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It's All About Me


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By John A. Ward
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 13, 1999

As I contemplate the complexities of life today, I reflect back on the Kevin Spacey movie, "American Beauty," that I saw this past weekend and something that I read this past Sunday in my church newsletter. What I had read in the church newsletter and seen in "American Beauty" made me focus on how screwed up and misguided our society has become. I hate to invoke hyperbole, but I realized that our society is "Slouching Towards Gomorrah."

What I read in my church pew on that late Sunday afternoon was a quote by the Nobel Prize winner, Czeslaw Milosz. In the quote, he addresses one of those sensationalized quotes by Karl Marx, "religion is the opiate of the masses."

For Marx, religion is a drug that causes the masses to become hallucinogenic, content to accept their poverty and their hardships, because this life is only temporary and fleeting. We should not care if this life is bad, for the next one is sublime.

This idea offended Marx, who believed the masses should be acutely aware of their condition and should stop being drugged up by religion and live for the "here and now." Today is what matters.

Milosz counters Marx's statement with one that is infinitely more wise. He states that the "true opium for the masses is the belief in nothingness after death - the. thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged."

Finally, someone who has an insightful understanding of what truly serves as an opiate for the masses. He is right. Our society has now become drugged to believe that it is only the "here and now" that we must be concerned with. We have been drugged to believe that the only purpose in life is to maximize our pleasure, no matter the cost. Hedonism is the dominant philosophy, "do whatever makes you happy and whatever makes you feel good."

This philosophy and approach to life is reckless. As we have seen, it leads to a world that is chaotic, dangerous and unscrupulous.

Current statistics show that 50 percent of marriages now end in divorce. And why not? It's always easier to leave your spouse than to stay in a challenging marriage and be a good permanent father (mother) to your children.

If your wife or husband just can't cut it for you anymore, then just go have an affair to get your sexual gratification: 45 percent of married people are already doing it anyway. Don't worry about your vow to "honor" the other person; adultery makes you feel good.

And prior to marriage, why not do some sexual taste testing? When we're young adults, one of our dominant instincts is to want to have sex and lots of it.

So we should do it! Despite the fact that people who wait for that special person form a far deeper and permanent bond with their spouse.

Furthermore, we should strive for that omnipotent dollar. We should be incomprehensibly concerned with having that expensive house in the suburbs, driving that plush Land Cruiser and having that nice boat in the garage. There's no need to think about the other things in life like maximizing your time with family and friends or giving to your community. Those things don't matter, but those feel good status symbols sure do.

Oh yes, and if a child is far too inconvenient at this point in your life, then just abort it. A child at this point wouldn't maximize your happiness, so it should be done away with. You're treating human life trivially, but it's OK, because it'll make you happier.

And as for lying and cheating, why not? It's easier to cheat and steal than to work hard for what you get. And yes, lie when it'll save you some tough accountability; it's easier.

We are currently plagued by the "me" generation. If we would consider the future accountability of our behavior, we would discard many of the flagrant and superficial "me" notions of life and begin to re-introduce responsibility to it.

I know many do not recognize any notion of God (or at least not seriously), but maybe if we did our society would better reflect the orderly, safe and scrupulous generations of past, because we would recognize the ultimate accountability of our actions in the "here and now." The discarding of religion truly is the "opiate of the masses."

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