Materialistic Measurement of a Successful Life

As one would have expected, the publishing of that infamous video of a man on the verge of suicide being jeered by onlookers to jump, caused a deluge of dismayed reactions from every corner of society; from politicians and NGOs to the most sane-valued members of our society all reacted in disbelief at what we had just witnessed.

It seems like for a few minutes on that fateful Friday, the Maltese society stopped to breathe out an ‘oh not again’ moment. Why do I say this? In a matter of a few weeks, we have witnessed some really concerning episodes; from a seriously injured migrant worker being literally dumped on the side of the road (when he became not fit for further exploitation), to those raids on illegal puppy factories (exposing how some of us see nothing wrong in exploiting animals for financial gain) and now this; turning someone’s most vulnerable moment into a show.

For a few minutes on that fateful Friday, the Maltese society stopped to breathe out an ‘oh not again’ moment.

Whilst I still do not believe such acts are truly representational of society as a whole, the frequency and gravity of such societal lapses is now concerning, to say the least.

The appetite for a quick buck

On the same serious scale of consequence and concern is the popular appetite to make a quick buck, irrespective of the means to do so, even if in complete disregard of the law or at the expense of fellow members of society, the environment or tomorrow’s generation.

What I definitely see is a correlation between all these calamities. We, Maltese folk, famously known for our generosity and kind heart are being infected with a different epidemic, the one of materialistic self-interest and egoism. Now like anything that happens on this rock, I’m pretty sure there will be a politically-loaded dissection of the situation.

We’ve already heard or read the conclusion that the apparent erosion of rule of law and the apparent sense of impunity suggested by some in recent years is to blame for how seemingly our human values are eroding. One of the most common lines of thought was that what we are seeing is a result of ‘what you sow is what you reap.’ Rightfully so! But let’s also consider that what you sow takes time to grow enough to be reaped. So, what we are seeing cannot be solely attributed to events that may have happened in the last couple of years.

Let us be frank, certain sad episodes of late do not help at all, but what we are seeing is deeply rooted to how we have defined as a measure of success and how to achieve it.

It seems like success is a KPI that can be quantified. And what measure do we typically end up using? Money! You’re successful only if you are making more money! The classic teaching to achieve a successful life has been ‘study to have a well-paying job’ so you can be successful! Excuse me? Do you see the pattern? We’ve practically been saying that success is a selfish thing, something that one can achieve alone and enjoy alone! No wonder then when the social-media phenomenon hit the world by storm we all turned into narcissistic creatures, making our best to look good and ‘successful’! Because a successful life is a metric we can measure and quantify! Now also measure success on social-media reactions, and we do whatever it takes to look cool, blessed, rich and accomplished!

Yes, what we may be experiencing today is a result of what we have been indoctrinating in yesteryears. But what happens tomorrow is a reflection of what we think and teach today! What we need to ensure today is that the values we hold dear are relevant to a true, honest and humane successful life. Recently we have heard how we should be measuring economic success differently; how we should shy away from simply measuring GDP to start measuring how the generated wealth is reaching all strata of our society fairly. On similar lines, can’t we also realise that a successful life is not solely one that is measured by materialistic achievements alone? And when we do, let us start to shift our educational objectives from focusing solely on academic achievements to also focus on humane education, where the notions of human rights, animal protection and environment protection come into play in preparing tomorrow’s generation to be compassionate, dedicated solutionaries, able to identify unjust, inhumane, and unsustainable practices and create solutions that enable us all to thrive.


Brian Scicluna is Vice Chairperson of Fondazzjoni IDEAT

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