Saturday, August 25, 2007


It was interesting, the responses I got to the question I posed in my post about What's Mankind's Greatest Discovery?

The many brilliant answers firstly centred around physical objects: from bicycles, wheels, printing presses to aeroplanes. Once I indicated they were not the answer I sought, suggestions like medicines, gene technology, brain synapses, etc, began to flourish. Only a few answers touched upon philosophical or political dimensions of our human world (to date, no one has guessed correctly but I suspect that the 'right' answer can't be too far away).

What has struck me is that the responses seem to indicate just how important 'things' are to us humans. Of course, perhaps 'things' have been made important and we, victims of calculating and unscrupulous advertisers, have been led to believe that 'things' are vital to our enjoyment of life. Not only that but they would claim that ownership of 'things' like houses, cars, jewellery, large boats, Castles in Spain, gives us status, defines us, establishes our place in the competitive world hierarchy where, sadly, most of us are destined for economic failure. If not failures, at best we remain bottom-feeders!

Like Pavlov's dog, we have been conditioned to think in a certain way but not because the conditioners have our welfare at heart but simply because, by exploiting our gullibility, they have found a way to get their grubby fingers into our wallets. While we run desperately on the economic treadmill trying to keep up with the latest technology and save for a luxury car, they enjoy the best that life has to offer while destroying the world's environment and pressing for the continuance of war.

Gandhi, an educated man, forsook the illusion that 'things' brought happiness. He contributed greatly to the betterment of our world and his country while living a simple, austere life, the very antithesis of that which consumes the energies of most of the world's educated people. He spun the cloth (called Khadi) for his own clothes, ate basic foods, lived in quarters that most of us would describe as primitive yet, strangely, he was happy.

Many advertisers and capitalists must shudder when they think about Gandhi because if too many people began to emulate him, the goose that lays their golden eggs would simply wither and die.

But surely, things are just things and we're being sold a crock! What do you think?

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Lang Mack said...

Daniel, good work, you have certainly got us going.
Agriculture, the ability to reason, compassion, aggression, humility, strength, forward planning, group survival, care of young and elder (!), and as a long shot, the dog or cat.( ,recon booze would be right up there :) )
Righto, no more back in a moment, let us know and we can nod wisely or,loose the pissed dog on to you.
( I'm heading for the dog, think about it, been an arrangement that has work since time began, both gain).

Daniel said...

Lang mack, I think this comment is on the wrong thread. Have you been smoking funny cigarettes?

Monica Thatcher said...

Hi Daniel,Great blog. Will add you to my link buddies for ease of finding:). As for Mankinds greatest discovery ummm clearly depends, I suppose, upon what your outlook is. Following a divorce, the loss of my business and most of my posessions I have arrived at a place where I have very little apart from the love of a good person, and the love of my children. I have become a therapist following retraining and have discovered that helping others with various problems gives me more fulfillment than I could have ever imagined possible. Also when I lost my house we couldn't afford to go out or by nice things but we are incredibly lucky to live in the country. When we want to have fun we just go out into the forest for hours upon hours and just be! It's free, there's no queues,its constantly changing, and supplies us with a miriad of food items. I think the quest to riches does cloud some peoples judgement if they dont have a balanced outlook. I think it was Confucius who said, "Before enlightenment, chop sticks and carry water, after enlightenment, chop sticks and carry water". Meaning I guess, there is nothing else, but there is everything!
Have a great day
With love

Nancy said...

I believe that Art is a great human invention. It allows us to appreciate the creatures and landscapes of this planet as something more than products used to make a quick buck.
Maybe more of our politicians should be artists. Then again,Hitler considered himself one, didn't he.

The arts are held in contempt by materialistic societies. They are not considered 'real jobs'. I think the more enlightened societies consider the artist a vital part of their culture.

(disclosure: I am an artist)

Kurt Vonnegut said that art was a terrible way to make a living but a great way to survive. He was a very wise man.

Lang Mack said...

Whoops, sorry about that, do you want to shift? please.

LarryE said...

I'm not at all sure we're conditioned to value "things" most, even less that the answers to your question demonstrate it. It could just as easily be showing that we don't think of what is non-material, such as concepts or philosophical principles, as being "discoveries."

For example, I could say a sense of justice is most to be valued because all (or at least most) of what I think we'd agree are good things arise from it. But I wouldn't call that a "discovery."

I recall some time ago reading about a series of psychological studies of how we form our perceptions. One involved asking people if a certain letter of the alphabet - I've forgotten which one - appeared more frequently in the first or the second position in English words. A heavy majority said first - which was wrong. But because it was easier to remember those words, people thought there must be more of them.

So it is here: Are "things" mentioned more frequently as discoveries because we value them more, or is it just that it's easier to think of them within that category?

Daniel said...

Larry, in a materialistic world the main emphasis is upon acquiring 'things'. Our perception of the real and imagined value of 'things' is very much influenced by advertising together with societal morays.

I wish it weren't so and 'things' like 'justice' and 'equality' and 'morality' filled people's minds instead.

Thanks for calling by!

navyswan said...

Marketing to the Reptilian Brain

I think this article very clearly describes what advertisers go through to ensure that we will mindlessly buy their products.

If only there were a way to make morality or justice profitable...

Daniel said...

Morality and Profiteering are mutually exclusive, Navyswan. Thanks for dropping by!