MATERIALISM, which is defined as the importance placed on acquiring and owning material goods, presents significant challenges for the poor in developing countries. Materialism exacerbates poverty, widens the socioeconomic gap, and influences societal values in ways that put the impoverished at a huge disadvantage.

Materialism often leads to increased consumerism, where the acquisition of goods is seen as a measure of success and wellbeing. In the developing countries, lopsided economic growth creates stark disparities. The wealthy, able to indulge in consumer culture, further accentuate their status through the possession of luxury items. In contrast, the poor, lacking the means to participate in this culture, find them-selves marginalised. This not only deepens existing economic divides, but also fosters a sense of inadequacy and social exclusion among the poor.

Besides, the rise of materialism can shift societal values towards superficial measures of success, such as the opting for the latest technology or fashion. This shift often comes at the expense of more traditional values that emphasise community, family and spiritual wellbeing. For the poor, who are less able to engage in materialistic pursuits, this can lead to a sense of alienation and a lack of belonging to their own societies.

Additionally, materialism can influence government policies and corporate practices. In a bid to attract investment and encourage economic growth, governments end up prioritising sectors that cater to consumerism, such as luxury goods and services, over those that address the basic needs of the poor, like affordable housing, education and healthcare. This prioritisation exacer-bates poverty and limits the opportu-nities available to the impoverished to improve their circumstances.

The environmental impact of materialism also disproportionately affects the poor. The increased production of goods required to satisfy consumer demand often leads toserious environmental degradation, which tends to dispropor-tionately impact poorer communities. These communities are often located in less desirable areas, are more susceptible to pollution and environ-mental hazards, and keep sliding down the spiral of poverty.

Finally, the emphasis on material wealth can lead to corruption and income inequality, as individuals and institu-tions prioritise personal gain over societal welfare. This corruption further limits the ability of the poor to improve their circumstances, as resources that could be used to address poverty are diverted towards personal enrichment.

To address these challenges, a more balanced approach to development, one that values both material wellbeing and social equity, is essential. It is the human spirit that counts, and not material possessions. Let us keep it simple.

Lord Byron
Dubai

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2023

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