It serves no purpose to keep the grass short, it takes up our time, and the lawnmowers we use pollute the environment. So we would truly be better off not mowing our lawns. This makes me seriously question the priorities in society.

Right now I am surrounded by junk. Nothing around me is necessary for survival except the structure of the house, which protects me from the elements, and that could be much smaller and still be sufficient. Most of the things around me serve no useful purpose at all. The chair I am sitting on merely takes the place of the ground. The table serves only to hold useless things off the ground. The other tables can hardly be seen because of all the things piled on top of them, but none of it is truly needed.

Materialism is the most widespread religion in the world, and yet it is the one that has no morals. The sole purpose is obtaining material wealth, when intellectual wealth is far more valuable. Corporations are Gods, and bank accounts are their sacred literature. Things are acquired with money, and money is obtained by giving up your time, which is equivalent to life. I believe Thoreau was correct when he stated that the cost of a thing is how much life you give up for it. We give our lives for money, and so we have no life left with which to enjoy what we have.

Because of this, I think that our government should give people what they need to survive, and then if they choose, they can give up parts of their lives in order to obtain luxuries. Under this system, I believe most people would spend most of their time on worthwhile things, such as learning about nature, other people, and themselves. As it is, we give up many years of our lives in return for our fancy homes. From this perspective, we do not own our homes. We are enslaved by them.

We give many more years of our lives to the government, which uses them to pay police, firemen, the military, and other organizations. Libraries are one of the few purposeful things the government uses our lives to provide. If we were to live simply, there would be no reason for people to steal from each other. In Thoreauís two years at Walden, although he spent many hours each day away from his unlocked cabin, he only had one thing stolen from him, which was a book by Homer. Similarly, it would not be a terrible loss if your home burned down. You could build a new one by yourself in a relatively short time, and the possessions lost would be few or none.

Decoration is the pinnacle of materialism and superficial concerns. The fanciest clothes (the ones that serve the least purpose) are always the most expensive. A skimpy designer swimsuit costs many times the price of a sturdy pair of jeans. And of course, we must have many different clothes, when we could get by with only a few. We do the same thing with our homes. The cabin Thoreau stayed in was about a sixth of this level of my house, yet was more than enough for him. We insist on having homes that are far larger than we need. Then we insist on getting all sorts of things to fill and cover our homes. These decorations serve only to distract us from anything which is important. If not distracted by possessions we might spend time thinking and doing, instead of merely observing. These are the main reasons that I do not watch television. The only things on tv are distractions, attempts to lure me into the materialist culture, and the news, very little of which, when you think about it, is really relevant to me anyway.

School doesnít teach much of real value. Most of the content revolves around teaching you how to do jobs that use up your life in return for useless possessions. The genuinely valuable learning does not occur as a result of school, but is found through experience, and examination of your surroundings, and yourself.

I think people should take time to think about what actually matters to them, what they spend most of their time on, and if the two arenít similar, why they arenít.

-Brad Mace