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Westfield Stratford City, Olympic Park, London, UK.Architect: The Buchan Group

Materialism – ma·te·ri·al·ism \mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm\. noun, a way of thinking that gives too much importance to material possessions rather than to spiritual or intellectual things.”

Far too often we are told by spiritual types that the Western world is ‘decadent’ or overly ‘materialistic’. Islamists especially delight in badmouthing our ‘self-indulgent’ way of life as soulless, meaningless and amoral, usually with specific reference to the UK and America.

It is high time someone shot back at this tired old critique. Materialism, properly considered, is wonderful. Consumerism is enlivening. Capitalism is ingenious. We should rejoice in these things, even as we preserve our higher beliefs. There is no contradiction to be found here, nor is there a choice to be made. Abundance and refinement can coexist. We know this because they have done for decades.

While it’s perfectly true that I sometimes enjoy leafing through Carlyle’s French Revolution or Huysmans’ À rebours, this is not to say that I don’t also value the cheeseburger or the Dyson Vac. Shopping centres mean more to me than opera houses. I find more worth in shiny electronic goods than in old, overrated paintings.

Being modern is something to be proud of. Technology separates us from the barbarian far more effectively than art or ‘ideas’ do. You can’t repel a Muslim with a sentiment, but you can make short work of him with a stinger missile.

Indeed, Muslims make themselves look even dumber than usual when they use the word ‘decadent’. Perhaps, my Muslim friends, if you spent a little less time indulging your own cultural biases, you might have developed the means to match our economies or resist our militaries. Is it not also decadent to spend every day reading the same book, or commentaries upon that book? It is certainly lazy. It is lazy (and obnoxiously arrogant) to presume you can get ahead in a world of infinite variety by stubbornly remaining the same.

As it turns out, our vulgar materialism, our worldliness, our ‘decadence’, our devotion to the modern and to the future has won through.

Hurrah for our side! 

Ramadan Mubarak to the losers.

D, LDN.

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