Of the utmost importance in my opinion is the capacity to connect with people. How does your material wealth help that or hurt that? And parallel to this, how focused are you on material? Understand that rich people do not connect with people in the same way that the poor must. Community is a survival mechanism for most of the developing world. It is something that individualistic and wealthy societies do not get to experience; they just can’t. Poor people need each other for trade, for emotional and spiritual connection, to raise each other’s kids, for healthcare, for basic needs of all kinds. The working class in America have experienced this in the past, and there is some remnant of it in some places. But if you are rich, your relationships are distilled down to something else. Wealthy people rarely have relationships with people who don’t want something from them, and with people who are on “equal grounds” with them in terms of status and power. Imagine being a person that everyone wants to talk to, but nobody wants to know. Consider that you may be that person, surrounded by people the same as you. This might be you if you have never had someone ask you bluntly about your sex life, if you have never had a friend help you fix something in your house as a favor, if you have never bartered with a neighbor. Almost all the super wealthy people I know are terribly isolated. Why? There’s just so many reasons for it.
In our collective American community, we don’t need each other. Or, in cases where we do, we are led to believe that we are self-made independent people who don’t need each other. We are in a world now where we are trained to “connect” around material things. Christmas has become a celebration of transaction and exchange. The social change that we pursue is on the level of limiting transactions (Black Friday or whatever) to preserve what ought to be time with families. That is how far our pursuit of materialism has gone. The further social change fought for by another parallel community is that of the proper farewell (Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays) from those who conduct our financial transaction. This is the extent of our Christian influence in commerce, it seems.
Without material transactions, to what extent would we relate to each other? What would be left for Christians in the public realm?
Beyond that, around what would we gather, or find any commonality if we did not have all this material bullshit? Take away our TVs, tablets / PCs and other avenues to social media, and then what would we have to connect with each other? If the power went out, somehow, for an extended period, we would all have to re-learn how to talk. What would we even talk about? Who would we be at that point? The defining trait of our selves and our sub communities seems to be the way in which we interact with our technology and material goods. Apple vs Android. This neighborhood on the hill vs that one in the flats. Nike vs Adidas. This divisive social media post vs the other. This excessive wealth vs this abject poverty. One lonely spirit talking to themselves vs the other. God help us, this is not the way things are supposed to be.
If we forgo the material excess, we can connect with each other. That’s the only way. There’s no second option, we can’t keep all these things in front of us and reach out and touch our brothers and sisters. With so much stuff, it is just going to keep getting in the way. There’s no other way around it. We can’t pretend any longer that our cell phones, social media, our closets and homes full of things we don’t need, we can’t pretend any longer that these things aren’t keeping us from each other. I need you, you need me, we need each other, we don’t need all this stuff anymore.