Monday, 11 May 2009

Can money make you content?

I am lucky, I remember what it was at one time to have little, come from families that had even less and so can appreciate what we have now.

In the West the appalling poverty and awful living standards that were the norm for my parents childhood generation have all but gone and are now but memories in books and black and white images such as you see, where men could sit up for a nights sleep and get a morning bowl of soup for a penny, the beds nearby cost three pence a night. Double left click on it to see what life in London was like for so many in years past.

Unlike those you can see in that image the vast majority of our people no longer exist in conditions and circumstances that mean they own only the clothes they stand up in and to say that since I have been born standards of living have risen considerably would be an understatement. The ‘fridge and freezer have changed the need for shopping from an almost daily event to a once a week or even longer event, the washing machine has eliminated the drudgery of the washing day my mother knew and the communications revolution has allowed mass access to information.

Women have, thank God, been given their unquestionable rights to freedoms that would have been inconceivable even when I was a child. The car has allowed mobility in a way that would have been in the realms of science fiction in my grandparents’ day and they would have likewise viewed the pill.

So what has gone wrong?

In the West alcoholism is on the increase, as are the use of drugs to relieve stress, depression and anxiety. Anti-social behaviour is no longer unusual, violence is increasing, aggression is the norm on the roads and suicides in the UK are now at their highest numbers in males aged 15-44.

Here we all are, enjoying a material prosperity such as the world has never seen before, yet we have witnessed the loss of a society and community that cares. Society now has unparalleled material wealth yet is the same society that has unparalleled discontent with its lot. Could this be because in the rush to acquire, to possess, there is little room for anything more in peoples’ lives? Could it be that having acquired that new possession the euphoria soon wears off and what was desirable now becomes the norm?

I have seen society change and the driving force behind this has been the acceptance of three principles.

Success is to be measured materially
Material success will bring happiness
Therefore in order to be successful (and happy) you must make your aim in life material goals.

OK, that's a tad simplistic but basically it is what many people believe and to go against this is to be in conflict with what we are fed daily. Look at any TV or newspaper and there will be the message that if you want to have a fulfilled life then you must consume. If you want success then you must possess and if you want status then do both in a highly visual way.

The fallacy is that money can produce contentment, when even the most casual observer can see that this is not true. I have become to realise that there is a far more addictive product than cannabis, heroin, alcohol or anything else available, and that is money.

There is, of course, nothing essentially wrong with money, the problem is that the bulk of our society is addicted to it 100%. For many it completely controls what they do and when things go wrong, more has to be printed for a society that is addicted, obsessed and in love with money. Some grow their own drugs, governments print money in order to satisfy societies major addiction, in fact when I look around today I do realise that “the love of money is a root of all evil” and that indeed “Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain”. **

I am privileged to be a frontline volunteer member of a suicide intervention team, and I can say from experience that “the love of money” and the damage caused by those “eager to get rich” has resulted in a lot of pain to many innocent others. **

Carl Marx once said that "Religion is the opiate of the people". He was wrong, money is the opiate of the people.

** Italics from 1 Timothy 6:10

Incidentally, the facilities you see in the images were provided by the Salvation Army in Blackfriars, London in 1902. The S.A. may be short in liturgy, but they have always been long in action.

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