It may be best to define materialism by what it is not, and it has no concern for ideas alone. All that matters is what you have. If theres tragedy to be suffered, its in what you dont have.
I could also say that materialism is the preoccupation with sensory perception, and the dismissal of anything extrasensory, or, rather, beyond proof. It is at once an individuals safeguard against lies, and yet materialism is still a prison from which there is no escape. Then again, isnt freedom always the price we pay for safety?
Most importantly, materialism is the joy of possession and ownership. It is the satisfaction of saying that something belongs to you, whether it be a house, a car or even a spouse. That ownership is all the more satisfying for lending itself to sensory perception. Ideas on the other hand can never be owned, which, for a staunch materialist, is of no value whatsoever.
Where theres materialism, there is also envy. A disappointed materialist is almost invariable envious of successful materialists, while, on the other hand, successful materialists take pride in knowing theyre envied. In fact, there can be no greater joy to a materialist than to have what others only dream of having. Not that we would know what thats like seeing that we have nothing but out ideas.
Ownership is the cornerstone of our transnational economy. It is what aspires the ambitious and its what gives comfort to those who acquire beautiful things. Even art has failed to transcend the restrictions of the physical, categorized and priced like any object capable of sensory perception. If it can be seen and touched, it can be purchased.
The state, a powerful owner in its own right, promises the right of ownership to those who meet established criteria. Fortunately, ownership takes many forms and it doesnt always require an inheritance in the millions. Ownership can be secured for pennies, and the pride is just as enduring provided the object is valued beyond its price.
The state protects the sanctity of ownership, and that goes for just about any state, even the Communist ones that once redistributed wealth in an attempt to make it more fair. Ownership distinguishes us from the other animal species which might make possession of an object but which never secure ownership. Other animals dont see the purpose to it, and nor do we, frankly. Sure, its easy enough to say that when you have nothing, but to have nothing is to transcend ownership as well as the envy of owners.
In short, ownership is overrated, its only purpose is to provide some semblance of control over the world. Whats more, it is only an idea, which is why animals are never owners. Only humans become owners because we fear a world of objects not our own. Objects must be made to serve a purpose, our purpose. Only then will they cease to exist in their own right and for their own purpose. This goes for animals too, since the right of ownership extends to all living things. And it wasnt all that long ago that some humans even had the cheek to call themselves owners of fellow humans. Of course, with even human ownership possible, there are no limits to what can be apportioned and subdivided.
We might call ownership a promise of eternal possession, which is by no means eternal and only occasionally physical possession. We can be owners of things weve never even seen and may never see.
The abstraction of money has done nothing to diminish the satisfaction of owning it, and it seems one can never own enough of it, the wealthiest of men no less desirous of money than the poorest. The physical perception of money is no longer necessary.
If ideas can be patented, so, perhaps, might ideals become the property of the highest bidder. But until lawyers devise the means for clients to lay full claim to full tantalizing range of the intangible, ideals remain accessible to all.
Ownership is our species claim of right, but what, in truth, do we own? Do we own the planet, or its organisms or do we merely make use of them? Can one person stumble upon a lump of earth and call it his. I suppose he could call it whatever he wanted, but would that lump of earth become something else? And if it remains the same lump of Earth as before, what meaning have these words of ownership?
Words of ownership have as much meaning as any ideas, no more and no less. For a materialist, an idea should have absolutely no value; and that means the right of ownership as well. A materialist should have no use for money, but for wallet cash and pocket change. A materialist should also have no use for a claim of title either, abstractions having no place in his vocabulary. Only the objects themselves can put a materialists mind at ease.
And yet materialism assumes an increasingly abstract form, valuing the idea as much as the object it signifies. One might even say that the object has less value than the appraisal, and the physical ownership less value than the idea of owning something.
The idea of ownership is especially appealing because control means freedom; not for the thing thats owned, of course, but for the owner. Its not only the freedom of use, its freedom from someone elses exercise of ownership.
Ownership means not having to ask permission. It means doing as you please, when you please. It means that the world, or a small portion of it anyway, is yours and yours alone. And the more you own, the less someone else can keep from you.
Yes, ownership is indeed freedom. And yet, a worse slavery has never been devised. The more you own, the more you must defend against others and the more you must lock away so that others wont take it. With enough possessions, you would have to enlist the help of others, perhaps influence laws to favor those with more. You may even need to recruit the entire police power of the state to protect you against the envy of others. At the very least, you need paid supporters, which should be no problem now that youve already convinced others that youre worth millions in currency.
The most powerful among us can enlist many supporters and, as a consequence, grow exponentially more powerful through ownership. They are both admired and envied, for having more of what others desire. But far from satisfying desire, ownership generates want, as if every possession were a loss requiring the consolation of more possessions. Besides, its the acquisition of ownership that has value, not the objects themselves. When acquisition comes to a halt, so does the idea of ownership; and so it is that one must continue to acquire to feel again and again the thrill of becoming an owner.
