“Alienation as we find it in modern society is almost total… Man has created a world of man-made things as it never existed before. He has constructed a complication social machine to administer the technical machine he built. The more powerful and gigantic the forces are which he unleashes, the more powerless he feels himself as a human being. He is owned by his own creations, and has lost ownership of himself.” –Erich Fromm
Humans have somehow evolved to identify themselves closely with the things they own. This is so ubiquitous that we very rarely give much thought to this idea.
Somewhere along the line, marketing departments got the notion to tell people that their vehicle is an extention and an expression of who they really are. So somehow the woman who drives an Acura thinks of herself as better than the lady who drives a Nissan. Even though the cars are nearly identical except for the name plate and logo. To get the Acura, you must pay a few thousand dollars more to qualify for the badge. The same for the fellow who drives the Cadillac Escalade. He might have the notion in his head that he is one up on the poor schmuck who drives the Chevy Suburban. Same basic vehicle except the Cadilac trim and badge cost much extra. The luxury owners really are convinced their vehicles are better even though purchase, operation, repair and insurance costs are less attractive than for the “average” vehicle.
If you own an Acura, a Caddy, a Lincoln, or a Lexus, no offence intended, but I think you understand where I’m going with this. I could do reverse logic and brag that I drive a Lexus minus the gingerbread and the badge and think that I’m pretty clever and practical to see past the facade to drive an old Toyota. We put ourselves on top of the totem pole in many ways. Our egoism gets flexed either way.
We go to a lot of trouble to choose and purchase our personal possessions. From our motor vehicles to the furniture in our homes to the clothing we wear. We make our choices based upon our self image. This is something we do even though most people really do not care what we own. They’re too wrapped up in trying to impress us with their goodies.
In fact, if our stuff is perceived to be of higher prestige value, our stuff becomes an object of envy. It becomes a tool that works against our own benefit. If our stuff seems somehow better than someone else’s stuff we become the target for gossipers and worse. Our stuff is more attractive to burglars and thieves. Then we worry about our stuff and spend more money to insure our stuff. We bore others by bragging about and showing off our stuff. This is normal.
If Cro Magnon man had owned a Mercedes, he would have bragged about it, no doubt. Instead, he had his spear tips and arrow heads. He had a trophy wife or two.
He who has the most toys in the end wins. Or does he? What does he win if he does win? Does any of our stuff matter in the manner of which we suppose? I have a house full of stuff that probably doesn’t matter to anybody but me. The rhetorical question is for us, that includes me.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is happy to pirate a nest, beg for some food and have a song in his heart.