Consumption as a Narcissistic Religion

Uploaded 12/18/2018, approx. 35 minute read

So, I've got a few questions to ask. Actually, before I begin, I should just ask for the tape, what your name is, and could you tell me what your job is?

All right. My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm currently professor of psychology in several universities, several countries, and author of books in a variety of fields. The one relevant to you would probably be Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, which is a book which deals with pathological narcissism and its manifestations from the individual level to the collective level.

Great. Thank you. So, as you've pointed out, you've written extensively on narcissism, and you've got a YouTube channel that I've been watching, and you've also appeared on Vice as well.

So, from what you've seen, how is a narcissist created? How is a narcissist created?

Yeah. Well, narcissism is thought to be a reaction to an abusive environment, traumatizing environment.

And the definition of abuse in this sense is wider than typically perceived. It's not limited to sexual, verbal, or physical abuse, or psychological abuse, putting the child on a pedestal, pampering and spoiling the child, and dowing the child with a sense of unlimited entitlement, incommensurate with ease of her achievements, and so on and so forth.

I also considered forms of abuse because the child is instrumentalized, objectified, and used as a tool to gratify the parent in a variety of ways. The child's boundaries are not recognized. They're breached. The child is not allowed to separate and individual. Every penetration, so to speak, of the child's emerging periphery, emerging sense of separateness and individuation is considered abusive.

And so, abuse has many forms. And children exposed to abuse, a tiny minority, admittedly, opt for a solution of becoming abusers themselves in the obviously mistaken belief that should they become abusers, they would no longer be amenable to abuse and the pain it inflicts on them.

And so, what they do, they create, they concoct a kind of confabulation known as the false self. The false self is everything the child is not.

The child is helpless. The false self is omnipotent. The child is unable to predict the next moves of the capricious adults around him. The false self is omniscient, knows everything, godlike. That the child is castigated as a bad, unworthy object in case he fails or fails to realize the expectations of the parent. And the false self is, of course, perfect and brilliant, et cetera, et cetera.

And the false self also serves a function of as a decoy. The false self is a firewall. It stands between the child and the painful or hurtful environment. So, it absorbs all the external shocks of abuse.

And in this sense, and only in this sense, narcissism can be construed as a form of dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder. But the narcissist actually has two personalities. One is a hidden child-like suffering true self and one is a protective, externalized, all-powerful, godlike creation, which is the false self.

That in a nutshell is narcissism.

In my work currently, I'm trying to recast narcissism not as a personality disorder, but as a post-traumatic condition. And post-traumatic condition with elements of addiction, elements of attachment disorder, and elements of depression as a depressive disorder. That would be quite the revolution should this view be accepted.

Because hitherto for over a century, narcissism has been considered a character defect. Something to do with the personality in totality. And I think actually the personality of the narcissist is quite okay. However, it suffers from a post-traumatic syndrome.

It's a form of CPTSD, complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Again, that's in a nutshell.

And so it has quite a strong element is that it's about how the child or the person views themselves. Am I right in understanding?

Sorry, go ahead.

So it's how they view themselves?

What narcissism is a form of reinvention. It's an early childhood reinvention, the child reinvents himself as God. And in effect, narcissism is a form of private religion, where there is a God-like entity, which is the false self. And the child worships the false self. And also the child makes human sacrifice to the false self.

In other people's?

No, well, later on, true. But initially, in sacrificing himself, the child tells the false self, listen, let's make a deal. I will unail myself. I'll negate myself. I'll vitiate myself.

And essentially, I will sacrifice myself. I'll kill myself, on condition that you protect me, insulate me from fear and pain and be with me forever as my private guardian angel or guardian divinity.

And later on, of course, the narcissist brings other people as human sacrifices to this molecule, to this god-like divinity.

But you're right to use the word choice. I think you may have, if I remember correctly, used the word choice. Indeed, there's a choice involved, because the child is faced with a variety of solutions.

The child can, for example, become codependent. The child can become a narcissist. The child can become a psychopath and so on and so on, or a borderline, which is also a very common solution, actually more common than narcissism.

