Hollywood has long been surpassed by Bollywood, Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) and other local versions in developing countries.
What makes people ecstatic about these films is seeing strong guys, beautiful girls and simple but colorful storylines that are like ‘boy loves girl and needs to fight to get her’, ‘From Rags to Riches’, or ‘Faith strikes, but in the end the hero prevails by becoming rich and gets his girl’.
It seems like that many movies help people imagine how their lives could be if they were rich, had a huge villa on the ocean, didn’t really need to work but have others work for them, drive a powerful Ferrari and finally conquer the beautiful girl or boy of their dreams.
This makes some sense to me but what puzzled me is why people who seem to get some degree of material wealth don’t become happy. I see them all over the place in Istanbul or on the beaches of Cesme. People are consuming food, drinks and fashion but rather than being happy, authentic, relaxed and friendly, they strike me as phoney, insecure, playing roles, arrogant and at times rude.
I think the true reason why people want to get material wealth is deeper. What they actually want when they want money to buy a house and car is respect and recognition. They feel invisible with average clothes, with a small car and eating at a cheaper corner restaurant. They think that by getting rich people respect you finally, that they notice you and speak to you politely. They think that material wealth is the road to dignity, the dignity of not being pushed around but abusive bosses at work, the dignity of having ones opinion listened to not because you are special but because you are an ordinary human just like anyone else, he dignity of being offered help because you need it and not because you will tip them.
I think that many people as they gather some wealth by securing their job after college or finally buying the car they wanted realize that they are getting some of what they thought but not quite. Yes people notice you more but in a sense they play a phoney kind of respect. You seem to get more friends but none give you the feeling of deep bonding. I believe people think that in general getting rich is the right way but that they are not rich enough. And they work on. They get angry at people who still don’t treat them with respect. And they treat others disrespectfully.
I think this strategy is deeply flawed. You don’t get respect, dignity, a sense of belonging to some group, a sense of meaningful life and purpose through earning money and consuming, by getting something from the outside. You need to find these inside of you and find ways in which you can express and give respect and dignity to others without expecting to get the same amount necessarily back. This is hard to do; it contradicts our sense of fairness and reciprocity. I give you respect when I get it from you, and only then. Gandhi said to this effect:”If people demand an eye for an eye than the whole world will become blind”. It is the great challenge of developing ourselves, our character in such conditions. It is a challenge that can be taken however at any level of income, with any clothing and at any restaurant. It is a challenge we can take today and not in some optimal future when the income level is just right.
We need to search what Victor Frankl called ‘Man in the search for meaning’. -What is the essence of what makes me the person I feel I am?
-What talents and strengths to I posses?
-Under what conditions do they show?
-When do I feel most alive and growing?
-What is possibly by gift to the world that I can make at this present moment and not just sometime in the future?
These are some of the guiding questions to true fullness. I mean the fullness of our souls not a fullness of the stomach and the pockets and drawers in our big house.