Ever feel like buying something will make you feel better? Lots of people are that way. I suppose part of that is our overall culture, but hey aren’t we ALL materialists at some level? Did you put on clothes today? Live indoors? Eat with a fork? Welcome to the materialist club.
To be at least marginally materialist is a GOOD thing… we need our “stuff” to survive. I believe that materialism only becomes “bad” past a certain point or if you are into certain things for the wrong reasons. For example, if a new pair of hiking boots would make your upcoming backpacking trip more safe and enjoyable, they are a “good” buy. What, are you going to hike the Rockies in flip-flops? On the other hand, if you were to buy a pair of Lowas just to impress your friends with how “outdoorsy” you are, that is rather sad.
In fact, there are varying “grades” of materialism. The “best” kind is what you need to survive: Food, clothing, shelter. At the other end of the spectrum are consumer choices that negatively impact others.
I would rank it this way:
- Best. “Necessary” materialism.
- Good. “Comfort” materialism.
- Acceptable/trivial. Buying to fit in with a social circle or fill some empty void.
- Toxic. Consumer choice is harmful to other living things.
I’ve been getting a lot of great comments on my articles. One of my best commenters is “Sweetie Pie” who stated that pet ownership, for some people, is a trivial consumer choice. Almost like buying a pair of expensive shoes to impress others or feel better about oneself. The zeitgeist is that pet ownership is a consumer choice that no one can be denied. In other words, you can not only own that dog but you can do whatever you want with it. Wherewithal, competence, and past performance be damned! Hey, we don’t need a license to buy a pair of shoes, do we??
I believe that owning something can give one social identity and raise one’s social status in that indicated social circle. Owning certain items, shopping in certain stores, attending certain universities, etc… can make you part of that “group” and also grant some social status within that group. Owning a Ford gives you an “in” with the “Ford guys”. If you are a collector of antique Fords then you are a GOD in that group.
Buying “things” to simply fit in or feel better about yourself is what I would call “trivial materialism”. You didn’t really buy it because you genuinely had use for the item, you bought it in an attempt to gain favor from others or fill some empty void within yourself. However, these choices *usually* harm no one.
Getting back to Sweetie Pie’s response, for some, purchasing/adopting a pet is clearly a trivial consumer choice. They do it to fill some empty void within themselves or in an attempt to fit in with other “dog” people. Dog owners aren’t the only one’s who do this, but I like picking on them so I’ll use them as an example!
The idiots across the street from I are excellent examples of making a trivial consumer choice to own dogs. They brag about being “rescuers” when they obviously had no real interest in the animals in question. I spoke with them many times and they were clearly VERY smug about being “dog” people and had a massive sense of entitlement to go along with it.
The problem with a trivial consumer choice in a pet is, a pet is a living thing with real needs. When those needs are not met there is REAL trouble. The “poser” dog owner is WAY beyond the hiking poser who buys a $400 pair of hiking boots to fit in at the trail association picnic. The trivial choice of the dog owner has become TOXIC. Poorly cared for animals become a safety and health hazard. Poorly cared for animals are MISERABLE. Hiking boots cannot become a safety or health hazard on their own. They do not bark, poop or bite. You can throw that pair of boots in a closet and forget about them forever. You dump your dog in the backyard and forget about him we WILL be hearing from him! Thus, the trivial choice to own another living thing has now become toxic, both to the pet and to other human beings.
My colleagues and I in the trail association sometimes snicker and gossip about the various “Posers” within our ranks, but no real “problem” exists there: Their trivial choices are sad but no real hazard to anyone.
However, there is a REAL problem in the dog owning community with the “Posers” within their ranks. I believe the solution lies within the dog owning community itself. You need to purge your ranks of these Toxic “Posers”. When a moron like my neighbor sticks their nose in the air and proudly proclaims “Ah Am a DAWG Person!” put them in their place! Scum who neglect their pets and use them as weapons deserve nothing but contempt from everybody!
The bottom line is, “owning” another living thing brings with it huge responsibilities and grave obligations. If you can’t fulfill those, go buy a pair of shoes… you will feel better, I promise.