Thursday, November 25, 2010
The Misery Industry
I see billboards on the horizon, I can't imagine what they'll tell me, what to wear, what to drink, where to eat, it's so easy not to think for yourself anymore, so naive, you don't do anything anymore.
--New Found Glory-No News is Good News
The sad (and inconvenient) truth of globalization and consumerism is the detrimental affect it has on society and ultimately the individual. No matter how “civilized” and advanced we think we may be, we are surrounded by pollution. This pollution not only includes chemical pollutants, but also audio pollution (indecent music, vulgar jokes,etc.), visual pollution (pornography, indecency, etc.), physical pollution (illicit sex, vulgarity). This pollution becomes a spiritual, physical and mental toxin or poison that slowly kills us.
When we often think of these vices we come to think how distracting these pollutants become. They essentially have become drugs—which have ultimately distracted us from our ultimate goal of pursuing getting closer to Allah, spiritual betterment, and living productive and meaningful lives. In the Quran Allah mentions our distraction and our constant striving to gain more and more:
1. The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you, 2. Until you visit the graves (i.e. till you die). 3. Nay! You shall come to know!
We’ve essentially become programmed to think a certain way about our bodies, our lives, our very existence has been defined by corporations that create trends that everyone must follow in order to become “successful” and happy. But, does real happiness come from material things? We’re all victims to this misery industry. These corporations, drug companies, etc. tell us how bad our lives are and how much better they could be if…..you buy their products. There is nothing with wrong with advertising for your business, but there is everything wrong with deceptive advertising. We are foolishly deceived by airbrushed models, computer-generated images of people in movies, advertisements, etc. We are bombarded with what the definition of true success and beauty is. A man or woman can gain everything in the world, but ultimately has lost everything if it is devoid of Allah or a higher spiritual meaning to their lives.
This misery industry has had detrimental effects not only on our physical health (the food we eat is injected with all sorts of chemicals and unhealthy proportions), but also our psychological and mental health. We’ve been told that white is beautiful (look at India and Pakistan and the growing trend for face-whitening creams). We’ve been told that being extremely skinny is beautiful. We’ve been told that perfect skin, perfect teeth, perfect eyebrows, perfect ripped/slim body are the essence of beauty. However, none of this is realistic or even possible to attain, yet we run after it like an elusive mirage.
1. The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you
This misery industry has made us less intelligent individuals as we get caught up in the advertisements and the definition of success and beauty. Guys expect their future wives (or current wife) to be super model thin and girls expect their future husbands to look like a guy out of a GQ magazine. Unfortunately, once we wake up from this dream we realize this really isn’t realistic. We’re all victims to this brainwashing and constant barrage of advertising and ultimately have become people with no minds of our own.
Many problems arise from this. We see mental and physical issues such as anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, fear, peer pressure, etc. We all want to fit in, yet the misery industry constantly tells us we cannot attain it until……..you buy their product. The biggest impact of the misery industry is the insecurity that it causes most people. Girls want to fit the pictures they see in magazines and movies and are under immense pressure by society to look a certain way or else they won’t be seen as beautiful. However, true beauty lies not in the skin or the physical, but lies in the character, morals, and personality of the individual. That isn't to say basic attraction isn't important....but to emphasize the physical over the spiritual isn't the right approach. Guys also are affected as they believe that they need to look a certain way and dress a certain way. We see the gyms filled up. Why? For health purposes of course. WRONG. Most men work out for aesthetic reasons. “If I can get a ripped body, I’ll look good for the girls.” Gross exaggeration, but we all know it’s true to a certain degree. These impossible standards for beauty are literally driving us to invest our hard earned money into cosmetics, clothes, etc. that we really don’t need. Also, these impossible standards cause tensions in relationships as a man has a certain impossible image of beauty and the woman can barely keep up with that image always. We expect women to look in perfect shape 24/7, yet we men can take a break after working out for most of our youth…
Sadly, the misery industry turns people into mindless drones and we foolishly buy into it. Literally BUY into it. We go to the stores, consume the products, and waste thousands of dollars on things we often don’t need. We look to the poorest of people and you see they’re so content with the little they have, yet we want to consume more and more and get things we don’t need. We’re told we NEED to get a certain product. But the question becomes, are our wants becoming our needs ? Our nafs is certainly out of control and this creates a spiritual dilemma for most of us. We lose our dignity, our sense of purpose of life, and honor when we constantly chase after this dunya. Our insatiable greed and nafs moves us to work harder for dunya, work longer hours, perhaps get more than one job. Often times we see this hurts families as both parents are working to sustain an expensive lifestyle----they become slaves to their nafs. They rarely have time for their children and it hurts the family and ultimately society. The misery industry is destroying society morally and ethically one family at a time. Our kids become drones raised on TVs, movies, video games, etc. while parents work like slaves to satiate an insatiable nafs. In this rat race, we ultimately we lose ourselves and lose our focus and stray from our path to getting closer to Allah.
1. The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you
Mental sicknesses also increase when we buy into this misery industry. We see people delving into mental states that affect children from young ages to older people. Kids are growing up faster than usual and are exposed early on to more mental junk than previous generations were. Kids already are addicted to TV screens, video games, etc. Thus, we have generations of unintelligent kids with attention disorders and lack of social or verbal skills. Girls are brought up to think that Hannah Montana or some super model or actress is their role model. We get so mentally beaten by the misery industry we turn to drugs, get caught up in anorexia, bulimia, and other health disorders. Teenagers and older individuals turn to suicide often when societal pressure becomes too great. This misery industry is literally killing us, yet we’re killing ourselves for it.
Anas (Radi Allah Anhu) reported Allah's Messenger (sal-allahu-alleihi-wasallam) as saying: "If the son of Adam were to possess two valleys of riches. he would long for the third one. And the stomach of the son of Adam is not filled but with dust. And Allah returns to him who repents." [Sahih Muslim : Book 5, Book Name Kitab Al-Zakat, Number 2282] (i.e. the only thing that will satisfy/end Man’s craving for more will be death)
A sheikh once gave me the parable of this dunya. It’s similar to you standing with your back against the sun and chasing the shadow(i.e. dunya), however if you turn around and see the sun and go towards the light that is more attainable (i.e. light/sun represents deen/good/Allah, etc.). So this dunya is elusive and fruitless. To run after dunya will get you nowhere---it’s as elusive as the shadow and it’s temporary. To run after akhihrah and after closeness to Allah is better.
So let’s unplug ourselves from the misery industry and start thinking for ourselves, because to a certain degree we are all victims of the environment we are brought up in and are unfortunately affected in more ways than one. We need to watch what we eat, watch what we hear, watch what we see, and most importantly start to THINK for ourselves. Let’s unplug ourselves from this rat race and stop killing ourselves for the misery industry before it kills us spiritually, physically and mentally.
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