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Materialists’ life goals are more noble than writing boring new age poetry that does not rhyme

Materialists’ life goals are more noble than writing boring new age poetry that does not rhyme

I have a new mobile phone. It’s one of those types that mysteriously becomes surgically attached to your hand, the moment you get it charged. It has an excellent camera, a not so steady video camera that makes everyone look like they are breakdancing and it can receive those useless, but somehow funny audiovisual clips.

I have set it up for e-mail and web browsing, but I probably can’t afford that even with the free minutes. I only use it when there is Wifi. I have worked out how I can use it to transport files from work to home. Oh, yes. It has lots of cool screen buttons that I press all the time. Wow!

I have shown it to everyone, just in case it ceases to be awesome. I’m a realist: I know it won’t be cool forever. The new model already has the spreadsheet, the word processor, double the processing power, quadruple the memory, a lens that produces a finer quality blur and a keyboard better suited to the fat fingers of an adult than the dainty ones of a Finnish midget. The next model will make mine look old fashioned about a day after I know it exists: that’s reality for you. It sucks and it’s also expensive.

Some people outgrow toys when they turn twelve or thirteen, but I am not one of them. People who outgrow their toys are seriously mature and boring. I don’t really hang out with them and I don’t want to know what they do with their lives. Perhaps they become priests and take vows of poverty to make sure that they escape the temptations of being coolly materialistic. Maybe they move to shacks on deserted islands and write totally meaningful, deeply expressive Marxist poetry that doesn’t rhyme.

Toys, like books, are candy for my imagination. They take me to places I have never been before and show me ways of living I never thought possible. Consider the case of my new mobile phone: previously, its functions would have required an instant camera, a movie camera, a film crew, a computer, a normal telephone, miles of telephone cable, and a couple of sherpas and some yaks to cart it all around. Now it fits in my pocket. Why I need all of this, whether I should take it to the Himalayas and whether you get coverage there, I am still trying to fathom, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the most fun since the invention of the yo-yo and the dingbat.

Toys have an unfair reputation for being childish. Actually toys grow up, and only items for children remain childish, with the possible exceptions of Lego Technics, Play Station, most computer games, radio controlled aeroplanes, genuine build-it-yourself robots and a few hundred other things.

By ‘toys that grow up’, I don’t mean the lifelike plastic items advertised in embarrassing Internet pop-ups and the back pages of age-restricted magazines, commonly know as ‘adult toys’. I mean the ‘big-ticket’ items that often require refinancing your home. The largest categories will probably be mobile phones, cars and home theatre systems with enough subwoofers to shake the neighbourhood’s foundations, in that order. Other categories will include boats and aeroplanes that aren’t radio controlled. Dream on!

For a long time, materialism had the ugly connotation of being devoid of spirituality, but charismatic preachers driving luxury German sedans, with mobile phones smaller than mine, and television stations, internet servers and nubile choir girls of their very own have put paid to that. It’s OK to want more now, and toys are back in fashion. The only remaining problem with materialism is wanting something and not being able to get it, no matter how hard you work for it.

Personally, I’m in favour of materialism and its attendant drives. There may be better ways to spend money, but at least the materialist has a goal in life other than writing bad poetry and boring everyone with diatribes on materialism. It’s only when the materialism gets unrealistic that things get out of hand. Bring on the toys, and make sure they have lots of glowing buttons!


 

About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the paper Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.