It wasn’t long ago that capitalism morphed from an intriguing, external theory to a pervasive, internalized mind-set in the West and now, increasingly beyond. It is an efficient means of organizing labor and resources and by all appearances, it has succeeded in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty worldwide. Its tenets have become tightly woven with the political concepts of democracy and republicanism over the last two-and-a-half centuries in the American experiment and it has all but completed its takeover of patriotism and even faith as a central point of orientation, despite its dependency on values it does not create.
As an entrepreneur living in this context I am often reminded of the need for a constantly nourished counterweight at the core of my experience and in the hearts of those with whom I associate. Some find this through their affiliation with a church, others are fed by a less structured but no less valuable spirituality, while others take a more secular, philosophical approach. No matter what the source, such reminders of virtue go a long way to keeping the weeds of materialism, solipsism and selfishness in check in a system that cannot intrinsically modulate its darker sides.
Having had mixed experiences with organized religion (which are themselves mixtures of truth and adulterating opinion), I have sought to articulate a philosophy for living through my writing and daily meditations on truth. I do not believe the soul needs to be fed; on the contrary, I believe that everything required for virtuous thought and action is already present – the key is to create the internal conditions which are propitious to the revelation of this inner wisdom. This only happens – at least in my experience – as there is consistent, meditative centering in the truth.
When the market mind-set displaces all other ideologies, comfort quickly becomes not just a god, but the god. And when comfort displaces radiance as the central desire in a man’s heart, all other virtues diminish. I’ve seen this process work out with mathematical precision not just in my experience, but directly in the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of others.
The question, I suppose, is how to live in a world dominated by this mind-set without selling out in subtle ways, compromising beyond the point of no return or worse, giving up entirely. This is a line that must be drawn in the experience of each one. It cannot be legislated, taught or externally imposed; such approaches may prime the pump, but at the end of the day each one must determine the degree to which he allows his orientation to yield to prevailing opinion, rather than to truth (if, as is typically the case, the two do not align).
3 thoughts on “The Market Mind-Set”
If comfort becomes the supreme legitimizer, whether by outright concession or the subtleties of expediency, there is little hope for virtue’s triumph in one’s life. The market does fine balancing supply and demand, but without the core compulsion of the people taking part in the market being substantially weighted toward doing right, our social fabric will always remain fundamentally diseased.
For now, we try to legislate “right”, both in the personal and the corporate sense. We have more regulations every year, with factions pushing to either increase or decrease the oversight, depending on their personal point of view.
The only real answer, the sword that will cut the Gordian Knot, is a fundamental shift in each individual, away from whatever “god” they are following, and toward personal radiance and virtue.
Excellent summation of this dilemma, thank you! I’ve found that meditation can be very active as well as contemplative. I took the time to read yesterday’s post’s entire article. It was chilling, incredibly sad and as you’ve articulated this morning, a part of the very system that is the hallmark of our nation. It seems to bring me back to the question, what can one man do? We’ve seen of late with the tributes to Nelson Mandela that the answer is quite a bit. But to see the fruition of his work it going to take millions of other people making the same choices daily. Selfishness, mean spiritedness, callousness and lack of forgiveness are things we can each choose to exhibit or not. If we wish to count for something, give our hearts to the spirit of thankfulness, appreciation, forgiveness and generosity and the right actions will follow.
I appreciate your meditations on this subject. Interestingly, we do see capitalism woven in with certain religious viewpoints, perhaps in an attempt to give a sense of legitimacy or even sacredness to what amounts to organized selfishness in many instances!
In any case, the collective patterns of rationalization tend to be projections of personal states and concerns, and for each of us there must be constant examination of the principles of virtue. If, for instance, we find that our over-riding motivations center in comfort, or in ambition for that matter, do we justify that self-centered core of action or do we question and adjust? the first changes to come here are surely individual!