Instructor Date In “Two Cheers for Materialism”, James Twitchell posits that “We live through things, we create ourselves through things and we change ourselves by changing our things”. By this, he implies that human beings view, define and judge each other and then based on material possession, he attempts to explain the material culture of consumerism where people keep buying and collecting items even those that have no practical use…
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To a great extent, this claim can be viewed as a logical one and there is evidence all around us that validates and supports it. The acquisition of property and goods is often used as a hallmark of success where the ones who have the “best”, “biggest” or “most” of something are considered most successful. To appreciate that, one only needs to observe the mass media, especially television, magazines as well as online polls. Every year Forbes comes out with a list of the richest in the world, there are surveys to show, for instance which footballer owns the biggest car and art enthusiasts and collectors often strive to have the most extensive collection of paintings, books and many other ostentation goods. For example Bill Gates is ranked as the richest man in the world, this ranking being based on our perception of money as an indirect endorsement for the man as the most successful businessman alive. These measurements do not take into account what he has achieved, how many people he has helped or even how happy he is, all that counts are the possessions he has accumulated. Thus the rest of America works tirelessly to acquire as much as they can and often forget to enjoy it since their primary goal is to be viewed as successful in their circles. The most direct route to that is to buy and flaunt, indeed most Americans according to research would pick money over happiness if they had a chance (Wolfe 32). Twitchell’s (p.285) claim is supported by his own reasoning in regard to poverty in the western world, albeit it applies universally; he states that the poor are labeled as such, owing to their lack of material things and property. Going by the original argument that we use these things to define and give meaning to ourselves, it would then appear that the poor lack meaning and inevitably face exclusion from society. A look at the social stratification will confirm that the more one owns the higher they are likely to go, for instance, I imagine the guards in an exclusive hotel are more likely to open the gate for an expensive looking top of the range car than they are for a homeless man or generally disheveled individual. This is because the consumerist society in which we exist sustains itself by excluding anyone who does not conform to the culture of endless buying and since human beings are social creatures, most of us try to keep up with the consumerist trends (Twitchell 286). The “cool” and successful individuals and groups at the top of the chain who are the subject of the collective admiration from the less successful are extremely dynamic. This must be so otherwise the materialist culture would come up even if they were to remain static for others to keep up with them. For instance when technology devices such as the new iPhone are unveiled, there are those who can afford to purchase them immediately notwithstanding the price. The rest will save until they can afford the device; however, some months down the line, when they are almost achieving this end, a new more expensive model is unveiled and quickly grabbed by the rich as the rest are left in second place as always. This cycle of changing trends and fashions is what ultimately drives consumerism and manipulates many Americans to keep buying items not for the items own sake but to enhance
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