Materialism


This blog post was published on Tuesday 26 February 2008.

On the BBC website today I read this article:
Children ‘damaged’ by materialism.   It is particularly aimed at advertisers who specifically target children.

The Children’s Society said adults had to “take responsibility for the current level of marketing to children”.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the society, said: “A crucial question raised by the inquiry is whether childhood should be a space where developing minds are free from concentrated sales techniques.

“To accuse children of being materialistic in such a culture is a cop-out,” he said.

Reitemeier said: “Unless we question our own behaviour as a society we risk creating a generation who are left unfulfilled through chasing unattainable lifestyles.”

And Rowan Williams said:

Children should be encouraged to value themselves for who they are as people rather than what they own.

The selling of lifestyles to children creates a culture of material competitiveness and promotes acquisitive individualism at the expense of the principles of community and co-operation.

There is even a suggestion that ‘commercial pressures’ may cause psychological problems in later life.

The report is rather terrifying, but not perhaps surprising.   The relentless drive to have more and own more pervades our entire culture.   Our economic system of capitalism relies on human desire as its driving force.   More and more companies are becoming skilled in manipulating that desire through slick advertising, so that we desire things we don’t need.  

Somehow, as Rowan Williams said, we have come to value ourselves more in terms of our prosperity, our possessions, than in our value as people.

This story hit a nerve with me this morning because I have just read Luke 12, in which Jesus says this:

Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.
Luke 12.15 (ESV)

Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the man who stored up crops for himself saying, ‘relax, eat, drink, be merry.’   But God took it all away from him that night, and he had nothing.   Rather, Jesus says, seek the kingdom of God, and store up treasure in heaven, where it cannot be stolen or destroyed.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12.34 (ESV)