Now is the winter of our discontent
The Buddha discovered this fundamental truth about happiness thousands of years ago, and not only about material possessions. All worldly striving and attachments, Buddha taught, are ultimately unsatisfactory. Happiness is transitory by nature.
But endemic human unhappiness and striving are the engines of growth and development, including in an intellectual and cultural sense. They have led us to decreasing levels of hunger, disease and malnutrition, as well as great discoveries in science and the arts.
Ken is right about this, but I don’t think this undermines Clive’s criticism of a system in which advertising and other social forces keep us permanently dissatisfied with our levels of material consumption.
Granted that striving is better than vegetative contentment, and even that there’s inherently nothing wrong with striving for more and better material possessions (I’m not sure Clive would grant this, but I will), it’s surely a problem when an entire society is premised on the assumption that everyone should be pursuing this limited and limiting goal. There may be nothing more noble in, say, striving for 10 000 unique visitors per day than in striving for a Ferrari, but at least I can feel that I’ve chosen the first goal for myself rather than having it foisted on me by the advertising industry. And some goals, for example curing diseases or saving the environment, are better than Ferraris or blog rankings.