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Materialism and Covid 19

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Photo credit jae park from Pexels


Materialism is a vast subject that encompasses philosophical, religious and ethical domains. The purpose of this short blog (keeping to the permitted word count) is to generate further discussion on the impact of Covid 19 on materialism in the modern world.

Without delving into the deep and complicated philosophical theories of materialism, it simply means (as defined in the Oxford dictionary) “an interest in and desire for money and possessions rather than spiritual or ethical values”. It deals with matter as the cause of mind and thoughts. It is in contrast to idealism which is based entirely on mind and spirit and supports the view that mind came before matter. In short, matter over mind is materialism and mind over matter is idealism.

Materialism has been in existence from at least 600 BC but a relatively recent and striking example is the mad gold rush of the 19th century which left hundreds of thousands of native Americans dead and desolate.

The psychological causes of materialism are complex and can be traced back to human nature and their inherent desire for acquisitiveness. This combined with human frailties such as envy, greed, anger and an overwhelming need to move up the social and financial ladder, has made materialism thrive and particularly so, in the so-called developed nations. It was Margaret Thatcher who once famously asserted that there is no such thing as society and people must look after themselves first.

In this process of survival of the fittest (or indeed the richest), we have lost sight of spiritual, moral and ethical values in life. In recent months, I have wondered if Covid 19 is a stark warning of our self- inflicted path to destruction, and as we begin to see the green shoots of recovery from this deadly disease, has it or will it ever change our thinking and ways of life in the future?

We lived like no tomorrow

When millions lived in sorrow

Several warnings we took no heed

Because we were driven by pure greed!

The social, economic and health impact of covid 19 has been devastating, with over 4 million affected and nearly 400,000 dead. Businesses have closed down, stock markets have crashed, unemployment and poverty have sky rocketed and even the wealthiest nations on the planet have been brought to its knees. The financial debacle of 2008 had a direct link to materialism. It was the consequence of excessive spending, living beyond one’s means, lavish houses, designer clothes, high powered vehicles and exotic holidays. However, with the present covid crisis which has had much more serious consequences affecting lives and livelihoods, there is no such obvious direct link. But look beneath the surface through the lens of idealism: nature, religion and spiritualism. Cars and planes are grounded, excessive shopping and unnecessary spending has crumbled and exotic holidays have all but disappeared. The link to materialism is glaringly obvious except for those who can see but refuse to see.

So, the million-dollar question is: have we learnt the lessons? As we make a slow recovery and take ‘baby steps’ towards normalcy, how much will our ways change? How hard will we try to curb our natural instincts of acquisitiveness, greed and envy? Only time will tell!

It is time now to change our ways

Soon we will run out of days

Let us be kind, generous and polite

Think of the poor and show no spite

Life is short and we will soon be gone

Making room for others, still to be born

Preserve the earth and nature’s beauty

Think of this as your prime duty

As the English poet, John Milton said; “The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

I would welcome views on this subject from like minded friends and colleagues. Let us have an open and frank discussion on a subject that is so vital for our very existence.

Hameen Markar


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