So children make this choice unaware. It's mostly an unconscious choice. But yes, they do make a choice. They choose either to be perpetual victims in a variety of ways or to become the abuser themselves. So they kind of internalize the abuser. We call this process introjection. They internalize the abuser and merge with the abuser and become the abuser. It's subsuming the abuser and becoming an abuser oneself. That's narcissism.

Is it always the parents that are the cause or can it be others?

In the overwhelming majority of cases, it would be the parents, because the formation of narcissism is very, very early on. It starts more or less at the age of four and possibly earlier. So it would be in a majority of cases, the parents.

But of course, if the parents are absent to a very large degree, it could be other caregivers like grandparents. It could even be role models, like a very decisive figure, like a teacher. It could even be in some cases, a peer group, an abusive peer group.

We do have late onset narcissism, also called situational narcissism, where people are exposed to a very stressful lifestyle. For example, they become rock stars or famous politicians or suddenly they become very rich. This stressful external shock renders them so narcissistic that they technically qualify for a diagnosis. So narcissism can be late onset.

However, the bulk of pathological narcissism cases we see in clinical practice are people who were formed or malformed by their parents and especially the mother.

I'm interested in the trend that seems to be happening more and more these days in that kids, they just sit in front of the TV and watch TV all day or they watch stuff on their iPad and they're getting a lot of the messages about life and how they need to view themselves. They're getting that from the advertisements and the TV channels. And I wonder if that has some sort of role as well to play. I was wondering what you thought about that.

Before I answer your question, I should think that you might find my interview with Richard Grannon of interest. I've just granted him an interview, pretty lengthy one is usually the case with me. I just granted him a lengthy interview on the toxicity of social media. And if you go and it went viral by the way. So if you go to his channel, which is Spartan Life Coach channel or Richard Grannon, I mean, and you can find it's called the true toxicity of social media or something like that. And I deal with, I relate to this question there, but again, in a nutshell, first of all, it's recommended, it would behoove you to make a distinction between pathological narcissism, which is a clinical entity and narcissistic behaviors and traits, which are universal.

We all have healthy narcissism and we all display traits and behaviors, which could be characterized as narcissistic from time to time. And yes, narcissistic behaviors and traits could be condoned by society and rewarded by the culture and in cultures and societies and civilizations, which are highly narcissistic in the sense that they elevate people with narcissistic traits and behaviors, reward narcissistic traits and behaviors, etc. We would find, we would tend to find a preponderance or an increase in narcissistic elements among youth and not only among the youth.

So, but this has very little to do with pathological narcissism is a well-defined clinical entity.

Okay. I didn't know about that difference.

So is that, is that a part of why narcissists, narcissism or narcissistic traits seemed more prevalent in wealthy societies?

I would dispute this assertion. They may be more visible, more visible in wealthy societies because wealthy societies have means of communication, which are far more effective and far more pervasive, far more ubiquitous.

So it's very hard. It's very hard to observe narcissism in a remote obscure village in Kenya or in Sierra Leone than it is in, for example, Manhattan. And of course the eyes, the eyes and ears of the global media are on Manhattan and London much more than they are on remote Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan.

But I would think that narcissism is a, is a global phenomenon and does not discriminate between cultures and society.

However, the way narcissism manifests would be different, would be culturally conditioned or culture-bound. In Japan, for example, which is a collective society. Narcissism would be expressed collectively, be expressed, expressed via belonging to a collective. So it is the collective that would be narcissistic on behalf of his members. In the United States where individualism runs rampant and possibly could be described as malignant individualism. Narcissism would be an individualist, individual thing and would be expressed by the agency of individuals.

But I think narcissism is, is absolutely, as the incidents and prevalence of narcissism, in my view, would be the same in Africa where I used to work for, where I've worked for four years, would be the same in Africa as it would be in New York, where I've lived for two years or in London, where I've lived for another two years, etc.

I've had exposure to well over 50 countries and I was born in the Middle East. I've worked in Africa. I lived in the West. I've lived in Europe, I've lived in North America.

And, and I've had no reason to conclude that narcissism is less prevalent, for example, in Sierra Leone, where, you know, I've worked for one year, then in New York, where I've lived for two years, only it manifests differently.

So society controls narcissistic behaviors and traits differently in different parts of the world.

For example, it is condoned in, let us say, California, encouraged, egged on in California and in New York, but it is frowned upon in societies such as Macedonia, where I am right now. So it really crucially depends on where you are, but narcissism is a force of nature.

