The unexamined assumption of the American “more is more” consumer American-Express-Gold-Card culture is that economic success is the same thing as success in life, and that making money means that our needs are met.
Beyond basic material needs of food and shelter, our needs are not met by money; our needs are met in relationship with others.
Specifically, it is in relationship that our need for understanding and being understood is met; that our need to belong is met; and that our need to escape the prison of self-interest and narrow egoism is met. Everyone– with the exception of sociopaths– knows this, consciously or unconsciously.
The free-floating anger in American society is due, at least in part, to an epidemic of unmet needs. Like enraged infants who need held, we are screaming for connection– while ironically pursuing ways of life that are antithetical to meaningful connection. Placing supreme value on economic success works to sabotage meaningful relationships, and therefore the meeting of our deepest needs. Hence, the anger (which itself is displaced fear).
I’m not advocating a return to subsistence agriculture. I am suggesting that it is the role of religious people and communities– Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Whatever– to expose the vacuity and destructiveness of the dominant but false notion that making money means that our needs are met.