Over the years I have witnessed our culture going from one that was more invested in worrying about the outcomes of their behavior than of gratifying their every desire. We do seem to have moved into a time where “wanting” has overshadowed “judging” as to whether what we “want” makes sense. The ability to be wise about the decisions we make in our own behalf or those near and dear to us seems to be a lost art. Being able to develop wisdom is not something our educational system teaches, and we definitely don’t get it from the media. The great philosophers often made commentaries on wisdom and saw it as one of life’s greatest assets. It has become more and more difficult to access wisdom, due to the fact that we have become more interested in immediate gratification. Ads pummel us daily insisting that whatever their selling is something we “must” have. Their relentless marketing hypes have seeped into our unconscious and made us feel that even when we get the desired object, we are not happy with it for long for there will soon be something better on the horizon. These ads are developed with the help of scientists who now know that baiting people with the need for stuff releases dopamine, a substance in the brain that gives us pleasure. Unfortunately, when we access dopamine too frequently we need more and more to get the same response, and so we become addicted to “wanting and having”, “getting and then wanting more”. This is similar to being hooked on alcohol or drugs. Learning to be wise increases our capabilities to have self-control, which is a necessary factor in becoming a mature, evolved human being. My mother often reminded me that I had to learn to “think about what I was thinking about”. I used to rail against this statement, but now I realize that we would all be better off if we embraced her metaphor for wise living. Wisdom is important for peace, economic prudence, political leadership, and health. Without it we will continue to be at the mercy of the rewards of bad habits, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. We are witnessing these very things everyday and it is leading us into a dark abyss. I think it’s time we all “wised up”!
3 Replies to “Just Shut Up and Wise Up!”
I think that the “culture of the past” you talk about is one where there was just as much “wanting” to gratify desires, but in the post-World War II utopian vision of the American dream people believed that everyone could have it. Everyone could go to college, own a home and retire with a pension. It really was a dream.
Now people realize that everyone cannot go to college and so 3 year olds are given entrance exams to get placed in kindergarten and the first seed is planted in their little brains that they have to climb over someone else to get what they want. People stopped thinking about owning a home as a place to live, but as an investment that could be traded up to a home that was a better investment. As of pensions they morphed into 401k’s where again getting your portfolio to outperform the next guy’s pension became to desire.
The anger of the people who invested with Bernie Madoff and lost everything was not because he was a crook, but that he stole from them. They all knew as their fortunes seemed to be rising that it was because somewhere down the line he was stealing from someone to get rich, they just thought they were going to share in the booty.
The ads are not a disease; they are just a symptom of the inherent pre-disposition to the overall condition. The ads are not saying that they will help you to share the wealth, but to get yours before the other guy gets his.
But wait a while and like alcoholism and drug addiction the culture will end up labeling this a disease and Bernie Madoff will get out and get sent to a rehab center. They will probably end up naming the place after him.
Great post Loretta. I’m going to add you to my blogroll. I absolutely agree that consumerism is the same as drug addiction.This “me!me!me!” attitude is murdering our society. Everyday I am less hopeful that we can avert the worst of consequences, but maybe what we need is a little humility.
I’ll be back again.
An interesting point struck me in regards to the whole matter of addiction and the words we use to describe it.
You can have a heroin addiction, a cocaine addiction, or addiction to tobacco or even an addiction to Facebook. But, when it involves alcohol you are not an alcohol addict…you are an “alcoholic”.
Why? Is there some “hint” here that society is imparting, through its language, that there is a difference?
We don’t like the drug dealer, or the tobacco company for that matter, so they create “ADDICTS”. But we like Budweiser because we like the Super Bowl commercials, so the people who get in trouble with their product are sick, so we don’t call them alcohol addicts because that might put the blame on the brewers and distillers as the drug dealers (?)