typically, that Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
Current thinking seems to denigrate a lifestyle devoted exclusively to pursuing wealth, money, and objects rather than emphasizing spiritual or mental development. This lifestyle is sneeringly referred to as "materialistic".
We are exhorted to "Be A Consumer Hero" by participating in "International No Shopping Day". If we want to save the planet, we are told, we must stop our incessant "buying of things we don't need." Church sermons encourage everyone not to lose sight of the REALLY IMPORTANT things and to reject the disgusting materialism of our capitalistic society. Hardly a day goes by--especially during the Christmas season-- when there is not an editorial, article or impassioned plea for us to stop listening to advertisements that "force" us to buy more and more.
I'm afraid I fail to see the problem. To listen to these people you would think that human beings are entirely spiritual beings, existing in a golden glow of non-material nothingness. You would think that people are not composed of matter and have substance in a 3-dimensional, material world. Or, you could cue the Madonna music and believe exactly the opposite: that we are living in a material world, and that human beings are nothing more than physical, material creatures.
The former attitude leads inexorably to the notion that the highest ideals of society should be to encourage poverty, homelessness, nudity, and hunger. From the perspective of the "spiritualists", malnourished children in societies of mud huts wearing rags and owning nothing- would be the epitome of human existence. The Madonna attitude, on the other end of the dialectic, condemns us to meaningless and empty lives given over in pursuit of meaningless and empty things.
But human beings are not either spiritual or material. They are both these things at all times.
As someone who engages in "material spirituality", I happen to believe that all the marvelous goods and services that our incredible capitalistic society makes possible would not exist unless there were thinking, rational MINDS creating them.
I found this article particularly illuminating (hat tip: SC&A):
Thanksgiving celebrates man's ability to produce. The cornucopia filled with exotic flowers and delicious fruits, the savory turkey with aromatic trimmings, the mouth-watering pies, the colorful decorations -- it's all a testament to the creation of wealth.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, because this country was the first to create and to value material abundance. It is America that has been the beacon for anyone wanting to escape from poverty and misery. It is America that generated the unprecedented flood of goods that washed away centuries of privation. It is America, by establishing the precondition of production -- political freedom -- that was able to unleash the dynamic, productive energy of its citizens.
This should be a source of pride to every self-supporting individual. It is what Thanksgiving is designed to commemorate. But there are those, motivated by hatred for human comfort and happiness, who want to make Thanksgiving into a day of national guilt. We should be ashamed, they say, for consuming a disproportionate share of the world's food supply. Our affluence, they say, constitutes a depletion of the "planet's resources." The building of dams, the use of fossil fuels, the driving of sports utility vehicles -- they insist -- are cause, not for celebration, but for atonement. What if, they all wail, the rest of the world consumed the way Americans do?
...Since human survival is not automatic, man's life depends on successful production. From food and clothing to science and art, every act of production requires thought. And the greater the creation, the greater is the required thinking.
The clothing, toys, electronics, and other material goods that we "don't need" were created by human MINDS, who first imagined them in their thoughts, then found a way to make their thoughts real. When Marxists talk about "controlling the means of production" they are quite simply talking about controlling the human MIND.
When utopians dream of societies were wealth and material goods somehow mysteriously drop down from the skies above; or when they "imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man", they are actually imagining a world where the human spirit has been deliberately murdered, sacrificed to an "ideal" bouncing around in some slacker's fantasy.
The entire history of humanity has been driven by those individuals who have the unique ability to make the non-material real; to create wealth out of nothing but ideas. And, while those productive people have definitely benefited materially from their creations; the side effect has been that all of humanity has also benefited. In fact, this transformation of abstract concepts into material goods; of the spiritual into the physical--has been largely responsible for mankind's evolution from caves to modern cities and civilization.
Modern-day Marxists and all their totalitarian cousins (including the environmental doomsayers) would have you believe in typically contradictory postmodern style that (1) wealth is created off the backs of the poor, suffering underclass by the always oppressive and exploiting upper classes; and (2) wealth and consumerism are very very bad because they devastate the environment and destroy the planet. In the first instance, wealth is considered something good that is being stolen from its rightful owners by the evil capitalists; and in the second instance, the very act of creating wealth and consuming it is bad and inevitably mucks up the planet. What unites the two contradictory positions is the underlying desire of both camps to control and enslave the human mind and spirit.
The creation of wealth is only dependent on human thought, human ingenuity, and human desire (all non-material, yet important components of spirituality and mental development) ; and these are the foundations of the material progress you see all around you in the United States. When those non-material components of human existence are extrapolated to the real world, the results are the goods and services that overflow in abundance in economically free societies.
By appreciating those goods and services, I pay homage to the human mind.
By purchasing those goods and services, I honor human creativity.
By enjoying the material things that make my life easier and more enjoyable, I am celebrating the human spirit.
By means of materialism --pursuing wealth, money and objects--I happily provide the means by which many humans can benefit from the imagination of one. I contribute to the advancement of humanity from poverty to wealth; from homelessness to shelter; from hunger to satiety.
By embracing materialism, I am therefore embracing the the highest spiritual and mental development of humanity.
I love "things" because they are human thought made visible. I enjoy giving "objects" to people I love because they are the concrete expressions of my love. As a physical being living in a physical world, it is my essential nature to translate the abstract, the intangible, the non-corporeal --the spiritual, if you will--into reality.
And when I see the incredible variety of wonders for sale in the stores--no matter how silly or trivial or "non-essential" they may be--I see every single one of them as a celebration of the human spirit.
HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON!