Goodbye To All That: Are Our Rituals of “Prosperity” Increasingly Meaningless?

Goodbye To All That: Are Our Rituals of “Prosperity” Increasingly Meaningless? by Charles Hugh Smith for Of Two Minds

The heretical truth is that many of the “consumption rituals” that signified “prosperity” for decades are either meaningless, unaffordable or require way more effort than the meager payoff is worth.

Of all the economic heresies imaginable, perhaps the most heretical is to recognize what we label “prosperity” as increasingly meaningless rituals more akin with Soviet-era staged parades than actual well-being.

This is the most dangerous heresy because it breaks the link between consumption–the core activity of our economy–and human happiness. If conspicuous / surplus consumption is ritualistic rather than fulfilling (i.e. it adds to our well-being), then it becomes meaningless or even corrosive.

The focus them shifts to the negative consequences of consumption, i.e. how the rituals of consumption are eroding / disrupting our well-being.

Rituals are satisfying because the performance of the ritual is itself the source of our satisfaction. Belief or enjoyment isn’t necessary; completion of the ritual is its own reward.

But once we pull away from the rituals, the emptiness of the performance becomes clear and we start asking, what am I getting out of this for the expense and effort?

These questions arise because many conventional consumption rituals have become prohibitively expensive and troublesome and others demand major amounts of time with very little payoff.

Consider the ritual of passively consuming sports. The ratings of televised games were falling before the pandemic, and by some measures appear to be in free-fall. It’s not hard to discern potential reasons: Millennials never formed the habit/ritual of spending hours watching a game, or attending games; despite the protests from die-hard fans, most of the games are interchangeable, as are the players, as pro and college sports have become homogenized in many ways.

As with many other consumption rituals, those performing the rituals rarely stopped to ask themselves if the ritual was actually improving their well-being, or if it had slowly morphed into a colossal waste of time and money.

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