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"Materialism" Means More than Greed

Blue Jasmine, the new Woody Allen film starring Cate Blanchett, is a thoughtful gem, brilliantly displaying the collapse of a colorful personality. You'll be thinking about this film for days afterwards and the Oscar jury will be thinking of it with you.

What the film doesn't do is explore the nature of the materialism it descries. Indeed, in Allen's world, wealth is accidental and obsession with it is somehow natural.

Materialism here is a crass obsession of the rich. For those of us who deplore materialism in science, it is useful to consider that the lack of a sense of the spiritual in people's lives (it has been explained away by the Darwinists) often finds its replacement in the pursuit of status and things. Allen knows that not everyone is materialistic. But he ignores materialism's roots.

When you examine the vacuous arrogance of Allen's lead character in Blue Jasmine, ponder how she came by it. Is it just a feature of capitalism?

One way people in the Allen materialists' worldview get rich is by deceit. As Noel Coward (a wonderful songwriter, let it be said, but an artist in any case) once joked that "As a general rule, the wrong people have money." That is how the Cate Blanchett figure in the film came to money -- through a crooked husband (Alec Baldwin).

People also get rich by inheriting money, as does one of the film's prominent characters, a man vaguely in the "State Department." He lives in a multimillion-dollar home on San Francisco Bay and hopes soon to run for public office -- starting at the top, so to speak, in Congress. This man did not get his big bucks working for the State Department, clearly. He doesn't make money, he has money.

In the Allen universe, people who have money also may have obtained it by sheer luck. Thus, "Augie" and "Ginger" are sympathetic blue-collar characters who were defrauded of their life fortune by the movie's Madoff figure. What is barely mentioned is that Augie and Ginger got their "life fortune" not through hard work, saving and wise investment but by winning the lottery! This is not thought particularly odd or unusual in the film. As Michael Medved has noted, folks in Hollywood (and show business generally, one supposes) tend to see success as the product of lucky breaks. In some movies, actors' hard work is rewarded by fame and fortune, but hard work in other cases yields flops and public indifference. You never know, right?

Well, if you never know -- because fortunes are made largely by deceit, or by who you know and/or by luck -- then capitalism is a suspect system at best.

Get it? With the secularist mindset you get both kinds of materialism and you get bankruptcy, too. With them come the politics of resentment and revenge.

This cultural and economic mindset is still not understood by most conservatives, let alone most progressives (including Woody Allen). They live with it, assume it and never stop to examine its flaws.

At the moment, Darwin's Doubt by Stephen Meyer describes the failure of the science. Meanwhile, Knowledge and Power by George Gilder describes the economic side of the materialist superstition. In Infiltrated, Jay Richards explores the real contemporary corruption of economics, a tale of crony capitalism -- or crony socialism (a term coined by Dr. Bob Cihak). Read these books and think about what they say about the nature of creativity and wealth.

Then see Blue Jasmine in their bright refracted light.