As Israel is opening up malls and commerce is returning to full speed, the ailments of Western society are reappearing as though we’ve never had Covid. High-end stores are so crammed that people are standing in long lines outside of them hoping to spend a lot of money on posh accessories. You’d think that the coronavirus would have cured us of these ills, but it has done nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it seems as though people are shopping with vengeance.
But why are they shopping in the first place? Do they really need new accessories? Probably not. In most cases, they are shopping to show that they shopped; that is the only reason they need. People are shopping, especially when it comes to elite fashion, in order to show that they have lots of money and make other people jealous. Were it not for jealousy, they wouldn’t bother spending hours in crammed lines and crowded shops for the questionable fun of blowing their salaries of high-end status symbols they don’t need, and possibly don’t even like.
Nevertheless, I’m happy that they’re so eager to buy. The more intensely they spend, the quicker they’ll understand that there is no real satisfaction in buying stuff that they don’t need, and the impression they make on others doesn’t make them really happy, unless you consider glee at having what others don’t a real form of happiness.
There is something more that we can do to accelerate the transition to more lasting happiness: People value what they see that others value. They buy things that others appreciate because it makes other people jealous. If we promote other values, people will naturally shift to showing off that they excel in those other values, for the exact same purpose of arousing other people’s envy. If we showed admiration to people who contribute to unity, solidarity, and cohesion in society, many people would want to be that way. They would act as if they’re kind and caring even if they aren’t, simply in order to arouse envy or not to feel inferior because they are uncaring. Other people wouldn’t know who is genuinely caring and who is not, and the impression they would get would be that everyone is like that. This would make them behave similarly, and very quickly, all of society will transform itself.
We mustn’t underestimate the power of envy; it is the most powerful force in human nature. We only need to rein it in, to direct it toward a positive direction, and our way to mending the ills of society is paved. And the sooner we start working on it, the better.