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Post No.: 0606worship


Furrywisepuppy says:


Another contributing reason why people endlessly chase money and status (if we continue on from Post No.: 0561) is that these things increase one’s power over others, and power has no limit. And although there’s a maximum amount of positive emotions we can possibly feel during any particular present moment – life satisfaction presents no such limit either.


Even though life satisfaction isn’t based objectively on any external or universally-accepted measure(s) – many people judge their own life satisfaction according to how much material wealth they’ve accumulated. Some parents also believe that they’ll be failures if they don’t provide ample luxuries for their children; but many children who’ve been raised in humble homes have turned out magnificently, and many who’ve been spoilt have turned out terribly. Moreover, judgements of one’s own life satisfaction depend on what’s currently available to mind e.g. whether millionaires or refugees are brought to mind. It’s thus not a stable judgement, even from day to day. It’s a matter of perspective and what story we tell ourselves. Woof!


One may believe that one must continually consume and accumulate to merely maintain one’s current level of happiness, and it’s not about trying to achieve greater happiness per se but about not becoming unhappy. But what external (i.e. not inside your head) mechanism will reduce your happiness if your total material wealth remains constant?!


People typically want to be a little bit more attractive, stronger, richer, taller or whatever than those (of the same gender) who are most close to the level of attractiveness, strength, etc. to themselves. So people might brag a bit more, stand a little straighter or whatever if third-party observers are there to notice the supposed ‘pecking order’ between them and others. Those who are clearly considered ‘inferior’ cause no worries and those who are clearly considered ‘superior’ are too far ahead to compete against. It’s again about social comparisons – people feel they must ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and conspicuously consume to maintain or build their relative status amongst their peers. But status is wholly subjective – its measure isn’t the same all over the world for all people. If your life is meaningful, and you’re important to the community and care about the environment then – even though you don’t have a flashy car or grand house – shouldn’t you command esteem and respect from others?


It’s tragic that, in many modern cultures, status is measured more by money rather than by something like education. Money can be inherited or gained by pure luck but wisdom can only be gained by effort and merit. And if you’re a good person and aren’t doing harm to others then other people’s opinions about you won’t really speak about you but about them and their insecurities and subjective measures of self-worth. (One shouldn’t look down upon others because of this though because that’d speak about oneself(!))


One may argue that maximising one’s wealth is ‘just in case’ for a rainy day. But if this were true then we should save this surplus rather than spend it on e.g. the latest phones or new clothes we don’t really need. Possibly, because the risk of starvation that prehistoric humans faced was quite serious (for most people, the present pandemic doesn’t even come close to those harsh survival conditions) – they had to generally apply a ‘grab whatever we can right now because reaching tomorrow alive is uncertain’ strategy. This genetic instinct still persists in humans but is less optimal in today’s world for achieving sustainable personal happiness and health, and care for the planet.


We hear some people proclaim, “Well I could get run over by a bus tomorrow.” But the truthful chance of this or any other cause of sudden death happening to most people today is tiny compared to in the wild-predator, no-vaccines, cold-and-famine risk-filled environments that human ancestors endured. Over-consumption will actually shorten people’s lives! Average life expectancies are nevertheless higher today yet innate instincts still prioritise short-term interests hence these ‘buy now, pay later’ lifestyles. Discounting also means that a pleasure today can be perceived to be worth more than an even greater pleasure tomorrow, and a pain today can be perceived to be worse than an even greater pain tomorrow.


More wealth can afford more different options in life. But the options most people take when they spend their disposable cash don’t tend to maximise their happiness e.g. buying even more of, or replacing, the same stuff they’ve essentially already got that still works.


Although the positive emotions we receive from a new purchase are very fleeting (we quickly adapt and return back to our previous level of happiness soon after every purchase due to our personal ‘set point’ of happiness that we fall/rise back to despite whatever we purchase or happens to us) – if one continually purchases new goods to receive a continuous stream of fleeting positive emotions, this can give the impression of continual boosts to one’s happiness. But what’s really happening here is that our happiness isn’t increasing and increasing – it’s increasing then falling (to a slump), then increasing then falling (to a slump), continually, due to hedonic adaptation.


Thus it’s somewhat akin to a drug addiction e.g. smokers don’t feel on average calmer than non-smokers – they just feel jittery if they don’t receive a regular nicotine hit due to habituating to the chemical effects of nicotine; or in this case regularly purchasing new stuff. And people might feel like they need ever more and more just to feel that same level of joy as before, hence this is an unsustainable and unhealthy long-term practice, even for the rich because they experience hedonic adaptation too – desires will escalate and they’ll become broke if they rely on material accumulation for their happiness too. Although less so, we can also adapt to some experiences, such as travelling fast in a jet until it’s no longer a thrill.


