We live under the omnipresent shadow of a political/economic system, which promotes materiality, selfishness and individual success over group wellbeing. It is a model of civilization that is making us miserable and ill. Dependent on continuous consumption, everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, and competition and ambition are extolled as virtues. Together with reward and punishment this trinity of division has infiltrated and polluted all areas of contemporary life, including health care and education.
It is a system that denies compassion and social unity. Unhappiness and mental illness, as well as extreme levels of inequality (income and wealth) flow from the unjust root, causing social tensions, eroding trust and community. Those who love material objects are less inclined to love other people and the natural environment. Love of objects strengthens the desire principle, causing fear and dissatisfaction, giving rise to anxiety, stress and unhappiness. Such perennial truths expressed by the Buddha, Christ and other visionary teachers as well as Krishna are ignored in the search for immediate happiness derived from sensory pleasure. Self-centered behavior, motivated by reward, not only erodes any sense of community and social responsibility, it breeds unhappiness.
Reward and punishment are major weapons of neo-liberalism, which has infiltrated almost every area of contemporary society. The destructive duality is a methodology common in many areas of education, and of course saturates corporate life. Goals bonuses, commission, perks: these are the language of business, the motivating force for and of activity.
With reward and punishment come desire and fear, desire for the reward and fear or anxiety over possible punishment if we fail. The effect is individual discontent and collective disharmony. Selfishness is strengthened, and, in opposition to the underlying impulse to be helpful, kindness is sacrificed, creating the conditions for depression and stress.
The materialist may hold that mankind is naturally selfish, and that competition, reward and ambition are necessary and good. Without them we would do nothing and society would grind to a dysfunctional halt, goes the narrow reactionary argument. This conveniently cynical view of man's nature is fundamentally wrong and is used to perpetuate the divisive model. Human kindness, selflessness and community service are not only positive attributes to aspire to, they are the healthy, natural and peaceful way for humanity to live. (Graham Peebles)