Arindam Chaudhuri
Virginia tech shootout . . . a natural byproduct of mindless capitalism
[May, 2007]

Capitalism is a great slave, but a pathetic master. This truth unfortunately gets lost in our chase for that elusive dream . . . especially in America, the land that has been marketed as the land of dreams – the great American dream. It’s the dream of being independent masters of our lives, the dream of making big bucks and the dream of being happy – even if that happiness is being bought by money which all of them chase out there. No doubt, the US, on its part, has been fairly successful in creating material comforts aplenty. It has upped the living standard of its average citizen to an extent that it stands amongst the highest – even if that is a result of more than 200 years of unbridled growth and exploitation. Thus, the shop window of Americanism looks lucidly attractive; you’ve got all of them standing there – from Bill Gates to Michael Dell – in Tommy Hilfigers and Ralph Laurens! And that is what has made the rest of the world mindlessly chase Americanism, not necessarily happiness or an ideal form of society. All because the shop window looks very impressive and it has been marketed very well.

But a deep look inside the shop, of course, tells a different tale. A different world lies behind the designer clothes and the designer dreams, a world that is not quite visible to the starry eyed millions – for whom the American way of life seems to be the ultimate dream – because this other side of the truth about the American society, unfortunately hasn’t found marketers.

Thus, we have Indian girls having their dream to get married to an NRI, preferably settled in the US, and Indian middle class fathers dreaming of their sons reaching the Bay area and landing tech jobs, unmindful of the second class life they end up leading in the US. What goes unseen and almost unheard is that America also happens to be the land that is right amongst the top in terms of the number of divorces per thousand, the number of single parent families per thousand, the number of old people in old age homes, the number of rape cases per million, the number of suicides, homicides, and of course, the number of college/school shootouts . . .

And why not! After all, in a society where ‘what you are’ is equal to ‘what you have’ plus ‘what you consume’, the only way to achieve more is to have and consume more (That’s why we call the US a consumerist society, and its culture, consumerism), and therefore, be constantly driven towards higher profits and materialism. Expectedly, this materialism comes at a cost that the world is paying today. This is the reason why we have millions dying of curable diseases in Africa and other lesser developed countries, while the rich grow richer. Their growth will be reduced, if they were to start thinking of the poor. So what do they do to justify their greed for more? They most shrewdly propagate and market a ridiculously primitive law of the jungle for our 21st century civilisation, the ‘Law of Survival of the Fittest’!

The interesting thing about material things is that they only give an illusion of happiness; and even such happiness always is momentary in nature. Ergo, at this juncture, you feel you are the happiest person in the world, after buying your new car or flatscreen TV, and just a few days later, these are the very possessions that cease to make you happy, because you are already thinking of a bigger car or a bigger TV. While you chase the bigger car to become larger than life in order to be happier, you sacrifice those that have the maximum power to make you happy – family, emotions and love. Prolonged abstinence in employing emotions finally destroys them; and you don’t even realise when you’ve become a dry eyed moron (Yes! America also happens to be the land, which has the maximum number of dry-eyed people). And then, while chasing after neverending desires, one day you are left alone . . . probably divorced, without children, and in an old age home (If not that, the situation is more often close to that, than not) . . . and suddenly, you realise that there is emptiness all around . . . and you land up in a Deepak Chopra workshop to find out the real meaning of life – or whatever he is capable of explaining. But by then, it’s really too late.

By then, you have made profits out of arms, and engineered wars to keep that industry alive. You’ve sold guns across counters at Wal-Mart and made more profits. You’ve lobbied that guns should be made accessible to the common man, and all for the sake of profits. You’ve created an end result of a society increasingly becoming devoid of emotions; not a society where man was born with all the natural traits of love, bonding and emotions,
but a society which has succeeded in making one fall prey to the idea of greater happiness through endless materialism, in making him appreciate the bombing of countries and killing of millions, because the profits from the war would help accumulate more materialistic assets . . .

This is the society that finally creates an emotionless monster, who gets satisfaction in killing 33 innocent students for no cause, no reason and for none, but himself. It is the utter destruction of spiritualism and the total focus on endless self-gratification at the cost of others and their lives that has left America today with the maximum number of young school and college going kids taking up guns and shooting others in the most horrendous manner possible. A country with so many single parent families and divorces, neither can bring up its children any better, nor could influence Cho Seung-Hui – the Korean who took those lives – any better.
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