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Quotes on seeking happiness through consumer power

Arthur Miller:

"Years ago a person, he was unhappy, didn't know what to do with himself, he'd go to church, start a revolution – something. Today you're unhappy? Can't figure it out? What is the salvation? Go shopping."

Isak Dinesen:

"Nowadays when people do not allow themselves to be burned or expelled from society for the sake of Paradise, it is not because our more refined nerves cause us to fear the stake or poverty or expulsion more than our forebears did, nor because we are in doubt that our sufferings will gain us entrance to Paradise – for in any case such a belief could easily spring up at any time at all – but because the Paradise that is promised us in connection with these sufferings does not appeal to us. We have no desire for it and would have no wish to go there even if access to it were free.

On the other hand, when people began to believe fervently that bliss was to be found in motorcars, a good cellar, and so on, then the majority were prepared to undergo frightful sufferings for years, in offices, factories and stock exchanges, in the hope of finally attaining that bliss. At this moment probably fifty percent of civilized humanity would be reconciled to enduring all the pangs of the early Christians if they knew they would emerge on the other side with an annual income of L$50,000 [$200,000 in 1923] for the rest of their lives, and so for them there is no reason to envy the victims of Nero – with eternal bliss in store for them – their strength of character."

Amitai Etzioni:

"Several studies have shown that, across many nations with annual per capita incomes above $20,000, there is no correlation between increased income and increased happiness. In the United States since World War II, per capita income has tripled, but levels of life satisfaction remain about the same, while the people of Japan, despite experiencing a sixfold increase in income since 1958, have seen their levels of contentment stay largely stagnant. Studies also indicate that many members of capitalist societies feel unsatisfied, if not outright deprived, however much they earn and consume, because others make and spend even more."

Michael Lerner:

"What spiritual wisdom teaches us is that happiness cannot be obtained through the accumulation of goods and that therefore creating a society whose highest priority is to stimulate endless consumption is a spiritual error."

Sources

Arthur Miller. Quoted on the "Sunbeams" page of The Sun, February 2006, p. 48.

Isak Dinesen [Karen Blixen]. On Modern Marriage and Other Observations (1924). Translated by Anne Born. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986. p. 36.

"Get Rich Now." Amitai Etzioni. Excerpted from The New Republic (June 17, 2009). Reprinted in UTNE Reader (Jan-Feb 2010), p. 39.

Michael Lerner. The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. p. 315.

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