Therefore the behaviour becomes a mere habit or psychological crutch. And one that’s reinforced via social peer pressure and wanting to conform to cultural norms of ‘money is everything’. Even social revolutions have been repeatedly sidetracked because many of the main protagonists have been accused of losing their way because the lure of personal wealth has overridden their original cause e.g. rappers spitting bars about inequality and social injustice, but then once they become personally rich themselves, it becomes about the bling and everyone for themselves. It’s ‘down with the establishment’… unless one becomes a part of the establishment!


Of course, when we take a step back, we reinforce cultural norms for each other. The media plays its role too. It’s hard for a counter-culture to build when its advocates are outnumbered; and most people want to fit in and appear ‘normal’, whatever the current ‘normal’ is. Most people would probably rather live in a world where they don’t have to worry about being judged by the brand and age of their phone or clothes. But when we follow a norm because we feel pressured to, we end up perpetuating and potentially escalating it.


…The thing is – it’s the things we worship that hold persuasive power over us, whether they’re gods, celebrities, brands, awards or money. (And relatedly the things we fear e.g. alleged unlucky numbers.) Even heads of state will lose power if we lose confidence in them. We’ll just cease to listen to them. Thus there are no absolute powers unless we grant someone/something this power ourselves by worshipping them/it (except for physically coercive ones, but these are socially deplorable unless they’re natural forces like the need for enough food or warmth).


So don’t worship something and it’ll have no power to control you! Don’t worship or treat as special those with enormous wealth e.g. even if someone is rich, immediately call them out as you would anyone else if they sexually harass you – no one is ever special enough to be able to do that with impunity. They are not your superiors. Don’t worship or look up to the famous or rich just because they’re famous or rich, and don’t look down upon or ignore the unknown or poor just because they’re unknown or poor – in fact, frequently remind yourself that there are people in this world who must have it (far) worse than you do, such as those living in famine.


If you’re not into a certain celebrity then they’ll have no influence or therefore power over you. Some people put certain sports stars on pedestals and would kiss their feet if they met them. Others won’t know who they are or otherwise don’t feel anything towards them and wouldn’t give them special treatment. So it’s not objective. Some people are surprised when they see a celebrity with acne under their maquillage or when they take their bins out wearing unglamorous clothes – but they’re just ordinary people at the end of the day. With the rise of online social media and video blogs, it’s said that ordinary people can now be celebrities; but celebrities were always ordinary people – just those on screens that enough people watched. There are just more opportunities to be on screen nowadays. Some people think they know these people like friends just because they follow them on social media – but if you did know them then you’d know that they’re just ordinary people. They’re probably surviving just as well as you are in terms of natural selection i.e. they’re currently alive and healthy and so are you. Their influence and power comes from us worshipping them rather than because they intrinsically have any special powers like telepathy, force fields or invulnerability(!)


Even money is only valuable because other people think and trust it is – they’re just bits of metal, paper or digital data otherwise.


It’s not the fault of the rich – it’s just how we generally worship them for merely being wealthy in the first place, which therefore gives them even more wealth, fame and power in this attention economy.


Yet celebrities don’t always have it good – they’re automatically and constantly put under the spotlight even at times when they don’t want to be e.g. a musical artist might be fine with the attention when it concerns their trade but not when it comes to any aspects of their private life. Behaviours and comments that non-celebrities can get away with can no longer be gotten away with because they suddenly become publicly relevant, as celebrities become centres of gossip e.g. getting drunk and doing something embarrassing, or sharing a niche political opinion. They’ll even be retrospectively judged – what they did and said before they became famous will be publicly scrutinised too. Good celebrities and people who wish to become famous should understand that they are or will unavoidably become role models to children and others though. With reverence comes responsibility.


As human ancestors evolved to become ever more social – possessing a special talent meant that word got out about your talent, you got famous for it and people would follow and listen to you because they wanted to learn from you in order to be successful just like you. But this instinct can confuse correlation with causation, and simply being famous can still mean someone can be followed and listened to – even if they don’t have a worthwhile talent to socially learn from. It’s currently more about the fame than talent! In a similar confusion, people often chase money more than good health.


I’m not saying there aren’t any famous people who are worth listening to. Not all are famous just for being famous. I’m saying we don’t have to worship them and we certainly shouldn’t blindly follow and copy them. We culturally shouldn’t worship, follow or celebrate someone just because they’re rich or famous. No one should have psychological power over us for simply being these things. Power should be granted based on other measures. Worship perspicacity, worship kindness and worship love instead.




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