The Tyranny of Things

Why are people who claim to love freedom so willing to submit to the tyranny of materialism?

Great quote, 1893, Edward Martin

“If another man tries to oppress him, he understands that and is ready to fight to death and sacrifice all he has, rather than submit; but the tyranny of things is so subtle, so gradual in its approach, and comes so masked with seeming benefits, that it has him hopelessly bound before he suspects his fetters. He says from day to day, “I will add thus to my house;” “I will have one or two more horses;” “I will make a little greenhouse in my garden;” “I will allow myself the luxury of another hired man;” and so he goes on having things and imagining that he is richer for them. Presently he begins to realize that it is the things that own him. He has piled them up on his shoulders, and there they sit like Sindbad’s Old Man and drive him; and it becomes a daily question whether he can keep his trembling legs or not.

All of which is not meant to prove that property has no real value, or to rebut Charles Lamb’s scornful denial that enough is as good as a feast. It is not meant to apply to the rich, who can have things comfortably, if they are philosophical;but to us poor, who have constant need to remind ourselves that where the verbs to have and to be cannot both be completely inflected, the verb to be is the one that best repays concentration.”

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