I think narcissism is on the rise simply because our numbers are on the rise. There are 7.6 billion people. When I was born, there were only three.

It's far more difficult to stand out. It's far more difficult to feel unique and special. It's far more difficult to individuate, to feel like an individual, when you are immersed in an environment with 7.6 billion other people.

And that you're connected to via social media.

Right. When you're exposed to thousands of other people daily, if you want to be noticed, if you want to be just seen, if you want to be acknowledged as a separate individual with your own uniqueness, you have to stand out, you have to protest, you have to demonstrate, you have to become much more demonstrative.

You have to, and so your behavior escalates and you become more and more vociferous, more and more, um, unusual, more and more. So, and I think that's what we're seeing.

I think we're seeing an arms race where people try to stand out and, and everyone tries to outdo everyone else and one upmanship and aggression are rewarded and extreme behavior becomes the norm simply in order, as I said, to be noticed and seen.

The very basic function that was, that used to be fulfilled in communities, I mean, only a hundred years ago, typically you would have been born in a village and you would have been seen, acknowledged, noticed, gossiped, gossiped on, censored, praised, etc. by an average of 2000 people, the vast majority of people, a hundred, 150 years ago came across 2000 other people. The overwhelming majority of people never traveled further than 20 miles and spent their entire lives in the same place they were born, carrying on the trades of their fathers and forefathers and would have interacted with six or seven clans would have interbred, etc. The environment was very limited.

And so if you lived in a village or in a community or in a neighborhood, you were safe in the sense that you felt special. You felt unique because everyone knew everything about you and everyone took care of you and really cared about you. Even if it were ironically in a malevolent way, still you would be noticed, you would be cared for.

And today you conduct an alienated existence among millions of other people. Your neighbors don't know who you are. You know, they don't care who you are. You can die in your own apartment. You would not be noticed until the stench drives everyone away.

And you're predominantly only mode of interaction would be with so-called friends, even personal disembodied digital traces and avatars.

Yes. It's an abnormal existence. And so just to feel alive, you need to exaggerate this existence. You need to characterize your life. You need to become a symbol or an avatar as everyone else is. You need to radicalize and you need to escalate your messages, your signaling, just to be noticed above the din of everyone else doing the same.

It's a terrifying thing not to be noticed and not to be seen because we feel alive only when we're exposed to the gaze of others.

Imagine if you walk the street and everyone looks through you as though you were transparent. By the end of the day, you will feel transparent. You will feel that you don't exist. You begin to doubt your own existence.

And so we create halls of mirrors and these halls of mirrors of social media. These halls of mirrors are there just to convince us that we are alive because we are no longer convinced that we are alive.

And this leads to your question about the issue you've raised of consumerism. So I think the main role of consumerism is to convince us that we are alive via possessions, but we'll come to it, I assume.

Yeah. So I suppose does advertising have a role to play with that because they're trying to sell you almost like an identity that you can sort of latch onto. And yeah, I don't know. Is that something you've given some thought about?

Well, advertising is a very, very compounded. So advertising has very little to do with the content of the advertisement. Most people don't remember the content of the advertisement.

They do remember, however, the advertiser. So they would not necessarily remember what it was that Apple had said about the iPhone X, but they will remember that it was Apple that put out the ad.

So the ad carries a message which essentially says, I'm Apple. I'm financially robust. And the proof is that I have money to spend on advertising and I care about my products and I care about you, my customer enough to expose you to my products.

So it's a message of care. Indeed. It's a message of being seen. When you're exposed to an ad, the advertiser is telling you in effect, I see you, I notice you, you matter to me, you're important to me. And I've gone to the length of investing millions of dollars in creating this special movie for you. It's a 30 second spot, admittedly, but it's still tailored to you.

So yes, it enhances, enhances the experience of uniqueness of being seen and being noticed, being acknowledged.

And also, it usually contains a series of subliminal, subliminal is the wrong message, but a series of hidden messages about your status, relative positioning, ability to purchase the product, because the ad actually tells you we trust that you have the money to buy our product. So we kind of believe in you. And in your ability to earn.

