Capitalism, the sort we have now, demands from us total uniformity. We have to accept its premise that instead of living, breathing human beings, we are each simply an amalgam of interests and opinions and preferred brands. A person is not defined by their strict principles or a well-developed and unchanging character.
They are defined by some manufactured identity, by what they buy to fit into some demographic or another.
Capitalism of this sort has stripped away real identity because it gets in the way of selling. If you know who you are, if you are confident in that, if you know what you want and how to get it, you don’t need Gadget X or Widget Y. More importantly, you can’t be manipulated into thinking you want them.
But if your identity is up in the air, you’re more likely to spend money to find it. It is in their best interest to break people, then, or at least to make them think they are broken.
This is the problem with trucks. Trucks outsold cars in 2017 in the United States. And in 2016. 2015, too. And 2014. On and on. You get the idea. This is a somewhat surprising statistic, considering that most people who own a truck have absolutely no need to own one. But most of us have had our roots stripped away so we’ll be easy marks. And the truck represents something essential in us that’s been stripped away.
It represents strength and hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit, manliness to some extent.
I sat sandwiched between two massive trucks in a parking lot the other day. The one to my right was several feet taller than the car I was driving. The one to my left was a monster, just as tall, with "F-250 Lariat Super Duty, Powerstroke Turbo Diesel V8" written on the side. It obviously cost a lot of money. But it’s hard to tell what problem it really solved. It looked absolutely flawless. No dings, no dents, no scuffs. A small pine tree hanging from the rearview mirror. What the hell good is a truck in pristine condition? They can’t be trusted.
When men buy trucks, it’s not usually trucks they’re wanting (since most have no real use for them.) What they want is to achieve some kind of personal goal that owning that truck would signify. Owning a truck hearkens back to the farm or to the wilderness or to the construction site. It implies backbreaking purpose, stability, resilience, and self-reliance. It implies freedom—not only the freedom of being able to get from Point A to Point B, but the freedom one gets from competence, from acquiring proficiency at some useful skill (like farming or building).
Capitalism as we know it has caused us to become too comfortable and too dependent on buying. It has stripped us of all our virtues by teaching us that we should not suffer. Not even a little. Every whim of ours should be addressed and catered to regardless of whether or not it’s good for the soul. And this leads to despair, despondency, and uselessness among the masses.
They help make us useless and then sell us a truck (or at least the idea of one.)
But we don’t want the truck.
We actually want the farm that requires the truck, the building project that requires the truck, the danger that requires the truck.
Profiteers magnify our deficiencies and then obscure the real solution, which is to cultivate good unchanging character and strictly adhere to the Permanent Things. There’s no money in that, though. So they obscure it and then sell us some dubious and expensive snakeoil that literally cannot satisfy us because it doesn’t actually address the emptiness beneath the surface.
There’s no money in solving a problem for very long. Don’t let them fool you into thinking there is. They have nothing for us.
Developing character is the permanent solution.