‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 8 The Greatest, Most Heroic Story Ever Told
Chapter 8:16F The emergence of ‘materialism envy’ and with it unbridled greed, extreme dysfunction and destitution in the ‘developing’ world
Having now explained that the real difference between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries is between the functional 30-to-40-year-old equivalents and the dysfunctional 20-year-old and 50-year-old equivalents, the issue of the ‘materialism envy’ and ensuing corruption and dysfunction that has been occurring in the less functional, ‘developing’ countries can and has to be looked at more closely.
The important factor that needs to be considered in the occurrence of ‘materialism envy’ in the less operational ‘developing’ parts of the world is the role that has been played by immensely improved communication technology. During the so-called colonisation period of the world where the more functional, materially ‘developed’ countries established colonies in the more dysfunctional, materially ‘undeveloped’ countries, the populations of those nations had little awareness of just how materially successful people in the more functional, ‘developed’ world generally were, but with the advent of sophisticated communication technology this changed dramatically. With the introduction of the likes of television suddenly these colonised people could see what they were missing out on materially and when they found themselves unable to compete with those more operational and functional, not-too-innocent-but-also-not-too-cynical materially developed colonisers it naturally made them insanely envious. People in the materially impoverished parts of the world suddenly had access to programs like Baywatch (TV series 1989-2001), in which gorgeously groomed Californians in stunningly enticing swimsuits played in a fabulously ordered and materially wealthy world, and naturally they were overcome with distress about what they now knew they were missing out on. The psychiatrist Clancy McKenzie gave this stark description of, what might be termed, ‘the Baywatch effect’ or ‘materialism envy’ in action: ‘While visiting Machu Picchu in Peru in 1979 I noted very poor persons, living in the mountains, who had only the clothes they wore and perhaps a lama or two, but had beautiful, warm smiles and seemed content and happy. Days later I was in Bogota in Colombia. It was a very hot day and we asked the driver to stop at an outdoor tavern to buy cold beer. The people were very impoverished, but there was a TV playing and they were able to view the “outside world” where everyone seemed to have more, and luxury was abundant. I offered to go in with the driver and he urged me to wait in the car. I soon learned why. The absolute hatred was so intense that it was palpable. These people did not have less than those in Machu Picchu but they saw others who had more, and their needs were intensified’ (Letter to Prof. Harry Prosen, 27 Mar. 2006). The result of this awareness of what materialism offers is that there is now rampant greed in all those populations who haven’t had the material luxury that is so prevalent in the more functional, ‘developed’, mostly Western world. They see themselves as being on catch-up—they want the big house, a car, a fridge, a suit, a gown, a fancy watch, a beach holiday, Nikes, Coca-Cola and Big Macs, etc. The effect of this myopic drive for material wealth is that the natural inclination of our original instinctive self or soul to be selfless and loving has been thrown by the wayside with cynicism now reigning across the less functional and materially fortunate ‘developing’ countries; again, a ‘cynic’ is ‘one who doubts or denies the goodness of human motives’. The following is another description of the consequences of ‘materialism envy’ in Kenya, but it very much applies to what is happening throughout Africa, South America, China, India, south-east Asia and in parts of the Middle East. In her 2000 book, African Visions, the aforementioned Kenyan photographer Mirella Ricciardi wrote of her country’s ‘chaos and confusion, the crime and lawlessness, the greed, the bribery and corruption at all levels, the senseless wildlife killings, the environmental destruction, the mindless power games, the hopeless destitution and hunger, the lack of concern and forward thinking…The outrageous greed and disregard for anything and anyone other than themselves and their immediate families in the top ranks of governments, have created a financial drain on the country that filters down and affects whole populations in varying degrees, threatening the fragile infrastructure of the land. All those, without exception, who have somehow attained a position of command and authority, however humble, have but one idea in mind, to emulate the example set by the head of state – to milk their positions for all they are worth, for as long as it lasts. Because finances are siphoned off to Swiss bank accounts, salaries are so low they need topping up by whatever means. As a consequence bribery and corruption at every level is the only option. The police force and judiciary, the ministers, the administrators, the teachers, the doctors and the heads of government divisions, extract whatever they can, by fair means or foul, under the guise of their uniforms and titles, while the country collapses and the masses starve’ (pp.260-261 of 287). Yes, the end result of the, in truth, very obvious difference in functionality between ‘races’ of humans living under the duress of the human condition is that the less functional and thus less materially successful ‘races’ naturally became extremely jealous and envious of the material success of the more functional and operational ‘races’, resulting in ‘outrageous greed’, ‘bribery and corruption at every level’, ‘while the country collapses and the masses starve’.
As McKenzie’s example shows, the material inequality in the world that sophisticated communication technology has made visible to everyone has made those who are missing out not only extremely envious, but resentful and thus angry, to the point of feeling ‘absolute hatred’ towards the more materially successful. Their self-esteem has suffered so much that angry retaliations, like the flying of those planes into The Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, have occurred; Osama bin Laden actually said the 9/11 attacks ‘were revenge for Western humiliation of Muslims’ (TIME, 7 May 2012). When the Muslim sympathiser Tessa Kum wrote, ‘I am coming to hate you, white person. You have all the control, all the power, all the privilege’ (Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, 18 Dec. 2014), she was expressing what psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed was referring to when he wrote about ‘aspects of Islamism, which is…resentful [of] humiliation, unable to accept the reality of the weak place of Islamic civilisation and determined to act destructively’ (ibid).
Yes, as a result of the emergence of overwhelming levels of upset in the last 200 years humanity has endured two massive world wars and countless other insurgencies, as well as the inglorious honour of inventing weapons of such ferocity that they could wipe out entire cities—and these weapons are now in the hands of extremely psychologically distressed rogue countries like North Korea, whose attitude toward the rest of the world is one of ‘We don’t care any longer, we just want relief for our egos’; ‘It’s either death or glory and if it’s going to be death for us then it’s going to be death for everyone because we’re not going to back down and give up on our need for glory, which is, in effect, what you’re asking us to do.’ It should be pointed out that for the human race as a whole to have the technological capability it now has while we are, as has now been revealed, so deeply insecure and alienated is the equivalent of allowing a psychotic lunatic to play with an atomic bomb; as General Omar Bradley put it in his aforementioned quote, ‘The world has achieved brilliance…without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.’
So, the real debate about both the horrific material inequality and the terrorism and frightening instability in the world requires analysis of the differences in upset-adaption or alienation-from-soul between individuals, ‘races’, genders, ages, generations, countries, civilisations and cultures, but until the human condition could be explained and the upset state of the human condition compassionately understood and thus defended that debate could not take place. The problem of selfishness in the world was not being addressed honestly and thus properly anywhere.
As will be explained shortly in ch. 8:16I, the distress from ‘materialism envy’ has also led to the adoption of extremely strident fundamentalist misrepresentations of religious teachings to try to manage the unbearable situation.