And so the ad has this conspiratorial tone. It's like, it's you and me, baby. I know that you're rich enough to buy me. I know I care enough about you. I see you. I believe that you deserve to own the iPhone. I mean, like I believe in your status or ability to attain this status.

And all you have to do is consume.

So consumption is a message, I agree with you that consumption is or consumerism is a narcissistic message, in the sense that he singles out every individual.

And there was a guy, there was a philosopher called Althusser. I don't know if you ever heard of him.

What was the name? Sorry.

Althusser. Louis Althusser called this process interpolation.

Althusser said that advertisers exert a digital finger out of the screen. And this finger like the finger of God in Sistine Chapel touches you and consecrates you and interpolates you. In other words, impels you to act.

And so does our consumer society have a part to play then, do you believe, in encouraging narcissism?

Well, as I've just said, I think consumption and the attendant signaling, which is known as advertising and marketing, I think consumption is about narcissism.

First of all, most of the products we consume are utterly unnecessary, obviously. So they must look for some other kind of role. If they are not necessities, what are they?

They must be signals or messages. In other words, most of the products we purchase are forms of communication, coded messages.

And so some of them are what Veblen called positional goods, goods that signify our position, our relative position in society.

And others are about making you feel unique or making you feel special.

And yet others are about making you feel that you belong, that you're part of some club.

And yet others make you feel that you're young again.

And yet others make you feel omnipotent because they contain so many functions.

You can do everything with them. There's nothing you can't do with them.

And yet others make you feel omniscient. That's an important function of the smartphone, for example. You are all knowing with the click of a button, you have the entire human knowledge at your fingertips and disposal and so on and so forth.

So yes, I would say that most modern products have little to do with our necessity. They have a little to do with our needs and a lot to do with our self-image and self-perception.

They are about molding our self-image and self-perception to feel unique, omniscient, omnipotent, members of collectives, which are omniscient and omnipotent, narcissistic, not only individually, but also collectively.

And so consumption from about 100 years ago has been transformed from a system of catering to physical needs into a system of catering to psychological needs.

So let's say up until the 1890s, up until the end of the Industrial Revolution, most products and services were needs, physical needs oriented.

You bought a plow or you bought a dishwasher, you bought a laundry machine or you bought a refrigerator. You bought something you needed and your needs were physical needs. Up until, let's say, the 1950s, everything you had bought catered to your physical needs, physical needs as an animal who needs to eat and drink, physical needs as someone who needs to travel physically, but they were all physical needs.

Starting in the 1950s, most products and services cater to your psychological needs. Very few of them, indeed vanishingly few of them, cater to your physical needs.

And your psychological needs can be grouped, can be amply described as narcissistic. The overwhelming majority of our psychological needs are in support of our narcissism.

Now, as I said before, there's healthy narcissism and there's pathological narcissism. And again, we can make a distinction.

Between the 1950s and the 1980s, most of the products and services had to do or catered to our healthy narcissism. So for example, they were geared to help us to learn and educate ourselves, or they helped us to expand our horizons, or they helped us to acquire skills, which we could use in the workplace, or they helped us, as tourists, to discover new territories and new cultures and new societies, etc.

So I would say that in the history of modern consumption, there are three stages.

From the beginning of the industrial revolution to the 1950s, where most products and services catered to physical needs.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, where most products and services catered to our healthy psychological needs, including our healthy narcissism.

And from the 1980s to this very day, where most products and services catered to our pathological losses, our need to be noticed and our need to be seen and to be observed and to be acknowledged as unique and special and in a pathological way, in a way that implies entitlement, in a way that implies delusion, in a way that implies self-deception, in a way that implies grandiosity, in a way that implies fantasy. All these are pathological adaptations and pathological defense mechanisms.

And the overwhelming vast majority of products and services nowadays cater exactly to these things, fantasy, delusion, self-deception, grandiosity, lack of empathy, separation, atomization, social seclusion, etc.

While you can't say this about products in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, they also catered to your narcissism. They also made you special and unique and enhanced your skills and capabilities, but they did it in a very healthy way. They were reality-based.

If you want me to give you a kind of litmus test, all products and services until the end of the 1980s were reality based. They acknowledge a reality test.

Today's products and services take you away from reality, away from social reality, away from physical reality, away from interactions, away from reality.

