This essay defends the following thesis: Most humans work because they need the money to meet basic human needs as well as more socially constructed ones. However, a small minority of people manage to escape the falsely created needs our society imposes on us and lives contentedly on less money and fewer material items but with more personal satisfaction.
Nowadays the developed world is plagued by consumerism; both society and media stimulates humans to consume more than they actually do. The divide between rich and poor countries results in low prices on a wide category of products, so labor as virtue becomes devaluated in developed countries. People aren’t conscious enough to appreciate labor of others as an absolute value; generally, the market has a mechanism to impose this understanding by setting reasonably high prices. However, nowadays people throw away clothes they’ve hardly worn more then two times, since the availability of cheap labor in the third world countries drives prices down.
Yet there are positive developments, too. Many people become aware of problems that the developing world confronts and actively engage in charity activities to make excessive amounts of food and clothes (that would go to waste in the rich countries) available to people who need them.
There are many cultures in the world that don’t promote materialism as the most important value. In the story ‘Assembly Line’ by B. Traven American profit-seeking is opposed to Indian culture where the process of creation a product is valued over the material benefit derived from its sale. Entrepreneurial spirit being one of the central characteristics of a typical American, it can be sometimes border on a desire to make profit of other people. In the story, an American tries to persuade an Indian into making more baskets in order to resell them later at a higher price. He attempts to seduce the Indian with money to make one thousand baskets, yet the answer was negative:
‘So the American took up the question of price again, by which he hoped to activate the Indian’s ambition…[When the American tried to persuade the Indian into making one thousand baskets, he realized] that figure was too high for the Indian to grasp. He became slightly confused…’
Yet there are many people in the developing world that are eager to move to richer countries and embrace the values of the Western word. Unfortunately, some of them do so out of abject poverty or political insecurity. As Salvador Villicana notes in the interview to ‘Espejos Y Ventanas,’ ‘the majority of Mexicans come here to the United States because of the devaluation of the Mexican Peso.’
Immigration remaining at the top of the agenda for several decades already, there is a need to acknowledge collective responsibility of both developed and developing nations for making this problem so acute. Western states are guilty not only of failure to design reasonable immigration laws, but also of their desire to take advantage of cheap immigrant labor. However, many employers are reluctant to provide immigrants with adequate working conditions or sufficient social security benefits; furthermore, unemployment rate in many developed world is gradually increasing, which breeds hostility towards immigrants. Instead, governments of developed countries should help the developing world not only with foreign aid but also with expertise in successful public policy reforms.
Governments of developing countries are to blame for not providing their citizenry with decent living conditions. They are also to blame for failing to design effective policies to encourage their population to build a better future for their own country instead of simply moving abroad. Governments of developing countries should also promote their national culture more actively rather than mimic the consumerist lifestyle of the West. Western values are often idealized in the third world; while some of these values (like freedom of speech, rule of law, and equality) are positive, others are not. In addition, embracing Western values should never be to the detriment of national culture and lifestyle.
A different aspect of the problem of materialism is discussed in William Wordsworth’s poem ‘The World Is Too Much with Us.’ The following lines are perhaps the most effective in conveying the overall message of the poem:
‘The world is too much with us; late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!’
True peace of mind and tranquility can be achieved by the humans only of we live in harmony with the Nature. Modern advancement in technology is often too devastating for the environment; while ecosystems have a great potential of restoring the state of natural balance, the devastating influence of the humankind has significantly undermined this ability. William Wordsworth was alarmed by such problems in early 19th century; nowadays, at the dawn of the 21st century, environmental problems are looming large, and many processes are already irreversible. For instance, species that became extinct due to man’s activity could have been essential elements of certain food chains and habitants. The frequency of large-scale natural calamities, especially in the places that have been for a long time considered relatively safe, is a telling manifestation of the inability of nature to sustain its balanced state.
People should be conscious of environmental influence of decisions they make concerning both production and consumption. If men go on destroying the Nature, we won’t have a source of spiritual healing and constant admiration with Earth’s never-ending miracles.
Coming back to the central preoccupations of this essay, ‘Song of the Invigorating Effect of Money’ by Bertolt Brecht suggests that money can bring happiness and offer numerous opportunities:
‘Upon this earth we hear dispraise of money / Yet, without it, earth is very cold / And it can be warm and friendly / Suddenly through the power of gold.’
However, it is of paramount importance to keep in mind that the value of money is to a large extent determined by the way it is spent. Money can be spent on different noble causes, such as supporting one’s family, social entrepreneurship, or scientific research.
Therefore, it is possible to conclude that money isn’t an evil in itself; consumerist lifestyle and neglect of environment clearly manifest that money should be spend differently with greater attention to the benefit of the entire world community.