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The world is full of them, the peddlers of pleasure. You cannot move one inch today without encountering one of them. They assault you from every pulpit they have.
Am I the only one to feel surrounded by them? It seems that no matter where I look these days, I find one of them. I hope this is a temporary affliction.
Yes, I find them even in the church. Whenever they preach the goodness of God, and separate it from the justice of God, be careful. They are selling you the God of Pleasure.
You meet them in the aisles of your supermarket. Merchandisers, of course, sell you very little that does not promise great pleasure. The worst in my book are car salesmen who cannot show you a bare car without a woman wrapped around it.
Why, why women are tolerating such an affront?
You meet them while you are passively watching your very favorite TV program. Yes, I mean all the TV commercials interruptions are all peddling some pleasure or other.
But I do not mean only commercials; I mean also the content of most TV programs. Reality shows, it seems to me, are the most adept at it. Even the pain of the contestants is provided to you as a titillation for your short-lived pleasure.
The show casters soon switch to the image of the grin of the winners. Damned be the losers. They are out of sight in a jiff.
All other shows clearly are shows. Nobody expects anything out of them but light pleasure. And now we even have light beer!
Pay attention to this preference of our world today and you can soon make up your favorite list. Just be aware of this reality, though. They are not innocent peddlers of pleasure. While they pretend to offer you pleasure, they steal away your money and, most of all, your time.
Were this the end of the story, despicable as it is, it would not be worth much attention. There are a few other aspects of this tendency that are really worrisome. Let me first give a look at some political implications.
Peddlers of pleasure are there to distract our attention from, and thus hide away the harsh reality of the life of most people today. The hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, the underemployed, those who manage two or three jobs to eke out a living, all become invisible.
Worse than that. Peddlers of pleasure, by hiding the harsh reality not only make reality disappear; they make you feel isolated. You must be the only one to worry. All other people are just enjoying themselves.
But wait. By hiding the reality and making you feel isolated, peddlers of pleasure make you feel impotent at the same time. In the back of your mind you know that there is a circle of corruption enveloping the world today. We have all known of the military-industrial complex ever since President Eisenhower pointed out its existence to us. Politicians who need to be elected accept contributions from members of the military-industrial complex. Can they be expected to break that circle?
“We the people” could and should; but we will not until we reject the feeling of impotence.
The peddlers of pleasure do not do damage only to our social, economic, and political structures. They cut deep into our psyche. And they do that in a hundred subtle ways, even when they are not aware of causing damage.
The first question they raise in our minds is this: What’s wrong with me? Why am I not enjoying myself as all other people do?
And that is the lie to which we succumb. Other people are not necessarily enjoying themselves. It is at this juncture that peddlers of pleasure re-double their efforts.
They not only deny that pain exists. Some go to the extreme of asserting that pain SHOULD not exist. At that moment, from impotent individuals, they transform themselves into all powerful creatures.
They invent a world in which there is no pain.
Worse than that, when they notice the impossibility of their creation, they inveigh against God. God was all wrong in creating the world as it is. What gumption!
Read writers like Nietzsche with this understanding in mind and you realize what stands in the back of the reality they attempt to re-create. At first, one can settle on this explanation: these are people who are afraid of pain.
But even this turns out to be only a partial and charitable explanation. There is a deeper and more painful reality that envelops these people. They are people without love.
Why do we love each other? That is the question that burst into my head the other day when I found myself among a congenial company of people. The answer I gave I find truly interesting. Because we sacrifice for each other, I said.
A still deeper issue arises out of this silly question: and why do we sacrifice for each other? The answer, the inscrutable answer, the mysterious answer is that when we sacrifice for each other out of love, the pain automatically, inscrutably, mysteriously disappears.
Carmine Gorga, PhD, is president of The Somist Institute and author of numerous publications in economic theory and policy. Mr. Gorga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Warm thanks go to Peter J. Bearse and David S. Wise for invaluable editorial assistance.