Because you were talking about how advertising and the products, they make you feel something. They make you feel like you have this, but it's devoid from reality, I suppose.

Yes. I would say that until the late 1980s, everything was reality-based. The quality of the product and the service and the commercial success of the product or service were based on reality, how effective they are in helping us to manage reality, to manipulate reality, and to extract benefits from reality.

Products and services that came after the dotcom boom and bust, these products and services are not reality-based.

They are actually ways and means to avoid reality, to shun reality, to escape from reality, and to construct alternative realities, virtual realities, augmented realities, avoid social reality, avoid true interaction, avoid coping with real life challenges, avoid acquiring real life skills, etc. We are escaping from reality, and society and all other social institutions are disintegrating.

We have a process called atomization, where everyone sits at home, isolated with a series of screens of varying sizes, and interacts essentially with other people who are doing exactly the same.

The size of screens can tell you the whole story.

If you go back to the 1950s, the dominant screen was huge, and about 2,000 people could congregate in front of that screen and share a common experience. That screen was the cinema in the 1950s.

Then fast forward 20 years or 30 years actually, you had a much smaller screen, and only 20, 30 people could congregate in front of that screen and have a common experience. That screen was a television.

Then fast forward another 20 years, and even much smaller screen, and only two, three people could share the experience of that screen, and that was the personal computer.

Then the screens kept shrinking and shrinking and shrinking until today's screen allows only one person to interact with it. It's a one-person interaction, and that would be the smartphone or your watch, your smartwatch.

Screens tell the whole story. Screens are a metaphor to what's happening to us.

At the very beginning of screens in the 1950s, or even 1930s, we wanted to have communal experiences shared with thousands of other people.

Today, we don't want other people.

Think of the way that you hold your smartphone. You hold the smartphone in front of your face. The smartphone isolates you from your environment. It's kind of a firewall. The smartphone was designed to separate you from reality, to separate you from other people.

There could have been any number of design choices in designing the typical smartphone, but from the very beginning, smartphones were built, designed, and constructed to separate you from life, to provide you with an alternative to life.

Modern consumption and modern consumer goods are about isolating you and rendering you a hostage, in effect, a prisoner. They are total ecosystems.

All previous consumer goods up to the 1980s were not total ecosystems, in the sense that you could not interact only with a single product and need nothing else.

You could not, for example, interact with your refrigerator only, or with your laundry machine only, or even with your personal computer only, or with your television only. You had to go out to reality. You had to talk to other people. You had to use other devices. You had to have a network, both social and electronic, in order to survive.

But today's devices, today's consumer goods, are self-contained, self-sustaining, self-sufficient, and they isolate you, because they provide you with a total solution. And they could safely be called total consumer goods or total devices, and they provide a total ecosystem.

By the way, you see it in the way that these devices are designed.

Because, for example, you cannot use an Apple device if you go outside the Apple ecosystem. You must remain hostage and prisoner to Apple's offerings. Apple's App Store, everything is Apple. Everything is branded Apple. Look at Facebook, for example. Facebook does not allow Google to crawl its database. There are no Facebook results on Google, because Facebook keeps its content behind a firewall so that Google has no access to it.

What happens is modern consumer devices fractured our world, broke it apart, so that if you interact on Facebook, you are the hostage of Facebook. You are Facebook's prisoner. If you interact with Apple, you're Apple's prisoner.

Apple, they don't want you to go outside the walls of the ecosystem, which is exact opposite philosophy to the philosophy of the network which prevailed in the 80s and beginning of the 90s, exact opposite philosophy.

And you can see the same happening with countries, countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia. They isolate their consumers behind the firewalls. They don't allow their consumers free access to, for example, information, or even to consumer goods.

So we are seeing a fracture and an atomization of life, of social life, of society as a whole, of institutions. And this has direct linkage to modern technologies and the consumer goods that they produce.

So consumerism is not only about narcissism in the individual level, it's about the emerging, very disturbing trend of collective narcissism, exactly the trend that brings to power people like Donald Trump or Bolsonaro in Brazil or Duterte in the Philippines.

We are beginning to see a confluence of consumerism with politics, technology with politics.

