Material Mentality Can Hurt Body as Much as Soul

Article excerpt

A YOUNG ACQUAINTANCE of mine was recently robbed on a city street. It was a jarring experience. I understand that; I have certainly found it jarring when it has happened to me in England and in Peru.

But the particular circumstances of the robbery made this also an experience of painful learning.

The incident took place in mid-afternoon on a busy street in one of the best residential areas of Toronto. Robert was returning from university, and as he got off the bus he became aware of two boys following him. Suddenly, in the midst of passersby, they pulled a knife on him and robbed him of his jacket.

But the learning came because of the nature of the jacket. It was a designer jacket, for which he had saved for months and, like much designer clothing, it proclaimed its status by having the designer name prominently displayed, in this case down one arm of the jacket. Therein lay part of its value, both to Robert and to the boys who robbed him.

But Robert was not the only victim in the story. The two young thugs were also victims of a certain dynamic of our society, victims of the strange desire inculcated in us by our corporate masters to be human billboards, advertising their products and our status at the same time.

Proclaiming status through clothing and jewelry is hardly new; medieval European society had rules about degrees of ostentation in these matters appropriate to each level of the social order. What is new in our time is our enthusiasm for enhancing the reputation of some corporation by advertising its name on our bodies. …