Siyanda Mohutsiwa
Siyanda Mohutsiwa

Why we choose materialism – part 2

Because, it is far easier to want a nicer, more expensive outfit than it is to ask ourselves why we can never conceive that we are enough as we are.

It is easier to want a better, higher paying job than to ask ourselves what happened to the idealism that had once dominated our youth and fuelled our desire to change the world.

It is easier to want a better bed than it is to lie in it and wonder what within us has driven away every partner that lay in our own bed at one point or another.

For some of us, materialism is a more manageable need. The philosopher’s definition of materialism is an interesting one; defined as “the theory that the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material”.

Its convenience is in its simplicity. I will extend it into the paradigm of economics and say that we are discussing a philosophy that implies that all that is real is what can be acquired.

And this is a very simple desire; to want only what is “real”. Very manageable, indeed. And subscribing to this belief system makes one’s desires infinitely more fulfil-able.

It may take a lot of work but there’s a good chance you can get that car you’ve always wanted. But what about filling the void that was gashed open by your parent when they left you at a young age? That might be a bit tricky. Hell, that may never happen. But getting that car sure can!

Agonising over which property to purchase as your first house is tough — I’ll give you that: but that’s a far easier choice to make than say, deciding who to share your entire life with. And that’s when materialism becomes convenient. Now, everything in your eyes becomes commoditised. It can be listed now.

You can list the traits you want in a life partner like you list your groceries. In bite-sized desires: acquirable and uncomplicated. As if “honest” is a category in a shopping isle, you can walk down it, pop a partner in your cart, and tick “honest” off the list.

That is significantly more manageable than getting down to the pit of your soul and asking questions that may not have answers. Asking why you need a life partner, why the traits you’ve listed matter to you, what void within you needs to be filled by “love” and why it exists.

It is far more manageable to want someone “cute and funny” than to admit that you, with all your emotional complexes, life-long fears and unexamined desires, have no idea what kind of love you need and even less of an idea where to look for it.

That’s why we drape our souls in shallow aspirations. That’s why some of us escape the hum-drum of desiring life partners for child-rearing. It is all far too daunting. Un-manageable. So we shorten the list and chase men with money and power or women with good looks and sexual prowess, and we ask from each other only tangible things.

“Love”, “happiness”, terms too abstract for our liking; undefined to us, are replaced with desires like “fun (sex)” and “support (money)” because these can be measured out, weighed on some mental scale and ticked off the proverbial list without anyone getting hurt.

We fear the pain of failure, and that’s why it’s easier to want things. We don’t want to examine our parenting techniques; thinking back to painful moments in our childhoods when we vowed never to become our parents.

Or thinking back to happy moments and the promises we made to aspire to be just like mom/dad. We cannot bear to look in the mirror and see that we failed, watch our kids turn into people we dislike and consequently hate ourselves. No.

So we pore over private-school catalogues and focus on making enough money to give our children something tangible, something certified by money and society to be good. So we don’t have to think about the other stuff.

The deep, abstract stuff is easy to forget when you’re looking through your credit-card receipt and smiling (or frowning.) Things are a wonderful distraction.

So, yes we do choose materialism. Every day. Because it is far easier to want than it is to need.

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