Donald Trump is a technological president, exactly like Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler used consumer goods and technologies which were the cutting edge technologies in his spirit. He used movie theaters, he used the microphone, he used the airplane, he used the radio, and he was the first to use television. So Adolf Hitler was a highly technological leader in a narcissistic psychopathic age using consumer goods in a way that fractured and broke society apart. And people like Donald Trump are doing the same.

So consumer goods dictate not only how we as individuals interact with the world, but how collectives interact with the world via institutions such as politics. It's an extremely, extremely dangerous and worrying trend.

Where do you see that trend heading to in the next 20 years?

Well, first of all, I encourage you to have a look at the interview I made with Richard Grannon, because it's very, very detailed and so on.

First of all, I think for the first time, for the first time ever, as we talk about Adolf Hitler, we are talking about a phenomenon which was largely European, started in Germany and infected the rest of Europe. But that's where it ended more or less.

But the first time I think we are talking about a global pandemic, a truly global phenomenon. And that's why I'm comparing social media and modern consumer goods to viruses, essentially. Because exactly like epidemiology, we have vectors of transmission, and we have spreading memes and so on, which imitate, very effectively, the behavior of viruses.

So as I see, I think, exactly like viruses are self-limiting, I think the technology and current consumer goods are self-limiting. There will be a point where people will simply draw back in horror and recoil.

But it will be too late for many of us, because social media, modern consumer goods, they are constructed to be addictive. They're constructed to condition us. As I said, they render us hostages and prisoners, not only physically, but also psychologically. So there's a lot of addiction and conditioning going on.

A lot of the planned obsolescence, which is a typical feature of most consumer goods, a lot of the planned obsolescence has to do with the attempt to condition us to buy new versions, new updates, new generations of the same devices and the same goods and the same services.

So there will remain a group of people addicted to all these paraphernalia, to social media, to consumer goods, etc.

And there will be a rebellion against a counter-revolution, a counter-trend where people will try to free themselves of the shackles of modern consumerism. And we're beginning to see, of course, the buds of this revolution.

So I think what it will do is it will fracture humanity to two camps, the camp of people who find consumption gratifying because it caters to their narcissistic needs. And these people will continue to be addicted and conditioned by innovation, by technology, by new consumer goods, etc. And 1 billion, 2 billion people will be like that. They will continue their existence as it is now, forever consuming, forever working hard in order to consume, forever using consumer goods as symbols, as positional goods, forever bragging, forever showing off, forever delineating or demarcating the uniqueness via consumer goods, via social media and so on.

And there will be the rest of humanity which will break free.

I believe in that because all viruses are self-limiting in the sense that at some point they stop propagating. Had viruses not stopped propagating, we would all be dead by now.

So I believe that consumer goods are the kinds of viruses which, and I believe the trend is about to stop. And then humanity will fracture. And we will have these two camps. That's how I see things.

The other camp, the rebellious camp, I think will consume a lot less. Will consume differently, or should we say in a balanced way. Will consume not narcissistically, in a healthy way.

And I think this will have tremendous destabilizing repercussions. It's the entire mass production system, our entire modern economy, all modern economies, West and East, are built and founded on the assumption of ever increasing consumption. If we pull the rug under the feet of multinationals, manufacturers, service providers, we are going to collapse the modern economy.

And I think the rug is about to be pulled. I think this revolutionary movement that I'm talking about, people who are going to renounce social media, people who are going to consume less, people who are going to move to the countryside, people who are going to consume wisely, people who are going to give up goods and services which are not necessities, people who are going to revert to retro lifestyles.

I think this movement is on the rise, and I think it's going to become actually dominant. A counterculture, a subculture or counterculture of non-consumed consumerism. I believe the revolution is happening.

But here's the irony. We can't afford to not consume. Should we stop consuming even marginally, the entire edifice of modern economies will crumble. And then, of course, we will have provoked enormous social unrest everywhere and possibly global wars.

So this is the dilemma. On the one hand, our consumption patterns today are sick, addictive, conditioned, narcissistic, atomizing, destructive. The way we consume is destroying us, destroying us as individuals, destroying us as societies, destroying us as collectives, destroying and ruining and devastating our institutions, starting with the family and ending with the state.

Raising to power, demagogues, narcissistic and psychopathic leaders are a great risk to peace in our future. Our consumption leads us into a blind alley of self-annihilation.