Ownership is a security for those who fear having nothing, but it is also the fear that one may never have enough to feel entirely secure. Security, of course, is a state of mind, and no amount of objects will guarantee it. But the idea of ownership is all that can banish the idea of loss and helplessness, and that idea must be fed and nurtured with a regular regimen of acquisition.
If youve purchased the loyalty of others, that loyalty must also be repurchased as often as necessary to secure it. Because without the assurance that people will protect your possessions, what else can they be expected to do but take them? Even friends must be given incentive lest envy turns friendship sour.
Ownership is worry, worry that ownership can be lost or taken. It must be defended against the envious; and if that means making promises that will never be kept, so be it. The owner must make many an empty promise that the rights of ownership can be shared and enjoyed by all. In truth, the owner has no inclination to share anything, but promises are still easy to make. A promise, after all, is nothing more than an idea that one day something will be done. Nothing will be done, however, because there is a more powerful idea, and that idea is that ownership should never be compromised, unless sharing can be turned to advantage.
The largest owners secure the power structure from those who seek to alter it. It means paying for a police force to better preserve the right of ownership. And it means designing laws that firmly secure those rights while penalizing those who dont respect them. An owner requires security, and only a strong and powerful state can provide that security. A weak state amounts to anarchy, which does nothing to protect ownership.
So it is that the state is strong. Ownership demands strength so that ownership can be retained and passed from generation to generation. The state is strong so that owners might feel secure in their ownership. And since owners will never relinquish what they have, would-be owners must compete over new objects. Fortunately, for them our transnational economy creates objects ad nauseum to give everyone the satisfaction of ownership. But its a fleeting satisfaction that no amount of ownership will ever fully satisfy.
The state offers the promise of ownership, as well as equal access to power by dint of that ownership. To share too much power, however, is to decentralize a state which relies on its strength to get things done. The state will never relinquish control already secured, but the state still offers the possibility of control to its inhabitants. Its only a possibility, but that possibility is still better than nothing.
In short, ownership requires protection, which requires the formation of a state with sufficient police power to protect that ownership. To deny equal ownership to all will not secure a contented populace. What will secure that contentment is the promise that what the few enjoy can be enjoy by all. Of course, its impossible for all to enjoy equal ownership, and yet the idea persists.
Its the nature of materialism, that all things capable of ownership are preferable to things that cannot be claimed. Ownership is power and security, but it is also the fear of losing that power and security, reward and punishment both.
By valuing the satisfaction of physical control, materialism invests happiness in our possessions. Far from making us more secure, it makes us less so. Fearful of losing what we have, we strengthen the state to protect us; and yet the state is just as self-serving an owner as any individual, perhaps more so. We give to the state and the state promises to give back; and yet it wont because the state serves the most powerful owners of all, those who have the most to fear from a stateless world.
By giving so much value to possessions, we devalue the things that elude possession such as ourselves. Its why we here at the Church That Is No Church feel fortunate to have nothing, since that means we, as human beings, never have to take second place to the objects we use. Of course, theres nothing about being an owner that should require the valuation of possessions at the expense of humanity. The more we own, the more challenging it becomes to prioritize human needs over the sanctity of ownership.
As any materialist must realize, ownership is merely an idea while a human being is a tangible entity that can be appreciated and understood through the benefit of sensory perception. The human being may not be born with a monetary valuation, yet a human being has as much value as were willing to confer upon him or her. Its entirely up to us to give greater importance to something living than to an idea.
Thats not to say that ideas have no value. If that were the case, there would be no purpose to this discussion. Fortunately for materialists, ideas of money have monetary value, or as much monetary value as we agree to give it. So materialists can enjoy their sensory perceptions and relish their ideas too. They can have it all, which is the purpose of ownership in the first place.
No one individual can have it all without denying anything to everyone else; which wont keep people from trying. Some own more than others, although considering the weighty responsibility of securing ownership, more is not necessarily better than less. Although Im sure we can all agree that less is better than nothing. But is it even possible to have nothing? Even without possessions, our lives give us something to preserve, which means humanity alone is sufficient a concern. We need nothing else.
Without the freedom of ownership, we lack empowerment. Then again, we need never be enslaved by the burden of ownership. Our humanity is ours to keep. We dont have to seek it out nor need we fear losing it. It is innate. Ownership, on the other hand, provides only an illusion of freedom and control and the vaguest promise of satiety. It will never satisfy and never endure.
Were not expecting or even asking you to discard your possessions, much less give them to us. We wouldnt want them anyway. What we are asking of you is to remember that there is something to materialism that can be of benefit, and thats to give your humanity the due regard it deserves. Materialism is not ideas, its flesh and blood. Its not jewels and banknotes. Its our bodies and our minds. Its what cannot be priced or sold.
Take pride in the ownership of your humanity. Your worth is not limited to what you own since ownership is merely an idea that seeks to expand upon our humanity, give us more than we need. But all that we need we already have.