If we took a holiday, Took some time to celebrate, Just one day out of life, It would be, it would be so nice.
The year was 1984. Queen of Pop Madonna’s second album Like A Virgin was released in mid-November, and the opening track – Material Girl – written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans, was an instant hit, topping the charts in the US, UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, catapulting the singer to beyond the one-hit-wonder category. Here in the UAE, some 12,000 kilometres and many worlds away, the government had just established the International Petroleum Investment Company (now merged with Mubadala) in Abu Dhabi to manage the country’s new oil wealth, the Jebel Ali Port was just a year old and Emirates airline was yet to take flight. Life was still simple.
Three-and-a-half decades later, the lyrics of the song that gave Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone the moniker ‘the Material Girl’- ‘Cause we are living in a material world, And I am a material girl – resonate deeply with UAE residents, according to researchers at Zayed University, who’ve published a research paper on the subject. “(R)esearch has found materialistic values to be empirically associated with lower levels of life satisfaction,” the report states. While the report focuses on UAE residents, it’s true for humans in general. Our affluence often clouds our ability to contradistinguish our wants from our needs, and we end up running the rat race just to keep up with the Joneses.
Never mind the fact that you’ll never leave the paved road or drive beyond the city limits, but the car must be a 4×4 and that too with an engine size bigger than the neighbour’s. The Sharmas got a new cat? You’ve got to beat that with a Chihuahua. The Khans have a new Jacuzzi in their garden? Nothing less than an Olympic-size swimming pool will do. Mrs Wright offered gourmet cheesecake to kids in the park? Let’s distribute gold-plated burgers in the whole community tomorrow. If that is how you intend to play the game, money won’t make your misery go away.
Consumer culture and conspicuous commercialisation may be good for the upmarket brands that want you to aim higher, and may even make one happy momentarily, but eating gold won’t make your life any richer. For that, perhaps take a leaf out of the lyrics of Holiday, Madonna’s first entry on the US Billboard Hot 100. If we took a holiday, Took some time to celebrate, Just one day out of life, It would be, it would be so nice.
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