But we can't afford to stop consuming. Because if we stop consuming, we will have removed the foundations of modern economies. And then the global economy will collapse. And then we will have such social unrest which will most probably lead to global warfare and again to our self-destruction.

It's a no-win situation. If we continue to consume, we will annihilate, self-annihilate.

If we stop consuming, we will self-annihilate.

And I'm not wise enough to offer a solution. I don't think anyone is.

Sobering thoughts.

So where I sort of heard of you first was through your book, After the Rain. And you drew a fascinating parallel, I thought, between our consumer culture and religion.

And so you made the point that shopping malls and banks have almost replaced the temples and bankers, finances and bureaucrats, the clergy. And so I wonder if that's going to be increasingly the case, then, with this?

Yes, of course. As I said, I started by saying that narcissism is a form of private religion. And so consumerism is a private case of narcissism writ large, let's say.

So, of course, by definition, ipso facto, I mean, by syllogism, consumerism is a form of religion. And we worship at the temples of consumption.

First of all, consumerism as a form of secular religion as its own holy Bible, its own holy scriptures. And it has its rituals, and it has its ethos and morality, and it has its do's and don'ts, prescriptive and proscriptive measures. And it has its clergy, and it has its servants, and his bureaucracy, etc, etc. It's absolutely a form of secular religion. And of course, it has its headquarters, the equivalent of the Vatican. And that will be the United States. And, and so on.

So yes, I think we have replaced classic, God centered religion.

And by the way, I'm an agnostic. So don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating God centered religion and other forms of mass psychosis. But we have placed God centered religion, one form of mass psychosis with another.

And that is the belief of the fount of happiness, because religion is about finding evidence, finding balance, being at harmony, and equilibrium with your environment, social and natural. That's what religion is about, essentially, God is supposed to be the guide, to provide the guidance on how to achieve this balance.

And so here comes consumerism and tells you, listen, there's another way to happiness, another path to happiness. And that is by buying things, goods and services, even if they're not necessary, they will cause you happiness.

And a huge amount of people bought into it. And they are rendered happy, they believe, simply by purchasing the next generation of iPhone, or simply by the massage, massage parlor, or whatever.

So consumerism provides a complete turnkey solution and substitute to religion. And that's why it's far more widespread than any religion or any group of religions combined. And I stand behind it. Yes, shopping malls are the modern temples.

And what price do you think we as consumers or as people, what price do we psychologically pay for that? How does it affect us psychologically?

Well, if your only source of happiness is consumption, then first of all, the prerequisite, the pre condition for consumption is money.

So money becomes not only desirable, but indispensable. Money becomes the condition, the absolute condition, foundation, and so on for your happiness. So we all become money crazed.

And the problem with money, of course, is that it's morally neutral. It's not immoral. It's amoral. It has no truck with morality or ethics in any way, shape or form. We're trying to impose moral values on money making. But these are foreign implants. Money in itself is morally neutral.

And so when we adhere to this new religion where money is gone, and the guiding principle, and our organizing principle of reality, and the fount of our happiness, we also ascribe automatically, subscribe to a world which is a moral or morally relative or morally neutral.

And if we subscribe to that, then essentially, the only remaining principle guiding our behavior is selfishness or more precisely, egotism. And then if we accept selfishness and egotism as the only remaining or surviving moral principle, then by definition, empathy and altruism, for example, are irrational, not only irrational, but counterproductive, because they become obstacles and hindrances to the making of money.

In other words, we tend to maximize utility. And we want as much money as we can, because the more money we have, or happiness we have via the agency of consumer goods and consumer services.

So in order to maximize the production of money, or the ownership or possession of money, we need to be disempathetic, we need to assure we need to give up everything. And of course, we need not be altruistic, because that's a waste of resources.

And so we see a rising tide, a tidal wave of unempathic behavior, self centered behavior, and utilitarian behavior.

And when you try to approach the subject of whether this is good or bad, people tell you openly that good or bad, bad are obsolete categories of relating to the world, they are no longer relevant. This good or bad cannot be applied to moneymaking.

There's no good moneymaking, or bad moneymaking, there's only moneymaking.

And so good and bad, good and evil are on their way out. And so we live in a world that is becoming increasingly life threatening, increasingly unpredictable, increasingly capricious and arbitrary, and hostile, and dangerous to live in. And also, frankly, unpleasant to live in.

