The dictionary defines materialism as a preoccupation with material objects, comfort and consideration to the exclusion of spiritual, intellectual or cultural values crucial for wholesome living.
This malady manifest itself in a subtle way in our modern lives as clutter which builds up as we collect things for a number of reasons – for use later, sentimental reasons – and so much could be spent in acquiring it even if we may never get to use it since it is possible that after buying it we discovered that it is not vitally relevant to our lives. However, it may really hurt us deeply to give it away because the two areas in the brain associated with pain light up in response to discarding clutter. The brain views the loss of such valued possessions as the as the same that causes physical pain.
This psychological connection to things unconsciously lead to accumulation of stuffs, whether it is in the closet, office desk and in the surroundings, capable of inducing negative impact on ability to focus and process information.
Physical clutter competes for attention resulting in decreased performance and inability to think creatively. Clutter is not only physical since overwhelming flow of information can also clog the mind. Excessive clutter and disorganisation are often symptoms of a more serious psychological problem, especially when it is called hoarding. At the early stage of some major psychiatric disorders; some folks begin to hoard so much unnecessary things that clutter overtakes living spaces. Controversies exist as to whether hoarding rubbish precedes some mental illness or it is a product of the illness itself.
It is difficult to excuse our modern crave for non-vital materials from signals of masked mental disturbances, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
Our materialism would be more forgivable if there was evidence that these material goods lead to happiness.
For example, evidence abounds that extremely rich people such as billionaires are not significantly happier than people with average income and may even suffer from higher levels of depression as true wellbeing does not come from wealth but from other factors such as good relationship, meaningful and challenging jobs and a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves.
However, in the case of real deprivation when folks do not have their survival needs met; an extra income does relieve suffering and brings succor.
A school of thought sees materialism as natural to human beings in the sense that natural resources are limited hence human beings have to compete over them while another theory opines that the drive which fuels our materialism is a kind of evolutionary mechanism which keeps us in a state of alertness as safeguard against extinction.
There is also the psychological theory that explains our materialism as largely a reaction to inner discontent. We look to external things to alleviate our inner emptiness. Materialism certainly can give us some transient feelings of happiness and ego – inflating thrill which definitely wanes after some time.
We make frantic efforts to bolster our fragile egos by continuously seeking to acquire more even to the detriment our lives, our significant others and even the society at large. And no matter how much we try to palliate this inner depravity with toys; our inner discontent and incompleteness always re-emerges, generating new cravings.
The only real way of alleviating this psychological discontent is not by trying to escape it but by trying to heal it.
Abraham Maslow in his theory of hierarchy of needs postulated that human beings are motivated with respect to the level of their fixation in the hierarchy of needs; the highest is that of self-transcendence where such individuals have overcome this inner discontent arising from material considerations to give attention for the needs of others.
He explained that only when individuals graduate from the cravings for survival needs that they can transcend self. This can only be possible when the inner discontent is satisfied by an inner re-programming through the process of meta-motivation and never from material accumulation.
This is the role of religion as our link to the mystical world in satisfying inner depravities. The problem of leadership in Nigeria is the inordinate quest for materials to fill the void at the expense of the polity which is very observable at all levels of our national life even in the religious systems. It is impossible to give sound leadership when our leaders are fixated at the survival needs as their pathway to fulfillment.
Good decisions may be taken but our craving for materialism interrupts and frustrates the wholesome implementation.
This is the madness of our materialism which invariably jeopardises the ultimate good of the society. Let us decide to clear the clutter in our lives as we sacrificially give to those in need and keep our mental health especially our leaders.
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