As for his own wealth, Durham insists he doesn’t need all the luxuries he can afford, but he doesn’t want to apologize for them either.
“You know, I think it's what a lot of people strive for," he said. "Everybody wants to live the American Dream.”
~MSNBC article 24 June 08
Our Bible study is walking through the book Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) and tomorrow night's discussion is on a chapter called "Adam, Eve & the Alien." Miller talks about how, if an alien came to earth, they would likely conclude that our entire society is based on comparison to others, which forces us to be in constant competition. I don't believe this is very far from the truth.
The article I quoted at the top of the page was on MSNBC, and I think reflects Miller's point. What if our society's materialism is not about our own comfort as much as it is about being better than the next guy? It is not necessarily that we want things for our own needs, we just want them because the proverbial "they" don't have what we have. Tim Durham (the multi-millionaire quoted in the article) says an interesting sentence:
"After you get to a certain level where your basic needs are paid for. The rest of it is not necessary."
This statement could have profound impacts on the nature of society. If everyone in America made a budget based on this concept, we could eradicate poverty around the world. This would be the fulfillment of an Acts 2 church (Acts 2:42-47) where none are in need because of the generosity of all.
But look at the context in which Durham says this statement.
"Does another billion dollars help Warren Buffet? No. He doesn't need it to live on. He can probably make it on the first 50."
50 BILLION? Is that really what it takes to fulfill "basic needs"? It only becomes competition after $50 billion? What about to get to that $50 billion, it was never about one-uping the guy next to him?
But I can't be too quick to judge multi-millionairs. What does it take to fulfill my "basic needs?" Why do I feel like it's necessary to shop at J. Crew over Walmart? I say nice things like, "The clothes are made of a better quality and therefore will last longer." But will $60 jeans from J. Crew really last 4 times longer than $15 jeans from Walmart? Isn't some of what I buy about a status point I feel like I have reached? It is the sub-conscience knowledge that I don't want to be associated with those Walmart-clothes-buying people. Why not? Because I have been enveloped into a society that is inundated with ranking.
Maybe it's time I re-think what "basic needs" are. Maybe the "American Dream" shouldn't be my dream.