The world today, I don't know how old you are, you strike me as too young, to remember.


You see, the world today is a lot less pleasant than it used to be. Now, of course, every old geezer will tell you the same. The world today is a lot less pleasant, etc.

And people who are born into this world, take it for granted. They have a basis for comparison. So say, okay, you know, old people talk like this.

But it's truly less pleasant. You have to trust me on this. It's simply bad. It's more bad. It's worse than it used to be.

Not in the sense that, you know, it's more restricted. Actually, it's much more free. It's much more tolerant. It's much more empowering. The technology is empowering. So I'm not blind to the advantages of the world today that the world is offering as compared to the world of my childhood or my 20s.

But it was a hell of a lot more pleasant, simply more agreeable, let's say. Today's world is more jungle like, more natural selection type.

And everything is fleeting. Nothing is really deep. Everything is fleeting.

It's not that people don't seek depth. They do. They do seek depth and love and commitment.

But it's nowhere to be found.

Because if the guiding principle is money, because money buys you things and things make me make you happy, then it's a race, isn't it?

It's because it becomes an addiction. The world became a giant drug dispensing center. Everyone is a pusher or a drug addict. The world is divided to pushers and junkies. We all became junkies.

And with a junky mentality, you know, instant gratification, junkies want instant gratification. No holds barred.

To get his money, the junkie will steal from his own mother. Because he needs the fix. They're all fix oriented.

And the fix is getting shorter and shorter, because we become desensitized.

So now it's not enough to buy an iPhone. You need also an iPad, and it's not enough to buy an iPad, you need also to fuck around.

That means the pace of change and the pace of your need for the next fix, it's accelerated, there's an acceleration going on.

And so in a world like that, it's a rat race. It's insane. It's nightmarish. It's unrealistic.

I was reading an interesting analogy to consumerism, where this author was saying that consumerism is almost like seawater, where you're thirsty, and you need something, and you see the seawater. And so you drink it, and you think it's going to satisfy you, but it never does.

And unfortunately, within our society, we think, oh, well, to be satisfied, I need to just have more of it. And it's having the opposite effect.

Yeah, great analogy, I agree.

And I think also the analogy of drug culture applies. It's a drug. It's addictive. And, as you know, when you consume drugs, you need more and more all the time. The threshold goes up all the time.

So at first, you needed one fix a day, then you need two, then six, then nine, then there's an overdose and you die. I think that's where we're heading.

Basically, you asked me, where are we heading? We're heading to an overdose.

Well, I've reached the end of my questions.

That's good, because I reached the end of my answers.

Can I ask you for a favor? Oh, yeah, sure. Is there any way you can upload the audio file somewhere so that I can download it? Yeah, I can do that. Yeah, sure.

Send me a link if you please, that will be my only reward, except talking to you.

Send me a link so that I can download the audio file. And then would you mind if I upload the audio file someone? Make it not big. Yeah, okay. It's okay with you. Are you sure? Yeah, if you Yeah, if you yes. Yeah, that's fine. It's fine. Yeah, I'd rather if you didn't say like my name, but absolutely anonymous if you prefer. Thank you. Well, actually, no, I don't mind. Yeah, I feel free. Well, you know, send me the link. And in the same email, write to me how you wish to be identified. And if you wish to be identified. So and then I'll abide by anything you say.

Brilliant. Okay, but please don't forget, it's important to me. If you if you don't, I'll get it sent pretty soon. Okay, thank you very much. Was there? Are there any other things that you wanted to say that I didn't ask? No, I think we've been we've been pretty thorough. I thought I mean, I think we covered a lot of ground. Yes, it's been really helpful.

I hope so. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. Yes. Thank you so much for giving up your time.

My pleasure. Thank you very much. Oh, we've gone bang on one hour. There we go. Okay, great. That's a good a good time for audio recording. So don't forget the link, please. And if you need anything further, you can write to me. And then, you know, we can even schedule a follow up if you came up with new questions and so on. Don't hesitate and just write to me and we'll do something again.

Thank you, Sam. You must work and success with your video. Thank you so much. I hope you have a great Sunday. You too. Take care. Bye bye.

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