apple line

Another mass shooting with an assault rifle occurs in Chicago so soon after the mass murders at the Navy facility in Washington DC. House Republicans slash food stamps by an obscene $40 billion which will leave at least 3 million Americans in poverty without food stamps. House Republicans also passed a budget bill to take away health care from 30 million Americans and with a threat to shut down the U.S. government.

And what do Americans do at a time like this? They get up off their couches, head out to the streets prepared to be on their feet for a long time but resolved to stand up for as long as it takes…to get to the front of the line at the Apple store so they can buy their new iPhone 5s.

Now to be fair, there recently have been and continue to be many protests by Americans against social and political wrongs but not by the crowd that sees waiting in line to buy a new iPhone that does most of the same the one they bought last time does, as an important personal priority.

Okay, we are programmed to be good little consumers and told repeatedly that buying things is the 21st Century version of American patriotism but when a political party is threatening to burn down your house, should the priority really be buying an iPhone so you can film it at higher resolution than before and post it more intuitively on YouTube?

Greed and materialism (coincidentally, also the secret nicknames the Koch Brothers have given each other) are human traits that are nurtured in the masses by the wealthy and powerful because it keeps the majority distracted from thinking about the big things, like how the society and world around them is being dominated by the wealthy and powerful.

So, as the wealthy pursue the acquisition of the nation and world, we are busy waiting in line to buy the coolest new versions of phones we already have.

There still seems to be a degree of materialistically-based schizophrenia that our society suffers from though the difficulty brought on by the economic crash of 2008 seemed to lessen that. We can’t continue seeing the possessing of things we don’t truly need as being as important or more important than protecting the rights and other critical things we and our democratic society need to survive and thrive.

Perspective matters, prioritizing matters. Opposing those who would starve our nation’s poor or blow up our economy as part of an extortion plot matters more than making sure we have an iPhone that’s gold-colored.

Only 18% of Americans approve of Congress but the other 82% of Americans don’t all make it to the voting booth (possibly because some are still in line at the Apple store on election day?). If the same kind of drive people have to acquire “sexy” but unnecessary things was redirected to where it should be, on things that are of far more intrinsic and resonant value, maybe we could pull ourselves, our economy and our democracy out of the muck we’re mired in.

And yes, our economy could improve vastly if we weren’t so materialistic. It may not seem intuitive but consider if we were okay with having that money we throw away on trivial things, go towards setting up public financing of political campaigns, single payer health insurance, building infrastructure, improving schools, strengthening social services and programs, think of all the good paying jobs that could be created here in America and the improvement in the quality of life for everyone.

The Star Trek series and films portrayed a future of human civilization that had transcended materialism and greed and due to it, became a more peaceful and advanced society. It is fiction (though I do see a similarity between the Tea Party and The Borg) but it is a reasonable proposition, if the distraction of materialism is put aside, people could come together to accomplish remarkable things.

Or as Spock described that philosophy in The Wrath of Khan, “It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” That may indeed be the key for our society to “live long and prosper.” Maybe I’ll tweet that on my new iPhone 5c…

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If congress so wants to shut down government, perhaps we should make it our priority to shut down congress. Eliminate the funding that fills the paychecks of the representatives, their security force their interns and their chefs.


Having been educated in part by women and men who took vows of voluntary poverty, AdLib, I have to say that this article really resonates. Those teachers not only talked about the value of living a simple, uncluttered, non-materialistically competitive life, they lived it. And the spaces they lived in were beautiful. Items in their environment were limited to the useful and the truly beautiful. Plastic junk and excesses of anything were not in the picture. This created a sense of real peace and lowered stress overall.

I think we see the same thing in Zen environments. Less is more.

Getting that compulsively hoarded stuff out of the way frees up so much energy for doing more rewarding stuff — why waste time dusting 500 little tchotchkes or waiting in line, as you said, for a phone you already have, when you could be playing with your kids or reading a book or figuring out that the Tea Party is not a patriotic grass roots organization?

The mega-rich are clever. And for at least the last century they have been absolute geniuses at public relations and the manipulative techniques involved in advertizing. There are several things that they really want us all to do — reflexively — without even thinking about it.

They want us to keep shopping — recreationally and competitively — and consuming mindlessly.

They want us to obsess about our health — without getting real healthcare. They suggest constantly via ads on the “news” that we should “ask our doctors: about getting meds for conditions that we might have without even knowing it. (“Low T?” “Depression?” “Fibro?”)

And they want us to feel like children. “Here’s your Ensure/Similac, dear. Drink it down.” “Here are your pretty pink/blue Depends/Pampers — just in case you have a little ‘accident.'” “Here’s your weather report. Don’t forget your umbrella/suncreen/jacket!” God forbid you should stick your head out the door and decide for yourself what to wear or take with you.

Mindlessly materialistic, drugged, dependent people seldom question the status quo.

And they even less often engage in revolutions.