New York Times “The Materialist Fallacy” Misses the Point
By Kathleen Paylor, Chief Spiritual Officer, Conscious Capital, www.consciouscap.com
David Brooks misses the point in his New York Times Op-Ed “The Materialist Fallacy” because he is referencing a context and a debate that also misses the point. Economic determinism is indeed at the root of of much of the weakening of our social fabric and the larger social ills that stem from it. But it is economic determinism that goes much deeper than the symptoms of lost jobs and financial hardship to which Brooks refers. It is a deeper determinism created by the modern economic paradigm of scarcity (and almost axiomatically, fear and self-interest) that has caused (some would say engineered) the loss of community and created the fallacy of self-contained, self-sufficient happiness, an insular autonomy where relationships are mediated largely by money and its interchange. It is an economic system that has monetized and commoditized community.
This is true not just in the social realm, but at a deeper psychic and spiritual level, where the poverty of our internal landscapes and sense of disconnection to ourselves and others is rampant. Brooks is correct that the reappearance of manufacturing jobs will not magically reweave the fabric of society, but he is wrong in thinking that it can be accomplished through the “bourgeois paternalism” of building orderly communities. That too would fail because it is a topical treatment of a much deeper and more pervasive problem: the grief and disconnection of our time, the strip mining of community to build economy. Auden poetically prophecised that “No one exists alone. Hunger allows no choice to the citizen or the police. We must love one another or die.” Social repair requires much more than sociological thinking; it requires love. It requires us to reconnect with ourselves and our fellow human beings at a deeper level and build from there. This undoubtedly sounds naive and simplistic, utterly un-wonkish, but it is the only way out of this mess. It is the only hope we have.