How do you measure self-worth? In my opinion, much of the stress that we create for ourselves in every petty aspect of our lives in modern society is related to the emphasis on the product-centric paradigm of commercialization, as well as the uncertainty, doubt and fear of our futures, based on the fixed perception of our dependency on this product-centric paradigm. Thus, it bequeaths me to state the relevance of ethics in maintaining stability (sthiram) and comfort (sukham).
We have become so attached to the luxury of exchanging goods for money that it is challenging, and even stressful, to imagine a future without products, or a past when people had to prepare meals that did not readily come out of bags. Moreover, as conscientious consumers, we seem to buy and add products that provide us with particular qualities. In a manner of speaking, we construct our sense of individuality and lifestyle through our discernment of commercial products. Modern society drools with anticipation for entire products to be developed, based on the lifestyle choices that we make, effectively transforming our individuality into product markets.
The life cycle of products is modelled on the life cycle of biological organisms. The corollary is that human beings embody the consumed products themselves.
Do you evaluate yourself as a commercial product? Career advisers will inform you that your résumé serves as the most effective communication tool to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Educational institutions will sell (and upsell) you on myriad courses that you will need to undertake to improve yourself as a product, even though there is no guarantee of success in your chosen field of study, and you may even be overqualified and/or overpriced. You will not love your chances when you are pitting against a more attractive opponent in a job market where the supply of candidates outweighs demand. Can you see how a product-centric paradigm substitutes the unfettered curiosity for learning with the chore of enslaving requisite product component parts to a standard utilitarian résumé? It bodes the question: Are you human or an instrument of indoctrination? Do you concur with the absurdity of evaluating the infinite potential value of human capabilities by the efficacy of commercialized functionality and quantitative precision? If your résumé were to be selected by a prospective employer, you would represent a grossly manipulated composite product of disparate experiences and skills. Put simply, the abject discrimination of your résumé belies your prospective employer’s pursuit of individual perfection, or a religious ideal – a denial of all of the freedoms permitted by your authentic existence as an ordinary human being.
With money, possessions, marriage, and children as the only winning chips in the game of life, the dogma of consumerism feeds the wasteful, noxious, obsessive, competitive behaviour in alpha complex personalities who must protect their own self-interests and meet their own agendas, exploit naïvety in people, and acquire promotions at any cost. The lack of ethics, endemic to achievement-oriented modern society, has led to the great divide between an affluent minority without reproach, and the rest of impoverished society.
Although the annals of history of society and culture are filled with the prosperity of consumerism, the fiefdom walls show signs of crumbling due to rampant economic strife, burgeoning debt, the rise of middle-class poverty, and the environmental cost of industrialization. Society is only waking up to the fact that the seeds of commercialization and consumerism are not sustainable without creating even more economic strife, debt, and middle-class poverty. Moreover, society cannot completely eliminate the environmental cost of making products by making products, notwithstanding the fair use of green branding. As students come to realise that their university degrees are not only worthless but wasteful in the wake of economic depression, they usher in a new hope of a socio-cultural revolution against consumerism.
Learning to adapt to the fluidity of moving goal posts in your life involves the vigilance and perseverance of svadyaya (self-study) in challenging uncertainty, doubt and fear.